A. The Civil War
B. Vectors of Approach
A. The Epistemology of Epistemology
B. On Lucasfilm Ltd.
III. The Star Wars Canon Policy
A. Early Confusion and the Canon Civil War
B. Resolution: A Tale of Two Canons
1. The EU Continuity and the OCP
A. The Evolution of the Term 'Canon'
B. The Role of Lucas: EU Completism and the Creator-Involvement Thesis
2. The Lucas-LFL Canon
A. Sansweet and LFL
B. George Lucas and the Star Wars Canon
- Confirmation Case: Boba Fett
A. Quote Resources
1. Quote Listings and References
2. Quote Debates
B. Lesser Issues and Canon Minutiae
1. Levels of Canon
2. Movie Variants
3. The Status of the TV Show
C. Objections to the Overview
1. Star Wars Book Sales
2. "Overall Continuity"
D. Analogies and Examples (coming soon)
Note: Quotes not linked to
in the text will be followed with a »
This will open up a new window taking you to a quote list with full references.
The Star Wars entertainment empire is composed of a huge assortment of material and merchandise featuring the Star Wars brand name and the Star Wars intellectual property. Not only do we have the original films, but there are also television programs, novels, games, toys, reference guides, clothing, cereal boxes, toothbrushes . . . and that list barely scratches the surface. However, only some of the material constitutes official fact, meaning that we must discover what sub-set of the Star Wars intellectual property is actually a part of the Star Wars saga.
( . . . though I think we can safely discount R2-D2 falling in love with a fire hydrant.)
This act of discovery, unfortunately, is no small task. For a long while, there was no discernible Star Wars canon policy . . . as late as 1990, there was a virtual absence of policy and policy-related statements. These days, the situation is reversed. In the past few years we have seen a swarm of statements originating with everyone from Lucas himself to authors of Expanded Universe (EU) materials. Complicating matters is the fact that the various statements don't always agree, and these inconsistencies have led to some confusion.
Suffice it to say that if we took all the canon policy statements and weighed them all equally, things would be very sloppy and confusing indeed. The inconsistencies are no doubt part of the reason for the incessant battling between Star Wars fans. This "Canon Civil War" between "Movie-" or "Canon Purists" and "EU Completists" raged between fans for years, especially online. At the forums of StarWars.com, for instance, the main thread on the subject has raged with only slight pauses since December 2001. At the forums of TheForce.Net, things got so bad they put a moratorium on the topic . . . though the "EU Defense Force" is allowed to operate there. And, of course, let's not forget the online cold war between Purist Bob Brown and certain aggressive EU Completists with which many are familiar.
The fact is, though, that the EU Completists are severely outnumbered, and they know it. What most people are familiar with and accept as Star Wars are the Star Wars films . . . the Expanded Universe fanbase is miniscule by comparison. After all, one of the domestic "bestseller" books of the recent EU series "New Jedi Order" was the first book, Vector Prime. Only 200,000 of them were sold in hardcover, and this fell to about 110,000 sales for the final NJO book The Unifying Force. Paperback sales averaged just 300,000 for the first dozen books of that series, according to Publisher's Weekly. Thus Vector Prime, one of the best-selling EU novels, had a readership of only about half a million people. Even earlier Bantam novels like 1996's Children of the Jedi have similar (if not higher) numbers.
While this is more than enough to put the books on best-seller lists in hardcover and paperback, compare this to the 1.4 million sales just in hardcover for the novelization of The Phantom Menace (which would imply no less than hundreds of thousands more in paperback) or the millions upon millions who have seen Star Wars on the silver screen. Suffice it to say that more people watched the lowest-rated rerun episode of Enterprise (which was not renewed due to low ratings) than have picked up a recent EU novel. Thus, EU Completism is not so much a movement as it is a rounding error.
The above having been said, though, the situation is reversed when you consider the volume of content. From Prince Xizor to Admiral Thrawn to the Yuuzhan Vong, the Expanded Universe has been exactly that. Lucas's films are a drop in the creative bucket compared to other Star Wars-branded storylines, covering only the slightest stretches of time with only the barest hint at the complexities of a civilization of that scope. Even if we assume that pictures speak a thousand words, you'd have to count Lucas's movies frame-by-frame to beat the word-count of the EU. Movie Purists might say that this drop is all that there is, whereas EU Completists would retort that Lucas's films are not so much 'all there is' as they are a rounding error.
And so the question has been approached in different ways by different fans. It's been framed by Abel G. Pena as one of inclusiveness versus exclusivity. Others like Sansweet have suggested that we should cling to a standard wherein each person's "point of view" is valid. Some take their own personal "point of view" and irrationally declare it to be the only valid one, warping and spinning policy comments as necessary. Others have just thrown up their hands altogether.
However, all of those approaches share a couple of things in common: they do us no good whatsoever, because they are, by necessity, subjective.
(Framing it as inclusiveness versus exclusion, as if to declare any policy-based exclusion not only unjust but wrong-headed by default, is particularly useless, and worse even than those who claim their personal point of view as the true way. This notion of inclusiveness was crafted in response to the supposed difficulty in determining what to base a standard on in the first place. So, the reasoning goes, we should throw up our hands on that point, accept absolutely everything from a Lucas company as canon no matter how obscure or contradicted or what-have-you, and let individuals decide what to exclude on their own.
In effect, then, we have the Sansweet "point of view" suggestion, but instead of the default position that the movies are accepted and everything else is optional, we're told to accept that all is valid but all can also be excluded at a whim. The peculiarity is that by choosing that default position, you end up with a system even more anarchic and subjective than the "point of view" position . . . imagine the chaos of talking about Star Wars to someone who doesn't accept the movies as canon at all. And, of course, why stop the inclusiveness with officially-licensed materials? The inclusiveness principle hardly justifies the exclusion of fan fiction, especially when you consider that Licensing has allowed R2 to ponder assistance with the dehousing of a fire hydrant's thermocapsule.)
What is needed in order to have a meaningful discussion on Star Wars is to have an objective standard of what Star Wars is and what it is not. Even fan consensus (were it possible to achieve it) would merely be an aggregate subjective opinion, and while that seems to work for Holmes fans and Christendom it simply isn't an objective standard. Thus, we're left to looking toward the makers and owners of Star Wars to learn just what the canon policy says. Even that rationale has left certain people room to try to insert their subjective desires into an objective analysis, and indeed much quote-twisting and semantic gamesmanship has been employed by certain parties intent on achieving their desired goal. Nonetheless, looking to the statements of the makers and owners is the only objective way to get an objective standard.
Of paramount importance in logical analysis is having and maintaining a consistent, logical methodology. This is where many in the canon debate falter, for they apply varying standards at a whim.
We've received our information about the canon policy from many various sources. Obviously the most trustworthy sources are those which are not only the most primary, but also the most well-considered. For instance, a prepared statement by Lucas has a bit more weight than an off-the-cuff remark, while an off-the-cuff remark recorded on video and replayed for all to see would have a bit more weight than a secondary source like a reporter's report of a statement. (That latter is hearsay in a sense, but it's professional hearsay, given by people who are trained to give reliable reports of that nature, and who are frequently (if not usually) armed with recording devices to aid in the task.) Last but not least, we should assume a reasonable amount of consistency in regards to individuals . . . to be sure, people can change their minds (especially Lucas), but it hardly follows that people's opinions will flip-flop daily.
These distinctions would not generally be of great import, but unfortunately the Canon Civil War necessitates that one must be very thorough and very careful in order to try to cover, even in overview form, all the many claims made about the canon policy in the past few years. Fortunately, we can just apply common sense and logic to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Certainly, it makes sense to acknowledge the "rank" of the speaker . . . their place in the Lucasfilm hierarchy, what their role is, and so on. Lucas, for example, outranks everyone . . . it is from his original films that the whole shebang has sprung, and to this day he commands the entire Lucas empire as CEO and Chairman of the Board at Lucasfilm.
However, we must be cautious. The word "Lucasfilm", like the word "Paramount", is used in common parlance to refer to a wide variety of companies, divisions, subsidiaries, and so on. As Lucasfilm employee Pablo Hidalgo wryly notes in his StarWars.com blog, it can be rather dizzying. In the below, we'll clear that up a little.
(Fair warning: This section focuses on business issues and will thus be entirely uninteresting to some people.)
Lucasfilm Ltd. (a.k.a. Lucasfilm Entertainment Company, Ltd., i.e. LFL) was created in 1971, an incorporation of the previously-existing Lucasfilm. Both were run by Lucas, but incorporating into an LLC carries with it certain risk-reduction and other benefits that are very important for a privately-held company. It's stated on the Lucasfilm website that "Lucasfilm manages the rights to films in the Star Wars saga", and per the US Patent and Trademark Office LFL owns the Star Wars brand name and trademark. George Lucas is Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer at Lucasfilm Ltd., where day-to-day operations are, as of this writing, handled by the President and Chief Operating Officer Micheline Chau. Back in 1997, The New Yorker described things this way:
"Lucas is the sole owner of his companies; Gordon Radley, the president of Lucasfilm, estimated in Forbes that Wall Street would value them at five billion dollars. (Forbes estimated that Lucas himself was worth two billion.) He is an old-fashioned, paternalistic chairman of the board [...] who sits every month at the head of the locally carpentered redwood boardroom table in the main house and listens to reports from the presidents of the various divisions of his enterprise."
