courtship of princess Leia and the iconic covers of SW content

Why I Still Miss the ‘Star Wars’ Expanded Universe

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On April 25, 2014, Lucasfilm Ltd. announced that, because they were beginning to work on the then-upcoming Star Wars sequel trilogy, the Expanded Universe of Star Wars books would now become “Legends” to make way for a brand new canon of Star Wars multimedia content that would fit with the story of the new movies.

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Their already grey area of canon was erased, and the new continuity going forward would include the original six films, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and all future material that would come out. No more Mara Jade, Jaina, Jacen, and Anakin Solo, and Ben Skywalker. Decades of content put to the side.

The “Expanded Universe” (or EU) was not perfect. There were continuity errors, the quality was inconsistent, and not every book was a hit. However, it was also a fun exploration of the world that George Lucas created that was able to play with new characters, many of which fans went on to enjoy. I know people who still will say Mara Jade is their favorite character (hi Rachel).

Writers in the EU took the glimpses of possibility and made it into a story. One of my favorite examples of this is the cover of this article, The Courtship of Princess Leia by Dave Wolverton. After Timothy Zahn’s success with the Thrawn Trilogy, Wolverton was tapped to write some books in this Star Wars EU and his first was Courtship:

With this book, I had watched a goofy old comedy with my wife called Seven Brides for Seven Brothers just a couple of nights before I was asked to do the novel. I always thought that it was an interesting plot, and when I heard that Leia and Han Solo had gotten married in Zahn’s book, my first thought was, Whoa, not so fast! There have to be some fireworks for something that significant. So I knew that I wanted to do a “romance.” I also felt that there was a lot of humor in the Star Wars movies, but I hadn’t seen it in the novels. I think that as a writer, when you get a job like this, you often start to feel pretty serious, and your sense of humor goes out the window. So I wanted to have some big, fun ideas.

Big, fun ideas—something that the sequel series seemed to be allergic to, except for The Mandalorian, and even that plays into a lot of fan service that it thinks audiences want. That creativity—that wasn’t just about marketing products, and crafting the biggest story for the biggest audience—was important in making Star Wars as inclusive (in terms of fan thought, not people) as it was then.

It also realized you could kill off a character.

Leland Chee, the creator of the Holocron, a complete database of Star Wars knowledge, speculated that that the death of Chewbacca was a big issue during an episode of the “Fandom Files” podcast. Vector Prime by R. A. Salvatore saw Chewbacca die by sacrificing himself to evacuate a planet before getting crushed by a falling moon. “He was a challenging character to write for in novels,” Chee said. “Publishing had decided they needed to kill somebody, and it was Chewbacca.”

“If you have the opportunity to bring back Chewbacca into a live action film, you’re not gonna deprive fans that,” Chee continued. “There’s no way that I’d want to do an Episode VII that didn’t have Chewbacca in it and have to explain that Chewbacca had a moon fall on his head. And if we were going to overturn a monumental decision like that, everything else was really just minor in comparison.”

Chewbacca would not be first on my list to die (looking at you, C-3PO), still the ability to let go, allow change, and not just do things because “fans” will love it but because it helps the narrative and stakes—that matters.

(image: Drew Struzan)

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Princess Weekes
Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.