A curious thing happened this week. Over on Lombard Street in San Francisco, a group of Star Wars fans called Give Us Legends paid $5,000 to put up a billboard near the Presidio, which is where Lucasfilm is headquartered. The billboard asked Lucasfilm to continue publishing new Star Wars Legends stories, from what was previously known as the Expanded Universe. Here’s that billboard:
Almost exactly two years ago, on April 25, 2014, the Expanded Universe of books, comics, games, and more was declared non-canon by Lucasfilm, bringing an end to publishing in the decades-old line. The justification was, I think, pretty straightforward: in order to produce new Star Wars stories, including Star Wars: The Force Awakens, rebranding the Expanded Universe as “Legends” freed up storytellers to write brand new stories set in one, interconnected saga.
A fully interconnected saga was not something that had ever truly been done before, as different mediums tended to have more independence. When Kathleen Kennedy became president of Lucasfilm, the coordination of Star Wars storytelling was brought under the Lucasfilm Story Group with new creative executives and a new direction. From 2014 onward, all new movies, shows, books, comics, and games represent the official story of the Star Wars saga. The Expanded Universe, while offering inspiration for writers, is not part of that official story.
I was never a fan of the Expanded Universe, but I cannot deny its value to many fans who were upset with the decision to render it non-canon. Although the Expanded Universe was always on a lower level of canon than the stories by George Lucas, they nonetheless represented the continuation and expansion of the Star Wars story for tens of thousands of Star Wars fans (if not more) around the world. In a time when we never expected to see new films, these were the stories that continued the adventures of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, and their children.
Perhaps the biggest loss for Expanded Universe fans was Sword of the Jedi, which had been a planned trilogy of novels centering on Jaina Solo Fel, a powerful Jedi Master and the daughter of Leia and Han. The story of Luke, Han, and Leia had essentially run its course, but there was still a future ahead for the last remaining child of Leia and Han (her brothers, Jacen Solo and Anakin Solo, had already been killed off in previous books). That future seemingly came to an end with the Expanded Universe. Once The Force Awakens was released and characters like Jaina, Jacen, and Anakin no longer existed, it was clear that the Expanded Universe’s days were behind us.
But! Hope is not lost. Fans themselves can actually continue the Star Wars Legends story. After all, one of the most popular parts of Star Wars fandom is fan fiction—and this is the part where I have to be careful now, because my sincerity could be mistaken for condescension. So let me back up real quick.
I got my start in Star Wars fandom writing fan fiction. To this day I am the owner of a Star Wars writing website, where fans can come together to write their own Star Wars adventures. That site is the whole reason I ended up working for Wikia, the Home of Fandom. I would not be writing this article here on Fandom if I had not decided to write fan fiction twelve years ago. (Yes, I’m really that old.) I say all of that to make a point: I am not mocking anyone by suggesting that they continue writing Star Wars Legends through fan fiction. If I was, I would be mocking myself.
Sure, fan fiction will never be “official,” but never mistake that for being the same as “not real.” Real and not real are in the eye of the beholder. I’ve written Star Wars stories that are more real to me than most of the officially-licensed Star Wars stories that have come out in recent memory, including the canon ones. If the Expanded Universe represents the real Star Wars to you, keep it alive through the power of fandom.
Jaina Solo has more stories left to be told. So do many other characters from the Expanded Universe, but the time for their officially-licensed stories has passed. All good things must come to an end, and Star Wars has moved into a new era of storytelling. Jaina’s legacy now belongs to her fans, and her fans are the ones who can continue to tell her adventures.
The best part about it? Anyone can decide what they want her story to be. Everyone can decide what counts as real to them. In the end, that’s the whole point: whether a story is canon or non-canon, official or fan fiction, you get to decide what counts as canon to you.
So, I would ask yourself: will you carry that legacy forward?
That’s a very empowering idea.