Beard: ‘Star Wars’ ‘expanded universe’ turns 35Written by Jim Beard | | firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s been 35 years since the publication of the Star Wars novel “Splinter of the Mind’s Eye” in early 1978, a book that kicked off what’s become known as the “expanded universe” for the famous franchise and fed a growing fan base of hungry “Star Wars” addicts. And it all began fairly quietly, almost by accident.
By the time the end credits rolled on the first screenings of “Star Wars” in May 1977 viewers were hungry for more. Unbeknownst to them, creator George Lucas had a loose plan in place for expanding his universe, which included more films, a TV series, comic books and prose novels — but it all hinged on the success of the first movie. Boldly going where no young entrepreneur had gone before, Lucas commissioned a sequel novel from ghost-writer of the ”Star Wars” novelization, Alan Dean Foster. The idea behind “Splinter of the Mind’s Eye” was to craft a story that, if adapted into a movie, could re-use existing props and costumes — basically a lower-budget “quickie” if the first film had done only middling business at the box office. The rest, as they say, is the birth and death of galaxies.
Sporting a gorgeous cover painting by Ralph McQuarrie, “Splinter of the Mind’s Eye” was one of the first new adventures of the “Star Wars” characters outside the film, along with the January 1978 issue of the Star Wars comic book. The novel follows Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia through a series of tight squeezes on a jungle planet and into the clutches of Darth Vader himself. That’s right: Luke and Vader dueled first in the book, long before their showdown in 1980’s “The Empire Strikes Back.” To spice things up even further, one of the tight squeezes involved Luke’s overly-romantic feelings for Leia, an awkward situation corrected in the 1995-96 comic adaptation of the novel.
It’s difficult today to imagine a time when we weren’t inundated by “Star Wars” product and the length and depth of the Expanded Universe. ”Splinter of the Mind’s Eye” gave fans something to chew on during the long three-year wait between the first two “Star Wars” movies; today it exists as a fascinating look at what might have been had George Lucas’s galactic gamble come up snake eyes.