Are all the Star Wars books canon?

Cover art for Star Wars: The High Republic comic. Photo: Star Wars/Marvel.
Cover art for Star Wars: The High Republic comic. Photo: Star Wars/Marvel. /

Since 1977 there have been, quite literally, thousands of entries into the lore of the galaxy far, far away. So much so that one could never hope to consume all of it in one human lifetime. Movies, shows, books, comics, games, magazines, reference guides, the list goes on. It is truly a galaxy of information. But is all of it actually a part of the established Star Wars canon?

The answer is a complicated one. It is worth pointing out that the universe beyond the movies is technically older than the original Star Wars film itself. A novelization of Star Wars (as A New Hope was once called) was published in 1976, several months before the film’s release, with the overly wordy title: “Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker,” revealing how unsettled the style of the saga was at the time. Although George Lucas was given the writing credit, it was in fact ghost-written by Alan Dean Foster who nearly 40 years later would then write the novelization of The Force Awakens.

The huge amount of literature that followed produced many classics as well as a handful of duds. It gave fans a rich tapestry upon which to study a whole galaxy across thousands of years but was also somewhat constricting for new writers who were forced to consult with a huge amount of information to ensure that new material did not contradict established facts, which still happened a lot.

The sheer size of the Star Wars galaxy is hard to fathom. The canon stretches as far back as 35,000 years (and more) before the time of Luke Skywalker and over a century after his time. A good metric for measuring this is the size of the independent Star Wars fandom Wiki, Wookieepedia, which has nearly 170,000 articles as of this writing (and is a dream come true for someone writing about Star Wars).

The Star Wars universe is a big one… but is it all canon?

In order to give new content a clean(er) slate to operate on, a decision was made some time after Disney acquired Lucasfilm. On April 25, 2014, it was announced that the “Expanded Universe” would be reorganized into a separate canon thereafter called “Legends” and that virtually all material from that point on would be constituted as the new canon.

It was a bold decision that not all were happy with, but since such a large amount of time was covered, with many essential characters’ histories explored through and through, it would have been almost impossible to provide them with fresh live-action stories. The only survivors of this reset would be the original six live-action films and the 3D animated series The Clone Wars.

It wasn’t until September 2014 that the first new canon novel was released. A young adult-targeted novel called A New Dawn written by John Jackson Miller became the first book in the refreshed universe. It served as a prequel to the upcoming animated series Rebels which itself was the first piece of televised new canon.

So, in a broad sense, the answer is no, not every Star Wars book is canon. In fact, since it has only been seven years since the canon reset and the Expanded Universe had been growing for nearly 40 years, it would be fair to say that most material is not canon and that the greater number of novels, for the time being, can be found in the old Legends canon.

Is the old Star Wars “Legends” canon gone forever?

However, if we truly wish to get down to excruciating detail (and since you’ve read this far, I’ll assume you do), the old Expanded Universe is technically still alive.

In fact, mere days ago, the official Star Wars website announced that the long-running Star Wars MMORPG The Old Republic would be getting a new expansion pack to celebrate the game’s 10th anniversary. Since The Old Republic is a part of the old canon, this means that the Legends continuity is, to this day, receiving new content. Although new editions will always be few and far between with the vast majority of creative effort going towards the new canon.

And now if we wish to extract the last possible detail from this saga of sagas, there was in fact one standalone entry to the Expanded Universe that was released after the canon wipe.

On the 29th of May, 2019, the original Marvel comics Star Wars series from 1977, was blessed with a one-shot celebration issue to commemorate Marvel’s 80th anniversary of publishing. Issue 108: “Forever Crimson” featuring cyborg bounty hunter Valance, was released. For reference, issue 107 of the same series was released in 1986 and the story picked up right where it left off 33 years previous. What a time to be alive…

So, there you have it. Are all of the Star Wars novels canon? Nope. Not by a long shot. But from now on they mostly all will be. While we love the classics, room to grow is always good.

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