I’m currently working on a project about the Star Wars Expanded Universe – the collection of tie-in novels, comics, video games, and other media before the Disney era – and how it influenced the Star Wars animated TV shows. I picked up Bill Slavicsek’s Defining a Galaxy as part of my research. Slavicsek worked as an editor at West End Games while the company was creating material for Star Wars roleplaying games during the late 1980s and early 1990s.
At the time, WEG’s products were the only officially licensed Star Wars product being produced. As such, Slavicsek had enormous creative freedom to explore and expand the Star Wars galaxy as he saw fit. Lucas hadn’t named all of the aliens and ships in the original films, so it fell to Slavicsek to define them for the RPG sourcebooks. Ever wonder how the musicians in the Tatooine cantina got their names? How to the rules for Sabacc evolved? Why the Jedi have a code? A lot of that comes from Slavicsek. In Defining a Galaxy, he walks through the creation of the RPG sourcebooks, telling readers which terms and concepts he came up with.
After the publication of Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire, which became a massive success, Lucasfilm Licensing started exerting greater control over tie-in materials and world-building in Star Wars. Lucasfilm actually instructed EU authors to stay consistent with the world-building contained in the WEB sourcebooks. As such, it’s no exaggeration when Slavicsek claims his work became the foundation of the Star Wars Expanded Universe. io9 called WEG’s original Star Wars RPG sourcebook “insanely influential.”
Fans of the Star Wars RPGs will get a lot out of Slavicsek’s book, but I’d recommend this to anyone interested in the history of the Star Wars franchise. Most accounts tend to skip over the late 1980s, but it turns out that’s when so much of the world-building came to fruition. Defining a Galaxy is a fascinating peak behind the curtain of Lucasfilm tie-in materials. I hope other creators follow Slavicsek’s lead and tell their own stories.