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A Brief History of the 'Star Wars' Universe That Once Was

A Brief History of the 'Star Wars' Universe That Once Was
From Slashfilm - January 26, 2018

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away there was a very special place where countlessbooks, comics, and video games all lived under the same canon. Spanning millennia, these tales allowed your favorite space opera to live on and grow outside of the films you know and love. It was a world where your most beloved heroes had children and most hated villains had entire art galleries dedicated to poor souls trapped in carbonite. It was a wild space where anything was possible Boba Fett even lived!

For over 35 years, it was the playground of Star Wars fans and creators alike. Welcome to the Star Wars Expanded Universe.

The Beginning

George Lucas Star Wars was a cultural phenomenon like no other. The film went from an unpromising releaseto a critical and commercial smash that overtook Jaws to become the highest grossing film of all time. So its unsurprising that fans were desperate for more of the imaginative galaxy that Lucas had created. And in the rush to answer that call, the Expanded Universe (EU) was born. Though there was a Star Wars novelization published by Del Rey (who still produce and publish canon Star Wars books to this day), the first widely recognized EU book is Splinter of the Minds Eye by Alan Dean Foster in 1978. Set between A New Hope andThe Empire Strikes Back, the story focuses on Luke and Leia as they hunt down a mysterious force sensitive gem thats in the grip of theEmpire, drawing from an early script for A New Hope.

The EU had begun and it blossomed over the years. Arguably, it wasnt until a decade later and the arrival of three new pieces of mixed media canon that its full crossover potential was truly discovered. The spark that ignited the EU fire was Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game in 1987, which heralded a level of detail and background that had previously been unseen in the canon. Next came Dark Horses seminal Dark Empire comics.Set directly aftermain trilogy, they turned the galaxy on its head by introducing a Luke Skywalker whod fallen to the Dark Side. The final key was Timothy Zahns Heir to the Empire, the first of his so called Thrawn trilogy. Marketed as the official sequels to the classic Star Wars movies, the series was a massive success and led to an explosion in the world of Star Wars fiction.

The Stories

It would be impossible to cover every single EU title here, but there were certain stories that stood out, series that stood the test of time and made a huge impact on millions of fans. Timothy Zahns Heir to the Empire was a powder keg, quickly becoming a New York Times bestseller, and is still to this day seen as the peak of what the EU had to offer. Set five years after the end of Return of the Jedi, the book introduced a new foe for our favorite heroes, a blue skinned strategic genius named Admiral Thrawn and well get back to him later.

The book showcases some of the things that the EU did best. The novel format gave space for the characters to have interactions and experiences that 100 minutes on screen would never allow. Heir of the Empire introduced a number of key parts of EU canon. Aside from Thrawn, it also introduced Mara Jade, who would later become Luke Skywalkers wife and the mother of his child, Ben Skywalker. Yup, Ben. You heard that right. Zahn also debuted two characters whod become a central part of the EU canon: Princess Leias unborn twins.

Jaina and Jacen Solotwo of Han Solo and Leia Organas three childrenwere first hinted at during Heir of the Empire, but would later become the leads in a 14-story series called Young Jedi Knights. Again, this series showcased the vast breadth of storytelling potential that the EU gave creators and fans alike. It introduced the pair and their friendsincluding Chewies nephew, Lowbaccaas they trained under Luke Skywalker to become the next generation of Jedi. Though the books were all released within three years, Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta crafted an expansive piece of Star Warsfictionthat attracted a whole new generation of fans. Just like Heir of the Empire, this series would end up shaping the future of the Star Wars franchise.

How Did it Work and Why Does it Matter?

After the EU

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