It’s 1976, Star Wars isn’t even a fresh phenomenon, never mind the rampant trillion dollar beast grazing the heart of Lucasfilm with a fan base that spanned generations.
Writer Alan Dean Foster is handed access to exclusive materials that will formulate a follow-up novel that, should the film flop, will serve as a low-budget sequel. George Lucas eschews the virtues of other creators carrying on his work in the foreword. He’s a half-crazed director trying to build a modern mythology during an experience that will nearly break him, but instead baptises him in fire. Idealistic words from the artist, not the entrepreneur.
Splinter of the Mind’s Eye is published by Del Rey in ’78. A year after A New Hope defines the cinematic blockbuster. It’s abandoned as a sequel, the content seemingly at odds with Lucas’ bigger vision. Empires are being built at Fox, and soon they’ll strike back.
But back up for a moment; Splinter was a blink and you’ll miss it piece of history. Yet, historically that was retroactively one of the most important forums for fan/creators pre-prequels for thirty five years. The Star Wars Expanded Universe was born at that moment in ’78. Then, through Marvel up to ‘86 on to Dark Horse Comics in ‘91 – West End Games then Del Rey again with Brian Daley on Han’s trilogy and Neil Smith on Lando’s – straight through to the game changing Thrawn Trilogy from Timothy Zahn in ’91. In those years Wars fans were catered to in a way they hadn’t been since Jedi in ’83. Forget the Ewok Adventures, this mythology was for the child revellers grasping at adulthood through the beauty of sci-fi wonderment. Transfixed by a phenomenon that, once glimpsed, would never leave them.
The legend was kept alive through love and outside architects eager to tell new tales in a galaxy far, far away. They kept the fire burning while the prequels brewed, then built on those and made some thin cinema rock solid.
Gennedy Tartatovsky and Dave Filoni gave the Clone Wars depth that they lacked sorely on the big screen through TV expansion packs, and it stuck. Much of what pioneers Zahn and Kevin J Anderson wrote found its way into the bigger picture through more subcutaneous means. Darth Maul’s double-edged Lighsaber got its origin from Anderson’s Sith wizard Exar Kunn, Coruscant’s naming was all Timothy Zahn. Han’s background as an implied ex-imperial and teen swoop rider and Chewie’s enslavement were all from the EU. The rebel alliance was born from a man named Galen Marek; a dark apprentice in the style of the now famous Mara Jade – in the same vein as the earlier yet Marvel comic’s creation Lumiya.
In time, Gorgeous George gave us tiered Cannon for this universe he’d fathomed. G for George topped the bill. Films and TV came under T’ and then C for the comics and novels as third tier raters and override-able filler. It was a sad omission of Comics and Books that made the most of what was there by taking the pay cheque, but not left behind the authority of the material. Fans could always have more EU tales, but only so long as they knew it held no weight. Darktroopers and the Noghri, Thrawn and Admiral Daala, The Yuzzhan Vong and Kyle Katarn – they were all expendable in the continuity cull that was made official as of April 2014.
Lucasfilm instated the ‘Legends’ line, neatly packing away thirty five years of stories that, as of then, never existed outside of our fan want of further material. That one time treasure trove for the fans and the companies who fed them. Sustained by an insatiability for more tales from their favourites.
When Disney bought Lucasfilm in one of the biggest sales deals of the century something had to give. For any freedom of creative movement the old guard had to shuffle sideways. Sometimes you have to sacrifice the thing you love most in order to get more of it. Wars fans did – so now what?
The EU line is no more, with a new timeline set to replace it. Blade Squadron and Lords of the Sith are hot to trot prose set to fill the gaps from a galaxy far, far away, that for a long time now – a long time ago -have been occupied by other rampant author imaginations. Stories too good to let go. Like any first love, true love or lost love, we’ll never forget those stories, their impact, nor the important part they played in our lives for keeping our passion lit. This is a love letter to them.
Luke may never have fallen to the dark side then returned to fight the clone Emperor and later the invading Vong as a legendary Jedi grandmaster. Alongside his wife, former Sith apprentice and the baddest woman in the Galaxy; Mara Jade Skywalker. But we’ll remember.
Kyp Durron and Corran Horn. Bane and Plagueis. The Sun Crusher and the Dark Sabre. Centre Point station, galaxy guns, the Emperor’s Hands and a universe brimming with super-weapons. The further adventures of Wedge and the Rogues. Jacen and Jaina Solo. Brave Anakin Solo and sensitive Ben Skywalker. The fallen Cade. Han Solo’s greatest adventures learning to live with the loss of his best friend Chewbacca in James Lucieno’s homage to his own mentor Brian Daly.
Prince Isolder of Dathomir and the Rancor riding Force Witches, mothers to Maul and Savage. Death Troopers, the New Jedi Order, Nomi Sunrider and Ulic Quel Droma one hundred thousand years away when the Galaxy was still young. Revan’s Sith empire rose and fell. Thrawn’s gone but won’t be forgotten. Chiss Master Tacticians and the Emperor’s chosen can never truly die. Like the spirit of Exar Kunn, entombed on Yavin 4, all these characters will live on as legends. The never weres who helped us though the long years of separation anxiety, in a parallel ‘verse’ beside the new adventures to come. The ones that will carry us on from here.
But move on we must. Only franchising, it is.
Maybe for some people. But for Wars fans it’s called life. And for giving us thirty five years of it, writers and creators of the EU, we thank you. Your legacy will not be forgot.