Tag Archives: Timothy Zahn

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

We’re No Scoundrels – SWBTF #56

Play

Timothy Zahn, Scoundrels, Black Sun, Ocean’s 11, and more, all 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 Timothy Zahn’s latest foray into the Star Wars Expanded Universe; Star Wars: Scoundrels. Strap in and tighten your crash webbing, Star Wars Beyond the Films is setting off on another rapid-fire trip into the galaxy far, far away!

Your hosts start out discussing the cover- and how certain characters (Kell and Winter specifically) do NOT look correct.

What is THIS?!?! Nathan ENJOYED a recent Zahn novel?! Sure enough,and Mark is in the opposite seat this time. Come listen as the two trade positions this time. Mark struggles with his feelings over this book, and analyzes his past Zahn book experiences to better understand why he didn’t like the book as much as he was hoping he would.

They also discuss the characters at this time frame, and how “in characters” those characters are, or aren’t.

SPOILER WARNING: Book’s MAJOR SPOILER is revealed at 44:40 in. There is a second warning right before the hosts talk about it.

Once again, your dynamic duo cover entirely too much Scoundrel action in their ONE hour, but don’t worry, give it a go; 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 sit back, hang on, enjoy the show, and may the Force be with you!

Also be sure to check out the latest SWBTF Video Links from your hosts:

Email:         SWBeyondFilms@starwarsfanworks.com
Facebook:   http://www.facebook.com/SWBeyondFilms
Twitter:      twitter.com/#!/SWBeyondFilms

Timothy Zahn chats about Scoundrels and more

Del Rey hosted a Facebook chat with Timothy Zahn for Scoundrels yesterday.

Actually, I think Disney will do right by LFL. Their record with Pixar and Marvel indicates they know how to step back and let the people who know what they’re doing just do it. With Kathleen Kennedy now helming LFL, and with all the wonderfully talented people already in place there, I’m expecting good things to come. Of course, if Disney decided they wanted a couple of TV shows, and just *happened* to think of Mara Jade or the Hand of Judgment, I would certanly not stand in their way.

As to whether any of my characters might show up in the sequels: Again, no idea what’s being planned, but I would naturally love to see something I’ve done up there on the Big Screen.

Via ClubJade

Top 10 Standalone Star Wars Novels

Lately I have been hearing concern from fans of the Star Wars Expanded Universe. They say the universe is too big and bogged down in continuity for new fans to jump in.

I disagree.

Yes, there are A LOT of novels and many of them are a part of a LONG series, but there are many standalone novels as well. When a new fan comes to me and asks me where to start in the EU I don’t point them to the Thrawn Trilogy (gasp!) or the New Jedi Order. I instead point them to one of the many standalone novels. A single story with a defined beginning and end that is not directly connected to a series. When you are new to the EU even a three book series can be intimidating. Starting someone out with a single novel gives them a chance to test the waters of the Expanded Universe to see if it’s for them. If they come back to you after finishing the novel excited for more, then it might be time to move them onto the Thrawn Trilogy.

Here is a list of 10 standalone Star Wars novels that could be a jumping on point for someone new to the EU. If you have seen the movies you can pick up any one of these novels and enjoy it.

10. The Courtship of Princess Leia
Author: Dave Wolverton
Release Year: 1994
It’s eight years after the Battle of Yavin and Han Solo still hasn’t married Princess Leia?? Thus begins the story of The Courtship of Princess Leia.  A story where Han kidnaps Leia to prevent her from marrying another man.  Han is such a romantic.  Original Trilogy fans will be happy to hear that this story features Han, Leia, Luke, and Chewbacca.  It is also the book that introduces the Witches of Dathomir who have recently been spotlighted in The Clone Wars TV series.  Released early in the EU revival, this book is still trying to find its footing with Luke’s Force powers and such, but it is a fun read and introduces many elements that are core to the future of the Expanded Universe.

9. Shadows of the Empire
Author: Steve Perry
Release Year: 1996
Ever wonder what happened in the time between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi?  Then Shadows of the Empire is the book for you.  This book introduces one of the great EU villains in Xizor, the Falleen leader of the Black Sun criminal organization.  Rumor has it that we may even see his species in the upcoming season of The Clone Wars.  With Han in carbonite at this time we are also introduced to his replacement character, Dash Rendar, who also just happens to be a Corellian smuggler with a cool ship.  The rest of the usual OT cast is here as well including Vader, Luke, Leia, Chewie, and even Lando Calrrisian.

8. X-wing: Mercy Kill
Author: Aaron Allston
Release Year: 2012
Although this book is a continuation of the X-wing book series it is for the most part a standalone story.  Fan-favorite author Aaron Allston brings back the Wraith Squadron for another adventure.  This is a good book to read if you are interested in a story that is set in the Star Wars universe but is not about the principle characters that you are used to.  In fact, with the exception of a quick cameo, I don’t think any character in this book has been in a Star Wars film.  It is a fun book about a secret group which is trying to uncover a conspiracy in the Galactic Alliance military.  It is kind of a mix between Mission Impossible and Ocean’s Eleven.  Expect great characterization and a lot of humor.
Read my full review of X-wing: Mercy Kill here.

