The current brouhaha in a galaxy far far away is the Darth Who naming contest. Seems that Han Solo and Leia Skywalker's brat is following in his grandfather's footsteps, and readers get to decide what his street name will be.

To understand why he's doing this, I looked up little Jacen Solo's Wookiepedia entry. Link upon link later, I was again reminded of how voluminous the Star Wars expanded universe — or "EU", as Warsies call it, and not to be confused with a bunch of Anglo-Saxons uniting around a depreciated currency — is. My direct experience with this medium is neither vast nor recent, as not counting four film novelizations, I've read only two Star Wars books: R. A. Salvatore's Vector Prime and its immediate successor. I didn't have much difficulty picking up on where these characters were decades after the Battle of Yavin… but I felt no motivation to see where they were going, either.

Star Wars is an epic setting, yet its cinematic tales began and ended in a mere six films. By contrast, their literary extensions take dozens of books to tell a single saga (such as New Jedi Order or Legacy of the Force). It's far less episodic than, say, Star Trek novels, which can be picked up and read in any order, based on the appeal of individual plots and characters. Already the NJO books I read seven years ago are set 20 years in the past of the EU's current events. I can't keep up!

Star Wars is to novels as superheroes are to comic books as soap operas are to television: hundreds of characters that live, die, and live again, with intricate plot threads that only the most fanatical loyalist can weave an understanding and appreciation out of. I can't even commit an hour a week to a TV series; how am I supposed to keep up with a Star Wars book a month? I think it's great that some of my favorite films ever have left an epic impact that resonates throughout today's bookshelves; but does it have to be so darn daunting?