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Posted: 25th February 2008

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[ 30th Anniversay ]
Thirty Years of Star Wars Storytelling (A brief history of Star Wars stories 1977-2007).


George Lucas once wrote "[a]fter Star Wars was released, it became apparent that my story [...] was only one of thousands that could be told about the characters who inhabit its galaxy. But these were not stories that I was destined to tell. Instead they would spring from the imagination of other writers, inspired by the glimpse of a galaxy that Star Wars provided"[1]. It is not surprising then, as Star Wars passes its thirtieth anniversary, that many such writers and artists have been inspired by that glimpse as there has been over 400 original stories published since Star Wars first arrived on the big screen.
This is a brief history of those thirty years of storytelling from a galaxy far, far away...

  1. Classic Star Wars (1976-1986)
  2. The Bantam years (1991-1998)
  3. The vignette, short story and novella (1987-2007)
  4. Return of the comic story (1991-2007)
  5. Star Wars is for kids! (1977-2008)
  6. A new Jedi order (1999-2005)
  7. Prequels, sequels and eras (1999-2005)
  8. Legacy, Vector and the future (2006-present and beyond)

1] Classic Star Wars (1976-1986)
Although the novelisation of the first film was published in late 1976, then titled Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker, there were few novels published during the six year period between A New Hope in 1977 and Return of the Jedi in 1983. Most notable of these are Splinter of the Mind's Eye by Alan Dean Foster (1978); the Han Solo Adventures by Brian Daley (1979/80); and the Lando Calrissian Adventures by L. Neil Smith (1983). All were published by Del Rey books. Interestingly, the former is set a few years after the events of A New Hope and since it was written and published prior to even George Lucas writing The Empire Strikes Back's script[2] it has become known as the unofficial sequel to A New Hope. It also has become infamous for a number of sequences that were purged for its comic book adaptation in 1995[3]. Both of the latter Adventure series' featuring Han Solo and Lando Calrissian are set a few years prior to the events of A New Hope at a time when neither had met Luke, Obi-Wan, R2-D2 or C-3PO.
Comic book and comic strip stories were important during the early period of maintaining Star Wars' popularity. Marvel adapted all three original films into comic book form and expanded the intervening period between the three films with stories created by Roy Thomas, Archie Goodwin, Don Glut, Jo Duffy et al. These comic stories propelled the reader to all new worlds, all new characters, all new stories with, in some cases, the most unlikely heroes and villains. Marvel published continuously from 1977 till 1986 and all 107 issues were collected and republished later by Dark Horse in seven volumes aptly titled: A Long Time Ago...
From 1981 to 1984 the Los Angeles Times were also publishing a comic strip written and drawn by Russ Manning, Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson. These short comic strips, only 3 or 4 frames of each story per week were published, saw to expand the story and events between the films. Once again, Dark Horse Comics collated and, in this case colour, before republishing all these strips in four volumes titled Classic Star Wars: The Early Adventures; In Deadly Pursuit; The Rebel Storm and Escape to Hoth.
Between Marvel, the Los Angeles Times and Del Rey nearly 50 original Star Wars stories were published up to 1986.

Classic Star Wars stories:

A New Hope

The Empire
Strikes Back

Return of
the Jedi

Splinter of
the Mind's Eye

Han Solo

Lando Calrissian

A Long Time
Ago... Vol. 1

A Long Time
Ago... Vol. 2
A Long Time
Ago... Vol. 3
A Long Time
Ago... Vol. 4
A Long Time
Ago... Vol. 5
A Long Time
Ago... Vol. 6

