I’ll admit it: this is probably a retarded (as in “silly” post), but this is what I’m thinking about today. It was a looooong weekend (especially for Seattle sports fans), I am still physically and mentally exhausted. My brain is operating a little tangentially right now.
I was reading up on SW “canon” today…that is, what is considered “official” material that feeds into the Star Wars universe versus what isn’t…and I’ve got a couple new (or newish) thoughts on the matter.
#1: Wow, most EU folks really missed the boat on this licensing thing, and
#2: F it…that is, the non-film material can all go to hell for all I care.
I shall, of course, endeavor to explain myself a bit.
First, understand that I am a purchaser and enjoyer of plenty of non-film, EU material…I’ve read several of the novels, I own more than a few comics (or compilations) and I have owned (and continue to own) much of the RPG material put out by both West End Games and WotC. In other words, I have put my money down in support of the creative effort (as well as given an investment of my time in reading and rereading this stuff). So while my statements may seem dismissive please understand this isn’t coming from any place of disgruntlement…there IS an entertainment and artistic value in these works, in and of themselves. I’m not a total cretin.
So, then, let’s get to the point.
As far as George Lucas is concerned, the only “true canon” of Star Wars are the films he’s created and the story they tell. Everything else is…well, he doesn’t say it outright, but basically it’s “fan fiction” as far as he’s concerned. He’ll mine it for ideas, but the “Bible” he uses in making his films consists of A) his own mind, and B) his own films.
Now, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t appreciate the creative effort. It just means that, in his mind, those people creating additional Star Wars stories are doing so in a “parallel universe.” Or a parallel continuity, if you will. To GL, the Star Wars universe is a big playground, he doesn’t mind others playing in it (so long as he receives his cut), and he’s not so concerned with how it interacts with itself or with his films, so long as everyone groks that his feature films are THE end-all-be-all.
Lucas has also stated that the way other writers have written the further adventures/histories of his own characters are NOT how he would have done them. But again, this doesn’t bother him as it’s all happening in a separate, parallel continuity…in his own, the Emperor is never clones/returned to life, Luke never gets married, Coruscant is happy and celebratory, not blown-up and destroyed, etc. But what the “enthusiasts” do with his mythology is fine and dandy…again, so long as he gets his cut.
Personally, I think GL has come to a place in relationship to his IP where he realizes he can’t stop the enthusiasts from doing their own fanfic, so he licenses his IP to them and outsources the management of the material to others (like those Holocron folks) to keep it all running. Isn’t that better (and in the long run, more fun) than trying to sue people? Plus, he retains authority to say, “only *I* can make feature films, and only I say what is true to MY fantasy’s reality.”
Which is as it should be, by the way: it IS his baby, his creation. People who have made money off the franchise with their own “contributions” (from Timothy Zahn to Dark Horse to whomever) are simply riding the coattails of George Lucas rather than create their own sci-fi opuses. And why not? It’s great business strategy to hop into an already existing ginormous (and seemingly indefatigable) fan base. That is money in the bank.
All right, so now to my two thoughts listed above:
#1: Missed opportunities. Why the hell do these authors continue to use and recycle the same characters over and over again? Luke, Han, Leia, Anakin, Mace, Obi-Wan, etc. etc…if Lucas is going to allow you to play in his “universe,” why not turn out stories that have ZERO to do with the stuff in the films. After all, it doesn’t matter anyway, right?
Instead, most authors add something from the films to their material: Boba Fett or the original heroes or the various bit-part Jedi “Masters” (it’s hard to give the title to characters like Aayla Secura and Ki-Adi Mundi after watching them get so easily punked by, basically, stormtroopers), or Jabba or whatever. It’s like they’re namedropping rather than doing anything else. Hell, even using the “Skywalker genealogy” (the great-great-grandchildren, etc.) is silly. Sure, there is a theme of parent-to-child inheritance in the films (Jango to Boba, Anakin to Luke, Yoda to Dooku to Qui-Gonn to Obi-Wan)…but then make those themes with your own characters, not recycled lineages.
Granted, some EU creators HAVE done things without recycling characters from the films: the Knights of the Old Republic video game and its spin-offs (in comic and novel) is probably the best example. But there’s not enough of that, in my opinion. I mean check out what Star Wars has:
- Jedi (and everything that goes with it; lightsabers, Force, etc.)
- Sith (Ditto)
- Hyperdrive, droids, and blasters
- Smugglers, gamblers, and bounty hunters
- System-spanning intrigue, drama, and conflict
What more do you need to write a tale of space operatic adventure? You don’t need Skywalkers and Solos; you don’t need to keep making backwater Tattooine somehow a central hub of the galaxy. You don’t need to deal with the Empire and the Rebellion and their conflict. Hell, you only need to worry about the Republic because it’s “a thousand years old” (a pretty long timespan), but Lucas’s films make it pretty clear there are sectors outside of Republic authority (Hoth, Bespin, Dagobah, Tattooine…hmm, most of the film locations in the original trilogy, I guess).
Which brings me to my thought #2: Screw it…all of it. And I do mean ALL of it, including the otherwise interesting/brilliant KotOR stuff. If Lucas is content to ignore that which doesn’t pertain to his story, why shouldn’t I (or anyone else) do the same…all of that stuff is simply fan fic in the Star Wars universe. There is no need for “continuity” except as so far as keeping hardcore completionists (and Lucas Licensing) happy. Why not just junk it?
For that matter, why not simply junk Lucas’s own story (and its characters/plot/drama) as well? Or rather, take it as it is: a single 40-or-so year span of time in a many-thousand year galactic history…and one that occurred “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” The blink of an eye really…and only a single story of a single family (the Skywalkers) in what is surely a galaxy made of trillions of inhabitant families, each with their own stories.
Yeah, just like those ones in the Ewok movie.
In writing a space opera RPG based in large part on Star Wars (and its Expanded Universe) I find that I’ve been going about it the hard way: trying to create a simple space fantasy game that provides rules allowing for the incorporation of a metric ton of “Star Wars stuff.” Totally ridiculous, really. All I need is a game that includes the earlier components listed (with the trademarked serial numbers filed off) and then give folks the tools they need to create their own SW-like adventures…which, by the way, is NOT the same as giving people a book of rules, and saying “go do it,” with-or-without “helpful inspirational fiction” included in the text (*barf*).
Anyway, that’s what I’ve been thinking about today. It takes my mind off the really terrible football games of the weekend.