Das Reboot – The First 48 Hours

confused stormieSo that happened.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about you probably wouldn’t be reading this site, but so as not to confuse the aliens who exhume the internet a million years from now: Star Wars continuity has done the unthinkable and performed a hard reboot.

Going forward, the only “canon” Star Wars material is the six films and the Clone Wars TV series; everything else is out unless drawn directly from said material—even novelizations are currently a question mark. New novels, comics, etc. will be written with the oversight of Lucasfilm’s Story Group, and for the first time ever, be considered equal to the films—as, naturally, will the new TV series Star Wars Rebels.

All the old stuff, however, is pretty much staying in print, and being rebranded under the shiny new “Legends” banner, an example of which you can now see at the top of this site. I stuck it there partly as a lark and partly to commemorate the wonderful (and wonderfully exhaustive) universe we here at Eleven-ThirtyEight have been mired in for most of our lives, but I should add that we aren’t going out of print, either. What exactly this means for the site going forward is something I’ll get into later this week, but first I wanted to share our immediate reactions—and in some cases, our second thoughts as the weekend went on.

Serendipitously, the finale of Alexander’s A Case For Starting Over series was already scheduled to run tomorrow, so stay tuned for that, and much more over the coming weeks.

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1:38 PM – Lucas Jackson: Lol.

1:40 PM – Jay Shah: Gut reaction? I knew it was coming, deep down. Definitely the likeliest outcome — creative freedom while not foreclosing a big revenue source for them. But that doesn’t mean that I was ready, or that I wasn’t really hoping for a less likely solution like our messy repair retcons for the PT. But while the EU could have survived the new films if they were set in a timespan that would only invalidate a couple of post-NJO book series, the new films couldn’t have reasonably accommodated themselves to the mass of post-ROTJ EU.

I’m not happy but I’m also not outraged. We had a while to prepare for this, blissful denial or not. I’ll continue to cling to the real EU — and it truly is the stuff of legends — but at least we may still have pre-ROTJ EU unified. And references to WEG and other EU (such as references to the X-wing novels in Attack Squadrons) leaves me hope, as does the retention of the existing stable of authors. If only Dark Horse were here to help see us through…

I am a little gleeful at the conniptions that Wookieepedians will have to throw, though. I feel bad for the folks like Jason and Dan who wrote such great historical supplementary guides so recently who have to see their stuff part of an outmoded EU, though.

1:53 PM – Ben Crofts: The last reboot I gave a trial to was the Clone Wars and that did not work. No matter how good you may think you are at reconciling continuity, you cannot reconcile the irreconcilable! (Although, to the consternation of some, I liked Miller’s work.) Will this? Who knows?

All I know right now is that Rebels is looking to be very different from The Clone Wars. Plus, there’s little for it to steamroller over, which was my main charge against Clone Wars – given how much I enjoyed the 2002-2005 material. And look, the first of the new books? By John Jackson Miller, no less! I really could not care less about canonicity or the lack of, JJM is one of my favourite SW authors – on that basis, it’s a guaranteed buy!

The future? Well, I don’t believe a word of the official position. This time it’s really, really canon? Of course it is and Westminster politicians will all suddenly be honest about their expenses! Only a fool refuses point blank to not buy anything post-reboot – I’ve enjoyed much of Top Cow’s Artifacts and Batman’s Court of Owls saga was great fun. Yet, my purchasing is much reduced because there’s only so many times I can tread over familiar ground before it becomes too well known.

To be fair, classifying the old EU as Legends has a certain elegance to it. As the definition is: “A traditional story sometimes popularly regarded as historical but not authenticated.” It’s a nod to the fact that there is a fanbase for the stories and it shouldn’t be out-right dismissed. Given how it could have been done, looking at DC’s New 52 as a case in point and it’s actually a far better solution than I expected.

1:58 PM – Alexander Gaultier: Well. There goes the end of the article I was just writing. Time to do a bit of adjusting.

