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[EM INGLÊS] Construindo uma Galáxia Muito, Muito Distante (O Início do Universo Expandido)

Bruce Torres

Let's be alone together.
Building a Galaxy Far, Far Away: The Story of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Episode I

by Andrew Liptak/
December 14, 2015 at 12:30 pm

It was the moment that readers were dreading since news broke that George Lucas had sold Lucasfilm to Disney for $4 billion: the moment the Star Wars canon would be stripped down and rebuilt from scratch. The Expanded Universe that had sprung up from the ashes of the second Death Star was not going to lead to Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

After the theatrical release of Return of the Jedi, a larger story had emerged, revealing what happened to the Rebels and the remnant of the Empire in the wake of that “final” film. It grew through a myriad of comic books, novels, roleplaying and video games, and other tie-ins, arcing backward and forward in time, collectively becoming known as the Star Wars Expanded Universe.

The Star Wars Trilogy: A New Hope/The Empire Strikes Back/Return of the Jedi

On April 25, 2014, Lucasfilm and Disney announced the creation of a new “Story Group” responsible for maintaining and developing the overarching story of the franchise. The announcement meant that the Expanded Universe that had been building since the early 1990s would no longer be considered canonical, and that the upcoming films would rely on a new, coordinated mythos. The time between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens would be reconstructed with a new series of books, comics and games, and while the older Expanded Universe novels would continue to be published, they would exist under a new designation, “Star Wars Legends.”

Fans immersed in the Expanded Universe were disappointed: the characters and adventures that they had followed for so long were going to end. Others were more optimistic—the Expanded Universe had grown organically over almost two decades; there were entries reviled by readers, numerous dead ends, and stories that were at times contradictory or difficult to reconcile. Maybe a fresh start would produce a canon that would be easier to manage.

For some, the Expanded Universe provided the definitive post-Return of the Jedi story, continuing the adventures of Han Solo, Leia Organa, and Luke Skywalker and giving a spotlight to some of the movie’s lesser known players like Admiral Ackbar and Wedge Antilles, and introducing numerous new characters such as Callista, Mara Jade, Grand Admiral Thrawn, Corran Horn, and Dash Rendar, some of whom became as popular with readers as their film counterparts.

How did these stories pick up the Star Wars mantle and become such a phenomenon in their own right, and how did the Expanded Universe take shape—and change over the course of its life? The answer lies in the numerous authors and editors who were tasked with continuing George Lucas’s grand story into the unknown.

Star Wars Splinter of the Mind's Eye

Every saga has a beginning…

Star Wars
had always been closely linked to novels. Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker appeared in bookstores in November 1976, marking the film franchise’s entry into the public consciousness. The novel was ghostwritten by Alan Dean Foster, who had been brought in by Ballantine Books as an experienced tie-in writer, and who drew from the scripts and concept art of the original film.

Following the success of the movie, Ballantine Books released what had been planned as a contingency: a story written up by Foster to become the basis for a sequel, should Star Wars prove to be only a moderate success. Instead, of course, Star Wars was a massive success, and Del Rey simply released Splinter of the Mind’s Eye in 1978 as a further adventure in the franchise. It became an immediate bestseller. “The world was hungry for any new Star Wars story,” wrote Chris Taylor in How Star Wars Conquered The Universe. “Children would reread the paperback until it fell apart in their hands.”

Splinter of the Mind’s Eye became the first inkling of further adventures in the franchise, and it was closely followed by several other novels from Brian Daley: Han Solo at Star’s End and Han Solo’s Revenge, each released in 1979, and Han Solo and the Lost Legacy, which followed in 1980. The Empire Strikes Back screenwriter Leigh Brackett had signed on to write a novel about Princess Leia, but shortly after completing her screenplay, cancer took her life, and that novel was never written. These tie-in novels showed that Star Wars wasn’t limited to the adventures, characters, and stories of the film: they provided the first glimmers of a larger world beyond what was onscreen, an exciting “expanded universe” in which the stories of the film’s central characters lived on after the credits stopped rolling.

Three more books followed in 1983, following another hero from The Empire Strikes Back and written by L. Neil Smith: Lando Calrissian and the Mindharp of Sharu. Lando Calrissian and the Flamewind of Oseon and Lando Calrissian and the Starcave of ThonBoka. Other adventures appeared in a line of comic books from Marvel.


While these entries added to the Star Wars saga, the books and overarching story that we now know as the Expanded Universe truly have their roots in a small gaming company called West End Games. Founded in 1974 by Daniel Scott Palter, the company initially produced board games, before shifting to produce roleplaying games in 1984.

Bill Slavicsek joined the company in 1986 after answering a blind ad in The New York Times. He was brought on as a games editor, and branched into game design and development before the end of his first year.

Slavicsek had been a longtime science fiction fan and gamer. He read everything he could get his hands on, and when Star Wars hit theaters in 1977, he returned to the theater 38 times.

The same year he joined West End Games, the company worked to secure a license for the franchise. They had already worked with some high-profile properties: Star Trekand Ghostbusters, which ultimately won over officials at Lucasfilm. “I can only guess,” Slavicsek reacalled, “but I think the company pursued the license because the films had such an impact on all of us and they thought it would be a perfect match with the kinds of products that WEG did at that time.”

The West End Games team began working on a roleplaying game sourcebook, started by Curtis Smith, the head of the creative team. When management duties pulled him away from the project, Slavicsek ended up writing most of the book, assigned to the project when the team learned that he was a big Star Wars fan.

His approach was simple: “…to create material that worked with the stuff we saw on the big screen. I saw it as my job to explain what hadn’t been explained and to fill in the blanks so that Gamemasters could run campaigns.”

Roleplaying games, by their very nature, required the production of volumes and volumes of additional material, according to author Troy Denning, who worked as a game designer and writer for companies such as TSR and West End Games. A novel, he noted, only required what was necessary for the story at hand. Roleplaying games, on the other hand, required massive amounts of extra information for gamemasters to use.

The West End Games team had to produce an extraordinary amount of material for their games to work. They went to the original films, novels, scripts, and artwork, and were granted access to Lucasfilm’s archives to mine for information.

Between 1987 and 1999, West End Games produced numerous sourcebooks—notably the Galaxy Guides—for use in the games. “I don’t think that it would be an exaggeration to say that there wouldn’t be an EU without West End Games,” Denning noted.

Star Wars The Han Solo Adventures

The Galaxy Guides and other supplements were authoritative books that provided an enormous amount of raw material for Star Wars fans. Elements such as the names of alien species and their histories, the names of planets, weapons, spaceships, histories, and more were created for use in the games. Denning noted that working on them was a Star Wars fan’s dream: “My assignment was to take all of the characters in the cantina scene and to write their backgrounds and histories of their species. Whatever their common names are now, I made those up. ”

Slavicsek also wanted an element of realism for the games. “I wanted to smooth out any of the rough edges and make the place feel real. For example, ‘Hammerhead’ might be a fine name for an alien on a piece of concept art, but as I explained to my contact at Lucasfilm, that wouldn’t work as an official species name. No species is going to call itself something that sound derogatory or silly. So, in the fiction, Imperials and other elitists will call them ‘Hammerheads,’ but they call themselves ‘Ithorians.’” This philosophy was critical in shaping the tone of the materials that they were putting together. Star Wars stunned audiences by presenting a massive world that felt lived-in; the materials that West End Games was creating followed the same line of thought, and helped provide the context for what was seen on the screen.

Star Wars The Lando Calrissian Adventures

While there had been additional stories told in the Star Wars universe, it was the West End Games materials that really demonstrated to Lucasfilm officials the value of expanding their horizons. “[Lucasfilm was] extremely excited by the prospect of us adding to the existing lore.” Slavicsek recalled. “The RPG book began that process by expanding on a few basic concepts, including the Force and hyperspace travel, but it was the Star Wars Sourcebook that really opened their eyes to the kinds of details we could fill in to help explain their universe.”

The gaming supplements were adding something interesting to the Star Wars universe: it was raw building blocks for storytellers—at the time, gamers—to create their own tales. The West End Games materials became akin to an operating system upon which all Star Wars tales would be based.

Lucasfilm kept a close eye on what they were producing, ensuring that their creations were in line with the tone and intentions of the films. Everything was looked over by the company, and even George Lucas weighed in. “They reviewed and approved everything.” Slavicsek explained. “I could even ask George Lucas a few select questions during the process, as long as I framed them as ‘yes or no’ questions so he could fire back a quick answer.” Lucasfilm had firm rules in place, and suggested alternatives or asked the game makers to steer clear of certain elements, such as Yoda’s species and whether or not Stormtroopers were clones.

West End Games’ Star Wars line was extremely popular, becoming a major source of profit for the gaming company. In the years following the release of Return of the Jedi, there was an appetite for new Star Wars content from the general public, bolstered by persistent rumors of plans for sequel and prequel trilogies.

Star Wars Thrawn Trilogy #1: Heir to the Empire: The 20th Anniversary Edition

Troy Denning asserted that without the efforts of West End Games, the Expanded Universe as we know it wouldn’t exist. “West End Games was huge in establishing the EU before there was an EU. I don’t think that it would be an exaggeration to say that there wouldn’t be an EU without West End Games. The sheer amount of material created for a roleplaying game helped to establish the foundation for the EU and the books that game later on.” He went on to note that after while he was reading Timothy Zahn’s novel Heir to the Empire, he noticed that some of the species that he had invented for Galaxy Guide 4 had been incorporated into the text, something that he was very excited to see.

