A brief history of the Expanded Universe (Star Wars geekery)

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BY JAYSON PETERS

What does a diehard Star Wars fanatic do when he’s not watching the Trilogies or blogging about the upcoming television series (plural) set in a galaxy far, far away? He curls up with a good Star Wars book, of course!

They have books, you say? Yes! I answer. Star Wars has a long tradition of spin-off media, known collectively as the Expanded Universe, or EU to hardcore fans or haters. Of which there are many. If you think it’s tough keeping track of all the characters in George Lucas’ movies, just wait until you throw in thirty years of follow-up adventures!

Back in 1991, before anyone had heard of Jar Jar Binks, Star Wars returned seemingly from out of the blue with the publication of Heir to the Empire, the first book in what was later unofficially dubbed the “Thrawn trilogy.” Written by Timothy Zahn, it started five years after Return of the Jedi and told the story of a mysterious and brilliant Imperial admiral who rallies the remnants of the Empire against the New Republic that was established by the Rebels after the Battle of Endor. The trilogy continued with Dark Force Rising and concluded in The Last Command. It was a brilliant work, and Zahn’s style made it feel like Star Wars as told by Tom Clancy – technical and robust with nonstop action.

But the EU goes back further even than 1991. In 1978, the year after Star Wars came out in theaters, came the release of Splinter of the Mind’s Eye by Alan Dean Foster (who also ghost-wrote the novelization of the feature film for George Lucas). Folklore says this book, a jungle romp with no space battles, was intended to be the basis for a sequel to 77’s Star Wars if the film flopped and Lucas could only afford a modest follow-up. He really needn’t have worried, but Splinter is an enjoyable novel that incorporates elements from early drafts of the Star Wars saga, and it’s back in print as well as in graphic novel form from Dark Horse Comics.

On the flip side, there have been many forgettable volumes in the EU (The Courtship of Princess Leia, with the unfortunate Han Solo line “Kiss my Wookiee,” springs to mind). But the EU has also shaken up the Star Wars galaxy in memorable ways: the death of at least one major character from the films; the birth of Jedi twins Jaina and Jacen Solo (and, later, their younger brother Anakin); an invasion by sadistic aliens from outside the galaxy (in the 27-volume New Jedi Order series); and, most recently, the re-emergence of the Sith in the current novel series, Legacy of the Force. That’s right, Jacen Solo goes down the path his grandfather took and becomes known as Darth Caedus – a name chosen by readers in an online contest.

swrevelation.jpgKaren Traviss’ Legacy of the Force novel Revelation once topped the New York Times best sellers chart for paperback mass-market fiction. It’s the penultimate chapter in the Legacy of the Force, and the Skywalker and Solo families are split by a new galactic civil war. The final chapter, Invincible by fantasy author Troy Denning, hit shelves in hardback May 13, 2008.

Related post: Star Wars turning Japanese (I really think so!)

Once Disney bought Lucasfilm, the Universe changed. The prolific existing EU was relegated to “Legends” status, and only books that came out from that point onward were considered to be official Star Wars canon novel content.

“Going forward, Lucasfilm has begun mapping out the narrative future of Star Wars storytelling that will appear on film and television and in other media so that all projects will benefit from real-time collaboration and alignment. The future Star Wars novels from Disney Publishing Worldwide and Del Rey Books will now be part of the official Star Wars canon as reflected on upcoming TV and movie screens.”

“With the establishment of the Lucasfilm Story Group and our even greater focus on unified storytelling, we expect our entire publishing program to be stronger and more meaningful than ever before,” said Jeanne Mosure, senior vice president and group publisher, Disney Publishing Worldwide. “We’re extremely excited to kick off this new strategy with Del Rey Books.”

