EU Action/Reaction: Publishing Eras Moving Forward

weekly-column-v2Welcome to another installment of EUCantina's (sometimes) weekly opinion column, EU Action/Reaction! Each week, I tackle a specific Star Wars EU event that has garnered a significant reaction from Star Wars fans and offer my own view to further the discussion. Once you read the article, feel free to leave a comment and offer your own thoughts!

This week, I'll be discussing each era of the Star Wars EU. With Fate of the Jedi wrapping up and The Old Republic just taking off, where are we more likely to find the time placement of future stories? Del Rey's contract to publish Star Wars books comes to an end in 2013, and a renewal will certainly come with several great announcements. As we look to the future of Star Wars books, we're doing exactly that: looking to the future. Not to the past, to perceived highlights or lowlights. What does each era hold for us in terms of storytelling?

Looking to the immediate future, it would seem that all of the publishing eras for Star Wars Expanded Universe entries are fairly well represented. For those looking forward to The Old Republic, fans should delight in knowing that the Sith Era will be well represented in the coming months with The Old Republic: Revan, Tales of the Lost Tribe Anthology, and Mandorla (working title). For fans of the Prequel Era, Darth Plagueis and The Last Jedi both look to provide great additions into the increasingly intriguing period. The Classic Era, not to be outdone, also has two upcoming entries in the form of Choices of One and Shadow Games. There's also an upcoming Wraith Squadron novel, along with an untitled (and virtually unknown) Jeff Grubb novel which have yet to be detailed. And, of course, the final three Fate of the Jedi novels for the fans of the Legacy Era.

As the current Del Rey contract comes to a close, it certainly looks like Star Wars EU will be giving something to every kind of fan. Books that detail Revan and Darth Plagueis will answer plenty of big questions, but the entries also look to focus on a smaller scale. Nothing related to the Clone Wars, and no big series following Fate of the Jedi. But looking beyond what is already known, where does the best potential for future stories lie?

Sith Era

Stretching from 25,000 - 1,000 BBY, there is no era with a wider reach than the Sith Era. This is an era that is poised to explode in the coming months, as The Old Republic certainly looks to be the definitive Star Wars game. Despite the large amount of time it encompasses currently, though, it is only home to a fraction of the Expanded Universe. I think that the focus and expansion of the Sith Era will ultimately depend entirely on the success of The Old Republic. The limited success of Star Wars: Galaxies surely played a role in cutting the Galaxies novels so short, but I think that there is little to fear of a repeat in that regard. What I do think, though, is that we will see the Sith Era divided during the next contract. As The Old Republic continues to brand itself and keep up the tradition of high quality, and as Knight Errant and Darth Bane continue to attract readers with a similar level of high quality, it just makes sense to split the era into smaller portions. As John Jackson Miller wrote in his EUCantina VIP Thread, we are actually closer to the time of Julius Caesar than Kerra Holt is to anyone in The Old Republic. With such a gulf, it seems silly to combine the two into one era. Sure, the regular fans will know the difference... but will the casual fan be so quick to pick up on the difference? Given the high quality of what we've been getting so far, The Old Republic is just a locomotive that can't be stopped. If the franchise lands with the fury it seems to be building toward, get ready for a deluge of Expanded Universe additions in the era. Taking place far away from both the Prequel Trilogy and the Classic Trilogy, this is an era that is virtually guaranteed to be untouched by George Lucas forever. Given the headaches that The Clone Wars has caused with previously established additions to the Expanded Universe, moving thousands of years down the timeline keeps the storyline fresh and headache free.

Prequel Era

I'm not entirely sure how many legs are left on the Prequel Era, which is a real shame since it has so much great potential. It would seem that The Clone Wars books didn't become the hot commodity that they were, perhaps, expected to become. And the loss of Karen Traviss, in my opinion, was a crushing blow to the approach of mature, yet fundamentally different, stories told about the Clone Wars. Looking at the two upcoming entries, it feels like the swansong of the Prequel Era. Each book essentially bookends the era, with Darth Plagueis promising to be a revealing tome and The Last Jedi shedding more light on the Dark Times. What disappoints me more than the lack of Clone Wars additions, though, is the lack of pre-The Phantom Menace through pre-Attack of the Clones stories. Aside from Dark Horse, this is an area of the prequels that is virtually untouched. There may not be full-scale war stories to tell, but there is certainly plenty of great action to tell that doesn't rely on Jedi fighting robots. But with a seeming lack of interest in that era, coupled with the avoidance of The Clone Wars and the Dark Times to avoid future problems with continuity, I feel like this era is on its last legs. And that's a shame, because I'd love to see something with Dooku and Sifo-Dyas too... written by Matthew Stover, of course. Or perhaps a Tales of the Clone Wars, something that really creates new and different stories that haven't really been showcased in the time period yet.