By the late 1980s, West End Games had done something unique: they had established the elements from which any fan could work off of to tell their own stories in the universe with some level of consistency. The story of Star Wars had ended with Return of the Jedi, and there were no concrete plans for additional movies. Without the efforts of Slavicsek and his team at West End Games, the universe would have simply ended.

Despite West End Games work, by the late 1980s, Lucas Licensing had begun to spool down its efforts: there were no new films planned, and slowly, it seemed as though Star Wars would slip away, fondly remembered by fans who had seen it, and by an even smaller group of fans who played their own adventures, using building blocks that had been written down.

However, the seeds for something greater had been planted, and were waiting for the right encouragement to blossom. More on that tomorrow.

Building a Galaxy Far Far Away: Heir to the Films (1990-1994)

by Andrew Liptak/
December 15, 2015 at 4:00 pm


Between 1977 and 1983, George Lucas’s Star Wars franchise electrified a generation, changed cinema forever, and created a passionate fan base. But with no new films in sight by the end of the 1980s, Lucasfilm began to move on from its science fiction properties. The grand space epic might have ended with the handful of short stories and reference materials had it not been for Lou Aronica.

In 1986, Lucasfilm eased up on the licensing campaign: Return of the Jedi had been out of theaters for three years, and at the time, Lucas felt he was done with directing and done with the franchise that had made him so famous. With the movies receding into the past, there didn’t seem to be a market for the action figures, comics, video games, and other tie-ins that accompanied the trilogy. It was time to look to new creations.

Shadow Moon: First in the Chronicles of the Shadow War

In the 1987, Lucy Wilson, the finance director in Lucasfilm’s licensing department, was promoted to director of publishing , overseeing literary offerings involving the company’s intellectual property. By this point, she had worked on a trilogy of tie-in novels for Lucasfilm’s latest offering, Willow, which would come out years later as Shadow Moon, Shadow Dawn, and Shadow Star. The last Star Wars novel, Lando Calrissian and the Starcave of ThonBoka, had been published years earlier, and “no one at Lucasfilm was thinking of doing new Star Wars novels in 1989.”

Wilson was attending a book fair in New York, working on unrelated projects, when she met with publisher Byron Preiss. He wasn’t interested in her ongoing projects, but mentioned that they should start looking at Star Wars novels instead—those would likely sell.

“That seemed like a really good idea to me. Having been at Lucasfilm, since before the release of the first Star Wars movie,” Wilson recounted, “I knew the impact it had and felt there were a lot of people out there who were dying for something new in the universe.”

She returned home and proposed that the company license a couple of novels. With the blessing of George Lucas, she began to explore her options. Out of contractual obligations, she approached Ballantine Books first, but they passed: they didn’t believe that they would be successful with no new movies on the horizon. Wilson then went through the company’s correspondence from publishers, and came across a letter from Bantam Spectra publisher Lou Aronica, written a year earlier. She remembered that she had been impressed by the company’s presence and offerings at the book fair, and gave him a call.

Aronica joined Bantam Books in 1979 after completing college, and after several years, took over their science fiction line. During that time, he shepherded number of books and authors that established Bantam as a major publisher of genre fiction: David Brin, Gregory Benford, and William Gibson, as well as well-established authors such as Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. In 1985, he launched a dedicated genre imprint called Bantam Spectra.

As a publisher, he hadn’t been all that interested in working with licensed properties, as he had largely been disappointed with the Star Trek novel series. But Aronica had been a huge Star Wars fan from when he first saw the movie in 1977.

Thinking about Star Wars, he realized that he could use some different tactics to tell some new stories in the universe: “It dawned on me that we could do things differently with Star Wars if Lucasfilm was willing to grant the license. The universe was so well developed and had such a great mythology, I believed ambitious novels could be created that honored the universe.”

In the fall of 1988, he put together a letter and sent it to Lucasfilm blindly: he had no idea if the company was even interested in publishing additional stories.

“I talked about wanting to publish these books as events, launching in hardcover, which was fairly unusual for licensed properties at that time.” Aronica recalled. “The core of my message was that we wanted to make the books as powerful to readers as the films had been to viewers.”

Aronica envisioned a line of tie-in novels that were more ambitious than other publishing programs. He wanted to tell stories that were greater in scale, and that actively advanced the story laid down by the films,rather than simply staging what he called “costume dramas”: stories utilizing all the trappings of their source material, “but offering very little more than what fans already had from the original source.”

He also outlined a plan that would set Bantam Spectra’s line of novels apart from what other tie-in franchises were doing: each book or set of books would be an event in and of itself: the new “novels [would be] great reading experiences, not just merchandise,” and would come out in hardcover, rather as mass market paperbacks. Most of all, they understood the books would have to continue a major legacy: “The core of my message was that we wanted to make the books as powerful to readers as the films had been to viewers. I made it very clear that we not only loved Star Wars, but that we wanted to treat it, in the book world, like a great literary property.”

Wilson was won over by Aronica’s pitch and granted a license to Bantam Spectra to produce a trilogy of novels. There were some stipulations: the first was that the books had to be well-written.

“I was trying to bring quality literature to a licensed fictional universe,” Wilson recalled. She also wanted to do something different from the typical tie-in novel. With the Star Trek novels as their main competition, Wilson knew she needed to differentiate her books. “[Star Trek was] constantly rebooting their program with new storylines. I didn’t want our plan to be like theirs, and one big difference was to make ours have one over-arching internal consistency.” Additional stipulations were that the stories had to take place after Return of the Jedi, none of the characters who were featured in the films could be killed off, and characters already dead could not be resurrected.

With the rights in hand, Aronica turned to his publishing team, who, after their initial excitement, began to take the next step: selecting an author to start off the program. “We looked at our existing authors first, then started throwing out other names who might be wooed to Bantam on the strength on the Star Wars project.” said Betsy Mitchell, Bantam Spectra’s senior editor. Bantam Spectra had a strong stable of authors: Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, David Brin, Dan Simmons, William Gibson, and others.

It was Mitchell who recommended Timothy Zahn: she had begun to work for Bantam Spectra a few years earlier, and had signed the science fiction author to a three-book deal for the publisher.

In 1977, Zahn was a graduate student studying physics when he first saw Star Wars. He was hooked. He had also begun writing on the side while studying: “I was working on a mathematical project that really wasn’t going anywhere. My advisor was too stubborn to give up. And he was out of town a lot, so it gave me a fair amount of time while I was stuck waiting for him to get back into town with not much to do, so I started writing as kind of a hobby,” Zahn told TheForce.net in 2000. When his advisor died of a heart attack, Zahn decided that he was more interested in pursuing writing than a doctorate, and left school.

Over the next couple of years, he published a number of stories in magazines such asAnalog Science Fiction and Fact, Amazing Stories, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, before he published his first novel,The Blackcollar, in 1983. The same year, he published Cascade Point in Analog, which earned him a prestigious Hugo Award for Best Short Story (the same year Return of the Jedi earned the Best Dramatic Presentation award.)

Mitchell had worked with Zahn at Analog, where she was the managing editor, and again at a newer science fiction publisher, Baen Books, where Zahn published a number of novels.

Star Wars Thrawn Trilogy #1: Heir to the Empire

Mitchell and her team sent Zahn’s name, along with several other names, to Wilson. “I picked Timothy Zahn from her selection,” Wilson said, “as Tim’s original novels read the closest to Star Wars to me.” At the same time, Mitchell brought over Sue Rostini as an assistant and publishing editor: together, they would help to manage the larger Star Wars universe from Bantam Spectra’s end.

Lucasfilm approved of the choice as well, and in November 1989, Zahn received the call: he would be writing in the universe he really loved, a prospect he found daunting. He had two guidelines: the novel had to take place after Return of the Jedi, and he couldn’t resurrect dead characters. Other than that, he had free reign. He needed to pick up where Lucas had left off, but there were challenges: the films’ most iconic villain, Darth Vader, had been killed, and the Rebellion appeared victorious. Zahn decided to extrapolate: the heroes needed to face a formidable enemy who was rallying the Empire.

To that end, he created Grand Admiral Thrawn, a master tactician who had risen in the Imperial ranks, along with a proposed dark Jedi: an insane clone of Obi Wan Kenobi. Along the way, he introduced Talon Karrde and Mara Jade, a smuggler and former imperial agent, respectively, to join in on the adventures.

Zahn had already begun to create his own background material when supplemental materials arrived from West End Games.

Star Wars Thrawn Trilogy #1: Heir to the Empire: The 20th Anniversary Edition

“I was just a couple of weeks into Heir when I received a big box containing some of the sourcebooks that West End Games had created over the years for the Star Wars role-playing game.” Zahn recounted in the annotations of the 20th Anniversary edition of Heir to the Empire. “Along with the books came instructions from Lucasfilm that I was to coordinate Heir with the WEG Material. As usual, I groused a little about that. But once I actually started digging into the books I realized the WEG folks had put together a boatload of really awesome stuff, including lists of aliens, equipment, ground vehicles, and ship types.”

The building blocks that West End Games had already created allowed Zahn to focus less on developing the world and more on the story. Given that Star Wars was lauded for taking place in a “used universe,” the ability for authors to reuse common elements only added to the feeling that these stories fit within the world that George Lucas had established.

When LucasFilm and Bantam Spectra finally signed off on their deal, Zahn was ready, and wrote his book in six months. His original title, Wildcard, was nixed by Aronica, who suggested Heir to the Empire instead. During the editorial stages, some of what Zahn had come up with had to be changed: the insane clone of Obi Wan Kenobi was replaced by Joruus C’baoth, a cloned Jedi Knight who had been tasked with guarding the Emperor’s repository. Lucasfilm was also protective of the Clone Wars and some other minor elements that Zahn had included, but after some edits, the company signed off on the book.

