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Losing Star Wars to Legend} ?> Picture this scene: a short, scrawny Korean boy with glasses sitting on a bench in a middle school locker room, talking nerd stuff with a tall, gangly, bushy-haired classmate. Day after day, we’d broach topics like Japanese film adaptations of fighting games, whether dinosaurs really could be made from mosquitos trapped in amber, and how there was this great game called Doom, but it required a boot disc. Of all these conversations, though, the most significant one to me was when my friend told me there was an “expanded universe” to Star Wars, novels that pushed the stories of our heroes further. I swore to myself that he was lying. He had to be, right? There couldn’t be more Star Wars, could there?
Of course, there was more. So much more. I asked my parents to take me to a local bookstore and bought the very first novel I ever read for personal reasons, Heir to the Empire. That book, and the rest of Timothy Zahn’s trilogy, blew my mind. And that was that—my love for reading and my obsession over Star Wars was sealed.
So you might understand why I felt like I was being tortured by force lightning when Lucasfilm announced that the EU would now be called “Legends.” Legendary stories are those relegated to myth and folk tales, to narratives that might have been true but probably weren’t, or else were so mutated over the years that they only match the historical fact in bare bones. No longer was there a Mara Jade Skywalker, nor the Solo twins. Grand Admiral Thrawn has returned through Rebels, but doesn’t bring with him ysalamir or the clone C’Baoth. And Chewbacca didn’t die; Han did.
I was distraught and bitter, but I also felt as if I had lost control. What I grew up loving was no longer canon, no longer true. How could Disney do this? Move over, Palpatine-Emperor Mickey was now in charge.
All this lack of control over a situation reminded me of when I visited Korea a number of years ago. I made meticulous plans about where I wanted to visit and what I wanted to buy, but I was limited by my poor Korean speaking skills and further by the itinerary my relatives impressed upon us. I had zero influence over my situation.
At first, I was constantly on-edge, snapping at family and frequently nervous about where we would go next and what we would do. Thankfully, it didn’t take long for me to understand that I needed to calm down, be kinder, and just enjoy the vacation. I let go of the checkmark lists of sites I wanted to see and just trusted in those who guided me. And so I was able to enjoy the rush of the high-speed KTX rail; shop at popular districts in Seoul; eat sea cucumbers and other delicacies at hidden restaurants; take in the view of the historic DMZ at the border with North Korea; stroll along a beachfront while winter snow floated down; climb mountain steps into beautiful Buddhist temples to drink from their clear, icy springs; and experience teeth-chattering cold on the heights of Mt. Seorak.
My plans of continuous sight-seeing were wiped away and replaced by a more memorable and emotional experience. I found something better when I stopped trying to control something I couldn’t and just let those wiser than me lead the way.
And so I reminded myself that there was reason for this positively Palpatine-like move by Disney; it was all in preparation for the new film, one I had waited for all my life. I decided to put my trust in J.J. Abrams, who would have been my top pick for a new trilogy, and in Disney, who seemed to be doing so many things right over the last decade.
Then the day came. I lined up, sat next to all the other nerds, and experienced The Force Awakens for the first time. And I was absolutely and altogether blown away. In two hours and fifteen minutes, the resentment I felt for losing the EU was sliced away. Episode VII took me to places both familiar and new, and I could not have been more thankful.
Today, it still stings a little when I walk down the sci-fi aisle at a bookstore and look at how many Star Wars novels have been retconned under the Legends banner. The last time I visited a bookstore, I flipped through several, and then put them back, feeling a little sad knowing that these stories “never happened.”
But then I my eyes caught a glimpse of a more recent book, one that was part of the new canon. I read a few pages and I was hooked. I came home with that novel, Heir to the Jedi, hungry to read more about Luke Skywalker and where the revitalized universe had placed him after the events of A New Hope. From Heir to the Empire to Heir to the Jedi, I had come full circle, from a middle school kid to an adult, from a fan of Lucas’ vision of Star Wars to Disney’s. And in that positively Jedi-like concept, I learned something practical: letting go can be a good thing, especially if what you’re turning over goes to someone wiser than you, whether it be to family, colleagues, or a certain animated mouse.