Welcome to 2014! After a bleak Christmas with no new articles for a whole week, one could be forgiven for submitting to the doldrums. To liven things up and kick off the new year with a bang, I asked the gang to share the resolutions they’d like to see the Star Wars franchise adopt in 2014.
Jay Shah: Don’t Force the Storytelling
Star Wars may well be part fantasy, but the mystic aspect has dominated in the years since the prequels. Whether we’re looking at the books, comics, games, television shows, or even the movies themselves, the Jedi and Sith loom large over Star Wars. Lightsabers and magical powers may well be iconic, but one could be forgiven for imagining that they were the only thing Star Wars was ever known for. Stormtroopers? X-wings? Smugglers? Eh, not a big deal.
There are a handful of releases these past few years that have kept things diversified. Fantasy Flight Game’s Edge of the Empire RPG materials are the best example, as they practically avoid most mentions of the Force except as a fleeting whisper, a myth given credence by rumor more than observation, which fits the game’s OT setting. The Old Republic has multiple character classes as part of its game system, meaning that players are free to diversify, but is dominated by the titanic struggle between Jedi and Sith in the pre-movie eras. As we approach the inauguration of the Sequel Trilogy and Episode VII in particular, the Force will have to play a large role in events: we’ll doubtless see the reëstablishment of the Jedi Order in some fashion or another and we’ll probably see the continuation of the Skywalker story. This is well and good, but Disney mustn’t forget that a large part of what made the OT great was that it featured political struggles — Rebels versus Imperials — or the heroism of the everyman in response to the calling of destiny.
We would even prefer to see the heroism of the everyman in response to more everyday challenges. We have good reason to hope, at least as far as the EU goes. The Legacy volume 2 comics are focusing on someone who isn’t quite an everyman — Ania Solo — but who is determined to be one and reject the call of destiny. The upcoming Rebel Heist comics focus on everyday Rebel soldiers put side by side with the great heroes of the Rebellion and will hopefully capture their day to day struggles and how they envision their place in the galaxy alongside these literal poster-gracing titans we call the Big Three. We know precious little about the Rebels television series, but despite the presence of a lightsaber-wielding Imperial Inquisitor, we can be hopeful that the series about an uprising on an out of the way world features its share of regular guys too.
You can’t have Star Wars without the Force, but you can have Star Wars stories without its presence: we’ve seen them in the past with the X-wing books and flight simulator games, the original Dark Forces, and a myriad of short stories. We saw Han Solo, Chewbacca, and even secondary characters like Wedge Antilles play a prominent role in the films (and even Leia was largely Force-less in those movies). There’s such a thing as Jedi and Sith fatigue, and we certainly feel it. Going forward, we hope to see some good stories that don’t need Jedi; by focusing on characters and narrative instead of mysticism, we may even get better stories. We’ll certainly get variety.
Tyler Williams: My Star Wars resolution is for Del Rey and Dark Horse to give me something that will get me interested in new EU works again. I haven’t read a new Star Wars novel since Scoundrels. I haven’t read a new Star Wars comic in a year or two, although I have been meaning to get into Legacy Volume II. My interest in Star Wars has been maintained primarily by works like the Essential Guide to Warfare and the renaissance of the Official Star Wars Blog, and I’ve mainly kept up with the EU via the Lit forums at TheForce.Net. I’m a college student with a limited income and, hence, am extremely selective about what I buy. I’m not asking for another trainwreck of a nine-book series. I’m asking for Del Rey to take creative risks and put out novels that aren’t set during the OT (Come on, you know you want to steal some of Dark Horse’s thunder and do an Ancient Republic-era work!). I’m asking the Star Wars licensees to show some confidence in the product that they have been putting out for the last 20 years. If they want my continued financial support, then they should justify it.
