RSA Debate

[Editor's note: Since RSA chose to ignore his own stipulation about keeping it short and avoiding needless repetition or superfluous detail, I have split his lengthy response up into two parts]

Round 1, Part 2a (EU Inclusion)

(posted Saturday, September 14, 2002)

In spite of the pre-debate concession, term violations, and tardiness, your post is relatively on-topic, though there are several slips. As such, I shall reply to the pertinent and/or contested elements of our respective arguments, in keeping with the precepts of rational discussion.

<snip>
I will focus on your so-called "Death Star chain-reaction theory".

"Superlaser Effect" is the accepted term.

STAR WARS CONTINUITY: EU INCLUSION

(Note: I refer to statements defining the Canon, Continuity, and relationships between them as being part of the Canon Policy. In other words, "Canon Policy" is a blanket term for official dictates of what is and is not fact. You disagree with this definition here (http://www.stardestroyer.net/Empire/index.html), but such terminology is accepted, and I shall continue to use it.)

However, objective discussion and analysis is impossible without a widely accepted standard
<snip>

Correct.

<snip>

In any case, you have the following to say on your Canon page:

"Recently, Lucas cleared up the messy issue by explaining that the books, games, and comic books are part of a parallel universe, another world created separately from his own (Lucas in Cinescape). By design, the settings in time of the parallel universe do not intrude on his movie time period, since LucasBooks disallows authors from playing with events and periods of time that Lucas intends to use. LucasBooks tries to use the events in the Canon universe in the parallel universe, but the fact that it is a parallel universe explains why Lucas isn't bound by it (as stated by Sansweet)."

You conclude (in your preface) that "the Expanded Universe is NOT part of the official story of Star Wars".

Emphasis yours. Please be more careful.

Unfortunately for you, this is a non sequitur. Yes, official material is not canon, but the overall continuity includes more than just the canon! It also includes most of the official materials, as stated clearly by the Lucasfilm continuity editors:

"Gospel, or canon as we refer to it, includes the screenplays, the films, the radio dramas and the novelisations. 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."

Therefore, if you want to dismiss the EU, you must do more than merely show that it is non-canon; you must show that it is NOT part of the larger OVERALL CONTINUITY, whose existence you seem to deny.

Unfortunately, your Insider #23 quote from unnamed "continuity editors" and the interpretation thereof are contrary to the view espoused by George Lucas (dealt with below) and Steve Sansweet, who quotes the following from Chris Cerasi:

"There's been some confusion of late regarding the 'Infinities' symbol, and Star Wars Expanded Universe continuity in general. Terms like "canon" and "continuity" tend to get thrown around casually, which doesn't help at all.

When it comes to absolute canon, the real story of Star Wars, you must turn to the films themselves - and only the films."

(Original emphasis his, in italics)
August 17, 2001
http://www.starwars.com/community/askjc/steve/askjc20010817.html

He goes on to say that the novelisations of the films, despite the minor differences, "should be regarded as very accurate depictions of the fictional Star Wars movies".

I assign the 2001 Sansweet-Cerasi quote, as stated on the official Star Wars website, greater weight than the 1994 Insider #23 quote, the speaker(s) of which have never been named or identified to my knowledge. However, I accept the historical significance of the Insider #23 quote, which for seven years constituted the only semi-definitive statement of Canon Policy available.

With Cerasi's comment that the novels should be regarded as very accurate, I see no problem in placing them and their Insider-stated-brethren in a sub-film Canon status, lesser than the Absolute Canon.

***

However, I see no way for the non-canon Expanded Universe to squeeze in under the gun. Cerasi makes the following comments regarding the EU:

"The further one branches away from the movies, the more interpretation and speculation come into play. LucasBooks works diligently to keep the continuing Star Wars expanded universe cohesive and uniform, but stylistically, there is always room for variation."

"The analogy is that every piece of published Star Wars fiction is a window into the 'real' Star Wars universe. Some windows are a bit foggier than others. Some are decidedly abstract. But each contains a nugget of truth to them."

Some have argued that Cerasi's analogy allows for the acceptance of non-canon material in a manner consistent with the current accepted doctrine, a "logical extrapolation by us" (*), wherein the data from the Expanded Universe is considered 'canon unless contradicted'. (* Source: Dalton, ASVS - (http://groups.google.com/groups?selm=3D38B610.C1BC60E4%40daltonator.net&output=gplain))

I consider such an argument improper, on the following grounds:

First, "the real story of Star Wars" is the Absolute Canon of the films, and *only* the films.

Second, acceptance of the non-canon EU must lead to error. A foggy or abstract window will, like a fun-house mirror, produce distortions. If we wish to look at any particular EU data point and ask "is this true or false . . . right or wrong?", there is no answer.

The maneuver commonly performed under the logical extrapolation rule-set is to determine whether or not there are other EU examples and attempt to rationalize them if possible, or discard the peculiar data point if necessary. The highest EU example is generally considered a minimum upper limit, and all data points which suggest themselves as the maximum but fail to meet this minimum upper limit are rationalized or discarded.

