Let The Speculation Begin! – Part Two: Context

In Part One of “Let the Speculation Begin!,” I left off with the discussion of history and how at least some of the creative team, visual artists Doug Chiang and Iain McCaig, use their understanding of history when they develop their worldbuilding. As Chiang says, in discussing how to give storytelling a foundation, “You take reality, mix it up, change 10% and you have something fantastic.”

The History of Star Wars

“I remember seeing it in a magazine, the words ‘Star Wars.’ It was the logo… When I first saw it I was 11. It was just impossible… this expansive possibility was there, the storytelling, the modern day myth.”

J.J. Abrams discussing Star Wars with Simon Pegg (via Geek Tyrant)

Like Abrams, many people first discovered Star Wars in print. In Star Wars: The Essential Reader’s Companion, written by Lucasfilm Story Team member Pablo Hidalgo, the Introduction (page vii) opens as follows:

Before Star Wars graced the silver screens of packed movie houses, its story was presented to an eager public via the printed word. A tie-in novel based on the screenplay of Star Wars arrived in bookstores over five months prior to the film’s debut on May 23, 1977, helping to spread awareness of the movie to come in a pre-digital, word-of-mouth age. As such the very first Star Wars fans were readers.

During the Dark Times – a term Star Wars fans gave to the era in which no further movies were expected – the Thrawn Trilogy, written by Timothy Zahn, was released between 1991 and 1993. In the Essential Reader’s Companion, Hidalgo dubs the Thrawn Trilogy “the most influential work of the Expanded Universe.” With eight million Star Wars books in print, Zahn has left his mark on the franchise, introducing notable characters such as Grand Admiral Thrawn, Mara Jade, Garm Bel Iblis, and Gilad Pelleaon.

It was Heir [to the Empire] that truly began building the Expanded Universe. Before that Star Wars storytelling was spread across different media, without a determined mandate to construct a consistent setting. … With Heir, Lucasfilm asked Zahn to coordinate his story with the worldbuilding being undertaken by the Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game publisher West End Games, thus ensure his work fit into a larger whole.

~ Essential Reader’s Companion annotations on the Thrawn Trilogy (page 308)

For many years the books, comics, and roleplaying games were Star Wars to fans; they existed as the fans’ only hope for more adventures in the galaxy far far away. The Thrawn Trilogy specifically made its mark, earning a spot in the NPR’s 2011 Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy books. In 1994, Lucas started writing his first screenplay for the Prequel Trilogy and thus the Dark Times drew to a close.

Star Wars Into Darkness

As noted in Part One, the Prequel Trilogy required a darker conceit due to where it was set in the timeline. The Original Trilogy has plenty of grim moments; they are simply delivered differently, in a story moving toward a happy, triumphant ending. Despite the darker undercurrents of the era, Lucas chose the time period between Episodes II and III to launch a children’s animated television series, The Clone Wars. Much of the impetus for the production of the show was to create animation techniques that would eventually enable live action storytelling to include ILM-caliber visual effects yet remain affordable on television, rather than feature film, budgets. Lucas has made his mark on the entertainment industry not just for his epic mythic tale, but also for creating technology that has allowed himself and ultimately Hollywood to tell stories that were unimaginable previously.

The children’s show undoubtedly included dark undertones and occasional violence. It struggled along the way to match the needs of Cartoon Network, the channel that hosted it. Ahsoka Tano, a Jedi apprentice to Anakin Skywalker previously unknown in the Star Wars canon, was introduced as the character who would serve as the vessel for the younger audience. Both Ahsoka’s gender and the fact that her presence thwarted fandom’s understanding of the saga’s anti-hero initially caused unrest in the fandom ranks. Supervising director Dave Filoni and voice actress Ashley Eckstein faced the fan backlash head-on with smiles on their faces and plenty of assurances that they too were fans. The approach seemed to work. And after two seasons of Lucas’ timeline-bending anthology approach, by Season Three a journey had been established and forward momentum built.

