From the moment that Lucasfilm announced plans for a new Star Wars film, readers have been curious about the future of the saga’s Expanded Universe books and what role, if any, they would play in the new films: Would Episode VII and the following films draw their plot from from the timeline already established in fan favorites like Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars: Heir to the Empire? If not, then what will happen to these much-beloved books? Will they disappear entirely? Should we begin hoarding them now?
Today we’ve received our answer to this questions, and I’m confident in saying that most, if not all, fans of the Star Wars novels will be pleased.
Over 35 years ago, George Lucas kindly opened the Star Wars universe to work by other creators inspired by the series. In the decades since, the games, comics, novels and other offerings of the Expanded Universe have thrilled fans hungry for more adventures from beyond what they saw on the screen. While he was happy to let others create these new stories, Lucas always made it clear that he would not be beholden to the Expanded Universe, and only considered the six films and Star Wars: The Clone Wars themselves to be canonical. While Lucasfilm always strived to keep the stories created for the EU both consistent internally and consistent with their film and television content, it was always the films and the Clone Wars television series that were the central axis around which all additional material must revolve.
Now, with new films on the horizon, the time has come to coordinate all aspects of the Star Wars storytelling that fans have grown to love.
Under Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy’s direction, the company has formed a Story Group to oversee and coordinate all Star Wars creative development, including books, games, comics, and other formats. In a mid-afternoon press release from Disney, Kennedy stated that this new interconnected storytelling experience will allow fans to explore the Star Wars universe more deeply than ever before.
What does this mean for the Expanded Universe and its role in Episodes VII-IX?
In order to preserve an element of surprise for the audience and to give filmmakers as much creative freedom as possible, Star Wars Episodes VII-IX will not tell the same story told in the post-Return of the Jedi Expanded Universe. That doesn’t mean that the Expanded Universe will be completely discarded. Creators of new Star Wars entertainment will have full access to the content of the Expanded Universe.
As an example, elements of the Expanded Universe are included in the upcoming television series Star Wars Rebels. The Inquisitor, the Imperial Security Bureau, and Sienar Fleet Systems are story elements in Rebels, and all these ideas find their origins in roleplaying game material published in the 1980s.
Del Rey books, publishers of the Star Wars adult fiction line, addressed the future of Star Wars fiction in a separate press release.
Fans of the prior Star Wars novels and short story collections can rest easy: They’re not going anywhere. The Expanded Universe Star Wars fiction book line will remain in print under the new Legends banner, so there’s no reason to panic. Further, and perhaps more importantly, there’s more Star Wars fiction on the way.
Del Rey and Disney Publishing Worldwide will be working closely together in the creation of an altogether new canon that is fully integrated with the Lucasfilm movies and television series, both past and future. That means that every book released from Del Rey will be absolutely consistent with every other aspect of the newly integrated Star Wars universe.
Jeanne Mosure, senior vice president and group publisher, Disney Publishing Worldwide, said that the new publishing program will be stronger.
“With the establishment of the Lucasfilm Story Group and our even greater focus on unified storytelling, we expect our entire publishing program to be stronger and more meaningful than ever before,” said Mosure. “We’re extremely excited to kick off this new strategy with Del Rey Books.”
Scott Shannon, senior vice president and publisher for Del Rey and Digital Content was very excited as well about this new era in Star Wars storytelling.
“We’re extremely proud of the hundreds of amazing Star Wars books we’ve published at Del Rey,” said Shannon, “And now we’re excited to finally be able to call our upcoming novels true canon—a single, cohesive Star Wars storyline—all while keeping the amazing backlist of Star Wars Legends content in print.”
On the screen, the first new canon to appear will be Star Wars Rebels. In print, the first new books to come from this creative collaboration include novels from Del Rey Books. First to be announced, John Jackson Miller is writing a novel that precedes the events of Star Wars Rebels and offers insight into a key character’s backstory, with input directly from executive producers Dave Filoni, Simon Kinberg, and Greg Weisman.
The first novel to benefit from this deeper collaboration is Star Wars: A New Dawn, by bestselling author John Jackson Miller. Set prior to the events of the forthcoming animated series Star Wars Rebels, this novel tells the story of how two of the lead characters of the series, Kanan Jarrus and Hera Syndulla, came to cross paths. To tell this important backstory, Miller benefited from contact with series executive producers Dave Filoni, Simon Kinberg and Greg Weisman, who together ensured this tale will be part of the Star Wars canon of storytelling going forward. It is scheduled for hardcover and eBook release on September 2, 2014.
Following Star Wars: A New Dawn, the all-new Star Wars fiction line will continue with the following 2014/2015 titles:
STAR WARS: TARKIN
STAR WARS: HEIR TO THE JEDI
STAR WARS: LORDS OF THE SITH
For more information and for looks at the covers of all four new titles announced above, please visit the Del Rey Star Wars Books Facebook page at Facebook.com/StarWarsBooks.
For more information on the Star Wars Legends rebranding and Expanded Universe, go to StarWars.com.