Months before the release of Star Wars the film, there was Star Wars, the novel, drumming up support. This is, in effect, the first piece of canon Star Wars to appear before the world. Most remarkable is that Lucas did not write this first piece of the canon, though he made sure his name appeared on it.
To be sure, many have known about this for years, though it's often stated as if it were mere rumor. As you'll read in the following interview excerpt, a book about the making of Star Wars correctly identified the true author quite soon after Star Wars appeared. Who was the author of this first canon? Alan Dean Foster (source):
You wrote Splinter of the Minds Eye, the first original Star Wars novel. How'd you get that assignment?
My agent, Virginia Kidd, got a call from Tom Pollack, now one of the most powerful men in Hollywood. Tom was George Lucas' representative at the time. They were doing this science fiction film called Star Wars and wanted someone to write a sequel book for the movie. So I went down to Industrial Light & Magic which, at the time, was in a little warehouse, and met George Lucas--who, to this day, is the nicest guy I've ever met in the film business--who took me through and showed me this whole wall of material, like World War II tanks and model kits and things, which they were picking parts off of to build the ships and models for the movie. George showed me the Death Star, which was this beach ball thing. A guy named Samuel Bass came through while I was there, whom I knew from teaching documentary films, and I met John Dykstra. And so that's how the two books came about.
Yes. Splinter of the Mind's Eye and Star Wars.
You mean the novelization of the movie?
Yes. George said he wanted to put his name on the book, and I said, "Okay, whatever..." I had a contract where I couldn't say I was the author and had to lie to a lot of people about it. But a book about the making of the film came out and credited me with the book, so I got permission from Lucasfilm to be able to talk about it.
Entertainingly, some have also insisted that Alan Dean Foster was the real author of the Star Trek: The Motion Picture novelization, written by Gene Roddenberry. That is not the case . . . or, if it is, no one told Foster (source also includes reference to SW).