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Star Wars Episode VII's Clean Slate

Star Wars Episode VII’s Clean Slate

| On 26, Apr 2014

SPOILER ALERT! All printed material released by Lucasfilm that takes place after the events of Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, is now NOT part of the official canon of the Star Wars universe. That’s 23 years, dozens of novels, paperbacks, games and action figures that have been essentially tossed into the Death Star trash compactor, crushed along with the one-eyed Dianoga creature and released into space to float away with the other garbage.
 
The only official canon as of right now will be the feature films and television series. Some elements from the Expanded Universe may appear in the sequels or other projects, but the story lines and characters will be reissued under the new “Legends” banner for those interested in purchasing expensive fan fiction.
 
Read the official press release here
 
Star Wars Expanded Universe
A new “Legends” banner will be added to non-canon EU material
From a business and creative perspective, this makes sense. Lucasfilm now has a 30+ year blank slate between Return of the Jedi and Episode VII to create new worlds, aliens, heroes and villains, without being boxed in by a very complicated expanded universe created by an eclectic group of sci-fi writers. This has been hinted at for since Walt Disney purchased Lucasfilm in October 2012, and it gained serious traction a few weeks ago with the rumored casting of Peter Mayhew reprising his role of Chewbacca, a main character killed off in the EU.
 
The Expanded Universe began in the early 1978 with the publication of “Splinter of the Mind’s Eye”, a spin-off novel from the first movie and a series of Marvel comic books. Its popularity witnessed a revival in 1991 with the Lucasfilm publication of “Heir to the Empire” the first in a trilogy written by Timothy Zahn that took place five years after “Return of the Jedi.” The “sequel” novel to the original trilogy, focused around the Rebel Alliance attempt to rebuild a galactic government but runs up against a rogue Imperial Grand Admiral and his cloned Jedi Master. The novel and its sequels quickly landed on the New York Times Bestseller List and spawned years of books, first from Bantam and later from Del Ray.
 
There were some well written books, and there were plenty of weak ones, but the message the fans got was that these story’s were officially approved by Lucasfilm with strict guidelines from Star Wars creator George Lucas on what can and cannot be addressed in the novels.
 
But Lucas stated to Starlog magazine: “I don’t read that stuff. I haven’t read any of the novels. I don’t know anything about that world. That’s a different world than my world. But I do try to keep it consistent. The way I do it now is they have a Star Wars Encyclopedia. So if I come up with a name or something else, I look it up and see if it has already been used. When I said [other people] could make their own Star Wars stories, we decided that, like Star Trek, we would have two universes: My universe and then this other one. They try to make their universe as consistent with mine as possible, but obviously they get enthusiastic and want to go off in other directions.”
 
The mixed messages continued when certain elements of the EU appeared in the Special Editions and the prequels. The name and geography of the capitol planet Coruscant was lifted from Zahn’s trilogy and the Outrider ship piloted by EU character Dash Rendar was inserted in the Mos Eisley segment of the Episode IV Special Edition. Lucas even liked the look of blue Twi-lek Jedi Aayla Secura so much from a cover or a Dark Horse comic, that he added her character in Episodes II & III. Dozens of other minor crossovers appeared in the prequels, leading to fanatic’s speculation that the EU was canon, despite Lucas saying otherwise.
 
Lucasfilm properties have been maintaining a complex internal database for years called the Holocron, with multi-levels of categories specifying what level each project resides in.
 