At some point a merchandising division was born within Lucasfilm, and by 1979 this became Lucas Licensing Ltd. (i.e. LL), a separate corporation. Other Lucas companies were spawned as needed. Lucasfilm and the other Lucas companies, in the words of Lucas, "functioned relatively independent of each other". Licensing was actually under Star Wars licensee LucasArts in the 90s, per Hidalgo. Then in February 2003 Lucasfilm Ltd. reorganized, bringing Lucas Licensing and other Lucas companies under the Lucasfilm wing (1, 2) as subsidiary companies. Because of this reorganization, the proper designation of Lucas Licensing would be "Lucas Licensing, a Lucasfilm Ltd. company" (1 , 2). The term 'division' is sometimes used of these different Lucas companies (e.g. the Lucasfilm site), though this is not technically accurate in regard to separate subsidiary companies.
Lucas Licensing is said to be "responsible for licensing and merchandising activities" related to the Star Wars brand name, managing "all the global merchandising activities in the fields of publishing, toys, games, collectibles, apparel and home furnishings for Lucasfilm's entertainment properties" (source 1 , 2). Further, it is stated that Licensing "has expanded the Star Wars and Indiana Jones brands into best-selling novels, toys and merchandise." As of 1997, the licensing of the Star Wars brand name onto everything from Pepsi cans to toys to other merchandise had raked in over three billion dollars. As The New Yorker put it in as poetic a way as possible given the subject matter,
"What is it that makes people crave the Star Wars brand in so many different flavors? Somewhere between the idea and the stuff, it seemed to me--between the image of Luke gazing at the two setting suns on the planet Tatooine while he contemplated his destiny as a fighter pilot for the Rebel Alliance, and the twelve-inch Luke collectibles sold by Kenner--an alchemic transformation was taking place: dreams were being spun into desire, and desire forged into product."
Lucas Licensing's merchandising activities is the creation of various book
publications so as to fulfill the desire for more Star Wars-flavored fiction
product, and there is a department which handles the content and editing side of book publication internally.
In October of 1997, this department and Ballantine
Books (through its division and imprint Del
Rey) joined forces to create the publishing imprint LucasBooks.
(A publishing imprint is little more than a marketing name or "doing
business as" name, though there can be additional divisions involved.
(For more on imprints, see this
informative page.)) Though LucasBooks is sometimes referred to as if
it is its own company (e.g. 1,
it is at most a group within the publishing department of the Lucas Licensing
subsidiary of Lucasfilm Ltd. that works with Del Rey (not to mention Del Rey's
own specific departments and such). As Shelly Shapiro of Del Rey put
it, "We really work as a team. That said, the
final say always lies with Lucas Licensing."»
The above paragraph serves as a correction on my part, since in the past I have also identified LucasBooks as a separate company, per its treatment on StarWars.com and elsewhere. I did not then know that it was merely an imprint of Del Rey and part of Lucas Licensing's publishing department, as opposed to said department having split off from Licensing. Special thanks to Sue Rostoni for answering the question of mine that guided my research and helped me clear that up.
(For the sake of brevity, "Lucas Licensing's publishing department" shall also be referred to as "LL Publishing", or "LLP".)
The above having been said, we can work toward acknowledging the sub-Lucas ranks appropriately, though we'll still want to exercise caution given the frequency of people misidentifying companies, departments, et cetera.
Lucasfilm has a Publicity Department and a Fan Relations Department, and the fellow in charge of the latter is directly responsible for answering fan questions regarding Star Wars and Lucas's feelings thereon. Meanwhile, Lucasfilm also has subsidiary companies like Lucas Licensing, Lucas Online, LucasArts, ILM, and so on. Many fans believe that these subsidiaries are authorized to make statements on how to understand the universe of the Star Wars films. That view makes little sense, however . . . Lucas and Lucasfilm make the films, not Licensing. They're salesmen of the Star Wars brand name, and though they have a department that does produce some of their own goods in addition to licensing the brand name to other producers, they most certainly do not speak for Lucas or Lucasfilm in regards to the facts within the films.
Secondary to the rank issue would be considerations regarding the age of the statement. Naturally, it makes no sense for Lucas and Lucasfilm to be unable to change their minds, so we must accept that the newer quotes supercede the old in importance. Of course, if we had a case of, say, one of Lucasfilm's janitors saying something tomorrow that was contrary to Lucas's statement from yesterday, we obviously shouldn't consider that an override.
And so, let us begin:
In the early days the Star Wars canon policy was a nebulous thing, as often happens in the beginning of a franchise. When there wasn't much material anyway, there was little need. And so for years, the most definitive statement on the matter was a quote often attributed to Lucas: "As George Lucas says, the movies are Gospel, and everything else is Gossip". The earliest online source for that quote that I've found comes from a reprint of a 1980 Fantastic Films magazine issue, though no additional details are provided. Even by that point, though, the quote was given in a form indicating that it was common knowledge, though it now represents a largely forgotten piece of information. (Nevertheless, when Star Wars EU author Andy Mangels was asked about that comment in 1995 (where the questioner applied it to the entire EU), he said "Sounds like a typical George quote."»)
Confusion only started to set in during the 1990's. By this point, the Star Wars brand name encompassed the films, film novelizations, a handful of novels, comic books, the old National Public Radio dramatizations of the films, West End Games (WEG) materials that had kept interest so alive, and other various toys and such. But with all the new and retold Star Wars stories, people were once again wondering what exactly constituted Star Wars fact.
Into the arena, WEG threw its voice. A 1993 WEG publication had this to say:
"This and all other products that take place after the events depicted in Return of the Jedi are the author's vision of what may have happened. The true fate of the heroes and villains of the Star Wars universe remains the exclusive province of George Lucas and Lucasfilm, Ltd."»
That quote rather clearly points out that WEG felt they weren't writing anything that could be considered factual in the Star Wars universe, at least insofar as post-RoTJ material. Then, in 1994, the premiere issue of the licensed fan magazine Star Wars Insider (#23) appeared. Inside the magazine was what would become the primary statement of canon policy used by many EU Completists, from the Vs. Community to Star Wars fan discussion groups.
"'Gospel', or canon as we refer to it, includes the screenplays, the films, the radio dramas and the novelisations. These works spin out of George Lucas' original stories, the rest are written by other writers. However, between us, we've read everything, and much of it is taken into account in the overall continuity. The entire catalog of published works comprises a vast history -- with many off-shoots, variations and tangents -- like any other well-developed mythology."»
Those words were written by Lucas Licensing employee Allan Kausch and LL Publishing editor Sue Rostoni (though they are often erroneously attributed to "Production and Continuity Editors at Lucasfilm"). Those words . . . the first official declarations from anyone at a Lucas company in almost 15 years . . . were taken as the gospel on the subject for a long while by some Star Wars fans. The quote established the contents of the canon (albeit in a haphazard order) and gave us a general sense of what canonicity is based on . . . an important consideration given the lack of specifics. They also noted that, between them, they paid attention to much of the entire catalog of non-canon works of other writers.
Even at this early juncture, there was room for confusion and the beginnings of the Star Wars fandom Canon Civil War. Lending support to the Purist side, Lucas had reportedly called everything but the films mere gossip, and the writers of that 'gossip' agreed. Lending support to the EU Completist side, the folks from Licensing were acknowledging the Lucas-oriented canon but saying they also took the work of others into account . . . seemingly in contradiction to Lucas and WEG.
At the same time Lucas seemed a little vague on the matter, thanks to a choice in phrasing that has confused many. In his preface to the 1994 republication of Splinter of the Mind's Eye, originally published in 1978, he said:
"It wasn't long after I began writing Star Wars that I realized the story was more than a single film could hold. As the saga of the Skywalkers and Jedi Knights unfolded, I began to see it as a tale that could take at last nine films to tell- three trilogies- and I realized, in making my way through the back story and after story, that I was really setting out to write the middle story.
After Star Wars was released, it became apparent that my story- however many films it took to tell- was only one of thousands that could be told about the characters who inhabit its galaxy. But these were not stories that I was destined to tell. Instead they would spring from the imagination of other writers, inspired by the glimpse of a galaxy that Star Wars provided. Today it is an amazing, if unexpected, legacy of Star Wars that so many gifted writers are contributing new stories to the Saga. This legacy began with Splinter of the Mind's Eye, published less than a year after the release of Star Wars. Written by Alan Dean Foster, a well known and talented science-fiction author, Splinter was promoted as ”further adventure” of Luke Skywalker. It hit bookstores just as I was preparing to write my own ”further adventure” of Luke, in the form of a script called The Empire Strikes Back.
It seems only fitting, after all these years, that Splinter would be republished as I prepare once again to write another further adventure set a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..."»
Some EU Completists mistakenly took the above to imply that Lucas considers the novel stories to be part of "the Saga", and therefore a true and factual part of the Star Wars canon universe. They considered this idea to be in agreement with Insider #23, despite the fact that it would directly contradict the 'works of George' versus 'works of other writers' notion that Rostoni and Kausch had mentioned.
