A look at the movement to ‘save’ the Expanded Universe

anakin_chokeEric Geller at TheForce.net posted a lengthy piece today looking at the ‘movement’ to ‘save’ the Expanded Universe.

It’s pretty ugly, this movement, so much so that even someone with a cast-iron case of trainwreck syndrome (hi) will want to look away. Yes, Eric quotes me, but I haven’t made a study of these people: What I’ve already run across in my regular travels on Facebook and Tumblr is more than enough. I love getting silly and (yes) occasionally childish with fandom (ahem, Tumblr) but the hatred and negativity of all this is just above and beyond. And I cut my fandom teeth flaming Star Wars authors for ‘bad’ books. I used to read Fandom Wank regularly, for fun. I moderated message boards during the prequel era. I can handle more than your standard amount of fannish negativity.

There’s nothing wrong with being sad, or even a little angry, about the Legends announcement. There’s nothing wrong with wanting that timeline to continue. But there is something wrong with letting things get quite this toxic over a bunch of novels, no matter how beloved they may be. It poisons the well.

I hope these folks are channeling something like the snotty, flaming 17-year-old I was once, and they’ll grow up and move on, with or without Star Wars. There’s little doubt in my mind that this will die down, regardless. But it’s beyond sad to see EU fandom, even if it’s just the fringes, reduced to such a sad state. We’re better than this. I hope.

18 thoughts on “A look at the movement to ‘save’ the Expanded Universe

  1. Brian

    I’m glad I wasn’t involved in much online when I was a teenager, or I might have been similar to this.

    I definitely understand the disappointment, but the writing was on the wall since the day Disney bought Lucasfilm. Being super negative on the Books Facebook page isn’t going to make Disney canonize bug sex and Abeloth.

  2. Nina

    I don’t get these guys. Do they really think that the whole EU was so good that it needed to be preserved?

    I mean, I was 13 when I first watched the OT and 2 days afterwards I started reading Heir to the Empire, so the EU was as much cannon to me as the films. Mara Jade is still my all time favourite SW character (I just have this weakness for red-headed anti-heroines oh hi Black Widow).

    But then I picked up the NJO and immediately put it down again and decided that for me Star Wars had ended with Visions of the Future and they all lived happily ever after. (Ok, I caved in that one time and bought Survivor’s Quest because Mara and Luke/Mara).
    And I never regretted my decision. I kept hearing things of new books like 2 thirds of the Solo kids dying and Mara and…

    When the new films got announced I was actually hoping that they would go clean slate and throw the EU into the trash were it belonged. Sure I will miss some things (Mara, I will miss Mara), but I’m pretty sure the new cannon can’t be worse than what the EU became.

  3. Eric J. Brown

    I love the EU. I have every non-juvenile novel in its first edition. But… yeah, appreciate it for what it was and is. TV shows get cancelled: I can enjoy “Castle” even if it isn’t “Firefly.” And I hope to enjoy the new stuff in Star Wars too.

  4. jayray3

    Love the EU. I have probably read 50 books but there is no way that they can force all the new movies to fit into that continuity. I am excited about all the new stories and we’ll see what happens. I just hope Jacen and Jaina Solo still exist.

  5. shades of grey

    I saw a bump of these guys going on and on at the author’s panel at Dragon Con. They was dragging down the crowd and simply being more annoying than rallying anyone to their cause.

    I totally agree with the Castle and Firefly comment.

  6. Christine

    What a terrible sad thing to want to ensure bad sales for a book, only because it is part of a new canon. And then exclaiming it isn’t personal to the writer? There are many reasons for me not to buy a book, but this one would never have occurred to me. You can also just enjoy a book on its own merit, can’t you? It does all sound as rather petulant, but somewhat harmful to many other fans who also have many EU books but aren’t joining this kind of thing. In fact I’ve got about 50-60 books that are a part of the EU myself, and I don’t mind at all. As you said: a fresh start could be good! And I would never wish to be associated with a movement like this. It’s about books and films, about fictional Worlds that I enjoy, but not about fictional Worlds that I created.

  7. Riley

    I had every EU novel from “Heir to the Empire” (in hardcover from when it was first released no less) all the way until “Vector Prime” which resulted in me giving up on the EU. My cousin gave me “Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor” and I did buy “Death Troopers” and “Kenobi” — all of which I really enjoyed — but the storyline had just become too convoluted and polluted with bad plots and boring villains.

    I think the way they handled this was the best of all possible situations. First and foremost, Lucasfilm having an official story group to be guardians of the galaxy far, far away (yes, pun intended) was a very smart move. Second, stating that while everything in the EU is now “Legends,” future films, TV shows, books, comics, etc. were free to borrow characters, elements, plotlines, etc. from the old EU.

    What these people would be better served doing, rather than trying to save the old EU wholecloth, would be focusing on their favorite aspects of it and encouraging those to be incorporated in the new canon.

    1. Eric J. Brown

      You know, I’m sort of torn on the EU after Vector Prime. While I did like the continuity – it did become convoluted, and I often hated the direction they took things in. Of course, I look at a lot of the stuff before Vector Prime, and it’s dreck.

      You’re right – save the good, move on, and go in a new, interesting direction. Like the recent “The Star Wars” comic based on the first draft of the screen play – there’s nothing wrong with taking an early draft, saving lots, losing some, and going in a better direction.

      1. Dunc

        The EU was always a mixed bag. But I think what helped Bantam is that they had VARIETY in the stories; It was super easy to skip/disregard the mediocre. (Note I say this as someone baffled by the hate Crystal Star gets, because as weird as it was, it was essentially harmless. Nothing of note to the wider EU happens in that book, unless you count being the basis for fandom’s Waru jokes.) Meanwhile, the NJO was 5 years of the same (continuing) story by way too many different authors. That format really threw all the existing flaws into the spotlight. And there was also stuff that really couldn’t have been helped, like Star by Star first coming out about a month after 9/11.

