For many years, Star Wars nerds everywhere have understood time in a specific way. Now, thanks to the newest Star Wars Visual Dictionary, that might change. And it’s giving me a headache.
Every Star Wars movie release comes with a whole host of supplementary material, including the Visual Dictionaries, these wonderful tomes full of imaginary information about the world these films take place in—all the ships and gadgets and planets and various doodads and extra ends. They often include some narrative information, timelines, that sort of thing.
The Visual Dictionary for The Rise of Skywalker isn’t any different. Except for the fact that it introduces, as Comic Book Resources explains, a new system for marking dates in the Star Wars universe. See, for a long time now, the fandom has had a method for creating a fairly robust calendar system in the Star Wars universe. Take what the universe calls “standard years” of twelve months, like ours, which conveniently corresponds to the length of time a year lasts on Coruscant. And then you count years using the Battle of Yavin, aka, A New Hope, as your zero point. Thus, everything that happens is either Before Battle of Yavin, BBY, or After Battle of Yavin, ABY. It’s simple, it’s exceedingly nerdy, and it works.
The Rise of Skywalker Visual Dictionary’s timeline introduces a similar but fundamentally very different system: BSI and ASI. Before Starkiller Incident and After Starkiller Incident. Yes, that’s right, this book moves the entire timeline around by a couple decades, setting the new zero point as The Force Awakens and slightly but definitively mucking up the entirely millenium-spanning timeline of the Star Wars saga.
The Star Wars ultranerd who lives troublingly rent-free inside my heart is disturbed, as if the entire Wookieepedia editing staff cried out in terror only to be suddenly silenced. Why would you fix this? It was not broken. And the rhetorical gesture of it—centering the Star Wars series on the new trilogy, instead of the original, feels odd. Like a weird in-fiction power play to centre Disney’s contributions over, y’know, Lucas’s.
But most of all, it emphasises just how baffling the project of telling time in the Star Wars universe is. Just watching the movies, it’s not clear how long anything takes. Heck, I don’t even know how fast hyperdrive travel is without a trip to the wiki, and even then it’s concerningly inconsistent. I’m troubled that we can’t make sense of the dates of the Star Wars universe without having to decide between, now, at least two arbitrary calendar systems. But now I’m even more troubled, thinking about the fact that I’m not sure time makes sense in Star Wars at all.
Pour one out for your fan wiki editors today. The Disney era has been rough for them.