Timothy Zahn is basically the guy who made The Force Awakens before The Force Awakens. In 1991, Zahn’s first chapter in the so-called “Thrawn Trilogy” of Star Wars Expanded Universe books, called Heir to the Empire, introduced an official continuation of the saga after the events of Return of the Jedi. Beloved by many Star Wars fans, it quickly became a New York Times bestseller, and is perhaps the pinnacle of the Expanded Universe. But ever since Disney’s Star Wars takeover in 2012 rendered all Expanded Universe stories unofficial or labeled under the Star Wars “Legends” banner, fans have been up in arms over their favorite stories suddenly being disqualified. In a new interview with Zahn on The Daily Dot from Awesome Con in Washington, D.C., the author tells EU fans to basically accept it.
To many, Zahn’s writing is exhibit A for why the Expanded Universe is so vital. The titular blue-skinned Imperial grand admiral named Thrawn who lead a First Order-esque splintered Empire five years after Return of the Jedi and his Imperial agent Mara Jade (who would eventually marry Luke Skywalker in the EU mythos), continue to be fan favorites. But they’re no longer canon, which caused EU-die hards to engage in increasingly desperate movies like erect billboards calling for the EU to be made official again or take to social media with hashtags like “#GiveUsLegends”. How dare Lucasfilm take away the precious, sometimes way overly complicated and hopelessly geeky Expanded Universe.
Zahn told The Daily Dot that angry fans should just slow their roll. He said:
“I can understand the feeling of camaraderie, the feeling of, ‘This is our people, this is our organization, these are our books.’ But at some point, you just have to take a deep breath and [say], ‘OK, that is over. We accept it. We go on. We’ve got the books.’
Later, Zahn explained that fans should stay pragmatic about the EU: “Think of the Expanded Universe [as if] it’s been frozen in carbonite for the moment, he said, and later, “I appreciate the fan loyalty, but, as you say, they’re not going to influence what Disney does or [what] Lucasfilm does.”
Quite rightly, Zahn explains that while the EU is over as fans know it, it’s not like these stories so many fans love are going anywhere. It’s not like Kathleen Kennedy is pulling a Darth Vader and sending out probe droids across the galaxy to snatch up everybody’s Thrawn Trilogy. They’re there to be enjoyed as unofficial Legends. But, as Zahn also points out, the Expanded Universe wasn’t really ever official regardless of what the fans thought.
“We just don’t have it as official [canon]—except it never really was official, in the sense that it was [set] in stone,” he said. “It was always something [George] Lucas could override at any time. And in fact, everybody who had written stuff about Boba Fett watched that backstory get demolished in the prequel trilogy.”
Zahn ended the interview by trying to fan the flames of fandom by addressing EU diehards directly: “It’s not the end. Some of your favorite characters, some of your favorite scenes, could come back at any time. We don’t know. Calm down, relax,” he said. “ appreciate your loyalty and your passion. But really, relax. It’s OK. It’ll be OK.”
What’s canon, what’s not, who cares? It’s all about appreciating the ridiculously grand and complicated universe that sprang from Star Wars. The Disney takeover was just a formality. Read what you want to read and watch what you want to watch. The fact is that the Star Wars universe is more subjective than ever right now; even Disney has some big grand plan, so make of that what you will.