Just look at the front page of the Daily Caller today, and know why I’m starting to really like this news outlet.
You know, sometimes I find it difficult to break up scenes. Or, more accurately, to break up plot lines. For example, right now I’m working on a story where the first half–or maybe first two thirds–depends on how it comes out–focuses on two different characters in two different places, who eventually come together. I’m trying to juggle these two characters and their focus, not wanting one to take over completely.
The problem is, I’m having exactly that occur. I have character A and his “plot line” get involved in a fight, break that up to focus on character B doing some light investigating–this is another trick you should know if you’re going to be a writer, the “soap opera tactic”–and then go back to A, but unfortunately, having B come back after a little while would be just a bit…well, let’s just say “problematic” and leave it at that. Where does one break up the action? And how long does one focus on it before switching?
To me, common sense would dictate that you focus on each character for as short as is possible. Get the reader hooked in, interested in what’s happening–then switch to the other character, and leave the reader hanging. Now, it’s possible that the reader will be pissed. Do it too much and the reader is going to be one annoyed nerf herder. Don’t do it at all and the reader will be satisfied when you complete that storyline, will feel that’s enough for now, and put the iPad down and go to sleep.
For those of you not in the know, this is a very bad thing. You don’t want your reader to stop reading, you want him or her to keep going and going and never put it down. You have to strike a balance, whereby the reader can’t stop reading because he or she wants to figure out what’s going on with the character you switched from, and so tries to read through this other stuff to get to back to his or her interest, but then he or she* gets interested in character B, and now you switch back to A, and thus she has to keep reading because she’s interested in both….this is what they mean when they say “It was so good I couldn’t put it down!” This is that soap opera tactic I was talking about earlier. And believe me, having read through riveting stories of X-Wing fighter pilots by Michael J. Stackpole and Aaron Allston, not to mention some other ludicrously amazing science fiction stories by Kevin J. Anderson and brilliantly weaved tales of urban mystery by Jim Butcher, I can tell you with all honesty that it just works. And when you’re trying to get published, that’s what you need to do.
Not that it’s easy, though. Not by a long shot. And there’s really no formula, no algebraic equation that says “put so much time here, so much there, question yourself for a bit, then, profit!” It takes a bit of guesswork. For instance, I was reading Star Wars: X-Wing: Iron Fist a little while ago (yes, that series was afflicted with colon cancer; we commemorate it’s death every year as a message for all new series to take care of their titles) and we’re confronted with a commando group being led by Wedge Antilles trying to break into an Imperial base. Just after they get in, the narrative switches to another pilot, far away, being reprimanded for being a fool during a simulator run. Now, this character was contacted by the main cast a while back, and only now are they getting to her. Her spotlight is rather brief, before they’re back with the main cast, and it stays that way for a while. However, since this is a novel, with a far larger cast of characters, then can jump around a bit more than I can, since I’m only focusing on two.
This is probably going to trip me up a lot on this story, keep me from submitting it as early as I would prefer to those magazines. But, I guess, that would just mean it’s better, right?
*I think from now on, I’m just going to label all of my readers as “she.” Makes things easier that way. And more appealing.
Like anyone who was born in the latter half of the 20th century, I’m a huge fan of Star Wars. I was born roughly five years after the last of the original trilogy (It’s Glory in the Highest) was released, so I didn’t get to experience it firsthand. I did, however, immerse myself in what is now known as the “Expanded Universe,” reading novels and comics and playing video and roleplaying games and truly becoming a fan, including getting so excited when I heard about Episode I coming out I nearly jizzed my pants.
Nearly. I think I was still prepubescent at the time.