In actuality, Lucas identified Splinter as being progenitor of the legacy of new stories whose authors were just inspired by "my story" Star Wars. He certainly didn't consider Splinter a real adventure in his universe. After all, as Lucas said in a 1999 interview, "I don't even read the offshoot books that come out based on Star Wars"» . . . hardly the act of one who feels the works to be a factual part of his universe. He also contrasts Splinter's "further adventure"-ness with the further adventure he himself wrote, and indeed this contrast extends to his works versus that of other authors, where the latter were simply inspired by the galaxy he'd created. Finally, he paid no attention to Splinter (and, indeed, contradicted it wholesale) when making his own further adventure. Those who've read Splinter are more than aware of its many continuity errors in the light of Lucas's further adventures such as TESB, and made even worse now by the prequels (e.g. the alternate history of Vader's arm). Basically, Lucas ignored Splinter completely, despite being responsible for its creation. But, as creator and owner, that's his prerogative.
The seemingly-contrary statements between Lucas/Lucasfilm and Lucas Licensing continued to appear over the next decade, fuelling Purist vs. Completist warfare. With the quotes taken as a whole and at face value, there could be no victor . . . the quotes really did contradict, and thus the two sides would always be at war.
There were occasional efforts to bridge the gap. In 1996, Steve Sansweet joined Lucas Licensing as part of their Specialty Marketing arm. In 1998, he got the opportunity to write the Star Wars Encyclopedia. In his preface, he presents a canon policy interpretation that synthesizes the views of both sides:
"Which brings us to the often-asked question: Just what is Star Wars canon, and what is not? The one sure answer: The Star Wars Trilogy Special Edition -- the three films themselves as executive-produced, and in the case of Star Wars written and directed, by George Lucas, are canon. Coming in a close second we have the authorised adaptations of the three films: the novels, radio dramas, and comics. After that, almost everything falls into a category of ”quasi-canon.”"»
While the term "quasi-canon" was diplomatically vague enough to allow both views, it actually said nothing at all . . . even Sansweet's one sure answer was just the films. The civil war thus continued unabated, and the less nebulous (but contradictory) quotes were favored. Many found the contradictions confusing, over and above the contrary positions . . . after all, how could Lucas say one thing and these other people manage to say something else? The Purists generally took to ignoring these lesser statements in favor of Lucas's own words, while the EU Completists generally attempted to ignore the face-value meanings, re-imagining Lucas's words into something non-contradictory.
But what if both sides were wrong?
As noted, it makes sense to organize the myriad statements by speaker rank. In doing so, one quickly realizes that the contradictions only exist across a certain rank boundary line.
(The situation is akin to trying to comprehend U.S. government policy by listening to senators and representatives. It will seem like a contradictory mish-mash until you start to realize that the people with a little "D" after their name largely say one thing, whereas the people with a little "R" after their name say another. Once you catch on to the difference between Democrats and Republicans, you start to realize that there are two different ideologies at work. The rank boundary line of the Star Wars canon policy is similar in principle.)
As a result, the only self-consistent way to comprehend the myriad statements is to acknowledge that two separate canon policies exist under the Star Wars brand label. One, known informally as the 'canon policy', is maintained by Lucas and Lucasfilm, Ltd. The other, termed the "official continuity policy"», is maintained by Lucas Licensing.
Below, we'll explore the two canon policies, beginning with the latter.
The Lucas Licensing policy covers those materials that LL Publishing and other departments of Licensing create. The new era of Star Wars licensing came in 1989 with the Bantam contract for new adult fiction. The origins of the EU Continuity and the "official continuity policy" (OCP) are described in an Insider magazine:
"In the early days of the publishing department, Wilson worked closely with her administrative assistant, Sue Rostoni (now managing editor of the department as well as editor of all adult fiction) on the editorial projects. The two of them decided that to maintain quality, it would be crucial to monitor the storylines of all projects and ensure that none of their books contradicted one another. This continuity decision became one of the department's biggest challenges--and greatest successes."»
Sometime during the creation of the six-book Glove of Darth Vader series circa 1990-1993, Lucy Wilson (now Lucas Licensing Director of Publishing) and Sue Rostoni chose to establish and maintain a continuity in the Star Wars books. This would later be codified into the Ballantine contract in 1997. Unlike the Star Trek novels, each of which is basically a universe unto itself that's based on one or more of the Star Trek series, the Star Wars EU storylines were intended to flow with one another. Thus, the books would form a cohesive whole that remained, as Rostoni put it in 1994, "true to the Star Wars saga", and could thus theoretically be 'plugged in' to the continuous universe seen in the Star Wars films.
New material would conform to this continuity, and older materials (the Glove series, et cetera) would have non-fitting bits quietly forgotten or re-explained elsewhere, with the rest of the work remaining and being considered as part of the continuity. Even the West End Games materials, the makers of which had disavowed their own accuracy in 1993, were included in this. The Expanded Universe, now armed with its OCP, thus became a self-referential, offshoot entity. That is to say, in addition to theoretically remaining true to the Star Wars films, it was intended to remain true to itself. Rostoni made this more explicit in 2001:
"Our goal is to present a continuous and unified history of the Star Wars galaxy, insofar as that history does not conflict with, or undermine the meaning of Mr. Lucas's Star Wars saga of films and screenplays."»
Maintaining this continuity was, of course, no small task. As Rostoni pointed out in 1994, this internal continuity was "vigorously protected". New authors were sent all sorts of EU materials in addition to the films, including the EU "bible" that Rostoni maintained that covered the chronological details of the published works.
Within a couple of years, Rostoni had chosen to give this Licensing chronology "bible" a different name:
"To keep it all straight there is 'the Canon,' a time line of major events and the life span of characters prepared by the continuity editors at Lucasfilm and considered the in-house bible of the Star Wars universe. When further reference is needed, there are also stacks of binders listing everything from starship blueprints to the biographies of characters..."»
In two years, Rostoni went from describing "the screenplays, the films, the radio dramas and the novelisations"» as the "'gospel', or canon" (with the rest described with the "continuity" she and Wilson decided upon) to declaring the "Canon" to be the LL Publishing "in-house bible" of EU data. By 2001 she had extended this even further:
"Canon refers to an authoritative list of books that the Lucas Licensing editors consider an authentic part of the official Star Wars history. Our goal is to present a continuous and unified history of the Star Wars galaxy, insofar as that history does not conflict with, or undermine the meaning of Mr. Lucas's Star Wars saga of films and screenplays. Things that Lucas Licensing does not consider official parts of the continuous Star Wars history show an Infinities logo or are contained in Star Wars Tales. Everything else is considered canon."»
We can thus see the evolutionary path of Rostoni's inclusive use of the term 'canon' to refer to LLP's official continuity. Note, however, that Licensing was aware that their canon was not the same as the film canon of Lucas . . . in 2003 Rostoni referred to a hierarchy with the Insider #23-listed canon at the top, with Licensing materials beneath. However, they were listing their canon, explicitly subservient to the films, as being part of the same continuous universe in their opinion. Lucas Licensing database administrator Leland Chee referred to the difference in this way in 2003:
"”Lucasfilm canon” refers to anything produced by any of the Lucas companies, whether it be movies, books, games, or internet. ”Movie canon” is only that which you see and hear in the Star Wars films."»
Chee's statements are of interest, despite the potential confusion caused by his use of the phrase "Lucasfilm canon". Circa 2000, Chee had helped to codify the OCP, maintaining the EU "bible" in the form of a computerized database called the Holocron. As Chee describes it:
"The Holocron is an internal database maintained by Lucas Licensing that tracks all the fictional elements created for the Star Wars universe. The database includes material from the films, books, comics, videogames, trading cards, roleplaying games, websites, toys, cartoons, and just about every officially sanctioned fictional element of the Star Wars universe."
"Understand, that the Holocron's primary purpose is to keep track of Star Wars continuity for Lucas Licensing, and to some degree Lucas Online. To my knowledge, it is only rarely used for production purposes."»
The Holocron makes use of a canon field coded with a G, C, S, or N, and as Chee described it in 2004:
"Anything in the films and from George Lucas (including unpublished internal notes that we might receive from him or from the film production department) is considered ”G” canon. Next we have what we call continuity ”C” canon which is pretty much everything else. There is secondary ”S” continuity canon which we use for some older published materials and things that may or may not fit just right. [...] Lastly there is non-continuity ”N” which we rarely use except in the case of a blatant contradiction or for things that have been cut."
"By everything else I mean EVERYthing else. Novels, comics, junior novels, videogames, trading card games, roleplaying games, toys, websites, television."»
One noteworthy difference between Chee's 2004 description and Rostoni's 2001 description is how individual details are treated. Rostoni referred to the LLP canon as a list of books . . . Chee refers to individual datapoints, and says that "a particular source would never be discounted in its entirety, only those elements of that source that are contradictory." Since 2003, however, any difference that might've existed no longer does. Rostoni noted that even in the case of materials made before the OCP was adopted, they've managed to "logically and realistically incorporate some of the elements of the books into the established continity [sic]"».
Finally, it appears that the non-continuity N-level is distinct from those materials marked with an Infinities label. "Infinities" works are those EU materials which, in the words of Chris Cerasi, have events which "may not have necessarily happened in the rest of the expanded universe"». These are generally written knowingly, such as the example of a Darth Maul versus Darth Vader fight story.
