Reflections on Episode VII, blogging and the future of the Expanded Universe

So today is a month and a day since the announcement that Disney is buying Lucasfilm and making Episode VII. It’s been… A month. Don’t get me wrong: It’s been a great month, an occasionally frustrating but revitalizing month. A month to reevaluate.

It’s a little scary, too. I ran and quit my first fansite before The Phantom Menace and started this blog well into the production of Revenge of the Sith, in an entirely changed landscape. I did work on the prequel section of Jedinet for about two seconds back in ’97, but stayed mostly out of the chaos and cutthroat competition that characterized that entire era of fandom – the ‘spoiler wars.’ And I don’t regret that decision in the least.

I never expected us to be at this point, of there being more movies – real movies, actual episodes. More spoiler wars? I hope not. But the internet has changed as well, and the sites that are breaking news and rumors so far are mostly the professionals – New York Magazine and The Hollywood Reporter and Entertainment Weekly, not fansites. It’s different world. I hope that means there’ll be better behavior than last time. And it will depend a lot on what StarWars.com does – they cut the original spoiler wars off at the knees with the launch of Hyperspace’s Revenge of the Sith set diaries and webcam. Will they repeat that success, or will we be treated to fansite mole ‘reports from the set’ as we were for The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones? Don’t know about you, but I’m hoping for the Hyperspace angle, or blog entries from the set at the very least.

I was on the sidelines for most of the prequels, but I was also – as I’ve written before – never really that into the prequels to begin with. I was interested, but not obsessed. Sequels, of course, are another matter. Particularly now.

There’s a lot of fear and worry out there about what this means for the Expanded Universe and while I addressed some of that early on, the panic from some quarters is (of course) not dying down, nor will it. We’ve had no official word of what stance the sequel trilogy will take on the established EU – the bulk of which is still set post-Return of the Jedi – but it’s a pretty safe assumption that a lot of it is going to end up on the wrong side of things.

I’ve already explained my position on canon and continuity. It hasn’t changed. The best possible explanation for it from Lucasfilm’s perspective can be found in Pablo Hidalgo’s introduction to Essential Reader’s Companion. Basically? Anything that George Lucas doesn’t have a direct hand in can be considered canon until it’s contradicted by something he does. That’s how it works. That’s how it’s been working with The Clone Wars. To reiterate what I said last time: Get used to it now, if you haven’t already. We might avoid spoiler wars, but we’re already seeing the signs of discord in EU fandom… And that might be just as terrifying.

I’m a reader by nature, and I’ll always be a reader, but you can’t come into a movie-centric franchise and expect books to be held sacred. Look, I’ve never been one to shy away from acknowledging the EU’s flaws. And there’s much of the Expanded Universe that I love, and will still be able to love, as they’re sitting on bookshelves 4 feet away from me as I type this. Stories are stories, and having them becoming slightly more fictional in 2015 than they are right now won’t make much of a difference to me. Lucasfilm is not pulling a James Frey; The writing has been on the wall for years. How many times have we heard Timothy Zahn talk about how writing in the Expanded Universe is playing in George’s driveway?

And, to be honest? I think this might be the kick in the pants that the post-Return of the Jedi galaxy needs. The EU is old and tired and chock-full of bad decisions and missed opportunities, but the reason it has so much traction was that it was all we had. It was the only game in town if you just weren’t that into the prequel era or The Clone Wars or The Old Republic stuff. Now we have a chance at a fresh start at it, and I find that unbelievably exciting.

So right now, I love this. It’s made me more more excited than anything has about Star Wars in a long, long time. I even love the rumors. This is what I’ve spent almost a decade training for with this blog, and I didn’t even know it.

The next few years will continue to be exciting and frustrating in so many ways, I’m sure. I might get sick of it. Or Episode VII might end up being all about Boba Fett’s epic manpain and I’ll have to quit blogging and go write fanfic with bitter postscript rants about how things should have happened instead. Who knows?

But for now? I’m all in. Bring it, Disney.

19 thoughts on “Reflections on Episode VII, blogging and the future of the Expanded Universe

  1. Aaron

    Ah, yes, the Spoiler Wars. Those were fun. In a somewhat lame way, but still. ;-) Wouldn’t it be uuh… interesting if Aldera.net, Episode-X.net, JediNet.com and some of the other sites came back to life (including T’bone who is still sort of alive. At times)? Plus we would need new “insiders” with lame nicknames (Darth Friday was probably the lamest of the old ones, but maybe we can beat that).

