Saturday, April 26, 2014

Star Wars Expanded Universe To Be Relaunched (and Some Upcoming Novels)


On April 25th, 2014, and following Lucasfilm’s “new unified storytelling approach”,* Disney Publishing Worldwide was “proud to announce their first step into that larger world”, one “closely connected to the cinematic entertainment currently in development at Lucasfilm”. They are doing this by relaunching their adult line of Star Wars fiction (adult as in “Not YA”, rather than, you know… Star Wars Porn, or Fifty Shades of Hutt). Two interesting quotations from the press release…

“The future Star Wars novels from Disney Publishing Worldwide and Del Rey Books will now be part of the official Star Wars canon as reflected on upcoming TV and movie screens.”

And also…

“We’re extremely proud of the hundreds of amazing Star Wars books we’ve published at Del Rey,” said Scott Shannon, SVP, publisher, Del Rey and Digital Content, “And now we’re excited to finally be able to call our upcoming novels true canon – a single, cohesive Star Wars storyline – all while keeping the amazing backlist of Star Wars Legends content in print.”

In other words, all of those sanctioned-by-George Lucas novels you’ve been reading for the past few decades? Apparently, they are no longer part of the official canon. This is… a little disappointing.

Before I pose some of my own thoughts, here’s a video from the Stars Wars YouTube channel, which looks back over the Extended Universe line (published on April 25th 2014):

Some of the earliest Star Wars novels set post-Return of the Jedi were fantastic, and many remain amongst my favourite sci-fi novels – especially Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy, Kevin J. Anderson’s Jedi Academy Trilogy, Roger MacBride Allen’s Corellian Trilogy, and also Dave Wolverton’s The Courtship of Princess Leia (to name but a handful).


But, now, they do not count. Instead, they seem to be a kind of splinter alternate-reality-timeline for Star Wars. A bit like Marvel’s Ultimate Comics line, perhaps?

SW-Crucible(Denning)I guess this means that Troy Denning’s Crucible must be the final novel in the original (true!) Expanded Universe line?

I’m not sure about the logic behind retconning such a wealth of fictional output, but at least this way they can keep Chewbacca alive… (George Lucas explicitly told the editors that the core characters were not to be killed off, but they nevertheless went and crushed Chewie with a moon…)

A second announcement clarified the future of the original Expanded Universe fiction (novels and, I assume, comics):

“In order to give maximum creative freedom to the filmmakers and also preserve an element of surprise and discovery for the audience, Star Wars Episodes VII-IX will not tell the same story told in the post-Return of the Jedi Expanded Universe. While the universe that readers knew is changing, it is not being discarded. Creators of new Star Wars entertainment have full access to the rich content of the Expanded Universe. For example, elements of the EU are included in Star Wars Rebels. The Inquisitor, the Imperial Security Bureau, and Sienar Fleet Systems are story elements in the new animated series, and all these ideas find their origins in roleplaying game material published in the 1980s.”

While it is unfortunate and a little disappointing that the original EU (now to be published under the “Legends” banner) is technically defunct, there are two things to be thankful for. First, the novels are going to remain in print, thanks to considerable, continuing high demand for them. Hurrah! (I need to replace some of my battered old editions… Perhaps UK-available eBook editions should be made available?) So, should anyone have a more strong reaction than disappointment, they can always just keep re-reading this great novels. Personally, I’d very much like to go back to the ‘start’, although given the decades between when I first started reading SW fiction and now, I do worry that my rosy memories will be destroyed…

Secondly, this means we’re still going to be getting new Star Wars novels each year – multiple times per year, actually. This is not a bad thing, despite how disappointed I’ve been with the line recently (maybe the planning for the shift drew attention away from the current/commissioned novels, which could explain some of the dip in quality and focus). Three of the new titles announced, in particular, caught my attention. Minimal information by way of synopses available at the moment, so here are the titles, release dates, and very brief ‘pitches’:

James Luceno, Tarkin (November 2014)


Bestselling Star Wars veteran James Luceno gives Tarkin the Darth Plagueis treatment, bringing a legendary character from A New Hope to full, fascinating life.

