The Expanded Universe Should Only Expand, Not Change

I love the Expanded Universe. I love that it exists. I love that there are books and comics and even video games to fill up my Star Wars obsessiveness in the absence of film and TV shows. I love that Heir to the Empire jump-started the fandom way back in 1991. I love that the barrage of books and comics kept the fandom going strong during the 1990s. I love that the EU always drove the Star Wars story forward, no matter what was happening onscreen. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: without the EU I would not have become a Star Wars fan.

I don’t always like the way people treat the Expanded Universe. I hate that people look down upon it. But I also dislike when fans treat it as just as important as what’s onscreen. This might seem odd, coming from an EU fan like me, but it’s true. I hate when people take something that happened in a book and assume it will have huge consequences for the Sequel Trilogy. Yes, everything is canon now, but that doesn’t mean every story holds the same weight.

Nor should they.

(spoilers for Star Wars #6 and #8 under the cut)

Last week, Mike Cooper of Eleven-Thirty Eight wrote a column about recontextualizing the Original Trilogy. In general, I like his premise — a “what if” game predicated on the fact that without the EU, we really don’t know much about Luke, Han, Leia, or even Lando. Their EU slates have been wiped clean.

In his article, Mike brought up Sana Solo, alleged wife of Han, who was introduced at the end of Star Wars #6.

But if it’s even sort of true, it is a big deal, right? An ex-wife would be a big new chunk of Han’s backstory; one that would cast his character in the original trilogy, and certainly his relationship with Leia, in a new light. For a lot of people, this realization came with an edge of moralistic tut-tutting—as if there was no version of Sana’s story that wouldn’t make Han look like a bastard. But for me, it just underlines how little we really know—post-reboot—about who the Big Three are as three-dimensional people; what their lives were like before the films, what prejudices they have and what traumas and joys they’ve experienced.

Two issues later, we still don’t know whether Sana is lying or if she really is Han Solo’s wife. Either way he’s got a lot of explaining to do, and it can’t happen soon enough for fandom.

Mike posits that Sana’s existence makes us rethink everything we knew about Han Solo’s character. What if Han really did have a wife during A New Hope, and the rest of the Original Trilogy? What does that make us think about him?

A lot of people were very excited about Sana’s existence, because it’s a huge change to the status quo. It got mainstream media outlets talking about Star Wars comics, which is no easy feat. And, as Mike points out, now it’s all canon, so Sana’s existence can have a big effect on the saga as a whole.

But can it, really? Or rather, should it?

I say no.

Sana might be a fantastic character, and I hope she sticks around long enough for us to find out what makes her tick. (I do not want another woman of color to die just to cause man-pain, thank you very much.) But I don’t want her to show up in The Force Awakens, nor do I want Finn to be a descendant of Han and Sana Solo.

This might sound like a strange argument coming from an EU enthusiast such as myself. After all, my greatest wish for TFA is for Luke to have a kid, and there are a lot of characters (Tycho Celchu and Mara Jade , for instance) who I’d love to make the jump to the new canon. But becoming part of the new canon and playing a major role in the Sequel Trilogy are two very different things. Also, if Luke does have a child, it’s pretty easy for people to fill in the blanks  about what happened to him after Return of the Jedi — he met someone, fell in love, got married (perhaps), and had a kid. We don’t need to know all the dirty details to figure it out, even if the EU does eventually tell those stories.

Because as much as I love the EU, when it comes down to it I believe the movies should be self-contained stories. Yes, fandom asks a lot of questions about what happens in the movies, and yes, many times the EU steps in to answer those questions. But you shouldn’t have to follow the EU to understand what’s going on in the Sequel Trilogy, or even in Rebels.

Imagine that we get to TFA and Finn is, in fact, Han’s grandkid. People without knowledge of the comics will be asking a ton of questions: “When was Han married before? Why did he never mention it in the original movies? Who is Finn’s mother? What does Leia think about this? Did Han know he ever had kids by another woman?” Yes, it’d be easy to point people to the Star Wars comics for an explanation, but you shouldn’t have to do that for them to get those answers.

The EU should be used for background, for expanding the universe — not creating it wholesale. There’s nothing wrong with taking a character like Rae Sloane and using her in Rebels. She’d fit in perfectly to the story and you wouldn’t have to give any of her background. She’s just an admiral. If people really like her, you could point them to A New Dawn or Aftermath. The same goes for Zare Leonis. You don’t need to know more about him to understand his role in Rebels, but reading the Servants of the Empire series makes you appreciate him even more. I knew nothing about Quinlan Vos before his introduction in The Clone Wars and I figured everything out in the context of the show.

And that’s why I believe the EU should stay EU. I always loved the post-RotJ EU the most because it was mostly self-contained from what we saw in the films. Sure, Luke formed a Jedi Academy and got married and had a kid. Sure Han and Leia got married, had a kid who went bad and died, another who just died, and another one who got ignored a bunch. But those stories don’t change what we see in the OT. They don’t change our perceptions.

Nor, in my opinion, should they.

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4 thoughts on “The Expanded Universe Should Only Expand, Not Change

  1. Damn it, Nanci, I was all excited for us to have this awesome feud, and you had to go and write a piece that I don't, really, disagree with at all.

    I didn't write what I wrote to assert that the EU should be as important as the films---even if on some level I'd appreciate that, it's entirely unrealistic to expect, f.e., Finn to be related to Sana. Likewise, none of the theories I discussed in my piece were things I thought should go on to be utilized directly in the films. In fact, very much the opposite; it's completely possible for the ST to come and go without directly contradicting any of my ideas---which was kinda my actual point: though the head of the franchise they may be, the films are very superficial storytelling devices, and if SW is to operate on the premise that these are living, breathing characters with consistent personalities and histories across several mediums, that means there's a lot of room to fill things in around the edges; more than the old EU tended to take advantage of, because they were still playing the "be careful with George's toys" game.

    I don't want or expect the EU to "change" what's going on in the films, per your title. But in terms of Sana, unless one has a serious religious objection to divorce (and maybe even then) I think it's very premature to assume that she'll have any impact on who Han is by the time of ESB, except maybe to illustrate that this is a guy who's had his share of tumultuous relationships. And beyond Sana, all I was saying is that there's a lot the EU could do to shade in the characters in exciting new ways that in no way contradict the films---even in ways that are kind of logical if you just adjust your perspective slightly. That's what "expansion" is, I think, not just "other stuff that happened".

    • Well, like I said before, your article didn't really make me rage so much as it made me think about another topic. But I can try harder to disagree with you if you'd like. 😛

  2. Yeah I'm very much in agreement. I love the EU adding color to the universe. Where it gets murky is when it skirts close to or actually does actively retcon film/television material.

    I think that's a reason stuff like the X-Wing novels works so well. They add, not replace.

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