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The Geek Life: Star Wars Expanded Universe

Goodbye EU

By Robert T. Trate     January 13, 2014

Boba Fett by
© Tom Whalen
The Geek Life is a weekly look at what is going on in the Geek Culture. Movies, Comics, Books, Video Games, and TV Shows encompass more than just release dates and reviews. This week, the Geek Life opens a can of Bantha poodoo. 
I still remember the day I first told a group of my teammates about “Star Wars Heir to the Empire”. The book by Timothy Zahn was the first of many that expanded on the universe that George Lucas had created post Return of the Jedi. Sure, there was the Marvel Comic, but this was five years after that had wrapped. My teammates were enthralled about what was happening to Luke, Han, and Leia. I suddenly realized the power of storytelling and that Star Wars still meant something to so many people years after it had finished.
Now, jump to the present and years upon years of Star Wars novels, comics, movies, video games, and TV shows have enriched that post Jedi universe. It now appears that all those events are going to be swept away.  
I have made no attempt to hide my love of Star Wars here on Mania as both a columnist and as the site’s editor. It might be my first love as it has been with me since I was two years old. I’ve jumped into the expanded universe and read all Timothy Zahn’s books (the best, in my opinion) and more than my fair share of Marvel and Dark Horse’s comic books. They were a great distraction and a fun way to visit my first love. However, once Chewbacca died in “Vector Prime” I stopped reading the Star Wars novels. This is interesting because now the kid gloves were off. A major character was no longer going to be with us, which one would think would reinforce my desire to read more Star Wars novels. The reset button wasn’t going to be pushed anymore. New characters weren’t going to be erased, killed, or forgotten about by the time the next novel was published. “The New Jedi Order” was a great way to go. However, it became too hard to follow for the occasional reader and too expensive, as well.

A couple of months ago, I engaged someone in a Star Wars conversation. This is something I don’t normally do. I was wearing a Star Wars t-shirt and so was this particular person. The release date for Episode VII had just been announced and I asked him what he thought about the new film coming out. Though it shouldn’t have come as a surprise, he told me he was going to be extremely disappointed if JJ Abrams did not embrace the expanded universe. He then went on to discuss its importance and significance. I felt really sad for this guy. I know he had invested just as much time, effort, and memory space I had for Star Wars (more so as he had proclaimed to have read all the books), but he was never going to enjoy the new movie. Never in my wildest dreams did I feel there were going to be adventures after Return of the Jedi on the big screen. For him, the adventure never ended and now they would all be tarnished. Yet, to be so short sided in thinking that JJ Abrams and crew have to embrace the expanded universe was his own fault. Star Wars isn’t just for you, me, or this poor guy. It belongs to everyone and means something different to each of us.
As the official "Keeper of the Holocron" at Lucasfilm, Leland Chee and his committee decide what comes and goes, I ask all of you to keep an open mind. Remember, we never thought we would get another adventure with the original Star Wars family. Those of us that kept the flame alive, reading the books, buying the comics, and playing the video games, have been given a great gift; Star Wars is coming back to the big screen. However, Star Wars just doesn’t belong to us, it belongs the next generation to come.

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ElBaz13 1/13/2014 5:53:31 AM

I'm pro and con with the EU.

First of all, I was like you Rob, when Heir to the Empire came out. This was the first "official" SW fiction post Return of the Jedi to come out and Lucasfilm saw the fans still loved the SW universe. In fact, this Zahn series is credited for reviving the franchise as the book sales kicked major butt. The great thing about this series was it was the only one. Shortly after, the Dark Empire comic series was released and sadly, was horrible and was nothing that captured the Zahn magic.

Then Lucasbooks/Bantam started to release more and more books. Being a SW junkie, I picked them up since there seemed to be one a year. Courtship of Princess Leia, Truce at Bakura, Jedi Academy trilogy.  Then it jumped the shark for me. Star Wars novels went into Star trek territory. Way too many books being released and I couldn't keep track. Plus this EU continuity was also tied into the "junior" books about the Solo kids. Yes, kids books. I pretty much gave up especially when I heard of the Yuzhan Vong storyline and the death of Chewie.

Part of me would love to see the EU but not word per word. It would be nice if they keep the key elements of the characters/stories. The Solo kids, Mara Jade, Thrawn, etc...

monkeyfoot 1/13/2014 7:12:10 AM

My love for Star Wars and Lucas knows no bounds. But I have never really been into all the comics and books of the EU that much. I'd read a few but from the start of all of that it just seemed too much to keep track of. I know the bare basics of what was going on like Chewie death and twins, and Skywalker's wife and such. I would look through one of those big books at the bookstore that kept a chronicle of all the major events to know what was going on. I had assumed it was all carefully choreographed. I didn't know about any possible discrepancies and it didn't really matter to me. I've always assumed anything millions of dollars was spent on (movies, TV, video games) took precedent over anything else.

I have no problem with Abrams and co. trashing or changing major parts of it and organizing it better. The worst thing of all for the filmmakers for the new movies would be to be tied to events staked out in the other media. "A better story is for Han and Chewie to be here and Luke to be over there. But we can't because according to the EU they should be over here instead and this or that has to happen."

No! Change what you need to make great movies. That's all I want.

ElBaz13 1/13/2014 8:00:54 AM

And for those who want the Thrawn trilogy as the new movies, can't do it. That happened 5 years after RotJ and there were no Solo kids. The actors are too old now for that.