  • G (George Lucas) canon is the one true storyline, including  the final releases of the six films (Greedo shoots first!), the novelizations of the films, the film radio dramas, scripts, and any material found in any other source from Lucas himself, published or not. One has to presume with the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney, this may now include unpublished material for J.J. Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy or whoever is in charge at Disney.
  • T (Television) canon, which includes the animated series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and the upcoming “Star Wars: Rebels.” and the as yet unaired live action Star Wars TV series. This level does NOT include the Genndy Tartakovsky Clone Wars series of mini-episodes.
  • C (continuity) canon refers to the Expanded Universe set before and during Return of the Jedi and all published work under Walt Disney.
  • L (Legends) canon refers to the recently discarded Expanded Universe books and comics set after Return of the Jedi that were published before the new Walt Disney publications.  No word if this separate “Legends” brand of books will continue, but they should now be considered an Alternative Universe (AU), but elements from the AU may appear in future official films, TV series and publications. What we do not know right now is what is canon before the events of “Return of the Jedi,” including all Clone War, Knights of the Old Republic and Original Trilogy-era publications.  
  • S (secondary) canon refers to the older, less accurate works, including the 1980’s Marvel comics, “Splinter of the Mind’s Eye,” most of the “Star Wars Holiday Special,” the Star Tours attraction, the online roleplaying game Star Wars Galaxies.
  • N continuity material is also known as “non-canon”  material, but this really includes anything less than the films, TV and new publications moving forward. Lego Star Wars and Infinities label releases fall in this area.
 
Lucas himself made clear that he was not beholden to the EU, but his passive/aggressive approach makes him resemble more closely to a greedy CEO than the independent filmmaker. I, along with my fellow Star Wars fanatics, bought into his vision of the vague interpretation of his galaxy and read many of the novels. We are as much to blame for the current state of the EU as the current property owners, because we trusted the man and his myth making abilities.
 
Yes, J.J. Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy and the corporate heads at Disney and Lucasfilm made the final decision to toss out the post-Jedi E.U., but you have to consider that Lucas himself never intended to respect any of the fans opinions, just the amount of hard-earned cash the fanboys were willing to fork over. If he did, would the rusty film maker approached the prequels the way he did? He was the creator, the midichorian of the Star Wars universe, despite some wanting to blame the new brass.
 
This is the same hypocrite that defended the integrity of film preservation to the U.S. Congress during the colorization heyday of the 80’s & 90’s, yet erased most of the special effect evidence of his original trilogy, a tired old man in the Skywalker Ranch hording absoluter credit to the Star Wars universe and not to the pioneers at Industrial Light and Magic. Lucas and his corporate descendents raised their collective middle finger to the most devoted and loyal Star Wars fan base, an entire generation that kept the buzz going in the dark years of 1983-1999.
 
Moving forward, all Star Wars fans will walk into Episode VII without any preconceptions of where the galaxy is 35 years after “Return of the Jedi.” Han and Leia may or may not be married. Luke could become a hermit similar to Obi-Wan Kenobi instead of the leader of the New Jedi Order. Chewbacca will be alive. The Emperor’s Hand Mara Jade will not exist, along with the three Solo children and Ben Skywalker. The galaxy will not of faced against it own holocaust against the technology-hating zealot Yuuzhan Vong species. There will not be a dog-alien. Boba Fett may not survive the Sarlaac Pit.
 
And maybe, just maybe, Greedo will not shoot first.
 
Unfortunately, the films and some of their questionable subplots will be canon. That means the Midi-chlorians will exist, surrounding and binding us all together. Anakin/Vader would still be the creator of C-3PO. Yoda and Chewy are interstellar buds. Jar Jar Binks will still be the unknowingly instigator of the Clone Wars.
 
Star Wars Expanded Universe
The new Star Wars Expanded Universe begins publication in September, 2014
Starting this autumn, a new series of novels will be published that will be considered canon, because Disney says so.
 
The first novel of the new expanded universe will be John Jackson Millers’ “Star Wars: A New Dawn,” (September, 2014) preceding this fall’s “Star Wars: Rebels” animated series, which takes place ten years before “A New Hope.” Following that will be James Luceno’s “Star Wars: Tarkin” (November, 2014), expanding the story of Grand Moff Tarkin from Episode IV; “Star Wars: Heir to the Jedi” (January, 2015) by Kevin Hearne will be Luke Skywalker’s first-person account on events between Episode’s IV & V: “Star Wars: Lords of the Sith” (March, 2015) by Paul Kemp will delve into the relationship between Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader after Episode III.
 
Buyers beware if Disney decides to auction off Lucasfilm in the future and the new management will reboot the literature yet again.
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