Oh, here we go . . .

As noted previously, the EU novel Labyrinth of Evil was the attempt by Lucas Licensing's publishing department to lead in to Episode III. A similar and occasionally-contrary effort was done with the "Clone Wars" cartoon, which has been used in favor of Labyrinth.

However, the EU-philes at SD.Net are a selective lot, with selective views of history. To their mind, the ICS children's books are the highest form of EU, followed by the adult novels, and then the comics and cartoons come in somewhere after that. So, they are intent on having Labyrinth be considered the highest source, and I've been watching as the claims about the book and its validity have slowly but steadily increased.

This has culminated in a peculiar statement Poe made recently to advertise his list of Labyrinth quotes. He stated that "Lucas sat down with Luceno personallly and gave him the entire backstory for the prequels."

If you didn't know better, this would sound like a remarkable fact. "Wow!" you might think . . . "Luceno, who never even got to talk to Lucas about the NJO, was actually brought in to be trained in the Star Wars arts by Master Lucas himself, and given the backstory for the prequels in the process of writing his Labyrinth! Must be pretty valid!"

But, naturally, this is false. As Matt Stover points out, Luceno only received answers to some questions that Stover 'smuggled in' for him, which is better than most EU authors get. There is no reference to Lucas and Luceno meeting independently. Indeed, we only get a reference to a single meeting between Stover and Lucas for the official E3 novelization, so it hardly seems likely that Luceno would get one too for an EU book.

And, we have Luceno's own words, as quoted on the Random House / Del Rey site and also on StarWars.com's EU section. He says he talked to Pablo Hidalgo, Jonathan Rinzler, and Sue Rostoni. And, like much of Licensing, he was in possession of the script. Well, whoop-te-doo.

He never implies that there was any sort of pow-wow with Lucas, and indeed the only person to claim such a thing to my knowledge is Poe.

Is it a major point? Not really . . . but it's just one of those little counterfactuals which the opposition uses, in aggregate, to bolster false claims. An insidious technique, to be sure, but it is often effective against the unsuspecting.


Reversals of Fortune

The Star Wars EU work Reversal of Fortune is the subject of an interesting tidbit.

The EU is awash in tie-in efforts with the last film, and many EU-philes have been all excited because RoTS characters and events got introduced in EU materials prior to the movie's release. Naturally, they are ignoring the fact that the makers of the EU have simply been quicker on the trigger this time, basing things off of production information.

Take, for instance, Anakin's scar. Lucas joked that it was obtained in a shower slip, but in reality it was simply an effective way to rapidly convey that the war has taken its toll, and that this is a battle-hardened Anakin. (Similar techniques have been used in Trek . . . the mirror-universe Sulu from "Mirror, Mirror"[TOS] had a nice scar, as did a sulking, even-less-cuddly alternate version of Worf from "Future Imperfect"[TNG].)

But, when asked by Pablo Hidalgo how the scar occurred, Pablo reported that Lucas's response (beside the shower slip joke) was to point to Howard Roffman of Lucas Licensing, since his people would undoubtedly have to explain it.

And, lo and behold, they did so. It is presented as a lightsaber wound obtained from some chick who was a "dark Jedi" or a "dark Force-user" or a "dark ysalimiri" or something, and she gets a name-drop or ten in the RoTS novelization by Stover.

Indeed, the author of the RoTS novelization wanted to participate in the EU tie-in routine, and thus threw in a large number of EU references (many of which Lucas personally deleted). He also tried to work with James Luceno, author of Labyrinth of Evil, the EU book designed by Lucas Licensing as the lead-up novel to RoTS.

The plan backfired a bit. To be sure, it will undoubtedly drive up sales of LoE (I plan to read it sometime after the film comes out . . . but not before lest it improperly color the canon). But Stover ended up leaving out a lot of plot from the canon novel under the theory that it was covered in the non-canon LoE, and with his EU interjections stripped by Lucas the result is that a lot of EU data didn't get included into the canon novel except in name-drop form.

But in any case, I digress. You see, Labyrinth of Evil is thought by some EU-philes to be of greater ranking than other novels, being the EU's version of the setup for RoTS. (This ignores the fact that Luceno has never met Lucas to my knowledge, unlike novelization authors like Stover, but that's neither here nor there.)

But, per Paul Ens ("Ghent") of Lucas Online, Reversal of Fortune does not necessarily follow the LoE version of the Palpatine kidnapping story. Instead, it follows the version as seen in the "Clone Wars" cartoon shorts, under the theory that more people saw the "Clone Wars" version. Such a concept has been elucidated by Leland Chee of Licensing before as a possible way of handling discrepancies in the Licensing continuity, but this is the first time I've seen it employed.

You would think that if LoE were on the highest level of Licensing's continuity, it would be treated as such. Instead, it seems that people are at liberty to ignore the novels in favor of whatever gets seen more.

The point of all of this? Well, the Star Wars live-action TV show is coming. As Lucas put it:

"We're going to do a live action show based on minor characters in the Star Wars series. [...] It's a spin-off, it doesn't involve any of the key characters. It's a different world unto itself [...]"


1. This spin-off is a different world unto itself, and is hence EU.
2. Lucas Licensing follows the Chee theorem (demonstrated by Ens) that what gets seen the most holds the highest-level EU continuity.
3. Lucas will be involved in guiding the TV show for at least the first season.
4. Lucas has historically avoided EU materials or the inclusion thereof, except in very specific instances.

To synthesize the above, it seems likely at this point that the TV show is going to rewrite much of the EU, meaning that we might get to see a lot of retconning as the EU hangs on for dear life to ride the tail of Lucas, as always.

But, of course, time will tell.

In the meantime, I'm planning a nap for tomorrow evening prior to the midnight showing of Episode III, and hopefully will get enough of one to allow me to post a brief entry upon my return.


Hard Canon

It seems that there are some informal levels of canon in Trek. Levels of canon in Star Wars are, of course, well-known. (For instance, I came across a line in the TPM novelization a few days ago about Qui-Gon's Jedi master having been in the order for 400 years. Dooku was only 80 in RoTS, and of course Yoda has been there for 900 years or so at that point, so it couldn't refer to either of them. So, it's simply an instance of higher (and later) canon overriding the older, lesser material.)

I don't think we've ever really had layers of canon suggested in Trek before.

Mike Sussman, producer of Enterprise and writer of the "In a Mirror, Darkly" episodes, disavowed some information he wrote that appears on a screen in the episode. He says that what he wrote (and some that did not appear on screen) was not "hard canon" in a TrekBBS post, noting in the episode commentary on StarTrek.com that he didn't get them cleared through the producers. On the other hand, he acknowledged in the episode commentary of IaMD's second part that if it's on-screen, it is canon, and that people would be freeze-framing the episode to see what was going on there.

This reminds me of the start of the Dominion War. In "A Call to Arms"[DSN5], the station is lost and the crew piles on to the Defiant and Rotarran. The two ships go to join the Federation/Klingon battlefleet. The producers were shocked, though, to see the episode air . . . the two ships join the fleet, and then the fleet is heading back toward Cardassian space as if to go kick immediate ass. The producers had to go back and change their plans for the start of the next season, showing that fleet trashed, because they'd never intended for the fleet to be headed back like that.

Or, there's the Defiant MSD. Ron Moore was astonished to learn that the Defiant had landing gear, but then when later asked if the Defiant would ever land he simply said it was a pricey effect and probably wouldn't be done.

But I digress. While the Sussman example specifically helps resolve the contradiction I mention in the latest site update (which contains a link to his comments), I'm wondering if it also applies to other information screens. These are commonly done by the art department, and sometimes contain in-jokes and whatnot that are commonly ignored anyway. Are these "soft canon", since they didn't go through the producers?

Of course, it's not too much of a leap from the info screens to say that dialog is considered more important than visuals overall in the Trek canon. Once the episode leaves the writers and producers . . . the guardians (or, frequently in Voyager's case, befoulers) of canon . . . it is left to the artists, VFX guys, and so on. While there are some people there like Okuda who are good about keeping things continuous (sometimes at the expense of the writers), there are other people like David Stipes (or the guys who Rob Bonchune mentions at HobbyTalk) who just don't know anything about Trek, or who change things up for dramatic reasons, or because it's 'kewl', and so on. There is oversight, of course, but it isn't like the writing team is there every step of the way.

It's something to ponder. But, then, it's tough . . . I mean, on the one hand you've got writers like Ron Moore, Manny Coto, Sussman, the "Bynars" Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, and so on who can come out with some hella-cool stuff. On the other hand, you've got hacks like Braga or just weaker writers like Andre Bormanis. Do we really want their dialog overriding Okuda's screens or the work of the other Ron Moore, or Gary Hutzel? Imagine the Special Olympiad of a contradiction between Braga and Stipes!

For now, it seems clear that whatever is on the screen is canon, but that while the producers acknowledge this they focus primarily, but not exclusively, on the writers' works. Hence the changes to DS9's sixth season due to the surprise effects shot, and of course Sussman's comment in the IaMD2 commentary that he likes to leave spots open for the art department to go wild putting tech screens in and so on.

In other words, the dialog-over-visuals argument can be made, but I don't think it would ever be an end-all be-all position . . . there would be exceptions.