Narrative Equality in Star Wars Galactic Maps
Please note, the following article has mild spoilers for several Star Wars canon books and comics, including but not limited to Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir, Lords of the Sith, Lost Stars, and Shattered Empire.
The excitement around new Star Wars narratives seems in direct proportion to the narrative weight that we as fans give those stories. A new Star Wars film is typically seen as the pinnacle of storytelling, with the animated television shows coming behind, also with a lot of excitement and media coverage. New novels are a milestone in their own right while comics fizzle in and out. Short stories often find themselves lacking coverage and reference books rarely make a dent. But… entertain me for a minute, as we explore how a particular reference book, Star Wars Galactic Maps by Emil Fortune and Tim McDonagh, a brand new “Illustrated Atlas of the Star Wars Universe,” brings to light elements from all these mediums in one single printed history of the galaxy, providing some narrative equality across all storytelling vehicles.
This book provides us with a brand new look at the galaxy from a canon perspective. The galactic map includes well-known planets such as Yavin 4, Tatooine, and Mustafar, but also lesser known planets that have shown up in novels and comics such as Jelucan (Lost Stars), Eriadu (Tarkin), and Stygeon Prime (Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir). The book is divided into sections, based on the planet's relative position. The author has divided the galaxy into four east-west bands, and approaches each section from north to south.
As each of these sections begins, the author gives a one or two-line descriptor of why that planet is important in galactic history. These are placed in alphabetical order around an illustrated map of the planets layout in the galaxy. There is no importance placed on one narrative idea over the other, with many of the descriptors containing story elements found in The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels, and various novels. For example:
Jelucan: A world of ice and towering mountain peaks. Jelucan was settled in two waves of colonists – the second-wavers became rich miners while the first-wavers clung to their more rigid mountain traditions. It is notable as the homeworld of star-crossed lovers Thane Kyrell and Cienna Ree.
Now, we do know that there are planets that have more significance in our current understanding of the canon, and the author has pulled those out to provide full illustrated details of the layout of the planet, its features, and monumental events that occurred there. While many of these events do come from the films and animated shows, there are a lot of nods to novels and comics on these pages. Such examples are:
Yavin 4: Rebel pilots Kes Dameron and Shara Bey settle here in the aftermath of the Galactic Civil War. They plant a Force-sensitive tree, one of the last such tress in the galaxy. (Marvel’s Shattered Empire)
Battle of Yavin: After the battle, Imperial pilot Ciena Ree is sent to rescue Darth Vader. She is shocked by the destruction of the Death Star and the deaths of many friends. (Lost Stars)
Geonosis: Darth Vader and the archaeologist Dr. Aphra confront the Geonosian queen on a planet now scoured of life by the Empire. (Marvel’s Darth Vader)
Ryloth: Twi’lek rebels sabotage a ship carrying Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader, and the Sith Lords crash-land on Ryloth. They destroy a Twi’lek village to cover their tracks. (Lords of the Sith)
These are just some of the nods to non-film based canon, and there is a plethora of references to The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels as well. But perhaps what is most interesting is the first few pages. Pages 14 and 15 contain a list of “Historical Figures,” each with a very short biography. No one individual gets prominence, treating each of these characters equally. This puts Mon Mothma next to Hondo Ohnaka, Kanan Jarrus next to Qui-gon Jinn, and Hera Syndula next to Mother Talzin.
Lastly, the Timeline, on pages 10-13. The book uses BBY (Before the Battle of Yavin) and ABY (After the Battle of Yavin) as the year indicators, maintaining the tradition of the Battle of Yavin as year 0. This timeline gives us a look at a linear timeline of galactic events, and shows us some animated stories that are placed on the same timeline as the films, including The Clone Wars arcs Christophsis, Rodia, Dathomir, Onderon, and Mandalore, as well as a nod to Star Wars Rebels, including the death of the Grand Inquisitor. I do not know if these were selected based on their planet's significance or their story's significance. (It is one of the few places in the book that the stories from novels and comics are not found.)
Though this reference book is by no means a comprehensive look at the Star Wars universe, it is perhaps one of the closes pieces we have gotten with references to so many non-film sources. At this point, I have only scratched the surface, and am looking forward to discovering others. There will always be stories that rise to the top as more significant than others; however, the more we see material like this, the more that we can see the whole picture of the Star Wars canon narrative.
Let me know your thoughts by posting in the comments below. You can find my coverage of #starwarscanon stories at my YouTube channel Star Wars: The Canon Explained. I can be found on Twitter (@starwarstce) and Instagram (@starwarstce), and you can also reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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