A Long Time
Ago... Vol. 7
The Early
In Deadly
The Rebel
to Hoth

2] The Bantam years (1991-1998)
Bantam-Spectra, who had just acquired the Star Wars license, published in May 1991 the first original Star Wars novel since L. Neil Smith's Lando Calrissian trilogy in 1983. A novel that would place Star Wars at the top of the New York Times bestsellers list[4]; a novel that brought back many Star Wars fans who were lost in the mid-1980's as they grew older; a novel that founded a new generation of Star Wars fans; and a novel (plus its two sequels) that became as famous as the original three films. That novel was Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn.
In eight years Bantam published over forty novels and made the names of the new characters, vehicles, organisations and places its authors had created as well known as those in the films: Grand Admiral Thrawn, Mara Jade, Corran Horn, Xixor, Coruscant, Black Sun, The Maw, Bastion, Sluis Van, Noghri, Ysanne Isard to name but a few. These names would continue long after their authors had created them as they became part of the ever-increasing Expanded Universe (stories, characters and events beyond the films).
Bantam's stories were primarily set during The New Republic era, the period following Return of the Jedi, as Lucasfilm were preparing for the release of the prequel films and didn't want to disturb the, as then, unknown timeline of pre-A New Hope events. There were a few exceptions to this: A. C. Crispin's Han Solo trilogy (1997/98) told Han Solo's life story up to the events of A New Hope (and allowed space for Brian Daley's original Han Solo Adventures to fit in); Steve Perry's Shadows of the Empire (1996) allowed us to glimpse at Leia, Luke and Chewbacca's attempts to rescue Han after the events of The Empire Strikes Back; and Kathy Tyer's The Truce at Bakura (1993) dealt with the immediate aftermath of the destruction of the second Death Star from Return of the Jedi.
One of the major criticisms of the Bantam books was their inconsistency for timeline coherence, one author could publish a story set 9-10 years after A New Hope, while the next book to be published could be set only 6-7 years after A New Hope. Thus characters and situations established in the first book could not have happened in the second book and the author of the first book could not include events created in the second book. For many fans this jumping around the timeline was infuriating at the least, confusing at the most. This would change in 1999 with The New Jedi Order.

18 original Bantam Star Wars stories:

Heir to
the Empire

Dark Force

The Last

The Paradise

The Hutt

Rebel Dawn

Shadows of
the Empire

The Truce
at Bakura
The Courtship of
Princess Leia

of the Force
Ambush at
Assault at
Showdown at

3] The vignette, short story and novella (1987-2007)
In 1987 West End Games published Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game, the first roleplaying game to be set in the Star Wars universe. During their eleven year publishing history West End Games published almost 100 sourcebooks - books which not only described the rules of game playing but also detailed much of the Expanded Universe's material: character profiles and back stories, vehicle design and construction, weapon power and usage, etc. Included in most sourcebooks were short background stories, or vignettes, of many new and old characters which not only gave some film characters their names for the first time, but also alluded to why they were there in the first place.
In 1994 West End Games began publication of Star Wars Adventure Journal which ran to fifteen issues featuring short stories by not only the well-known Star Wars authors of the time, Timothy Zahn, Kevin J. Anderson and Michael A. Stackpole but also by relatively unknown authors such as Charlene Newcomb and Laurie Burns. Most of these short stories have been either collated into one of the five Tales From... series or been published on StarWars.com for Hyperspace members.
February 2001 saw the publication of the first Star Wars e-book novella, Darth Maul: Saboteur by James Luceno. Originally only available as an electronic download, these e-books were novella's that were additional storylines to a previously published full novel. All e-book novellas were included in the paperback release of the main story's book[5].
Other official Star Wars magazines, Star Wars Insider, Star Wars Galaxy Magazine and Star Wars Gamer have also been sources of original Star Wars short stories.
Short stories, vignettes and e-book novellas account for around one third of published original Star Wars stories.