What we’re seeing, really, is Star Wars spreading its wings and venturing out of the George Lucas nest. For Star Wars to survive past the stewardship of its creator, it must move beyond the whims of an eccentric billionaire and start to function as a ruthless competitor in the global marketplace. George Lucas understood that; it’s why he sold Lucasfilm to Disney, one of the most successful capitalist entertainment conglomerates in history, rather than keeping it privately held. Part of the price of moving toward Star Wars’ future, though, is that the franchise has to grow up, take responsibility, have purpose, and become self-sustaining. The loss of The Clone Wars – what was initially a children’s show that now sort of isn’t – is one of the growing pains.

From “The Intangibles: A Conversation About What The Clone Wars Brought To Star Wars

With more than 100 episodes, The Clone Wars proved that a story can be told within a dark period yet still produce surprising and family-friendly content. Throughout the series’ run, Filoni and his team revealed quite a bit of information to the audience in the form of interviews, behind the scenes glimpses, and teaser footage. Yet they still kept the conclusion somewhat of a surprise. Resources like books, comics, webcomics, and the Star Wars Insider allowed fans even more access into the storytelling. Filoni repeatedly told fans in interviews and panels that he valued their input and took it very much to heart, even on a show that was in production two years in advance of episode releases. This approach is completely counter to Lucas’ approach to the Prequel Trilogy, where he followed an extremely isolated path: personally writing, directing, and producing the movies.

An interview at Entertainment Weekly following The Clone Wars’ final episode revealed that from the start Lucas leaned toward Ahsoka dying; she was not in Episode III and perhaps he thought her death best served Anakin’s fall. Filoni resided in the opposite camp in the battle for Ahsoka’s fate, discussing the issue as far back as 2011 (via Lightsaber Rattling). Ultimately, providence might have had a hand in the storytelling decision. A renewed interest in the franchise from children and also female fans born out of The Clone Wars’ success added to the favorable consideration for a happier fate. Ultimately a confluence of events, including the Disney sale, new Lucasfilm objectives, and the increasingly dark and adult stories in a children’s show resulted in the series’ unexpected cancellation. One side effect of which was that The Clone Wars ended on a remarkably hopeful note: Ahsoka leaves the Jedi Order on her own terms, apparently not doomed to the Episode III purge that claims her erstwhile peers. Ahsoka lives to fight another day.

Filoni may have been Lucas’ Star Wars Padawan, but it’s important to remember that he was a fan first. He also earned his way into the Lucas inner circle through his work as an animator on television shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender and King of the Hill, where continued work in the future required constantly creating successful content that met fans’ expectations enough to keep ratings high enough to earn renewal. Filoni knew he had a patron in Lucas who wasn’t necessarily in the animated production business for the money, and occasionally told fans he would make The Clone Wars until George told him to stop. With the success of Star Wars, ILM, and Skywalker Sound, George Lucas was essentially a self-funded patron of his own artistic visionary. He made movies like Red Tails and a television show like The Clone Wars because he wanted to and could afford to. After back-to-back droid episodes in Season Four that received mixed reviews at best, Lucas insisted on doing four more the following season with a rather obtuse existential premise. That is not the decision-making of a storyteller constrained by market forces and industry-wide pressures. Rather, it’s indicative of Lucas’ inability to rein in his whims and stay on target as a television show runner. Visionaries have to take risks, for which the benefits can be great rewards. Lucas’ instinct to include a Jedi character as a vessel for the audience to experience the television show was right, but he had to be pushed by Filoni outside his own Star Wars preconceptions to create something that delivered what the fans needed.

Filoni, on the other hand, gives every indication that he understands that with each piece of merchandise sold, Star Wars’ patronage has been transferred to the collective consciousness of the fandom and no longer resides solely in the imagination of George Lucas. While fans struggle with the sudden cancellation of The Clone Wars, there will most definitely be an upside with Filoni executive producing the next iteration of animated television, Star Wars Rebels, alongside Greg Weisman and Simon Kinberg. The trio forming that show’s braintrust likely means Filoni is sharing his wealth of Star Wars knowledge learned during his time as Lucas’ Padawan. Filoni definitely exceeded his mentor in wrangling the fanbase, understanding its needs, and finally in delivering the conceit established by the franchise’s Original Trilogy – a hopefully ever after for fans of The Clone Wars.

