With all of the talk of Episode VII’s casting and the expanded universe not being an official influence in film canon, a lot of fans are going to be playing the ever-popular game of "What If?" The strange thing is, it’s a game George Lucas played himself, and he played a particularly interesting round of it back in the 1970’s. It was a game that would not only determine the fate of what would eventually be Episode V of the Star Wars saga, but would also provide a crucial (if not ill-fitting) piece of the extended universe.
Screen Crush recently recounted the story (which might be familiar to die-hard fans) of how famed science fiction novelist -- and film adaptation czar to the original trilogy -- Alan Dean Foster was tapped to write a backup plan for a smaller scale follow up. They even grabbed some new quotes from Foster via a phone interview. This second option, as the author explains, was drafted smaller in case the returns from the first Star Wars were less than stellar, and was titled Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye. Focusing more on Luke and Leia, seeing as Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher were the only two stars contractually on board at the time, we saw the pair stranded on the swamp planet of Mimban. Through their adventure, Luke and Leia discovered Mimban was a strategic mining outpost for The Empire. The story ended with a climactic lightsaber battle between Darth Vader and Princess Leia herself, after Luke ends up pinned down by a rock.
The script wasn't going to be used so in 1978 Splinter of the Mind's Eye was published as a novel, making it the first ever installment in the Star Wars Extended Unvierse...
What’s interesting is the Skywalker family as we know it is isn’t defined in this book, as displayed by a rather interesting passage of prose where Luke and Leia got up close to each other for warmth. While this book doesn’t completely fit the established universe canon, it does seem like an inspiration for the entries in the series that succeeded it. Try not to think of Dagobah when hearing the "swamp planet" description of Mimban, or try not to think of the Endor subplot of espionage guerrilla warfare in Return of the Jedi.
Of course, this matters even less in the modern era, thanks to the decision to sideline the expanded universe canon, but the "what if’s" are too awesome to ponder. This is especially true when there’s a brand new story waiting to be told in that same galaxy far far away. If history repeats itself, we might just see some elements from the expanded universe creep into the official universe, except maybe in slightly different contexts. (And if J.J. Abrams or Lawrence Kasdan are looking for any specific pieces of expanded universe canon to pick from, may we suggest Shadows of the Empire.)
Much like The Star Wars comic series from Dark Horse Comics, you can read Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye in Comic or Novelized form.