On May 1, 1991, Zahn’s Heir to the Empire arrived in bookstores, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Aronica remembers “Lucasfilm’s offices were flooded with media queries asking if Heir was going to be the fourth movie.” Booksellers reported selling the book directly out of boxes, before they could even be shelved.

Heir to the Empire landed on the New York Times bestseller at number 11, and over the next couple of weeks, rose to the top, aided by its artificially low price of $15. The book demonstrated there was an incredible appetite for more stories from in the Star Wars universe.

Star Wars Thrawn Trilogy #2: Dark Force Rising

Zahn didn’t have much time to deliver them: he was already hard at work on the next installment of the trilogy, Dark Force Rising, due out the following year. A third installment, The Last Command, was set to arrive in 1993.

Lucasfilm was also interested in expanding their publishing program beyond adult novels. In 1992, they launched a young readers series under Bantam’s children’s imprint called the Jedi Prince series. Written by Paul and Hollace Davids, the series included The Glove of Darth Vader, The Lost City of the Jedi, Zorba the Hutt’s Revenge, Mission from Mount Yoda, Queen of the Empire and Prophets of the Dark Side, all of which arrived in bookstores between 1992 and 1993, capturing the imaginations of readers too young to have seen the films in theaters. While the books sold well over the years, they didn’t quite fit into the continuity of the adult books, and often had their events “retconed” to fit within the larger timeline.

Bantam Spectra found that they were sitting on top of a gold mine, and quickly contracted an additional twelve novels in the franchise. As the program expanded, Bantam Spectra had to contend with Lucasfilm’s stringent eye for quality. “There were a few, very rare times when we had to disapprove completed novels for failing on one or [level or another],” Wilson recalled, “but generally by having the right editorial team and great writers, this was not an issue.”

Star Wars Thrawn Trilogy #3: The Last Command

In early 2015, the fan site Star Wars Timeline published the entire text of a lost Star Wars novel authored by Kenneth C. Flint, The Heart of the Jedi was originally set to be published in 1993, after The Last Command, but was cancelled after being completed.

According to Flint, following the successes of Zahn’s novels, he was approached to write a book that took place immediately after Return of the Jedi. He completed and submitted it in 1992, but received little word about its status from his editors. “Finally, growing concerned, I contacted an agent, who contacted Spectra. He discovered only then that Spectra had determined my book couldn’t be published because it ‘no longer fit into the sequence for the new series.’”

Around the same time, another novel, Legacy of Doom, authored by Margaret Weisman, which would take place after it Heart of the Jedi, was also cancelled. Even if books reached the proposal stage, passed their outlines, and were written, there was always a possibility they still wouldn’t work.

According to Wilson, Lucasfilm had two main criteria. “My overriding concern was to publish great books. [They] also needed to feel like they fit into the Star Wars universe George Lucas had created in the movies.” The episode with Flint’s novel reveals the lengths they would go to assure the books satisfied expectations.

To fill the gap left by the cancellations, Bantam Spectra brought in another author: Kathy Tyers. Tyers had written a handful of science fiction novels for the publisher. She was ecstatic when she received a call from her then-editor Janna Silverstein, who asked if she would like to be a Star Wars author. “As I recall,” Tyers said, “there was about a two-second pause before I said ‘Yes!’”

She was assigned the post-Return of the Jedi slot. Tyers went to work; armed with a box of reference materials from West End Games, a VHS player, and the final film, she set about taking notes. She was to make sure that she didn’t contradict anything in Zahn’s trilogy, but was to advance the characters forward somehow. “At this point in the project, we were just starting to realize how valuable it would be to Star Wars fans if we created a storyline that moved the characters forward in time,” Wilson said. “We contrasted that plan with other SF spin-off series that were episodic in nature, each book leaving the characters exactly as they were when the book began.”

Star Wars The Truce at Bakura

Tyers came up with several concepts which she pitched to her editors at Bantam Spectra, who selected the idea that would eventually become The Truce At Bakura, which hit bookstores in January of 1994.

Tyers appreciated working within an established universe: “In a way, having the characters, situations, and environments already established made it like ‘real life.’ I had limited freedom to move the characters on the stage—but it was a really big stage.”

After her book, she kept up with the story, appreciating what the world was evolving into: “Many of [the novels] resonated beautifully with my sense of Star Wars, and what it was all about. Other authors had slightly different ideas. The richness of the universe created space enough (pun intended) for everyone to play.”

While Zahn and Tyers plugged away at their own books, Bantam Spectra looked for additional authors. They turned to Kevin J. Anderson, a young writer who had been publishing short fiction since 1982. His first novel,Resurrection, Inc., appeared in 1988, and was followed by several others. “I got a phone call out of the blue asking if I would like to write three sequels to one of my favorite movies of all time,” he recalled. “How could I turn down such a cool project like that?”

He set to work. Like Zahn and Tyers, he received West End Game’s reference books, as well as a copy of Heir to the Empire, the only book out at that time. “I got a pre-release review copy of Dark Force Rising, and Tim sent me the manuscript of The Last Commandas soon as it was finished.” The two authors spoke to make sure that they were avoiding one another’s stories. “We talked on the phone about where his story was going, and I set up my own.”

From the outset, Anderson knew that he was writing part of a larger story. He decided his trilogy would have two overarching narratives: one about Luke Skywalker rebuilding the Jedi Order, and the other about a secret Imperial installation called The Maw, where the Empire carried out the research that had eventually produced the Death Star.

Star Wars Jedi Academy Trilogy: Jedi Search / Dark Apprentice / Champions of the Force

Unlike Zahn’s trilogy, whose titles were released over three years, Anderson’s Jedi Academy trilogy, Jedi Search, Dark Apprentice, and Champions of the Force, would all hit stores in 1994. He wrote the trilogy all at once and turned in his drafts to Bantam Spectra and Del Rey for their approval. “By the time Betsy [Mitchell] left Bantam and I inherited her list,” Bantam Spectra editor Tom Dupree said on his blog, “she and Lou had mapped out the first wave of the new Star Wars cycle. I came aboard for the second book of our first paperback-original trilogy, Dark Apprentice by Kevin J. Anderson, and I worked on the Star Wars property for about five years thereafter.”

Anderson built on Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy in several ways: Han and Leia Solo continued to raise their twin children, Jacen and Jaina, while running the New Republic, and Luke Skywalker began to seek out new potential Jedi, gathering them at a training facility at the Yavin IV base from the first film. These plans are threatened as a new group takes control of the remains of the Empire and one of Skywalker’s novice apprentices falls to the Dark Side of the force.

Star Wars The Courtship of Princess Leia

Other books joined the growing storyline. The Courtship of Princess Leia, written by David Wolverton, told the story of how Han Solo and Leia Organa married. Vonda McIntyre’s The Crystal Star followed, with a plot on the part of a cultist to rebuild the Empire.

Wolverton came onboard in 1994 and completed his book in the spring. His approach was a little different: Zahn had established that Han and Leia were married, and his initial thought was “Oh, it couldn’t be that easy, not with their fiery personalities.” He wanted to see how they came together: “I have to admit that I wondered about Han’s character. Before he met Leia, he was a drug smuggler, and that suggested to me that he had a darker side. He was essentially an anti-hero, someone who had given up on life, on society.” He felt that when put under pressure, people revert back to older habits, which would complicate relationships.

In the novel, Han essentially kidnaps Leia and takes her to a planet that he’s won in a card game—a planet in Imperial territory. The plotline has come under criticism lately: “I have to admit, my wife and I had watched the old romance Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at about that time, with its wacky idea of having the male protagonists kidnap the brides, and I suspect that in the back of my mind, I was wondering, ‘Could you make a similar plot work in science fiction?’” He reflected on the issue: “Personally, I’m not a fan of the idea of drugging and kidnapping women. Or men. Or children, or dogs. But it did lead me to wonder about things like, ‘Could Leia ever forgive him for that? Could Han forgive himself?’ ‘What could bring them back together?’ Ultimately, I was interested in the idea that love is based upon two people’s past history, that it is something that builds and grows.”

Regardless of controversy, the novel was an immediate success: at one point, friends mentioned to Wolverton that they’d seen his book in a nearby bookstore; when he went to check it out minutes later, he found that they had completely sold out.

The book shot to the top of the New York Times bestseller list, outselling the second-place book by a 2-1 margin. “In fact, it was so popular that Bantam’s huge romance author called my editor to complain.” Wolverton said. “She yelled at my editor ‘Who in the hell is this Princess Leia!?’ Apparently she thought that I was taking her spot as Bantam’s lead author.”

The Star Wars Expanded Universe was off to a strong start, with each novel selling exceptionally well. Even as Bantam Spectra was operating without a roadmap, their approach seemed like the right one: engage established science fiction authors, partner with Lucasfilm, and build the story of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Leia Organa. With only a handful of books in the works, it was easy for authors to coordinate and maintain continuity.

As the universe grew, however, new challenges would begin to emerge…

Building a Galaxy Far, Far Away: New Stories (1995-1998)
by Andrew Liptak/
December 16, 2015 at 4:00 pm


Following the successes of Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars trilogy, Bantam Spectra found it had stumbled on a gold mine: the public had a ravenous appetite for new stories in the franchise, and over the first four years of the program, a timeline was slowly being written, under the careful watch of the publisher and their partners at Lucasfilm, chronicling the further adventures of Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa and Han Solo.