    As for the Hyperspace, I still feel more or less ripped off. Sure, we got to see some webcam films, but all in all the content wasn’t worth the money we spent on it. The diary posts had their moments. The chats were usually quite nice. But the pictures were a couple of generations below normal internet standard, and the videos were mostly underwhelming if I remember it correctly (best thing there: the droid control ship attack and Quinlan Vos’s death). Paying for that never seemed to make much sense, so I’d prefer it if the new artists, filmmakers, and actors were to join the StarWars.com blog writers. Plus: If there are videos, I just hope LFL will learn a thing or two from Peter Jackson. Not that I particularily like his films, but his behind the scenes coverage is the standard LFL should try to aim for.

    And last but not least… the EU. I stopped caring around the time LOTF hit. And the stuff that happened before wasn’t pure gold, either. I recently decided to re-read X-Wing, and so far it bores the hell out of me. Honestly: Mike Stackpole’s writing is driving me up the walls. Bla bla powerful monologue about the rebellion, bla bla space battle, bla bla powerful monologue about how great Corran is, bla bla… I can’t wait to get to Wraith Squadron…

  2. Dunc Post author

    breathesgelatin: Sorry. I had to pull out the worst thing I could think of. ;)

    Aaron: I don’t think they’d revive a paid thing like Hyperspace, just the idea of official stuff from the set. Well, I hope. Getting folks to blog would be great, though, as would Jackson-style behind-the-scenes videos. And the webcam could be fun. Remember Ewan playing with the Threepio costume? And that one day George took it over and decided to give us our first shot of Hayden Christensen in costume?

    I think the best-case scenario for the EU is that they cherrypick a few of the better characters/concepts, the way comic book movies do. As imperfect as the EU is, it does have a lot of good raw material.

  3. kataja

    Once again a great post, Dunc. You’re so right that the main reason why we defend the EU, is that it’s all we have at the moment. Bring us something better, and we’ll convert – fans by nature, aren’t faithful – we live for the trip.

    Still, the fear is real now. Will we lose Mara? Will LUKE lose Mara? What if they put him on some monolith to keep eternal Force balance when all he needed was a break? We have so many questions and none of them will be answered for such a long time. That’s why my personal view is that they should start with a ST episode where the EU just isn’t touched! Because if they manage to give us a the good story we crave for, we’ll be eating from their hand before long and can do whatever they please.

  4. Dom

    And remember, if the new movies override the EU, there’s potential to fix some of the mistakes in the EU as well. While I get why the EU killed Chewie off, wouldn’t it be nice to have him back? I’d love to see Mara Jade officially as Luke’s wife and pretend she was never killed off. And the whole idea of the One Sith in the Legacy era always seemed too off kilter for me, so now the movies can make that entire era infinities! In short, I think the movies can do a lot of good by overriding parts of the EU.

  5. Eric

    I’m looking at this wondering what will be canon and what won’t. And doing a re-read of a lot of stuff, man, a lot of it doesn’t deserve to be canon, a lot of it is lousy.

    I see this as win win — there’s nothing in the books that I love that can really be taken away from me (who cares if Thrawn officially never exists… he’s awesome in those stories), but rather, they can perhaps restore or fix some things. And if they don’t, maybe I’ll get some new, great stories.

  6. Annalee

    yup, I’m with you. Pretty gosh-darn excited.

    Of course I’ll do a happy dance if they pull Mara into canon by putting her in the films. But if the movies have well-rounded women who help drive the plot, I don’t care what their names are, or what color their hair is. In fact, if they change up some of the EU characters or replace them so they can include more racial diversity, I’ll be thrilled.

  7. Lucien

    Aaron: see this is where I know I read too much. LOTF: Lord of the Flies? It took a minute to paste out “Legacy of the Force”. lol!

    Dunc: I am excited just because there is a chance that our fan group will start doing things again! I am not a buy in to the movie and as much as everyone danced in the streets about Lucas retiring, I have to say….he created a great world for us to play in canon, noncanon and other.

    I am so happy I am now able to read the CJ blogs at work and keep up. You and the crew keep me well informed and I am so thankful for that. Keep up the good….nah great….work.

  8. Dunc Post author

    Kataja: Thanks!

    Will we lose Mara? Will LUKE lose Mara?

    I will say one thing about Boba Fett that actually gives me some hope for Mara… His following and popularity are almost certainly why the Fetts made it into AOTC. Maybe all the talk about the Thrawn trilogy early on means we’ll at the very least get Mara in some form. I’m not counting on it or anything, but there’s a little seed of hope there.

    Dom: In short, I think the movies can do a lot of good by overriding parts of the EU.

    ‘Zactly.

    Nanci: Thanks!

