Tag Archives: Pablo Hidalgo

Why Star Wars Legends Still Matters

A few months ago, Lucasfilm announced that they were putting together a new team called the Story Group. This group of Canon champions (including Leland Chee and Pablo Hidalgo, two long-time curators and mavens of the EU) had the task in place to ensure that everything that was created within the Star Wars universe would be interconnected and adhere to Canon. Everything. This included movies, TV shows, Novels, comics and games. No more Mandalorian Contradictions. No more Even Piel double-deaths. None of the contradictions that had long troubled the Expanded Universe and annoyed us detail-oriented fans. This noble group was going to fight for consistency and universe-building on behalf of EU fans everywhere. No group since rogue squadron had ever been created to fight for the good of the EU.

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Except that they also blew the whole thing up.

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That’s right. While the Story group will be doing incredible things moving forward (and I really AM excited to see how much they will improve the new canon) they completely nullified everything before. In order to allow complete freedom to the new, integrated, multimedia universe that was blooming, everything that already existed would have to go (as far as canon was concerned). It seemed, at first, like a huge blow to the gut of this Star Wars fan. All of that time and effort sunk into the Expanded Universe seemed to have been wasted. My favorite characters would never make it to the movies. There really is no such thing as a Yuuzhan Vong?!

Yuuzhan Vong

But after some time to digest, that reaction seems silly now. The “old expanded universe” now known as Legends is still a great read and a worthwhile part of my fandom. Here are a few reasons why:

1)   The story is still the same:

This may seem unnecessarily obvious, but nothing about the story told among those Legends novels has changed. No really, it hasn’t.

When we consider the stories as the history of the universe we all love, sure… in that case it no longer exists. But if we take a deep breath and remember that they are stories… that hasn’t changed at all. We all have stories that we love that are not tied to a franchise we obsess over. And you know what? We still love those stories. If you separate the stories from Star Wars, what do we have left?

We have great characters. As a matter of fact, most fans of Legends would say that the Big Three are the least compelling and interesting of the bunch! Jaina, Jacen, Saba, Daala, Vestara, Plagueis (for the most part) all exist completely within the Legends Universe.

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We have great stories. The X-Wing books are incredible as adventure stories with or without Star Wars attached to them. The same goes for every other book and plot as well. The stories are still great.

We have an improved Canon. This is probably a tough concept to grasp, but is incredibly important to realize. That internal canon of the novels still exists… it’s just not the canon of Jacen SoloStar Wars. Characters live and die on the same timeline. Jacen’s decisions during the Dark Nest crisis still causes a Galactic Civil War that leads to Luke’s expulsion from Coruscant. Thousands of years later, the Yuuzhan Vong still tell the legend of The Ganner. It’s all Legends canon… it’s just not Star Wars canon. As a matter of fact, the canon gets improved when you look at Legends in isolation. Most of the continuity errors came from cross-platform media (and when I say “cross-platform media” I really mean The Clone Wars). Now that the books are disassociated with the new continuity, they get to exist on their own and many of the canon-debates can be closed.

Just because they aren’t officially Star Wars doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t enjoy every thing about these books that we always have. And if you’re someone who hasn’t read Legends before, it doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy them as great stories in a self-contained universe.

2)   Who knows what will stick around:

As I watched the prequels, one of the most interesting aspects of the story to me was the planet Coruscant. I was pretty intrigued by the idea of a galactic political base and an entire city-planet. It seemed like a pretty thriving place full of diversity, urban challenges and an overwhelming sense of business and urgency. It was the exact opposite of Tatooine in every way… and pretty dissimilar to Hoth and the forest moon of Endor as well. I remember being impressed that they seemed to really break the mold that had been established by the original trilogy.

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I should point out here that I didn’t get into the Legends novels until after the saga was completed… meaning I hadn’t read the Zahn trilogy until after Episode 3 was out. I point this out because Lucas didn’t create Coruscant, Timothy Zahn did. To be fair, he may have based the idea on Lucas’ notes and outlines…. But that’s not the same thing. Zahn named the planet. Zahn gave us our first description of the planet. Zahn decided what it looked like, who lived there, and how the government center was organized. Zahn made it real and Zahn made it known.

Star Wars fans can be finnicky and so we tend to focus on all of the times that there was tension between the “George Lucas” Star Wars and the “Expanded Universe” Star Wars. But we shouldn’t forget that George and other LucasFilm producers borrow successfully from the Expanded Universe all the time. Coruscant is probably the most obvious example, but did you know that Kashyyyk and Twi’lek are expanded universe words as well?

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Countless ideas in the Prequels and in The Clone Wars were taken from the Expanded universe and, while occasionally it led to continuity disasters, for the most part it was exciting to see the species, people, and creatures I had read about being brought to life on the screen. I can only imagine how much MORE intrigued I would have been with Coruscant had I already been invested in it from the novels.