As each major entry was added, a larger picture of the post-Return of the Jedi story began to appear: an epic struggle between the New Republic and the Empire for control of the galaxy, told through the eyes of Luke Skywalker’s growing Jedi Order and the Solo family. As the books continued, the stories were beginning to grow more complicated.

Star Wars Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina

In these still early years, Bantam Spectra editor Betsy Mitchell reached out to author Barbara Hambly, who had placed a short story in Kevin J. Anderson’s Tales of Mos Eisley Cantina. Mitchell had a new direction that she wanted to explore: a love interest for Luke Skywalker. Hambly accepted the project—“I didn’t need much convincing–I was an unshakeable Star Wars fan from the moment I first saw it”—and began Children of the Jedi, which would take place several months after Kevin J. Anderson’s Jedi Academy Trilogy. In it, Skywalker comes across an abandoned ship in the depths of space with the spirit of a long-dead Jedi Knight, Callista Masana, aboard.

“I have always loved haunted house stories, so I did [it] as a haunted house book,” Hambly said. “While I was growing up in the 1950s and ‘60s, people were still finding little nests of isolated Japanese soldiers on Pacific islands, stationed there in World War Two, who weren’t aware that the war was long over (I think the last poor fellow they found in 1985!), which I think turned my mind towards the thought of people—and computers—who are still fighting a war that’s been over for years, simply because nobody has told them to stop.”

Mitchell noted that the stories that Bantam Spectra had begun to put together were large and complicated, and as a result, the company opted to simply expand upon them: “Some stories just work better at a greater length. So rather than keep the writer working for a year or more on one long book, we decided to bring them out in duology or trilogy form. ”

Star Wars The Corellian Trilogy #1: Ambush at Corellia

One early example of this was Roger MacBride Allen’s Corellian trilogy, which delved a bit into Han Solo’s past, as well as events taking place long after Return of the Jedi. The trilogy was released in 1995, and was comprised of Ambush At Corellia, Assault at Selonia, andShowdown at Centerpoint. The longer trilogy was the furthest book out in the chronology, and considered not only Han Solo’s past, but also the lives of his children.

As Anderson’s books were hitting bookshelves in 1994, the administration behind the project was changing: Mitchell had left Bantam Spectra for a new position at Warner Books, replaced by Tom Dupree and Janna Silverstein.

Mitchell was incredibly important to the formation of the Star Wars line: she championed Timothy Zahn to write the first trilogy, and her personal tastes informed her acquisition decisions: “I was the one signing up novels, and that was a story I wanted to read,” she said. With new visionaries in place, the types of stories being commissioned began to change.

Star Wars Children of the Jedi

While Callista was set up to become Luke Skywalker’s love interest, other changes were put into place: fans had taken a liking to a character introduced in Zahn’s novels, Mara Jade, and the decision was made to eventually link the pair up. Hambly and Anderson shifted their plans. Bantam recommended simply killing off Callista, but both Anderson and Hambly disagreed. They felt that that wouldn’t be as emotionally powerful, so they changed the trilogy soDarksaber would be used to take Callista out of the picture, sending her on a quest to rediscover the Force.Children of Jedi appeared in bookstores in 1995, withDarksaber arriving shortly thereafter. Planet of Twilight wrapped up the arc in 1997.

In her novels, Hambly worked to introduce some new material into the Star Wars universe: Callista’s narrative drew its influences from cyberpunk, while she also looked “to address the culture of that world—the Imperial ‘high culture’ and the cultures of the individual planets—as cultures. As if this were a Jane Austen novel instead of Star Wars.”

Star Wars Darksaber

At the same time, Anderson and his wife Rebecca Moesta were hard at work on a new series aimed at younger readers, The Young Jedi Knights, while Moesta and Nancy Richardson worked on another youth-aimed series: Junior Jedi Knights. Each series would follow some of the newer, younger characters, such as Jaina and Jacen Solo. While aimed for a younger audience, “the stories and the writing were pretty much at the same level as my adult novels,” Anderson said. Unlike the earlier young adult novels, these were designed to fit better into the existing continuity.

More complicated projects were on the way. Following with Mitchell’s assertion that the stories that Bantam was working to tell were more complicated than a single installment, Bantam began to explore some new projects that went beyond a single author pitching their story for the franchise.

The first came in 1994, shortly after LucasArts released a flight simulator called X-Wing. It was enormously successful game for the growing home PC market, and Bantam began to explore the feasibility of releasing a line of novels that would build on that particular franchise.

Star Wars X-Wing #1: Rogue Squadron

Bantam Spectra approached Michael A. Stackpole, an author who had written military-style books in worlds such as Battletech, and who had worked with games in the 1980s, and asked him to write an initial four-book arc. After accepting, Stackpole made the trip to Skywalker Ranch, where he met with Lucy Wilson and Sue Rostoni to break the story. At the same time, Dark Horse Comics was also interested, and brought on Stackpole to help coordinate their stories, so that they would remain consistent.

The first comics came in 1995, taking place immediately after Return of the Jedi. With those released, Stackpole turned to the novels, pulling in some characters from the comics and bringing a cast of new ones. This was something different: rather than focusing on the core trio of Han, Luke, and Leia, the series highlighted background characters such as Wedge Antilles and Admiral Ackbar.

With the initial arc set before Zahn’s trilogy, Stackpole realized that with the military-style stories he was writing, he was in an ideal place to show off how the New Republic began to take over the Empire’s territory.

X-Wing: Rogue Squadron hit stores in 1996, and was followed that year by Wedge’s Gambit and The Krytos Trap. Stackpole’s final book in the arc, The Bacta War, arrived in 1997. Upon their publication, each became a New York Times bestseller, something that surprised everyone—expectations had been lowered because the books featured a different cast.

Given the success, Bantam wanted additional books, but Stackpole urged the publisher to bring on another writer: Aaron Allston. Allston, who had also worked in the gaming industry, was to write three additional novels. His books followed a new unit: Wraith Squadron, and his stories took on a different, more humorous track. Wraith Squadronappeared in March 1998, Iron Fist in July 1998 and Solo Command in February 1999. Stackpole returned the same year with Isard’s Revenge, while Allston completed another installment, Starfighters of Adumar.

Star Wars X-Wing #9: Starfighters of Adumar

The X-Wing series demonstrated an important thing to Bantam: up to that point, each of the Star Wars books had largely remained with the central cast of characters seen in the movies. The successes of the series helped to demonstrate that they weren’t essential to the success of other books, and helped to push the boundaries of the Expanded Universe by introducing other new characters that readers would follow. Indeed, a few years later, Stackpole wrote I, Jedi, which followed his lead character, Corran Horn.

Bantam Spectra had another complicated stories to map out. By 1993, Lucasfilm had made a decision: they would begin to work on a new trilogy of movies, while also re-releasing the original three films for A New Hope’s 20th anniversary. The next big project that would serve as a marketing and merchandising test of Lucasfilm’s franchisees: Shadows of the Empire.

Dupree had worked with author Steven Perry for another project, a novelization for the movie The Mask. Years later, Dupree asked Perry if he’d be interested writing for a much larger franchise. “I jumped on it,” Perry recounted. “A chance to put some of my favorite movie characters through their paces? Couldn’t pass that by.”

Star Wars Shadows of the Empire

The project would involve more than the typical parties: representatives from Dark Horse Comics, LucasArts and Bantam Spectra, and Kenner and Lewis Galoob Toys came together for a central meeting to figure out how to put together a collaborative story. Perry said he “was given to understand that since it had been a while, they were gearing up for the new movies, and wanted to do a kind of test run. [Shadows of the Empire] had everything except the movie, and they wanted to see how the parts would mesh.” The dry-run would test out how well each group could collaborate when the real merchandising push came.

At the meeting, Perry came up with several character concepts, while “each of the licensees offered up what they wanted or needed—Dark Horse wanted to feature Boba Fett, the game guys wanted a motorcycle chase, the toy folks had ideas of what characters they wanted to feature.” He jotted everything down and began work on a detailed outline that incorporated all of the ideas.

The outline grew to become a story bible, which in turn informed the creation of the novel and the ancillary parts that accompanied it. Perry spent four months writing the novel before turning it in to his editors. As he did so, he spoke a with his counterparts at Dark Horse to make sure that they had their stories straight, and consulted with some of the franchise’s prior authors for advice.

Perry was excited for the project because of the ability to explain a couple of untold periods in Star Wars lore—the story was set between The Empire Strikes Back andReturn of the Jedi, and served to set up the final film.

In 1996, the project rolled out. In April, Varese Sarabande released a soundtrack composed by Joel McNeely. Dark Horse put out the issues of their tie-in comic series between May and October. Perry’s novel appeared in May, while the video game arrived in stores on December 3.

The project was a success, and between Shadows of the Empire and the X-Wing series, the Expanded Universe was becoming more complex. Not only were authors working to conform to stories published as books, they were beginning to coordinate between comic books and video games to maintain a consistent storyline.

By this point, Lucasfilm made a change in a long-standing policy: they wanted to tell the early story of Han Solo. It’s a move that made a certain amount of sense, considering the original trilogy was set to be re-released to theaters. Dupree approached author A.C. Crispin to pen the trilogy.

Han Solo was Crispin’s favorite character, and she began to work on the project, with some stipulations. Han Solo’s parents were off limits—he couldn’t know who they were. Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine couldn’t appear, and Han’s first encounter with Chewbacca, and the story of how he freed him from slavery, was also off the table.

