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8/11/17 Policy-Talk: EU/DU, Canon and Everything in Between

Hey Everyone!  I wanted to take a moment to clarify a few things that have perhaps not been as clearly said before by me.  Despite the breach that was created when Disney/LFL excised the Expanded Universe from canon on April 25, 2014, a breach that's caused considerable animosity amongst fans and between fans, I think it's important to state that no one should feel excluded here.  I can't control what goes on in other groups, but I can control what goes on here.  If you enjoy the new continuity that Disney/LFL brought about, that's totally fine. If you don't, that's totally fine.  So long as you're interested in the Expanded Universe, and respect one another, you're welcome here.

 

On a personal level, as some of you know, I don't support the decision to de-canonize 35 years of stories.  That doesn't mean that I'm against anyone who enjoys the new stories. Nor am I against any specific individual from Disney/LFL, even the decision-makers (e.g., Kathleen Kennedy).  I do strongly disagree with the policy, and dislike the main products of that policy, namely The Force Awakens and its sequels, as well as anything that overrides previously established continuity (e.g., the new ongoing Marvel series). But that's not a comment on you who enjoys the new continuity.  Similarly, just because I use terms like faux-canon and such, I hope you'll understand that I do so merely as a shortcut to express the idea that despite what Disney/LFL now call "canon" and "Legends" (which is non-canon), I subscribe to a single canon that is the original Expanded Universe only, as well as any story that fits within it. Disney/LFL is free to call their conception whatever they want, but that doesn't necessitate that I have to follow that course. Yet, again, just because I consider The Force Awakens to be "Infinities" (which is the term LFL once used for "What If?" stories) this in no way is a mark of disrespect for those who are fans of it. Some might prefer that I, and others who feel like me, should call it a secondary universe, or even a parallel universe. That's fine too.  Terms like the "Disney Universe" work better, I think, to convey this idea without speaking on hotbed issues of legitimacy or illegitimacy.

 

On a related point, I've been up front since I first discovered Disney/LFL's intent to scrap the Expanded Universe that I would accept any future story that *could* reasonably fit into the Expanded Universe as part of Star Wars history regardless of the publisher's intent.  This has been a bone of contention to some dedicated fans of the Expanded Universe, who believe that to include stories published under the Disney regime is to betray the original series or them personally.  While I understand this to some degree, and I support efforts to boycott products or to get Disney/LFL to continue producing new Expanded Universe stories under the "Legends" banner (a term that I don't personally use, by the way), I must stress again that, as far as I'm concerned, story comes first.  Some of you have appreciated that stance because it allows you to continue to enjoy new Star Wars stories that fir into the EU, while others have been deeply disappointed, thinking that I've somehow compromised or am "mixing canons."  I can assure you that neither is the case.  Hear me out. 

 

To be a good chronologer (or chronologist), which is what they call a person who studies the historical record to establish the dates of past eventsand who creates timelines reflecting that recordone has to be unbiased.  To that end, it's my job to look only at the story itself and determine whether or not it fits into the historical record, which in this case is the Expanded Universe.  If it cannot, it goes into Infinities.  In the role of a chronologer, I must recognize that stories exist on their own as works of art (or in this case, as "history"), and they stand or fall based on their merit (in this case, if they fit into the larger history).  If a story fits into continuity, there's no reason to exclude it.  Similarly, if a story cannot fit into continuity, it must be excluded.  The math is as simple as that.  Once you bring in things like the publisher (Disney/LFL) or authorial intent, you're now going into the behind-the-scenes realm, what is called the politics.  Stories are neutral of politics.  A chronologer must, therefore, also be neutral, and put aside his opinions and preference.  The politics would have me disregard the stories entirely, in effect, throw out the baby with the bathwater. It would have me say that because the intent of the publisher is clearly contradictory to the Expanded Universe, all of it belongs to Infinities, or the secondary universe, what some would call a false history (I don't need to be so uncharitable, so I will simply say it's a secondary universe that I'm not personally interested or invested in.)  Yet, there are stories that can and do fit into the original universe, the canonical Expanded Universe. When one puts aside the "politics," it becomes clear that such stories shouldn't be cast aside like the others because they add to and enrich this universe.  Tim Zahn's novel Thrawn is a perfect example of such a story. Rebels and Rogue One are less perfect examples because they require minor retcons to fit into the Expanded Universe, but no more so than many of the pre-Disney Star Wars stories, or even of the original six films.  History is not neat and clean, as historians and researchers make mistakes and errors.  So too with a fictional history and its historians.  "But that's mixing canons!" some of you have said.  Yet, if allowing a story to exist in both universes constitutes "mixing canons," then Episodes I to VI are mixing canons because they also exist in both universes.  In other words, the precedent is already set by the films in that you have stories that exist into both universes without disrupting or compromising either.