Now, reaction. You can probably guess it by now. It’s what I’ve expected from the start, and been actively advocating for. Of all the possible directions, it’s the one I think has the best chance at succeeding and turning out something equal or superior to the existing universe. Delicately dancing around some things that still happened, some things that happened sort of like that but not just like that, and some things that didn’t happen this time was never going to work out in the long run. Drawing from the existing material without being bound by it opens up many interesting possibilities for the future, and the reference to WEG’s early work is not only surprisingly good manners in this franchise, but also a hopeful sign that they’ll be taking their notes from nothing less than the absolute best.

10:47 PM – Lisa Schap: I’m all kinds of excited. I have been hoping for a complete reboot, not that I don’t love and adore the SW we have and trust me I’m devastated that Corran Horn doesn’t ‘exist’ in the new Star Wars but I haven’t been this excited about new Star Wars timeline books in awhile. I have really enjoyed the Empire and Rebellion series and Kenobi but the Luke/Leia/Han EU was in a bad place and I’m relieved to see it go actually. I hope that the future can give me just as many new books to add to my collection. I’m excited about the new authors (and the returning ones) who are going to spearhead this new EU.

I will still read my old SW books and love them just as much. That timeline is just done. I’ve been advocating for a reboot for a while now as have some of the others. It works in other Sci-fi/Fantasy works and there is no reason it can’t work for us. There is nothing to be afraid of. There is much to be excited about. I look forward to falling in love with new and exciting characters and finding myself another Corran to be obsessed with. I guess I’ll need to shelve these on their own bookcase! Oh dear where am I going to fit that.

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2:10 AM – Mike Cooper: I was basically reading Twitter at work all day today to follow the news, and in trying to explain my total daze to a coworker, I found myself looking for a word halfway between sad and excited, but nothing came to mind. What I can say is that I remember very well the last time I felt like this: in the wake of Attack of the Clones. Not only was the Clone Wars multimedia publishing program unfolding in real time for the first time ever, but there was a point where all the Jedi we’d been following for three years had just been dumped wholesale into the Battle of Geonosis…and we didn’t know who had made it out alive. It wasn’t a good feeling or a bad feeling, it was just so strangely…immediate. As the post-Geonosis material started rolling out, every turn of a page carried the potential to establish that yes, Quinlan Vos was still alive, or that so-and-so from that book that time had seceded, or whoa, where’d this Ventress woman come from? The NJO came close to this, but the Clone Wars hanging between two films like it did made the whole thing maybe the most compelling period of of my own personal EU fandom.

Now I feel kinda the same way—but about the entire universe. The part of me that mourns the expiration of the existing EU has long since done so, and I’ve officially progressed to celebrating what survives instead. We’re about to get four new books in six months, and I don’t care how lightly the Story Group has them treading; by this time next year Del Rey will have laid down an incredible amount of new continuity. JJM has more than proven himself willing to dig up random bits of EU on a lark, and he’s working with characters from a TV show that’s already recanonized Sienar Fleet Systems and the ISB without airing a single frame. And James Luceno, doing a Tarkin book in the style of Plagueis? Forget it. Think about every stray bit of continuity Luceno wove into Plagueis; now consider that every time that happens here—and it will happen—he’s saving something from oblivion. Eriadu? Safe. The Perlemian Trade Route? Safe. Ars Dangor? Safe. The worldbuilding of the EU is what I value most, and I strongly suspect that without Lucas around to wantonly shitcan things, that’s what will be preserved the best.

Just what kind of status quo we’re going to have next year is impossible to know right now, but I think the most instructive example is actually the Star Wars Tales comic series—it was billed as non-canon for most of its run, so contributors could feel free to do whatever they wanted (sound familiar?). But what actually ended up happening was that the best stuff started getting referenced elsewhere. More and more elements were being deliberately canonized, and all the Infinities label really meant in retrospect was that no one had to sweat the exact details. So when Jen Heddle says Plagueis, and even unobtrusive books like Kenobi, are now under the Legends banner, that doesn’t mean they’re gone. They just haven’t been saved yet.

5:14 AM – Lucas: Coop, what’s wrong with “sexcited”?

Oh, wait, now I see.