But events from that can be referenced.

And who knows, maybe Dave Filoni's group can do animated adaptations of the Thrawn series?

hanso 1/13/2014 8:12:25 AM

 If it wasnt the movies not many peeps knew or cared about it so no biggie if they get rid of it.  Im sure they will pick the best parts from the eu anywayz and just use that going forward.

hanso 1/13/2014 8:15:18 AM

 That poor guy you spoke with probably has had many lonely nights with only the sweet embrace of his hand around his pipi.

TheMovieGuy28 1/13/2014 8:28:16 AM

I'm going to defend the Vong series for many reasons....

-I, too, remember reading 'Heir to the Empire' in 1991. It was given to me by a classmate in 5th grade, Crystal Lee. She was the reason I came to know the EU

-I remember the Jedi Apprentice trilogy as being the first SW book to include swear lines like "bastard" and "ass". But it was also awesome, as we got to see Kessel and all the mines/black holes.

-Finding and enjoying things like Truce at Bakura, Courtship of Princess Leia, Darksaber, Tales of Bounty Hunters (which has the GREATEST BOBA FETT STORY ever told, seriously, Maniacs, read it!)

-then in 1999 Vector Prime came along. I was blown away. As you said, the Chewie death was hard to take. I cried. I literally cried. I couldn't believe it. I kept thinking they'd find him 100 pages later, alive but bloodied. But, he went out as only Chewie could; a paw to the sky as a planet was dropped on him.

Since that book, I could not put the Vong series down. It took over 4 years for me to finish the series, going through 25 books. You saw a fierce enemy from the unknown universe, who it's alluded to that GA Thrawn was fighting on the fronts, waaaay back in the Heir trilogy.

Yes, new characters were introduced. The Solo twins were now teens, with Anakin bringing up the rear. Their dynamics, their characterization, how they brought completely different viewpoints to the Jedi code and use of the force. But they brought back old characters, Wedge, now a general, still flying his squadron. Garm Bel Iblis, Talon Kardde, Mara & Luke and their relationship, even the new Grand Admiral Pelleon, Kyp Durron.....just incredible!

Even the Vong. I came to respect them. Basing all technology off organic life. Growing their ships in coral fields in space. Wearing crabshell armor that was alive and could stop a lightsaber. Their amphistaffs that could go from what I imagine was a two-headed snake that could turn into a whip. And the fact that they came to resembler in my mind, years later, the Na'Vi, only with more tattoos, looking more Maori, and being more disfigured.

The Vong series I think is one of the greatest additions to the SW universe. I did not follow the X-Wing series or the Young Jedi Knights, and I've not read a book since the Vong.

The worlds we see, the battles we see, the one-on-one fights between a 9' Vong and a Jedi.

I'm telling you, if they somehow manage to start this trilogy with Vector Prime, it would be perfect. That series started out with Han, Leia, and Luke. and it blossomed into bringing in the Solo triplets as the new torchbearers, but never in a disrespectful way.

I sincerely hope they bring this series to life. Robert, you are missing out on the greatest edition, imho, to the EU.

TheMovieGuy28 1/13/2014 8:34:57 AM

Forgot to mention this EXTREMELY important note about the Vong-

They are non-existent to the force. If anyone read the Thrawn trilogy, remember how the Yysalimari were used to make a sort of "force bubble" around Thrawn and his elite soldiers? (for those that don't know, it was a lizard-like creature that lived high in some forest treeline, and it emitted a chemical that basically made it a void in the force, up to around 3' in diameter)

But yes, the Vong are immune to the force. it's like a 10' barrier. So the Jedi end up having to rely on their agilty and training in order to fight them. They can't just force push or force jump or bring down rocks or shoot lightning or toss their sabers at them.

The Vong are like a misguided samurai. They have a pure warriors code, and in their eyes, the more disfigured a Vong was, it was seen as a sign of superiority. Several leaders would have limbs missing, or no upper lip, or a fake eye that could spit poison. Their twisted views is what made for the most formidable enemy they've ever faced.

lazarus 1/13/2014 1:17:14 PM

Real quick on this. Robert what do you mean goodbye EU?

Really? Just because Abrahams goes a different way does not discount the EU contributions. Really. As much as I  would like for them to follow the EU, if he does not it does mean it is errata and thus no longer valid.

Kinda of the same way the new Star Trek does not invalidate the previous history and other series.

And I would also recommend the NJO series, very good series. There will still be more and they will continue the EU. The Vong were INVISIBLE to the Force. Not immune to it. They could not be targeted direct by the Force say like using Force Lightning. But you could however drop a big f-ing rock on them. As Anakin did in one of the books. Yeah the Vong are still slaves to physics. And the armor was not perfect, it looked and acted like plate mail. And thus had chinks and seems in the suit. Lightsabers can't penetrate the armor but get it under the armpit and it works famously.

I personally would love to see the NJO brought to the screen. They will never do it. But it would be nice.

TheMovieGuy28 1/13/2014 1:21:39 PM

sorry Laz, it's been almost 10 years since I finished the series. My Vongese is a little hazy haha....


...but now that I described them, would you see them along the lines of Maori warriors crossed with the Na'vi from Avatar, only built more muscular and with the disfiguration?

hanso 1/13/2014 1:58:18 PM

Crystal Lee sounds hot.

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