To me, the Expanded Universe was Star Wars, even though I knew even as a kid it was secondary to what George Lucas had personally wrought (although it did take me some time to fully understand what “canon,” “fanon,” “apocrypha,” and “Infinities” were.) I grew up reading the adventures and exploits of Wedge Antilles’ Rogue Squadron, and later his more wild creation, Wraith Squadron, in the Star Wars: X-Wing series (some books written by Michael J. Stackpole, who also wrote one of my favorites, I, Jedi, and with the Wraith books written by Aaron Allston, who wrote my #1 favorite, Starfighters of Adumar.) I learned basic English by cutting my teeth on the Young Jedi Knights series by Kevin J. Anderson and his wife (and developing a young lust for Jaina Solo, I might add.) I discovered the background of one Mandalorian bounty hunter which may or may not be true, and the origins of one Corellian smuggler, by reading A.C. Crispin’s Han Solo Trilogy. I even got to “star” in my own adventures by playing in the Star Wars Roleplaying Game, at least the Revised edition under WotC’s management (d20 based.)
Ah, the 90s. How nostalgic. Just give me a minute…….okay, I’m done.
So we had this wonderful period of great literature and material for George Lucas’ universe, spreading it farther and wider than I think he ever intended (or probably wanted; there was that bit of Dark Empire and The Crystal Star, after all. Nothing is ever perfect.) And aside from a few (aforementioned) bumps, it was glorious! The spirit of Star Wars flew on, forever and forever, without boundaries…
At a certain point, the people running the continuity and being the franchise managers–i.e., the dudes and dudettes over at Lucasfilm Licensing, or LFL–decided they wanted to take Star Wars in a “new” direction. As George was focusing on the prequels, they decided to focus on the era some 20 years after the Battle of Endor and Return of the Jedi. They wanted to focus both on the original characters and the “next generation” of heroes, and in some way “mature” that latter generation. Unfortunately for everyone involved (even the characters themselves), LFL…basically, they screwed up. Badly. They trashed Lucas’ central story, soiled the spirit of Star Wars, and produced a product that was not so much what we had grown up to know and love, but what was closer to a hollow pastiche.
And then, that began to seep into the “prequels” era and beyond, in that direction. Part of the blame in this area can be laid at Lucas’ feet–if anyone really thought that the “romantic dialogue” in Episode III was actually good, I will find them and cut their ears off with a lightdagger–but most of it actually lies with those producing EU material, although they were mainly cluttering up the continuity and making improbable connections and confusing history, not blatantly crapping on what Lucas had produced.
So let me go through each “era” and explain what I find to be wrong, and then wrap up with a “discussion”–more of a rant, really–on how they screwed up, what I personally feel continuity is, and some views on the “dead author” hypothesis and where the story truly lies, with the writer or with the fan.
The Next Generation
So here we are, 25 years after the Battle of Yavin thrust Luke Skywalker onto the center stage, the Rebellion was in full swing, and Han Solo decided to be a good guy after all. Well, Han and Leia now have three kids, Luke is married to a former Imperial force-using assassin, the remnants of the Empire have signed a peace treaty with the Republic, and the Jedi Order is coming back, thanks to Luke creating an academy–or, using his more pretentious word, a praxeum–on Yavin IV, and peace has finally been brought back to the galaxy.
Um, maybe not.
The basic plot of the NJO series is that the Yuuzhan Vong, a race that is “invisible” to the Force and relies entirely on biotechnology, invades from another galaxy, and basically wipes out pretty much everyone. The New Republic, established a few months after Return of the Jedi, is destroyed, replaced by a new entity which sort of combines it with the Empire called the “Galactic Alliance,” while the Jedi are hunted down and have their ranks depleted.
Oh, did we mention that the galaxy is basically flattened? Nearly every capital world is destroyed, “Vongformed” into jungle worlds, trillions of people die–way more than the death toll in the Galactic Civil War, I’m sure–and every single institution we’ve come to accept is more or less wiped out, aside from the Imperial Remnant, which sort of stays the same. (Oh, and the bloody Chiss. But nobody really likes them anyways.) The death toll also touches the characters quite directly–of the popular new generation, Anakin Solo dies, while of the old generation, Chewbacca goes. He does go in a pretty awesome way–they have to drop a frigging moon on his ass–and he’s probably the least damaging death out of all the major characters, but still. They kill Chewbacca.
