Before he was studied in just about every English program in the world, Charles Dickens was considered something of a hack — a low-rent scribbler of trashy serialised novels. That bodes well for Star Wars. Wait what?
The serial in its many forms (soap operas, comic books, ’40s sci-fi shorts) is often looked down on as cheap, lacking artistic integrity and baldly commercial. In part it has this reputation due the inherent need to delay gratification and continue the work as long as possible. In his earliest serials, Dickens wasn’t even commercially successful. As Nerdwriter explains, his Pickwick Papers books didn’t take off until he introduced a character named Sam Weller who the working class identified with. That led the character’s expansion, and tremendous success for Dickens and his publishers.
Star Wars is a modern serial, susceptible to the same audience pressures the Pickwick Papers were 180 years ago — especially now that the Disney-helmed franchise is about to spawn an infinite number of side stories and spin-offs, starting with Rogue One. Nerdwriter’s thesis essentially is that, commercial success or not, a serialised universe empowers fans to become stewards of the work and choose the direction it grows in.
After the critical failure of the prequels, with their lack of diversity and reliance on stale CGI, The Force Awakens answered fans’ distaste with better roles for women, a broader palette of ethnicities and a return to the practical effects that made the original Star Wars (and newer throwbacks like Mad Max: Fury Road) a success — while still retaining a sincere respect for the original work. Fans have already made shown their ability to shape the future of the franchise, and that power will only grow as the Star Wars universe expands.