And so, the particulars of the Lucas Licensing official continuity policy have been established. Controlled by Lucas Licensing, this policy covers the merchandise and storylines created by Licensing's publishing department and other licensees.
Based on and extrapolating from Lucas's Star Wars films, screenplays, production notes, and other materials, the Expanded Universe that LLP has created also is intended to maintain internal consistency among its continuous storylines. The end result is a unique entity under the Star Wars brand name based on the work of numerous authors in numerous media.
One topic EU Completists frequently mention is the role Lucas plays in the Expanded Universe. The basic argument is: if he is involved in guiding the EU and shaping it to his vision of Star Wars, then it must be true canon Star Wars to all. Purists, however, dismiss the idea that his involvement is equivalent to canonicity, since even if Lucas is involved the works are by other authors, and thus remain derivative.
It is fair to say that the completist claim itself is inherently flawed. Lucas was highly involved in some early televised Star Wars projects, for instance. 1984's Star Wars: The Ewok Adventure bears Lucas's name as executive producer and in the story credit, as does 1985's Ewoks: The Battle for Endor. These are not considered to be a part of Lucas's vision by most fans, based on reports of his statements to that effect (usually featuring the idea that he'd like to burn the live-action television fare from that period). (Further, those who are most familiar with the Paramount canon policy can of course be confused by this position . . . after all, Roddenberry had his hand in all sorts of Trek non-canon (such as his personal, active involvement with the novels), but no special authority is claimed on that basis by most people.)
Nonetheless the claim persists, and so the actual level of Lucas's involvement in the EU is important in pondering the issue. After all, Lucas himself stated in 1999, "I don't even read the offshoot books that come out based on Star Wars."» He's also said that "”Star Wars” has had a lot of different lives that have been worked on by a lot of different people. It works without me."» In 2002 he said "I don’t get too involved"» in the EU. And in 2005 he stated that "I don't read that stuff. I haven't read any of the novels. I don't know anything about that world."»
None of those are statements which would seem to indicate that Lucas oversees or guides the EU. On the other hand, he's also quoted as saying "I didn't want someone using the name 'Star Wars' on a piece of junk" in regards to Star Wars merchandising, which would imply some level of quality review. Further, various authors have claimed to have received guidance in some way from Lucas.
So, which is it? Well, the nature of the indirect guidance of authors is explained by LLP's Sue Rostoni:
"In general, George doesn't see the overall story ideas or concepts. If there is a sensitive area, or if we are developing backstory for a character he's created or mentioned in an interview, we can query him to get more information, his approval, or whatever. And yes, we always query him if we're doing something drastic to a film character. I believe he does read the concepts for the games though."»
This is the same basic concept that Lucy Autrey Wilson, now Director of Publishing, describes in the roundtable discussion of the Vector Prime e-book. She states:
"When we first started doing original Star Wars publishing, the editorial group consisted of me, Sue Rostoni, and later Allan Kausch, who was originally hired as a continuity consultant. Howard Roffman, president of Lucas Licensing, was also creatively involved, and we would get input from George Lucas through a series of Q&A memos in which we asked for guidance on big plot points and ideas."
Steve Sansweet of LFL Fan Relations confirms this in concept, saying that "LucasBooks has always checked with the boss to make sure that none of its projects interferes in any way with anything that he is planning."» Licensing's version of events is also confirmed by the report of EU author Michael Stackpole, who was involved in the creation of the New Jedi Order EU book series. As he recounts:
"In March of 1998 and again in 1999 I attended meetings at Skywalker Ranch along with Shelly Shapiro and Steve Saffel of Del Rey; Sue Rostoni, Lucy Wilson, Allan Kausch and Howard Roffman of Lucas Licensing; and authors James Luceno and Kathy Tyers to set up the series, then work out the details of its progressions."
So, no Lucas there. Timothy Zahn, renowned author of several early EU works that are among EU fan favorites, described the relationship between EU authors and Lucas this way:
"As far as I know, George Lucas himself is not involved. He has a liaison group that deals with the book people, the game people, etc. They do the day-to-day work. Occasionally, he will be asked a question and will give an answer."
"As far as I know, he has not read any of the novels."»
However, Lucas was not wholly uninvolved . . . the querying relationship continued. Wilson, along with Shelly Shapiro from Del Rey, state in the roundtable discussion:
"LW: George Lucas has been involved in all of the spin-off Star Wars publishing, but only on big concepts or plot points. The initial five-year NJO plot outline and early thoughts on who might die were sent to him in the form of a Q&A memo and subsequently discussed by phone.
SS: I would characterize his role as limited but important. He’s the one who said the alien invaders could not be dark side Force-users, that we couldn’t kill Luke, that we had to kill Anakin instead of Jacen (we had originally planned it the other way around). Other than that, he occasionally answered some basic questions for us, but that was rare. Mostly he leaves the books to his licensing people, trusting them to get it right."
Shapiro also recalls that "We didn’t get George’s permission to kill Chewie in particular: Chewie was simply not one of the characters George said we could not kill." Roundtable participant and EU author James Luceno stated:
"Several times at Skywalker Ranch, George was sitting almost within arm’s reach, but I never got to speak with him. [...] His objection to Anakin Solo being the main series protagonist was, I think, possible confusion with Anakin Skywalker in the prequel trilogy of movies."
And so, condensing all these comments, it appears that Lucas's involvement is both limited and rather passive in regards to the EU novels. He will answer questions that are directed to him, but does not actively guide the Expanded Universe novels by keeping abreast of their development in any significant way. As Shapiro suggested, he simply leaves it to Licensing for the most part.
Even beyond the novels, Lucas's involvement is limited. As Rostoni pointed out, "He knows the comics very well -- after the fact. He reads the comics."» (Or at least, "people have said he reads the comics."») Lucas's involvement in the comics, then, is no different than that of any fan. However, she did note that he reads the game concepts, and it has been reported elsewhere that he offers up some suggestions to LucasArts regarding those games.
|It's worth interjecting here
that the article in The New Yorker referenced earlier (and
suggests the exact opposite of all of these statements. The
author, John Seabrook, claimed that Lucas personally oversees the
Expanded Universe on a daily basis, personally approving the slightest
development and even generating stories for it. He even went so
far as to call "Shadows of the Empire" a new "Lucas
story". No doubt this news came as a great surprise to
the book's author Steve Perry, who along with Lucas Licensing personnel
. . . but not Lucas . . . helped to generate the story for
"Shadows" at a conference at Skywalker Ranch along with the
many other licensees that were to be involved in the "Shadows"
merchandising tie-in blitz. However, much as occurred with James
Luceno and Tim Zahn before him, Perry never met Lucas, noting
that "he was gone the day I went to Skywalker Ranch".
The most interaction he had was a thank-you note from Lucas in the copy
of "Shadows" that Lucas autographed and sent back to him.
(Suffice it to say that Mr. Seabrook did not
trouble himself to be well-informed on that issue, though he does
confirm the idea of Lucas checking "yes" or "no" to
lists of questions he's sent by Licensing.
So, in general, Lucas is simply not involved in the EU in anything more than a limited, passive way. LL Publishing, as Sansweet said, "always checked with the boss"» on major events with film characters and certain other major story ideas (the NJO, for example, was a tale that spread across 19 books). But still, even the pre-NJO policy of not killing off film characters in the novels didn't originate with Lucas. Lucy Wilson states that it was "our policy that no author could kill anyone who originated first in a script written by George" (emphasis mine). And then, when asked, he didn't tell them which to kill . . . only the ones not to kill.
That is not the firm hand of control claimed by EU Completists in their Involvement argument. Lucas is not bent on shaping the EU to his vision of Star Wars . . . if anything, his role is akin to a 'corporate suit' making sure that brand name quality is maintained, which takes us back to the idea that Lucas didn't want the Star Wars trademark smeared by being "on a piece of junk". It's just good business. Lucas has explained this reasoning elsewhere:
"I was very, very fortunate in that a spin-off of the Star Wars films was merchandising, and the merchandising has funded a lot of the companies. It's funded a lot of the development. It funded the EditDroid. It's hard to believe but the whole [ability to do] non-linear editing came out of action figures... The ability to spend the million it took to create that, and make it a real thing and prove it, and go to the trade shows and everything and show everybody and say this works, you can do this, and then everybody will go out and copy it and eventually sell it to Avid - you need the money to do it in the first place... We started with revenue from the toy companies..."
Besides which, close quality control is a position probably related to the Holiday Special, which we're told by Sansweet that Lucas "hates".
Nevertheless, it would also be unfair to say that the EU is completely dissimilar to Lucas's vision. As Chee puts it, "The EU is bound by what is seen in the most current version of the films and by directives from George Lucas"», and he also states that "More of the EU is based on Lucas's view of the universe outside the films than you are probably aware of." As Chee and others have pointed out, the Expanded Universe is guided by the movies, movie novelizations, unpublished early script versions, reports from author interviews with George, George's revisions to the novelization manuscript, production notes, Lucas's unpublished notes, and of course the Q&A memos. Thus, there is definitely Lucas in the EU, if even indirectly.
Of course, this must be heavily qualified . . . Most of the sources of Lucas's thoughts used by the EU creators are rather informal, and of course Lucas is famous for changing his mind. So, we can definitely say that there is some of Lucas's idea of Star Wars in the EU as of the time it was written. We can never know exactly what comes from Lucas, but there's at least a smidgen of resemblance to his Star Wars in there as of the EU work's writing.