Are you upset yet?
The reason NJO fails as a Star Wars series is that it does not have the tone that Star Wars had, nor does it really respect its spirit. Although George Lucas did sign off on it, by making some stipulations (apparently he told them that the villains couldn’t be Force-users), it also did not really respect his story, making me wonder how involved he was with it (which is to say, not at all.)
First off, while it was definitely dark in some respects–I mean, for chrissakes, the galaxy is under the thumb of an authoritarian, racist dictatorship–Star Wars is inherently bright. The first movie had its parts, but overall it was good, with the Rebel Alliance defeating the Empire at the Battle of Yavin, and Luke taking his first steps as a Jedi Knight. The Empire Strikes Back was a downer, but that was really just to set the stage for the triumphant victory in Return of the Jedi. And then Luke brought order to the Force, redeemed his father, helped destroy the Empire–yeah, the story was more or less complete.
And it should be noted that, throughout the trilogy, Star Wars is fairly campy. Even the prequel trilogy is, to an extent, so that just shows you how central it is to the series. The spirit of Star Wars is adventure, heroism, becoming more than yourself, and essentially is space fantasy. That’s why its the greatest thing since the sandwich was invented.
NJO is completely the opposite. It’s doom and gloom, dour, dark, cowardice, and a sense of futility, that nothing will be right, that the end is nigh. In one way, NJO is Star Wars’ version of the Apocalypse (an averted apocalypse, perhaps, but it still has permanently scarred that galaxy far, far away.) It isn’t Star Wars; it may have the same characters, locations, props, and even some of the concepts, it isn’t Star Wars. It’s a reanimated corpse of a bright and fantastic story, with all of the life and spirit literally leeched out of it.
And then there was the villains themselves. I mean, c’mon, “invisible to the Force?” Look, I realize The Flanneled One told you not to use Force-users as villains, okay, fine, not a problem. But don’t take that so far that you have beings that are “invisible” or “immune” to the central topic and myth of the entire fucking story. And biotech? This is not Transhuman Space, here, this is Star Wars. Where did you see any of that sort of stuff in Star Wars? Answer: you didn’t. Aside from cyborgs, whose presence seemed to be fairly light, there was really no transhumanism or anything of that sort in the story. It wasn’t the far future, it was the far past. What NJO did with that was just…stupid.
But what really bothered me was that it was taking Star Wars past it’s shelf-life. Like I said, the story essentially ended with Luke redeeming his father and the Alliance defeating the Empire. Since the central, pivotal character of the story is really Anakin Skywalker, the story of his fall from grace and his eventual redemption, that only makes Return of the Jedi even more solidly the end of the series. Sure, there was going to be some clean up. I felt the X-Wing series was essentially the denouement, and while it seems pretty drawn out or elaborate for that, you can look at Lord of the Rings to see one even more drawn out and elaborate. Meanwhile, Young Jedi Knights was setting up the torch to be passed to a new generation, and a new series of adventures–maybe. Or maybe not. But in any case, it was wrapped up. Over. Done.
So then what the hell does NJO have to do with anything? Where the hell does it stand? It really has no foundation. But that is something I will argue more strenuously in the next few chapters.
The Swarm War Trilogy
I just want to point out here that I really have no beef with this trilogy. It’s nothing more than a blip on the radar, with no serious concerns for anybody. As far as I’m concerned, it’s irrelevant. With that over with, let’s move on to the next bit.
The NJO series was bad, don’t get me wrong. It was not Star Wars, as I said. But honestly, if they had stopped there, I could possibly, just possibly, have seen it staying.
But no. They went from bad to “Emperor’s Black Heart” worse.
So after the Yuuzhan Vong wipe everybody out, they ended up getting defeated by Jacen Solo, the only remaining son of Han and Leia Solo, who apparently fuses with the Force and becomes this glowy thingy and–I’m going to stop there before I say something really stupid. Suffice to say, he beats the crap out of the Vong and saves the galaxy.
