In the Star Wars Internet community as a whole, there are a number of web pages devoted to developing a timeline/chronology of the Star Wars Saga. Notable pages of interest that come to mind include James McFadden's Chronology, Brian Crewe's Ultimate Star Wars Timeline, and Mike Beidler's Star Wars Literature Compendium. In the case of James McFadden's timeline, we have mutually shared information, and given credit accordingly. That is how it should be. It has recently come to my attention that a number of Star Wars timelines on the Internet have been using our material without giving credit to us. You know who you are. This is not honest! The two of us have spent at least hundreds of hours between us devoted to Timetales, and it is disheartening to see our work plagiarised. In the words of Queen Amidala, "I will not condone a course of action that will lead us to war." Please, if you want to use our material, at least give us the courtesy of asking, or giving us credit in your document (which is what we strive to do).
Chris McElroy / Michael Potts 24th July, 1999
THE NECESSITY OF TIMETALES
Beginning with the film novelisations, then progressing through to Del Rey releases such as Splinter of the Mind's Eye and the Han Solo and Lando Calrissian adventures; on to the Bantam novels, starting with the Thrawn trilogy from Timothy Zahn, and now going full circle back to Del Rey, Star Wars books have never been released in a chronological order. This can be confusing for the casual fan. Something that occurs thousands of years before the adventures of Luke Skywalker can have an effect on the story decades after Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. Timetales, like all timelines, was created out of its own necessity, as the best way to monitor continuity is with a timeline. Timetales is unique; nearly all other Star Wars timeline in existence have only an entry for the title of the story, while this timeline goes one step further. Timetales includes a complete story synopsis for each novel, comic, etc . . . and ALL other dated information, no matter how obscure the event, is noted. Reading this timeline from start to finish will give you a comprehensive understanding of the history of the Star Wars universe, from the Big Bang to times thousands of years past Episode IV: A New Hope. This is a valuable resource for inquisitive Star Wars fans everywhere.
None of the information given in Timetales is "made-up" -- it is all sourced. We have tried to include all the West End Games material that we have been able to lay our hands on, not only because it is great material and is part of the expanded canon, but also as a tribute to the sadly demised company -- as most items are becoming more rare and harder to find, the casual fan can experience their legacy of great work in this document.
"What is 'canon' in the Star Wars universe?" "Is this novel 'official?'"
"Did the events in this comic series actually take place?"
These are tough questions. Although the canonicity question has been debated ever since Marvel began to create Star Wars comics beyond the scope of the first movie, ever since Alan Dean Foster's Splinter of the Mind's Eye was first published, it was Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire that made fans ask the question more frequently and earnestly than ever before. In 1991, Lucasfilm, Ltd. commissioned Dark Horse Comics and about a dozen popular science fiction novelists to continue the Star Wars saga beyond the events told in the third motion picture produced, Star Wars, Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. And in a minor coup d'etat, Lucasfilm allowed Dark Horse Comics to add to the Star Wars mythos with adventures taking place four thousand years before the first movie, Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope. With this proliferation of Star Wars literature and the increasingly watchful eye of thousands of true and loyal fans, the canon question has become foremost in many of our minds.
Of course, some of you are wondering, "What the heck is canon?" Referencing The American Heritage Dictionary, Second College Edition, and eliminating any definitions that have religious connotations, canon means:
"3. A basis for judgment; standard; criterion." "7. An authoritative list, as of the works of an author."
Therefore, in our particular case, George Lucas, the author and creator of the Star Wars saga, is the only individual who can define what books, comics, or video games are authoritative when discussing the Star Wars universe and its characters, places and events. According to the premiere issue of the Star Wars Insider, the only works "canonized" have been the movies, their novelizations, and their radio drama adaptations. So what about novels like Heir to the Empire and the Jedi Academy trilogy, and comic series such as Dark Empire? West End Games, which produces exhaustive source material based on the movies and various novels, states in the Heir to the Empire Sourcebook that "this and all other products that take place after the events depicted in Return of the Jedi are the author's vision of what may have happened. The true fate of the heroes and villains of the Star Wars universe remains the exclusive province of George Lucas and Lucasfilm, Ltd." Kevin J. Anderson, author of the Jedi Academy trilogy, states in the introduction to the Dark Empire trade paperback that "when you read Dark Empire, or any of the other novels, remember that although Lucasfilm has approved them, they are our sequels, not George Lucas's. If Lucasfilm ever makes films that take place after Return of the Jedi, they will be George Lucas's own creations, probably with no connection to anything we have written." So what does this mean? Will George Lucas ignore all the events, characters, and premises that Timothy Zahn, Kevin J. Anderson, and Tom Veitch wrote about? Will all the books and comics have been bought in vain? Will a Star Wars "otherworld" suddenly exist when and if George Lucas makes episodes VII - IX? Only time will tell. In a related subject, many fans love to point out inconsistencies and changed premises that are (supposedly) inevitable when so many books and comics are being written in a relatively short period of time. So do these inconsistencies, some major, some minor, affect the canonicitiy of a book or comic? That's another question in itself. . .
Another definition of canon, this one coming from Steven J. Sansweet, author of the Star Wars Encyclopedia:
Which brings us to the often-asked question: Just what is Star Wars canon, and what is not? The one sure answer: The Star Wars Trilogy Special Edition -- the three films themselves as executive-produced, and in the case of Star Wars written and directed, by George Lucas, are canon. Coming in a close second we have the authorised adaptations of the three films: the novels, radio dramas, and comics. After that, almost everything falls into a category of "quasi-canon."
The STAR WARS films are the only primary reference. With the exception of only a few minor points, they are indisputable. This is not merely personal opinion; it is the explicit policy of the Continuity and Production Editors at Lucasfilm. They are interviewed in Star Wars Insider #23:
What's 'gospel' and what isn't?
'Gospel,' or canon as we refer to it, includes the screenplays, the films, the radio dramas and the novelizations. These works spin out of George Lucas' original stories, the rest are written by other writers. However, between us, we've read everything, and much of it is taken into account in the overall continuity. The entire catalog of published works comprises a vast history -- with many off-shoots, variations and tangents -- like any other well-developed mythology. (Thanks to Curtis Saxton's Star Wars Technical Commentaries)