However, the makers of the EU know that they are not creating Lucas-level Star Wars canon, even if their works are canon by the terms of LLP's official continuity policy and are influenced by their perception of Lucas's desires. LLP Managing Editor Sue Rostoni is firm in this position. She's noted that they're trying to create a history which "does not conflict with, or undermine the meaning of Mr. Lucas's Star Wars saga of films and screenplays."» She's stated that Lucas "doesn't see the extended universe as ”his” Star Wars, but as ”ours.”"» She's pointed out that "It's our job to manipulate the EU into fitting George's future movies, which often contradict stuff we've done"», which is no doubt caused by the fact that Lucas "doesn't give us much information about his future movies until he's making them. In general, George does not take the EU into account when he's making his movies."» She's explained to EU-philes that "the books follow the continuity of the films as best we can taking into account that George follows his own continuity, and rightly so."» And, she notes that "If George had continued making SW films past Return of the Jedi, I don't think they would have reflected what the SW authors have written"», even though per Lucas Licensing's OCP they are a legitimate expansion of the universe of the Star Wars films. George Lucas evidently concurs. In April 2005, when asked about Star Wars beyond Episode VI, he said that the "other books and everything kind of go off on their path, but I never ever really considered ever taking that particular story further."» Indeed, in his May 2005 view:
"”Han and Leia probably did get married,” Lucas conceded. ”They settled down. She became a senator, and they got a nice little house with a white picket fence. Han Solo is out there cooking burgers on the grill. Is that a movie? I don't think so.”"»
That strongly contrasts with the EU notion that Han and Leia were part of a rather absurd number of continuing adventures, not to mention Leia becoming a Jedi. And, while some EU authors have apparently believed they were getting a chance to make something real in George Lucas's Star Wars universe, Dark Horse Comics editor Peet James points out that "Lots of people have been working on lots of SW extrapolations for the last twenty years, in good faith. There were never any promises from George Lucas or Lucasfilm regarding the acceptance of their work into some wider canon."» Given that Lucas actually reads the comics (which is not the case with most EU material), this comment is quite meaningful indeed.
Of course, it's worth directly reiterating that even if Lucas were personally writing the EU novels (and hence had the highest possible level of involvement), it would still take just a single statement from him to render them canonically invalid.
|By definition, a self-referencing off-shoot like the EU cannot accurately represent the original source material without some conflict. The only way to avoid it would be to avoid overlap altogether, but the EU has never avoided referencing characters or items of the same name as those in the canon. As a result the EU must sometimes refer to itself in lieu of the canon, and Leland Chee confirms that this is sometimes knowingly done by the makers of the EU. (See the "exceptions" here.)|
Unlike the Lucas Licensing official continuity policy, the Lucas/LFL policy is not so formalized. It is primarily known through comments George Lucas has made in various venues such as press releases and interviews. Comments by Steve Sansweet, who became Lucasfilm's Director of Content Management and head of fan relations for the Marketing Department circa 1999 (1), also contribute to our knowledge. However, for the most part LFL's position on canon has either been to point up to the big chair, or else to say that it's up to the fans.
Nonetheless, it's worth re-emphasizing that while the two canon policies are contrary and even contradictory, this should not imply that LFL and LLP are in some sort of conflict. EU Completists often suggest that the Purist or even Two Canons position requires absurdities such as LLP "going rogue", skulking about the corridors of Licensing with camouflage paint on their faces and hailing each other on walkie-talkies with callsigns like 'Alpha One' and 'Alpha Two' while plotting more places to advertise their perverted canon policy. Nothing could be further from the truth . . . hence the joke regarding the author of the Episode III novelization (who explicitly tried to insert as many EU references as he could), who I referred to as an "EU guerilla".
Indeed, we do have evidence that LFL is well aware of the LLP's continuity policy. First, Sansweet (while part of Licensing's Specialty Marketing group) wrote the introduction to the Star Wars Encyclopedia which, though not perfectly conforming to the LLP statements of the time, was inclusive of their ideas on canon. It makes no sense to conclude that he simply forgot such ideas in the intervening year before moving into Fan Relations. Further, at Comic-Con 2005 (according to reports by Mike Dicenso), Sansweet gave an answer during a Q&A session which dealt with the OCP's hierarchy and the placement of the planned television programs therein.
However, Sansweet is also aware of Lucas's opinion and beliefs on Star Wars, and since 1999 has been tasked with sharing such concepts with the fans.
For a long while, Sansweet participated in a feature on the StarWars.com website entitled "Ask the Jedi Council". Several questions were answered that related to Lucas and the EU, and the recurring theme of these seemed to be the grave concern of many fans that the EU would serve as some sort of straightjacket to Lucas. Sansweet invariably answered these in the negative. For instance, when asked about Lucas's ideas for Star Wars beyond Episode VI and whether the EU had "stomped" on what he might want to do, Sansweet noted that:
"[...] George says that the story he has to tell will be complete in the six films, which can then be viewed as one epic saga. He says that he honestly has no story to tell now beyond the destruction of the second Death Star.
LucasBooks has always checked with the boss to make sure that none of its projects interferes in any way with anything that he is planning. And while plans can change, rest assured that the wonderful expanded fictional universe enjoyed by so many fans has in no way stomped or trampled on any of George Lucas's prerogatives or options."»
Clearly then, there's Lucas's saga or story, and then there's everything else . . . and note of course that the latter does not confine the former in any way. Similarly, in 2000 Sansweet answered a question regarding whether one of Boba Fett's EU backstories would appear in Episode II:
My advice: Forget everything you knew, or thought you knew about the origins of Boba Fett. While none of us have seen a script of Episode II or have an idea of the direction in which George Lucas is taking the character, it's fairly safe to say that he won't be held to any of the back stories that have arisen over the years to try to explain the roots of this strong, mostly silent type. If there is any hint of Fett's beginnings, it will be all George."
"As many fans know, when it comes to Star Wars knowledge, there are degrees of ”canon.” The only true canon are the films themselves. For years, Lucas Books has stayed clear of characters, events, or the timeframe that George might want to deal with in the Star Wars prequels. While such things as the Clone Wars, the fall of the Jedi, and Palpatine's rise to power were on that list, Boba Fett wasn't considered to be of major concern.
But like any great storyteller, George starts to develop a script and it sometimes takes on a life of its own, with characters coming to life and demanding a say. He has told us that Boba Fett will have a role in Episode II--just as Fett first appeared in the second film of the classic trilogy--so we may finally learn the bounty hunter's true genesis."»
Here, we have a pretty clear point made by Sansweet, despite his world-renowned flair for diplomatic vagueness. The only true canon is the film series by Lucas, and Lucas considers himself perfectly at liberty to ignore the EU wholesale. Sansweet even suggests that one should simply forget the EU for the purpose of Lucas's version of events.
It goes without saying that if Lucas felt that EU materials were valid expansions to his universe, he would try not to contradict them so brazenly. However, he destroyed the EU opinion(s) wholesale when he gave Fett's backstory in Attack of the Clones. Of course, as Rostoni noted when she referred to the EU being manipulated to fit, EU retconning (i.e. retroactive continuity changes) has helped to smooth over the Fett issue somewhat, so that all those various stories that reveal Boba Fett's backstory somehow get relegated to dream sequences or cover stories or what-have-you.
Of course, retconning can only do so much.
Similar to the issue of the origin of Boba Fett, we have the matter of the name of the Imperial capital city-planet that Lucas had originally created for early versions of Episode VI. In June 2003, Sansweet said:
That he chose to use the term developed originally by Timothy Zahn is not relevant any more than his borrowing of Aayla Secura from the comics he reads . . . after all, per Zahn himself it isn't like Lucas was involved in the EU. (And, actually, given some of his earlier alternatives like Jhantor and Had Abaddon, I think we can all agree that borrowing the much better EU name was a good choice on his part.) The interesting point is that George considered other names for his city-planet, in spite of the "established" name in the EU. This fits right in with Rostoni's comment that Lucas "does not take the EU into account when he's making his movies", and undoubtedly some serious retconning would've been involved had Lucas chosen to use another name.
While Sansweet was fairly firm on the matter of Lucas being tied down in some way by the EU, he was less firm when directly asked about canon, preferring instead to leave such issues up to the individual fan. Or, as he put it in 2001, "issues like these are often best left to each individual's "point of view""». This was a logical position for a fan relations representative to take, though it required distancing himself from his direct answer in the 1998 Encyclopedia. This is especially true where Sansweet did choose to offer some additional commentary on the matter, as quoted from Chris Cerasi of Licensing:
"There's been some confusion of late regarding the 'Infinities' symbol, and Star Wars Expanded Universe continuity in general. Terms like ”canon” and ”continuity” tend to get thrown around casually, which doesn't help at all.
When it comes to absolute canon, the real story of Star Wars, you must turn to the films themselves - and only the films. Even novelizations are interpretations of the film, and while they are largely true to George Lucas' vision (he works quite closely with the novel authors), the method in which they are written does allow for some minor differences. The novelizations are written concurrently with the film's production, so variations in detail do creep in from time to time. Nonetheless, they should be regarded as very accurate depictions of the fictional Star Wars movies.
