A Longer Time Ago, Two Galaxies Crossed Paths...
December 31, 2011 8:27 PM   Subscribe

Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author Robert J. Sawyer explains how Star Wars has dulled the edge that made science fiction such a pertinent film genre. A Galaxy Far, Far Away My Ass... Pt. Two, Pt. Three

Keep in mind, rumor has it that *Sawyer wrote a draft of a set of stories telling of how our known-known Galaxy crossed paths with the Far Far away…

R2-D2, having acted as Jedi Emmisary for 50 generations, often serving on the front lines, and as the personal navigator for numerous Chief Council Members, having long outlasted any dynasty, any relatives of know entities, alone, self-propelled, away he flew, from his home Galaxy as it slowly (in some regions, but swiftly at the Core, the Central Black Hole masses swallowing first mid-core, speedily conquering the distance to the furthest stars of the Galaxy Far, Far Away; exponentially expanding outwards) eating it’s own self, hyperdrive, it was learned too late, on a wide scale is fine, but heavy use, as the numerous wars and coups, Millennia long conflict between the Jedi and the Sith, warped the gravitic field, R2 brings power sources and heats forth on an outbound flight.

R2 lands, arriving and by chance, or destiny, coming into contact with Lucas, realizing he is basically duty bound to share this robots story of another possible earth. Another Galaxy. Far, Far Away…

George Lucas's Monsters and Aliens, Volume 1: Alien Exodus. An outline by Robert J. Sawyer.

Read a draft of the first two chapters, as shared by Sawyer here...
*In 1994, Ace Books — which had just finished publishing my Quintaglio Ascension trilogy — asked me to write a trilogy of novels outlining the origins of the races that make up the Star Wars universe.
At that time, Ace was still negotiating the details of a licensing agreement with Lucasfilm, and it looked like I'd be able to use the actual alien races that had appeared in the original trilogy of Star Wars films (A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi).

I had never been keen on doing work-for-hire media tie-ins, but my then-agent urged me to give this project a try. So I wrote a 10,000-word outline for the first novel, which I was going to call Alien Exodus, and 12,000 words of sample chapters.

However, there were considerable delays in finalizing the details of the licensing agreement with Lucasfilm. By the time the book contracts were ready for my signature, it had been established that I couldn't use any of the actual races from Star Wars, and so I bowed out of the project.

Ultimately, Ace brought in writer Deborah Chester to produce the books. Deborah, of course, started from scratch, and created her own trilogy with all new aliens; these books were published under the umbrella title Lucasfilm Alien Chronicles.

Sawyer isn't generally known for entering 'others' universes, but rather, constructing his own (you might know his ideas from the television program "Flash Forward" [which is based on his ideas]).

In Robert J. Sawyer's novel Rollback (check here for materials, such as character charts, interviews and more), aliens send us a message - but what does it mean?

In 2009, scientist Sarah Halifax decoded the first-ever radio message received from aliens. Now, almost four decades later, a second message has come. But at 87, Sarah may not have enough strength left to read it, let alone respond. 

In Rollback, award-winning science fiction author Robert J. Sawyer explores the moral complexities of communicating with aliens and of extending human life. The story is told from the point of view of Sarah's husband, Don Halifax. He is beginning life anew in the body of a 25 year old, while his wife is staring death in the face and desperately trying to decipher a message from outer space in the time she has left. 

This Between the Covers podcast of the book is read by Alessandro Juliani, fresh from the set of Battlestar Galactica.

Episode one: A second radio transmission comes from Sigma Draconis and Sarah, who decoded the first one more than 40 years ago, is now 87. 

Episode two: The encoding of the alien transmission is unlike the first one, and no one has a clue how to decipher it.

Episode three: Billionaire Cody McGavin offers Sarah and Don a radical solution.

Episode four: If Sarah and Don can be rejuvenated, Sarah will be able to maintain a dialogue with Sigma Draconis.

Episode five: Sarah and Don undergo the rejuvenation, or "rollback."

Each episode of Between the Covers is between 15 and 17 minutes.
posted by infinite intimation (43 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Once, deep in the thrall of some combination of drugs I cannot now recall, I fell into a stupor on a recliner while the Star Wars Trilogy (pre-Special Edition) played on a television in the same room, and I had this odd vision of R2D2 being an assassin sent from the past into the future to seek out and kill the source of the Sith at some point in the future beyond the end of Return Of The Jedi. It was intensely detailed and made complete sense at the time. It was based on Lucas' statements at one point of how Star Wars (then a 9-film series) was actually the story of these two droids who journey across the Galaxy and time and serve pivotal roles in major events as history evolves around them.

I wish I'd written down all those ideas as soon as I came out of my reverie. It was deep, and detailed, and very complete and satisfying as a story across multiple films.

Sadly, at this point, with the prequels and other bullshit, it's all moot at this point. But damn, it was quite a stunning vision of the role of R2D2 in the grand scheme of things. I wish it were Lucasfilm canon, because it was much better than anything which has happened post 1999.
posted by hippybear at 8:52 PM on December 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

(That is to say, thanks for posting this. I'll dig into it tomorrow. Looks like interesting stuff, and I'll comment on your actual post once I've digested your links.)
posted by hippybear at 8:53 PM on December 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's nice that he keeps sfwritef.com as a sort of shrine to the web of 1995.

