Film Here we go again. Considering, as we've established years ago, I don't really care about the Star Wars Expanded Universe, apart from the Clone Wars animated series or how it reflects on canonicity debates in general this will be my fourth blog post on the topic. But as you will have heard, now that Disney are full steam ahead with their ownership of Star Wars, as this rather good Ars Technica op-ed explains, they're taking a chainsaw to the EU with Leyland Chee and the "Lucasfilm Story Group" setting themselves up as arbiters of exactly what is and isn't canonical, scrapping the various layers of canonicity and presumably sending the editors of the Wookiepedia into a nose dive (or so you would think). They're presumably not calling it the Lucasfilm Story Committee because they were not elected to watch their people suffer and die while they discuss this invasion in a committee. Or some such.
It's all a bit ambiguous but as Ars Technica infers, it seems as though there would be the old canonicity hierarchy of old, from the films down to Splinter of the Mind's Eye and other apocrypha, but simply that this or that novel, comic strip, audio book, computer game or animation is or isn't canon and that this story group are essentially going to spend their time looking at these things and deciding whether this or that Dark Horse epic fits in the new timeline or not like some pop culture equivalent of the Wildenstein Institute (cf, the BBC's Fake or Fortune for their activities). I like to think there'll be an intern at the end of a boardroom table at the ranch with a pile of novels holding each up in turn followed by a show of hands from the group. "Dark Nest I: The Joiner King? .... right that's three for, two against. Dark Nest II: The Unseen Queen? Dark Nest III: The Swarm War?"
The whole thing's hilariously bonkers but there are some serious, albeit first world, problems about all of this. As I indicated years ago, when fans have been led to believe that the novel series they're reading has some value in a quasi-shared universe is suddenly told that actually it has no importance whatsoever, they have every right to feel a bit cheated. This is going to be that on an epic scale. There will be fans with masses of merchandise and favourite stories who are about to discover that in the shared narrative of the Warsiverse (or whatever it's called) it means bugger all. Similarly there will be creatives, writers, artists and the like who also thought their work was contributing to this endeavour who're also going to discover that to an extent they were wasting their time, which will be especially annoying for those who had to mess their narratives about because of some past Lucasfilm continuity directive.
To be fair, the way the Expanded Universe continued to expand there had to be some contraction and I suggested as much a couple of years ago. These new owners were always unlikely to want to keep this whole thing going with new films coming out simply because of people like me who look at this list of novels and wonder why they should even bother trying to jump in. Notice how, in comparison, the MARVEL Film Universe has been pretty circumspect in its narrative expansion keeping everything live action, only inferring that elements of the cartoons may be in the same universe and not going anywhere near releasing novels or comics connected to the films beyond the odd prequel. They've presumably looked at the Wars problem and realised that they need to keep things as accessible as possible knowing there will be fans of the film series who never pick up a comic book.
The problem is, Lucasfilm are trying to have it both ways. For everything I said in paragraph three, the ideal option, the option they should probably logically be pursuing is dumping the whole lot and starting again, with just the films, the Clone Wars cartoons, this new Rebels thing and sundry other bits and bobs (probably the Ewok movies because what does it matter?) canonical and everything else sent to apocrypha, in other words the quasi-Star Trek approach (where only filmed things are canonical), which would give JJ Abrams the creative freedom to do what he likes with the next three films and whatever spin-off pieces are in development like Boba Fett and let all the fans know where they stand. Then anything produced after a certain date is considered new canon but it's much more heavily controlled, assuming its officially canonical anyway.
But Lucasfilm have instead decided on this strange halfway house which leaves fans in a kind of narrative limbo hoping that at some point they'll publish a list that indicates Shadows of the Empire is canonical or what have you so that the really dedicated ones can go through and fillet their collection, boxing up and garaging anything which doesn't "matter". They're also having endless discussions online right now about what they hope will still "matter" and how they'll burn their 501 battalion membership cards if Mara Jade disappears. Plus there could be writers and artists working on material right now not knowing if when it's published it'll be the Doctor Who's Scream of the Shalka of the SW EU and dead on arrival. It could be that they don't care so long as they get paid, but they're passionate about the work they're doing, they'd have to be a bit concerned about these things.
They're essentially petarded by the cross platform approach they've taken to the damn thing. The Clone Wars animation will now be completed in a four-part Dark Horse comic based on the scripts they didn't get around to turning into moving pictures. Which means they can't make the kinds of unilateral decisions they really should and would if they were caught up in the amount of creative investment which has gone into building this whole narrative edifice in the years since the first Star Wars film was released. Never mind the Wookiepedia, try reading an official Star Wars Reference Guide; they're filled with biographical material for minor characters developed across these various platforms and integrated together. If only they're taken the Trek or Who approach of only including material from moving pictures. It's bewildering.
What's the solution? There probably isn't one, not now that the EU's been established as a thing. My guess is they'll consider the material in terms of chronology rather than media. So they won't simply dump all the comics or all the novels, but rather keep those material related to events in the Lucasverse like all of the pre-historic and Old Republic stuff , anything related to the prequels and the Clone Wars and odd things like Shadows of the Empire, perhaps with a cut off point somewhere in the vicinity of Jedi so that Chewbacca lives, though it all depends how much they're going to micro-manage all of this, keeping stories but saying this or that element. The Zahn novels "matter" but not the sections dealing with the Clone Wars. Not that I've read any of this despite once owning them. Unlike Who, which most of the time you can simply dive into, but like comics universes, wouldn't know where to start. Not that I'd want to.
Will this Lucas Story Group publish a list either in book form or as a database? They should if only so that fans don't find themselves arguing over continuity issues, which they probably do already but it would at least mean they have a roadmap. They should also do it before the new films come out, at least so that said fans don't spend their time wondering where Luke's children are or Han and Leias or what have you. Unless fans don't actually care about such things, we're reaching the edge of my knowledge. They should then, having produced said list, make sure that all of it's available to buy somewhere other than second hand where prices are sure to be inflated and also give some indication of an order in which they could be approached, this basically but more complex. Not that, like I said, I care about any of this stuff.