“What Happens to My Star Wars?” – The Question Every Fan Wants Answered

While The Clone Wars was aimed at a children’s market, it gained a decent share of adult viewers, but still far from the numbers of the movie-going audience. Despite Filoni’s goodwill campaign during the show’s run, the ill-will earned in some camps once the cancellation was announced still festers. The Expanded Universe fandom, which has slipped steeply in readership over the past decade, is another wary segment of the fanbase.

Lucas’ ambivalence about the Expanded Universe material created a dynamic where he usually exerted little to no oversight. Just as The Clone Wars meandered in its drive to serve Cartoon Network’s needs for its audience, the Expanded Universe products often lacked focus beyond projects directly linked to the movies. Only in the past couple of years, since the time Lucasfilm began to reassess its viability as a revenue-generator for its future buyer Disney, has the approach to this market started to reflect a more unified storytelling vision that aligns with the Star Wars brand in a way that made it successful during the Dark Times.

The Expanded Universe’s struggles are not solely about branding, though, but also a failure to truly understand who made up the fanbase. Back in the Prequel Trilogy days, the movies generated a large new Star Wars following, but there was already a substantial fanbase pulled in by the Expanded Universe, particularly the Thrawn Trilogy and the successful X-Wing series. As the movies were released, the Lucas licensing machine producing the books, comics, and merchandise apparently held the impression that the fandom skewed mostly male, even though book sales tend to be heavily dominated by the female demographic. In an interview author Troy Denning essentially confirms as much. Ashley Eckstein’s struggle to get her female-oriented merchandise line Her Universe off the ground is well-documented.

This blog was created in part to point out that Lucasfilm and its licensees did not wholly understand the breadth of their female fans. In some of my earliest posts here I explained the enormous missing demographic hidden in the fanfiction circles. The popular site Club Jade started as a fanfiction repository; sites like Roqoo Depot and Tosche Station include members of the early fanfiction community. The sudden unexpected success of franchises like Fifty Shades and Mortal Instruments only highlight how the entertainment industry is still learning the many ways fanfiction communities help bolster their fanbase. Franchises like Twilight, Harry Potter, and The Hunger Games have harnessed the potential of that market, which eagerly purchases books, resource material, art, and merchandise as well as share their passion via word of mouth.

In May 2003, the frenzy of fanfiction activity had become so great that a literal shift in the forums was required. Three new Fanfic boards were created: Before the Saga for stories set prior to the films, The Saga for stories set during the timeframe of Phantom Menace through Return of the Jedi, and Beyond the Saga for stories set past the end of the movies, which included the NJO novels. Later that same summer in the community’s Summer Fanfic Awards, for the first time a majority of the awards were won by NJO and EU stories, rather than movie-focused stories.

From “Fangirl Speaks Up: The Missing Demographic

The truly odd part is that Lucasfilm does recognize and utilize many of its fans as part of their brand outreach, particularly from the cosplaying and droid building communities. Most of their ranks of brand writers producing content, though, were drawn from the mostly male continuity-minded fan culture, which was fueled not so much by each new novel or comic but rather by the ever-increasing content produced in roleplaying game manuals, visual dictionaries, and encyclopedias. In fact, those non-fictional source materials created an ever-increasing complicated continuity that was wrapped up in retcons and factoid minutae, reaching its pinnacle in spawning the gargantuan fan-wiki Wookieepedia, which Lucasfilm’s Leland Chee has described as many times more detailed and dense than the franchise’s official Holocron database. Over the past ten years, while Lucasfilm was catering to the continuity-obsessed culture it now has to contend with as it launches the new movies, many of Star Wars’ passionate female fans found in the fanfiction community drifted away from the franchise into other, more female-friendly franchises. The proof is at the last few years’ box office what effect female fans can bring to a successful franchise in terms of dollars. Star Wars, from its earliest moments, was a phenomenon equal to some of the modern day blockbusters like The Hunger Games and The Avengers. It achieved this with male and female fans alike, yet the female half of the fandom has only been getting equivalent recognition in the past few years. With books like Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games sitting atop the bestseller lists week in and week out, it is unlikely that Disney is going to leave money on the table by turning its back on profit potential of that segment of the market. Yet Disney also faces a real possibility of alienating the fans who have been buying Expanded Universe fiction and non-fiction books – and who would be best positioned to create their base for a word of mouth frenzy about Star Wars novels that is generated through social media in the modern internet age.

