Lucasfilm finally broke the news about the Expanded Universe going forward this wee....EPISODE 7 CAST ANNOUNCEMENT!
That first sentence pretty much sums up the past few days in the Star Wars universe. It's not a bad metaphor for how Episode 7 and future works impact the EU, either. For those who may have somehow missed it (not likely, but still...), past EU stories are now being rebranded as "Legends," and future stores - in any form - will create a new continuity as overseen by the Lucasfilm Story Group. It isn't a complete surprise, since the previous announcement that the story group was looking specifically what to do with the EU indicated changes were coming. It was just a matter of how much.
According to interviews in the announcement video (see below), the EU will likely be mined for material moving forward, so it appears some things (ships, items, stories, etc.) may come back as is, in a modified form, or inspire new characters, locations etc. It's already happening in the Rebels cartoon, with the big bad guy inspired straight from the d6 RPG material. It's hard for me not to miss the parallels to the original EU novels using the West End Games material as some starting points.
Nice to see books from the RPGs included - in this case, d6, d20, d20 RCR, d20 Saga Edition. It's also nice to spot a few titles I worked on as well. My own EU intro is comparable to Pablo Hidalgo's comments about the original Star Wars Sourcebook - the first book after the rulebook. It drew me in like no other before, even the early books and comics. It is still one of my favorite RPG books, and referred to more than once over the years for various RPG products.
New stories are already in the pipeline, with the first novels being announced with some familiar authors attached to them. I'm confident that the people on the story group know their stuff and will use the 30+ years of lessons on what works and what doesn't.
As for my own feelings, I've compared the past few days (or months, in some ways) to when a new edition of an RPG is announced. There are those who can't wait to get rid of the stuff they didn't like, and those that are bummed out that their favorite (or at least familiar) aspects of the game or game universe are discarded or rewritten. Then there are months of speculation and demands about what should or shouldn't be in the game, and declarations from those who refuse to pay for the same thing again. When the new thing finally arrives, there is a new round of judgement, declarations of loyalty to the previous thing, criticisms of the changes, lamenting over "bad" material that remained in place, and celebrations about what the new thing gets right.
So, as a contributor to the EU over the past 20 years, I'm of course a bit bummed out by the turn of events. Adding to the Star Wars universe was and is a great thrill, and seeing my material picked up elsewhere is always fun. Past things could be used again in future works, so that part hasn't necessarily gone anywhere. Naturally, there are things in the EU I won't miss along with those that I will. I'm mostly beyond the ranting stage about various Star Wars stories, but in the pre-internet days, I might have said a thing or two (and might have found this image amusing).
The other parallel to times gone by is how past material gets "promoted" into the new....edition. The original Marvel Star Wars comics were largely ignored for various reasons when writing or developing the RPG, novels, comics, etc. However, some of that material was eventually pulled in by authors and writers that loved some aspect of the past work. Seems like we'll see more of that going forward as "Legends" material gets pulled into new works. Timothy Zahn has an interesting take on this sort of idea.
BTW, those wanting to know how all this affects the current RPG game lines...will have to take it up with Fantasy Flight Games.
Now, on with the casting announcement for Episode 7. I'm pretty excited about it. I'm intrigued that Max Von Sydow (Ming the Merciless from the Flash Gordon movie) is part of this. I admittedly don't know anything about the new actors. The picture of the read through was just classic, and the black and white image recalls behind the scenes photos of past movies. There have been many online criticisizms about the diversity of the cast, and I too was surprised, especially compared to the Rebels characters. There are apparently more character announcements rumored to come later.
Finally, it looks like West End Games had it right on the money with their first sourcebook based on the first EU novel, Heir to the Empire. The New Republic = Legends.
The New Republic banner was originally used to cover anything post-Return of the Jedi, though it was eventually dropped for the standard Star Wars logo. It went along with the following disclaimer inside the front cover (also eventually dropped from later books):
No one knew if the publishing thing would take off, so they hedged their bets. The New Republic banner was an easy way for players and fans to tell the material from the rest of the game line if they wanted to avoid it, or if it went away someday in the future.
Sounds rather like the Legends banner.