Tales From... collections:

Tales from
The Empire

Tales from the
Mos Eisley Cantina

Tales of the
Bounty Hunters

Tales from
Jabba's Palace

Tales from The
New Republic

e-book novellas published:

Darth Maul:



A Forest



A Practical

4] Return of the comic story (1991-2007)
1991 saw not only a return of the Star Wars novel, but in December of that year, the Star Wars comic (or rather graphic story) also returned. Dark Empire, written by Tom Veitch and pencilled by Cam Kennedy, was a six-part serial published by, then an relative unknown, Dark Horse Comics as Marvel had not renewed its publishing license with Lucasfilm[6]. It was set 6 years after Return of the Jedi and explores two events simultaneously: the return of the Emperor (in clone form) and Luke's fall to the Dark Side. Dark Empire spawned two sequels (Dark Empire II and Empire's End) and is currently in its third edition of publication.
Since Dark Empire, the writers and artists at Dark Horse Comics have given us stories set as far apart as 5,000 years before A New Hope in Tales of the Jedi (1993-1997) as Jedi of old fight the ancient Sith, right through to almost 140 years after Return of the Jedi with Legacy (2006-present) as Luke's descendent fights the new Sith. From events leading up to The Phantom Menace, through the Clone Wars, and into the Dark Times of the Jedi purge; to even furthering the adventures of the galaxy's most notorious bounty hunter, Boba Fett, Dark Horse Comics have been providing an exciting and illustrated addition to the Star Wars universe.
In 2006 Dark Horse began republishing some of their earliest Star Wars stories in Omnibus editions, books that contain three or more hard-to-find or out-of-print graphic novels in one publication. This has allowed many readers to enjoy stories that were previously unavailable to them.
To celebrate Star Wars' 30th Anniversary in 2007, Dark Horse published their own 30th Anniversary Collection. Twelve limited edition hardback volumes, one for each month of the year, that contain hard-to-find and/or popular graphic stories.
To date Dark Horse Comics' team of writers and artists have published over 600 individual comic books equating to around 100 original Star Wars stories[7].

18 original stories from Dark Horse Comics:

Tales of
the Jedi


The Hunt for
Aurra Sing


and Dark



The Kalarba
The Art of
the Deal
Enemy of
the Empire
By the
Emperor's Hand

Death, Lies
& Treachery
Leviathan Union Chewbacca

Omnibus editions published to date:

Volume 1

Volume 2

Volume 3

Tales of the
Jedi: Vol. 1

Tales of the
Jedi: Vol. 2

5] Star Wars is for kids! (1977-2008)
It has always been said that Star Wars is for children and this is seen in the PG rating all three original films received. Star Wars films do not contain profanities nor do they contain sexual content (other than kissing). However, they do contain scenes of death but they do not dwell on the act of killing other than the effects of lightsabers removing bodily parts. The Marvel comics were thus aimed at children and even reprints of the film novelisations contained several pages of colour photos taken from the respective film. However, both Bantam's and Dark Horse Comics' approach from 1991 was to appeal to a more mature audience. Although the new novels and graphic stories still followed the "suitable for children" guidelines set by the films, the storylines and writing styles were definitely aimed at adults.
Thus in 1992 Paul and Hollace Davids were commissioned to write a series of books with a singular story arc that was designed to be read by younger readers, ideally 9 to 12 year-olds. Set after Return of the Jedi, the Jedi Prince books (also known as The Glove of Darth Vader series, the The Trioculus Saga or The Son of Palpatine series) took the original film heroes, added some new characters and villains and attempted to create a completely original story arc. Unfortunately these stories have become "notorious [...] for being absurd, corny, and just plain silly"[8]. This has meant that these six books are difficult to come by as there is a limited market for reprinting.
The next approach to creating stories for the youth market was taken three years later and this proved to be more successful and created guidelines for future stories. Nancy Ann Richardson's and Rebecca Moesta's (Kevin J. Anderson's wife) Junior Jedi Knights six-book series focused on a young Anakin Solo (Han and Leia's youngest son) and his training at the newly formed Jedi Academy. The writers could concentrate on creating storylines for characters created within the Expanded Universe and allowed for the occasional cameo appearance by a film character.
Since then there have been at least six book series specifically targeted at the youth market: Young Jedi Knights (1995), written by Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta, produced 14 books and was aimed at teenagers. While the 12 book Galaxy of Fear series (1997) by John Whitman continued producing books for the 9-12 year-olds.
However, it was the release of The Phantom Menace in 1999 that spawned the most popular series' of youth books and Star Wars' most prolific book author: Jude Watson[9]. Jedi Apprentice (1999-2002), created by Dave Wolverton but completed by Jude Watson, was an 18 book series (plus two "specials") that told of a young Obi-Wan Kenobi's tutelage by Qui-Gon Jinn prior to The Phantom Menace. This was followed by Jedi Quest (2001-2004), an 11 book series recounting the story of Anakin Skywalker's teaching by Obi-Wan Kenobi between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones.
Although these books may be targeted at younger readers, many authors do not shy away from dealing with the harder aspects of teenage life and of growing up. The excellent six book Young Boba Fett (2002-2004) series by Terry Bison and Elizabeth Hand examines the routes and choices that a young Boba Fett makes following the death of his "father" in Attack of the Clones. While Jude Watson's ten book Last of the Jedi (2005-2008) series discusses the difficult choices that a young person has to make sometimes and the consequences of those choices on the people around them.
Between them these series of youth books have produced over 80 books, with half of them written by Jude Watson.