    Luci: I am not a buy in to the movie and as much as everyone danced in the streets about Lucas retiring, I have to say….he created a great world for us to play in canon, noncanon and other.

    The thing with Lucas is that he’s got great ideas… Dialogue and directing, maybe not so much. (If the TPM/AOTC scripts had been revised as much as ANH was… We’ll never know.) So the Disney arrangement can play him to his strengths, I think.

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  10. Nancy K

    Great post, thanks!

    I agree with what Eric said above. The new movies won’t change what SW means to me: what I love about the EU and what I don’t will stay the same and the stories will always be there. I’m very much in favor of the cherrypicking route.

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  13. Jack Colby

    I have to agree regarding canon and the EU, and am curious to see where they take the sequels. The current EU had a good run, and I suspect there will be an equally good run after Lucasfilm tills the field again. I suspect Lucas had his own ideas about what the heroes’ post-RotJ fates might be well before the EU books came out, and I would be interested in seeing that, without it being compromised (tainted?) by what others have already imagined. Following the EU with the films at this point would just be… well… boring. I’ve seen that stuff, show me something new and exciting please!

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  16. jon

    My apologies for the long post, but…..

    Well, as far as disregarding EU because it’s in “George’s Driveway”, let me state that I have been a Barriss Offee fan since reading the Medstar novels in 2005, and with the last episode of George and Dave’s “The Clone Wars” completely dislodging that EU canon and pretty much wrecking Barriss Offee’s history, making her a traitor and a terrorist, I can tell you that there are many of us who are more than a bit devastated.

    Changing canon like that may excite a lot of you, but it has pulled the rug out from under some of us. My favorite Jedi is now despised and being labeled a “Treacherous Psychopath” on Wookiepedia. What happens to the Barriss Offee fans? What happens to us now that our love of Star Wars has given us a kick in the gut?

    You can tell us that EU has been made better, I guess we shouldn’t have emotionally attached ourselves to a Jedi who was a strong female character that didn’t have to wear a metal bikini to be admired. I guess I should stop buying these Star Wars novels since George disregards them for convenience. Since we should “Get used to it.” George can do what he wants, fair enough, but he punched some of us in the gut with this.

    You can tell us that there’s a vast galaxy to enjoy in Star Wars, but that was OUR corner. Barriss was a wonderful character from books, comics and a few episodes of TCW. Go to Deviantart.com and see how many of us still celebrate Barriss as a good character in fan fiction and art, not the evil Scapegoat Lucas has chosen her to be.

    You can tell us that Barriss will no longer be a victim of Order 66, but her fate is now up in the air, and I have personally had to hear fans say “I hope Ahsoka kills that B****”

    As much as I like Ahsoka’s new freedom from the Jedi, it has come with a heavy price. I was a fan of Barriss long before Ahsoka became the face of Star Wars. Now I must endure because nobody wants to cry foul of the plot twist that has sent some people I’ve met into depression. We’ve been left adrift and with uncertainty, not excitement for the future. Am I an extremist because I was given a raw deal and George Lucas gets a free pass because he’s George Lucas?

    I’m not being an angry continuity fan, or trying to be overly dramatic, but the question remains. What happens to the Barriss Offee fans? There are more of us than you think, and we are sort of subdued about the future, waiting to hear if our favorite Jedi will be given a chance by Lucas or if he’s just going to have her face a firing squad. A little closure, good or bad, would go a long way in helping us come to terms with this. It stings.

  17. Dunc Post author

    You realize there’s likely far worse than that waiting for post-ROTJ EU fans, right? Forget a couple of books, a character or two: Post-ROTJ is 40+ years of (in-universe) content, involving almost all the film principles in one way or another, that’s likely to be swept away into an AU at best. And that’s what I was addressing here.

    I’ve been where you’ve been. I’ve already seen the EU – within itself – treat characters badly, remold them into shadows or cardboard versions of themselves, or kill them off needlessly, for plots that can’t even pay it off. Will the movies do worse, or better? Or not at all? It’s hard to say, but I’m willing to wait and see. Could they do worse than what’s already been done? Sure. Or they could also do better. You’re welcome to feel however you like, but I’m willing to wait and see.

    But LFL is in their rights to do that, whether it involves 100+ stories or just one character. The point of this post is, was and remains that.

    And, yes: Fans will have to deal with it, just like we did back in the KJA days by channeling our angst and disappointment into fanfic and other creative endeavors. No long-running franchise is going to please fans 100% of the time, certainly not in the midst of an upheaval like this. People will be disappointed, there’s no way around it. But you have to learn how to deal, or find a way to move on.

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