Star Wars The Han Solo Trilogy #1: The Paradise Snare

Crispin also had to work around stories that had already been established in the 1980s by Brian Daley and L. Neil Smith. In her first book, The Paradise Snare,Crispin played out an origin story of a younger Han Solo, before jumping ahead several years to The Hutt Gambit, which worked around the older materials. The final installment, Rebel Dawn, helped to lead up to the events of A New Hope.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch joined the growing ranks of Star Wars authors when she published The New Rebellion in 1996. She noted that it was intimidating to enter an established and growing world: “I was a fan, and I knew how harsh the fans could be about things that didn’t fit in.”

With a body of work that preceded her entry, Rusch had the advantage of seeing what worked and what didn’t in earlier novels. “I took all the elements I loved about the movies and figured out what made them work,” she recalled. “Then I figured out which of the previous books I liked as well, and figured out what made them work.” She wrote the novel in late 1994, and coordinated with Lucasfilm to ensure it fit with the established canon.

Following The New Rebellion, Rusch met with Kevin J. Anderson and Lucasfilm officials to discuss the creation of a new series, only to have those plans thrown into disarray. Around this time, Bantam Spectra began to revisit how it paid authors: they had recently changed their license agreements with Lucasfilm, which raised the amounts that Bantam Spectra owed the company. With the sales volume declining, the publisher decided to change the arrangement from a traditional royalty model, where authors earned an advance and money per copy sold, to one in which authors would receive a single, upfront payment.

The change was met by intense criticism from authors and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, known as SFWA.

On October 1, the organization’s president, Michael Capobianco, sent a letter to Bantam Spectra’s president, Irwyn Applebaum, stating, “If Bantam persists in its present course, we will inform our membership and all interested parties that these contracts do not meet professional standards. We will also be obliged to oppose the flat fee scheme by negative publicity and direct appeals to Lucasfilm.” He sent an additional protest to Lucasfilm, blaming their contract negotiations for the new pay structure.

Lucasfilm, however, wasn’t behind the shift in pay, according to Lucy Wilson: “The novel authors were paid by the publisher, not by Lucasfilm. When their payment structure changed, that was Bantam’s decision.”

The reaction among the pool of Star Wars authors was mixed. Some denounced the publisher and refused to work under the new contract; others opted to continue to write for the franchise. Rusch was caught in the middle: according to her, her name was affixed to the letter, despite the fact that she wasn’t a member of the organization. The series that she was working on with Anderson ended up being cancelled, and Rusch was never invited back. “I haven’t been able to work with Lucasfilm again—through no fault of my own. To say that I’m disappointed is an understatement.”

Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta noted that they would finish out their contractual obligations with Bantam Spectra, but wouldn’t write more books for the company: “Both my wife and I will not be writing any more SW novels under the Flat Fee Contracts; however we will continue to write the paperback Young and Junior Jedi series.”

Steve Perry, who wrote Shadows of the Empire, did not sign the letter, and didn’t think that what Bantam Spectra was offering was a bad deal: “I had gotten the royalty and a small advance on [Shadows of the Empire], and I liked that. I made more in the long run, but the flat-fee was a goodly sum, and it would have taken some time to get past that much to a royalty.” Still, he had concerns: “…there is a worry that such a deal will set a precedent and that shared universe work will all become flat fee. ”

A.C. Crispin, who had just finished her first trilogy, also slammed the deal: “The problem here as I see it is that it’s just a done deal; it’s a flat offer, no negotiation. Personally, I’d rather stake my abilities as a writer who cares about her work. Who puts a lot of time, effort, and research into producing the very best tie in book I can, and get a negotiated contract for a small advance and royalty so I would not feel ‘just like a hired hand.’ I want a stake in how well my books sell. ”

This wasn’t a universal feeling, though: Michael A. Stackpole noted that he was sticking with the publisher and franchise: “Above and beyond the money stuff, I’m writing these books because I want to write them. I’ve got more than enough work in my own universes to work on, but I like the Star Wars universe, love the characters I’ve created, and I want to finish off their stories”

Stackpole noted that his final X-Wing novel, Isard’s Revenge, and his hardcover standalone, I, Jedi, were written under the new contract terms, saying that because his older X-Wing novels still received royalties, the new books he sold would likely translate into ancillary earnings from the increased sales of earlier books.

By the end of the 1990s, Bantam Spectra commissioned Timothy Zahn to write another novel, one that would roughly close out their era of stories. In it, the Empire would do something unthinkable: it would come to peace terms with the New Republic, bringing the galactic civil war to an end. As this happens, forces collude to interfere, while Zahn’s long-lost villain Thrawn is rumored to have returned, decades after his death.

Star Wars The Hand of Thrawn #1: Specter of the Past

Zahn’s story was originally slated to be a single novel, but expanded into two: Specter of the Past and Visions of the Future. In many ways, Zahn’s Thrawn duology was the last hurrah of the Bantam Spectra publishing era, closing out the adventures with the author and story that had started it all.

Looking back, the Bantam Spectra books helped to define the Expanded Universes: the further adventures of not only the central heroes of the saga, but the entire galaxy. The appeal of Star Wars has always been, in part, the trappings of the universe, in addition to Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, and Han Solo.

It’s clear the books’ success was firmly rooted in the attitudes of Lucasfilm and the individual authors, who strove to match the stories from the films, extrapolating forward. But as the Expanded Universe grew, it became clear that fans were involved in the bigger picture: what was the fate of the Rebellion and the Empire, and how did the heroes remain involved? Furthermore, who else was involved in the story? Through Mara Jade and Corran Horn, fans found new characters to root for, bringing them to levels almost on par with that of their movie counterparts.

By the end of the 1990s, however, there was a creeping sense of exhaustion within the franchise, both from Bantam Spectra and Lucasfilm: the novels weren’t selling as well, and they had begun to feel repetitive, featuring a “superweapon of the week” formula. That’s not to discount the phenomenal work that went into the Expanded Universe: Bantam Spectra did some interesting things with their novels, collaborating with fellow licensees like Dark Horse Comics and West End Games to ensure that they were producing a consistent continuity, while also working on multiple-author cycles, such as the Callista trilogy and the X-Wing series. Moreover, the continuity was the product of a collaborative effort between many authors, producing an epic story that grew as it was told.

Above all, Bantam Spectra arguably saved the franchise. Without the massive success of Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire and its followup novels, Star Wars may very well have continued to dwindle, becoming just another fondly remembered film. The books demonstrated there was a strong appetite for new stories, and while probably not the lynchpin to Lucas’ decision to begin work on the prequels, it certainly didn’t hurt. What the Expanded Universe most certainly did was to create and foster a vibrant fan base that remained engaged with, and loyal to, the once-dormant franchise.

And even as Bantam Spectra’s time in the galaxy far, far away was coming to an end, Lucasfilm had greater plans for the Expanded Universe…
Última edição:
Building a Galaxy Far, Far Away: New Publisher, New Directions (1998-2005)
by Andrew Liptak/
December 17, 2015 at 4:00 pm


By 1997, the Star Wars publishing program was running at full tilt: Bantam Spectra published 15 books in 1996 another 21 novels the following year; almost every one was part of an existing series or trilogy. Authors were pitching their own stories, and the Expanded Universe had become crowded and unwieldy. More worrisome, sales had begun to fall. Lucasfilm’s Lucy Wilson realized she needed to reinvigorate the publishing program, describing the situation with Bantam Spectra as “tired.” They needed a change.

She set out to find a way to continue the story and drum up new interest. She had several conversations around the idea of multi-author stories, something that she’d seen work in the comic book industry: teams of authors, editors, and artists planning out larger arcs, each then producing individual installments.

“I wanted to try this new approach. But I couldn’t put a new multi-book, multi-year program together until we had a new publishing agreement, and given the timing, it was going to have to be part of the licensing rights to the new trilogy of films.”

With declining sales and financial drama at Bantam Spectra, Wilson began to seek out a new publisher who would carry on the franchise, reinvigorate sales execute on plans for a long, multi-author arc. She found that partner in Del Rey Books, a subsidiary of Ballantine, the publisher that had put out the original Star Warsnovels in the ’80s. Bantam Spectra would continue to reprint the books published under their own banner, but for at least the next five years, Del Rey would put out the next generation of novels. With the transition, Del Rey cancelled several books, among them a Shadows of the Empire prequel authored by Charles Grant.

Wilson had to be comfortable with a publisher that would be able to take on the growing Expanded Universe and run with it, without falling into the same problems that Bantam Spectra faced in later years. Above all, she needed a dedicated manager for the program, an editor who could handle the complexity of the franchise.

“I had put out feelers for the names of the best sci-fi editors in the business, and Shelly Shapiro’s name had come up,” Wilson said. “Ballantine Books agreed to bring Shelly into the program if they got the deal, which was one factor, among many others, for their getting the license.”

Shapiro was an editorial assistant at Del Rey, and a former editorial assistant with the Science Fiction Book Club, a subscription service dedicated to genre titles. With the signing of the Lucasfilm contract, Del Rey’s president assigned her as editor of the new project.

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

With the franchise returning to the public’s attention with the release of The Phantom Menace, Lucasfilm wanted to bring back Star Wars publishing with a vengeance, and Del Rey wanted to do something dramatic. According to Troy Denning, Lucasfilm felt they needed to move away from the approach that had worked in the past: individual authors pitching their own stories. The company wanted to have much tighter control on the larger story arc, which would help maintain continuity and tone. With Bantam closing out their run with a final Timothy Zahn duology, there was an opportunity to reboot the story so an reengage the fanbase.

