Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Ballad of Mara Jade: What We Lost Along With the Expanded Universe

Since it was announced, I have been super excited about The Force Awakens (to say the least). I have been sleeping in a TFA shirt for weeks now if that gives you any indication about how my feelings have grown (Yes, I've washed it!). As thrilled as I am to learn more about Rey and all of the other characters this new addition to the Star Wars universe will bring, I feel the need to light a candle for some characters we may never get to see on the big screen.

With Disney's acquisition of Star Wars and the J.J. Abrams helmed productions announced, the long running Expanded Universe was effectively retconned and dubbed "Star Wars Legends." For those of you who aren't sure what I mean by Expanded Universe, the term refers to a wide variety of books, comics, and even film that were made in response to the vast realm of story telling opened up by the original Star Wars trilogy.
The new addition to my personal introduction to EU, Heir to the Empire, Book one of Timothy Zahn's Thrawn Trilogy. 

 Simply put, all forthcoming Star Wars novels, comics, and media must fall in line with canon yet to be established by the new films. This of course makes casualties of characters and storylines beloved by many a fan of the Expanded universe.The official statement left the door wide open for EU concepts being reintegrated into the new works, I'm skeptical yet hopeful at the same time.  Instead of focusing on that, I'd like to share with you my own experience with the Expanded Universe and the characters that I love that make exploring these annals of the Star Wars legendarium more than worth it. Specifically, I'd like to start with my childhood hero Mara Jade.
The writer of this article bearing the mascara stains of betrayal.  
As an eight year old I wanted nothing more than to be a redhead with a lightsaber.

Before I get to talking about Mara Jade, I need to tell you about my own introduction to the Star Wars EU. My first adventure occurred when I was eight years old and in Florida to spend time with my grandmother and grandfather, who was in the last stages of lung cancer.  My Grandma knew I was good at reading, and a rather mature soon-to-be-third-grader. So, one day when we were perusing a book store for her favored Danielle Steel or Nora Roberts, she in fact took me into the Science Fiction aisle and without qualm (but of course, first doing a cursory check for anything too inappropriate) bought me Heir to the Empire. I was thrilled to discover the existence of Star Wars beyond the films I'd tirelessly watched a million times and quickly devoured the novel and searched my local libraries for more.

What I remember most of all was being introduced to Mara Jade, a woman with flaming red hair and emerald green eyes who was an absolute badass. Princess Leia was great and all, but Mara had a chip on her shoulder and a character arc that baffled me. I wanted to be her. In Mara we see a full redemptive arc, a woman who is the Hand of the Emperor (and yes, I do mean The Sith), sees the error of her ways, takes action to change, becomes a Jedi, and then marries Luke Skywalker. That's not even close to the end of her story. She doesn't sacrifice one ounce of badassery along the way. Yes, she grew as a character but clung to the things that were essential to her personality regardless of circumstance: being a wife, terminally ill, or a mother are all just things about her, not what defines her.  Mara Jade, in every position she held, showed dedication to her cause but also was willing to form new opinions and hold just as strongly to those. I don't want to go too deep into her story because I want you to read it. It reaches far beyond the Thrawn Trilogy and into various realms of mythos. There's a reason she's one of the only Expanded Universe characters to have broken into the top 20 of the favorite character polls.

I highly recommend that anyone who's even vaguely interested in Star Wars at least dip their toes into the Expanded Universe. A lot of people seem to recommend starting with the Thrawn Trilogy, like I did, as it occurs five years after the events of Return of the Jedi and sets up much of the plot for later Expanded Universe novels. Honestly, the level of collaboration all of these authors went through is astounding. There was so much fact checking in play that one has to give the Expanded Universe writers a heck of a lot of respect. Such a unified effort out of something that isn't even technically a series is the type of dedication many of us only wish to see in our lifetimes.

There are so many places you can pick up from there, so why not go toward the past? Specifically the past of my favorite scruffy nerf-herder.
Shout out to my buddy Jon for letting me borrow his copies for an extended period of time!

The Han Solo Trilogy is one of my personal favorites.The fact that he may be getting his own films that probably won't be based on the events of these books makes me a sad panda. Reading the first of this series was one of the things that re-sparked my love of storytelling in the existential angst of my teen years. A.C. Crispin brought worlds I'd never thought of and the dreams of a young Han Solo to life so vividly it still makes me a bit jealous. This series would make a good gift for pretty much any Star Wars fan, or you could just buy it for yourself because winter makes people sad. Reading about Han Solo's early years while on the stationary bike may cause you to at least imagine you're in some exotic location and get your endorphins going. Don't take my word for it--search for any of the series within the Expanded Universe, hit your workout machine of choice, don't injure yourself while reading on a treadmill, and put a smile on your face.

Although they may no longer be canon, the characters and events of the Expanded Universe are still much worth your time. As they are now dubbed, Star Wars Legends they add another layer to the Star Wars mythos. bringing suspension of disbelief even more to the forefront of our minds. After all, is any report of history ever completely cohesive? If this all occurred in a Galaxy Long Long Ago and Far Far Away, shouldn't there be a little conflict as to what the real story is?

Who's your favorite character from the Expanded Universe? Which series would you recommend a new reader start with?

1 comment:

  1. Girl, thanks for all the info you gave us! It's really well written and understandable, even for me that I'm not a native speaker.
    We were re-wathching THE NEW HOPE with our children and my 6-years old daughter asked me who Luke's wife was... After some search, I found your article and lernt many things not only about her, but for the bibliography that also exists!!! I'll try to find some of the books you mention, eventhough in Greece we've little access to publications of Star Wars. Thanks again!