Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Star Wars Chronology Project: Five Years Later



Though it may seem like I’ve completely abandoned my quest since I haven’t posted in a full year, believe me dear reader I have not.  I have plans for the Star Wars Chronology Project – plans I’ll let you in on a little later in this post.

In early July last year I decided to write my own piece of Star Wars fan fiction.  It was where my creative impulses were pulling me and I decided to follow.  A full year in and I’m still writing, and having a blast.  Like all my writing projects, I’m not as far along as I thought I’d be, but this summer I’ve been fairly productive, only because I took some advice from Robert Mullin he unknowingly gave me.  On one of his Facebook posts he posted something like ‘If you wait for the right conditions to write you’ll never get any writing done’.  I had fallen into this trap and was always waiting for the right conditions to write, and of course, those conditions never came.  Interestingly, when I looked up where this quote came from it’s originally from Ecclesiastes 11:4-10. 

So this summer I decided to embrace the chaos of my busy home.  I planted my laptop on my kitchen island, and I now write my fan fiction in spurts and  bursts – between diaper changes, prepping meals, breaking up fights, playing secret agent, playing Pok√©mon (which I’ve become quite good at) going for “woks awond bok” (walk around the block) with my daughter, or just otherwise doing my best to be present, there are those moments where the egg is boiling and all three are hypnotized by Toupie & Binoo and my wife is knitting and I can get some writing in.  It may only be five minutes, or maybe a half hour in the afternoon, but surprisingly I’ve been very productive in those small moments of time.

Regarding my fan fiction – the creative impulse that has put the Star Wars Chronology Project on the back burner – I feel confident that I’ll have it complete before the new year.  I want to have it done before Celebration 7 (which at this point I still intend on attending) because I want to have the Star Wars Chronology Project back up and running by then.  I think I need to do a little self-promotion, and Celebration 7 is probably the best place to do that.

If you’ll indulge me, I want to let you know what I’m writing about.   Without giving too much away I’ve decided to do a framed narrative.  I had two competing stories going on in my mind and I decided to link them.  The outside narrative will take place a few generations before the Battle of Ruusan, while the inside narrative takes place sometime between 25,000 BBY and 24,000 BBY – I don’t have an exact date on the inside narrative just because of the nature of it.  I want to include some art with it as well, but ultimately I don’t think I will.  I haven’t quite figured out how I’ll go about it.  I might just go to deviant art and peruse some of the fan fiction art pieces there and proposition some artists to see what they’ll charge. As it is, things turned a corner this summer and the writing is going very well.

So – we experienced the Great Schism, did we not? 

I hereby call it the Great Schism of 2014, where almost all we know and love about the Star Wars universe has become apocryphal writing.  We knew it was coming, but it still came as a shock. 
I want to highlight three responses to the Schism:  Joe Bongiorno’s, Eric Geller’s, and Tim Zahn’s.  If I was to apply a pithy line to each of these men’s thoughts on the new continuity, Bongiorno’s would be “Via la Revolution!”, Eric Geller’s would echo something similar to the immortal words of Kent Brockman “I for one welcome our new insect overlords”, while Zahn’s would be something like “Keep calm and Star Wars on”.

The response I most emotionally identify with is Joe’s.  You can read it here.  He basically states that this new canon that is being constructed will be no safer in 20-30 years as the original “official continuity” was, and that Disney perpetrated a grand insult on those of us who have been supporting the EU over the last 30 years, and I agree with Joe.  As one of my buddies said: “If you can't write a good story in the confines of the "expanded universe" then you can't write a good story period.”  Reading Abel Pena’s AMA, he made a comment regarding the West End Games’ D6 role-playing game:
“Even though I wrote a lot for Wizards of the Coast, my favorite incarnation of the Star Wars role-playing game will always be West End Games'. They just got the license at the right time, when no one was doing anything with it and went nuts exploring every nook and cranny of the galaxy. Just look at the order of battle in the Imperial Sourcebook. The galaxy always feels limitless, raw and fresh when I read those books, even now.

