Friday, December 11, 2015
Star Wars- Getting Caught Up on the Story!
The early development of the Expanded Universe was sporadic and unrefined, particularly because there was so little official material for the creators to build on. For example, the "Expanded Universe" is generally considered to have begun with Alan Dean Foster's February 1978 Star Wars spin-off novel, Splinter of the Mind's Eye (although technically it began with Marvel Comics' Star Wars #7 in mid-January 1978). This novel drew inspiration primarily from an early draft of the Star Wars script and was conceptualized as a possible filmed sequel. Furthermore, while George Lucas was given sole writing credit for the original Star Wars novelization, Alan Dean Foster actually ghost-wrote it, contributing heavily to the Universe in the process. While he worked on the novelization, he was given a copy of the working script and a tour of the production.
Much of the early EU material from the early 1980s contained analogies to the real world, rather than embracing the holistic fiction of the Star Wars films. Much of this material now seems rather detached from the rest of the EU.
A turning point was reached when West End Games began publishing the Star Wars Roleplaying Game in 1987. In order for players of the roleplaying game to create new adventures, West End Games needed to provide supplemental material describing the Star Wars universe in previously unknown detail. For example, the Aurebesh alphabet was originally a random piece of set dressing in Return of the Jedi. Stephen Crane copied those symbols and turned them into a complete and coherent alphabet (which would later be used in the feature films). Developing details like this in a consistent fashion turned West End Games' Star Wars products into a de facto reference library for the Star Wars universe, to the point where Lucasfilm actually sent copies of the game supplements to other EU developers to use as source material.
Shortly thereafter, in the early 1990s, Bantam published Timothy Zahn's Thrawn trilogy. Widely publicized as the "sequels which were never made", Zahn's novels reignited Star Wars fandom and sparked a revolution in Star Wars literature. Around this same time, Dark Horse Comics acquired the Star Wars license and used it to launch a number of ambitious sequels to the original trilogy, including the popular Dark Empire stories.
All this development began to feed back on itself: West End Games was producing roleplaying supplements detailing the material from Dark Horse's comics and Zahn's novels. Novelists and comic creators were using West End Games' supplements as reference material. Sequels to the novels were being published as comics and vice versa. The scope of the Expanded Universe grew at a prodigious rate.
To date, the bulk of the Expanded Universe has detailed the Star Wars universe after the end of Return of the Jedi. Numerous of topics, including the rise of the Galactic Empire, the personal histories of Anakin Skywalker and Emperor Palpatine, and the Clone Wars had been declared off limits by George Lucas before the development of the prequel trilogy.
It was decided in the late 1990s that using the Empire as the villains had become repetitive and monotonous. Hence a new threat, the Yuuzhan Vong, was introduced in The New Jedi Order, more specifically, in the first book of the series, Vector Prime. Vector Prime proved controversial, as it marked the first and only time a major character from the films (Chewbacca) was killed off in an Expanded Universe work.