Kevin Hearne, Heir to the Jedi (January 2015)


A thrilling new adventure set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, and – for the first time ever – written entirely from Luke Skywalker's first-person point of view.

Paul S. Kemp, Lords of the Sith (March 2015)


When the Emperor and his notorious apprentice, Darth Vader, find themselves stranded in the middle of insurgent action on an inhospitable planet, they must rely solely on each other, the Force, and their awesome martial skills to prevail.


  1. Well well, this sounds quite astonishing to me. I like the "New Jedi Order" series so much, I actually think this probably counts the best pieces in the entire EU. Let's hope the new EU will do best.

    1. There were certainly good moments in the NJO (I kept reading it all, after all), but the 18-book arc just became exhausting, for me. I was glad when it ended. The following two 9-book arcs (after the Dark Nest trilogy) started well, but the payoff at the end of each was lessened by again drawing it out too long. The middle and second half novels too often felt like filler. The same, I thought, about the NJO. More trilogies and stand-alones, I'm hoping for.

    2. You're right. Sometimes, I'm feeling that neverending series are killing the concept. Still, I'm a devoted fan to the Yuuzhan Vong and I hope they're going to be some way back in the "new canon".

    3. That would be interesting. They were a good enemy, yes. I think trilogies focusing on specific characters, or aspects of the universe they've created could work really well (Nathan's example, below, of the Warhammer universe is a good example of how this can be done well). Maybe, for example, a trilogy that looks at... I don't know, security officers on Coruscant; or smugglers in Hutt space; something in the Imperial Remnant (if that remains a thing in the new EU). I think there's no need for them to focus solely on Luke, Leia, Han, et al - in many ways, that was what became limiting, even when they expanded the Skywalker and Solo families (before killing some of them off in really annoying ways...).

    4. I do not know the Warhammer Universe or, at least, not enough to exactly *see* what you're both meaning. However, I do think some concepts will have to be set up exactly the same way it in the new EU that they were in the old one. Imperial Remnant, to my thinking, are totally one of those.

      And yes, it could let us read some good new things. New approach, new ideas, ...

      (BTW : I apologize for my english if it's poor or strange. It isn't my first language, actually.)

  2. Luceno's Darth Plagueis was awesome, so I'll probably have to check out Tarkin. And of course, waiting on pins and needles for Kevin Hearne's Luke Skywalker book.


    1. Never read Plagueis... Heard good things, but just never got around to it. Tarkin is a great character, though, so I'm looking forward to trying this.
      Just hope the new books are better than recent output, which has disappointed.

  3. I understand that fans who have been keeping up with the EU are going to rage against this because it does feel like a bit of a kick in the face, but I'm pretty sure that, given time, and assuming that Disney does well with the new plans, fans will settle down and come to appreciate the new.

    Frankly, I'm pleased with the idea of a new and fresh approach. It's worked just fine in other fandoms. I don't see why it wouldn't work here.

    1. But I don't like change... ;)
      Seriously, though - I agree with you. I'm sure they recognise how valuable their Star Wars IP is (beyond the $4bn they paid for it). It's just quite the jolt, I think. As I mention above - if they can reclaim the magic, which had been lost recently, then we're in for very good reading times ahead. In that second announcement I linked to, they mention that they may be dipping in to the EU (now Legends) for inspiration, so some interesting stuff might make it over in to the new canon.
      And, more importantly, readers will still have 35yrs' worth of novels to read and re-read, if they don't like the new. The 'original' novels mean a lot to me, so I imagine I'll never be able to see them as defunct, and they'll likely always be favourites. But... Hopeful for the new.

    2. In a lot of ways it is needed. Being tied to one timeline and one set of characters killed a lot of the creativity. It took true standouts to keep it fresh. Compare to Warhammer, where a author isn't tied to anything KJ Anderson wrote, the product was consistently better.