Problem is, the boy is scarred by his traumatic experiences in the war. He’s messed up inside. Understandable, I guess. So what does he do? Get counseling? Go to his mommy? Off himself? No…
He becomes the next Dark Lord of the Sith.
Oh Christ. (And since I’m an ignostic saying it, you know its bad.)
Yup, young Jacen Solo becomes “Darth Caedus,” slowly takes over the leadership of the Galactic Alliance, and then ends up creating a Second Galactic Civil War, instituting a reign of terror, and then finally being killed by his sister.
I know what you’re thinking. WHAT THE FLYING FUCKITY-FUCKITY-FUCK FUCK FUCK? I know this because that’s the same thing I thought. I wish I could put something down that’s corny and geeky, like “What in the name of the Force!” or “What the Sith?” but I can’t, because it’s just that bad awful horrendous atrocious I don’t have a word for it.
Everything I said about the story ending above, in the NJO section, applies here, but with 100 times the force. (And not that Force, unfortunately.) Here we have, essentially, a complete repeat of the entire movie series in a 9-book sequence, with Jacen Solo taking the place of his grandfather, and Jaina taking the place of her uncle (although instead of being a good guy, and you know, redeeming, she just decides to kill him and end it that way.)
I really want to take the executives at LFL and sit them down and say, “You do realize, haven’t you, that you basically took George Lucas’ magnum opus, the defining masterpiece of two generations, a work that is practically required reading for the United States citizenship test, and then shat on it. You do realize this, right?”
That’s what they’ve done. Everything that Luke and his colleagues fought for and triumphed over has been invalidated. There was utterly no point in destroying the Death Star. Luke’s destiny of bringing peace to the galaxy for a hundred thousand years apparently was procured at a budget soothsayer’s, since he wasn’t able to bring peace for 30 years.
It is a travesty and a sham. It is a dark, twisted joke, a spoof that lands in the horror genre. It inverts everything that Star Wars was. It might as well be a mirror universe. (In fact, I might be wrong, but Luke might actually have a beard in one of the books. Or is it Han? Ah, who cares? It’s crap.)
As far as I am concerned, Legacy of the Force is not only horrible, it is a blight. How dare these executives, how dare the fans, how dare these writers go and unmake everything that was Star Wars? NJO was bad enough, but at least they didn’t move to totally invalidate everything, at least they made some semblance of the previous order survive. But here? No.
And it only gets worse.
I haven’t really bothered researching this series all that much. Anything following in Legacy of the Force‘s footsteps is bound to be a grotesque, hideous, Lovecraftian monster. And I feel FotJ sort of lives up to that.
So now Jacen–sorry, “Darth Caedus”–is dead, and peace is at hand, right? Supposedly, but unfortunately, the leaders of the three powers are all Imperials (the Galactic Alliance, the Imperial Remnant, and the Confederation, essentially a rehash of the Confederacy of Independent Systems, yet another way in which LotF crapped on it all.) Oh, and by the way, the public is now very wary of Jedi and don’t like them very much. Can you see where this is going?
Oh, but wait, it gets better. Some Jedi start going crazy, inflicted with some sort of psychosis that was Darth Caedus’ parting gift to the galaxy. So now Luke has to take off with his son, Ben, to find out why his nephew turned to the Dark Side, and maybe something that will heal the crazy Jedi, while back home, a virtual Third Jedi Purge starts to take place (I’ll get to the “real” First Jedi Purge much later.) Oh, and at the risk of sounding trite by putting in “by the way” again, apparently a lost tribe of Sith have finally found their way off their miserable rock and want to rejoin galactic society.