This list will serve as a reference for those wishing to know what books “count” now and mesh seamlessly with the films, TV shows and games of the Star Wars canon universe today:

TitleAuthor(s)Release dateAmazon order linkSupport local
A NEW DAWNJohn Jackson MillerSept. 2, 2014https://amzn.to/2QR3hnrhttps://bookshop.org/a/1125/9780553391473
TARKINJames LucenoNov. 4, 2014https://amzn.to/2Didb9thttps://bookshop.org/a/1125/9780553392906
HEIR TO THE JEDIKevin HearneMarch 3, 2015https://amzn.to/2KWSlkahttps://bookshop.org/a/1125/9780345544865
LORDS OF THE SITHPaul S. KempApril 28, 2015https://amzn.to/33pL6HWhttps://bookshop.org/a/1125/9780345511454
DARK DISCIPLEChristie GoldenJuly 7, 2015https://amzn.to/2rsPubZhttps://bookshop.org/a/1125/9781101884959
AFTERMATHChuck WendigSept. 4, 2015https://amzn.to/37EeVrGhttps://bookshop.org/a/1125/9781101885925
LOST STARSClaudia GraySept. 4, 2015https://amzn.to/2QVV6WShttps://bookshop.org/a/1125/9781484724989
BATTLEFRONT: TWILIGHT COMPANYAlexander FreedNov. 3, 2015https://amzn.to/2pQ08cihttps://bookshop.org/a/1125/9781101884768
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (film novelization)Alan Dean FosterJan. 15, 2016https://amzn.to/37GdhGchttps://bookshop.org/a/1125/9781101966990
BLOODLINEClaudia GrayMay 3, 2016https://amzn.to/34oXMjFhttps://bookshop.org/a/1125/9781101885260
AFTERMATH: LIFE DEBTChuck WendigJuly 12, 2016https://amzn.to/2OMCVjVhttps://bookshop.org/a/1125/9781101966952
AHSOKAE.K. JohnstonOct. 11, 2016https://amzn.to/2XNxIfNhttps://bookshop.org/a/1125/9781484782316
CATALYST: A ROGUE ONE STORYJames LucenoNov. 15, 2016https://amzn.to/2OoupbWhttps://bookshop.org/a/1125/9781101967003
ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY (film novelization)Alexander FreedDecember 2016https://amzn.to/2OnrwYDhttps://bookshop.org/a/1125/9780399178474
AFTERMATH: EMPIRE’S ENDChuck WendigFeb. 21, 2017https://amzn.to/2DlaZ18https://bookshop.org/a/1125/9781101966983
THRAWNTimothy ZahnApril 11, 2017https://amzn.to/2XO0nRXhttps://bookshop.org/a/1125/9781101967027
GUARDIANS OF THE WHILLSGreg RuckaMay 2, 2017https://amzn.to/2L0qqjkhttps://bookshop.org/a/1125/9781484780817
REBEL RISINGBeth RevisMay 2, 2017https://amzn.to/2Dkpq5whttps://bookshop.org/a/1125/9781484780831
BATTLEFRONT II: INFERNO SQUADChristie GoldenJuly 25, 2017https://amzn.to/2OmuKvEhttps://bookshop.org/a/1125/9781524796822
PHASMADelilah S. DawsonSept. 1, 2017https://amzn.to/2slfqH3https://bookshop.org/a/1125/9781524796334
LEIA: PRINCESS OF ALDERAANClaudia GraySept. 1, 2017https://amzn.to/34prfKuhttps://bookshop.org/a/1125/9781484780787
FROM A CERTAIN POINT OF VIEW(Anthology)Oct. 3, 2017https://amzn.to/2OTD8Suhttps://bookshop.org/a/1125/9780345511478
CANTO BIGHT(Anthology)Dec. 5, 2017https://amzn.to/2DgKUQThttps://bookshop.org/a/1125/9780525478768
STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI (film novelization)Jason FryMarch 6, 2018https://amzn.to/2pSZuuDhttps://bookshop.org/a/1125/9781524797133
LAST SHOT: A HAN AND LANDO NOVELDaniel Jose OlderApril 17, 2018https://amzn.to/2qNN1sIhttps://bookshop.org/a/1125/9780525622147
MOST WANTEDRae CarsonMay 25, 2018https://amzn.to/2L2Ba0Lhttps://bookshop.org/a/1125/9781368016308