The further one branches away from the movies, the more interpretation and speculation come into play. [...]
The analogy is that every piece of published Star Wars fiction is a window into the 'real' Star Wars universe. Some windows are a bit foggier than others. Some are decidedly abstract. But each contains a nugget of truth to them. Like the great Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi said, 'many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our point of view.'"»
This quote has had many episodes of semantic warfare fought over it by both sides in the Civil War. Suffice it to say that we're told that "only the films" constitute the real story of Star Wars, and while the books based on Star Wars might have some "nugget of truth" to them, obviously the only confirmation possible is with the films themselves.
Those holding the EU Completist point of view take the quote above and argue that the presence of nuggets of truth is not dependent on confirmation via the films. Or, more to the point, if the EU is a foggy window with nuggets of truth then we should accept it wholesale. This line of reasoning, however, is self-contradictory. Both EU Completists and Movie Purists would concur that the films have a higher standing than the published fiction . . . in the EU Completist argument, however, the nuggets are only untrue (or the window is only shown to be fogged) in the event of contradiction. Any EU statement which doesn't contradict the films is thus considered to be a clear portion of the window. But the very act of checking for contradiction requires confirmation against the films!
Further, the EU Completist argument is ridiculous on a logical level . . . if the "real story" of Star Wars is "only the films", then it is altogether absurd to conclude that these nuggets could be things not already contained in the films. In short, we have another instance similar to the inclusiveness argument mentioned earlier. The EU Completist position cannot stand against such an exclusive statement . . . if "only the films" are "the real story", then that which is not "only the films" cannot be "the real story". Cerasi's statement on canon is entirely exclusive . . . the films alone constitute the real story of Star Wars (though the novels do get an honorable mention).
But, perhaps it's best to leave the issue to The Flannelled One himself:
In a sense, all that has come before this point is mere prelude and prologue. As noted early on, Lucas is the final arbiter of the Star Wars canon policy, serving as absolute trump card both as creator of Star Wars and as owner of the company which manages the rights to it. As such, no matter what anyone else writes or says, Lucas has the final word . . . and he likes it that way. As noted in an interview with "Inside Reel":
"Being independent, to me, is everything. I can't stand to have some corporation bending everything you do . . . y'know, script notes coming out of the marketing department . . . that to me is not the way you make movies. That's not what movies are."»
More to the point, we have his comments to the Associated Press, as recounted at MSNBC:
"AP: Do you pay much attention to fan reactions to your choices?
Lucas: Not really. The movies are what the movies are. ... The thing about science-fiction fans and “Star Wars” fans is they’re very independent-thinking people. They all think outside the box, but they all have very strong ideas about what should happen, and they think it should be their way. Which is fine, except I’m making the movies, so I should have it my way."
What is Lucas's way? Well, we've approached his opinion from several angles above, and of course we've touched on it via the statements of others regarding his opinion . . . statements that have been largely uniform.
For instance, we're aware from multiple sources (including Lucas) that he doesn't read the Expanded Universe novels, nor does he exhibit a close familiarity with the storylines. Indeed, the very concept of a continuous storyline in Licensing's merchandise did not originate with Lucas, and we're told by Rostoni that he doesn't consider the EU to be "his Star Wars". We know from several independent sources that Lucas is not involved in the EU beyond its makers 'checking with the boss', and we know that some of the most important and well-respected EU authors have never even met the man, nor have they interacted with him directly while creating their Star Wars-brand stories. Further, we've been informed that there's no suggestion that these stories are a part of some wider canon. And, of course, multiple sources confirm that he didn't pay much attention to it when making the prequel trilogy, especially in the case of Boba Fett's backstories.
And while actions speak louder than words, we have, in addition to Lucas's actions, his own words to add to the aforementioned words of others. We know, for instance, that he has an idyllic view of the life of Han and Leia after Return of the Jedi, a view far removed from the incessant struggling depicted in post-RoTJ EU materials. We know that "I don't even read the offshoot books that come out based on Star Wars". We know that he contrasts these tales by other writers with his own version of events.
Just from these facts alone, it would be quite curious to conclude that in Lucas's opinion, the Star Wars canon includes the Expanded Universe. Indeed, if anything it would be more logical to conclude that Lucas dismisses the EU entirely.
If so, however, we wouldn't have any particular way of knowing how he dismisses it. Or to put it another way, we wouldn't know if he just ignores it, considers it apocryphal content of the Journal of the Whills, thinks it is extreme embellishment by R2-D2 when recounting the tale to the Keeper of the Whills, believes it to be myths told of legendary characters, or presumes that EU stories are events that occur in some sort of alternate Star Wars universe.
However, Lucas has clarified this matter for us over the past few years:
"TVGuide: Yet novelists have written "Star Wars" sequels using the same characters and extending their stories.
George Lucas: Oh, sure. They're done outside my little universe. "Star Wars" has had a lot of different lives that have been worked on by a lot of different people. It works without me."
- George Lucas, Flannelled One, November 2001 - TV Guide interview
“There are two worlds here,” explained Lucas. “There’s my world, which is the movies, and there’s this other world that has been created, which I say is the parallel universe – the licensing world of the books, games and comic books. They don’t intrude on my world, which is a select period of time, [but] they do intrude in between the movies. I don’t get too involved in the parallel universe.”"
- George Lucas, Flannelled One, July 2002 - as reported on the Cinescape site, from Cinescape Magazine
N.B.: The two quotes below are technically hearsay regarding Lucas's statements, but they do independently confirm one another conceptually regarding Lucas's answer at the same event and are included here on that basis.
"The question selected from The Furry Conflict poll was: How much does the Expanded Universe influence the movies?
As I asked him, Lucas leaned back a moment and said to me “Very little.” When he first had agreed to let people write Expanded Universe books, he had said “I’m not gonna read ‘em” and it was a “different universe” that he wanted to keep away from the time period of his saga. He jokingly complained, however, that now when he writes a script he has to look through an encyclopedia to make sure that a name he comes up with doesn’t come too close to something in the EU.
He later commented that the future of Star Wars may lie in other venues outside of feature film."
- "Marc Xavier", November 2003, "The Furry Conflict and the Great ‘Beard‘ of the Galaxy"
(report based on a Q&A session with George Lucas which occurred at USC on 11-19-03)
"Q: What do you think of the expanded universe of books?
A: The books are in a different universe. I've not read any of them, and I told them when they started writing I wouldn't read any of them and I blocked out certain periods [they couldn't touch where the real story happens]."
"Q: in that vein, is it possible we'll see more Star Wars TV product.
A: Because I"m retiring from this part of my creative life, I'm open to more TV Product. but not more feature films, the story is complete. [and any other story wouldn't be my philosophy and views,] the books are not the same philosophy as the movies."
- "Adam_S", November 2003, "Star Wars Original Trilogy In 2004?", hometheaterforum.com message board
(report based on the same 11-19-03 Lucas Q&A session as the FurryConflict report, thereby providing independent corroboration of the concepts, even if they were paraphrased differently.)
"I feel very satisfied that I have accomplished what I set out to do with 'Star Wars,' " he told CNN. "I was able to complete the entire saga and say this is what the whole story is about."
- George Lucas, Flannelled One, May 2005, CNN interview
"STARLOG: The Star Wars Universe is so large and diverse. Do you ever find yourself confused by the subsidiary material that's in the novels, comics, and other offshoots?
LUCAS: I don't read that stuff. I haven't read any of the novels. I don't know anything about that world. That's a different world than my world. But I do try to keep it consistent. The way I do it now is they have a Star Wars Encyclopedia. So if I come up with a name or something else, I look it up and see if it has already been used. When I said [other people] could make their own Star Wars stories, we decided that, like Star Trek, we would have two universes: My universe and then this other one. They try to make their universe as consistent with mine as possible, but obviously they get enthusiastic and want to go off in other directions."
- George Lucas, Flannelled One, Aug. 2005 - "New Hopes" interview in Starlog #337
(see it for yourself here)
It really doesn't get much simpler. Lucas considers the EU to be the second of "two universes", "outside [his] little universe", part of a "different", "other" world, a universe that is a "parallel universe" to his own . . . the makers of it "try to make their universe as consistent with mine as possible, but obviously they [...] go off in other directions". His story, the saga of the Skywalker family from Anakin to Luke, is over, and while other tales inspired by the galaxy Lucas created also bear the brand name, they don't affect his Star Wars story in any way.
As of December 2006, Licensing personnel are also pretty well united in this view. Leland "Tasty Taste" Chee, maintainer of Lucas Licensing's EU information database known as the "Holocron" and most frequent Licensing speaker on continuity issues, directly confirmed the idea in forum posts responding to these questions at StarWars.Com:
"The only relevant official continuities are the current versions of the films alone, and the combined current version of the films along with whatever else we've got in the Holocron. You're never going to know what George's view of the universe beyond the films at any given time because it is constantly evolving. It remains elastic until it gets committed to film or another official source. Even then, we know there's always room for change.
[...] Anything not in the current version of the films is irrelevant to Film only continuity."