Despite the fact that both the Prequel Trilogy and The Clone Wars have incorporated Expanded Universe elements – such as characters, planets, and starships – there has been no definitive word on how Expanded Universe elements, particularly many beloved characters, might be included in the future. Bob Iger implicitly referenced the Expanded Universe in his description of the scope of the franchise Disney was buying for $4 billion, and so did George Lucas in discussing what he was passing along to Kathy Kennedy. Since then, however, fans have been left anxiously wondering. Just as the Power That Be behind the Expanded Universe underestimated the size of their female fanbase and the impact of losing a significant proportion of it, the danger exists that the Sequel Trilogy’s creators will make these same misjudgments.

Articles like “What the New ‘Star Wars’ Movies Need: Grand Admiral Thrawn” from MTV used to happen a little more regularly after the movie announcement, but have waned recently. Last month, the Wall Street Journal ran a piece on the front of its Arena section timed around the release of Crucible. The first piece resulted in a second story by NPR. Both gave broader exposure to the universe beyond the cinematic tales. Books that were announced prior to the sale, such as the Sword of the Jedi trilogy and the Kemp duology, haven’t been officially cancelled, but everyone involved from Del Rey, Lucasfilm, and the authors themselves have been tight-lipped for the most part. Coming up next in books is Kenobi, which focuses on the Jedi hero’s exile on Tatooine, followed by a trio of books set in the Original Trilogy era that highlight Leia, Han, and Luke. In a recent interview at Club Jade, Kevin Hearne, who is penning the Luke-centric book, was asked if he had previously read any of the Expanded Universe:

I never did. That was actually one of the reasons Del Rey approached me. They wanted somebody to try a book who was completely unfamiliar with the Expanded Universe stuff, who had never read the comic books. They said, “We want somebody who’s just in love with the movies and that’s all they know. Let’s see what happens – what kind of book comes out when you have somebody who’s just a fan of the movies and decides to write a book out of it.” That was the way they approached it, for approaching me and Martha Wells and James S. A. Corey, to write the other two books in the trilogy.

The answer isn’t shocking given that part of the problem plaguing the books particularly was repeat authors creating a universe that was less and less like the movies in tone. While the books for the most part relied heavily on the Original Trilogy cast, the characters had veered far afield from fan expectations for them. It was almost impossible for a movie fan with no prior knowledge of the Expanded Universe to open a Star Wars book and relate to Luke, Leia, or Han as the characters they had last seen on Endor partying with Ewoks. When Crucible was announced last year at San Diego Comic-Con as a passing of the torch book for the Big Three, early fan reaction indicated this wasn’t the book remaining Expanded Universe fans were looking for, and the resulting fallout compiled by Club Jade upon its release bore out that initial fan anxiety. Bringing in authors with a frame of reference more aligned with the movies should open the books up to more customers.

The problem should be resolved now that a unified vision is being overseen by Lucasfilm’s Story Team. Going forward, I expect that almost every product, whether it is a video game, book, or comic, will tie into the new movies either directly or indirectly for at least the next few years. The Powers That Be have been slowly guiding the products in that direction already. Dunc at Club Jade rightfully cautioned fans that they must, in the wise words of Yoda, “unlearn what they know,” but that may prove a tough prospect as the D23 reaction has already shown. Sometimes attempts to set early expectations aren’t enough. No matter how much Lucasfilm or Disney tries to manage fan reactions to news, or the lack of news, or the movies themselves, ultimately it is only the fans – equally, the customers – who can decide whether the franchise has delivered a product worthy of Star Wars.

