The lasting legacy of Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy. Lisa Granshaw looks at the Expanded Universe’s first big hit for Blastr.
The first Star Wars novel to be set after Return of the Jedi, Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire was released in hardcover on May 1, 1991. It was the first major step out of what’s now called ‘the Dark Times,’ when Star Wars was (mostly) a dormant franchise. The book was immensely successful and helped prove there was still an audience for Star Wars
Although now classified as non-canon ‘Legends’, along with the rest of the pre-2014 Expanded Universe, Heir remains an important part of franchise and fandom history. Hell, we wouldn’t exist without it.
Also it’s a damn good story and you should read it (along with ’92’s Dark Force Rising and ’93’s The Last Command) if you haven’t already. Though note I am totally biased.
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!
Pablo Hidalgo dig out a real gem to share with Twitter this afternoon – a 1994 style guide for writers submiting to the West End Games Star Wars line. Head below the cut for his tweets. Continue reading
Here’s a bullet I’m glad we dodged back in the day: Jordan Maison at Cinelinx reports of an Episode VII game idea that was floating around Lucasfilm in late 2004.
Episode VII: Shadows of the Sith would have put you in the role of an adult Ben Skywalker,” Haden explained, “who was walking the line between the light and dark sides of the Force, unleashing new Force powers never-before-seen in games or movies as he investigated a new threat to the galaxy (a Solo…).
The now decanonized Ben Skywalker was born close to the middle of the New Jedi Order series, in 2001’s Edge of Victory: Rebirth. At the time the idea was in play, The New Jedi Order series had ended with The Unifying Force almost a year before, with Ben still a toddler. His next appearance was the Dark Nest trilogy, which began with The Joiner King in July 2005.
The Solo could have been either Jacen and Jaina Solo, or the offspring of either. (Jacen did have a daughter, Allana, who was born during the Dark Nest trilogy.) It’s possible this idea fed into Legacy of the Force, which did turn Jacen into a Sith, but given the state of Lucasfilm collaboration at the time and the broadness of the idea, I wouldn’t bet on it.
Note again: This was just a pitch/concept, which makes it an interesting might-have-been, nothing more.
The idea of Episode VII being a game just doesn’t sit right at all… But if the game had made it to production I doubt that would have remained the title. Still, it’s interesting to imagine what we might have gotten if this had been in play for the increasingly disappointing final years of the Legends novels.
Episode VII could have had a title that echoed one of the dregs of the early Expanded Universe. “It was Shadow (singular) of the Empire for a while,” Pablo Hidalgo tweeted Friday. “With so many books, it’s inevitable,” he said earlier. And that’s true enough: The Force Awakens itself is a title reminiscent of the 2008 video game The Force Unleashed.
But unlike TFU, Shadows of the Empire hails from the mid-90s, when all the franchise’s new content was in the form of books, comics and games. In fact, the 1996 Shadows storyline was used as a marketing test-run for The Phantom Menace – it had a novel, video game, comic, toys and even a soundtrack. As such, it has lingered on in fan memories to the point where it’s not unusual for some to think it’s still canon.
Having Episode VII reuse a form of that title would have muddied the well considerably, even if the two had nothing in common other than a handful of characters. The key fact: Shadows was set between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. It’s not an Expanded Universe entry anyone could ever actually mistake for an Episode VII contender.
(Shadows certainly has a following, but it has never been a personal or CJ favorite – I recommend listening to this relevant episode of Full of Sith if you need a primer on why. It’s oh so very ’90s.)
Will we see Shadow of the Empire as a title again? We might! It could certainly fit the new era, but I’m very glad Episode VII became The Force Awakens instead.
Yesterday, we first heard of threats from some members of the so-called ‘Bring Back Legends’ movement to spoil The Force Awakens on public Facebook pages. Apparently some of them made good on their threats, because the folks at Del Rey have deactivated their Star Wars Books page. They explain their decision – no, it’s not gone for good – on their Tumblr:
We don’t want to give people who wish to spoil the movie for others a platform to do that and we are under no obligation to do so.
The ‘Bring Back Legends’ (or ‘Give Us Legends’) movement is a rather scattered gathering of fans of older Star Wars novels and comics – almost everything published before September 2014, including several decades of storylines that continue past Return of the Jedi. Last year, Lucasfilm announced that the older fiction would stay in print as ‘Legends’ – but as an alternate universe that doesn’t count towards the new films. Most Bring Back Legends fans want the older storylines to be continued, but there is a rather wide spectrum of opinions and attitudes on how and why.
My policy has been – and remains – to not cover them, for the most part. Most of them seem rather harmless – bitter, sometimes annoying, but harmless. But this is not the first incident where they’ve crossed a very distinct line, and that I will not ignore.
This is not going to change anyone’s minds about Legends, and spoiling people for a hotly-anticipated movie may be skeevy, but this is not a matter of life and death. Still, no one should have to invoke the nuclear option because of what is and isn’t canon in tie-in fiction.
Meanwhile, look for Del Rey to publish Alan Dean Foster’s The Force Awakens novelization as an eBook on Friday – Facebook or no Facebook.
First and foremost, yes, we’re getting the first Star Wars movie in a decade this week – a lucky few (hundred? thousand?) tonight in Hollywood, and the rest of the world a few days later, depending on your location.
But for our purposes, let’s look at Wednesday first, which brings the Darth Vader Annual, Kanan #9, and the Legends Epic Collection: Infinities, because Marvel heard you’d like some alternate universe in your alternate universe.
Now Friday is when things get really interesting, as not only is there a movie, but a whole bunch of books as well. For fiction, there’s The Force Awakens novelization by Alan Dean Foster (eBook only – the hardcover isn’t out until January 5) and Before the Awakening by Greg Rucka. For reference, Pablo Hidalgo’s The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary, The Force Awakens Incredible Cross-Sections from Kemp Remillard and Jason Fry, and of course, The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
The #SuperBloodMoon came and went, and it was neither a The Force Awakens spoiler or a Wookiee murderer, so we’ll just count this week as a win.
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.