7. Outbound Flight
Author: Timothy Zahn
Release Year: 2006
Timothy Zahn is considered by many to be the father of the modern Star Wars Expanded Universe because he brought us the great Thrawn Trilogy which continued the story of Star Wars after Return of the Jedi.  Mr. Zahn has written a number of standalone Star Wars novels as well, one of them being Outbound Flight.  Don’t let the boring title fool you.  This is an exciting novel featuring Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi in the time between Episode I and Episode II.  It is a novel that shows us some of the machinations of Palpatine as well as what can happen when a powerful Jedi loses his way.  It also features popular EU character Thrawn before he was part of the Empire.

6. Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader
Author: James Luceno
Release Year: 2005
This book would eventually be bundled with Labyrinth of Evil (see below) and the Revenge of the Sith novelization and sold as The Dark Lord Trilogy, but it is a standalone story.  It ,maybe better than any other story, captures what it was like to be Anakin Skywalker trapped inside the suit of Darth Vader.  The novel is set directly after the events of Revenge of the Sith.  It tells the story of a group of Jedi who escape Order 66 and their fight to survive.  The Jedi Purge has begun and it’s probably best to stay out of Vader’s way.

5. Shatterpoint
Author: Matthew Stover
Release Year: 2003
If you thought Mace Windu was cool in the movies but you just didn’t get enough of him, read this book.  Windu is sent to his home planet to rescue his former Padawan Depa Billaba.  There he confronts war and turmoil all around him as well as inside of him.  This is one of the more dark and gritty of the Star Wars novels which is fitting considering it is set at the height of the Clone Wars.  It is a story that really highlights the differences in philosophy among the Jedi.  What is more dangerous than a Jedi who has gone astray?

4. Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter
Author: Michael Reaves
Release Year: 2001
Darth Maul has recently been thrust back into our Star Wars consciousness with his appearance in The Clone Wars TV series, and we are promised even more of him in the upcoming season.  But can you ever really have too much Darth Maul?  Back in 2001 Darth Maul was still surrounded by mystery and we just did not know that much about him.  Shadow Hunter gave us the chance to see things from his perspective.  This is a book set right before Episode I and is about Maul’s hunt to kill a man and his Jedi protector before the man can deliver vital information to the Jedi Counsel.  You will find yourself on the edge of your seat and at times even rooting for the bad guy.  And of course with Palpatine involved there will always be some unexpected twists.

3. Labyrinth of Evil
Author: James Luceno
Release Year: 2005
This book is really a thing of fanboy dreams.  As we were patiently waiting for the release of Revenge of the Sith this book came out to give us the perfect lead-in story.  It had everything you could want in a prequel era novel including clones, General Grievous, Mace Windu, Shaak Ti, Obi-Wan, Anakin, Dooku, Kit Fisto, Yoda, and Darth Sidious.  The Jedi are tired of these Sith messing everything up and have decided to hunt them down.  We all know that Sidious can’t be revealed, but Luceno does a great job of weaving a story that keeps you guessing even though you already know the outcome.

2. I, Jedi
Author: Michael Stackpole
Release Year: 1998
I was never really interested in reading the X-wing novels.  Not enough Jedi.  And then the author of the X-wing series went and wrote a book about an X-wing pilot becoming a Jedi and I was sold.  This novel, told entirely from the first person perspective, tells the story of Rouge Squadron pilot Corran Horn and his attempt to find and rescue his kidnapped wife.  The novel actually takes place at the same time as Kevin Anderson’s Jedi Academy Trilogy and covers some of the same story.  If you have already read that trilogy this book is a great view from a different perspective.  Corran Horn and his family have become central characters in some of the latest Star Wars novels and he is one of my personal favorite characters.

1. Darth Plagueis
Author: James Luceno
Release Year: 2012
This is a book that had been in development since 2007.  It was well worth the wait.  Luceno brings us an intriguing tale about Palpatine and his rise to power under the tutelage of the mysterious Darth Plagueis.  All we had known about this character before was a few lines from Revenge of the Sith. “Did you ever hear the Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise?” This novel reveals all.  It takes an interesting look into Sith philosophy and sheds light on many of the mysteries of the Prequel Era.  Once you read this novel you will never see the Prequels, especially The Phantom Menace, the same again.
Read my full book review of Darth Plagueis here.

So there are ten books that you can pick up with no prior knowledge of the Expanded Universe.  That should keep your reading schedule pretty busy.  And if you enjoy them maybe you will enjoy more of the EU.  Maybe a trilogy or a nine book series or maybe even a 19 book series…  Baby steps.

- Aaron Goins

 

Full Cover of Star Wars: Scoundrels Revealed

Over at the official Star Wars Books Facebook page the full cover for the upcoming Timothy Zahn novel Scoundrels has been revealed.  Looks like some pretty interesting characters are on the roster including (from left to right) Kell Tainer, Winter, and new characters Zerba Cher’dak, and Bink Kitik.  Check out the image below.

 

- Aaron Goins