The EU as we know it may very well be axed in the next year or so. So, my New Year’s resolution is that the Star Wars narrative publishers give me a reason to care again about what’s going to be lost. And should there be a new EU, give me a reason to care about it. Have Stover write the new equivalent to the Thrawn trilogy. Start EU 2.0 with a well-written bang. If we end up with a Frankenstein-monster EU, with 1.0 being strip-mined like it’s a mountain in West Virginia, at least let the end result be something worth investing in. And let that strip-mining be at least mildly logical- try to avoid the mistakes that TCW often made. If it’s a Frankenstein-EU, utilize that to the fullest- reincorporate good material into the new continuity. Impress me, Lucasfilm. That’s my New Year’s resolution for you.
Or at least resolve that one of the live-action spin-off movies will be The Glove of Darth Vader.
Lisa Schap: Don’t Forget the Kiddos
I’m coming at things a little differently but as we go through 2014 and production of Episode VII begins I want the Star Wars franchise to not forget the family movie concept. Many people spent years bitching about Jar Jar Binks but he was there for a specific purpose. George Lucas was brilliant in aiming characters at the younger kids. Jar Jar captured their attention and the Clone troopers stole their hearts. It amuses me to watch the Prequels with my niece and nephew because they giggle and adore Jar Jar Binks, a character I think is largely useless. The Clone Wars evolved from the Prequels and gave parents another avenue to get their children involved in a franchise they liked when they were younger. I love hearing my brother come home with stories about how his children amazed him when they were out by recognizing something from Star Wars or being able to answer a question he didn’t think they know. I feel like I’ve done my part in ensuring Star Wars continues on with future fans and now I want to see Star Wars continue that.
I don’t think I have much to fear considering Disney has taken over the franchise. Disney knows how to market to children better than anyone in the world but I do worry a little bit since the kids were now old enough to start them on the Clone Wars and the series has ended. Looking at what people would like for the Rebels series I’m concerned it is going to be a more adult concept than TCW was. I want to see fans continue to be involved and have the franchise gain new fans because that means more Star Wars for me. As selfish as that sounds it does mean I’m willing to accept things into the universe that maybe don’t mesh well in order to get those fans. I hope to hear an announcement for a Star Wars based TV show to appear on the Disney channel to be specifically aimed at kids.
As far as non-TV/non-movie things I like to see Lucasfilm continue to think outside the box like Jeffrey Brown’s Darth Vader and Son books. My niece and nephew like them so much they frequently read them to each other. The younger one can’t read yet, but he’s heard it to often that he can practically recite the whole thing.
Lucas Jackson: Salvage the EU
I tried to come up with something less extravagant, but ultimately, this is what it comes down to. I love the Expanded Universe, for all its flaws. I grew up with it and its characters, and I don’t want to lose it. I don’t think it actively hampers the sequels in a significant way; at worst (at best?), they can throw out the post-NJO. It’s not likely to happen, but it’s at the top of my wishlist that the sequels work with the EU rather than against it. The adventures of Jaina, Ben, and Jag would suit me just fine.
If that’s not possible (and let’s admit it, it’s not likely at all), I’d at least like to see some effort made to continue the EU in parallel. Keep putting out books and comics for the people who have invested in the EU until it’s not profitable anymore. Keep feeding us more of the characters and stories we’ve been following. At least try it out, and if there are no sales, then wind the EU down. I don’t think it’s necessary to spike the current EU even if the new movies don’t follow it. Not right away, at least.
At a minimum, I’d like to see them at least give us the courtesy of spending a few years winding the EU down, wrapping up the loose ends of each era and giving us a satisfying conclusion to the Big Three’s story and some kind of bridge to Legacy. The current outlook, of an EU frozen the moment the sequels were announced, lurching out a tiny handful of stories already produced and then grinding to an awkward, uncertain halt, isn’t what the EU deserves. Right now, it feels like it’s holding its breath for two years just waiting until it’s time to lie down and die, and that’s not actually serving anybody. It’s a waste of what could be the EU’s last moments. Make use of the time left and give us the end point we and the EU both deserve. Release your sequel tie-ins in December 2015, but until then, throw the fans a bone and give us something rather than sitting on your hands in the middle of an awkward pause at a low point in the EU cycle. If the EU is going to die, let it go out with a coordinated bang rather than pulling the plug with a whimper mid-stride.
