Today, May 25, is Star Wars Day—not the weird pun nonsense earlier this month that people love to call “Star Wars Day”, but the anniversary of the release of the original film in 1977. And today here on Kotaku we’re going to celebrate an oft-mocked part of Star Wars: the Expanded Universe.
Today, nerds (this obviously includes me) are pretty obsessed with lore, particularly in video games. There are a few inspirations for this odd fixation, with comics and Tolkien being some older examples. I would say that in the modern day the Star Wars Expanded Universe has had a lot to do with cementing our incessant need for infinite ancillary materials, not because the EU was particularly good, but rather because there was a shitload of it, and from 1991 until the slate was wiped clean a year ago it all formed a pretty, ahem, expansive continuity to pore over.
For me and many other fans, Star Wars is not a series of movies but a setting, a place. And Star Wars was the first property I enjoyed growing up where should I want more stories in its settings I could always have them. And it wasn’t a case of, as it is in many game franchises praised for having lots of lore, characters in a book telling us about past events or info in a codex — nearly all the lore was in books or comics somewhere. If you read the X-Wing series of novels, for example, and found Wedge Antilles’ descriptions of past Rogue Squadron adventures intriguing, you could go get the X-Wing graphic novels about those adventures. That was a weird perk of the haphazard way Dark Horse and Bantam Books and the LucasFilm Licensing folks churned out stuff at breakneck speed through the ‘90s—all the “lore” referenced in one book was just something somebody had written in another.
The advent of Wookieepedia (aka the Star Wars wiki) was an incredible enabler because you could read anything that ever happened in Star Wars...and also find out what book or comic it was from so you could then get the full experience. Having grown up during the formation of the Greater Star Wars Continuity I had it all pretty well sorted for most of my life, but eventually it got even beyond what I could keep a handle on as my fandom waned a bit post-prequels. Lucasfilm may have wiped the continuity moving forward, but really all that means is the version of Star Wars that is mine has concluded. It hasn’t been deleted; now, there are just two Star Warses. And I’m still not done with the old one, even as we head into the new one.
The lore of Star Wars is the standard I compare all other franchise lore to, and there is no match in my mind—there can’t be in the sphere of things I’m interested in now, anyway. Video game publishers will never be able to make games fast enough or commission enough tie-in novels and comics and computer animated movies to be as full as Star Wars has been. That’s probably a good thing.