The Big Three’s journey through the Expanded Universe highlights one of the biggest obstacles for the Sequel Trilogy team. Fans, whether they are movie fans or have immersed themselves in more than the movies, all have certain set expectations about what became of Luke Skywalker after he redeemed his father and where Han’s and Leia’s relationship went. In fact, when Episode VII was announced the immediate reaction across fandom and the broader entertainment media was to bring up the Thrawn Trilogy. In November of last year, Zahn explained to Entertainment Weekly that his books were set in a period of time that specifically avoided what he understood could be the next movie era. What the books did well was tap into the expectations Star Wars fans had for their favorite characters while creating an exciting new cast of characters, including Han’s and Leia’s twins, Jaina and Jacen.

However, [Zahn’s] books remain so popular they could still have a Force-like pull on the movies.

~ Entertainment Weekly

Luke, Leia, and Han in the Sequel Trilogy won’t be the characters’ ages in the Thrawn Trilogy. In fact, most of the early information, including words from George Lucas himself suggested that Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford would reprise their roles, indicates his treatment concept expected them to be three decades older than when we last saw them in Return of the Jedi. To the surprise of some, all three actors have indicated they were willing to return to the galaxy far far away. Ford had infamously lobbied for Han Solo to die in The Empire Strikes Back or early in Return of the Jedi. For some fans, these casting decisions are a must; many expected this news to be revealed some time during the summer convention run, which in part contributed to the post-D23 backlash. Although I love what each of the actors brought to the roles, my fandom sun will not rise or set based on the casting decisions around the Big Three. Either way – same cast or recast – the Powers That Be can make a good movie. It’s my belief that they open up more storytelling options by recasting.

As debates run rampant around the indispensability of Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man and Christian Bale as Batman, it seems Star Wars is running into the same fandom nostalgia hurdle with the Big Three. Star Wars has already recast major characters. Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi were recast twice; Emperor Palpatine and Padmé Amidala were recast, as well. If his rumored standalone film gets greenlit, Han Solo will be recast regardless, too. For Star Trek, J.J. Abrams recast a whole starship crew of iconic characters, including seemingly untouchable Kirk and Spock. Characters are not actors, no matter what some fans think, do, or say. Good storytellers know that. Much of Star Trek’s success was owed to the fact that the new iterations stayed true to fans’ expectations. The reboot provided the same characters fans knew and loved in an entirely new situation. On the margins it threw a few curveballs, like Uhura paired romantically with Spock (which was not unimaginable to fanfiction readers), and undoubtedly Episode VII will throw a few of its own. What the movie can’t risk doing, though, is creating a story that completely subverts the expectations fans have built up – not just in their own minds, but from two decades of officially licensed stories and merchandise from Lucasfilm itself. Thrawn and Mara may not be part of the cinematic canon, but within the collective consciousness of the fandom they are far more well-known and well-loved than movie characters like Dexter Jettster, Bail Organa, or Chief Chirpa. Han may not have married Leia onscreen in Return of the Jedi, but after over twenty years and hundreds of books, short stories, and comics relying on that narrative, it is as real to the fandom as the twin suns of Tatooine.

Some commentators like Drew McWeeny of HitFix are certain, based on their sources, that we will see nothing from the books or comics in Episode VII. McWeeny heralds from a camp of fans known as movie purists. Within the fandom, movie purists and EU fan factions can express differences of opinions that make the Sith versus the Jedi appear tame by comparison. Some purists are simply film people and don’t need books, comics, or resources to complete their experience. They also rarely acknowledge the fact that Star Wars owes its start to fans who sought out stories in print, as described in the Reader’s Companion, or that Star Wars was sustainable through the Dark Times with books like the Thrawn Trilogy. Some purists see Lucas as the only source for Star Wars. Others still paint all Expanded Universe fans with the brushstrokes of the extremists who wanted Lucas to bow down to the continuity created by the non-movie material sold under his stewardship at Lucasfilm. In actuality the extremes in movie purists and Expanded Universe aficionados are not representative of the fandom in general. They just tend to express their opinions strongly and in an unrelentingly manner.

