One of the things that’s made me a fan of science fiction and fantasy is the world building. Even mediocre to poor writing can be forgiven if you manage to get me interested in the overall mythology of your world. I think that’s primarily why I’m such a fan of Star Wars. Even now the movies are good enough to get me to watch, but the enduring appeal is the expanded Star Wars universe. I’ve always been a fan of larger, sometimes even ongoing, stories and the Star Wars universe certainly appeals to that.
The expanded universe (the EU as it’s referred to by fans) refers to the entire collection of books, comics, and games about Star Wars. George Lucas has kept tight rein on the mythology of the EU which has resulted in a cohesive body of work where what happens in one author’s work is often referred to in another’s. The EU started slowly, I suspect because Lucas didn’t want to have anything impinging on his mythology before he got his original trilogy all the way out there, but even before Return of the Jedi was released there were a few novels and a weekly series in the Sunday comics filling in the action between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back.
The really fun thing here… the EU builds off the movies, but in a lot of cases some contributor has created something that was added back into the movies in one of Lucas’ many tinkerings. It’s every fanfic writer’s dream. The original versions of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back had signs and labels with modern English, but a set designer on Return of the Jedi included a sign a language that didn’t have our standard Latin alphabet. This was expanded into a full alphabet during the development of a Star Wars roleplaying game which was in turn used to replace the English in the original films.
In the early 1990’s author Timothy Zahn published the Thrawn trilogy which created some of the most endearing Star Wars lore. He was the first to mention the city planet Coruscant which is the capital of both the empire and the republic which came before it. Scenes from Coruscant were added to the celebrations shown at the end of Return of the Jedi. Zahn also created some fan favorite characters that some (or at least me) find at least as interesting as the ones in the films. I’m not entirely clear whether Zahn came up with this first, or Lucas cut it out of his early drafts for technical reasons but Zahn was the first to include details about Coruscant.
The EU answered one question that I’m constantly wondering about in any movie I see. “What happens next.” At this point the timeline extends more than fourty years past the end of Return of the Jedi and includes several major galactic upheaveals along with the adult children of a lot of the original SW characters. It’s also been filling in the blanks between movies and sparked an entirely new franchise into the early history which took place thousands of years before the movies. (I do have a bit of trouble with this because culture and technology are remarkable similar over the thousands of years.)
All this discussion is a long winded way of saying……. I’ve been doing a lot of reading in the Star Wars expanded universe and it’s probably going to be showing up on the blog over the next few weeks/months. A lot of it is mediocre writing that becomes interesting to me BECAUSE it’s Star Wars so I won’t be too insulted if you skip over those posts.