When I was a kid, I lived & breathed Star Wars. I had the original trilogy (on VHS, of course), which I watched & rewatched with my sisters until the tape was worn through. I had posters, action figures, video games, collector cards, a life-size cardboard stormtrooper, & a build-it-yourself model of the Millennium Falcon (which turned out very well, if I do say so myself). But there was never quite enough Star Wars to satisfy me. What I wanted more than anything was more stories about the characters & the galaxy I’d fallen in love with.
Lucky for me, there were Star Wars books.
Once upon a time, all Star Wars mythology (a.k.a. the Expanded Universe or EU) was stored in a database called the Holocron, so named for the “ancient repositories of knowledge and wisdom” used by the Jedi. Lucas Licensing was responsible for ensuring that all books, TV shows, comics, etc. fit within that canon. And it was no easy task; there are over 300 books in the EU, & that doesn’t even take into consideration comics or reference books.
When Disney purchased Lucasfilm for $4 billion in 2012, the entire EU got flushed down the toilet. With the notable exception of villain General Thrawn from Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire trilogy, all EU material was proclaimed non-canon and re-branded as Star Wars Legends.
From the general response I saw online, not a lot of people were upset about it. “The books are terrible!” they said. “They SHOULD be forgotten!” This was news to me. Super-fan that I was, I didn’t read anywhere near all 300+ titles in the EU, but I did read an awful lot of them, & I immensely enjoyed every single one.
Were they that awful? I had to know.
I went back & skimmed through a few of them with adult eyes, & okay, maybe they had a slight point. They are kinda cheesy. The cover art is the stuff of dime store paperbacks. A lot of the dialogue is bad–like, really bad. And a few of the plot lines are a bit problematic, such as in The Courtship of Princess Leia where Han kidnaps Leia to prevent her from marrying someone else.
Yet when I look back on the books of my childhood obsession, I feel a bit like Luke Skywalker in Return of the Jedi : There IS good in them! I feel it! Not every story line had a happy ending. Far from it. But compared to the revelations of The Force Awakens (where everything basically went to hell for my beloved heroes immediately following that party in the Ewok village), the EU stories almost seem like fairy tales.
For starters, Han & Leia get married. And they STAY TOGETHER, despite all the hardships. When was the last time a couple in any long-running show, movie, or book series that you love actually stayed together? If you can name one, I’m happy for you, because it basically doesn’t happen. A story needs continual conflict to keep going, & one super easy way to create that conflict is to make sure your characters’ relationships are always temporary. It’s a real testament to the EU that they didn’t have to break up Han & Leia just for the sake of another story line.
Luke found happiness too, for a while at least. He started a Jedi academy & married Mara Jade (former right hand of the Emperor) after helping her turn from the Dark Side. Unfortunately that relationship had an abruptly tragic ending, but at least in the EU, Luke was out in the universe, living life with all its joys & heartbreaks, rather than rotting away in self-imposed exile. Which brings me to my main complaint about the new Disney-approved Star Wars canon:
I don’t know these characters.
This version of Luke that sinks into insanity rather than face his problems? This version of Han that abandons his family & friends to regress to exactly where he was 30 years prior? I have no idea who these characters are.
Thank goodness for Leia. If Disney had decided to take her out at the knees as well, then who would be left to run things?
Which is not to say that I don’t love Rey & Finn & Poe. I do. I just wish it felt less like we’re dropping our old, worn-out heroes off at the shelter so we can make room for our shiny, new, young heroes.
Kylo Ren spends half of The Last Jedi screaming about how everyone needs to “let the past die.” I get it, Disney–as if you killing off my childhood heroes left & right wasn’t clear enough (RIP Admiral Ackbar, it WAS a trap). It’s YOUR Star Wars now, & we either play by your rules or we don’t play at all.
Or maybe not. As it turns out, I’m staging my own Rebellion. My Star Wars lives on in the books of the EU, where I can visit the aliens of the Mos Eisley Cantina, go on the Kessel Run, attend Luke’s Jedi Academy, & watch as my childhood heroes (though absolutely not perfect) do not let their morals fade into obscurity. Instead they continue to fight, to seek to do the right thing, & to stand by each other.
And that, Disney, is what gives me hope.
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