6] A new Jedi order (1999-2005)
1999 was a turning point for Star Wars, not only did it see the release of The Phantom Menace, the first film in the new prequel trilogy, but for Star Wars books, 1999 was the year the publishing license would return to Del Rey. Also, Lucasfilm Licensing would also establish a new division to handle book publishing: LucasBooks.
As well as the expected tie-in's to the release of The Phantom Menace (see next chapter), LucasBooks and Del Rey also began the most ambitious book programme in Star Wars history. Learning from the mistakes of the Bantam years, they embarked on a singular story arc that would take them four years and 19 books to complete. By the end of the Bantam years, 25 years after A New Hope, our film heroes and Expanded Universe characters had established The New Republic, a new Jedi Academy, Luke and Mara Jade had married and Han and Leia's kids were growing up fast. Into this established framework would come a new enemy from beyond the galaxy, an enemy more terrifying than any encountered so far, an enemy that knew no pain, and worse still, an enemy that was invisible to the Force. The Yuuzhan Vong arrived in Vector Prime (1999) by R.A. Salvatore with such an impact that no-one and no planet would be safe from their scourge. Not even one of the film heroes!
Del Rey and LucasBooks planned a four year publication journey in advance, only making amendments when required. Beginning with a hardback release followed by a couple of paperbacks, then another hardback, and so on, The New Jedi Order series quickly established new and existing authors with a storyline that was sequential for the reader.
In 2005 Troy Denning published his Dark Nest trilogy. Set five years after the closing events of The New Jedi Order, our heroes are still coming to terms of the terrible events of The New Jedi Order but now face a new threat along the outermost reaches of their galaxy from friends and enemies once believed to be dead.

The hardback novels of The New Jedi Order:



Star by


The Unifying

7] Prequels, sequels and eras (1999-2005)
The arrival of the first prequel film The Phantom Menace in 1999 also heralded an explosion in Star Wars story publishing. As well as the expected novelisations of the three eventual films, the newly formed LucasBooks (a division of Lucasfilm Licensing) had licensed The New Jedi Order project and while it was hoped that Dark Horse Comics would contribute to this new project, they unfortunately did not[10]. Instead, Dark Horse Comics embarked on their own storyline series that was based on events and characters set before and after The Phantom Menace, known simply as "ongoing" it would later be entitled Republic.
As well as publishing The New Jedi Order series, LucasBooks would also license publication of novels that were themselves prequels to each of the three prequel films: Cloak of Deception (2001) by James Luceno, The Approaching Storm (2001) by Alan Dean Foster and Labyrinth of Evil (2004) by James Luceno. Each of these books was designed to lead the reader directly into the action portrayed in the films.
However, the release of Attack of the Clones in 2002 allowed LucasBooks to embark on another ambitious project: the Clone Wars. Handing over the reigns of this previously only-eluded-to conflict to Del Rey, Dark Horse Comics, Scholastic Books (publishers of the youth novels, see chapter 5), Star Wars Insider magazine and Cartoon Network. This allowed all of these publishers to pursue the events of the Clone Wars in their own specialised way for a three-year period that would match in real-time the three-year chronological gap between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. Thus Del Rey could focus on producing seven novels; Dark Horse Comics' evolved their  Republic series into Clone Wars series (totalling nine separate volumes); Scholastic published the six-book Young Boba Fett series as well as the Legacy/Secrets of the Jedi duology by Jude Watson; Star Wars Insider published eight short stories; and Cartoon Network produced the epic micro-series Clone Wars. All of these were original stories inspired by the events of Attack of the Clones.
As well as producing the Republic and Clone Wars series', Dark Horse Comics also, in 2002, began production on the Empire series. Set just before, during or just after A New Hope, this series was designed to see these events from an Imperial perspective and eventually produced seven volumes of original stories.
It is obvious that the number of Star Wars stories was making it difficult for many fans, amateur and enthusiast alike, to keep track of where on the Star Wars Timeline each story belonged. So in the latter half of 2000, LucasBooks introduced the five official Eras of Adventure: The Old Republic, The Rise of the Empire, The Rebellion, The New Republic and The New Jedi Order, all in relation to the events seen in A New Hope, either occurring before or after. From now on, every book published would be marked by one of these Era logos so that the reader knew exactly where in the timeline the story fitted.

Original Era of Adventure logos:

The Old

The Rise of
The Empire

The Rebellion

The New

The New
Jedi Order

Some prequels and sequels:


Cloak of


The Phantom


Jango Fett

The Approaching

Attack of
the Clones
The Fight
to Survive
The Defence
of Kamino

The Best
Jedi Trial Labyrinth
of Evil
Revenge of
the Sith
Betrayal The Imperial

8] Legacy, Vector and the future (2006-present and beyond)
With the prequel trilogy now completed, it was time to reassess where Star Wars storytelling had reached. For Del Rey/LucasBooks, The New Jedi Order was finished, but perhaps there was room for a few more stories set after it and maybe Dark Horse Comics could be involved this time. Thus 2006 witnessed the launch of Legacy of The Force, initially a nine-book series written by just three authors: Aaron Allston, Karen Traviss and Troy Denning; set at least a decade after The New Jedi Order, this new series examines the attempts at rebuilding of the galaxy following the Vong devastation, the divisions this creates, and the personal struggles as people come to terms with what has happened. Dark Horse Comics broke away completely from the established timeline, and jumped almost 100 years into the future from Del Rey: obviously our heroes would be dead this far in the future, but their descendents would live on; and Dark Horse Comics' Legacy series is the story of Skywalker descendent, Cade and his struggle to come to terms with his own past, never mind the Skywalker legacy he has inherited!
Not only did Dark Horse Comics jump into the future of Star Wars, but in this year, they also returned to its past, almost 4,000 years in its past. Knights of the Old Republic is an original storyline based loosely on the videogame of the same name. As well as creating two new series, Dark Horse Comics would continue their existing series' Clone Wars and Empire, but both would evolve into Dark Times and Rebellion respectively.
In 2008, Dark Horse Comics embarked on their most ambitious plotline to date: Vector is a story which will "involve, embroil, and ensnare major characters from one end of the Star Wars timeline to the other"[11] by creating a year-long publishing plot that encompasses all four of their current series'.
As for novels, aside from the Legacy of the Force series, fan favourite Timothy Zahn returned in 2006 with Outbound Flight, a prequel to a storyline he began in 1991's Heir to the Empire. A year later, Zahn returned with Allegiance. Meanwhile a new Star Wars author, Drew Karypyshyn, wrote two excellent books about the ultimate old Sith villain: Darth Bane; and Michael Reeves and Steve Perry could close some inconsistencies with previously published Expanded Universe material in Death Star (2007). As Star Wars' thirtieth anniversary year comes to a close, Star Wars storytelling has revealed the death of yet another major character and that a Sith Lord living 140 years after A New Hope may actually be a missing Jedi Master from the Clone Wars.
Looking towards the immediate future, Legacy of the Force, Last of the Jedi and Karen Traviss' Republic Commando series all conclude in 2008, but we can look forward to a promise of even more stories in novels and comics[12] as well as the news of the new (or renewal of the) book licensee; The Force Unleashed promises to be as big a media event as Shadows of the Empire was in 1996; in cinemas and theaters we will also have the new 3D Clone Wars animation in 2008; and then there will be the Star Wars television series in 2009.