The problems with that maneuver are manifold. First, rationalization efforts can lead to absurdities. Second, it includes as an assumption the notion that the majority of the non-canon (or simply the EU with the uppermost limits) will be more correct than some specific example. Further, the fact that the non-canon is self-referential (and therefore that the distorting windows stack as EU data continues to expand in new EU works) is ignored.

Nowhere is the concept of EU "majority rule" stated or implied in the Canon Policy. The vast majority of the non-canon could mislead, and we would be none the wiser. Similarly, nowhere is the concept of EU "biggest is best" stated or implied in the Canon Policy. EU materials with the largest tech figures could mislead, and we would be none the wiser. All we are told is that there are "windows", some foggy, some abstract, but each containing a nugget of truth.

With the films constituting the "real story of Star Wars", I argue that the nuggets of truth contained in the EU can only be what is borrowed straight from the Canon. Why? We're trying to arrive at a method to determine the accuracy of data points in a data set where inaccuracies, some grotesque, are known to exist and have been stated as existing. Unlike uncertainties in science, where, for example, a carbon-14 dating effort might have an uncertainty (+/- X-thousand years) attached, there is absolutely no way to determine the level of possible error of a non-canon statement, except by referencing the Canon.

Meanwhile, we have a separate data set, the Canon, which is, by definition, virtually free from error.

Thus, to include the EU according to current common doctrine is not only to flagrantly ignore Cerasi's caveat that *only* the films are the real story of Star Wars, but it is also to allow "interpretation and speculation" and distortions of the Canon to enter into one's thinking. To allow such distortions to guide one's efforts unless those distortions are contradicted by Canon is of questionable intellectual honesty. (Rather like those who maintain that everything is legal, so long as you don't get caught.) Though playing fast and loose with data in such a manner may be be acceptable in some circles, I do not consider it appropriate. I certainly find it highly inappropriate for our purposes, where ostensibly we wish to choose the safest, most reasonable course to determine fact.

***

Further (now returning to the Insider quote), I do not consider a statement prefaced with the phrase "between us" and including the term "much" to constitute sufficient evidence for the claim that the entire EU is formally considered official Star Wars fact according to the Canon Policy. This is especially the case when it contradicts the fact that the real story of Star Wars is the films, and only the films.

***

Finally, there is definite uncertainty in regards to the single-use term upon which your argument is based. "Overall continuity" appears in no other statement of Canon Policy, nor in any statement relating to it that I am aware of. Cerasi, via Sansweet, makes several references to "continuity", but his use makes it apparent that he refers to a judgement or dictate of LucasBooks personnel:

(from http://www.starwars.com/community/askjc/steve/askjc20010817.html)
"Fans of the old monthly Marvel Star Wars comic will be heartened to know that LucasBooks does indeed consider them part of continuity. Decades of retrospect haven't been kind to all the elements of the comic series, but the characters and events still hold weight and are referenced in newer material whenever possible."

"In order to allow unlimited freedom of storytelling, the Infinities label has been placed on the anthology series, Star Wars Tales. This means that not only can the stories occur anywhere in the Star Wars timeline, but stories can happen outside continuity. Basically, if an event happens in Tales, it may not have necessarily happened in the rest of the expanded universe."

"LucasBooks works diligently to keep the continuing Star Wars expanded universe cohesive and uniform, but stylistically, there is always room for variation."

"Returning to the question at hand. Yes, Star Wars Gamer is part of continuity, though as game material, there is room for interpretation. Only specific articles marked with the 'Infinities' logo within the magazine should be considered out of continuity."

This "in-house" LucasBooks continuity (which I refer to in other places as Continuity, to avoid confusion) is further supported by the following, wherein book-to-book contradictions are discussed:

"In the early days of the publishing department, Wilson worked closely with her administrative assistant, Sue Rostoni (now managing editor of the department as well as editor of all adult fiction) on the editorial projects. The two of them decided that to maintain quality, it would be crucial to monitor the storylines of all projects and ensure that none of their books contradicted one another. This continuity decision became one of the department's biggest challenges--and greatest successes."

Star Wars Insider - quoted by Graeme Dice, and referred to as coming from more recent editions than #23. http://groups.google.com/groups?q=g:thl2975799602d&dq=&hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF8&selm=3D162313.22ECE20F%40sk.sympatico.ca

The aforementioned Sue Rostoni also refers to the in-house continuity of books and material therefrom in a couple of quotes, though she has an annoying habit of referring to this as "the canon", in a manner contradictory to all other usage (thereby proving Cerasi's comment that such terms get thrown around casually):

"Canon refers to an authoritative list of books that the Lucas Licensing editors consider an authentic part of the official Star Wars history. Our goal is to present a continuous and unified history of the Star Wars galaxy, insofar as that history does not conflict with, or undermine the meaning of Mr. Lucas's Star Wars saga of films and screenplays. Things that Lucas Licensing does not consider official parts of the continuous Star Wars history show an Infinities logo or are contained in Star Wars Tales. Everything else is considered canon." -Sue Rostoni (Gamer #6 - Oct/Nov. 2001)

(N.B. In the following, Rostoni refers to LucasFilms. She had no choice in doing so, since her division, LucasBooks, was not created until 1998.)

