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Lucasfilm sets record straight on Star Wars Expanded Universe

By Jeff Peterson

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, May 8 2014 3:10 p.m. MDT

George Lucas pauses in front of a stormtrooper exhibit at the Museum of Science in Boston in 2005.

AP

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There's bittersweet news for fans of Star Wars. According to an announcement made by Lucasfilm on April 25 (via StarWars.com), the numerous books, video games, comics and other media that have been created over the last three and a half decades as tie-ins to George Lucas’ galaxy — collectively known as the “Star Wars Expanded Universe” — are now officially non-canonical.

In an attempt to streamline everything Star Wars-related, the powers that be have opted to effectively reboot everything outside of Lucas’ six movies and Cartoon Network’s animated “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” series.

“For over 35 years, the Expanded Universe has enriched the ‘Star Wars’ experience for fans seeking to continue the adventure beyond what is seen on the screen," the press release reads. "When he created ‘Star Wars,’ George Lucas built a universe that sparked the imagination, and inspired others to create. He opened up that universe to be a creative space for other people to tell their own tales. This became the Expanded Universe, or EU, of comics, novels, videogames and more.

“While Lucasfilm always strived to keep the stories created for the EU consistent with our film and television content as well as internally consistent, Lucas always made it clear that he was not beholden to the EU. He set the films he created as the canon. This includes the six ‘Star Wars’ episodes, and the many hours of content he developed and produced in ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars.’ These stories are the immovable objects of ‘Star Wars’ history, the characters and events to which all other tales must align."

This means, for one thing, that beloved storylines like Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy — a series of books set a few years after “Return of the Jedi” that many theorized could be the basis of the upcoming Star Wars sequels — are now pretty much glorified fan fiction.

And the same is true of everything released since the very first Expanded Universe novel, 1978’s “Splinter of the Mind’s Eye” by Alan Dean Foster.

However, while disappointing in some ways, this announcement probably shouldn’t come as a huge surprise.

Lucasfilm announced the Star Wars Story Group in January, which was created specifically to sift through the plethora of Expanded Universe content and decide what was and wasn’t canon, according to BleedingCool.com. The answer? Apparently none of it was.

But it’s not all bad news for Expanded Universe fans. The press release also stipulates that just because Expanded Universe content is not considered canonical does not mean that it’s going to be whitewashed.

Instead, it will be rebranded as “Star Wars Legends” and continue to be published and made available to fans.

What’s more, elements from Expanded Universe media may still appear in future projects — much like how fan-favorite character Boba Fett first appeared in the “Star Wars Holiday Special” before being incorporated into Lucas’ film trilogy.

In other words, all the Mara Jade fans out there can keep their fingers crossed that she’ll eventually make it into official continuity.

The other detail worth pointing out is that the announcement also indicates that all future media, whether books, movies, video games or anything else, will be overseen by Lucasfilm to ensure that they are canonical.

In some ways, this is a vast improvement. Although Lucas himself had directly overseen the Expanded Universe prior to selling his company to Disney in 2012, he always maintained that it was separate from his own work. This gave him freedom to overwrite it whenever he felt inclined — one of many reasons the prequel trilogy is still a sore spot for fans as it negated a lot of Expanded Universe mythology.

So, at the very least, this announcement simplifies things by making it clear where the non-movie tie-ins stand in relation to everything else.

“We have an unprecedented slate of new ‘Star Wars’ entertainment on the horizon," Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy said in the press release. "We're set to bring 'Star Wars' back to the big screen, and continue the adventure through games, books, comics, and new formats that are just emerging. This future of interconnected storytelling will allow fans to explore this galaxy in deeper ways than ever before."

Jeff Peterson is a native of Utah Valley and studied humanities and history at Brigham Young University. Along with the Deseret News, he also contributes to the film discussion website TheMovieScrutineer.com.

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