FotJ basically drives the point home that there is no hope for this galaxy–the exact opposite of what the original trilogy was trying to tell us. It really opens up some new questions–like, “Is this the most dysfunctional galaxy ever?” You would think by now people would be fed up with war and would just throw away all their weapons, but apparently that is not the case. But if we were to add any sense of realism to this, we would be confronted with the inescapable conclusion that the galaxy could not possibly support yet another war. It’s industrial base has been continually pummeled, the people are sick and tired (when they’re not, you know, dead), and the military forces have been exhausted. I don’t care if this is space fantasy, you couldn’t support another war. Maybe low-level conflicts, ala the Balkans, but not a sustained, interstellar conflict. No way. And yet, this is still probably going to happen. There is no hope left. These bastards are irredeemable.
And we also the continued perversion of the story by making the Jedi pariahs again. I mean really–haven’t we gone down this road before, and only about 40-50 years or so in the story timeline?
Random House better not keep up the cycle of crappy, imitation Star Wars. If they continue, who knows what damage they could inflict on the Force.
A Long Time Ago…
Some introduction is required here.
The distant past of Star Wars centers around the Galactic Republic forming, circa 25,000 years Before the Battle of Yavin (BBY), the Jedi expelling a faction that dabbled with the Dark Side, and then doing it again later, only this time the expellees flee beyond known space and end up forming the Sith Empire, which is rediscovered a few thousand years later and fights the Republic–and the Jedi–in an event known as the “Great Hyperspace War,” and later again in the “Great Sith War.” A few thousand years pass again before more take up the Sith mantle, and eventually fight the Republic in an event known as the “New Sith Wars,” which take place approximately 1,000 years before Episode I, and lead to the claim that the Republic is 1,000 years old in the prequel series by “reforming” the Republic.
Most of this is courtesy of the Tales of the Jedi comic book series, which influenced and inspired some of the works I’m about to discuss below. Those are centered around two periods: 5,000 BBY, which is the Great Hyperspace War, and approximately 3,900 BBY, which is the Great Sith War. Tales of the Jedi is currently the earliest set story in the greater Star Wars mythos, and it holds true to that, by having some of the weapons be “swords” instead of lightsabers, hyperspace travel is difficult and dangerous, and the feel is somewhat fantasy (I mean, the first story arc is about the “Beast Riders of Onderon,” for chrissakes.)
Unfortunately, while this continuity was originally quite clean and tidy, it was later mussed up by a series of video games. By their necessity, video games have to put the player in the position where they feel awesome, they’re the center of something great, but unfortunately, this has terrible implications for continuity.
Knights of the Old Republic
I know what you’re going to say. “How dare you criticize KOTOR? That game was effing awesome!” Indeed, KOTOR had some good gameplay, good artwork, fantastic music, and the story itself, or at least its character development, was really good. But it really mussed up the continuity.
First off, the central focus of the story is on Revan and Malak, two Jedi Knights who go around and create a Sith Empire, sparking the Jedi Civil War. The whole thing takes place roughly forty years after the Great Sith War is over with, which messes up its timing; I mean, really, forty years after the galaxy just went through such a large struggle, you’re going to start another one? It actually doesn’t bother me as much as the stuff that happens in LotF, since this doesn’t completely invalidate everything, and besides, it’s the past, when great wars were fought constantly.
But the thing that really bothers me about KOTOR are the Rakata. Apparently, these bunch of squigly aliens created a massive, galaxy-wide empire, called the “Infinite Empire” because they were just that pretentious, which was powered not by technology, but by the Force. And oh yeah, they completely enslaved pretty much all of the galaxy, particularly Humans, Rodians, Wookiees, Mon Calamari (and thus Quarren), Selkath, Duros, you name it, they probably enslaved it. Unfortunately, internal tensions, a virulent plague that affected only the Rakata, and a massive slave uprising ended the Infinite Empire and later gave way to the Republic.
