I’m gonna give you the short answer to the question of why the Expanded Universe got the boot, and then we’re gonna dive into it. The short answer is because Lucas’s view of the Star Wars universe is the only one that matters. And sure, as the creator, the buck should stop with him. But there’s a lot more to the story.
I just pulled the 20th anniversary edition of Heir to the Empire out of the library the other day, and if you’re not into the Expanded Universe, that’s the very first EU book released, in 1991, which essentially brought the Star Wars franchise back from the brink of extinction.
In the foreword, then-president of Lucasfilm Licensing Howard Roffman (now EVP of Lucasfilm Franchise Management) tells the story of the founding of the EU, and the basics of the ground rules – that they had to be set in the post-Return of the Jedi era, and the prequel trilogy era was off limits, since Lucas might decide to do those movies eventually. Also, that no major characters would be killed.
Beyond that, it was an anything goes scenario. Yes, the EU had to respect what happened in the movies and the Clone Wars cartoon series, but Lucas was famously hands-off about it.
This is where we start to talk about canon. “Canon,” refers to what’s considered the official story of Star Wars, and there are actually multiple levels of canon, if you can believe it. It’s not all just one canon.
“G” canon, as they call it, is the ultimate, since it originated from George himself. The movies are the be-all, end-all (including the upcoming Episodes VII, VIII, and IX), and their supporting reference books, novelizations, and radio plays are also “G” canon if they don’t conflict with the actual movies.
Then there’s “T” canon, which is for the 6 seasons of The Clone Wars cartoon series, and the upcoming Star Wars Rebels series. Note that these are not made by Lucas himself, so they get kicked to a lower level. But the makers of these toons are deeply involved with Lucasfilm and are part of their newly formed story group, so they get props over the next level…
Which is “C” canon, and that will be the books, comics, and games coming out after April 25, 2014. All of those are going to be tied in more carefully to the new “G” and “T” canon material being produced. Check out this article from /Film about the future of long-form storytelling that dives into this a bit further.
Below that is “S” canon, the basement of continuity, which is where all the Expanded Universe stuff got kicked to earlier this year.
And heaven help us, but there’s an “N” canon for non-canon items, and a “D” canon for the Star Wars Detours comedy series that currently is in development limbo. But they have nothing to do with our time together here.
So, there are two quotes I want to share with you, collected courtesy of the fine editors of Wikipedia. The first comes from an interview with Lucas for the August 2005 issue of Starlog. Responding to a question about the EU, he says:
I don’t read that stuff. I haven’t read any of the novels. I don’t know anything about that world. That’s a different world than my world. But I do try to keep it consistent.
And he goes on to say that:
When I said [other people] could make their own Star Wars stories, we decided that, like Star Trek, we would have two universes: My universe and then this other one. They try to make their universe as consistent with mine as possible, but obviously they get enthusiastic and want to go off in other directions.
The other piece is this, from an interview with Total Film magazine in May 2008. He says,
There have been novels about the events after Episode VI, which isn’t at all what I would have done with it.
So you’re going to hear about giving the new crop of Star Wars creators the freedom to make up new stories and not be hemmed in by what’s come before. But the real reason the EU got bounced down the canon ladder is because George had plans for what Episodes VII-IX would be about, even though he denied it for many years. And as we all know, and as he likes to remind us, his vision is the only one that matters.
Star Wars Fun FactSurprising and little known Star Wars tidbits, usually related to today’s Force Feature.
I didn’t plan it this way, but it happens to be the birthday of Archie Goodwin, one of the early, early contributors to the Star Wars Expanded Universe. His run on the Star Wars comic books started with issue #11 from May 1978, and he even wrote for the Star Wars syndicated newspaper comic strip, too.
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— Star Wars Collection (@my_starwars) September 6, 2014
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Trivia Time!Test your knowledge of the Star Wars universe!
Yesterday’s answer: Biggs and Tank
Today’s question: Where was Luke planning to go to have R2-D2’s memory erased?