Another article about why it’s not worth taking the concept of canon so seriously. Or, just chill out already.
It’s been almost 21 years of Club Jade, but all things must pass. In accordance with Star Wars canon, Club Jade is being renamed after a more worthy ginger. Behold Club Hux!
One of the latest writers to come into the Star Wars fold, Chuck Wendig, has a blog entry on canon this morning. (Warning: Lumpy.)
Here’s my favorite bit, which speaks to why a lot of us Expanded Universe fans aren’t up in arms over the Legends thing or calling for more.
The more strict and detailed the canon becomes, the more reverence we devote to it. And the more it restricts the future of that narrative. The more it chokes off what can be told. Doors close. Windows slam shut and are boarded over. Options are lost. The more we care about what’s “true” — in a universe that has never been true and whose power lies in its fiction — we start denigrating those things that aren’t. We view alternate timelines as somehow inconsequential. We dismiss fan-fiction as just some wish fulfillment machine instead of what it often is: a way to tell cool new stories in a pre-existing pop culture framework that aren’t beholden to the canonical straitjacket.
As someone with a lot of history in the fan fiction realm – remember, this site actually served mainly as an archive for Club Jade’s first several years – that is the perfect description of it: Another way to tell cool stories.
No, I don’t view Legends as fan fiction – it’s still professionally published and licensed, by professional authors, which most fanfic isn’t. (At all.) And the Legends authors never had the freedom your standard fic author does, to ignore or use whatever. Even in the beginning, there were guidelines and restrictions, which is why there wasn’t a crazy Obi-wan clone in the Thrawn trilogy.
But clinging to the concept of canon has, over time, done just as much harm as good, and it’s just plain unrealistic in many ways – which is Wendig’s point, really. The world doesn’t work like that.
We first heard about The Imperial Handbook earlier this year and it was finally officially announced without a word about whether it fits into Legends or the new canon. Well, Mark Hurliman of Star Wars Report got an answer: It’s Legends.
This isn’t a big surprise – predecessors The Jedi Path, Book of Sith, and The Bounty Hunter Code are clearly Legends as well – but with Lucasfilm choosing to leave things vague (for sale purposes?) it’s good to have this nailed down.
Earlier this month, Lucasfilm’s Leland Chee tweeted out a timeline of the Star Wars movies and TV shows.
This was originally mistaken for the in-universe dating system as well, but Chee clarified that Lucasfilm will still continue to use A New Hope (or rather, the Battle of Yavin) as year 0, the BBY/ABY dating system we’re all
resigned used to. So the timeline stands at so:
- The Phantom Menace is 10 years before Attack of the Clones, 32 years before A New Hope.
- Attack of the Clones is 10 years after TPM, 22 years before ANH.
- The Clone Wars span 3 years, from 22 to 19 before ANH. (Chee has previously tweeted the cartoon’s internal timeline order.)
- Revenge of the Sith – the beginning of the Empire, the birth of Luke and Leia – is set 13 years after TPM, 19 years before ANH.
- The prequel trilogy spans 13 years.
- Rebels – the only open-ended item on this list – begins 27 years after TPM, 14 years after ROTS and 5 years before ANH.
- A New Hope begins 32 years after TPM, 19 years after ROTS.
- The Empire Strikes Back begins 3 years after ANH. Luke, Leia and the Empire are 22.
- Return of the Jedi begins a year after ESB, 36 years after TPM.
- The original trilogy spans only 4 years.
Much of this we already knew – or assumed – but it’s good to have everything nailed down for our new era.
I’ve never been much a fan of the BBY/ABY dating system, as from an in-universe perspective it makes no sense. Why some random battle? Yes, it put the Rebellion on the map and made them a real threat, but as Year 0? Before the Legends hammer fell I’d have argued for ROTJ as 0, but in our current environment the best case is probably for ROTS and the founding of the Empire.
Of course, from the outside, it makes perfect sense: ANH is what actually began this whole thing. And, after all, the western world’s dating system is based on the birth of a religious figure, so maybe it’s just silly to argue the point re: fiction at all. (Okay, it’s totally silly to argue about fictional dates, which is why I’m not actually arguing.)
In any case, BBY/ABY is well established, so this does make us have to do slightly less math. (I always root for ‘less math,’ thus my previous desire to use ROTJ as 0.)
To throw another wrench in the gears, per Star Wars Underworld:
It’s also worth noting that the Star Wars Rebels Visual Guide detailed that the planet Lothal, which will be a principal location in the series, has it’s own calendar. The Invasion of Naboo is at 3245 LY (Lothal Year), the Battle of Geonosis at 3255 LY, and so on. It appears even individual planets will have their own calendars now.
So that’s going to be fun – but a very handy way to explain inaccuracies. (Would Luke and Leia ever realize they shared a birthdate if they each primarily thought of their own in Alderaan and Tatooine dates?) As for the sequel trilogy, the number we’ve heard so far is about 30 years after Return of the Jedi – which would make it 66 years after TPM, 53 years after ROTS and 34 years after ANH. But until Lucasfilm and Chee are ready to reveal the exacts – which could actually be 31, 32, 33 or even 35 years – we’ll stick with the approximation.
Shelly Shapiro, Dave Filoni and Pablo Hidalgo explain how Lucasfilm is handling canon and Legends. A nice roundup of quotes from the SDCC book panel.
Newsarama has another interview with John Jackson Miller about A New Dawn.He does have some wise words on canon and the Legends label:
I really think it’s a mistake for people to play the canon/not-canon parlor game. What they said when they made the announcement is that the previous material wasn’t being discarded, it would be drawn from – inspirations and ideas would come from it. The planets are the same; the species are the same. You know, the Rebels series uses the same manufacturer of the TIE fighters that was introduced in the Role Playing Games years ago. My book revolves around a strategic compound that I introduced back in KOTOR years ago! The universe is the same.
The thing about “Legends,” and that’s the word on the cover of the previous material: Legends can be true, in part or in whole. They inspire, they are sort of like the King Arthur story – parts of that, little bits of that here and there are true.
He goes on to talk about A New Dawn specifically and some of the other things he’s working on. And don’t forget to check out James’ video interview!
Lest anyone confuse the issue (reported on first by Lightsaber Rattling and, today, The Hollywood Reporter) Star Wars Insider short stories are canon from the current story, ‘Blade Squadron’ on. The first part of the story, in Insider #149, came out shortly before the official announcement regarding the Expanded Universe.
The argument against ‘canon.’ On The Mary Sue, April Daniels argues that the concept actually does fandom, properties and stories more harm than good.