When casting rumors broke in June, McWeeny wrote the following:

This is my way of saying that I am 100% sure that the rumor that’s online today about the casting breakdown for “Star Wars Episode VII” is false. It’s not slightly off-base. It’s not tentative. It’s fiction. That is not a breakdown for the Abrams film at all. That has nothing to do with the film that Michael Arndt is currently writing. If you’re excited that they’re adapting Jacen and Jaina Solo for the new movie, I’d advise you to relax, because it’s not happening.

Obviously with Jaina Solo featured on my banner, I have my own preconceived biases coming into this discussion. With that said, I actually believe the emphasized section of the quote has some truth to it. We know Lucas, who developed the original Episode VII treatment, has freely run over the Expanded Universe – just in The Clone Wars, for example, we saw significant revisions to characters like Asajj Ventress and Quinlan Vos and wholesale changes to the planet Ryloth and the Mandalore backstory. Lucas is reportedly so unenamored with Mara Jade that the Robot Chicken team has discussed his supposed animosity for the character. How much the current version of the script – as of August 2013 – resembles the original Lucas treatment given to Disney in the summer of 2012, however, is an intriguing question.

I agree that Episode VII shouldn’t be encumbered by the limitations of creating an adaptation. I have already noted that the Jedi Order represented in the Expanded Universe post-Return of the Jedi timeline most likely isn’t realistic based on what we know at the end of the Original Trilogy. That alone will create a vastly different palette for the storytelling. There is plenty of proof that preexisting templates in comics and books haven’t painted franchises into corners. Productions around stories such as Dracula, Frankenstein, Nolan’s Batman trilogy, Iron Man 3, and The Avengers all took existing concepts and characters and ran with them in previously untold directions. Marvel has already warned fans that Ultron in Avengers 2 won’t be a version that fans know, but rather an original story. With the singular continuity of Star Wars, some hold an opinion that its fans are unable or unwilling to accept alternate realities, even as The Star Wars comics has earned considerable buzz. Star Wars fans are also comic aficionados and fan fiction/film/art creators and readers who are accustomed to alternate realities; only a slim fraction of the fandom can’t accept that characters, planets, and events can serve as interchangeable components in the narrative. As The Clone Wars and numerous other productions have shown, using preexisting elements in an original story is eminently workable.

Naboo: The Untold Story

There actually is a story that could be told that doesn’t exist within the books or comics, other than as a very brief aside that barely gives weight to its importance in the Skywalker family saga. It would be for all intents and purpose an “original story.” It’s a mystery that was born in the Prequel Trilogy and unanswered in the Original Trilogy. The books and comics have given the planet Naboo wide berth, during the Bantam era because the planet was unknown and later to prevent the stories from conflicting with or spoiling the Prequel Trilogy movies. In the Revenge of the Sith Visual Dictionary, written by James Luceno, it states: “Records of Palpatine’s ancestry, immediate family members, and upbringing on Naboo have mysteriously vanished.” Records are not the only thing that vanishes in Star Wars, whole planets do.

The Rebels materials introduced at Celebration Europe II included a McQuarrie image of Alderaan, suggesting the show will explore a world that has served as a powerful presence in the galaxy far far away but seldom seen. Also notable are the mounds shown in the image, which have been connected to the Killiks, a species first mentioned in the Illustrated Star Wars Universe in 1995 and that have played a significant role in the Expanded Universe.

