Last week the discussion on the Star Wars Bookworms podcast included our thoughts on the possible future of the existing Expanded Universe stories and the role of Lucasfilm’s Story Group in defining the scope of the Star Wars canon. Today at io9, Katharine Trendacosta published a fantastic essay titled “Why Expanded Universes Are Important.” She discusses franchises from Star Wars to Star Trek, Doctor Who, and Buffy, emphasizing that expanded universe materials can be a gateway to broader reading in the genre, to participation in fandom, and even to becoming a writer. She also makes note of the importance of continuity of characterization across dozens of novels as a defining aspect that set the Star Wars EU apart from many other franchises, an issue often of far greater importance to female fans than continuity of fact. She concludes with her thoughts on the fate of the Star Wars EU, ending with the following:
I’d be happy if Disney just kept the names and basic features of the EU and kept its timeline vague. Then I could continue to keep parts of the EU canon in my own head. Otherwise, Disney’s almost pitting its new movies against the image of the post-Return of the Jedi universe that fans are already used to considering canon. That’s a lose-lose for everyone. That’s the 2009 Star Trek not giving fans the “alternate universe” out, and just suddenly erasing everything but Enterprise from canon.
Expanded universes are important. Outside of making money for people, fans gain a lot from their existence. One movie or TV show opens up a whole genre to someone. Or brings them into fandom. Or introduces them to authors. Or makes them authors. That’s why just getting rid of it feels wrong.
In her post “The Latest on the current Genre Debates,” Cora Buhlert shares, in part, these comments on the Star Wars EU:
I gave up on the Star Wars novels years ago. And a large part of the reason why I gave up on the Star Wars novels (and indeed rarely bother with tie-ins in general, even if I love the franchise) was that the Star Wars universe presented in the novels was not the Star Wars universe I had fallen in love with.
This is exactly the kind of sentiment I heard over and over from female fans who once had been EU customers and became lapsed fans, and from potential EU fans (often women like Buhlert who enjoying reading genre fiction and would be a natural built-in audience for Star Wars fiction) who read summaries of the books, or the books themselves, and found them wanting. The Fangirl Speaks Up series was inspired by my desire to see the EU regain its footing, both in its roots in the franchise and with the fanbase. Hopefully the Story Group will be able to guide Star Wars in the right direction.
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.
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