The project Del Rey settled on would be unprecedented in the universe: a large group of authors who would assemble a closely-knit series, each contributing a book or two, published in both hardcover and paperback. They titled it the New Jedi Order. To plan the project, they approached author R.A. Salvatore and other franchise veterans, including Michael A. Stackpole.

Salvatore initially hesitated joining the project: “Though I loved the movies, I hadn’t been reading the novels. The publisher assured me not to worry about that, as they were looking for a fresh voice, a new beginning for the series rather than a mere continuation. “One of the major complaints I heard about the earlier Star Wars books was that nothing ever ‘happened’ to anyone significant: the galaxy far, far away had grown so safe for our heroes that serious drama was becoming impossible.”

Shelly Shapiro said something similar in a 2000 interview. “Once we’d come up with a sketchy outline of where we wanted to go, start to finish, we had to get it approved from on high. For example, as I mentioned earlier, we were told we could not kill off certain characters. We originally intended the enemy to be dark Force-users; we were told they had to be non-Force users. We had a certain plan in mind for one of the characters; we were told to use a different character for this particular plan.”

How Star Wars Conquered the Universe: The Past, Present, and Future of a Multibillion Dollar Franchise

The assembled team of writers and editors had to find a way to shake up the Star Wars universe. They dusted off an older idea of an extra-galactic invasion; “the invading aliens were given the working name of Adzakans, and then the Vici-Vicians, which later was supplanted by the Yunnan Vong, before finally becoming the Yuzzahn Vong,” Pablo Hidalgo wrote inThe Essential Reader’s Guide. “They were first said to be tribal-minded humans, transformed by ritual tattooing and the use of the dark side into yellow-eyed zealots. Later versions did away with the dark side influence, and the aliens were described as resembling humans but taller, heavier and with less hair. It was author R.A. Salvatore who came up with the bio-organic technology angle to give the invaders a suitably distinctive hook.”

To drive the seriousness of the change, they got permission from George Lucas to do something he refused to allow in the past: to kill off one of the main characters. Shelly Shapiro “put her foot down: Han Solo would live,” according to Chris Taylor in How Star Wars Conquered the Universe. “Stackpole remembers it differently: he says that there was a simple, methodical process of deciding which of the leads—Han, Luke, Leia, Lando, the droids, Chewbacca—it would hurt the least to lose. From whose viewpoint would it be the hardest to describe grief? ‘After two days,’ Stackpole says, ‘we had Chewie locked down.’ ”

The team got to work, and R.A. Salvatore set about writing the start to this epic series. With the outline in hand, he followed the beats that the team had laid out during their extensive planning sessions.

Star Wars The New Jedi Order #1: Vector Prime

In October 1999, Vector Prime dropped the bombshell on the Star Wars reading public. Fans knew that this would be a game-changing book, and there had even been rumors of a major character’s death, but it caught everyone by surprise: it would change up the universe that readers had come to love.

“I have been surprised by the level of anger in some of the people,” Salvatore said. “I haven’t received any of the death threats personally, but they’ve been made, so I’ve been told. I have received many angry e-mails, and I’ve noticed a few curious things about the progression of that anger–it’s like watching people going through a grieving process. ”

Stackpole, one of the other principal architects of the New Jedi Order, picked after Salvatore with his paperback duology Dark Tide: Onslaught and Ruin. The books picked up as the Yuzzahn Vong began to pour into the galaxy, while the New Republic weighed its options. Stackpole had the task of pushing the narrative forward, which meant showing off what the Yuzzahn Vong would do. The novels, originally slated to be a trilogy (Stackpole cut out the central book, Siege, and integrated its respective parts into Onslaught and Ruin), upped the stakes for everyone.

Star Wars The New Jedi Order #4: Agents of Chaos I: Hero's Trial

James Luceno followed with a duology, Agents of Chaos. He had originally been a continuity expert for the series; when Stackpole’s trilogy became a duology, he expanded his single book to two, Hero’s Trial and Jedi Eclipse, focusing on the refugees and Han Solo in the aftermath of losing Chewbacca.

The series came to a tipping point with Balance Point, written by Truce at Bakura author Kathy Tyers. Tyers’ book was one of the five anchor hardcovers, and she found herself in a different universe this time: there were far more books to work around, and the organization of the series was more structured.

Tyers found that she liked working in a larger, more collaborative environment: “I was asked to supply rough drafts to the authors who followed me. It was tag-team novel writing, and it was a riot…We supported each other, enjoyed interacting, and handed off our episodes knowing the next team member could do what he or she wanted with ‘our’ characters. I was glad that the author who killed off my favorite character had the good grace to warn me ahead of time.”

The next set of books was a duology, Edge of Victory, by Greg Keyes, commissioned to replace a trilogy called Knightfall, authored by Michael Jan Friedman. That trilogy was to cover a string of military defeats for the New Republic. Friedman completed the first novel, Jedi Storm , but the books were ultimately cancelled: “[LucasFilm] said they weren’t happy with the way the story was going, so rather than salvaging what had been done, they canned it,” according to the novel’s cover artist, Terese Nielson. In addition to his NJO novels, Keyes also authored a six-part serial story Emissary of the Void, which appeared in Star Wars Gamer and Insider magazines.

Star Wars The New Jedi Order #9: Star by Star

In 2001, the most important volume of the series to date arrived: Star by Star, by Troy Denning. Denning had previously worked for West End Games, producing some of the background information the authors would later incorporate into their works. Now, he was coming full circle to provide the story.

Salvatore told Denning about the series when it was starting up, and Denning then sent a note and some writing samples to Sue Rostoni in late 1998; he followed up monthly before eventually giving up. In July 1999, he “got a call out of the blue” with an offer. He offered to prepare a pitch, only to be told they already knew what he was going to write about—and wouldn’t tell him about it until he’d signed a contract.

“After I signed the contract, I got the bible—over 500 pages of details Stackpole and others came up with. I knew which book would be mine, and I’m like, ‘oh my god! Anakin Solo dies!’ and from that, my assignment was to write an outline to show how all those details would happen. I wrote up the outline, and then they sent meVector Prime and other materials.”

The death of Anakin Solo was a major event in the Expanded Universe: he was one of the three Solo children, a major character who emerged from a decade of stories.

Denning picked up writing as the series began to arrive in bookstores, receiving Kathy Tyer’s outline and other early books. “I was writing my book when Balance Point came out, [and] she did things in a slightly different manner; all my characters were about 10 percent off from where they should have been. I had to go rewrite 400 pages.”

Star Wars The New Jedi Order #10: Dark Journey

Elaine Cunningham authored the next installment, Dark Journey, which focused intensely on Jaina Solo, and took place in the immediate aftermath of Star by Star. “Bob [Salvatore] knew my work in the Forgotten Realms,” Cunningham recalled. “He felt that I’d be a good fit for a book that focused on Jaina, so he recommended me to Shelly Shapiro.”

Cunningham had the difficult job of following on the heels of the galaxy-shaking consequences of Star By Star. By the time she arrived, the broad strokes of the storyline were already in place, and the planning teams had determined many of the story beats the novel had to hit. “The ‘story bible’ decreed that during this process, Jaina Solo would come perilously close to the Dark Side,” she said. “The details were pretty much up to me—subject, of course, to approval from Del Rey and LucasFilm.”

The length and depth of the New Jedi Order afforded Del Rey and its authors do to something interesting: focus intensely on single characters with the backdrop of an intergalactic war. The series had already done this at points with other members of the Solo family, and Dark Journey stood out as a particular character study.

Star Wars The New Jedi Order #13: Traitor

The next books were a duology from X-Wing series author Aaron Allston: Rebel Dream and Rebel Stand, which saw the capture of the Galactic capital, Coruscant. Following Allston’s duology, Del Rey brought Matthew Stover in to write the next installment, Traitor. Like Cunningham’s novel, this one would focus intensely on a member of the Solo family: Jacen Solo.

Michael A. Stackpole and R.A. Salvatore convinced Stover. “[He] collared me at a convention and whispered these magic words into my ear: ‘First print run of a quarter-million copies.’ Plus, the story Del Rey had in mind for me—a captured Jedi being alternately tormented and trained by a dark echo of Yoda—sounded like something I could have some fun with.” Stover helped to plan the later elements of the series, attending story sessions at Skywalker Ranch; with the larger beats of the series planned out, it was time to begin bringing it to a conclusion.

Stover wrote his book in 2000, and uniquely, it was the first entry that featured none of the characters from the films. The Expanded Universe had officially pushed off from its source material, almost a decade after it had begun. Readers had essentially grown up with the children of the Solo family, and were now seeing them age into full-fledged protagonists. Like Cunningham’s novel about Jaina, Traitor has endured as a Jacen Solo novel, one that would become more important with time.

Star Wars The New Jedi Order #14: Destiny's Way

After Traitor, the series entered its home stretch with Destiny’s Way, authored by Walter Jon Williams. It was a major hardcover, depicting a fractured New Republic desperately trying to counter the Yuuzahn Vong, and was followed by Sean Williams and Shane Dix’s Force Heretic trilogy, which connected the New Jedi Order back to a prequel novel, Greg Bear’s Rogue Planet. Keyes returned for the penultimate book, The Final Prophecy, and the final installment, The Unifying Force, came from James Luceno in 2003, wrapping up a massive storyline that spelled out major changes to the Expanded Universe.