While the Sequel Trilogy may be imparting a more Original Trilogy conceit, the Prequel Trilogy artists Doug Chiang and Iain McCaig noted in their panel “Designing a Galaxy” that they were hired early on in the process for Episode VII to serve in a capacity similar to McQuarrie. In their video short recorded after their panel, the enthusiasm of both men is obvious. These are definitely two fans, in the vein of Filoni, working on the movies. During the course of the interview, McCaig told host Warwick Davis he “was there the day Padmé was born and the day she died.” Chiang talked about creating the culture of Padmé’s homeworld through his visualization of Naboo. More importantly, McCaig said this:

“George doesn’t come in with a vision… he’ll come up and say a name: Darth Maul… George casts his art department. He knows your work and he casts you as being appropriate to that kind of character you draw for him.”

While George Lucas isn’t the overlord of Star Wars anymore and Kathleen Kennedy now is, she is going to turn to his guidance as a visual storyteller when “casting” her own artists. It’s interesting, then, that she hired the man who designed Naboo’s visuals and the man who crafted Padmé’s concept art, that we’ve had rumors of a female lead, and that the man from Naboo who terrorized the galaxy is now rumored to be making another appearance.

While Chiang and McCaig don’t outright make a statement about how the Expanded Universe would fit into the upcoming movies, they do admit to finding inspiration there. If you look at Prequel Trilogy source books, character guides, and resources, it’s impossible to not find numerous Expanded Universe reference embedded within them. For example, Luceno’s Revenge of the Sith Visual Dictionary, a movie resource book, is peppered with non-movie references. Disney, in its announcement of the purchase of the Star Wars franchise, made note of the vast array of characters and planets available in its databases. Many of those never existed on screen; many more did and only were given backstories in prose and comics. Of that extensive database, other than the Prequel Trilogy, we know little about Naboo, its people, or its fate.

In the Sequel Trilogy we’re likely to learn the answer to the question: What happened to Naboo?

With context on the tangled web of the Star Wars franchise and its canon established, and a big flashing sign at the huge gaping hole in the continuity bible available to the fandom, I leave you to speculate for a while. As fans, we all create fiction in our head. Some of us cosplay it, others draw fan art which creates canon moments or alternate realities, or produce fiction in the form of stories, films, or radio dramas. Speculating is a healthy outlet, so long as you keep an open mind. This is exactly the process story teams use to develop movies or television shows. They have to make brave leaps of imagination, and be open to similar brave leaps made by their peers. Listen to the possibilities presented by others as opposed to building roadblocks fostered by expectations. Challenge differing ideas with respect, not malice. If someone proposes a different idea, ask them why and enjoy the stimulation of conversing with a fellow fan. Who knows, they might end up becoming a friend.

I’ll be working on some personal writing projects next week, plus the content calendar is essentially full with new books coming from Star Wars scribes John Jackson Miller and Drew Karpyshyn. Part Three in this series, a look at the stakeholders in Star Wars, should post in early September. It might be that there is even more to talk about by then.

‘Star Wars’ is fun, it’s exciting, it’s inspirational, and people respond to that. It’s what they want.

~ George Lucas

Sources: StarWars.com, Geek Tyrant, Edelweiss, NPR, Entertainment Weekly, Lightsaber Rattling, Hero Complex, YouTube, Club Jade, Full of Sith, Bloomberg Business Week, MTV, Wall Street Journal, Think Progress, AMOG.com, IGN, Vulture, ComingSoon.net, E!Online, HitFix, Wookieepedia, Star Wars: Essential Reader’s Companion, Revenge of the Sith Visual Dictionary

Acknowledgements: B.J. Priester (FANgirl), Eric Geller (TheForce.Net, Suvudu, ForceCast), Megan Crouse (Blog Full of Words, FANgirl, Knights Archive)

Tricia Barr took her understanding of brand management and marketing, mixed it with a love of genre storytelling, and added a dash of social media flare to create FANgirl Blog, where she discusses Star Wars, fandom, and strong female characters. She also writes about Star Wars for Random House’s science fiction and fantasy blog Suvudu.com and Star Wars Insider magazine and is a contributor for Her Universe’s Year of the Fangirl.