 

One might argue that by my same logic fan-fiction should be included, as well, and in truth I don't entirely disagree. Fan-fiction is excluded here for different reasons than the ones I listed above, which I think you'll see makes sense. I have a large chunk of older fan-fiction, most of which is in the form of Star Wars fanzines that were printed up in small numbers and distributed amongst subscribers.  The majority of it doesn't conform to previously established continuity.  Yet, some of it does.  Should these be included?  I'd argue no for the following reasons.  The very low print runs make it impossible for most fans to not only read and enjoy it, but coordinate it with the continuity of stories that emerged later.  Furthermore, there's now thousands of online stories, many of which attempt to enlarge upon EU continuity, but which don't harmonize with each other because they're written by hundreds of fans who don't know each other, and who cannot take into account each other's stories. Without a governing body to ensure a coordinated effort, what emerges is a mess of contradictory stories.  If a governing body (or brave individual) ever emerged to sort through it all, they'd have to comb through every piece of fan-fiction to determine which ones best work within the current state of official continuity and with each other, and which don't, and would have to document why.  Whoever did this would have to choose between competing stories which told different versions of the same (or similar) events, and keep in her mind the ramifications of those events as they pertain to other fan-fiction stories told in the same era. If such a theoretical and monumental endeavor ever came to pass, and, provided Disney/LFL never continued the Expanded Universe (because if they do, as many hope, it would throw a big spanner into such a project), I'd be curious to see the results. Until such a time, it doesn't make sense to include fan-fiction, and any attempt by me at this point would be arbitrary and half-measures, and that's not how a chronologist works.  The new post-Disney stories, although published by a company that's solely interested in the new continuity, at least benefits from a central body of professional editors, are widely available, and are even written by some who contributed to the Expanded Universe in the past, e.g., Rebels and Thrawn

 

This might sound like I'm casting to the side hardcore fans who don't want anything to do with post-Disney in their universe, but that's not the case. To accommodate this fan's perspective, I've left the individual era timelines without any post-2014/Disney era stories. Only the "Complete Saga" timeline includes those elements.  It's for this reason that I also created a timeline that doesn't have The Clone Wars animated series on it, as I know there are fans who prefer to not include Filoni's Clone Wars into their personal canon.  The only timeline I don't include here, for the reasons listed above, is an exclusive Disney-canon timeline. I'm not invested in, or financially investing in a second universe, though, as previously noted, I make exceptions for those stories that can fit both.

 

Some fans object to the term personal canon, or "head canon."  To them, canon is canon, period.  Obviously you're entitled to feel that that's the case, but as someone whose been a Star Wars chronologer for 25 years, I can say with some experience that it's rarely been that simple.  While it's true that from 1978 to 2014, there's been ONE CONTINUITY, or ONE CANON (which, incidentally, is the same thing, as a hierarchy of canon means that everything but non-canon in the pyramidal structure is canon) and that's brilliant. Yet, despite the efforts of editors and authors, there were times when certain stories were neglected, forgotten, or excluded, and other times when exclusion was necessary to maintain a workable history.  In a perfect world, every story that came out under the Star Wars banner would automatically be canon, but the real world doesn't work quite so smoothly.  For example, the Marvel UK series was virtually unknown in the U.S. for many years, which meant that the story, "The Flight of the Falcon" was overridden by information provided by West End Games, and A.C. Crispin's The Han Solo Trilogy. Had the story been known, things might have been different.  As it stands, the two versions are so dissimilar, they can't be reconciled.  Similarly,  Star Wars 3D #2: Havoc on Hoth was written without taking into account the Goodwin newspaper strips, which at the time were out of print.  These are both examples of honest mistakes.  While authors have done a great job of retconning many of the inadvertent slips that crept in, not everything can be, which mean certain stories have had to be excised from canon.  In the case of the these examples, "The Flight of the Falcon" and Star Wars 3D #2 had to be eliminated from continuity to allow the larger stories to exist and make sense.  There are other examples of times when it wasn't an even playing field. I've discussed this before at length, but it bears repeating that The Force Unleashed, for example, did not go through the normal channels of continuity approval, as its designers went directly to Lucas to get his approval for their concept.  Lucas later clarified that he had approved the story "as a game," and not necessarily as part of continuity, as a result of his approval, The Force Unleashed came out without the benefit of the editors at LFL going through it and correcting contradictory elements. Thus, it sharply contradicts several aspects of the Expanded Universe, and more egregiously, A New Hope (specifically Leia's role in the government at this time, which makes no sense if The Force Unleashed happened). While some would give it a free pass solely on the grounds that it's pre-Disney Star Wars stamp on it, that's simplistic thinking, and not how we roll here.  Recall what I said earlier: if it's irreconcilably contradictory, it's Infinities.  And this is where personal canon comes in.  If you choose to keep it in your head as part of the story, then fine.  The point is that canon is not so easily established as some might think.   Personal canon allows you, the reader, the freedom to say "I like The Force Unleashed so much, I'm going to overlook the contradictory elements and keep it as part of the Star Wars saga in my head."  Because Star Wars history is not real history, this is a viable approach.  This takes up back to the original point I made above.  You're free to say, "I see the Star Wars Universe as having two separate canons," or "I accept one canon only and not the other," or even "I only accept those stories that I like."  So long as you don't attack each other over these distinctions, I'm fine with that.

