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A New Dawn shines a light on the future of Star Wars

In our previous review, we discussed how Honor Among Thieves provides a blueprint for the future of the EU. Since then, there has been a rather unprecedented change in the nature of the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Now redubbed “Legends,” the old EU is functionally an alternate universe continuity which serves as a large resource for the new ongoing Star Wars canon to draw inspiration from or even fully import background concepts and ideas. All upcoming Star Wars novels will be part of this new canon, vetted by the Lucasfilm Story Group in order to ensure cohesion between the novels, comics, television series, and films to a greater extent than the often ramshackle cohesion between the old EU and the films. A New Dawn (AND), written by Star Wars novel and comic veteran and fan-favorite John Jackson Miller (JJM), is the first adult novel to be released under the auspices of the Story Group.

Instead of a standard review, we’re going to take a look how AND uses and implements the old EU, and how it departs from it. To get the reviewing part out of the way though – it’s a fun Star Wars story with an original cast of characters and a fascinating villain. These factors are important to why it’s a fun story, but they’re also important in (hopefully) hinting at the style of future novels as well as the Rebels television series. Executive Producer Dave Filoni has already stated his preference for Rebels to focus on its particular cast of characters because the galaxy is large enough to show exciting adventures without needing to resort to film characters as a narrative crutch. If AND is any indication, such a thing is not only possible but also preferable.

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“What’s a Duck?” – The Current State of Star Wars Canon

There’s been a lot of talk since last week’s news about the Expanded Universe – talk that ran the gamut from ecstasy to outrage. Some folks have been excited to see the end of the EU that they feel has gone downhill over the past several years, or even become too bloated to sustain. Others are so upset by the loss of their cherished stories that they cannot see themselves continuing onward in the fandom. We’ve even seem some who say “finally! Now that the EU’s starting over, I can start reading books without feeling lost.”

Personally, we’re more inclined to feel a profound sense of loss at this decision. For us, the EU has always been the essence of Star Wars. While we had enjoyed the original films before reading any of the books, it was the Expanded Universe that made us a fan and that kept our interest long after. The stories of Rogue Squadron, Thrawn’s shenanigans, the foundation of the Jedi Academy, and the bright promise of the Solo kids: these were our earliest and fondest Star Wars memories. Even after the prequels, the ups and downs of the NJO, and our decided disenchantment with what came after, we still looked at those original stories with fondness. If anything, the announcement has made our affection for the old EU even stronger.

Today, though, we’re here to talk about the future. It’s been long enough now that most people have come to terms with what’s happened: either feeling a sense of loss or optimism, but the strongest harshest feelings have had time to mellow out. What we want to present is a sober-minded assessment of where we are, and what this really means. Our basic feeling is this: the post-ROTJ EU is on seriously shaky ground depending on the specifics of the films and its status won’t be clear for some time, but it is highly likely that the pre-film EU (particularly KOTOR) will get recanonized without a hitch and that much background continuity (e.g., the name of the Bothan homeworld) will be recanonized by reference too. That said, there’s still cause for concern: until we get there, we have tremendous uncertainty what’s still canon and there’s no guarantee that all the little bits and pieces that comprised the grand tapestry of the EU can possibly be brought back. That’s something worth being concerned about.

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Honor Among Thieves – Blueprint for the future EU?

—–WARNING, MILD SPOILERS AHEAD—–

One doesn’t go into Star Wars: Empire and Rebellion: Honor Among Thieves expecting earth-shattering events. The novel is part of a series set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, so there’s a limited scope of action. Luke can’t display any dazzling Force feats, because he still struggles with telekinesis in ESB. Han can’t fully commit to the Rebellion or romance Leia, because that hasn’t happened yet either. Leia still has room to be a Rebel leader and diplomat, but the scale of the Rebellion’s successes still has to be pretty small since they’ve just won their first truly major victory. So all in all, it can’t be very interesting, can it? The first book in this series, Razor’s Edge, was at least Leia-centric in a way that novels haven’t been for a long time, but a Han-centric book between the first two films surely has got to feel like a retread.

