This Is Not the Universe You’re Looking For

I was twelve when I fell in love with the Star Wars Expanded Universe. A few weeks after marathoning the original trilogy for the first time (til then I’d only watched the movies individually) I was wandering a bookstore, perusing the SciFi and Fantasy section for something new when I discovered a tiny little pocket of Star Wars novels. I was floored. This was 1996, I didn’t have the internet yet, and I had no idea that these books even existed. But there, tucked away on one of the bottom shelves, were 20 different books all set in the Star Wars Universe.

I zeroed in on Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire trilogy almost immediately and I left the mall that day having purchased the first book. I went back the very next week to get the second, then shortly after to get the third. When I finished those I moved on to the Jedi Academy trilogy, the Corellian trilogy, the Tales anthologies, and The Courtship of Princess Leia. I even read Splinter of a Mind’s Eye, though what a poor decision that was.

And I was hooked.

For the last 18 years, I’ve read dozens upon dozens of stories set in the Star Wars EU. I’ve spent 18 years following characters both new and old through space, across planets, into near death experiences, and even romantic mishaps. I discovered new worlds, new spacecraft, and new creatures. I fell in love with new characters like Mara Jade, Grand Admiral Thrawn, Jaina Solo, Tenel Ka, Lowbacca, Admiral Daala, and so many more. And after all this time these characters are as much of a part of Star Wars to me as Han, Leia, Luke, and Chewie always have been.

When the prequels came out and they were a complete and utter let down, I still had the world of the EU to escape into. I could steadfastly ignore the horrible dialogue the writers gave Anakin and Padme and completely forget about the atrocities of Order 66. In the EU the characters I loved were still there, saving the day, getting the girl, and bringing peace to the galaxy.

My reading of the EU has dwindled a bit in the last five or six years. Full time work took up more time, grad school happened, and the timeline went down a path I wasn’t quite prepared to follow (I still feel betrayed over the death in Vector Prime, and let’s not even go into the death in Legacy of the Force: Sacrifice). Yet whenever Timothy Zahn releases a new book, or Michael Stackpole, or Aaron Allston, or Kevin J. Anderson, I find myself diving right back in.

And then in April I was hit with a blow I didn’t quite see coming. Lucasfilms (and Disney) declared the Expanded Universe was being removed from the canon. It become Star Wars: Legends and all of its characters, its worlds, and its storylines were wiped from the official books.

I didn’t like it, but I get it. The EU had become so expansive that unless they planned on adapting one of the existing books, there wasn’t much room for an entire trilogy of new movies to fit. Especially if those new movies also had to keep true to the EU’s timeline, characters, and storylines. And even if they tried, it would have been virtually impossible for someone who hadn’t read the books to understand the story.

But now we sit, a mere twelve months away from the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and I’m jealous. I’m jealous of all the people who never spent time immersed in the EU, who maybe didn’t even know it existed. I’m jealous of the people whose only knowledge of Star Wars comes from Episodes One through Six (and possibly the Clone Wars tv show). These people know Star Wars only as it exists now. As Lucasfilms means for it to exist.

They get to walk into the movie, full of hope, and watch the movie for exactly what the director intended. They will either love it or hate it, but they will love it or hate it on it’s own merit. They won’t be comparing the characters on screen to the ones who came alive through the pages of a book. They won’t suffer through the pain of seeing a new storyline take root, knowing that it wipes out so many other opportunities. They won’t spend the entire movie in a state of “But what if?”.

I’m jealous of everyone who gets to experience the new movies as they are meant to be experienced.

And if you need me? Well, I’ll just be sitting over here in the corner clinging tightly to any tiny shred of hope that the writers will decide they need a feisty red-headed Jedi named Mara in order to truly tell the story they want to tell. And maybe a few Noghri for good measure.

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