With this change to continuity, there’s no reason to expect that the Story Group won’t still be pulling material from the Legends stories. I imagine we will see plenty of planets, species and concepts from the Legends universe. No, the events didn’t happen… but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few Barabel in the coming movies. And with the new story group in place, it means we could see similar creations showing up in movies, TV shows and even future novels, as well.

I can’t wait to see what gets carried over either as central aspects of the new canon or even as little easter eggs in the films, and I can’t wait to see what improvements they make in the process.

3)   It’s going to take a while before we have a new universe to take its place:

So most of my reasoning comes from the perspective of an existing fan responding to the changes, but this point is for all of the potential fans wondering whether or not they should get started on the Legends books despite their lack of canon status.

Legends

The cold, hard truth is that it is going to be a long time before the new efforts of the Story Group come to fruition. It’s already been a long time and there hasn’t been a new book written yet. Of course it takes a lot of preparation and planning to undergo an effort this big…. I’m not begrudging them the ability to make this transition and to do it right; I’m simply stating that it will be a while before it gets up and running.

And then it will be another while before it is as full and vibrant as the Legends universe is today.

For most fans of the Star Wars novels, we got into them because we wanted more than watching the movies over and over (although we still do this). Many of you might be thinking the same thing and Legends is there for you, just like it was for me. Rather than waiting and waiting for the new Canon to take hold, why not dive into Legends and enjoy the ride?

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Canonicity is something that I really do believe is important. The internal Canon of the Legends books will always be what draws me to them. Thousands of years of interconnected Star Wars Classichistory in the Galaxy Far, Far Away makes for an incredible reading experience. Officially, it’s no longer canon… I get it. But if a new reader were to jump in today, it would still be great and it would still be Star Wars. Some day, when the new canon is vast and developed it may be time to say that Legends became a mystical relic of the past, but that time is not now. Now it should still be embraced as the greatest expansion to the greatest franchise we all love. It’ll help pass the time until Episode VII comes around. It’s going to be a new era for the franchise once that happens anyways.

~ Mitchell Hanan

Book Review: The Essential Reader’s Companion

I knew this book was coming and I was excited, but as details of the book were revealed my excitement grew.  Every Star Wars novel was going to be summarized in chronological order, with info on planets visited, characters, and pictures!  This is an Expanded Universe fan’s dream come true!  I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.  I did get my hands on it a few weeks ago and I was determined to wait and review it until after I read the whole thing.  Reading it in its entirety took longer than I expected but here we go…

The Essential Reader’s Companion (ERC) is a book written by Star Wars expert and Lucasfilm employee Pablo Hidalgo.  The book was released on October 2nd and is available in both print and ebook formats.  The ERC is basically a complete guide to every Star Wars novel, ebook, and short story that has ever been officially released.  What is not included are the stories from comics, books meant for very young readers, video game stories, and stories from roleplaying guides (although stories of note from these sources are mentioned).  It makes sense to me that these were excluded, otherwise the book could have been twice the size, and it is already pushing 500 pages.

The ERC is broken down into eight chapters, each one covering a major era of Star Wars.  I like how the book went with a chronological order of the stories.  It gives the book a nice flow and makes it easier to follow.  Each chapter begins with a short introduction and then goes right into the story entries.  Each story entry includes the name of the author and cover artist and the publication history of the book, like when it was released and if there were various editions.  It also includes where the story falls on the in universe timeline as well as a list of the worlds visited and the main characters.  The galaxy map location for each planet visited is listed as well, and you can look up the location in the Essential Atlas if you want to get that nerdy with it.  This is an example of the great detail included in this book.

After all of that info, you will find a concise story summary.  Be aware that the story summaries do contain major spoilers.  So if you haven’t read a particular book, and you plan to, you might want to skip that story summary.  After most of the story summaries you will find additional information.  For me this was the best part of the book.  This is where you will find behind the scenes info on the story.  Anything from original story pitches to continuity errors to info on Lucas’s involvement can be found here.  I only wish there was more of this in the ERC.  I for one would buy a book that dives a little deeper into some of this behind the scenes info about Star Wars publishing.

One of my favorite things about the ERC is how the author handles discussing continuity errors.  This can be a sore subject for many fans and the author could easily have not mentioned the numerous errors that have occurred in Star Wars fiction over the years.  Instead he readily points out continuity errors with an attitude of “it happens”.  It’s a big universe and it would be impossible to keep every little detail straight.  It was refreshing to see this subject taken on in a very matter of fact way.

Although comics and other stories are not the main focus of this book, there are info boxes scattered throughout the book highlighting these stories that have had a major impact or deserve mentioning.  Also found in the book is some amazing artwork by Jeff Carlisle, Joe Corroney, Brian Rood, Chris Scalf, Darren Tan, and Chris Trevas.  This is one of the major draws of the book for me personally.  There are numerous brand new character portraits and full page illustrations depicting major scenes from our favorite stories.  I specifically really enjoyed the character portraits at the beginning of each chapter and would have liked to see more.