The New Jedi Order had lasting consequences for the surviving characters, steering and influencing the books that would come after. But it was also a major experiment in publishing that paid off for Del Rey. Spanning 19 novels and 11 contributing authors, it was a massive logistical effort, requiring coordination on the development, writing, and marketing ends—almost to the point where it again became unwieldy for readers.

But with the New Jedi Order ending, a new series was just getting started.

The Clone Wars
With the release of Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Del Rey Books renewed its license with LucasFilm with an arrangement that would take them through the end of 2008encompassing 18 new novels—nine hardcovers and nine original mass-market paperbacks, three of each to be published per year. The agreement covered an arc of novels following the events between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. Long off limits to authors and confined to vague mentions in the novels, the epic struggle alluded to by Obi Wan Kenobi in A New Hope was now fair game.

Like in earlier collaborative settings such as Shadows of the Empire, Del Rey had to work closely with their fellow licensees producing movie tie-in merchandise. Along with Dark Horse Comics and Cartoon Network, an overarching story emerged: the Clone Wars Multimedia Project. This would be a new era for the publisher; they now had two reference points from to work within—the months after Attack of the Clones, all the way through the final prequel.

Star Wars The Clone Wars: Shatterpoint

The first novel to appear was Stover’s Shatterpoint, a darker story that helped set the tone. Stover had been invited back for a novel about Mace Windu, and he spent several months trying to figure out exactly what to write, “getting rejection after rejection until they finally told me they wanted ‘a horrors-of-war story, likeCold Mountain or All Quiet on the Western Front.’ I said, ‘Have you actually read All Quiet? Everybody dies!’ Which is problematic in Star Wars, especially when you’re writing a continuing character. But in the end, with that to go on, I came up with a one sentence outline: ‘How about Apocalypse Now with Jedi in it?’”

That sold Del Rey, and Stover constructed a novel heavily inspired by Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness. Stover worked briefly with Steven Barnes, who was slated to write the next novel in the series,The Cestus Deception, mainly to make sure that they weren’t going to contradict one another.

MedStar I: Battle Surgeons and MedStar II: Jedi Healer, written by Michael Reaves and Steven Perry, appeared later in 2004. Perry, who had originally written Shadows of the Empire, returned to the universe after the Bantam Spectra contract upheaval that had pushed him out. Along with Michael Reaves, he pitched a novel that he described as “M*A*S*H in space, and a chance to do a little stuff with oddball characters, some of whom show up in subsequent books.” Perry had a medical background, and the pair of novels featured Jedi Master Barris Offee, who had been stationed at a medical center on the front lines.

Star Wars Republic Commando #1: Hard Contact

Several other novels appeared around the same time:Jedi Trial, a war novel, appeared from military science fiction authors David Sherman and Dan Cragg, while an adaptation of the Republic Commando video game appeared from Karen Traviss: Hard Contact. Of all the Clone Wars novels, few were as successful as Traviss’ series, which eventually stretched to include Triple Zero, True Colors, Order 66, and Imperial Commando: 501st. The character-driven series developed in much the same way as Michael A. Stackpole’s X-Wing books, following a set of characters not typically seen in the movies, or even other novels: clone troopers. In addition to her work with the Republic Commandos series, Traviss also penned the novelization of the pilot for the Clone Wars television series. One novel, Escape from Dagu, which would have focused on a Jedi Knight named Shaak Ti, was cancelled, and replaced with Dark Rendezvous by Sean Stewart, which focused on Yoda, a first for the literature world.

While the Clone Wars novels were being written, Dark Horse Comics worked on their own stories, creating a delicate continuity, with works often moving past one another. Unlike the New Jedi Order, the Clone Wars series involved a much wider narrative, with an enormous cast of characters.

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

After his work on Shatterpoint, Shelly Shapiro called Matthew Stover to write the novelization of the final film. Stover noted that the project was entirely different from that of writing a regular novel: “You have a lot of freedom in a basic tie-in—a lot of stuff in those two books is entirely my own invention. In the novelization, I was working directly from Mr. Lucas’s final shooting script. There is very little freedom at all, except in hypothesizing how going through these events would feel for the characters—and maybe a little bit in elaborating backstory.” Stover interviewed George Lucas for his thoughts on how Revenge of the Sith had come together, and worked with Luceno to help him construct Labyrinth of Evil, a direct prequel to Revenge of the Sith, which hit theaters in 2005.

2005 marked the end of two major ongoing projects for Del Rey: the New Jedi Order had ended, leaving a radically changed Expanded Universe in its wake, while the Clone Wars had examined the previously off-limits part of the canon. The two experiences were radically different from what had come before. Del Rey and Lucasfilm worked strictly, ensuring all of the books operated within a framework that would serve the larger story, while granting individual authors latitude to develop their own ideas: collaborative arcs, with each book relying on the others in tight, focused series events, and connected novels with a shared background.

These advances were necessitated by the sheer growth of the Expanded Universe, and would serve the company well as they moved beyond the prequel trilogy and the New Jedi Order, and explored the future of Star Wars…

Building a Galaxy Far, Far Away: Endings and Beginnings (2006-2015…and Beyond)
by Andrew Liptak/
December 18, 2015 at 3:30 pm


The New Jedi Order was a massive project for Del Rey Books: 19 novels, 11 authors, and a galaxy-changing conclusion. With the end of that project, the publisher had to figure out how to follow it up in a way that would continue to attract and retain fans, but also advance the story.

Star Wars The Dark Nest #1: The Joiner King

Troy Denning, who had written Star By Star, came on to write a post-NJO trilogy that dealt with the immediate aftermath of the series: The Dark Nest. The events of his book and the remainder of the series had a major effect on the younger crop of Jedi, and he focused on that with The Joiner King, The Unseen Queen, and The Swarm War.

As he was wrapping up that series, Shelly Shapiro asked him for his thoughts on how to proceed with a new, shorter series of nine books. “I wrote up a couple of pages that outlined the [Legacy of the Force] series,” he said. “This was on a Sunday night, and by Tuesday, we had a contract. They wanted to limit it to three authors, and to keep it under control.”

Denning noted that involving so many authors in the NJO was almost unmanageable: the quality of the series was uneven, and the story followed a much wider group of characters. “They also felt, I think, the number of books was more than fans would want, but you can’t make every series a monument. Let’s do the same approach, something that would move the continuity forward, but let’s limit the scope so that it’s manageable.”

Star Wars Legacy of the Force #1: Betrayal

They proceeded with Legacy of the Force, which would be written by Denning, Aaron Allston, and Karen Traviss. The first novel, Allston’s Betrayal, hit bookstores on May 30, 2006, and was followed by Traviss’ Bloodlines in August and Denning’s Tempest in November. They rotated release order for the next three books in 2007, and wrapped up the series in May of 2008.

Legacy of the Force picked up in the years following the New Jedi Order and The Dark Nest series. By this point, Jacen and Jaina Solo and their friends had become principal characters. The series dealt with the impact of Jacen’s fall to the dark side of the Force, set against the background of a new civil war between the Galactic Federation of Free Alliances (an homage to the “galaxy far, far away”) and the planet Corellia.

Star Wars Millennium Falcon

In addition to the series, Del Rey began to introduce more stand-alone novels set in the same era:Millennium Falcon by James Luceno and Crosscurrent andRiptide, both by Paul Kemp, took place alongside the Legacy series.

Other novels explored earlier time frames: Timothy Zahn was permitted to write Outbound Flight, finally answering some lingering questions raised in Heir to the Empire, while other novels explored a range of events within the timeline: Darth Bane: Path of Destruction, by Drew Karpyshyn. explored the origins of a Sith lord; Death Star, by Steve Perry and Michael Reaves, chronicled drama behind the construction of the superweapon featured in A New Hope.

Star Wars Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor

The Coruscant Nights trilogy explored terriroty between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, and the video game The Force Unleashed received a tie-in novel. They began to experiment with new concepts:Death Troopers, by Joe Schreiber, introduced a horror element to the franchise with zombie stormtroopers, while Mathew Stover’s Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor was a throwback to the earliest Expanded Universe novels.

Legacy of the Force seemed to be a hit forumla—nine books, three authors. The next series, Fate of the Jedi, featured books written once again by Allston and Denning, and joined by newcomer Christie Golden. Allston led off the series with Outcast, followed by Golden’s Omen and Denning’s Abyss.

Not only was the order of the series reduced from that of the New Jedi Order, but release dates were spaced throughout the year, which helped alleviate buyer fatigue. This series dealt with the aftermath of the Legacy series, and how Luke Skywalker approaches a new threat to galactic stability with a new group of Jedi Knights.

Star Wars: Shadow Games

Not all the books were new ideas. For 2011’s Shadow Games, written by Michael Reaves and Maya Bohnhoff, Del Rey returned to one of Reaves and Perry’s original pitches for their Clone Wars novels. “We pitched one, about the entertainment industry and its entanglement with Black Sun, the criminal organization, and they liked the basic idea but wanted some serious changes,” Perry recounted. “I liked our idea better, so we decided not to write that one. Later, they came back and asked about it. Nothing had changed for me, but Reaves was interested, so I gave him my blessing to do it.” The book brought back Dash Rendar (who appeared inShadows of the Empire) in a thriller-styled novel.

Considering the massive scale of the New Jedi Order, Clone Wars, Legacy of the Force and Fate of the Jedi, Del Rey feared reader fatigue would set in after so many large, complicated storylines. While fans of the series had hung on, jumping into a detailed chronology spread across dozen of books was daunting for newcomers. Del Rey realized there had to be another major change in their approach to the series.

