Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Star Wars Expanded Universe and Canon

I love Star Wars, I grew up with Star Wars and Star Trek. I love science fiction and yes Star Wars is science fantasy, but that is a sub-genre of science fiction, and honestly Warhammer 40K or Final Fantasy XIII is a better representation of science fantasy that Star Wars. I had all the Young Jedi Knights books, I've all the Republic Commando books, I've a thousand technical manuals detailing starships, droids, aliens and characters, I have KOTOR I and II, Battlefront I and II, Empire at War and Forces of Corruption, Rogue Squadron, Battle for Naboo, the Tales of the Sith graphic novel, Republic Commando and a whole slew of other Star Wars related stuff. Also I own the original unedited VHS of the original, I watched the Return of the Jedi video so many times, it messes up on the part where Chewie grabs the Ewok trap and they all get caught in the net. I watched the Clone Wars the animated one and I enjoyed it, it was good, but I think I need to re-watch it with an adult mind rather than the mind of a seventeen year old. Hard to believe that that was a decade ago... I watched the CG Clone Wars and I've got to say, I like it. A lot of my friends are iffy about it, but I think it tells a good story, it can be draggy at times, but the Mandalorian and Cad Bane segments are the best. Though oddly the last episode of season one is out of place, as it should, chronologically occur right before episode nine of season three.
I digress, this is about the EU and Disney. I'm not a big fan of Disney, they don't normally take risks nor do they really create anything innovative. They do make some wonderful films, I enjoy a lot of their animated films which are classics, but their reputation with science fiction is atrocious. During my undergrad, I wrote a paper on Disney and Science Fiction. That itself is probably worthy of a post on its own. Also check out Brian Attebery's essay Beyond Captain Nemo: Disney's Science Fiction. I'll admit that I did enjoy many parts of The Black Hole, it was an interesting, yet had some unnecessarily goofy parts (you can decide on that pun). Anyway, enough distractions! As of recently, the EU or Expanded Universe of Star Wars is no longer canon or official. This means that a lot of amazing stories and events no longer happened. No more TIE Defenders, no more Victory Class Star Destroyers, no more Hapes, no more E-Wings, no more Revan the Lord and Master of the Sith. However, there is also good that comes of this, like no more bovine merda about IG-88B or was it D uploading his consciousness to the Second Death Star and only firing the superlaser because he wished to make the Emperor think he still had control of the Death Star. No more stupid Crying or Weeping Mountain (seriously that's a thing that existed on Endor), no more stupid nine Mon Calimari on eels pushing a massive underwater gun-cannon down a volcanic pit... There were numerous turds in the EU, and a lot of it was from the early stuff (Jaxxon in particular), when there was less checking and referencing. Later EU works are rather solid and don't have as many stupid moments.The EU is what made Star Wars great, no other science fiction series up to that time (mid 90s) had such an expanded set of secondary sources. Now does this mean that the EU is dead? Heck No! Look at Star Trek's EU, which is all non-canon, aside from two comic books, anything that is not a movie or television episode (sans Threshold, which honestly only the ending of that episode is non-canon, and there are worse episodes that are canon that are out there). However, there are plenty of Star Trek books that are written each year, there are plenty of Star Trek games, some are good like Elite Forces or Armada, but the thing is, even though the Star Trek EU is non-canon, that doesn't mean it does not exist. This is probably what will happen with Star Wars's canon.
As most fans have said, the EU will always live on in our hearts, which it will. Darth Revan will always be my favourite Star Wars character. Now I'm a big player in terms of the Star Wars D&D, so I'm used to having non-Canon events and adventures, characters and vehicles. The last game I ran, the forces of Chaos from Warhammer 40,000 invaded the Star Wars galaxy and it was up to the Ctarl-Ctarl from Outlaw Star and a band of assorted Star Wars characters to stop the Sith and Chaos forces from uniting. In KOTOR I and II, I took the dark side path, which in both games is non-canon. I'm used to the non-canon aspect, so maybe that's why this isn't effecting me as much, yet is has affected my outlook on the New Disney Star Wars stuff. You will probably all hate me for this, and brand me as a heretic (call the Ordo Hereticus!) but I'm partially glad that the EU is no longer canon. For those of you who are still with me and not summoning the Ancient Spirits of Evil and Mumra the Ever Pimpin' to kill me, there was just too much contradiction and absurdities in the lore. This has been going on since the release of Episode II, when we learned the origins of Boba Fett. That threw a whole bunch of early lore on Boba's origins into turmoil and writers scrambled to make it all fix, and honestly, I don't think they did all that good of a job. It's not just that, there are many other examples, such as characters working for one side and then immediately working for the enemy and then going back to work for the side they were originally working for. Sometimes big series get overcrowded and congested, look at Star Trek, they created the alternate universe to be able to revamp and start fresh. That is what I think Star Wars needs. Honestly, most fans of Star Wars only have a slight understanding of the EU, and to set a film in the EU Star Wars