Now this all sounds fine and dandy, right? Well, the problem with this is that the Empire is believed to have broken down roughly 200 years before the Republic was formed, yet there is absolutely no knowledge of the Infinite Empire whatsoever. It does not factor into the Republic’s formation, it was completely and utterly unknown ~17,000 years later, and more to the point, the Republic had to rediscover hyperdrive. What gives? On Earth, we had one guy walk around in the desert for a few years talking about peace and love and joy, and we still remember him 2,000 years later. You would think an Empire would be remembered some 200 years after it fell.
It just doesn’t fit with the rest of continuity. And you can’t toss out TotJ in order to benefit KOTOR; the latter only survives on the former, because it’s an outgrowth. KOTOR definitely has the Star Wars feel, but it just doesn’t make sense from a history standpoint. That of the Old Republic growing organically from a few systems in the Core gradually developing technology and eventually hyperdrive, before meeting each other and deciding “You know, maybe its better to work together than against each other.” And you don’t have to worry about information loss to boot.
And besides, the Rakata are fugly as all hell. I’d rather kiss a Wookiee than look at one of them.
Knights of the Old Republic II: Electric Boogaloo
Can I gripe now? Yes? Sweet, thanks.
So basically KOTOR II continues the story of KOTOR in a slightly different way. Now players are in the shoes of the Jedi Exile, who is called upon to essentially rebuild the entire Jedi Order when it gets nearly exterminated by the Sith–or are they just generic darksiders, I can never tell. Yes, this is the “real” First Jedi Purge I was talking about earlier.
The problem here is the problem that the stuff from the “Next Generation” above faces–it cheapens and invalidates what happened during the main story. The Jedi Purge from the Galactic Empire’s time seems a lot less significant when you append the “Second” to it. (It’s also a lot less significant when you realize that a lot of Jedi survived, but hey, how else are you going to have a story?)
The good news, though, is that I don’t have to actually waste any energy on it. Y’see, KOTOR II was so unimaginably bad, everyone hates it. It kind of doesn’t exist. Thank the Maker.
The Old Republic
Here’s where things get screwy.
In this upcoming MMORPG, a Cold War is going on, between the Old Republic and–you guessed it–the real Sith Empire. As it turns out, what Revan created was a “fake” Sith Empire, and he wanted to conquer the Old Republic and make it stronger so it could resist the real Sith Empire, turning to evil to save the galaxy.
Am I the only one who finds that to be the dumbest strategy ever? Right…turn to the dark side in order to fight the dark side, and blow up the galaxy to save it. Kinda misses the point there, bub.
So TOR pretty much invalidates all of KOTOR and KOTOR II, and pushes a great Galactic War right up next to all these other wars, moving so fast that the galaxy cannot possibly recuperate from any of them. It’s just continual fighting, bing bang boom.
And then you have to ask yourself “what is this Sith we’re fighting?” Are they really the Sith from Tales of the Jedi and even the Trilogies? I’m not sure. Although the history I swear by does say that the Sith came back from time to time, the timing of these incidents seems to be really…well, it seems to be rather ill-thought.
You may say that, “Well, in real life, we have wars all the time,” but the problem with your statement is that’s real life. This is fiction. Moreover, it’s “mythical” fiction. We’re supposed to have big time spans where nothing happens and then something pivotal occurs and then later brings peace for another thousand years or so. This just doesn’t fit.
And besides, a “Cold War?” No, the Sith would have wiped out everybody in the Republic and conquered it, not just conquer half and be content with it. Puhleeze, these guys are posers. Not real “Sith” at all.
Every Saga Has A Beginning…
The Force Unleashed
I’m sorry. I really don’t give two creds if this was the centerpiece of a big multimedia project that was apparently blessed by George Lucas and pushed vehemently by LFL. I don’t care if it has awesome gameplay, or great visuals, or good characters (which I actually doubt), or a rockin` soundtrack. TFU is a bunch of crap and everybody knows it.