 

If you're interested in the whole timeline concept, as I am, which is the establishment of historical events based on extant documents (the stories), then you'll better understand that I don't have the luxury of personal canon.  My job is to work with seemingly contradictory elements of greater and lesser extent and make choices amongst them.  I find that the choices I've made on this timeline make the most sense to me; you're free to disagree, but I'm also not married to these choices, as several of you, who've helped me over the years, know.  Many fans have come to me and said, "I think this belongs better in this spot." Or, "I have a workable fix for this story." I've always been open to your suggestions, and I always will be.  What I'm not open to is the negative spirit of bullying, or irrational, militant, one-sided demands.  The vast majority of you are amazing, brilliant and rational. To the rest, well, you're probably not reading this anyway, but if you are, it's not a healthy way to be, and I'm not going to tolerate it in my space. I understand your anger, but it's going too far, and if Star Wars argues against anything, it's that hate is the path to the dark side. Those of you who have chosen this course, and you're on all sides (anti-EU, pro-EU, anti-prequels, pro-prequels, anti-Special Editions, pro-Special Editions, anti-Disney, pro-Disney, etc.), you are not doing yourselves or Star Wars fandom any favors. Cut it out.

 

That's my .02 for today! Drop me a line here or on Facebook if you have any thoughts, questions, or comments! 

 

4/13/17 Thrawn

Currently reading the new book Thrawn, by Timothy Zahn.  The first chapter adapts his short story "Mist Encounters" (from the Adventure Journal #7, later reprinted in the Outbound Flight paperback), removing the sections with Booster Terrik (which are unnecessary for the story being told in the novel), and rewriting various elements, most notably the addition of a translator named Cadet Eli Vanto.  Despite the rewrite, the story plays out the same as in the original, with the second chapter continuing those events past where the original short story went.  Thrawn is unusual in that it appears (at the outset at least) to fit both the original canon of the Expanded Universe, as well as the new Disney "canon." For those of you boycotting Disney until "Legends" is restored, you can pick it up used on Ebay & Amazon.

 

 

Listed by year is the archived news for that year, as well as the website updates that had originally been on a separate page.  I've decided to combine them by date for those long-time fans of this site, as well as any that are curious to see my chronological thoughts and editorials over the years. Occasionally, you'll see non-Star Wars material from my other timeline sites included, as this was before I had the lightbulb moment when I realized that each universe should have its own "latest news" and "updates" page. Please note too that these pages are being kept for nostalgia and research purposes. None of the internal links, of which there are many, will actually work, as they were created at the time the Star Wars Expanded Universe Timeline was listed under the umbrella site Timelineuniverse.net, which is no longer the case. 

Archived News 2016

 

Archived News 2015

 

Archived News 2014

 

Archived News 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013

 

Archived News 2009

 

Archived News 2008

Archived News 2007

Archived News 2006

Archived News 2005

Archived News 7/04 - 12/04

Archived News 1/04 - 6/04

Archived News 2003

Archived News 2002