The Star Wars Universe
Now first off, the thing to realize about the Star Wars universe is that it was all started by a man just like you - just like me. A humble messy-haired geek with about as much time on his hands as the average geek has. This man opened up a universe unlike any other. Since it's debut almost thirty years ago Star Wars has grown into a culture all it's own. If you have seen the movies or read any books or comics then you know the mysterious wonder and enjoyment that inhabit this universe.
However, maybe you've only heard it mentioned by some weird family members. Or perhaps you make rude comments about Star Wars on forums because it's a dorky kiddy series of movies. Or maybe you've just not had the time to get involved with the widely expressive fan base. Whatever the case, this guide is here to aqquaint you briefly with just how much you've been missing.
Star Wars started way back in the mists of time - back in the seventies before many of us were even born. In those days sci-fi flicks were few and far between. Not like the blood-and-guts and shaky-cam stuff you get nowadays. CGI was almost nonexistent... sci-fi actors were hard to come by and getting people to see sci-fi as something BESIDES a Saturday morning joke was almost impossible. Star Wars was born as a merging of fantasy and sci-fi - envisioned by one George Lucas.
With the help of Alan Dean Foster, Lucas's fellow geeks and the techs that were - in their day - generally mocked or ignored. Lucas created the first Star Wars movie; a New Hope, as it was later dubbed, and took the world by storm. What followed can only be compared to the majestic glory that is the Christian bible or the fast-paced power that is Microsoft. Over the next few years Lucas and his group - with the help of 2Oth Century Fox - produced not only two more movies but video games, novels, comics, computer programs... the list just goes on.
You think that's it? You'd be wrong - the leaps and bounds made in graphical technology for Star Wars changed the movie industry forever. Suddenly, thousands upon thousands of sci-fi productions that had never been taken seriously were green lit. Battlestar Galactica, The Last Starfighter, Spacehunter - the list is endless! Alright, now you MIGHT not have heard of these movies (rent them, if you know what's good for you) but because of Star Wars sci-fi television shows and movies were suddenly a viable investment.
Now. This story doesn't end in the seventies or even the nineties. It merely continues to the turn of the millennium. By the year 1999 Star Wars exploded back onto our screens in glorious high definition cgi-ed glory. Suddenly characters and animations never even considered by most computer programmers were viable - LucasArts and the tech they used to make the prequel trilogy and new video games catapulted the capabilities of technology that would one day enable the creation of movies like the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Harry Potter series.
What began as one lone geeks scribbles through math class grew into an industry... and all have profited from it. So the next time you think of Star Wars as some boring kiddy flick tune into how it started and what it's caused over such a short amount of time. Almost a third of the human race are Star Wars fans... they can't ALL be wrong
Now, something else you may ask, what about all these books? All this comic crap and those ho-hum cartoons they have on cartoon network? And well you should - for as stated Star Wars isn't just an industry, for many it's a way of life. What started back in the seventies wasn't enough... fan's couldn't cope without a story set in the galaxy far far away every few months. In those days the computer was unusable by most people - forums barely existed and people got their fan glory through what few magazines and comics they could get their hands on.
It was the advent of a book called Splinter of the Minds Eye, written by the original script-writer Alan Dean Foster, that changed all that. Suddenly the few newspaper comics and the odd marvel ramble had its throne usurped by the majesty of this simple yet amazing book. In this book you had a story about Princess Leia (in a prelude for what was to come) taking less of the 'defended maiden' role when she took up a Lightsaber to protect her (unknown) brother Luke Skywalker. Suddenly a whole new window was opened to the universe of Star Wars.
With the advent of the Empire Strikes Back the fans wanted more... they wanted to know what would happen to Princess Leia and Han Solo - they wanted to know if Han could be saved. They wanted to know about Lando Calrissian combing the galaxy for his friend. They wanted to know about the armored bounty-hunter... most of all, they wanted more Star Wars. And so it was that the various Han Solo and Lando books were created to flesh out the backgrounds of those characters. Over the next few years LucasArts continued to test the novel market and the fans devoured every single one.
A turning point was reached when West End Games began publishing the Star Wars Roleplaying Gam. In order for players of the roleplaying game to create new adventures, West End Games needed to provide supplemental material describing the Star Wars universe in previously unknown detail and to make it self-consistent and coherent. As an example, the Aurebesh alphabet was originally a random piece of set dressing used in Return of the Jedi. A man named Stephen Crane copied those symbols and turned them into a complete and workable alphabet which would later be used in the prequel trilogy. Developing and extrapolating from details like this in a consistent fashion turned West End Games' Star Wars products into a de facto reference library for other developers of what would one day be called the Expanded Universe.
So it was, after the end of an era, that what would remain the greatest novel ever was created. A man known as Timothy Zahn - with the help of Lucas and Alan Dean Foster - created a three part book series that would forever change Star Wars. Suddenly a linking canon between books was shown - a consistent 'universe' and a growing New Republic was shown... as was the advancing pregnancy of one Leia Organa Solo. With the advent of this book the Expanded Universe's place in fans hearts and the public mind was cemented.
Over the next decade and on into the new millennium. Comics and novels alike would introduce stories and situations that would become as synonymous with the Star Wars universe as the movies themselves. It was the EU that invented the use of a Double-Bladed Lightsaber. It was the EU that invented the usage of two blades at one time. It was the EU that first identified the 'differences' between a normal being and a being with a force connection that would later grow into the midiclorians. Second only to G canon in the level of importance the EU has a large history and is perhaps even more mysterious and inviting than the movies themselves... for while the movies have an ending... the stories told in the Expanded Universe don't.