Alexander Gaultier: Look forward
As of January 1, 2014, we will have less than two years until the release of Star Wars: Episode VII and the arrival of the long-awaited sequel trilogy. For the first time since May 25, 1983, the Star Wars universe will receive a chronological continuation on the big screen, and have it witnessed by countless millions around the world. We have seen the defeat of the Emperor and the fall of the Galactic Empire, and now we will be gifted with a single, cohesive vision of the state of the galaxy in the years that followed. We are passing the torch to the next generation, and placing the franchise in new hands. We are casting new heroes to replace the old. Irrevocably, we are moving on. The time has finally come to put the original trilogy and the prequels behind us, and focus on building something new.
Now is not the time to go over old ground and rehash tired plots. Now is the time to set the stage for what is to come, and test the waters to see what audiences are receptive to and what they aren’t. If the Expanded Universe as we know it is to end and begin anew, then we ought to take advantage of the freedom that offers us to experiment freely and without concern for the long-term repercussions on the galaxy. If the Expanded Universe is to continue, with at least some elements remaining more or less intact, then the productive thing to do would be to turn our focus toward guiding new works in such a way that they build up anticipation for the new films and integrate relatively seamlessly into the new canon.
We’re already beginning to see the first signs of such an approach, with the announcement of another Battlefront video game, a series that has not seen a new entry since 2005. Entries in other genres and series would be equally welcome, such as the space simulation that has recently and explosively returned to prominence with Chris Roberts’ Star Citizen, which has proven beyond the slightest trace of doubt that there still remains a viable market for games such as TIE Fighter and Rogue Squadron. If the sequels are to give us a restored Jedi Order, then the Jedi Knight series presents the perfect platform with which to take advantage of the near-universal desire to take up a lightsaber and wield the power of the Force. I can think of no more suitable time to once more imprint the Star Wars brand in the minds of gamers everywhere than now.
Special mention must also be made for Fantasy Flight Games, who stand as the current holders of the licenses for tabletop role-playing, card, and miniature games for the franchise. In the years that followed the release of Return of the Jedi, West End Games provided a valuable service in adding a level of depth and verisimilitude to the franchise that is, to this day, still widely praised, and introduced many vital elements that were drawn upon by later authors, particularly Timothy Zahn in the creation of his famous Thrawn Trilogy. If the sequel trilogy is to make changes and additions to the universe as significant as its predecessors, then the ability of Fantasy Flight Games to supplement and smooth out the wrinkles in the process should not go ignored or underused.
If the sequel trilogy is to be something truly magnificent and a worthy continuation of the saga, then the franchise simply cannot afford to wait until the end of 2015 to begin the process of its induction into the established universe. It has already been made clear that no extraordinary efforts will be made to prevent spoilers from leaking, and given the degree of speculation regarding the sequels that has already taken place, one cannot doubt that the fan reaction to those spoilers will be fierce regardless of their content, even devoid of context. If the proper steps are taken now, however, then the force of that reaction can be mitigated some, and expectations tempered by providing them with direction and a sense of purpose, and by guiding the franchise toward a new beginning instead of simply releasing a new film and expecting everything else to fall into place in the aftermath.
Ben Crofts: Time, Infinite Time – Use It!
SW encompasses 35 millennia! Yes, read that again, 35,000 years! So, it would be logical to conclude that there is more than enough space to tell all kinds of stories across the eras, would it not? Wrong. There is this quite lousy, lazily reductive view that it’s all done, all the stories are told, there’s nothing left.
To invoke a certain famous Asgardian: I say nay! Taken to its logical endpoint, the reductive attitude gets us to the seven stories that all stories invoke in various combinations. It is in those combinations that new stories are born, stories like the Lost Tribe of the Sith set by John Jackson Miller, or Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void. We still know comparatively little of the Jedi in 4000 years before in story terms. There’s been lots of reference material produced true, but this is no substitute for stories, no substitute for a well-told narrative that sucks you in and that you need to get to the end of to see how it all turns out.