Classic Era

Perhaps one of the most overstuffed eras, it is amazing to me that there still remains potential for new stories in the Classic Era. In many ways, it's kind of a drag since there are certain outcomes that we know that have to be achieved. Choices of One, for example, rests its fate entirely on how well Zahn can utilize a storyline that features Mara Jade, Thrawn and his stormtroopers, because we already know how the story ends for our plucky heroes. Books like Shadow Games, on the other hand, are probably the foreseeable future for this era: books that use the setting to their advantage, while standing alone and developing new characters. That's not to say that we won't see more adventures of Luke, Leia and Han... it just seems much more likely, with books like Shadow Games and the Crosscurrent/Riptide dulogy, we'll get books that center around peripheral characters and incorporate our heroes in more subtle and less intrusive ways. Which is something I'd actually like to see, although Darth Vader and the familiar enemies are more than welcome to appear and cause their brand of mayhem. As far as villains go, the Classic Era is clearly home to some of the very best.

New Republic Era

Honestly, I'm a little over the New Republic Era. It's pretty much been chronicled from start to finish, and been done to death. I'm sure the new Wraith Squadron book will end up in this time period, which I wouldn't be adverse to, but that's the only sort of book I think I'm capable of enjoying in this era anymore. The problem, really, is that the whole era is really comprised of Luke getting his Jedi Academy off the ground, while the New Republic battles against Imperial remnant forces. Yes, there's an occasionally different story to tell, but they all have the same rough storyline and they end the same way. The clear standouts, for me, were Stackpole and Allston's books. They were just so completely different from the rest of the Big Three-oriented stories. They stood out, and they were extremely well-written and intense. Frankly, this era could stand for more great stories, and Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor proved that such stories are certainly capable. I won't hold my breath for future stories in this era, but if ever there was an era that was deserving of some redemption, it would be the New Republic Era.

New Jedi Order Era

It would be hard to tell a story in the New Jedi Order Era, though not impossible. As Fate of the Jedi has clearly strayed from following Jacen's sojourn, I think it might be a real possibility to get the full story as a novel after all. It's the kind of book that could bring about a measure of closure to the Legacy of the Force/Fate of the Jedi series that can satisfy the often fickle fans. But aside from a sojourn novel, this is an era that is pretty tapped out. I think there's great room for a Tales of the Yuuzhan Vong War entry, but it's asking a lot of fans to place novels alongside the series and making them accessible to new readers and fans who haven't read the books in years. It's one of the big problems with a 19-book series, despite my overall extreme enjoyment of it. Consider anything placed in this era during the next contract to be pretty unlikely.

Legacy Era

It's really tough to say what the future holds for the Legacy Era. Stretching from Legacy of the Force all the way to the Legacy comics, this is another large era with a unique problem of its own. The Legacy Era isn't really all that accessible, having built upon almost four decades of fictional history. There is just an absolute ton of material that new readers should really familiarize themselves with before jumping in at this point. Fans have proven to grow tired of long series, and Fate of the Jedi promises to be the last for the foreseeable future. With the overall fate of the galaxy, as shown in the Legacy comics, already known, there is a certain expectation that events are now dictated by the future. We know that a Sith Empire will emerge, that the Imperial Knights will be formed... these things are facts now. It's just a question of how the stories will arrive at these points, and don't expect Del Rey to do anything less than throw plenty of curve balls to toy with our expectations and theories. I think there is a real possibility that we'll see the Legacy era explored a bit more deeply in the future. With the ending of long series, we can actually get more installments from (hopefully) a wider range of authors that can showcase our heroes and help to influence events leading up to Legacy. With any luck, these standalones and trilogies, which have long been promised, can prove both exciting and accessible to a variety of fans. Well, that's my prediction for the future. What about you? Are there any eras you think will be expanded upon in the coming years? Are there specific stories that are still untold, or stories that you'd really like to see told? Feel free to leave your own thoughts in the comments below.

- Chris

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About the Author

Chris Carey contributes to EUCantina as a writer and editor. He pens our popular column, EU Action/Reaction, and also contributes to our novel and comic reviews. Chris joined EUCantina in 2010 to help edit articles, but it quickly became obvious that his writing skills needed a more visible platform. He currently resides in Maryland, and has a degree in journalism.