I don't really care about this

Books We've talked before about issues related to massive franchises and the canonicity thereof and as a warning I'm going to be talking about them again. This is rather old news, but Karen Traviss one of the more popular novelists in the Star Wars universe has decided to stop writing for the franchise or as the Canon Wars blog puts it, "Popular SW Writer Quits Over Continuity". The whys and wherefores of this are fairly complex, and if you want the detailed version of it, she's written about it on her blog, but what it boils down to is this:

Having been hired write a series of novels set during the Clone Wars, most specificially focusing on the troopers and done that for half a decade, the animated series has turned around and added events which radically alters the version of events which she's been writing about. The plot of the cartoon has invalidated the plot of Traviss's novels, essentially tossing out all of her work in favour of something else and everything she had been planning to do in her stories doesn't make any sense within the highly sensitive grand Star Wars narrative.

Rather than trying to rewrite the history of her own books and pretend the new history is what she's otherwise been writing about, the author has decided to talk away. In that blog entry she's pretty sanguine about the affair, talking about it in terms of just being a tie-in writer for hire, that her work doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things and she's got other work she can be getting on with. It's been fun, but it's time to leave the storytelling to someone else. Laadeedaa.

Except if I was her, I'd be pissed off, and here's why.

The new tv series of Doctor Who has been careful not to contradict anything from the spin-off novels but inevitably this has happened; but unlike Lucasfilm the BBC has never sat down and said what is or isn't canon and though some fans have had a go at making it work together, most of us I think have just decided that as a time travel series which even during its original run often contradicted itself and sometimes in the same story, that it doesn't have to be consistent. It's all about how good the particularly story we're watching is.

Contrast that with Star Wars, which of all the franchises, is the one which has been fairly arrogant about how it has a "canon" and how they have a department and this guy keeping an eye on things so that everything makes sense to the point of apparently ordering authors to change their work so that it matches what's gone before. It has been rumoured that cracks are appearing, that to an extent Lucas views the films as one canon and whatever it is canon-keeper Leland Chee's doing as something else but nevertheless when Lucasfilm are happy to put someone up for Wired magazine to interview about this aspect of their business.

That being the case, the multiple authors working within the franchise must feel a certain responsibility for continuing the story and have the expectation that whatever they're doing won't be purposefully contradicted, in other words, if you've been hired to write a series of novels it should be on the understanding that whatever you're doing is important within the wider context, and that your medium isn't going to be considered less important than the message of another, that the cartoon is more important than the novels.

Except, in any sane world, the animated Clone Wars series is more important than the novels. It reaches a far larger audience and as episodic television filling in the gap between live action films shouldn't be beholden to whatever is happening in the books and one single author. Yet, here's the rub. What's the point in thumping your chest about how well you're making this grand narrative consistent and make sense if you can turn around and throw out a building storyline that a proportion of fans have invested in, both time and money, at any opportunity?

Please understand, I don't really care about this, even if the past few paragraphs suggest otherwise. I haven't read a Star Wars novel in my life. But I do like my genre franchises and I imagine if I was a Star Wars fan and liked these particular novels I'd be fairly annoyed about the situation, I'd feel like I'd been ripped off; it smells of the same kind of creative decision which dissolved Peter Parker's marriage in the Spiderman comic books and chips away at fragile artistic integrity such things have, offering the naysayers something else to point and laugh at. Which is something which effects us all.

[Insert about ten paragraphs about how much easier it is to be a Doctor Who fan in this climate.]

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