While there was a possibility that our new corporate overlords would make the effort to fit the new films to the existing Expanded Universe, the chance of that was always exceedingly slim. We’ve known, deep down, that this was coming for a long time. Maybe they could have announced the continuation of the EU as an alternate universe, in our fondest hopes; maybe they could have saved some of it, but we knew that the day would come that the EU wasn’t “the story” anymore. So I don’t really feel hurt, right now. I processed this and accepted it over the past year or so. I don’t like, at all, losing the chance to continue reading more stories set in the universe I grew up with, to finish the numerous story threads left hanging, but there’s nothing new to me about that feeling. I’m sure, eventually, it will really sink in for me that all hope is absolutely gone; that I’ll never see Ben and Allana grow up, never get a Kol Skywalker story, never have a chance to read a Soontir Fel TIE Fighter series, never really see anything more from the setting that’s been an inextricable part of my life since I was nine years old ever again. But it hasn’t quite sunk in yet.

No, the immediate emotional response I had can best be summed up with the word “finally.” I’m relieved that, after months of uncertainty, months staring ahead at a bare release schedule, months of wondering what would happen, months of wondering if they’d say anything at all, LFL finally stepped up and gave us an answer. We know their plan now. We can get a sense of resolution. We can stop holding our breath — which, honestly, we’ve been doing for the past several years, as LFL maintained the line that everything was canon even as The Clone Wars bulldozed through the old EU, punting on making any tough decisions, punting on the future of the EU.

I’m disappointed that the day is finally here, I guess, and the EU’s time is officially over. I’m a little bit relieved that at least they’re not completely bastardizing the existing EU to fit with the new age of continuity; we can bury it with dignity and move on cleanly. But mostly I’m just glad that they finally spoke up and gave us the explanation we deserve, that the wait is over and the wall of silence has broken. I expected grief, I expected angst. Instead I’m surprised, genuinely surprised, that I just feel a calm relief and resignation that at least it’s finally happening.

10:50 AM – Mike: That actually reminds me of something I didn’t mention before—even if the EU is technically finished now, its being shunted away from canon status actually makes it more consistent retroactively. TCW can’t hurt it anymore. Barriss Offee never fell, Even Piell is alive (well, for a little longer, anyway), and Ryloth is tidally locked. Being free of the official canon means being free of Lucas’ pointless whims, as well—and if by some freak chance they actually do revisit storytelling in the EU universe someday, they’re not subservient to a damn thing.

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12:54 PM – Becca Hughes: I was a late starter. I didn’t see Star Wars until I was twelve. A week later my godfather gave me a copy of Heir to the Empire and I read it in one sitting. It was magic. I’ve never been good at separating the Expanded Universe from the films because I never really experienced them as different. I don’t want to react with unseemly, Comic-Book-Guy anger. I don’t want to talk about what we’re owed or act like I know how to run a mulitbillion dollar franchise, but I can’t lie and act like I’m nothing but excited for what comes next.

What will come next? The offer is legitimacy but I fear the price isn’t just everything we had, it’s the scope of the future. The books announced so far tie very closely to the Original Trilogy, or seem to fall into the traditional tie-in pattern of secret stories. Smaller tales filling in the gaps of the movies and TV series, not independent epics spanning millennia and genres. Either this conservative launch line-up is the result of a new direction, or the result of uncertainty.

I suppose if I have to sum up my reaction, I feel I’m in limbo, even though I thought a clear answer would help me find firmer ground. Greg Weisman’s participation in Rebels makes me enormously optimistic about its objective quality. I want to believe the movies will be good. If a beloved EU character makes a debut in the “new” universe, I can’t imagine wanting to miss that. But right now, I feel hollow and sad. I keep thinking of my tween self, staring at the final illustration of the first comic I ever bought: Dark Empire. Luke’s vision of a future Jaina with a turned up trenchcoat and a lightsaber and thinking, if I just wait, one day I will read that story. I was wrong. I waited more than half my life. It cost Jaina both of her brothers. They announced it two months before the Disney merger.

