The real difference with the Star Wars EU was the effective lengths to which Lucasfilm went to tell fans that it mattered. Events chronicled in novels and comics and elsewhere influenced and depended on each other, weaving it all into one cohesive whole because creators cared enough about it to do so — and fans loved them for it. When something happened in the EU, it affected the whole, and sometimes in ways most fans didn't like so much. George Lucas himself approved Vector Prime, a 1999 novel by R.A. Salvatore, in which Chewbacca is killed in the destruction of a planet. And poor Chewie hasn't been seen in any story set since. A suggested reason behind the choice to let the Wookiee lose this time was that authors and editors believed fans were not taking the books so seriously anymore, so a character was chosen to die. Fans weren't happy about that, either.

Star Wars was only a few months into its theatrical run when the first EU story hit comic-book racks

To a lot of fans, the move compares more to a college basketball team having a championship season reduced to an asterisk in a record book because of a rule violation. They are not taking kindly to the idea of someone telling them that an experience they cheered and embraced and wore and loved simply never happened.

For those who have explored it, the Star Wars Expanded Universe really matters, not because it simply exists, but because it sometimes offers what they regard as top-quality storytelling within it. Fans point to the Thrawn trilogy of novels by Timothy Zahn, the Dark Empire series released by Dark Horse Comics, and Genndy Tartakovsky's animated shorts shown on Cartoon Network as Star Wars: Clone Wars among EU highlights they enjoy more than even some of the films.


See also: Bring Me the Head of Han Solo

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Now, Lucasfilm has tied up in a bow those years of storytelling as a new generation of fans awaits the next Star Wars film. Up front, they managed the expectations of longtime fans that the sequel we really have wanted since 1983 is not going to be hamstrung by agreeing with the events of a decades-old novel or comic book — and in many ways, fans should be thankful. Episode VII is unencumbered and in the hands of storytellers bounded by only their own imaginations, and moviegoers won't be watching a new film with a 25-year-old story some of them already have dreamed up.

Hey, if nothing else, Chewie is alive and well again, and ready to roar into a theater near you.

Kevin Dilmore wrote his first and only Star Wars Expanded Universe story as an eighth-grader in 1978. It remains unpublished.

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