"To keep it all straight there is 'the Canon,' a time line of major events and the life span of characters prepared by the continuity editors at Lucasfilm and considered the in-house bible of the Star Wars universe. When further reference is needed, there are also stacks of binders listing everything from starship blueprints to the biographies of characters..." -Sue Rostoni, preface to Secrets of Shadows of the Empire, 1996.

So, while we have no idea what the "overall continuity" referred to by the unspecified Insider #23 personnel refers to, it would seem to bear a striking resemblance to the in-house continuity of LucasBooks, insofar as non-canon EU material is taken into account.

***

And now, to Lucas:

Of course, you feel that you can appeal to a higher power than Lucasfilm's continuity editors: George Lucas himself. To this end, you chose to reference "Lucas in Cinescape" with phrases taken out of context rather than the full quote. Luckily, I happen to have the full quote here.

<snip>

Luck should have had nothing to do with it, and the implication that I attempted to hide the full quote is incorrect. On my site, the full quote from Lucas was first offerred via link to the SpaceBattles thread where the quote was first reported by WatchDog. This was the state of affairs from the inception of the page until shortly thereafter, when I chose to put the full quote on my own site for ease of reference. In both cases, the full quote was accessible via link in the "References" section for all to see.

http://ocean.otr.usm.edu/~randers2/STSWEU.html links to: http://ocean.otr.usm.edu/~randers2/STSWLuc.html

The only thing missing at present is the slightly-modified version of the Cinescape magazine article which appears on Cinescape's website. Lucas's quote remains the same, but the introductory paragraph is modified. I recently reported this to Cromag in the "A Debate" thread at bbs.stardestroyer.net's Star Wars vs. Star Trek forum, where I offerred the following link: http://www.cinescape.com/0/Editorial.asp?aff_id=0&this_cat=Movies&action=page&obj_id=34918

At no point have I done anything less than offer full disclosure on the matter, your insinuations notwithstanding.

Lucas is quoted as follows in the July, 2002 Cinescape:

""There are two worlds here," explains Lucas. "There's my world, which is the movies, and there's this other world that has been created, which I say is the parallel universe-the licensing world of books, games and comic books. They don't intrude on my world, which is a select period of time, [but] they do intrude in between the movies. I don't get too involved in the parallel universe.""

Lucas here refers to the EU as being another world, a parallel universe separate from his own Absolute Canon of the films.

Some have argued that Lucas was not referring to the EU's *content* as being part of another world and a parallel universe, but was instead only referring to the various departments and divisions in his company operating outside his movie-making universe. In other words, some say Lucas was using very flowerly language to refer to real-world issues.

However, that makes little sense, given that his "world", a.k.a. "select period of time", a.k.a. "the movies" would therefore have to be a space of time back in the late 70's/early 80's and a space of time in the modern era. To argue that the licensing companies go inactive or stop consulting him when he's making a movie is peculiar to say the least. The first is definitely contrary to the knowledge of anyone who goes to a toystore, bookstore, and so on around the time a movie comes out. The second is contrary to statements of people such as Saxton, recent writer of some EU materials.

Others argue that the "intrude on my world" comment overrides his reference to other worlds and parallel universes.  In other words, the fact that they intrude is supposed to make us think that they are part of the same universe. However, this argument also makes no sense, especially in light of such recent licensing efforts as the Episode I "Battle for Naboo" game, prior efforts such as the Marvel comic adaptations of ANH, et cetera, et cetera. Those most assuredly "intrude" on his world, his select period of time of the movies, and the Marvel monthly comics are most assuredly considered part of the EU continuity, as per Cerasi.

(A listing of Marvel comics appears here (http://www.theforce.net/comics/marvel/mvlMonthly.shtml). Cerasi's confirmation appears within the oft-referenced Sansweet quoting.)

The only concept which does make sense is that Lucas is referring to the content of the licensing world, and the Expanded Universe which is a part of it. Further, this is not the first time Lucas has referred to the EU in such a manner:

"TVGuide: Yet novelists have written "Star Wars" sequels using the same characters and extending their stories.

George Lucas: Oh, sure. They're done outside my little universe. "Star Wars" has had a lot of different lives that have been worked on by a lot of different people. It works without me."- TV Guide Interview with George Lucas, week of 11/19/01

Again, we have Lucas placing EU content outside his "little universe", which in spite of his modest phrasing is, in fact, the Absolute Canon . . . the real story of Star Wars, which is *only* the films.

Once we look at the full quote, we can see that he's actually saying that the official material is valid for all points in the Star Wars timeline other than the movies themselves!
<snip>

No, I'm afraid that cannot be seen at all. According to LucasBooks' EU continuity, even that which intrudes on his select period of time is acceptable as reference. That, in concert with the fact that Lucas is not at all bound by the "continuous and unified" "official Star Wars history", demonstrates rather clearly that Lucas's EU parallel universe comments are the law of the land, and rightly so.


Continue to the second part of his response

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