This is an amazing book.  It may be my favorite Star Wars publication yet.  I can see myself coming back to this book time after time to reference things as I am reading through new novels.  Wookieepedia is nice but the summaries in this book are official and uncluttered and, since everything is in chronological order, easy to find.  Having the digital version of the ERC with me on a mobile device at all times will be fantastic.  The ERC isn’t just for diehard EU fans like me though.  This is also the perfect book for someone who is interested in the Star Wars Expanded Universe but just doesn’t have time to catch up.  With the ERC you can read though the summaries of the books and eras you are interested in and quickly get caught up to where you want to start reading in the Expanded Universe.

Highlights, Curiosities, and Random Thoughts

If you’re wanting to be completely surprised by everything in this book and don’t want to see detailed spoilers you may not want to read any further.

Timothy Zahn originally wanted to establish the Sith as a species that at one time was subservient to Darth Vader which would have made the title “Dark Lord of the Sith” make sense.  Lucasfilm rejected the idea because they weren’t quite ready to set what the Sith were in stone.  Zahn’s idea eventually became the Nohgri. (page 26)

There is a lot of great info on the merging of the EU Sith into George Lucas’s vision of them. (page 27)

The Jedi Quest young readers novels were originally meant to be part of a multimedia event including action figures and comic book tie ins. (page 59)

Really cool image of C’baoth Force choking Thrawn from Outbound Flight.  The most memorable scene for me from that book. (page 62)

If you are interested in Clone Wars continuity check out page 75.

Author Sean Stewart made his participation in writing Star Wars novels contingent on Lucasfilm giving him permission to write a Yoda novel. (page 118)

Asajj Ventress was originally slated to die in the novel Labyrinth of Evil. (page 121) The ERC says, “…though that story would ultimately be told elsewhere.”  Curious comment since her death has yet to be depicted in any media.  Is this comment a clue that her death has already been determined but we are just yet to see it?  I’m probably thinking way too much into this.

The ERC claims that events in Season 5 of The Clone Wars will show Lucas’s true vision for the roots of the Rebel Alliance and will take precedence over Starkiller’s involvement. (page 161) I wonder how definitive this will be and will future writers be able to retcon a way that both stories can still fit.

A Squib character named Mace Windu debuted in 1996 in a short story that was not written by Troy Denning.

George Lucas had something to say about Mara Jade having a telepathic link as a means of communication with the Emperor.  In a July 1994 memo he said that this power should be unique to Mara and not a common Force power. (page 253)  There are actually multiple instances in the ERC where Lucas put in his two cents about a project.  He even had involvement in shaping the direction of the New Jedi Order books. (page 369)  So there you go people who say GL doesn’t care about the books.

Great picture of Luke facing off against Luuke from The Last Command on page 307.

I love that there is now a really nice portrait of Allana Solo. (page 416)

I was really hoping for a Ben Skywalker portrait and how is it after 18 years we still don’t have a good image of Gantoris?  I need to start a petition or something.

This book is awesome.  Go buy it.

Aaron Goins

The Essential Readers Companion – SWBTF #40

Play

Pablo Hidalgo’s The Essential Reader’s Companion, on the next Star Wars Beyond the Films, YOUR Star Wars discussion podcast! YOUR ticket to the EU!

This week true believers, Beyonders, Fanboys, Fangirls, respected aliens around the galaxy, your EU Guru; Nathan P. Butler, and The Defender of the EU; Mark Hurliman sit down to discuss Pablo Hidalgo’s The Essential Reader’s Companion. Strap in and tighten the crash webbing, Star Wars Beyond the Films is setting off on a trip to a galaxy far, far away!

This week’s episode They cover some of the many great illustrations found in this companion.  They jump in and set the stage for the Essential Guide lines, let you know what came before and so forth. There are mentions of things we’d not heard of before; like The Vergere Companion- Denning’s 27 page justification for Vergere’s Sithliness. They also talk about using the Companion as a resource for when you jump into an era you aren’t as familiar with as a brush up. They also discuss things like Jacen’s fate, and the alternate endings to a couple series, Reading order, Canon and Continuity as presented in the book, and much, much more.

Here is a small taste of what you’ll find inside the Essential Reader’s Companion:

Jeff Carlisle
Joe Corroney
Brian Rood (character galleries)

Chris Scalf
Darren TanChris Trevas

Plenty more illustrations for those who love dynamic imagery set in the Star Wars universe, but the hosts wanted you to get a feel for the flavor of each artist.

Looking to buy it?
Random House
Barnes & Noble
Amazon

Once again, your dynamic duo cover entirely too much Essential goodness in their ONE hour, but don’t worry, give it ago; you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you might even get a little education on the EU while you’re at it. But no matter how you slice it and dice it, you’ll be having another adventure Beyond the Films. So once again, sit back, hang on, enjoy the show and may the Force be with you!

Also the Star Wars 2012 Del Rey Convention Exclusive Sampler Contest! Listen to the show to learn how to win it!

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