        There’s good stuff, even in the bad books. There’s so-so stuff in the good ones. And that’s why I’m pro-cherrypicking.

    2. Riley

      I should clarify, “Heir to the Empire” was my first “modern” EU novel that I picked up shortly after it was released. As a kid, I started out with “Splinter of the Mind’s Eye” before TESB was released in theaters and I loved the Brian Daley Han Solo trilogy.

  8. Kidcardco

    What saddens me was the additional hatred of the EU in the comments of that article. It’s sad to see the 2 sides at odds.

    I thin the EU comtinuing on as it’s own separate universe (in book for, only) would be an acceptable option that would make both sides happy.

    So whether you’re a fan of the EU or not, everyone can continue to enjoy what they love about the franchise.

  9. Jon

    It’s going to take patience from both sides. The article stated that most fans who support the EU are still polite and the hate is from a vocal hostile minority. Given time, the hostilities will die down. Maybe they will never go away, but the anguish over the EU will give way to acceptance by most fans to the new future of Star Wars.

    This is a major transition for many fans. Not only the sudden cancellation of a popular TV show, but a complete streamlining of the Canon. It’s a time of painful change. It’s hard to turn off those emotions when you love something like the EU a lot and it gets sort of dismissed by the people who helped create it. A lot of you can probably turn off those emotions and accept it quickly. Not everyone can do that, and there are a few who don’t know how to cope except with anger and rather hostile comments.

    When I bought the Essential Star Wars Chronology back in 2005, I was so excited. I was certain Lucas had finally streamlined the canon into a comprehensive, organized guidebook. No more continuity confusion, no more canon levels. Just a complete source for a satisfying Star Wars history. I thought George Lucas had finally made a foundation for his vision.

    I was mistaken.

    It was hard to not be emotional and sad and sometimes angry that the continuity put together in the guidebook had been made almost completely obsolete during the course of the Clone Wars TV show, especially Seasons 5 and 6. I couldn’t understand why Lucas and Filoni dropped “Continuity bombs” when they already had a complete guide filled with great source material that could be used as a springboard for great stories. To some degree, I still don’t understand why everyone is so excited to “Start fresh”, when the old stories were equally exciting. I’m sure many of us would be happy to pay to see a movie adaptation of our favorite EU novel. After all, it’s still Star Wars.

    It’s taken me a year to come to terms with the notion that this is how things operate for Star Wars. A year of helping other fans handle their anger and anxiety just as they continue to help me.

    Watching Rebels is a help, since it is filling the space left by TCW for many fans.

    For some fans it will take time. We have to create a catharsis and express frustrations. We will come to enjoy Star Wars as it moves forward, but we cannot turn off the emotions right away. We adjust as best we can, some easier than others. It is sad when some fans make vicious, cruel statements, but I think many of us will settle down in time, and we can Love it again.

    1. Dunc

      People can be sad and emotional without turning into full-scale trolls. I’ve seen a lot of folks who are conflicted over the Legends decision without wanting to tar-and-feather folks like the Del Rey editors and Filoni. (Never-mind wanting to launch an ‘attack’ on a LFL’s executive’s personal FB page… Really? Really?!?) I have no sympathy for that kind of immaturity.

      There’s a lot of ways the #GiveUsLegends movement could be conducted by still being respectful to both pros and fans. Taking the troll track only undercuts that message, and badly.

      1. Jon

        True. I just hope most of them are working through their frustration. I have no idea how many are rude trolls. I didn’t even know the group existed until I read the article.

      2. Doubleisth

        The personal attacks are something that I will never understand. Why the gross hate towards people who had no say in the Legends decision?

  10. John

    Great article. Sad to see so many people so angry about this.

    As much as I loved the Legends EU, it was definitely starting to suffer from over-exposure. Too many things made explicit that were probably better left mysterious (i.e., the origins of the Jedi, the multiple versions of where Mandalorians come from, the endless visits to Korriban to re-hash the mysteries of the Sith, the increasingly-weird mystical vision quests into the nature of the Force, Abeloth, etc.). The original Star Wars succeeded so well because it took a minimalist approach to much of its lore – Alec Guinness’s explanation of the Jedi and the Force in A New Hope is still one of my favorite scenes in any movie ever. It provides the exact amount of detail necessary to understand what’s going on, while leaving a majority of the narrative framework up to the viewer’s imagination.

    This was, I think, symptomatic of a bigger issue, which was the inability of the EU to generate new, interesting characters after the Bantam Era ended. Now, of course, there were plenty of throw-away characters in the 90s, as well, but at least you had a few new, strong characters who could carry their own stories: Mara Jade, Thrawn, Corran Horn, the Wraith Squadron crew, Jacen/Jaina/Anakin, etc. The biggest failure of NJO, I think, was that it didn’t produce these sorts of strong, original characters to keep the plot moving forward. Instead, we ended up with another decade and a half of stories about the Original Trilogy cast with the Bantam Era EU characters. Without that sort of character innovation to drive the plot, the EU novels instead turned to increasingly-weird stories that rested on day-time-soap-opera-style character derailment or the above-mentioned over-exposure of narrative framework better left as a mystery.

    All of which is to say: the Legends EU was great in its day, but I definitely think it’s time to move on to greener pastures. Hopefully, the new trilogy doesn’t get bogged down in re-hashing Luke/Han/Leia’s drama over and over again, and provides us with a new set of compelling characters who can move the story forward.

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