THRAWN: ALLIANCESTimothy ZahnJuly 24, 2018https://amzn.to/2sm52ifhttps://bookshop.org/a/1125/9780525481287
SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY: EXPANDED EDITION (film novelization)Mur LaffertySept. 4, 2018https://amzn.to/2Dj7yIrhttps://bookshop.org/a/1125/9781984819284
QUEEN’S SHADOWE.K. JohnstonMarch 5, 2019https://amzn.to/2OnM0AFhttps://bookshop.org/a/1125/9781368024259
MASTER AND APPRENTICEClaudia GrayApril 16, 2019https://amzn.to/2KXsVmShttps://bookshop.org/a/1125/9780525619376
ALPHABET SQUADRONAlexander FreedJune 11, 2019https://amzn.to/2R51X0vhttps://bookshop.org/a/1125/9781984821980
THRAWN: TREASONTimothy ZahnJuly 23, 2019https://amzn.to/33oFhdYhttps://bookshop.org/a/1125/9781984820983
STAR WARS MYTHS & FABLESGeorge MannAug. 1, 2019https://amzn.to/2tW4YGxhttps://bookshop.org/a/1125/9781368043458
GALAXY’S EDGE: BLACK SPIREDelilah S. DawsonAug. 27, 2019https://amzn.to/33oFsGahttps://bookshop.org/a/1125/9780593128381
DOOKU: JEDI LOSTCavan ScottOct. 1, 2019https://amzn.to/2pYcbEEhttps://bookshop.org/a/1125/9780593157664
JOURNEY TO STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER: RESISTANCE REBORNRebecca RoanhorseNov. 5, 2019https://amzn.to/2DkB7cvhttps://bookshop.org/a/1125/9780593128428
JOURNEY TO STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER: FORCE COLLECTORKevin ShinickNov. 19, 2019https://amzn.to/2sjgfjthttps://bookshop.org/a/1125/9781368045582
STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER (film novelization)Rae CarsonMarch 17, 2020https://amzn.to/2OoI2HWhttps://bookshop.org/a/1125/9780593128404
QUEEN’S PERILE.K. JohnstonJune 2, 2020https://amzn.to/2Oq6MiUhttps://bookshop.org/a/1125/9781368057141
SHADOW FALL: AN ALPHABET SQUADRON NOVELAlexander FreedJune 23, 2020https://amzn.to/2pYc5Nihttps://bookshop.org/shop/nerdvana
DOCTOR APHRA: AN AUDIOBOOK ORIGINALSarah KuhnJuly 21, 2020https://amzn.to/3ikqEko
STAR WARS DARK LEGENDSGeorge MannJuly 28, 2020https://amzn.to/36Nd03jhttps://bookshop.org/a/1125/9781368057332
POE DAMERON: FREE FALLAlex SeguraAug. 4, 2020https://amzn.to/2ScWOCuhttps://bookshop.org/a/1125/9781368051668
STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS — STORIES OF LIGHT AND DARK ANTHOLOGYLou Anders, Tom Angleberger, Preeti Chhibber, Zoraida Córdova, Sarah Beth Durst, Jason Fry, Yoon Ha Lee, Rebecca Roanhorse, Anne Ursu, Greg van EekhoutAug. 25, 2020https://amzn.to/36OzwbUhttps://bookshop.org/a/1125/9781368057295
THRAWN: THE ASCENDANCY TRILOGY BOOK 1: CHAOS RISINGTimothy ZahnOct. 6, 2020 Sept. 1, 2020https://amzn.to/34uWOmghttps://bookshop.org/a/1125/9780593157688
FROM A CERTAIN POINT OF VIEW: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK(Anthology)Nov. 10, 2020https://amzn.to/2YMPsdp
HIGH REPUBLIC: LIGHT OF THE JEDICharles SouleAug. 25, 2020 Jan. 5, 2021https://amzn.to/32WHZc4https://bookshop.org/a/1125/9780593157718
HIGH REPUBLIC: A TEST OF COURAGEJustina IrelandJan. 5, 2021https://amzn.to/2TFi4lT
HIGH REPUBLIC: INTO THE DARKClaudia GrayOct. 13, 2020 Feb. 2, 2021https://amzn.to/381m5VQhttps://bookshop.org/a/1125/9781368057288
THE MANDALORIAN: ORIGINAL NOVELAdam ChristopherFall 2021https://amzn.to/31DG0KS

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away …

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