The Star Wars Expanded Universe—all the books, comics, video games, and other materials that expand the story beyond the original films—has a complex relationship with the ever-popular franchise. Some things are more official than others, other details are invalidated by things that happened in the prequels, and a few things, like a special about rushing home for a Wookiee holiday featuring a few musical numbers, are pushed to the back of the Internet hoping to be completely forgotten. While there are six official Star Wars films and two official TV shows, there are nearly 40 years of supplemental materials to fill in the empty spaces. It’s why, if asked what seems like a simple question to a Star Wars fan, the answer is often preceded by a deep breath.
Keeping this material straight seems like it might be a daunting task. Steve Greenwood, a former UW-Milwaukee grad student, took on the challenge. Greenwood founded Wookieepedia with a few other Star Wars scholars in 2005. The website is a fan-based reference that connects all the Expanded Universe materials for easy reference, and for those Internet jags where one minute looking up a quote from a movie turns into four hours reading the elaborate backstories of characters who had less than a second of screen time. Greenwood started where many fans do: as someone looking stuff up on Wikipedia.
“I got into Wikipedia because of my love of science and geology,” Greenwood says. “I quickly went down the rabbit hole from user to editor. But Wikipedia keeps things at a very general level. Too much information needs to be kept on group pages. Anything that gets too specific is called ‘fancruft’ and is targeted to be cut.”
Nowadays, many fandoms have wikis of their own, thanks to the expansion of Wookieepedia’s host, Wikia. When Wookiepedia started 10 years ago, there was one inspiration from a rival franchise. “There were some specialized wikis, like [Star Trek’s] Memory Alpha,” Greenwood says.
The new Star Wars owners at Disney recently shook things up involving the reference materials that Wookieepedia collects. Most of the currently existing Expanded Universe has been pushed into the Legends designation, which means that filmmakers making new Star Wars movies may or may not heed what happened in the books. While this move cleared the decks for new Star Wars films set after the original movies, many fans expressed sadness at the thought of never seeing characters like Grand Admiral Thrawn (a blue-skinned evil alien Imperial genius), Mara Jade-Skywalker (Luke’s mortal-enemy-turned-wife, because that’s what “It’s complicated” means in Star Wars), and Han and Leia’s kids Jacen and Jaina (who grow up to be Jedi and continue the fine Skywalker family tradition of falling to the Dark Side). Wookieepedia also found itself at the center of attention shortly after the release of the trailers for The Force Awakens, when Twitter clashes about the new lightsaber spilled over to the website to prove that lightsaber hilts, are, in fact, a thing.
With his recent graduation from UWM, Greenwood is able to focus a bit more on the rigors of running Wookiepedia. Wikia has an increased convention presence these days, and Greenwood was part of the big Star Wars Celebration convention in Anaheim last month. He’s already met a variety of Imperial officers and shared the stage with Anthony Daniels, the man inside C-3PO. When asked whom he’d like to meet next, the answer seems as obvious as a lightsaber to the face. “The man who created Star Wars,” Greenwood says.
Now that George has a little more free time, hopefully he can oblige.