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Excitement is building for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which promises to be one Star Wars prequel film that fans are set to love. As all Star Wars fans will know, though, the story of everybody's favorite Galaxy Far, Far Away transcends the movies — it's told in a range of official tie-in novels and comics too. The latest of these novels, Catalyst, is an official prelude to Rogue One, and looks set to answer a very specific question:
How did the Rebellion begin?
The Political Origin of the Rebellion
We've long been aware of the political origins of the Rebellion — it dates all the way back to the end of the Clone Wars, in Revenge of the Sith. In the above (canon) deleted scene, Senators are trying to rein in Palpatine's excesses. They presented a Petition of 2,000 to Palpatine, calling upon him to give up the emergency powers and retract the office of 'Moff', which was seen as infringing on the authority of the Senate. Needless to say, the Petition of 2,000 wasn't exactly embraced by Chancellor Palpatine:
"This is a list of traitors!"
Of course, this is before the Republic's transformation into the Empire, before the slaughter of the Jedi, and before the rise of Darth Vader. After those cataclysmic events, many Senators took their names off the petition. Still, we never had any doubt that these Senators were at the political center of the Rebellion. It's little wonder that Palpatine ultimately disbanded the Senate.
The Economic Reason
Ultimately, though, people don't rebel because 2,000 politicians signed a petition. A rebellion only gains traction if the people suffer hardship. And here's where the latest Star Wars novel, Catalyst, comes in:
"A direct link can be made between the Rebellion and the former Separatists, who, in the wake of the Republic victory, never received reparations promised by the Empire, and remained ostracized --- and in many cases occupied --- while the Empire spread its tentacles far and wide.Instead of fairness, the galaxy fell victim to fear of the Empire's ever-expanding military. The absence of the Jedi Order --- their fire gone out of the universe --- left many worlds without any recourses to counter injustices."
Catalyst is written by James Luceno, a master of continuity who was among the most prominent writers in the old Expanded Universe. He's a genius at joining the dots, and here he's making a nod to themes he's already explored in the canon novel Tarkin.
His argument is that the Empire is a centrist government, with power and wealth accumulating around Coruscant and the Core Worlds. The defeated Separatist systems never received reparations and were left powerless against the Empire's might, often occupied by Palpatine's Stormtroopers.
With the weakening of the Senate, these Separatist systems were left with no channels to air their grievances. Their politicians were unable to air the concerns of their peoples. Many fell prey to criminal enterprises such as smuggling and pirating, and the Empire was only interested if the core systems, or their brutal war machine, were affected.
The result, of course, is popular discontent — discontent that simmers under the surface, suppressed by Imperial might but providing a rich soil for the seeds of rebellion to grow in.
James Luceno's explanation is a smart one, tying the Prequels and the Original Trilogy together seamlessly. He isn't contradicting Revenge of the Sith's deleted scenes; rather, he's explaining why the Rebellion could successfully recruit members.
James Luceno has always had a reputation for being continuity-aware — he's the kind of writer who can slip in a hundred subtle continuity fixes without even noticeably disrupting his story. The fact he's written the official prelude to Rogue One means that Star Wars continuity is going to be tighter than ever before!