Star Wars superfan/erotic fanfic author Das_Flute has vivid childhood memories of lounging on the couch at his grandparents’ house for hours on end, captivated by the space opera. The thing is, he wasn’t watching the original trilogy — he was reading the books instead.
Yes, the books. After all, technically speaking, Star Wars was a book before it was a movie, as the novelization of George Lucas’ original screenplay (ghostwritten by Alan Dean Foster) sold over 100,000 copies six months before the movie even came out. But Foster did more than simply adapt Lucas’ screenplay into a book, he fleshed out much of what would become the franchise’s world — from its planets, to its technology, to its history.
More importantly, after Return of the Jedi hit theaters and Lucas seemingly hung up his lightsaber for the foreseeable future, the books were the only new Star Wars content readily available. (Hundreds of them were published.) In the process, they ventured further and further into the galaxy, creating new heroes and timelines in the Star Wars Extended Universe, far, far away from the franchise’s most popular characters. But unfortunately, because they lacked any insight into what the next movies might entail, they failed to gain much traction among mainstream Star Wars stans — save for a small faction of people like Das_Flute who consider themselves bigger fans of the books than the movies.
Then, the truly unthinkable happened. In 2014, Disney bought the rights to Star Wars, and in one fell swoop, purged the books’ Extended Universe from the canon. Das_Flute and his ilk not only lost all hope that their favorite Star Wars novels might be adapted into films, but those stories were suddenly stripped of any relevance they had, or would have, in future Star Wars stories. Not that it was anything new. “The books are, and always have been, seen as much less ‘important’ than the movies,” Das_Flute tells me. “But I think that’s what makes them better. They’re allowed more depth and leeway to broach subjects and storylines that wouldn’t be touched on film.”
The 16-year gap between Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace, Das_Flute says, was “the golden age for the books.” “Without any other Star Wars media being produced, they were very much main stories being told. But that was the last time it seemed like the books ‘mattered’ to the same degree as the movies.”
For better or worse, another long drought of Star Wars content isn’t happening anytime soon. “Disney is clearly trying to make the Star Wars universe a copy of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and once more, the books are relegated to filling in the blanks of stories that already exist,” Das_Flute continues. “Only Disney is making so many new shows and movies that are also filling in the blanks, so now the books are even less important.”
And so, as always, Star Wars book fans remain the underdog. “Ultimately, the books enhance your enjoyment of the movies,” Das_Flute says, adding that he knows “many, many people” who love the novelizations of Revenge of the Sith and The Last Jedi despite hating the movies. “So if the future movies or miniseries leave you confused or seem to be skipping details, venture into the Expanded Universe. It will give answers to questions you didn’t know you have, and add depth to things you didn’t know were lacking it.”
May the literary force be with you.