Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Nostalgia Effect: Why it's making people want an unnecessary reboot

Ah nostalgia. It makes it possible to forget the unbearable heat and long lines during a childhood Disney World vacation. It makes memories more pleasant and adds to the overall appeal of corny kids’ shows and lame music. It makes it possible to ignore bad acting for an amazing story.

Nostalgia has a dark side. It makes us believe things from the past are better than they really were. This belief can lead to stupid decisions.

Like rebooting the Star Wars Expanded Universe.

After the publication of a new Star Wars book, someone calls for a reboot because he didn’t like a particular event. More often than not, this comment is written in a fit of full-out nerd rage with no real argument as to why the reboot is “necessary.” With the recent release of Fate of the Jedi: Ascension by Christie Golden, I feel it's necessary to bring up this frequently debated issue yet again.

Think about what would happen if the Expanded Universe were rebooted. No more Jaina, Jacen and Anakin. Ganner’s amazing death scene? Never happened. Chewbacca dying by a moon landing on him (which was the only way he could go)? Gone. Peace between the New Republic and Empire? Forget about it. Jedi Academy? What Jedi Academy? No more Pellaeon. No more Thrawn. No more Mara Jade Skywalker.

Well, what if the reboot took place after the Thrawn trilogy?

But I want Kyp Durron! a group of fans scream.

Okay, well, let’s keep it up to the Thrawn duelogy.

What about Tahiri, Raynar, Tenel Ka, Jagged Fel, Valin and Jysella Horn, Syal as a starfighter pilot…

You see the problem.

It’s impossible to erase the Expanded Universe. Many argue that the books went downhill after DelRey took over publication. Plenty of subpar books were published under Bantam. Bantam-era books are generally softer, less risky and lack suspense. While these aren’t bad characteristics, it makes them rather repetitive. The Empire attacks. Luke, Han and Leia come in to help. Something somewhat scary or bad happens. Luke, Han and Leia succeed. The end.

It’s easy to find fault in a book. When a poorly written story comes along, it stays fresh in fans’ minds until something better comes along. This feeling of dissatisfaction makes fans clamor for familiar tales. For example, if Timothy Zahn’s “Heir to the Empire” was the first Star Wars book someone read, she may feel like it was the perfect story. Nostalgia.

Cleaning the slate doesn’t work if the editorial staff makes poor decisions or untalented writers are permitted to publish books. Wishing for the stories of the past hinders the hope for great storytelling of the future.

And do you really think that our favorite authors will want to start over? Would you want to abandon the characters you created?

I think not.

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