With the end of the Fate of the Jedi, Denning noted, the plan was “to reset the EU to refresh everything, so that they [could] publish all types of new stories.” Playing out major epics that couldn’t fit in a single volume was constraining: they required a dedicated reader who followed along, book-by-book, and by their very nature, confined authors to tell specific types of stories. Several novels and trilogies were cancelled, including a novel called Sword of the Jedi, a long-planned work that tied into the various post-NJO arcs.

Following Apocalypse, the final book of the Fate of the Jedi series, Del Rey refocused their efforts on a wider range of novels from across the entire timeline, and used the next few years to ease out the novels that had already been announced and were still under contract. The first came in 2012 with Scourge, written by Jeff Grubb, which followed a Jedi Master trying to uncover the killer of his apprentice, set during the end of the Bantam era. This was followed by Mercy Kill, a new installment of the fan-favorite X-Wing series, penned by Aaron Allston. Other series were being phased out, such as The Old Republic, which saw its last installment, Annihilation, arrive in November.

Star Wars: Scoundrels

2013 brought out several titles: a final novel from Timothy Zahn, Scoundrels, described as ‘Ocean’s 11 in the Star Wars universe’; The Last Jedi, a standalone conclusion to the Coruscant Nights trilogy; Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void, by Tim Lebbon, which took place 25,000 years before the battle of Yavin; Kenobi, by John Jackson Miller, a story about the Jedi Master in the years following Revenge of the Sith; and Crucible, by Troy Denning, which served as a sort of conclusion to the Fate of the Jedi, and serves as the final novel in the franchise, chronologically. Denning wished he had some foresight about the end of the Expanded Universe while he was writing it. “[Crucible] was as far as the EU went,” he said. “[It] was being written when Disney bought Lucasfilmt, and it would have been very different if I’d known that the EU was going away.”

In the same year, Del Rey announced a new set of books which would form a loose trilogy that would take the EU back to basics. Martha Wells, James S.A. Corey (the pen name for Daniel Abraham and Ty Frank) and Kevin Herne would each write a novel about the original trilogy’s central trio of characters: Leia Organa, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, respectively.

Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void

Wells led the trilogy with Razor’s Edge. In 2012, she remembered, she “got the phone call from my agent when I was at ArmadilloCon in Austin, then wasn’t able to tell any of my friends there about it.” Wells had grown up a Star Wars fan and had written fan fiction for it as a teenager, and she’d read some of the EU novels over the years. “I felt like Past Me would never forgive Present Me if I turned it down.”

Her book was to be set in the period between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, and Wells decided to focus on the aftermath of the destruction of Alderaan.I wanted to look at how Leia had reacted to it, and how other survivors might have reacted,” she said. “And I also wanted the story to be a fast-paced adventure, because that’s one of my favorite things to write.” Wells’ novel came out in the later part of 2013, after the announcement that Disney had bought out LucasFilm, but before they had determined that the Expanded Universe would be eliminated.

Razor's Edge: Star Wars (Empire and Rebellion)

was followed by Honor Among Thieves, by James S.A. Corey, known for their ongoing space opera series The Expanse.

Daniel Abraham noted that Honor Among Thieves was an easy sell for the authors: it was about Han Solo, and it took place between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. The book was “meant to be a kind of entryway into the Expanded Universe,” he said. “The idea was that readers wouldn’t need to know a lot of the background in order to come in.”

The Expanded Universe had long since reached the point where it was daunting to beginners. The new initiative would help provide an entry point. The authors were aided by a sort of back to basics approach: “We wanted to really match the classic characters from the film with as little of what would come later as we could.” Abraham explained. “We wanted to have the younger Luke still be an enthusiastic farmboy who hadn’t studied to be a Jedi yet. And Leia still be reacting to what happened to Alderaan. And Han when he wasn’t quite joined up with the rebellion yet. It was interesting to watch the films and see what Harrison Ford had done with Han and then try to match that.”

At the time, neither Abraham nor Ty Franck realized theirs would be the final book in the Expanded Universe. On April 25, LucasFilm announced the creation of a new story group, and the fact that any books from that point forward would be worked through that, while the older EU novels would be rebranded and excised from the larger continuity. “After us, they turned out the lights.” Abraham reflected. “It’s a little melancholy in that none of the things we kicked off are going to be followed up on.”

Honor Among Thieves: Star Wars (Empire and Rebellion)

Some of the books that had already been commissioned, such as Kevin Hearne’s Luke Skywalker novel Heir to the Jediand James Luceno’s Tarkin, were held over and absorbed into the new canon.

Denning believe Lucasfilm didn’t take the “decanonization” decision lightly. “Crucible was really kind of one of those things that helped them crystalize that thought process. We [didn’t] know how the new movies would be written, and based on not knowing those concepts, they knew that they have better not move those timelines forward.”

There was a lot of information for the Lucasfilm story team to go through: just what stories were important to the larger narrative? Ultimately, the decision was made: the novels, games, comics, and other items that moved past Return of the Jedi would be pulled out of the continuity established by the films.

With one end came a new beginning.

The seventh Star Wars film, directed by J.J. Abrams, went into production shortly after Lucasfilm changed hands. With a setting three decades after Return of the Jedi, the company had several choices during the initial planning: they could keep the sprawling EU story in place and create a film that existed alongside it, they could eliminate some elements and keep others within the canon, or they could wipe the slate clean. They opted for the latter: the Expanded Universe, they reasoned, would likely constrain the options available to the film’s writers, director and producer.

“It became very clear that if we were to adhere to the Expanded Universe it would have been a very tricky thing to navigate,” Abrams said to io9. “It wasn’t even clear what is canon in the Expanded Universe. And I don’t think the vast majority of Star Wars fans have ever read [an EU] novel. We can’t try and please every fan of that universe first. We have to try and tell the best version of a Star Wars movie.”

Heir to the Jedi: Star Wars

The decision was made: the patchwork of stories that had made up the Expanded Universe would be rendered non-canon and a new series of novels, coordinated with the Lucasfilm Story Group, would begin to rebuild the chronology following Return of the Jedi. The older EU books wouldn’t go out of print: they would be rebranded as “Legends.” The first book to take place between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens was Aftermath, authored by Chuck Wendig. Thenovelization of the new film goes right back to the franchise’s print roots: Alan Dean Foster, who wrote the original Star Wars novelization, penned the adaptation.

To a person, the authors interviewed for this article said that they would have likely made the same decision: they were playing with someone else’s intellectual property, and with the width and complexity of the Expanded Universe, it would be impossible for a new movie to pick up the story in an accessible manner, though Denning said if he’d realized that the entire Expanded Universe would be decanonized, he would have focused his final book a little differently, and would like to have seen where their plans would have ended up.

The Expanded Universe was an incredible publishing experiment the likes of which hadn’t been attempted before., as hundreds of individual authors, editors, and artists came together to continue the story begun by George Lucas in 1977.

To fans of the Expanded Universe, the stories created by Timothy Zahn, Kathy Tyers, Kevin J. Anderson, Michael A. Stackpole and others were genuinely part of a larger story that extended far beyond the six films. Thy added years of new adventures, triumph, and heartbreak to the saga, becoming as important as the films–to some, more important–in developing the events occurring in that galaxy far, far away.

The collective efforts of Lou Aronica, Lucy Wilson, Sue Rostoni, Shelly Shapiro, Betsy Mitchell, and more helped construct a massive shared world that authors—all fans themselves—expanded, building an overarching story of the rise and fall of a galactic civilization in a way that had never been attempted before.

Along the way, Del Rey and Lucasfilm learned innumerable lessons: the novels became tighter, as details were shared across books and authors. Books went from standalone experiments probing in the dark, to incredible shared-author projects, to short, intense arcs that leapt the plot forward.

As a fan who literally grew up with these books, seeing the status of the Expanded Universe change was sad, but I can’t help but feel that a clean slate is an interesting opportunity. It free the new films of the baggage from the novels, but allows the Lucasfilm brain trust to tap into the collective wisdom of the fans of the EU. There’s a general consensus as to what worked and what didn’t, one that will inform the next generation of stories.

The Expanded Universe may have been excised from the canon, but it’s still out there. Zahn’s Grand Admiral Thrawn is as menacing as ever, while Stackpole’s X-Wing dogfights continue to delight alongside thrilling action sequences in The Force Awakens. Parts of it live on: names like Coruscant and Nightsisters are all embedded in the canon, building blocks that originated from the West End Games repository of information. If the WEG books are like the source code that powered the Expanded Universe, then the operating system that powers Star Wars has been reformatted, but will continue to run on the same software.

Indeed, when I finally sat down to experience The Force Awakens last night (no spoilers here), I realized something: the new movie does exactly what the originals films did—it plants its story in a vast, unexplored corner of the universe, only hinting at countless as-yet-untold tales. We can only guess at which characters will get their own spin-off novels, and I’m eagerly anticipating the new adventures Lucasfilm, Del Rey, and their authors will come up with.

The Expanded Universe will live on in the minds and imaginations of fans for years and decades to come. The merits of the novels will be debated across message boards, Twitter, and Facebook, and the new crop of books will be compared to their predecessors. The books will sit on the shelves of public libraries and bookstores, waiting for eager, ambitious readers to discover them.

Daniel Abraham best summed up the end of the Expanded Universe: “I’m not big on canonicity in these things. Which Batman’s the one true Batman? I admire the stories in the EU. They’re still just as good as they were before. Not a word has changed.”
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