Thursday, April 4, 2013

Canon in D Major

Something has come up in the nerdia world of late, something potent enough to make me get off my lazy behind and write another TQM post. Sorry it's been so long since the last one, but I've been busy teaming up with Corey Feldman and Jennifer Love-Hewitt to save the president from space-pirates. That was a thing that happened.

Anyhoo, the big brouhaha in the news lately seems to revolve around the demise of one of video gaming's most trailblazing development companies, LucasArts. Since it was a subsidiary of LucasFilm, LucasArts became property of Disney during their acquisition of the company in October of last year. When Disney announced the other day that it was shutting down LucasArts and cancelling some of the titles the game developers had currently been working on, some fans (kind of understandably) had a bit of a spot of bother with the whole situation.

But what's REALLY getting people riled up is the fact that -since Mickey Mouse is now effectively emperor of the Star Wars sandbox -other properties related to the films' Expanded Universe, or EU (i.e. comic books, novels, video games, etc., anything related to the movies but NOT the movies themselves) will also be stricken from the record.

But you know what, fellow sexy Star Wars disciples? This doesn't really bother me. And it shouldn't really bother you, either. Here's why.

LucasArts was a company. Companies can appear and disappear at the drop of hat. They can exist one moment and be gone the next. All those Star Wars-related books and video games, can't UNmake them. They've been made. They exist. They're filling out our bookshelves and gracing our TV screens and embedded in our collective subconscious. If you liked them, then you have nothing to worry about; they'll always be there.

But that's not what most fans are concerned about, is it? No, what most fans are concerned about is that Disney's new films and projects will render previous EU material non-canon. For those of you aren't fluent in Geekish, non-canon is a fancy word that describes something that is related to or set within a fictional storyline that isn't actually an official part of that storyline at all. For example, I bet everybody has heard of Twilight, right? Well, let's say I read the first Twilight book, then I sat down and wrote a 4,000-page story featuring Edward, Bella, and Jacob teaming up to fight space-pirates with Corey Feldman. What I wrote is 100% related to Twilight. It takes place in the Twilight universe. It features all of the characters and settings. But it's not officially part of the Twilight story. Ergo, it is non-canon. But a year later, Stephanie Meyer releases New Moon, the official sequel to Twilight. New Moon, therefore, is canon. (Although, one couldn't help but make the argument that MY story would have been a million times more erotic and awesome. Just sayin')

There are probably something like 500 books that have been published telling the stories of what happens to Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia after the events of Return of the Jedi. And fans are upset because they believe that after all these years, those stories will be rendered obsolete by whatever movies Disney makes. The Disney movies (being actual, official Star Wars movies) will replace all of those other stories as the Star Wars canon.

But I'm here today to tell all those fans that they literally have nothing to be upset about. Because all of those Expanded Universe novels and comic books and video games and lunchboxes NEVER WERE CANON TO BEGIN WITH.

You heard me right, fanboy brethren. None of that stuff is or ever was officially canon, at least not in the sense we've been discussing so far. Heir to the Empire takes place in the Star Wars universe. It's a great book. A lot of people read it. But Timothy Zahn (the gentleman who penned it) is no different from me writing my masterpiece about Edward, Bella, Corey, and the space-pirates from beyond the Moon. Timothy Zahn is just like us: he's a Star Wars fan who loved the movies so much he created his own fantasies about what would happen next. The only difference is, he has some pull with publishing companies and whatnot and managed to sell his fantasies for a considerably impressive profit. And if we all had his writing skill, we probably would have, too. Knights of the Old Republic takes place in the Star Wars universe. It's a great game. A lot of people played it. But aside from being developed by an offshoot of George Lucas' own company, it still just came to life because a bunch of hardcore fans wanted to create a cool new experience in the galaxy we're all so familiar and in love with.

All Expanded Universe Star Wars media is, in essence, fan-fiction with a budget.

That's not to say that I'm undermining all of that work or questioning its quality. Just the opposite. Some of the best Star Wars stuff out there comes from these games and TV shows. The Clone Wars cartoon is actually so well-written and complex that some of its episodes put all six movies to shame. But at the end of the day, it comes down to one guy creating an original piece of material, and everybody loving the material to such an extent that they use it as fuel for their own creative endeavors. If you so much as played with Star Wars action figures as a kid, you were creating Expanded Universe stories.

What I'm suggesting here is that if we love Star Wars as much as we claim we do, then at the end of the day, canon is all relative, isn't it? Who's to say that the events of the novel Heir to the Empire and the events of the upcoming Episode VII aren't both canon, simply taking place in universes/timelines parallel from one another? I don't think any sci-fi fan on the planet is averse to the idea of alternate universes, if  Star Trek, Back to the Future, Fringe, LOST, Doctor Who, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The Legend of Zelda, Assassin's Creed, Futurama, Stargate, He-Man & the Masters of the Universe, and every single comic book ever made EVER are any indication. If you absolutely adored Heir to the Empire and end up wholly detesting Episode VII with every fiber of your being, then who is Disney to dictate what is or isn't your own personal canon? In your eyes, the events of Heir to the Empire are what REALLY happened to the heroes of the Rebel Alliance after the fall of the Empire, and Episode VII was just some crappy parallel universe "what-if" storyline that never really appealed to you. And vice versa. Just like how in my eyes, Edward and Bella never ended up as a couple; instead, Bella fell head-over-heels in love with Corey Feldman and his dreamy brown eyes, while a bitter Edward joined the crew of the S.S. Scallywag and became a (literally) bloodthirsty space-pirate who sailed the seven galaxies in search of treasure and debauchery until being defeated in single combat by a time-traveling dinosaur with a fancy mustache. That shit is my canon.