Editor’s note: This guest piece was selected as part of a special project we just started called Project: Couch Surfing, in which we attempt to find writers from as many different states and locations as possible. Read more about the project here! This week, we feature guest writer Meagan Davenport, from the state of Washington. You can read her blog here.
“What if Boba Fett didn’t die?”
“But he fell into the Sarlacc Pit! That’s supposed to be nigh inescapable!”
“But Boba Fett did it.”
I’ll leave it to Kevin J. Anderson’s Tales series to give you the (scant) details, but suffice it to say that Fett did it. The one thing no one else had ever done before. Or since.
My generation grew up on this story, and many others in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. The story didn’t end with Return of the Jedi; it continued in a revived Fett; a galvanized Han Solo; a sought-after and fought-over Princess Leia. Han and Leia had twins; Luke fell in love (and not with his sister).
And Boba Fett, the man with six lines over two movies – oh, yes, Boba Fett was, underneath all that armor, a man – quickly became “the most pimped-out character” in the galaxy (thank you, Meredith Woerner).
But recently, Lucasfilm declared all of these things non-canonical. A “valued part” of the Expanded Universe – but it’s just that, the Expanded Universe. And another piece of childhood is gone.
This may seem like small potatoes; after all, much of the Marvel universe has seen a similar fate. Canon has no regard for what’s been done before; characters were simply reinvented, rebranded, differentiated by an author’s name and line of work rather than the character’s merits and history. Similarly, Star Trek has seen a number of incarnations and reincarnations, with multiple TV series and character crossovers.
Star Wars, though, has been a relatively cohesive body of work from its inception. The first Expanded Universe (EU) novel, Alan Dean Foster’s Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, was set between Star Wars: A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back; while somewhat of an anomaly – Han Solo and Chewbacca make no appearance, and the inconsistencies begin as Vader credits Luke rather than Han with derailing his fighter during the Death Star trench run – it still starts the EU novelizations with a bang. Had A New Hope not been the rousing success it was, Splinter may well have been the basis for a lower-budget sequel. It was also unique in that Lucas commissioned Alan Dean Foster to write it alongside the A New Hope novelization.
While Lucas has never made his sentiment toward canon a secret (even Splinter was scrapped for what eventually became Empire after A New Hope’s success), Lucasfilm has worked with authors and graphic artists over the years to ensure a large modicum of consistency and material integrity, Death Star trench run aside. Each release is officially licensed material, branded with the Star Wars logo and, inherently, stamped with a seal of approval from the powers that be. (Even some of Foster’s Splinter material made it into Empire: Luke cutting off Vader’s arm channels directly from this novel.)
Lucas certainly has no qualms about modifying his own material as time goes on; the franchise has had its share of modifications over the years, much of which at the hand of its creator. Such alterations have received widespread attention and criticism, particularly with the release of the prequels; prequel inconsistencies and fan frustration are well-documented and known.
It would seem that the prequels became just what die-hard fans needed to speak out. Fan response was harsh, to say the least, of new character Jar Jar Binks. He quickly earned his own Urban Dictionary page and spawned countless hater pages, many along the lines of Huffington Post’s “10 Times Jar Jar Binks Opened His Mouth and Ruined ‘Star Wars: Episode 1’”. (It could – and probably has – been made into a drinking game.) The only significant reboots Lucas has done over the years come in the form of special editions and re-releases, which, granted, have had their own series of issues: Han shot first until 1997’s special edition theatrical re-release; Vader’s lightsaber turned pink in the blu ray release. Fans also saw extended footage of Boba Fett in 1997, and (yet more) voiceover work after the prequel release; Han stepped on Jabba’s tail. There are websites dedicated to analyzing detail differences between editions!
Queen Amidala, too, has her own anti-fan following; many original-trilogy fans question her death in childbirth. Princess Leia reminisced to Luke of a beautiful, kind, and sad mother; Amidala’s untimely death directly contrasts this familiar memory and touching scene.
Much as many fans wish it would (often comparing the prequels with the EU’s efforts to at least be consistent), Lucasfilm’s press release has no impact on the prequels. What it does, instead, is denigrate the thirty years’ worth of efforts that have gone into EU production and development. The lives we have read about, dreamed about, for these characters will be, like so many other things, erased or rewritten.
So how have fans reacted to this?
This writer, for one, flipped. I hate to use the word legend, given Lucasfilm’s rebranding plans, but Boba Fett, for all his six lines in Empire and Jedi, became legendary. His lack of lines, his lack of sympathy – his seeming lack of a soul – made the speculation about his origins and fate run rampant, and the Expanded Universe fed into that with a passion and vengeance worthy of, well, Fett.
Meredith Woerner, mentioned earlier, had the opportunity to interview Jeremy Bulloch, the man behind Fett’s mask (and in front of it, filling in for an extra in Return of the Jedi) in 2011. The pair discussed Fett’s life before and after the original trilogy; how the prequels impacted their idea(l)s and Fett’s identity; and more. “Lord_Zeel”, one of the first commenters on the article, was quick to give a nod to the Expanded Universe: “He escaped[,] dude, It’s [sic] a well-known fact.” Other commenters bemoaned the prequels, posturing the EU’s distinct superiority over the prequels. (Take note, George; take note.)
Typhus, another commenter, summarized Fett’s mystique well: “Fett wasn’t about what was shown, it was about what was implied, and what he represented. … Boba Fett was my Clint Eastwood before I knew who Clint Eastwood was.”
In a fine piece on TheMarySue.com, April Daniels asked frankly, “No, really: why the [heck] do we care what Disney thinks about this? They don’t own Star Wars. We own Star Wars. They just hold the licences.”
Many of the message boards held similar attitudes. “Reepicheep”, a frequent poster on EUCantina.net, commented, “I think we all knew this was coming, but the “officalness” still hurts. … This feels like the official goodbye. Let’s face it: a huge reason why I was a Star Wars fan was because of the EU.”
Others were less concerned. One reader noted that he didn’t mind; while he’d only read 7-8 EU books, he was more concerned that Episodes VII-IX be of high quality, unlike the prequels.
This also (blessedly) indicates that some of the lesser-quality books and plot lines would perhaps be no more. James B. Jones tweeted, “One must look at it objectively: most of the Star Wars EU was really, really bad. Space dragons, Jar Jar’s dad, Beatrice Arthur…”
It will be interesting to see how Episodes VII-IX develop in light of all this. Much of the original trilogy’s cast has returned to reprise their roles; on the flip side, many fans can take heart that Hayden Christiansen, if he appears at all, would likely only be a hologram. Even better, Jar Jar’s return is that much less likely. (Find some wood to knock on between now and December 2015.) As we saw with Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, some EU material may even make its way into the newest trilogy.
Ultimately, dear fans, none of us belong to Lucasfilm; there is only so much we can take away from all this discussion of canon, fanon, and Lucas. We all have EU books we love; some are better, some are worse, than others. (The same could be said of the six movies to date.) But what is truly important is that these books were still written. They got their stamp of approval back in the day; they’ll be inherently, sentimentally worth more to us as fans, who bought them before and without the rebranding. We read, memorized, quoted, and acted scenes from them; we debated the finer points of Mandalorian armor and Coruscanti architecture; and at the end of the day, we can and will maintain the truth. That Boba Fett escaped from the Sarlacc Pit.