Managing Editor Sue Rostoni of LLP knows this to be Lucas's view as well:
"Within the issue of Starlog magazine with the War of the Worlds cover is an interview article with George Lucas. He stated something which he had said before, which is that he doesn't follow the SW EU, he doesn't read the books or comics. He also said that when they started doing all this (which is allowing other storytellers to tell their own SW tales), he had decreed that the Star Wars Universe would be split into two just like Star Trek (I don't know nuts about Star Trek, so don't ask me about that), one would be his own universe (the six episode movie saga), the other would be a whole other universe (the Expanded Universe). He continued to say that the EU tries as much as possible to tie in to his own universe, but sometimes they move into a whole other line of their own.
Yeah, this is pretty much what I've heard, except that people have said he reads the comics."
- Sue Rostoni, Lucas Licensing (LLP Managing Editor), Sept. 2005 - StarWars.com forum post
So there we have it, from Lucas himself to the makers of the Expanded Universe.
All this is not to say that Lucas is unaware of the EU treatment of his films. For instance, StarWars.com set journalist Pablo Hidalgo got a chance to overhear a conversation about Anakin's new facial scar during the making of Episode III, reporting it thusly:
EU Completists take the above as proof that Lucas accepts the expanded universe as being part of the same universe of his canon films. However, that's not the case at all. Lucas is indeed acknowledging the EU, but only inasmuch as he acknowledges that it features attempts to explain the artistic choices he makes in his films.
What artistic choices are those? Well, one of the defining characteristics of Star Wars compared to most other sci-fi that came before it was that Lucas, as is frequently reported, intentionally made the Star Wars universe look 'lived-in', as a "used future". Far from a spotless sci-fi universe where all the technology is shiny and new, Lucas added some realistic atmosphere by having things scratched and dented and otherwise roughed up. This concept was explained by Lucas in 1977:
Perhaps the best example of the 'used future' is the Millennium Falcon, though there are others. And, this sort of created-history extends to the characters as well, though this is a common feature of films. Remember the reference in the first few minutes of Episode II about Anakin and Obi-Wan in a nest of gundarks? For another instance, Boba Fett's armor was a mess, and of course C-3PO was given a silver leg for the first film. As Lucas notes in the Behind The Magic CD:
Nowadays, it's entirely possible that some EU author has actually tried to explain exactly what happened to Threepio's leg via some concocted tale of cloned emperor robot-leg thieves intent on building some enormous katamari-millipede weapon. We thus come full circle, of course, back to the tale of the scar.
Lucas jokes about the scar being from a bathtub slip. While that's in jest, there is a truth behind it . . . Lucas added the scar simply to say something about the character. For that purpose, the origin of it is irrelevant. From the first time we see him, we instantly know that this isn't just a longer-haired version of the whiny kid from Attack of the Clones. This is a fellow who's been through war. Life's been tough, things are more serious, and so is he.
So how did Anakin get that scar? Well, as Lucas indicates, it doesn't matter . . . but we can be sure that they'd make up an EU story to explain it. (And of course they did, making it a lightsaber scar from some "Dark Lady" Force-user in the comics.)
Nonetheless, EU Completists would have us believe that Lucas does indeed consider the Expanded Universe to be a part of the Star Wars canon, and that EU tales feature valid facts about his Star Wars universe. That, of course, is absurd . . . even the makers of the EU acknowledge that their stories are simply meant to plug in to Lucas's tales, and that Lucas would not have told the same tales had he done the telling. This follows, since we've all seen how Lucas did not even reference the EU tales when making his films. This makes perfect sense, for it would be strange for one to reference events from a separate universe.
Confirmation Case: Boba Fett
One character that frequently comes up in the Canon Civil War is the ever-popular bounty hunter, Boba Fett.
We've already touched on Lucas's trampling of the various EU origin stories for Boba Fett, including whichever one LLP had decided was "canon" to them. Beyond that, however, there's the apparent death of Boba Fett depicted in Return of the Jedi.
In the film, a love tap from a stick wielded by a blind Han Solo activates Fett's jet pack. This causes the smooth operator's jets to fire, rocketing him away on what the script describes as his "last flight". After some distance he slams into the metal side of Jabba's barge, at which point he falls a couple of stories into the sand near the Sarlacc monster's pit. He then rolls without so much as a scream "directly into the mucous mouth of the Sarlacc", to which the Sarlacc responds with a belch. If that weren't bad enough, at least two extra minions of Jabba are flung in behind him. If that weren't bad enough, the crashed remnants of Jabba's floating barges are then piled on top, after the very large explosion which destroys them.
So, most people assume that Boba Fett is dead. However, Boba Fett became a very popular character, and appeared repeatedly in the EU. Lucas, in a 1997 MTV interview, said "I don't know why. [Laughs] I'm mystified by it. He is, he's a, I mean I think he's a, he's a mysterious character, he's a provocative character. He seems like an all powerful character, except he gets killed. Although he's gotten killed, the people who write the books, and everybody else, the comics, are all 'We cant kill him, we gotta bring him back!', you know, 'He can't die! We refuse to let him die!'"» (see also the 2mb DivX 4 video of the interview here.)
This idea that Boba Fett was killed in RoTJ is reinforced by the RoTJ DVD commentaries, in which Lucas refers to "Boba Fett's death" and calls it "a misstep that we wouldn't make more out of the event of his defeat"». Lucas did not identify just which of the many bad things that happened to Fett that day actually did him in, but he's very clear in that, as far as he's concerned, Fett is dead.
In the Expanded Universe, however, Boba Fett was shown to be alive after the time these events would've occurred. The importance of this cannot be overstated. If Boba Fett is dead in the Canon but alive in the EU Continuity, then we have a clear example of the parallel universe idea in action. To put it another way, Lucas simultaneously accepts two separate and unequal fates for Fett. It is therefore an independent confirmation of the parallel universe concept Lucas has espoused in interviews and elsewhere. Separate histories mean separate timelines, and separate timelines mean separate universes.
EU Completists have objected, rather amazingly, that Lucas's opinion on the matter is irrelevant. They believe that since we do not technically see Boba dead in the film, then it can be assumed he is still alive. This prevents any contradiction between the film and the EU.
However, that argument is wrong on many, many levels. Besides everything that happened to Fett in RoTJ, there's the simple fact that it doesn't matter. Even if we could step into the Star Wars universe, beam Fett out of the Sarlacc, and check for a pulse . . . it simply wouldn't be of consequence whether we found one. Why? Because Lucas thinks he's dead in his movie. Five years after Fett's return in the EU, Lucas was talking about how he got "killed" in the movie. Five years after that, it was still Lucas's opinion: "in George's view -- as far as the films go -- the baddest bounty hunter in the Galaxy met his match in the Great Pit of Carkoon where --unfortunately for Mr. Fett -- the ghastly sarlacc made its home"», as Sansweet noted in 2002. So, despite the fact that "Lucas also approved Fett's comeback in the expanded universe", Lucas nevertheless continued to believe Boba to be dead in his film universe for at least a decade. Even when, with the Special Editions and DVD editions, he had the opportunity to change it, he explicitly decided not to per his DVD commentary. (And this is not a man scared to change his films . . . witness the changes to the Han and Greedo encounter in ANH.)
And so, Lucas simultaneously accepts two separate and unequal fates for Fett.
Thus, despite the objection, we find ourselves at
the original conclusion. Separate histories mean separate timelines, and
separate timelines mean separate universes. We have it straight from
Lucas and confirmed by Sansweet that these separate histories exist, and have been acknowledged as such for over a decade.
EU Completism is logically unsupportable, requiring extensive intellectual dishonesty to maintain. Canon Purism is closer to reality, but requires that many statements be dismissed . . . this, too, is a path toward intellectual dishonesty. The only self-consistent way to understand the myriad canon policy statements is to acknowledge the dual-canon approach wherein Lucas Licensing's Official Continuity Policy and Lucas/LFL's canon policy co-exist.
In the Lucas/LFL canon policy, Lucas's films and the associated scripts and novelizations constitute the whole of the Star Wars story. Meanwhile, we get to see a different interpretation of that universe in the parallel reality known as the Expanded Universe.
Accepting the dual-canon nature of Star Wars plus the above view leads us to "Dual-Canon Purism". Dual-Canon Purism acknowledges the primacy of the films and related canon, not to mention the primacy of Lucas in regards to rank and creative vision. For Dual-Canon Purists, the Expanded Universe is known to exist, but would exist outside the objective reality of Star Wars.
In the Official Continuity Policy created and maintained by the Lucasfilm marketing company Lucas Licensing, Lucas's films are the basis for a self-referential offshoot branch of storylines known as the Expanded Universe. The makers of the EU attempt to create a universe that conforms to and does not excessively conflict with the films of Lucas and his responses to their queries as to what they can do, which are then taken as guidelines. Further, the makers of the EU dictate a reality of that EU, excising other bits of EU material as EU apocrypha. This "plug-in universe" can thus be considered real by those who wish to enjoy further Star Wars-themed and Star Wars-branded storylines
The dual-canon idea requires us to acknowledge the choice that some may make to be "Dual-Canon Completists". Thus, not only is acceptance of the dual-canon tradition of Star Wars the most factually accurate and intellectually honest approach, but it also has the benefit of potentially ending the Canon Civil War once and for all . . . no longer would there need to be debates as to which view was objectively correct, but instead Dual-Canon Completism could be recognized as a personal choice to accept the Lucas Licensing OCP, and thus a way to accept and enjoy the many works of Lucas Licensing alongside the works of Lucas and Lucasfilm, Ltd.
Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that the Canon Civil War will end anytime soon. While Canon Purists might begrudgingly accept Dual-Canon Purism, certain militant online EU-Philes will undoubtedly reject the dual-canon approach in favor of continuing to argue, however strangely, that EU Completism alone is correct.
But, alas . . . one can always hope.
A great deal of background material can be used in order to fully research and understand the Star Wars canon. As a result, in addition to the rather long "Overview" essay, I am also supplying you with as much additional data as possible.
In the end, the canon debate comes down to canon policy quotes, defined for our purposes as definitions of the canon and interrelationships with other levels. Here are some links to further information on every quote known to exist.
You can find all known canon-related quotes of Lucas and others on two separate pages. The information contained should be the same barring editorial error (though only the first contains hearsay quotes), including full references and links to the origin of each quote where available.
Every quote of import to the canon debate has been discussed virtually to death. Certain militant fans are particularly fond of taking quotes they find harmful and trying to twist them to say something different via semantic gamesmanship, intellectual dishonesty, willful blindness, or other forms of irrationalism. As such, the link below will take you to a page wherein the most frequently-encountered claims about quotes and the meaning thereof are analyzed.
There are certain interesting issues about the Star Wars canon that just didn't have a place in the Overview.
The Star Wars canon is more than just the films. But with multiple versions of the same story, which is correct? That's what the page below seeks to answer.
Lucas is a firm believer in the idea that a director has a right to change his films, and Lucas has exercised that right on multiple occasions. With several versions of even A New Hope (one in which it wasn't even called that!), which is true? See below.
(Note: This area could end up in flux within the next few years, given that HD-DVD/Blu-Ray will hit the market and thus probably require yet another release of the films on disc so that they'll look good on HDTV sets. There's also talk of a film processing technique called dimensionalization which uses polarized light and special glasses to achieve a 3-D look from 2-D film. Lucas reportedly plans to re-release the films in 3-D, and thus the canonicity of that version will also need to be addressed.)
Circa 2008 a live-action hour-long Star Wars television drama is set to appear. History would suggest that it will not be counted as canon given that no prior television product has been (including the Clone Wars cartoon shorts, the Ewoks telemovies, The Star Wars Holiday Special, the 80's cartoons Ewoks and Droids, and so on), but the possibility exists that an exception could be made for a new series.
Early indications are mixed. In a September 2004 Associated Press interview, when asked if he would revisit Star Wars after completing Episode III, Lucas said:
"Lucas: Ultimately, I'm going to probably move it into television and let other people take it. I'm sort of preserving the feature film part for what has happened and never go there again, but I can go off into various offshoots and things. You know, I've got offshoot novels, I've got offshoot comics. So it's very easy to say, ”Well, OK, that's that genre, and I'll find a really talented person to take it and create it.” Just like the comic books and the novels are somebody else's way of doing it. I don't mind that. Some of it might turn out to be pretty good. If I get the right people involved, it could be interesting."
Here, Lucas seems to indicate that a television series would be an offshoot no different than the novels and comics, but simply in the television series genre. And, of course, he once again makes a distinction between his films and everything else, with the latter apparently including any series.
However, throughout 2005 we saw the following quotes which are rather variable:
"It's a spin-off, it doesn't involve any of the key characters. It's a different world unto itself between episodes three Revenge of the Sith; and four Star Wars: A New Hope.""
" I am anxious to get on and do other things. We are still doing a TV series, two TV series, one animated and one live action, so I am not going to do it myself, but I'll peek in from time-to-time."
"We're doing a couple of TV series, but I'm not really involved with it."
"[...] a live-action TV show that will involve "minor characters" ("It's not about Darth Vader or the saga, it just takes place in that world. It's like the spin-off novels. I'm not doing it, other people are doing it.")"
"Lucas added: "Lucasfilm is going more into television, but it's not a vision I'm running, either as executive producer or by laying out the groundwork.""
"There will be a live-action show, but I don't know if it'll be in 2006," he says. "I haven't
even started writing the script."
He does know, however, that the show will take place between Episodes III and IV, and will focus
on the little people - those weird-looking creatures you glimpse fleetingly in the background.
"It's all minor, minor characters [from the movies]," says the director. "It's not the Skywalker
story at all - that's going on in another part of the galaxy."
And, from Rick McCallum, "And the live-action television series is something we are planning for at the beginning of 2007. We are just starting to interview writers and trying to really figure out which direction to go to. It is going to be much darker, grittier. It's much more character-based. He envisions somewhere like 100 hours between Episode III and Episode IV with a lot of characters that we haven't met that have been developed in some of the novels and other things. We are really excited about that. Finally, we could have the opportunity to answer everybody's questions once and for all by the time we finish the series."
"I'm going to get it started, and hire the show runners and all of that, then I'll probably step away."
As you can see, the quotes above aren't exactly cohesive. In some he says he isn't involved with it, but in another he's writing the script. In some he says it's a different world, in others he indicates it's in the same one. Interestingly, the ones that imply his participation seem to be the ones that indicate its in the same world, more often than not.
For now, history and some quotes would seem that if a Star Wars television show is to appear, it will probably be as non-canon as anything else. But, there's a lot of time between now and then, so we'll see what happens.
Some have claimed that international readership, library check-outs, e-book sales, and sales during the year 2000 are not accounted for in my quotation of the Publisher's Weekly information on the sales figures of the NJO book Vector Prime, and thus the true figure is in the "millions and millions" instead of 200,000.
According to a statement I read at the time, a book that would be a bestseller in Great Britain wouldn't even scratch the charts in the U.S. While I imagine that's a bit of an exaggeration, it is true that the population is about a fifth as much as it is here, and thus one could hardly expect to reasonably add more than 40,000 additional
copies to the 200,000 hardcover Vector Prime novels mentioned, with Australia providing another 13-14,000, again by population.
"Library statistics" is a desperate reach I won't even acknowledge, but e-books aren't going to do much to boost the number either.
As for sales during 2000, Vector Prime was released in early October, 1999. The average shelf-life for a new hardcover book is about 6-8 weeks, and while a genre book like a Star Wars title might last longer in hardcover it seems unlikely that there would've been a significant number of sales after New Year's, 12 weeks after the book originally hit the shelves. And, of course, we know from Publisher's Weekly that the first dozen books of the series only sold 300,000 books in paperback each, and under the general theory that there will be more paperbacks of a book sold than hardcovers it seems apparent that the total would fall in the range of 200,000.
In our debate on canon from 2002, EU Completist Mike Wong's primary argument revolved around the phrase "overall continuity" as used by Lucas Licensing personnel (Rostoni and Kausch) in Insider #23:
"'Gospel', or canon as we refer to it, includes the screenplays, the films, the radio dramas and the novelisations. These works spin out of George Lucas' original stories, the rest are written by other writers. However, between us, we've read everything, and much of it is taken into account in the overall continuity. The entire catalog of published works comprises a vast history -- with many off-shoots, variations and tangents -- like any other well-developed mythology."»
At first he claimed that this was Lucasfilm's position, but later conceded that this referred to Licensing's in-house EU continuity. However, he argued that the existence of an "overall continuity" somehow brought Lucas's filmed canon and the Expanded Universe under one roof and made them one cohesive whole (save for some contradictory EU bits), like this:
This, it was argued, was the case even given Lucas's parallel universe concept which he attempted to deny. Of course, this claim makes absolutely no sense. The very nature of a parallel universe requires a discontinuity just like the one shown between the blue areas of his image above, and requires that there be no green area of coherence.
Similarly, there is no entity (besides the mind of a fan, which is irrelevant for our purposes) with the authority to take elements of both the canon and the EU and form this sort of "overall continuity". The "overall continuity" referred to by Licensing personnel certainly does not override LFL's ownership of the rights to the Star Wars story. It simply means that they have a continuity which, per Rostoni, is generally designed to follow the Star Wars story laid out in Lucas's canon.
If that doesn't quite make sense yet, consider it this way: we could write a fanfic and say that in a "super-duper continuity" the EU and our story were both part of the whole continuous story. However, we would be sure to note that our intent was to write a fanfic which was meant to serve as an additional story that would plug in to the EU but not conflict with it. And if the people who make the EU said that our story wasn't part of the same universe, so much the better. We'd thus end up with this:
So where, then, does this "super-duper continuity" come from? Well, just us, obviously. So does that mean that the people who make the EU buy into it? No, of course not. And does that mean that people who talk about Star Wars should reference our story for the sake of completeness? Again, no . . . that would be absurd. So what's to stop us from making the gold box even bigger, encompassing the canon too? Nothing . . . nothing at all, so long as we remember that we're only doing that as our own belief based on our own fandom.
So what's the difference between that and claiming an overall continuity a la Wong? Nothing . . . nothing at all.
In August 2004, Leland Chee of Lucas Licensing also used the term "overall continuity". However, just as was the case in 1994, this simply referred to the continuity maintained by Lucas Licensing, a continuity meant to be largely consistent with the canon of Lucas.
Special thanks to Starlog and MTV for materials shown on this page. Hat tips to StarWars.com blogger 'Rayten' and StarWars.com forum poster 'Galvaron' for leading me to the Starlog quote. Hat tips to 'GStone' and the Boba Fett Fan Club site for the 1997 MTV video.
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