Tricia is putting the finishing touches on her first novel, Wyndea military science fiction with a fantastical twist that features heroines Vespa Wynde and Gemini Reed. For excerpts and tales of her adventures in creating a fictional universe, hop over to TriciaBarr.com.

For updates on all things FANgirl follow @FANgirlcantina on Twitter or like FANgirl Zone on Facebook. At times she tries the Tumblr.



Tricia Barr took her understanding of brand management and marketing, mixed it with a love of genre storytelling, and added a dash of social media flare to create FANgirl Blog, where she discusses Star Wars, fandom, and the intersection of women within Star Wars fandom. She is co-author of Ultimate Star Wars and Star Wars Visual Encyclopedia from DK Publishing, a featured writer for Star Wars Insider magazine with numerous articles on the Hero's Journey. Her FANgirl opinions can be heard on the podcasts Hyperspace Theories and Fangirls Going Rogue. Tricia Barr's novel, Wynde, won the 2014 Independent Publisher Book Award Gold Medal for Best Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror Ebook. She was also part of Silence in the Library's successful all-female creator science fiction and fantasy anthology Athena's Daughters, which is available now. For excerpts and tales of her adventures in creating a fictional universe, hop over to TriciaBarr.com.

4 thoughts on “Let The Speculation Begin! – Part Two: Context

  • August 24, 2013 at 4:34 pm

    Another great entry, Tricia! I agree with most of the points that you make, although I would be extremely wary of recasting the Big 3 for the Sequel Trilogy. You bring up the fact that Abrams’ Star Trek films got away with recasting the entire Enterprise crew; this is true. However, I believe the that was acceptable only because the films involve a much younger Enterprise crew, feature an alternate timeline, and include Leonard Nimoy as a point of continuity reference. As a continuation of the existing franchise, the ST may not have the benefit of any of that.

  • August 24, 2013 at 11:36 pm

    Devin, thanks for the kind words.

    I explained my opinion on recasting and my reasons why I feel that. There are many facets to that decision that are well outside any of our understandings as fans at this point. For that reason, it’s always good to express our opinions like you did.


  • August 26, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    I am concerned about the original story line… I have done a good job of shielding myself from the fray (Clone Wars, etc) as I am one of those “older” fans and hope that there is still some good story magic left. I like the thought of expanding upon Pal’s past as there is plenty of things he could have up his (robe) sleeve.

  • August 27, 2013 at 9:49 am

    Well, it’s certainly an in depth article, though it’s maybe giving too much credit to Lucas/Filoni and not enough to fans who care. Mistakes are made, and choices in story telling are not always accepted with open arms.

    I care about continuity, but I would hardly think of myself as some misguided extremist. People get upset with these continuity changes for a reason.

    You know, I’m a Barriss Offee fan, been one ever since I picked up the novels to read 10 years ago. She wasn’t as popular as Aayla Secura or as visible as Padme, but she was an awesome Jedi. And now, David Filoni has turned her into a “treacherous Psychopath” as her wookiepedia profile now labels her.

    I’m a bit devastated, as are a lot of Barriss Offee fans, but we are simply told by fansites and Star wars reviewers and Filoni fans to “deal with it”.

    I could have handled a lot of changes that upset others. Midichlorians, Ahsoka’s appearance, Darth Maul comes back to life, Han shoots back, etc. Those things didn’t bother me. But David Filoni disrupted the one part of Star Wars that was beautiful to me. And now, I have to wait a year to read about or watch a TV episode where the character of Barriss Offee suffers a uncertain fate.

    A lot of us are hoping for a redemption story, but….I’m ready to accept the worst possible ending to this unresolved, and in my opinion, nonsensical Ahsoka/Barriss adversity.

    These are the things that make some fans go against the grain. It’s something George Lucas and David Filoni have not completely grasped, with all due respect. They don’t have to grasp it, I doubt my opinion carries any influence, but these changes put upon us makes the whole experience a little harder to enjoy, since favorite characters are now being altered, eliminated, etc. But there ya go.

    A piece of art I helped collaborate on shows how I feel about such a change in continuity:


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