The entire story is that Darth Vader has a secret dark side apprentice he doesn’t tell anyone about (gee, where have I heard that before?) and whom he and Emperor Palpatine use to create the Rebel Alliance. You heard me: the entire Rebel Alliance is in fact a wickedly sinister plan by Palpatine to gather all of the enemies of the New Order together and squash them all at once. Except that, you know, it kinda gets out of hand, people get excited, and the next thing you know, your pretty Death Star has been smashed to bits, and you’ve just run up a huge credit card bill.
I refuse. I absolutely refuse to accept that the Rebel Alliance, the good guys, was actually a plan hatched by Emperor Palpatine to reinforce his already iron grip on the galaxy. No. This is the story of young freedom fighters recognizing the evil before them and joining together to fight that evil, not the story of some 190-year old crackpot pensioner’s plan to consolidate his hold over the galaxy and just having trouble keeping the youngins’ in line. Again, no.
I mean, would Luke or Han have fought for the Alliance if they realized it was really something that Palpatine came up with? Would Leia, or Mon Mothma, or Ackbar, or Antilles, or any number of other Rebels? Doubtful. Even if they did, it would have utterly shattered their self-image, at least briefly, before they rose again to fight. But it wouldn’t be the same sort of fighting, now would it? They would start to doubt themselves, doubt whether their fight is really meaningful. Maybe the Empire is right after all….But it’s not. Star Wars is not really intricate, or full of doubting. No, it’s black and white, good vs. evil. It’s pretty darn simple. Sure, there’s a little doubting when you get to when “Is this act going to bring me over to the Dark Side?” but resolutions are still pretty swift.
In a way, TFU is even more damaging than anything the NJO or LotF or FotJ has done, for while those mess up stuff farther down the line, and destroy the spirit of Star Wars, TFU strikes at the very core of the story. Okay, so it doesn’t kill off Luke Skywalker when he’s twelve, but it’s pretty damn close. It cheapens everything about the trilogies themselves, in a way that is far, far more direct than any of these other travesties. It is the epitome of travesties here.
Sorry, TFU just doesn’t work. It has no place within the Star Wars mythos. It should not just be removed from continuity, it should be shot from a cannon into hyperspace, where it will never return, and all the copies of the game should be burned, and the people who came up with it should be fired. And the name of the protagonist should be erased from everyone’s minds.
Oh, and as an afterthought, that part where you have to use the Force to pull down a Star Destroyer from out of orbit? Fun, maybe, but that is too over the top for Star Wars. That’s the equivalent to jumping the shark in this universe.
The Problem With Star Wars
It’s the Jedi.
Star Wars focuses almost entirely on Force-users, whether they be Jedi, or Sith, or something else. And that’s where the problem lies; in a universe as deep and rich as this, you would think there were other stories to tell. But aside from the X-Wing series, they barely scratch the surface. They simply refuse to entertain the possibility.
And that’s a real shame. Because they focus so singly on Force-users, they have missed out on all the variety out there, they’ve both elevated Jedi to godhood and also made them stale, and they’ve set into a rut of repetitive stories. It’s the same cycle repeating itself over and over again, and last time I checked, Star Wars was not into the cyclical history that Battlestar Galactica championed. Maybe I’m wrong.
Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with Jedi-oriented stories. After all, both the Prequel and Original Trilogies focus on the Jedi. The Jedi Academy trilogy focused on Luke rebuilding the Order, and the Young Jedi Knights series was about the next generation of Jedi accepting the mantle of defenders of the Republic and of peace and goodness everywhere. There’s definitely a place for them. There’s just not a place everywhere.
They can do a lot more than the struggle of dark side temptation and possible redemption. There are a lot more genres and subjects in science fiction: military science fiction (although they have their share of that), exploration, what it means to be human (or alive), or even just finding one’s place in the galaxy, particularly if one isn’t a Jedi.
So they just need to back off Jedi and Force-users a bit and focus on something else. Variety is the spice of life, and judging from the blandness that they’re offering us, we need a great deal of it.
How I’d Fix Star Wars Continuity
I’m basically two minds on this. I have one which preserves a great deal of the Expanded Universe, and another which preserves far less.