The idea I want to focus on in Pena’s comment is the description of “the galaxy always feel(ing) limitless, raw, and fresh”.  Indeed, I think this description can go beyond just West End Games’ contribution to the Star Wars universe, and include the entire EU.  The idea that the EU somehow restricts storytelling in the Star Wars universe post ROTJ is ridiculous.  There are a plethora of stories that can be told within the confines of the EU which can “preserve an element of surprise and discovery for the audience”.  My honest gut reaction to this is that they (JJ Abrams et all) just don’t want to, or care to, explore what has been uncovered in Star Wars literature over the last 30+ years.  They’d rather steam-roll over other artist’s deep and personal contribution to this world.  As Pena describes the ret-con, it is something “inherently disrespectful, like disturbing someone’s resting place.”

The second response I want to look at is Eric Geller’s, theforce.net’s Clone Wars commentator.  You can read his comments here.  I think he tragically missed the point regarding Disney’s overwrite of the EU, which was disappointing.  In his response to the overwriting of the EU he wrote:

“The most important thing to remember is that you can continue to enjoy every single story you have purchased regardless of what the new movies, TV shows, and literature bring. Just because something is no longer an authoritative part of continuity, that doesn’t make it a bad read.”

True, it doesn’t make it a bad read, but I think Geller has really missed the point here. As a matter of fact, it does affect our enjoyment of these stories.  That fact that these were “official continuity (canon)”made these stories better than simple fan-fiction.  Though I enjoyed Tag and Bink, I enjoyed KOTOR more because it was official continuity.  The events of the EU happened in the world we all love and these stories carried with them legitimacy.  He then goes on to say that one of the problems with the EU is that it had become impenetrable:

“Furthermore, in the coming years, the Star Wars universe will welcome many, many new fans. Those of us on the inside often forget how impermeable this vast web of stories can seem to people who aren’t already invested and paying attention. A convoluted fictional universe like Star Wars can prove intimidating to potential fans.”

This brings us back to Joe’s point.  What’ll be the difference in 20 years?  Will a reboot be required again then?  If yes, then that’s the problem, and if you don’t see why that’s a problem you’ve missed  the point.  A reboot (or possible multiple reboots) destroys what made Star Wars different and great from all the other IPs out there.  Its uniqueness was its 30+ years of unbroken continuity – however jagged that continuity was at times.  Back in 1996 I never thought the Star Wars EU would be as big as it is now.  In 2032, the same amount of time that has passed between 1996 and 2014, will the Star Wars EU be bigger or smaller than it is now?  I hope bigger because the more Star Wars stories the better.  If smaller, then we’ve all lost.  But the point is this – it’ll be just as “impenetrable” then as it is now.

The third response I want to look at, and the one that makes me breathe easier, is Tim Zahn’s.  You can read it here, and it’s how I’m going to look at Star Wars literature going into 2015.  My favorite part of his response was this:

“...as far as I can tell from the announcement, LFL is *not* erasing the EU, but simply making it clear that nothing there is official canon. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, nor does it immediately send everything into alternate-universe status. If nothing from the Thrawn Trilogy, say, is used in future movies (and if there’s nothing in the movies that contradicts it), then we can reasonably continue to assume that those events *did* happen. It looks to me like the “Legends” banner is going to be used mainly to distinguish Story-Group-Approved canon books from those that aren’t officially canon but might still exist.”

Leave it to the man who wrote the Thrawn trilogy to bring it all into perspective.

This brings me to the future of the Star Wars Chronology Project.  The question I struggled with for a while was this: do I still run one blog, and include all the stories being produced post Disney acquisition into the EU we’ve had for 30+ years, or do I run two blogs – one that is “legends” and one that is “canon”?  I’ve decided to fall to the later. 

When I finish my fan fiction I’m going to reboot The Star Wars Chronology Project into The Star Wars Legends Chronology Project.  Before I move into the new material I’m still determined to finish what I’ve started.  The good news for me is that the Legends timeline is now static, but the bad news is that in 2032, when I’ve finally finished what I’ve started, I’ll be back at square one with the canonical material. HA!  Jokes on me!  But it’s all good – this has always been about me engaging with Star Wars.  How long I do it for is immaterial.  I’ve also decided that when I reboot my blog I’m going to start putting ads on it.  I figure since I have 65k+ hits I might as well put 5 buck in my pocket.

It’ll be a while before I post again so I want to sign off by saying thank you for stopping in and reading my blog these past 5 years.  It continues to be my labour of love and my continuous love letter to Star Wars. 

Happy Anniversary friends, and may the Force be with you