Tuesday, April 29, 2014

RIP, Star Wars Expanded Universe 1991-2014

Way back last year when the new Star Wars movies were announced you could feel a disturbance in the force when millions of fanboys declared the Expanded Universe dead. Oh sure, some held out hope that the new movies might include Grand Admiral Thrawn, Mara Jade and Cade Skywalker but most accepted the fact that the new movies would trump any books, comics, and video games set post ROTJ.

Last week it became official that Disney/Lucasfilm was hitting the reset button. Kotaku has a nice article outlining what Star Wars fans are losing, and in a weird way what they're gaining. If you have a few minutes I'd recommend checking it out.

It doesn't matter how many lists you read on buzzfeed, if you didn't live through the late 80s it's hard to imagine the lack of Star Wars merch during that time period. About 3 years after Return of the Jedi was released the toys dried up and that left what? Plastic promo cups at Dairy Queen? Fitted sheet sets you could only get at Sears? This was all reportedly on purpose, due to a divorce settlement between Lucas and his ex-wife that gave her a big chunk of the merchandising profit. At least that's what I heard back in the 90s, I could google it but that's way too much work.

Of course this all changed with the release of Heir To The Empire in 1991. Written by respected sci-fi author Timothy Zahn, Heir To The Empire was the first officially licensed Star Wars fiction published since the Marvel Comic series was canceled in 1986. What would become known as the Expanded Universe started slowly, with just one book a year but that quickly expanded to well over 200 novels. Dealing with everything from Luke Skywalker trying to rebuild the Jedi order to Zombie Stormtroopers. All of which was labeled as "in cannon" by the folks (mostly Lucas) in charge of the Star Wars brand.

I've dabbled my toes in the Expanded Universe but the unevenness in quality and the sheer number of books snuffed out the fire the Thrawn Trilogy had lit way back in 1991. Frankly, I'm not sure anymore where I'm going with this post. I understand that the fact that the death of the current expanded universe doesn't really change my enjoyment of the dozen or so expanded universe books I've read. It's all fiction anyway, Han Solo never fought real zombie Stormtroopers in space so how is the fictional book I read any less real? Still, some of the expanded universe stuff was really good. There's a nerdy little part of me that's sad that it doesn't count anymore, much less the fact that we won't get to see Boba Fett escape the Sarlacc pit (twice!) on the big screen.

Maybe later tonight I'll pour out some blue milk for my homey the Expanded Universe. Then I'll try and find out why all my milk is blue...




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