A Farewell to the Expanded Universe

Day 11: J.J. Abrams is the Chosen OneI became at peace with it just in the nick of time.

On Sunday, April 13th, 11 days before Lucasfilm, Disney and Del Ray made the inevitable announcement about the fate of the “Expanded Universe,” I gave in.

That was the day I took many of the remaining “Star Wars” novels off the shelf at the end of my bed and put them in plastic shopping bag. Among the volumes selected for retirement were Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn duology, Kevin J. Anderson’s Jedi Academy trilogy, Michael Stackpole’s “I, Jedi” and Dave Wolverton’s “The Courtship of Princess Leia.”

I wrote “May the Force be with you,” my name and the date on the inside of “Vision of the Future” and two days later I took the bag to the Library Service Center near my house to donate them to the Indianapolis Public Library system.

You thought I was going to throw them away, didn’t you?

I’m not a monster.

My shelf isn’t completely bare of post-Return of the Jedi era novels. Despite Lucasbook’s “reboot” of the Expanded Universe into a completely unified canon beginning with John Jackson Miller’s “A New Dawn” in September, I still own the original Thrawn trilogy (though I don’t love it as much of the fandom does, I feel obligated to keep it), Troy Denning’s “Tatooine Ghost” (Not a Denning fan, but it’s his finest outing in the EU and the best novel connecting the OT and Prequel eras) and back home in Arkansas I still have “The Truce at Bakura” by Kathy Tyers.

I still own all of James Luceno’s novels (because they’re the best, hands down) and most of the Michael Reaves’ books (I accidentally left the first “Coruscant Nights” entry in my locker at the end of my senior year of high school).

SwkenobiNo matter what happens in the new generation of books, I will always keep Miller’s “Kenobi.” Aside from Luceno’s “Darth Plagueis”, it was the most fully realized and memorable “Star Wars” novel I had read in years and I would give anything to see Lucasfilm adapt it into movie.

Aside from the above mentioned and Steve Perry’s “Shadows of the Empire,” I’m ready to move on. I might have been ready the instant Episode VII was announced all the way back in October 2012, but I still needed time to let it all sink in.

It can be hard to let go of something you’ve devoted just over a decade of your life to.

When “Episode II: Attack of the Clones” was released in 2002, my Star Wars fandom went into hyperspace. I think it was the moment Anakin turned to Obi-Wan in the elevator and said he hadn’t seen Padme in 10 years. My 11-year-old mind instantly began screaming, “What happened during those 10 years!?”

That question wasn’t immediately answered. My first foray into the Expanded Universe came soon after my AOTC viewing when I walked out of one of the two Vintage Stock stores in Springdale, AR. In my hands was a used copy of “The Truce at Bakura,” which is set the day after “Return of the Jedi” ends.

That was soon followed by the X-Wing series and the “Courtship of Princess Leia,” which I vividly remember getting when I bolted into the other Vintage Stock one night when my family was out to see a move at the local Malco. I quickly bought the book for $3 and ran to the theater, where I proceeded to start reading the book until the lights dimmed for whatever movie we were seeing.

I remember reading “Rouge Planet” by Greg Bear and one of the Black Fleet Crisis trilogy books on a road trip to Boston with my dad in 2004. I still own the former, which I had no idea was connected to the New Jedi Order when I first read it.

I remember reading “Planet of Twilight” by Barbara Hambly and knowing even as a 13-year-old that it was a bad book.

I remember reading Matthew Stover’s “Shatterpoint” on the long bus ride home from school, as I did with many books. I remember having to coax my mom to take me to mall so I could buy “The Cestus Deception” on the day of release, June 1, 2004.

In 2005, I remember reading the “Revenge of the Sith” novelization weeks before the movie’s release. My friend Skyler called it the “nerd’s bible” or something like that. It might not have been, but it was certainly better than the movie, which I loved, and ever since I’ve vowed to never read a movie novelization.

By 2012 I had survived all 19 entries in the New Jedi Order and most of the subsequent nine book series, reading pretty much every book listed in the timeline at the front of a new novel, save the entries that took place in the Old Republic Era. It’s just not my cup of tea.

Then came the bombshell. Disney was buying Lucasfilm. Episode VII was coming.

star_wars_a_new_dawn

 

I don’t know when, but soon the question of what it all meant for the Expanded Universe came up.

I slowly finished out the Fate of the Jedi series. I was fatigued by the overly long series, something you never saw in the Prequel era, one I had always preferred to the post-ROTJ literature, which had its bright spots.

After the Episode VII announcement I didn’t feel inclined to read Denning’s “Crucible,” and now I never will.

I knew Lucasfilm was never going to hold itself to the Expanded Universe, and they have every right not to.

Timothy Zahn once said that he and his fellow authors had to be okay with it when George Lucas backed up over the toys they were playing with in his own driveway.

That now applies to J.J. Abrams and Disney.

I enjoyed the last 12 years of Expanded Universe reading, for better and for worse, from “Bakura” to Martha Well’s fun “Razor’s Edge.” I only regret I’ll never get around to reading the entirety of the “Dark Times” comic series, one of the many great series Dark Horse Comics produced.

I also hate that we’ll never see a third entry in the “Force Unleashed” video game series. For all of its short comings as a video game, it had its moments (remember that feeling when you decapitated a Stormtrooper for the first time?) and a heck of a story. The fact that we’ll never see how Darth Vader escaped being the Rebel Alliance’s “prisoner” will haunt me until my final days.

The greatest thing the Expanded Universe provided me was friendship. In eighth grade, I became friends with Skyler, who I mentioned before. We became friends when we realized we both loved reading Star Wars. This came after a few years of the two us being at odds with each other. He was going though tough times at home and he took it out on others.

We both took Career Orientation together that year and somehow stumbled onto the fact that we both retreated to Star Wars to get away from everything. I believe our friendship started with me lending him my copy of one of the Bounty Hunter Wars books (he’s a Mandalorian fan).

It was Skyler who lent me his copy of the “Revenge of the Sith” novel in 2005. Thanks a lot Skyler.

Not long after I heard about the EU reboot and “A New Dawn,” I had pre-ordered the book on Amazon. I’m most excited however about Luceno’s “Tarkin.” Luceno is the best at bringing together the connective tissue of the Star Wars universe and is the perfect choice for writing the first story about the man who controlled the Death Star.

——–

What are your feelings on the rebooted Expanded Universe? Share your memories of reading the books and comics in the comments.

 

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About Daniel McFadin

NASCAR writer for NBCSports.com. Former Sporting News intern. Graduated from IUPUI in Indianapolis with a master in sports journalism in 2014 and from Arkansas State University in 2013 with a degree in Journalism. Originally from Lewisville, Texas, now in Fort Worth. Ask me if I like Star Wars. I dare you.
This entry was posted in Books, Fandom, Film, High School, Memories, Star Wars and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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