Recent Star Wars stories:







The Path to

My Brother,
My Enemy
Allegiance Path of
Rule of

And beyond...
It is clear that countless writers and authors have been inspired by that glimpse of a galaxy far, far away that George Lucas created thirty years ago. And in doing so they have provided for us over four hundred original stories that have sprung from their own imaginations. We can only hope that the next thirty years will bring as many original stories to enjoy as the last thirty years have provided.

2008 SWBooks.co.uk.

  • [1] George Lucas, introduction to Splinter of the Mind's Eye, Alan Dean Foster, 1996, Warner Books (UK), ISBN 0-7515-1738-0
  • [2] As George Lucas admits in his introduction to Splinter of the Mind's Eye, ibid.
  • [3] Most noticeable for their absence are the passion scenes between Luke and Leia.
  • [4] Heir to the Empire achieved #1 position on June 30th, 1991 (source: New York Times[External site - opens in a new window/tab])
  • [5] Due to a publishing error, Ylesia was missing from the paperback edition of Destiny's Way (source: StarWars.com[External site - opens in a new window/tab]).
  • [6] Interestingly, Marvel came very close to publishing Dark Empire, but as they had dropped the Star Wars license several years previous it was up to Tom and Cam to arrange publication by Dark Horse Comics. (source: ComicBookResources.com[External site - opens in a new window/tab])
  • [7] Figures for individual comics include film and novel adaptations and the reprinting of Classic Star Wars material (source: DarkHorse.com[External site - opens in a new window/tab])
  • [8] Adrick Tolliver, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Glove of Darth Vader, but Were Afraid to Ask, Star Wars Fanboy Association, SWFA website[External site - opens in a new window/tab]
  • [9] With the publication of Last of the Jedi #10 in June 2008, Jude Watson[External site - opens in a new window/tab] will have written at least 45 Star Wars books as well as 3 short stories. The most prolific 'adult' book authors are Timothy Zahn[External site - opens in a new window/tab] with 11 novels (incl. 3 graphic novels) and 15 short stories; Michael A. Stackpole[External site - opens in a new window/tab] with 11 novels (incl. 3 graphic novels) and 4 short stories; and Kevin J. Anderson[External site - opens in a new window/tab] with 10 novels (incl. 6 graphic novels), 2 short stories and co-author of 14 youth novels. Dark Horse Comics' most prolific author is John Ostrander[External site - opens in a new window/tab] with over 30 original stories written. The most prolific story writer was Archie Goodwin[External site - opens in a new window/tab] with nearly 50 stories to his name. (all figures obtained from Wookieepedia[External site - opens in a new window/tab])
  • [10] In fact, Nom Anor's first appearance was in issue #1 of Crimson Empire II: Council of Blood by Mike Richardson (published November 11th, 1998) - nearly a year before Vector Prime, but Lucasfilm did not like the ideas coming from Mike and Dark Horse Comics regarding the invasion concept. In the end, Dark Horse Comics decided to leave the invasion to Del Rey and to concentrate on other projects. (source: Randy Stradley, editor, Dark Horse Comics, October 2000, DarkHorseBoards[External site - opens in a new window/tab] [via Internet Archive])
  • [11] Randy Stradley, editor, Dark Horse Comics, October 2007, DarkHorse.com[External site - opens in a new window/tab] [via Internet Archive]
  • [12] Remember to regularly check the Release Schedule at Star Wars Books to keep abreast of all forthcoming novels & graphic novels.


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