      Have my own Star Wars post in the works, knew I wouldn't be the only one.

    3. True. But, at the same time, how is what they're proposing going to be any different? They're going to make sure everything ties in with the Rebels TV series, the six movies to date and the one-movie-a-year they've proposed, as well as the new line(s) of comics and novels. It's going to grow a hell of a lot bigger and faster than the Expanded Universe/Legends did originally. Within a couple of years, they'll have generate a ton of canon that everyone will then have to adhere to. It's the same with any tie-in universe, I assume (don't actually have much experience with any of the other established shared-universes, like Star Trek).

      And yes, the Warhammer example is a good one of how it can be done well. That's why, in SW, novels like "I, Jedi", the X-Wing series, and those others that didn't focus on the core-characters from the movies were so good - not that the novels featuring Han, Luke, Leia, Chewie, et al, weren't good: the ones I mention in the post are just a handful of the ones I loved.

      I'm cautiously optimistic, anyway.

    4. I am very very very skeptical of the approach Darth Disney seems to be taking. I can appreciate that fans also get tired of a story that doesnt progress much. However, I do not agree with or even see the need to veer from the EU. The stories have been told already and SW doesnt have a bunch of off-shoots where there are alternate realities and bastardized cross-overs. The nice part is the EU, with the exception of the 140 year jump to Cade Skywalker, has pretty muched stayed in step year for year since the original trilogy was released. The characters have aged accordingly and their stories as I said before have been told. So why is there a need to rewrite the EU? Continue on from where it stands but Dont deny the established EU, just take it in down a different path.

    5. Oh and one more thing... This to the fans is an adventure that we all love and adore. To Disney this was a 4 billion dollar investment. So, when faced with the challenge of making back the 4 billion dollars and turning a profit, what does one do? You rewrite history. And Disney has the perfect chance to do just that. They will cash in on rewriting the last 30 years and cash in on the continuing story. They will charge double the amount for product that has already been released and everyone WILL absolutely open their wallets and throw money to get it.

    6. I'm not sure I agree with the "they will charge double" theory - regarding the books, at least, there are now pretty solid conventions for pricing (inching up as time goes by, true), so paperback and hardcovers will not suddenly be priced at exhorbitant rates.

      At the same time, I believe that Disney knows very well how to managed market expectations - they are aware that people will and can only pay certain amounts for products, so I don't see prices for Star Wars related merchandise and spin-offs suddenly rising to ludicrous levels. Is that certain? No. But I would be very surprised if Disney weren't aware that by doing that, they would likely make less money by selling to fewer people.

  4. Speaking of adult fiction, I was always curious what Star Wars would like like with a George R R Martin slant to it. Given the novels seemed to be more closely tied with the new animated series, I'm not expecting anything edgier.

    Agree with previous comment that Plagieus is one of the best novels in recent history.

    1. A GRRM-style SW would be awesome, I think. :)
      But no, it's Disney, and their desire to maintain younger readership will trump any desire to 'go edgy'. I hope I'm mistaken.
      That's two votes for Plagueis, so maybe I need to give it a read...

  5. After reading the comments, and thinking about it some more - I'm glad they'll be 'undoing' the whole Darth Cadeaus storyline. That didn't work for me. Never did. The development of that bad guy (yes, I'm trying to avoid spoilers, here) was so... simplistically shown. So, +1 for retcon, I guess...?

    1. Yes that was quite horrendous. Darth Whiny Britches was a poorly developed character. Although later on they try to explain it away as if he were simply a pawn.

  6. Not unexpected. Once Disney bought it over, I always thought it was going to happen. After spending all that money, they would want to put their stamp on it. Considering all the tie-ins there are now, I would even call it "the right move".

    1. I also wonder if they were nervous about how old the main characters were getting? This was, they don't have to worry about any of them dying...