I grew up a Star Trek fan. Star Wars wasn’t on my radar until I saw a Millennium Falcon toy at my friend’s house. I was intrigued, as it had none of the sleek lines and graceful architecture I saw in a Constitution or Galaxy-class vessel, but it didn’t stick. I then saw the movies, later on the USA network. I thought they were good, like nothing I had ever seen before, but it still didn’t stick. Then, my mom bought me Assault on Selonia, the second book in the Correllian Trilogy featuring the young Solo Children, Thrackan Sal-Solo, and Mara Jade, alongside all the film’s heroes. Leia had a lightsaber. This was a world that entranced and fascinated me, and since I had read the middle book, I, of course, went to find the first and third, and thus it stuck: I was a Star Wars fan.
I had read Star Trek books, leftovers from my dad’s collection, and some of them I really enjoyed, but each one was as episodic as the films, with no interconnectedness, save for the characters themselves. This wasn’t the case with the Star Wars novels . . . Shelly Shapiro and Sue Rostini were two names in the front of every book; they were the keepers of the EU at LucasFilm. Every storyline, every character went through their desks before making it to the page. Talon Karrde may be written by several authors, but the key elements of his character remained the same. Zonoma Sekot became the home of the Yuuzhan Vong, books separated by half a century in the timeline connected to each other. This was a living, breathing universe where choices mattered, where no matter how grim things got for Wedge Antilles, he never forgot his parent’s refueling center at Gus Treta, or the care that a smuggler named Booster Terrick showed for him when they were killed. I learned terms like eyeball, dupe, and squint, names of fighter jocks called TIE’s, Bombers and Interceptors. This became my lingo, and I was able to be “one of the guys.” That’s what Star Wars had always been to me: friends that I could connect to, families that I could celebrate and mourn with. The moments that stuck with me weren’t Luke killing the Death Star, not Vader’s turn against Palpatine, but when Chewbacca died, when Han learned that his youngest son was immortalized by his eldest by naming a Star Destroyer after him, when Ysane Isard blasted her way out of Corouscant with her Super Star Destroyer Lusankya, thereby proving the innocence of Tycho Celchu who had flown into the Second Death Star. These were the moments that will live on with me, they are the stories of people not graced by the Force, but everyday folks who make the galaxy go round. And characters who we didn’t get to see fully onscreen; Yoda’s meeting with Dooku in The Cestus Deception still gives me chills in a way the films never could.
So, where does this leave me now? The books have been de-cannonized; they never happened. It’s not such a big deal, until The Force Awakens took me up short. I loved the movie, it’s got all the fantastic wonder and hero’s journey that mark the series. Sure, I recognized that some elements of the EU had made their way back into the story; Kylo Ren’s fascination with Vader mirrors Jacen’s in the Legacy of the Force series, Han and Leia splitting up is part of the Yuuzhan Vong saga, and I’m really hoping that the small plinth next to Luke on the island at the end will be his wife’s gravestone. But when Han revealed Kylo’s name…it gave me pause. Well, totally pulled me out of the movie really. Ben? It was too much of a disconnect for me. In the EU, Ben is Luke’s child, since Leia never met Kenobi, it would have not really made sense for that name to be right. I couldn’t enjoy the moment, because I was caught up in everything that I knew from before.
Here’s the thing: Star Wars isn’t right, wrong, or anything. It’s a fun place to play for a lot of creators, and the new direction under Disney’s banner will be its own thing. There, Ben kills his father Han to complete his journey to the Dark Side. But, for me, Ben is Luke’s son and will have adventures of a different sort. Lucas, Abrams, and a slew of others to come won’t really be the storytellers I’m necessarily looking for in a galaxy far, far away, but offer me Timothy Zahn, Michael A. Stackpole, Aaron Allston, or Karen Traviss, and I’m going to feel right at home.
May the Force be with you always, and in all ways.