If you supposed that, you would be wrong. To be sure, the overall plot isn’t going to involve a galaxy-changing turn of events. There are little surprises in the situation of the Rebellion and the Empire at the end of the story, but that isn’t and shouldn’t be – excuse our pun – the whole story. James S.A. Corey – actually the pen name of two co-authors, but whom we’ll treat in the singular – does an excellent job of immersing the reader in the novel. Character development and world development are two issues that are extremely important to us as a reader, and these are strengths that this book has as a whole. It feels authentic, and it feels like a living, breathing galaxy. That’s important, because in the near future, we won’t be seeing any galaxy-shaking events in the EU since those will be reserved for the still-mysterious Episode VII. Instead, we’ll see more books like Honor Among Thieves and the Rebels television series, which will flesh out and develop periods of the timeline which we’ve generally already explored. If this novel is a prototype for future EU of that sort, we’re in good shape.
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Senseless Sexism in the Galactic Empire

daala-ercRecently on the Imperial Court Circular, we’ve discussed the gendered aspects of fan service as well as the elements of what makes the Galactic Empire the primary Star Wars antagonist. Today we’ll blend issues of the sexes and the Galactic Empire by discussing one of the Galactic Empire’s most enduring and iconic traits: institutionalized misogyny.

As we’ve discussed on this site in the past, the Galactic Empire has particular political and historical antecedents: among them, Nazi Germany, Imperial Rome, the British colonial empire, and even certain American presidential administrations. The Empire has taken many traits and trappings from these inspirations, from Nazi-styled military uniforms to a political organization that reflects the rise to power of figures such as Julius and Augustus Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Adolf Hitler. The tone of the Empire reflects both the successes – particularly of the more positive British and Roman examples – and darkest traits of these inspirations: military dictatorship, pervasive propaganda, and racial bigotry (in the case of the Galactic Empire, anti-alien bigotry).

Sexism never made much sense as being one of those defining traits of the Galactic Empire. Sexism in fiction generally has two authorial justifications: first, as a reflection of actual historical sexism in the setting of the story and second, as an attempt to engage and criticize contemporary sexism through the lens of a fictional story. Since Star Wars is an invented universe, the first justification is a bit of a reach despite the historical inspirations for the Galactic Empire, and the second justification is unconvincing because of the EU’s failure to adequately address in-universe sexism in a constructive fashion.

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What Star Wars Can Learn From The Jupiter Pirates

We’ve got a bit of an interesting case on our hands in that the “What Star Wars Can Learn From . . .” series here at Eleven-Thirty Eight generally tends to focus on other franchises entirely disconnected from Star Wars. The Jupiter Pirates: The Hunt for the Hydra is a brand-new novel by veteran Star Wars writer and esoterica enthusiast Jason Fry, who has written in his own original world but is definitely a player in the Expanded Universe that we all know and love. To that end, this article may well have been named: “Reasons why Jason Fry should be allowed to write a Star Wars novel.”

We shall try to maintain a dignified and discreet air about all this, though, because that suits our style better. But please imagine a subtext running throughout this article that amounts to a wink and a nudge to Lucasfilm and Del Rey to give this man a novel. We – that is, we ourself and not ETE proper – can also give our approving endorsement of this novel and certainly encourage our readers to give it a look.

This novel is kid-friendly in the best way: it’s written for a young adult audience (aged 8 to 12, according to Amazon, though the young adult label on the official website would suggest to us the ages of 13-18) and balances action with thoughtful world-building. It’s set in the future, but influenced by familiar history in a way that leaves the story grounded. That future is still plagued by some of the problems of today, but despite the historical tinge it’s not mired in backwards gender structures. These are all things we could stand to see more of in Star Wars.

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