That’s why. That’s why most of us end up being drawn to the Star Wars Expanded Universe. When the words “ The End” come up, we do not wish to be the end. That cannot be it? Surely there must be more to it? Surely there must be further adventures? The EU allows us to sidestep that double-edged, bittersweet sense that the best endings have. That the story is over, that it has come to a resounding conclusion and there will be no more. You want more? Find yourself a new story then.
Instead the EU allows us to have our cake and eat it, that brilliant series of films – I’m referring to the Original Trilogy here by the by – is only the start! There’s far more to come. Yet in doing this, a continuing tension is set up within the material because in defying the end, it denies itself an ending. The EU will continue forever, that’s the idea. Stop the train because you want to get off? Sorry, you’ll have to jump, there’s the door, good luck!
Does the EU need an end? Ah, yes. Yes it does, at least in part. The problem is in how to do it in such a way as to carry the fanbase with it. It just so happens that, right now, a book is indeed, by all the accounts I can find, about to attempt the retirement of Luke, Han and Leia. It is going to be fascinating as to whether that actually takes or not. My suspicion is that it won’t, despite it being needed for the characters. As the EU has galloped heedlessly through time like a rampant TARDIS, so have the character aged – the books have covered about 4 decades, but there’s nowhere near the character changes you’d expect in a person across such a span of time.
Why? Because of the nature of the EU – it exists to re-kindle that spirit you felt when watching the movies and that necessitates a certain set of characters, outlooks, events and style for a story. For those who dislike a story, it’s dismissed as rehash, for those who like it, it’s an inspired re-invention. Despite the genre flexibility – which the Cry Havac columns are exploring under the banner of Star Wars and Genre – there are still these essential limits to the stories that can be told. Repetition is wanted but it blocks development and change and any sense of planning for an ending.
My own EU interest is certainly on the wane. It’s been that way for a good few years – but it’s only recently that I’ve realised the importance of endings for a story. Reading Magician’s End by Raymond Feist snapped the last pieces into focus. There, the ending is sharp but also fitting. It’s been well prepared for, but remains surprising in how it unfurls. After reading it, you don’t want more stories because they would spoil what has just been done. In a way that happened with the EU more than once. The saying is: Leave the audience wanting more. It says nothing about giving them more and there’s a lot of good reasons for that.
I don’t have much in the way of plans for this column, but for right now? Considering the EU from a more terminal perspective will be the focus of the next few, unless I see something I really have to write about….
4 thoughts to “Fleeing The End….”
I think you’ve pinpointed a very interesting question, Ben. The EU needs to hit a point at which it can step back from Luke, Leia, and Han and turn its attention to pushing the stories of the next generations forward, but it can’t afford to abandon them entirely.
Now that they’re into their sixties or beyond, though, I think it’s fair to expect a pivot point at which they take a backseat. We’ve got over forty years now to tell stories about them going forward, and that time hasn’t been used up yet. I think it would be very possible to make that pivot, especially if they make an actual point of “Hey, look, we’re launching the next generation of Star Wars!” But there’s this commercial consideration pulling against the necessity of eventually ending their run, and the powers that be have yet to find a graceful way of making that transition. They tried at the end of the NJO, but they couldn’t keep it up for even a single sequel. They made an end and immediately fled it.
I would say that hopefully Crucible will take, but since I have no faith in it to do justice as a pivot, I’m put in the awkward position of kind of hoping it doesn’t at the same time I really hope it just does and we can just move on and worry about crafting a better final adventure later once the transition is made. Not an ideal position to be in.
I think if they were really serious about retiring the Big Three, Crucible would be followed by a time jump of at least twenty years. That leaves a huge amount of time for them to have gracefully faded into the background with the novels having to actually depict such a thing consistently–and still leaves space for anyone who really does want to go back and tackle them one last time.
I’ve always thought a time jump was the best way to handle it, too. Rather than have the pressure of trying to find a way to write out the big three and make that transition, skip ahead ten years or so (going ahead only five years to 50 ABY also makes for a great round number to sell the masses on a “next generation” storyline) and simply present a new status quo in which Luke is retired and training students, Leia is on the Jedi Council, Han is in the background, whatever, and Jaina, Jag, Ben, Allana, and whatever new characters you introduce are holding down the story as the main characters. Worry about going back to the transition later.
I think if they sold it as a done deal — “Fifty years after the movies, come read about the adventures of the original heroes’ children and grandchildren as they lead the Star Wars galaxy into the future. Come see the apprentices of Luke Skywalker” — as they did Legacy, “the future of Star Wars,” it could become a big event without relying on the big three to sell. It’s not as if they won’t still have plenty of years to tell Luke stories, either.
Problem is the ship has kind of sailed on graceful retirement hasn’t it? The Unifying Force was the time for it but, having demonstrated for the last 5 years that they had a pair of stonking great balls to kill off characters and wreck planets, to invoke Snatch’s Bullet Tooth Tony, Del Ray’s balls then shrank!
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