Dark Horse, Canon and Story Group on Star Wars Bookworms
After the January 3rd announcement that “Walt Disney Company’s Lucasfilm Ltd. and Marvel Entertainment are joining forces to bring new Star Wars adventures to readers across the galaxy … beginning in 2015,” Dark Horse Comics made a positive statement about its future, proclaiming their efforts in 2014 “The Year of the Horse.” Publisher Mike Richardson pointed out to Comic Book Resources that “Star Wars constituted less than 6% of [Dark Horse’s] bottom line.” Knowing that the Star Wars license would revert, Dark Horse has crafted a plan that includes a mix of creator-owned and licensed books. Still, that doesn’t mean Star Wars fans won’t see great products in 2014, including the end of the exciting Star Wars and Legacy titles, the new Darth Maul tie-in to The Clone Wars, and Rebel Heist.
The staff here at FANgirl follows quite a few other Dark Horse lines, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Faith, Serenity, and Ghost. The Comics Book Resources article details many more of the upcoming initiatives from the company. We encourage you to check it out and support the team that brought us many fantastical adventures in the Galaxy Far Far Away.
Last night I joined my Fangirls Going Rogue co-host Teresa Delgado and Aaron Goins on their podcast Star Wars Bookworms to discuss the end of Dark Horse’s run with Star Wars. Also on the show was Josh Stolte of TechnoRetro Dads and Tron: Decoding the Grid. We definitely expressed mixed emotions during the discussion and an agreement that Marvel has big shoes to fill.
The second half of the show dove into a flurry of opinions about the fate of the Expanded Universe – it’s dead, it’s not dead – that erupted after Leland Chee’s Twitter conversations were quoted by The Hollywood Reporter, thereby mainstreaming previously stated information from Celebration Europe II. Because the tweets were about Star Wars canon, I felt it was worth explaining where the term canon came from and how it has been shifted to a different context by Star Wars fans.
For centuries, the word “canon” was used in religion to separate scripture, or holy texts, from writing that had dubious or questionable origins. The earliest instances of the word “canon” being applied to fiction appears in reference to Sherlock Holmes fiction, with canon works referring to those written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and everything else as not canon, now known as fanon. Later the term was adopted in the science fiction and fantasy franchises, most notably Star Trek, where it referred to stories from the television show and movies. The book Fic: Why Fanfiction Is Taking Over The World includes a good explanation of how the term canon and fanon evolved; the book should be a must-read for understanding fandom or defining what canon is. Based on the word’s accepted broader usage among fandoms other than Star Wars, two versions of the same events can differ in their telling of the tale, yet both versions still equally can exist in the “canon.”
When discussing Star Wars canon it is important to understand that certain subsets of Star Wars fans view the word through a completely different lens than everyone else. Many Star Wars fans circulate in different fandoms, which still understand the word to mean something more in line with the Sherlock Holmes or Star Trek version. The Canon Wars website contains a long list of quotes from George Lucas, Sue Rostoni, Steve Sansweet, Leland Chee, and other Lucasfilm employees on the topics of canon and continuity. Most importantly, Lucas’ quotes about canon vacillate dramatically. Rostoni, who had a significant hand in shaping how the Expanded Universe fandom perceived canon, had difficulty communicating the difference between canon and continuity effectively. Chee, at least, has been clear over the years that the levels of canon in the Holocron were trying to take a holistic concept and encapsulate it in a database form. From these varying and contradictory quotes from Lucasfilm, and enabled by references to Star Wars having a single continuity (rather than a comic-book style multi-verse), a small but vocal group of fans latched onto the concept of a canon hierarchy, where events in one level of canon could obliterate information created in a lower level – essentially creating a fanon of what canon is.
The irony is that George Lucas could have just stuck with his opening salvo in 1977 – “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” – and let that take care of any inconsistencies in the Star Wars universe. If the stories are histories, they are just as susceptible to flawed recounting as our real-world history. The example I used on the podcast was the encyclopedia collection in my grandparents’ home, which is decades old. Many details in those books are wrong, inaccurate, or one-sided. A fictional example would be the numerous recountings of the Arthurian legends. It is likely that a thousand years from now, the legend of the Chosen One and the Skywalkers will have seen as many iterations as King Arthur or Sherlock Holmes.
For me, the notable revelation that followed on the heels of The Hollywood Reporter’s story was two more names on Lucasfilm’s Story Group: Carrie Beck and Diana Williams. I did my homework. Both women tweet about issues that are important to me – diversity, the “fake geek girl” controversies, Wonder Woman, and gender inequality among others. While having Chee and Hidalgo on the Story Group makes me feel comfortable that the history and existing lore of Star Wars’ Expanded Universe won’t be lost in the Disney takeover, it is equally important that fresh perspectives are infused into the storytelling. This news has me equally as excited as I had been upon learning of Jennifer Heddle’s hire into LucasBooks.
On the possibilities for the Expanded Universe, the Star Wars Bookworms discussion voiced some different opinions than what has been heard and seen around the web. I encourage you to check it out here.
Tricia Barr 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. Her FANgirl opinions can be heard on the podcasts Assembly of Geeks and RebelForce Radio Presents Fangirls Going Rogue.
Tricia has completed her first novel, Wynde – a military science fiction with a fantastical twist that features heroines Vespa and Gemini. 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.
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