To this day the Expanded Universe contains one of the largest fan bases based in or on a TV or movie series. With the continuation of the Clone Wars television show. The advent of the Star Wars live-action TV project and the ever growing archive of Star Wars novels and comics the EU numbers some several hundred books, almost two hundred video games, two TV shows (another in potential) and some million comics. The EU has a lot to offer... sometimes on even a deeper scale than Lucas's original work. For it is there, dear reader, that our time line is set.
Despite the HUGE fan base for the Storm Trooper corps. and the Bounty Hunters and the Twi'Leks and all the other what-have-you's; Nothing remains more important or well-known to the fans than the Lightsaber... the force... and the Jedi Order. Even the fans that think the Jedi are boring or pathetic have a few moments in the movies where (behind closed doors) they admit the Jedi are cool.
Now what is it, in a world of such glory and amazingly heroic stories, that set the Jedi apart? Is it their snazzy robes? They awesome pigtails? Their ability to make pithy comments when their about to have their asses handed to them? Well... okay, for the die-hard fans this MIGHT be what it is that attracts them to the Jedi... but for the rest of us (the people who DON'T paint themselves blue for the conventions) it is the mythological and technological wonder that is the Lightsaber.
The Lightsaber did not begin life as a weapon exclusive to the Jedi. Originally it was called a Lazersword. It was a weapon carried by the Storm Troopers along with the Lasershield - but as the story and wonder of the Star Wars universe grew Lucas and Alan Dean Foster began to realize that - not only would it be costly to give every single warrior in this series a lasersword. But nothing really set the Jedi apart... so it was that the Lasersword in later drafts came to be known as the Lightsaber.
In the universe of Star Wars, the Lightsaber began life as a ceremonial weapon. A small cylindrical device attached to a LONG power-cable which, in turn, was connected to a belt-mounted power-pack. These protosabers were flimsy (at best) and had a tendency to explode when the feedback from the plasma in the energy beam fed back into the cylinder and overloaded it. During the early years of the Jedi and Sith orders the weapon remained little more than an oddity used by the more 'eccentric' members of the order and would have continued to be so... if it weren't for the Sith.
While the Jedi invented the Lightsaber - it was the Sith who perfected the use of a power-pack mounted inside the hilt itself. One of the problems with an internal power-pack was that the Lightsaber drained a huge amount of energy. The Sith conceived of a way to limit the power the blade consumed by feeding the power of the blade back INTO the hilt. Refueling the power-pack and draining the pack only when the path between the blade and the hilt was interrupted - such as when the blade was used to cut into or through something. This limited the weapons original conception as a siege-weapon (as the power-pack would quickly burn out) but made it far more portable and useful.
That being said, while the Sith perfected the design, it was the Jedi who began the mass-use of the blade. The Sith, in their early years, far preferred the feel of blade-on-flesh while the Jedi needed a weapon they could use to both defend and carry on their persons without being too noticeable. Because of this the Lightsaber quickly replaced the blaster and sword designs in use by the Jedi. In turn leading to almost as many styles of Lightsaber combat as hilt designs that eventually lead to its exclusive use by the Jedi and Sith orders - in turn becoming as synonymous with the two orders as the force itself.
In the original conception of Star Wars the force was far more well-defined than most people think. Originally the force was generated by amulets worn by masters known as the Kaibur Crystals. As the story was refined it came to be too difficult to define what these crystals were exactly... not to mention that it was also limiting for the people and the power that has become the force itself. So the force was redefined as a 'lifeforce' that existed within and without creation that was generated by all living beings.
In-universe, however, perhaps nothing is more closely identified with the Jedi and the Sith than the Force itself. The force led to the creation of both the Jedi and the Sith - as well as many other empires. Almost fifty thousand years before a New Hope it was used to create an empire that would see fit to dominate the stars - this empire, however, was fueled by the power of the dark side. This empire fed upon the slaves and warriors of various cultures until none were left... and then it fed upon itself. Within a few thousand years the empire collapsed... and for a time the force slept.
It is said that the knowledge used by this empire would fall into the hands of the first human force users almost twenty-five thousand years later. At this time many worlds were coming together. Hungry to unite under a single flag and end the pointless blood-feuds: One such group of scientists, diplomats and warriors met with the scholars of the planet Tython to discuss and investigate an anomalous energy present throughout the galaxy that select members of their group could 'touch' with their minds. This group came to identify this 'energy' as the 'Ashla' - which would eventually come to be known as the Light side of the force.
However, there was a rift between these early force users. The Followers of Ashla believed that - with the power they had discovered upon Tython - they could spread light among the uncivilized worlds of the galaxy and unite them against the darkness. The 'outsiders' - calling themselves the followers of Bogan - believed that they should bring this light by force. They believed they were gifted with true power... and therefor they alone had the wisdom to truly unite the galaxy. Within two years this difference of opinion had led to open war between the two cults - this in turn began the century-lone war known as the Force Wars of Tython.
As would be expected, by the end of the war, the Followers of Ashla had defeated the Bogan rebels and brought unity among the scientists and those lucky enough to have survived the Force Wars. With their new knowledge they dubbed themselves Knights of Ashla and left Tython to settle on Ossus and continue their studies on the force... it would not be until some four-hundred years later that the Followers of Bogan would rise again amongst the new Jedi recruits... in the form a Lettow general known as Xendor.
Over the next twenty-two thousand years the darkness begun by the followers of Bogan would visit itself upon the Jedi several more times - lives would be lost... power would be found... and the galaxy would bleed. Perhaps never moreso would this lesson be shown... than in the current conflict.