The problem with headcanon
So, this article is going to be a little different from my usual ones, which air to the side of military theory, and instead be more about what I hope to be some constructive criticism for things I see within our EU community.
Now a bit of background on myself and how I got involved with all of this. Like many I was left distraught and hopeless at the April 2014 announcement of the decanonization of the EU, and could find no place on the internet with anyone who loved and respected what we had lost. Seemingly everywhere were people spouting ridiculous claims about the EU that I knew were not true but had trouble arguing against since at the time I simply did not know what I know now.
However, there was a ray of hope in an extremely unlikely place, a reddit comment section where someone posted a YouTube video by a guy with somewhere around 100 subscribers at the time. He had a southern accent and was at a beach house of all places, and the title of the video was Star Wars Expanded Universe (All Guns Blazing part 1)
I watched as this guy took every argument I had heard since the decanonization and had rebuttals for every one of them, all by using direct quotes from George Lucas himself and the folks at Lucas Licensing, including citations and all. I was blown away. I had found his first video around midnight local time and spent until 3 in the morning binge watching every Star Wars video he had, and every single one had more and more quotes. I was floored, as I know they were all true but had no idea that these quotes existed. Through his videos I found the EU movement and our wonderful community of like-minded fans. Without those videos I would not be here today.
Now after a while I started to notice that the same arguments I was hearing kept being said by those who would disagree with us, and I would usually do the same that was done to me and leave a link to a Matt Wilkins video (the guy whose video I found if you haven’t figured that out yet). But I would often find that I had to watch them multiple times so I was sending them the right quote to refute the argument they were making, and after all that time of sifting through the right videos they would never watch them anyway. So, I thought that I needed these quotes in text form, organized by what argument they addressed, complete with citations, who said it, dates etc. so I could just copy and paste them into whatever comment thread I was in and be done with it. Thus, the quotes document that floats around a lot of groups and graces this website (called the quotes databank) was born.
The whole thing took me about 2 days to make and most of that time was fact checking Matt to see if these quotes actually existed in some documentable form or not - as it would be intellectually dishonest to include any quote that I couldn’t prove were actually said by the people who said them. Since I posted the original document it has gone through a lot of edits, mostly from people finding additional, verifiable quotes.
So, what does this have to do with headcanon? Well a lot actually. You see because of this research I have learned a lot about how Lucasfilm operated in the past, terminology that was used, and know the major players and how they changed over the years. While I don’t claim to know everything, there are a lot of times that I will say things to other EU fans or make references to things that even they don’t know about that because of the research to the quotes document, I thought were common knowledge. And while I am not the best when it comes to the great debate we are having right now about the various claims made against us, I am at least very well versed on the subject to counter the arguments. And the Big 3 are: it was never canon, it contradicted, and George didn’t think it was canon.
So how do you counter these? Well the quotes work but often they are not enough. In fact, there is a very well-kept secret that there are more quotes out there than what are in the document, and that the reason these aren’t in the document is that they actually appear (out of context and when viewed without a broader lens) to refute the quotes made in the document. And these aren’t just George quotes either, but quotes from key and beloved members of the Lucas Licensing team. Luckily most of the ones who would argue these points with us don’t know of these quotes, but some do, in fact, most know at least one or two of them and will gladly use them against you. So, what do you do in this situation? Well you must take them point per point, as the anti-quotes, while valid, can be broken apart and refuted. But to do that you must have a deep understanding of the hierarchy, canon, and how it all fits together.
If you have “headcanon” or more specifically an interpretation of canon that differs from what Lucasfilm defined as canon from 1976-2014 you will fail. First off if you just avoid a certain part of the timeline, because to you "it isn’t canon," you are simply not going to be able to argue that that piece of the timeline fits into the overall continuity without contradicting. If it does have a contradiction, you aren’t going to know the retcon that disputes their point about it contradicting. You are going to be less knowledgeable and therefore less convincing because of it.
But really by using these quotes and having your own headcanon, you are contradicting yourself. You can’t say “Basically, everything except those items marked with an “Infinities” logo (i.e. the Star Wars Tales comics) is considered canon.”-Sue Rostoni, Lucas Books and Lucas Licensing Managing Editor, Starwars.com May 30, 2003, and follow it up with, "Well I don’t consider anything pre-rebellion era as canon, etc" Because guess what they are going to call you out on?
Ok fine, maybe you are never going to get into these kinds of debates. In fact, I would bet that describes the majority of those who are reading this. So why should you care about this? Well a lie when repeated becomes truth. Honestly, a majority of the people who say these things haven’t researched the topic themselves. They have just heard the talking points somewhere and accepted them as truth. Many won’t come out and say these things to you directly, but will instead keep it to themselves, or maybe they don’t know anything about how the EU worked at all.
So, when you say, “I don’t really think TCW should be canon” if they are of the former mindset you have just confirmed their preconceived notions about the EU. In fact, you have emboldened them as they now see a diehard EU fan, saying that things in the EU aren’t canon. (Yes, TCW is in the EU as it is officially included in the hierarchy). You have just essentially condemned the movement to lose the argument in this person’s mind without even participating in it. What are they going to think? That in the EU there really wasn’t any organization to the canon, that they just release stuff and the fans decide what fits and what doesn't, so everyone has a different interpretation to what is and isn’t canon? Again, you are inadvertently driving them to the wrong conclusions and once again losing the argument without even meaning to.
Now don’t interpret this as me saying you must like or even read all of the EU. I absolutely detest Barbra Hambly’s writing style and the Invasion comics were a legitimate pain for me to get through. Neither of which I would ever reread for leisure or fun. But just because I don’t like them, doesn’t mean they don’t have a place in the timeline and are a part of the canon.
So, I guess what I am saying is, like what you like and hate what you hate - but there is a lot of misinformation out there and a lot of people who just don’t know any better. Educating the masses to the truth will only strengthen our community. But please, don’t be a hypocrite when doing so and perhaps more importantly, don’t be one to further spread misinformation.