While perusing my shelves trying to decide what to read (no easy task, I can assure you), my eyes landed on my collection of Star Wars books. Over the years I’ve acquired quite a few, many of which I originally read as library books and later added to my personal collection. Jedi Apprentice. Galaxy of Fear. The Jedi Academy Trilogy. The Thrawn Trilogy. X-Wing: Rogue Squadron. The Young Jedi Knights series. Many of these I haven’t read in years. And as I gazed at them, recalling fond memories of reading those stories, a melancholy feeling overwhelmed me.
Because these stories don’t officially exist anymore.
Now, I’m going to state right up front that I completely understand the decision to make anything created before April 2014 no longer canon. (This of course excludes the six main films and The Clone Wars TV series and movie.) Although the Star Wars Expanded Universe (EU) did its best to avoid contradicting itself (and managed it far better than poor Star Trek did), I can understand why, in the interest of creative freedom, Disney and Lucasfilm didn’t want to be shackled to the expectations and events presented in the EU. While some additions to the EU are absolutely amazing, like the characters of Admiral Thrawn and Mara Jade, others are… shall we say… far less desirable. (I’m looking at you, New Jedi Order.)
So, I get it. I really do. But I don’t always have to like it.
I feel like the Star Wars Expanded Universe was something unique. No other fandom has such a large body of work spanning mediums, one that gave stories to every single character that appeared on screen, and yet still did a damn fine job at remaining internally consistent. While every fandom has its fanfiction to try to explain away inconsistencies and expand on the original material, the sheer scope of the Star Wars EU sets it apart. The amount of love and care poured into these stories is mind-boggling. And it saddens me to know there really are some great stories and characters that will never be part of what “really” happened to Luke, Leia, and Han. In a way, it renders so much of the literature that I consumed between the ages of 7 and 17 moot. It’s been demoted to a Legend. A long-running fanfic. A lie.
Ultimately, the debate of canon versus non-canon is a rather meaningless one. I mean, when you step back and think about it, you realize that people are getting into heated arguments over which fictional event “really happened” in a fictional universe. But because those stories filled the void between and around the films, people like me who were desperate to spend more time with these characters latched onto them. They had an emotional impact. We incorporated them into how we viewed Star Wars as an organic whole. And so I can’t help but be a little sad that those stories aren’t considered official canon anymore.
And yet… it still exists. The decision to retcon almost everything did not magically make my books disappear or erase their stories from my mind. I can still see the family that Han and Leia had with their three children as Luke rebuilds the Jedi Order. I witnessed the adventures of Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon before their fateful encounter with a small boy on Tatooine. I participated in the story of Revan told through the Bioware video game Knights of the Old Republic. I can still enjoy them as a kind of alternate timeline, one in which I can select which stories to “believe” and which to ignore. I can create my own personal head-canon for a universe that never was.
So far this hasn’t diluted my enjoyment of the subsequent Star Wars films. I expect that I will devour all of the new canon with as much glee and enthusiasm as I did for the Legends. I will find and embrace new ways to enter a galaxy far, far away, while still recalling and rereading the stories-that-never-were with fondness.
It’s a cognitive dissonance I can live with.