Timothy Zahn conducted an AMA on Reddit on Wednesday to talk about his three-decade-plus writing career, but it’s no surprise that the majority of questions he fielded were about his Star Wars Expanded Universe novels. We’ve talked plenty about Zahn’s work, like how Heir to the Empire turned Star Wars into bonafide science fiction. In short, Zahn’s novels are seminal to the EU.
Which is why Star Wars fans were distraught to learn that what we all know as the EU is not being considered canon alongside the upcoming films. A press release from Disney and Del Rey in April classified the EU novels under the heading of Star Wars Legends, setting them apart from the original six films, the forthcoming sequels, Star Wars: Clone Wars, and Star Wars Rebels.
But Zahn said something very interesting in his AMA about the mindset in which readers should approach the EU, and how “canon” actually matches up with contradictions.
Opening with the caveat that he “wasn’t going to address this topic,” Zahn nonetheless gave his opinion:
What the “non-canon” announcement by [Lucasfilm Ltd.] means is that they aren’t going to be bound by the Expanded Universe books, comics, and games as they plan their new movies. Realistically, that’s something they had to do—the EU is just too big, complicated, and occasionally contradictory for them to have to deal with.
However, I’m guessing that EU stories that aren’t referenced (or contradicted) by the sequel movies will still be considered sort-of alive, in the same way that most Clone Wars-era stories (like Outbound Flight) were mostly unaffected, with the exception being all of the previous material on Boba Fett’s backstory.
Alternatively, if the new movies do contradict my books in some way, I can probably come up with some hand-waving story that will explain the apparent discrepancy. If there’s one thing we authors are good at, it’s hand-waving.
He also mentioned that up until the New Jedi Order series, keeping track of continuity was “pretty hit-or-miss.” Around 2000 or so, LFL provided the authors with a master listing called the Holocron, which of course we want to get our mitts on now.
Speaking of the NJO, Zahn was also asked to weigh in on Mara Jade’s death:
Not only was I given no input to Mara’s fate, I wasn’t even told about it until a couple of months before publication.
If I had been offered a say, though, I’d have argued against it. My vision of Star Wars is good vs evil, with the heroes struggling to win, and the major characters making it through. (Otherwise, either Lando or Wedge would have died inside the second Death Star.)
For the record, this isn’t just because Mara was my creation. I’d have argued against killing Chewbacca for the same reason.
Truth. We love that he said that.
In many ways, Zahn’s answers are similar to the op-ed Emily wrote around the time of the EU/canon press release: We can still play in the Expanded Universe, especially if pockets of it haven’t explicitly been proven to be non-canon.