If we want our expanded universe to resist the efforts to diminish it, its up to the fans. Keep letting them know we want our stories, our books and comics, to be available, intact. Be very aware of digital legal limitations and do what you can to encourage protection for the buyer, not just the seller. Contribute in every way we can to keeping the video games alive as well as asking for them to be made compatible with modern systems. Finally, we need more fans stepping up with websites, blogs, and offering their skills.
I’m going to emphasize: we need you. This isn’t something I can do alone, or the Expanded Universe site, or the Twin Suns Foundation. Everyone needs to help, or, as Queen Amidala put it “All will be lost forever.” If you have website expertise, build one, use it and promote your own expanded universe adventures. If you know how to work in code, help keep the games going and tell others how to get them working.
These are some things that would keep the expanded universe thriving, even if it isn’t recognized by Disney as canon or continued. It is our efforts that can encourage a new generation to get involved. They won’t find the fun of the story in older games, or content buried behind a streaming paywall, let alone short stories that were lost.
Books and Comics
Expanded universe book reprints should keep intact all the original content. That means no removing short stories or acknowledgements in either print media or digital versions. They are specifically leaving out all acknowledgements to collaboration with the publishers and other authors of Lucasfilm, to push the narrative that the expanded universewasn’t carefully crafted and consistent. They need to know its not okay to sell a more expensive trade paperback book with less in it. The original versions can still be found in good shape.
Republish the short stories and young adult books that were so popular. It’s a lie that they have no rights: Lucasfilm owns all the rights. There is no reason they can’t offer a reprint, even a limited run like they do of those special Barnes and Noble versions. Young Jedi Knights had that back in the day, there is no reason it can’t again, or Jedi Apprentice, or any of the other most popular ones. The only reason they wouldn’t is a resistance to dealing with the authors, who they’ve already proven willing to shortchange.
For our part: make sure Lucasfilm and the publishing companies know that we know they can do this. They need our money more than they want to admit. They’ve alienated fans and now they’ve alienated families. They are on the financial ropes and that is good for us. But keep in mind Bob Iger is in charge of Disney and he caused this mess, he’s not the solution.
You don’t own these, so don’t be fooled by the shopping cart lying to you on their digital stores. They can remove these digital versions or update on your device at any time, and ‘update’ doesn’t mean just editing out some typos. They can alter the cover art, remove short stories and acknowledgements, and replace expanded universe stories with their own canon samples. Even if you still have the main story, you’ve lost something that you had paid for.
This is legal by the way, in most places. It shouldn’t be, in my opinion, because if someone broke into my home and did the same to a book there, I’d still have them charged for stealing. The book they replaced it with is not what I bought. I bought a specific version, probably for a reason.
The only way around this is to buy physical books, but it can’t hurt to give feedback to the E-Book companies, and even your government representatives, that this isn’t okay. Protections against copyright theft are one thing, but this is a consumer protection issue and we should have rights even when its a digital copy. It’s even possible E-Book sellers aren’t aware there is more going on than fixes to typos or even a new cover, so it can’t hurt to tell them you object and request a differentiation to digital versions, just as you have in physical versions.
The Need for Hard Copies or Unlocked to Software Versions
On the surface the digital expanded universe audiobooks are being released in unabridged form and this is good. The problem is, they are usually DRM locked to one system so again, you are renting. Unless it’s unlocked so you can play on any software for audiobooks (ie VLC, ITunes, etc) then you are in danger of losing it on someone else’s whim. There were full length (however expensive) on CD there toward the end, and oddly I saw little price difference on release.
We need to push for either DRM free versions or hardcopy rereleases of the expanded universe. This is a challenge as they weren’t widely released to start with. Again, protecting their copyright is one thing, but if the company you “bought” it from goes down, than there goes your license. If you really own it you should be able to resell, just like a standard CD or cassette, and have it removed from your computer. I realize that is a ‘how do we confirm’ issue if it has no DRM but we had ways before digital downloads became a thing. I’m sure new ways can be invented
Another advantage of hardcopies is that they can be ripped to digital. With audiobook CD a program like ITunes, or the free VLC media player can do it. It’s a bit more complicated with cassettes, as you need special cassette players. Those that come with the option to convert to digital often convert it to play in the Audible format, I am not suggesting this for piracy, (I do not approve of that, we want to encourage them to make the stuff available, that means they have to profit) but merely pointing out that with hardcopy, you can have a backup.
I can’t emphasize enough the danger regarding video games and the risk of losing these digital stories. As operating systems update, they don’t always stay compatible. Since we aren’t getting more expanded universe stories, we need these to stay available, even the less popular titles.