4:09 PM – Jay: So the more I think about this, the more bothered I am by the decision. I stand by my initial statement that we all knew this was coming, but the extent to which it happened is sort of unnerving. I didn’t really expect a full repudiation of the EU, and I think that the consequences are actually a little more problematic than I had thought. It’s not just the stories we’re losing, but the atmosphere — all the little things that made the Star Wars universe unique. Importing back a few recognizable EU names won’t fix that. I can’t go into exactly what I mean in the format of a group piece, but look forward to a fuller piece where I delve into exactly why I’m concerned about this “Legends” business.

4:26 PM – Ben: A line of thought that has arisen over the last 48 hours is that the new EU will plunder the old one and that, while I can see the very cynical corporate logic behind it, irritates profusely.

I think when they looked at the EU, all they saw was the stories and characters and continuity, all they saw were a mass of roadblocks. What they did not see was the greater EU, the information on worlds and history of those worlds. They could have taken a laser and excised the stories but retained the substantive detail. Instead a metaphorical nuke has been let off and the blasted remains shoved in a box marked Legends. I suspect this may be what Jay’s concern centres upon, if so he’s right to be.

Why? Does anyone imagine that they can take 20-30 years’ worth of work by numerous people and replicate it in a few months or a year and a half until Ep 7 comes out? Surely not but I’m skeptical these aspects have even been noticed, that the corporate myopia has only focused on those elements that were deemed to be in the way. That after having done this they realize their error and then quickly do a mass import of info from the Legends EU would be supremely distasteful to me. If a new EU is to be, then a new EU it is to be, not one full of cannibalized parts from the corpse of its predecessor!

Few things surprise me where corporations are concerned. Corporations will tell hundreds of workers they’re great and their contributions are valued and then, a month or so later, sack those same hundreds. So too is it with corporations and fans, the corporations know the fans do not want to abandon, thus anything goes and has. This decision is not an isolated case, it is perhaps the nadir of corporate cynicism and may well earn LFL a reputation… one of infamy.

7:29 PM – Lisa: I’m still excited and optimistic. I can’t wait to see what is in store for the new Star Wars galaxy. I do not love the old one any less but that is not preventing me from closing the book on that chapter of the Star Wars EU and looking forward to opening the book on the new EU.

5 comments

  1. MWB8 says:

    I want to second what Becca said above: “I’ve never been good at separating the Expanded Universe from the films because I never really experienced them as different.”

    This has been the source of my apprehension, from the Disney acquisition to last week’s announcement. And while the bout of optimism from around these quarters and several other bastions of EU fandom around the internet since Thursday has been encouraging, I wonder how we’ll all react when the first schism appears.

    By “schism,” I mean a truly irreconcilable event or decision. For example, watching the ASOIAF fandom react to the Jaime/Cersei rape/not rape scene in a recent episode. Whether it be the killing of a character in a new novel or book, or Luke’s wife in Ep. VII clearly without red hair, there will be some bumps on the road.

    That being said, looking forward to hearing a new story about how the Death Star plans were stolen. Banking on that one.

    • Mike Cooper Mike Cooper says:

      I think if the biggest problem with Luke’s new wife is her hair color we’ll be in pretty good shape. =p

      Conversely, one of the best things about the new situation is the opportunity it’ll give someone to amalgamate the million Death-Star-plans stories into one coherent “best of” version.

      • MWB8 says:

        As I have contributed to the success of that mission on various platforms, I volunteer my services to the story group.

  2. Eric J. Brown says:

    One thing to note – as was noted above when talking about “Tarkin” – things will probably be pulled forward – locations, maybe even whole characters (even if some of the locations and such will have to be changed to protect the innocent). It’s going to be a winnowing… and that’s okay.

    Of course, while I love the EU – in particular the novels, I’ll gladly consign them to a “legends” title if it means I get at least 3 more movies.

    • Zachary Skaggs says:

      See, that’s my problem with this whole thing right there. Star Wars is so much more to me than just the films, that a Star Wars universe without even the Dark Lord Trilogy or Shadows of the Empire just isn’t a Star Wars universe worth investing in.

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