Oh but that’s known too! Not at the detail nor at the character level, you might know the Sith – version 3.26 – get defeated by Jedi – version 2.10, but that’s about it. You wouldn’t know the outcome for a character, for how the story events changed them and their world. Plus, a skilled enough author would make it so you never even thought to adopt this out-of-the-story mindset that uses the macro picture to kill any fun a story has, for that is the logical outcome of that perception!
What is needed is daringly innovative stories to shatter this arrogant notion that it’s all done, all known, all over – set it way, way before the PT and the ST can do whatever it likes without impacting. Do a history of the Darths in narrative form, show how the Republic got going in the first place, show more of the Unknown Regions. Use the time you have available far better – why is there the tendency to only look forward? Drop back and do more books like Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor, there’ll be enough gaps for such an undertaking.
Star Wars has had quite a few dark ages, it’s why the technology goes yo-yo-ing up and down so erratically and why there’s spans in which little is known about. Well, what could be better for new stories in every sense of the term? Plus if the story can go back 35 millennia to the dawn of the Jedi, why can it jump far, far forward to the future? One so far forward nothing the ST does could possibly affect it?
Mike Cooper: Thanks to a campaign by Ashley Eckstein and Her Universe, 2013 was officially (depending, I guess, on your definition of “official”) the Year of the Fangirl. This exhibited itself primarily in a series of profiles on the Her Universe website of female fans that Eckstein and company felt deserved a moment in the spotlight, but it would not be hard to step back and see it in the zeitgeist of genre fandom as a whole—with successful films like Catching Fire and Frozen, a growing cottage industry of high-profile female pundits like Tricia Barr and Dr. Andrea Letamendi, and sites like The Mary Sue and Not Literally, this was the year that geekettes refused to be sidelined any longer. Oh, and the Star Wars Expanded Universe was no slouch in this department either, with 2013 seeing the release of two different hardcover novels with female main characters—neither of whom were jabbing their butts in your direction on the cover.
So, my thinking is, why stop there? Instead of resting on our freshly estrogen-stocked coffers, I’d like 2014 to be the Year of the LGBTQ Fan—and few franchises are better-positioned than Star Wars to make that happen.
Maybe it doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as well as “Year of the Fangirl”—and some of you may be thinking, “well, the fangirl problem hasn’t exactly gone away, so maybe we shouldn’t move on so quickly”—but for my part, I am a strong believer in overcompensation.
No, not like that—get your mind out of the gutter.
What I mean is, think of that male fan you saw on Twitter who didn’t get what all the fuss was about women in SFF and was sick of seeing so many tweets and articles and stuff about it. Now fill his feed instead with outcries about the piss-poor representation of LGBTQ characters in the same media. You kill two birds with one stone—you’re moving the goalpost a little further downfield, and distracting the crazies from their older biases with shiny new ones.
I debated briefly with myself on to what extent this “Year of the LGBTQ Fan” philosophy should extend to SW media itself; I think it’s beyond unrealistic to expect Rebels to deal with the topic, and it’s hard to know what the hell to expect from SW literature this year, but you know what? Screw it—I want a gay couple in Episode VII. They don’t have to be queer, or trans, let’s just start with plain ol’ homosexuals.
The Expanded Universe has already given us the perfect roadmap for this in Goran and Medrit, the gay Mandalorian couple in Legacy of the Force: Sacrifice—not once does their marriage meet a single raised eyebrow or an iota of special attention, nor are they even especially important to the plot. But they’re there, there’s no ambiguity about it whatsoever, and if you can’t deal with it, tough luck. That’s exactly how The Empire Strikes Back handled Lando, and it’s past time they did it again.
And look—Eleven-ThirtyEight has had a pretty good year, but I’m no Ashley Eckstein. We’re still a very small site in the grand scheme of things, so I’m going to break protocol for a second and ask that if you agree with this, pass this on to others. Or even write something about it yourself and give us the link. Happy 2014, kids!!
(Editor’s note – I originally misidentified Goran and Medrit’s first appearance together as Troy Denning’s Invincible. Not so much. – Mike)