Hard copies of games may not work on current systems. We need workarounds. Most particular Installers that allow 32 bit games to be installed on 64 bit systems. If you can’t install, the game is dead in the water. Getting it to function after install is another matter! But being able to install is the first step. I’m sure there are fans out there that know how to do this, and can even instruct others.
Manuals may not be available even if the game is sold on a digital game platform. It would be useful for those to be available as well in some format (and it’s a mystery why they aren’t, if the game is at least sold in digital format).
First we need to let the companies that are releasing them know we do want even the less popular games (DRM free), and buy them. That will encourage them being updated. Those that are DRM protected still have issues. When I bought The Force Unleashed initially for my Mac, I had a slow connection and it took ages to download. Imagine my fury when my gameplay was interrupted because the app store altered something and broke the DRM so I had to do it all over again.
We should also continue encouraging that those games be adapted for more platforms. Bounty Hunter sounds like a great game but it’s only on Playstation. If you have only PC or XBox, how many fans can afford multiple consoles? How many have room for them? Or for that matter what about Obi-Wan or Clone Wars 2003, which are only for XBox. Again, unless you can get an emulator working, no other system plays it. The best you can hope for is to find a cut scene video to see the story. In some cases, it’s not just a case of system, but version of it as some aren’t backward compatible.
We already have lost some games. While the Genndy Tartakovsky was out for instance several flash games were available. Once Shockwave Flash was no longer used (considered a security risk in the digital realm) those games vanished off the internet. There were games lost off the original Star Wars site as well.
Game Support Network
We could use some central sites that allow fans, or link fans, to what worked to get these games working be they Steam, Gog, or from the original discs. That might be instructions or troubleshooting steps. It might be an install file or mod that makes it work on a more modern system. I plan to try and do some linking here, but I can’t and haven’t played all games (some for these very reasons!)
Even games sold through the app stores may need support that isn’t always available. Gog for instance had great support, but fell on hard times and contracted out. I can’t get any help there anymore, last I tried the digital support ‘bot’ help system didn’t recognize the name of the game I had literally just purchased.
Expanded Universe Mod Repository
We also need the digital mods protected. By this I mean whether it made the game run properly on modern systems, enhanced the graphics, added graphics,or story content, we cannot trust the main mod sites. These are for gamers, not Expanded Universe fans. They have no qualms about removing an old version of the mod with expanded universe themes and replacing it with new canon content. Fine for the gamer that wants that, not fine for the expanded universe fan.
Example: moddb is fine for finding mods and help, but many gamers do not differentiate when adding in new planets or such which canon they are from. Some of us would prefer the older mods with just the expanded universe, even if they are a bit more buggy.
Finally we can’t trust Disney regarding the digital realm. It’s quite possible trying to release the Restored Content Mod for Knights of the Old Republic 2 on Nintendo Switch has made them wonder how to get control of, and cash in on, that digital bounty. While engines that upgrade Dark Forces (both CD and digital store release) have been allowed, who is to say that won’t one day be challenged? The law is very behind catching up to the digital realm’s challenges.
Finally, the fact is there were TV shows before Filoni’s The Clone Wars or Disney’s content Right now these probably all are on Disney+, meaning they can take that digital content off anytime. We again need hard copy versions. The Ewoks and Droids Adventure Hour never had all episodes released in any other media, not DVD, not VHS nor the UK’s PAL format. The Ewok movies aren’t the most modern fx but were fun and also haven’t been released in years. These show were ideal for kids getting into Star Wars. The Genndy Tartakovsky animated Clone Wars hasn’t been available new for years. We need to push for complete releases.
The Marketing War
A lot of the copyright issue can directly be traced back to Disney and it’s lobbyists and this makes protecting the digital realm especially hard. Yes, artist should be able to protect their work. But that shouldn’t mean you get to stomp on legal purchasers to do so.
Finally, there are only a few sites out there dedicated to the Expanded Universe. These few sites (mine included) cannot do it alone. Disney reusing names is an SEO (search engine optimization) stunt that in part is meant to bury the Expanded Universe content in the digital algorithms and redirect those names toward their canon. It happens now all the time when you go searching for Wookieepedia and a character or planet name used in both canons. Using the story and character names in their original form has to continue lest they be lost, and that means more have to step up.
For future generations, we need to take action and not let the most precious aspect of the expanded universe die just because it’s a digital age. It’s not enough for the fans who grew up with it to love and hoard it. We have to share it, and for that we need to take thought on maintaining it for the next generation.