universe would be a disaster for movie fans. And it is not like this has happened before, as it has. Episode III--General Grievous. If you were a big Star Wars fan like me and were up to date with the games and had watched the Clone Wars animated series, than you knew who he was. But then there were fans like my parents, and a number of my friends who only have a limited knowledge of the EU. When they saw Grievous, the were like, 'Who's this bloke?' I spent the next several hours explaining to my friends and family who Grievous was and why he was important. See the thing is, Episode II established Sarumon, err, Count Dooku as the big bad. Grievous is cool, but he doesn't have the awesomeness that Count Dooku had and also to kill Dooku off as they did was kind of stupid. So making people have to learn who Thrawn or Zsinj or Empress Ta'a, Mara Jade, or why the Emperor is alive and young or who the Yuuzhan Vong are or why the Empire and the New Republic are now allies is a lot honestly. Star Wars itself changed over the years. It started off a lot darker, with the Thrawn Stories and the sexual tension in The Splinter in the Mind's Eye. Over time, Star Wars grew much more family friendly, and example is the Super Battle Droids. In Republic Commando these robots are cold, calculating and emotionless, saying only short, phrases like, 'Die Fleshbag,' and 'Terminate Enemy' in a very metallic and nonhuman tone. They were tough, you kept firing at them and they just would not go down. In Episode Three they have those stupid nasally, comedic voices of the regular Battle Droids. They were no longer scary, they did not blast their way through their own allies to kill their target. Now they were incompetent and weak to fire. However, I've heard rumours, that I prey are not true, that Episode 7 will be even more family friendly. It was my love of science fiction and also growing family friendly trend of Star Wars which caused me to seek out other science fiction works like Halo, Mass Effect, Warhammer 40k, and Vampire Hunter D. I'm looking forward with anticipation, hope and dread at what the future lies for Star Wars. Rebels looks interesting, I like all the Imperial Propaganda and the fact that they have an Inquisitor (I see some 40k influences there), but the main cast looks lacking and comedic. Apparently the upcoming Tarkin novel is written by the guy who wrote the Darth Plagueis novel, which is supposed to be good, also Tarkin is one of my favourite characters. Also the new Battlefront game looks good, just hope it doesn't turn out to be a Battlefield or Call of Duty clone.
In conclusion, I love the EU, I grew up on those stories and games, they inspired my writing and how I waste, err, spend my money. I'm going to miss parts of the EU, like Revan, Hapes, many of the Imperial characters, the old Sith species, the Pre-Boba Fett Mandalorians, but the thing is, TIE Defenders aren't suddenly vanishing, there will always be LPs of TIE Fighter with BattleBunny blowing up Rebels in his TIE Defender, there will always be used book stores selling a worn copy of the second Thrawn book, Steam is still going to sell KOTOR, friends are still going to gather together with their d20s and roll characters and head off on some crazy adventure to stop the Hutt Cartels from getting their hands on Infinite Empire technology. Folks are still going to argue on forums if the Imperium of Man or the Galactic Empire would win in a fight with the stipulation that the Empire is limited to its Legends EU tech and numbers. It was Star Wars that caused the tie-in science fiction novel to become something special and to be taken as a serious work of art. Timothy Zahn's Thrawn novels are up there with Dune, Starship Troopers and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in terms of great science fiction novels. Zahn's novels about Thrawn paved the way for and allowed Graham McNeill's A Thousand Sons to be number 22 on the New York Times Best Seller's list in May 2010.
That is the legacy of the EU, legitimising these series serial-novels; yet also it resorted our faith in Star Wars at times, with games like KOTOR, and I think that now with it being declared non-canon, the good will be able to shine through and the bad can be buried out in Arizona with the ET cartridges where it belongs. So frak you Crying Mountain, screw you IG-88 uploaded consciousness. But yes, being labelled non-canon does diminish the shiny hue of legitimacy that these stories once held, but that legitimacy is towards Star Wars. Heir to the Empire does not have to prove itself as being an amazing novel, it already did that. Just because it is non-canon to Star Wars does not make it now a pathetic piece of literature. Zahn wrote an amazing series of books and no one can take that away from him.

All in all, it is sad to see that the canonical nature of the EU be taken away, but that does not mean it will cease to exist. We can still enjoy the EU and now with this new canon, we have something to compare it to and have a pillar that we can hold the new Star Wars EU towards. And if Episode 7 sucks eggs, then we can take refuge with the old EU. To be honest many science fiction series never even get as many expansions that Halo has, if any at all. Star Wars is one of those few that has a myriad of expanded works, and fans need to remember just how luck we were that we got these works.

That's my thoughts on the matter. Hey, if Rebels and Episode 7 fail, I'll probably be changing my opinion on the state of the EU. I'm giving the new EU a chance, and if it fails, then I will give it the mercy of the Emperor (sfx of fresh magazine being loaded into a storm bolter and the charging of a multi-melta gun).

Qalort signing off for now, devotes of Darth Revan.

PS, check out this video I found: