Star Wars Celebration: Star Wars Story Group Provide Insights on Building the New Canon

Friday, 17 April 2015 - 7:18PM
Star Wars
Star Wars Celebration
Friday, 17 April 2015 - 7:18PM
Star Wars Celebration: Star Wars Story Group Provide Insights on Building the New Canon
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When it comes to a Universe as complex as the one occupied by Star Wars, understanding what is canon and what isn't can sometimes seem daunting. While the old Star Wars expanded universe had hundreds of thousands of passionate fans, the Disney purchase has ushered in a new era of Star Wars storytelling and in the process, evicted decades of Star Wars stories out of what is considered canon. Today at Star Wars Celebration, some of the key players in the Star Wars story group, the team responsible for weaving the yarns involved in the new Star Wars EU, gathered for a panel that would help enlighten fans about what is going into the construction of this new, more unified Star Wars canon. Sitting on the panel were: Michael Siglain, creative director and Jennifer Heddle, senior editor, from Lucasfilm and Disney publishing; editor-at-large Shelly Shapiro from Del Rey; editor Jordan D. White, VP International Development; C.B. Cebulski from Marvel; managing editor Sadie Smith from DK; and Leland Chee from the Lucasfilm Story Group.

Below are our big takeaways from an incredibly enlightening event.

What is now Considered Star Wars Canon?

Star Wars Episodes 1-VII (and beyond)

Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Star Wars Rebels

Dark Disciple
Lords of the Sith
A New Dawn
Heir to the Jedi

Video Games
Star Wars Battlefront

Everything Marvel is creating

Why was the Story Group Set Up?
The Star Wars story group was brought about by LucasFilm President, Kathleen Kennedy, who wanted to change the way in which Star Wars stories were told across every media type including movies, TV, and published properties. Before the Disney takeover there were two camps developing Star Wars stories: the Cinematic Team and the Publishing Team. Kennedy changed that by uniting the two factions and creating a singular story group to track every story and map future tales years in advance. While this wasn't a popular approach with those who were attached to the old EU, Leland Chee says it was absolutely necessary, not least because the new stand-alone movies can feasibly take place at any point in the Star Wars timeline, which means central management of storytelling would be the best method to ensure continuity across such a wide timeline. Pablo Hidalgo reinforces that sentiment by stating that, with so many new Star Wars fans expected to join the franchise, simplifying what is canon makes it easier to for the franchise to embrace a new generation of Star Wars fanatics by removing any potential blockers to them understanding the universe these stories live in.

How the Story Group Works
Much of the central management of the Star Wars story group falls on the shoulders of Jennifer Heddle and Shelley Shapiro. With so many new Star Wars novels being produced, Shapiro reveals that much of her time is taken up by dealing with a constant stream of questions from Star Wars authors regarding everything from "What ship can i use in this chapter?" and "Which species do we have in this part of the Galaxy?" It's hoped that this type of central management will reduce the number of inconsistencies, which plagued much of the old EU. But scrutiny on what is being produced doesn't just help ensure continuity between stories, it also helps to manage the flow of the tales being told, which in turn ensures that the right things are being ingested by fans at the right time. While Star Wars stories are occasionally generated by writers pitching ideas to the story group, most of the time it's a case of the story group choosing areas to explore and seeking out the content creators who are best able to tell those stories. This all means that if you think it's a coincidence that something a book refers to something from a TV show or movie you just saw, it was in fact all meticulously planned by the story group.

What Stories Can We Expect in the Near Future?
Though there a number of new Star Wars stories being released over the next month or two, ('Lords of the Sith' and multiple Marvel comics are a couple of examples), arguably the biggest storytelling event on the horizon is 'Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens'. 'Journey' will see no fewer than 20 new books, comics and kid-oriented titles released in the months leading up to the December 18th. Each title will provide hints and clues about what we can expect to see in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. These hints won't be explained, though. Instead they are being placed purely to get fans speculating and debating about what will happen in the upcoming movie release. This story-based approach to conversation stimulation is something we can expect to see in the build up to every new Star Wars movie in the future. There will even be a new published story which will lead in to Star Wars Battlefront, and a web toon in Korea, which the group hope will start to generate excitement about Star Wars in other markets.

How to Get Started With the New Star Wars Canon?
One of the best ways to get into the new Star Wars canon is the upcoming DK 'Ultimate Star Wars' Encyclopedia, which is set to be the most comprehensive collection of information about ships, species and worlds contained within the new Star Wars Canon. Ultimate Star Wars doesn't hit shelves until May, but if you want to start engrossing yourselves in canon right now, it's advisable to work your way through the titles contained in the list above.
Science Fiction
Sci-Fi Books
Star Wars
Star Wars Celebration