So for the first idea, which preserves most of the EU: All of the works I focused on above, those with their own sections, just cut. Get rid of them. This ends the “story” at around 24 ABY (After Battle of Yavin), after the next generation of Jedi Knights have become full Knights and are becoming adults. It allows Luke’s destiny to remain fulfilled. It also tidies up the pre-TPM era, going back for at least 5,000 years, giving us a much more elegant history to work with and admire. At the same time, however, it preserves most of what we know as “Star Wars.” We have roughly the same story to work with, what really drives the galaxy.
In addition, I would also remove most of the kids novels–including that “Galaxy of Fear” nonsense and Mission to Mount Yoda, but only because they were terribly written and contradicted by pretty much everything that followed anyways. And most of the games too, aside from the Dark Forces and Jedi Knight series, because Kyle Katarn is just Chuck Norris with a lightsaber, and that’s too awesome for words.
(As for that Clone Wars cartoon…The Flanneled One or not, screw it.)
Now, you have Plan A, which keeps most of the EU. Ready for Plan B? It’s really simple.
If it’s not in the movies, junk it.
You heard me.
If its not in Episodes I-VI, ignore it.
At first, this seems a bit…extreme. You’re basically destroying the entire EU, and cutting off all the backstory and surrounding “fluff” that insulates and gives some context to the movies. But on the other hand…they’re not Star Wars. They’re not made by The Flanneled One. They’re something else, made by other people. Fine stories in their own right, but not Star Wars. At least not proper.
And once you realize this, suddenly you are free! No more worrying about the EU and how this intersects with that and what not. The chains that hold you back dissolve, and you’re in a whole new world, one that is exiting and wild as far as the eye can see. So much could happen here that we don’t know about! This is particularly good for RPG players, who now have a sandbox that is so large and vast they couldn’t have enough to do in it even if they wanted to. They’d be playing until Doomsday in order to fill it all up.
Part of me likes this “nuclear option.” The EU has unfortunately become very large, very unwieldy, muddled, contradictory, and just utterly sad when you incorporate the most recent developments. And eliminating all of it frees up one’s mind to create a “shadow history” that makes more sense.
But on the other hand, there are a lot of things I like, notably from the period 4 ABY — 24 ABY. I couldn’t let them go. So I don’t know. For now, I’ll stick with Plan A. I like that better.
But Whose Story Is It?
The entirety of this post is based on the assumption that I actually have a right to determine what is or what isn’t Star Wars. But then the question must be asked: Who died and made me George Lucas?
Nearly every scifi, fantasy, and superhero story has a complicated continuity, with some fans accepting some parts and other fans different parts. But what gives these fans the right to determine what is and isn’t the story? It’s not like they’ve written it. They’re just the fans. They’re the consumers.
Part of me says they don’t. The writer writes the story, and if writes a bad one, nobody will read it, but if he writes a good one, they’ll pick it up; but ultimately, it is still his (or her) story. No one else’s. The writer is god, the writer has full control.
Yet another part of me goes to my libertarian philosophy and says, “Wait. A transaction only works if all parties agree to it, and what is the acceptance of continuity but a sort of transaction?” (Yeah, I think that part of me is smoking dope too.) “And if one party doesn’t agree, then it has the right to not consent to the transaction and not take part of it. It can reject that part of continuity.”
And you know…I think that part of me is on to something. For if the fans didn’t consent, it would die. It would shrivel up and people wouldn’t have anything to enjoy, and the writer certainly wouldn’t invest any more effort into it. So there needs to be some sort of consensus between writer and fan there.
But it’s a very complicated question. It’s related to the topic of fanfiction (which I will tackle with a rancor much later) but it’s its own can of worms. And it’s not one that I can really figure out on my own. For now, I will accept that it is George Lucas’ work, and I respect that, but I will not entertain things that abuse his story and aren’t created by him; those I feel do abuse the story and are created by him, well, we’ll just say they happened in passing and move on.