As for arguments as to whether STAR WARS ruined SF movies, well, it doesn't have much SF content that isn't a bunch of handwaving, nothing about actual spaceflight in the movies makes much sense and at the end of the day its all fun fantasy nonsense. Its been imitated since, but has it crowded our more serious works like some kind of malign science fantasy kudzu weed? Hard to say. TBH the whole movie landscape has tilted so far away from supporting thee kind of demographic that would watch serious SF of the kind the 70s produced that I seriously doubt it.
posted by Artw at 8:54 PM on December 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

TBH the whole movie landscape has tilted so far away from supporting thee kind of demographic that would watch serious SF of the kind the 70s produced that I seriously doubt it.

Why do they keep making movies out of PKD stories, then? (Blade Runner, Scanner Darkly, Minority Report)

I'm enjoying the lecture so far, but I don't really find his basic thesis (no one makes serious social commentary in the form of SF any more!) compelling for a variety of reasons.
posted by kavasa at 9:09 PM on December 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

That said, his other thesis ("star wars be crazy!") I'm alright with.

Gosh I sure do love working on new year's eve.
posted by kavasa at 9:24 PM on December 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

but I don't really find his basic thesis (no one makes serious social commentary in the form of SF any more!) compelling for a variety of reasons.

Gattica... District 9...

Those two just off the top of my head.
posted by hippybear at 9:24 PM on December 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Blade Runner was 82, you couldn't make Blade Runner now. You can make some smaller scale indy thing like Scanner Darkly, or some silly long chase scene thing like Minority, but not Blade Runner.
posted by Artw at 9:24 PM on December 31, 2011 [4 favorites]

Yeah, in addition to A Scanner Darkly, Minority Report, etc., we've seen Children of Men, V for Vendetta, District 9, The Road, Rise of the Planet of the Apes (just because it's a re-make doesn't make it not socially relevant), Never Let Me Go, and Contagion all in just the past ten years.

Star Wars did not dull film SF's edge or make it less socially relevant. There's still plenty of that stuff--more than there was in the 70s, for sure. What Star Wars, E.T., etc. did was grow a new market for summer blockbusters that pretty much all happen to have some SF qualities.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 9:27 PM on December 31, 2011 [7 favorites]

He seems to be looking for movies with some underlying morality or message. Just taking a quick look at wiki's list of Sci-Fi movies, I see District 9, Wall_E, Idiocracy and others.

Movies as a whole have become much more bottom-denominator, risk-adverse productions, and I think that's had much more of an effect than Star Wars. Looking over the list I see War of the Worlds (which he highlights as a Sci-Fi novels he likes), Rise of PotA, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Stepford Wives...

Not really shying away from SciFi.
posted by Orange Pamplemousse at 9:36 PM on December 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

It's nice that he keeps sfwritef.com as a sort of shrine to the web of 1995.

You couldn't have rounded divs back in 1995!
posted by clarknova at 11:06 PM on December 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

First off, Star Wars was Sci-Fi for kids. Digging too deep for a message is kind of missing the point. Alien came out 2 years after Star Wars later, and that movie is literally dripping with underlying social commentary.

The biggest refutation of his thesis is Avatar, the highest grossing movie of all time. It pretty much proves that Hollywood as an industry,and the movie going public has no problem with Sci-Fi movies as thinly veiled ham-handed social commentary.
posted by billyfleetwood at 11:08 PM on December 31, 2011 [4 favorites]

Minority Report was complete shit and bore about as much resemblance to the source story as a skidmark on PKD's boxers would to the man himself.
posted by adamdschneider at 11:46 PM on December 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

Anyone read that really patronising book about the blind heroine who can see the internet. And thanks to her noble goodness (caused no doubt by the fact that she's blind) she ends up teaching a proto-intelligence the true meaning of Christmas?

If anyones going to be making forced points about the lack of social commentary in sci-fi, it maybe shouldn't be Sawyer.
posted by seanyboy at 12:00 AM on January 1, 2012

SF is not really the issue here - the bottom line, for Hollywood, is such a big deal that mainstream movies are terrifically risk averse. All of the top ten grossing films of 2011 are, arguably, either a sequel or a remake.
posted by newdaddy at 12:20 AM on January 1, 2012

"Anyone read that really patronising book about the blind heroine who can see the internet..."

Reading it (the second one) right now, seanyboy. That's why I stopped reading your comment here.

Really cool post, infinite intimation! I'll mull it over tomorrow, when there's more time.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:08 AM on January 1, 2012

Oh, one more for the road!

"Blade Runner was 82, you couldn't make Blade Runner now. You can make some smaller scale indy thing like Scanner Darkly, or some silly long chase scene thing like Minority, but not Blade Runner."

You could make Blade Runner now if you were filming in Albania or somewhere and no one had ever heard of you before. (Like Ridley Scott coming out of commericals and a smaller movie like The Duellists that very few people had seen.) Just enough cred to get some German dentists or eccentric Balkan hedge fund manager to front your budget, but not enough to make the studios notice you. But after that the studios would have you pegged and you'd have to make Blade Runner over and over again. Or to relate this more closely to Ridley Scott, he could make Alien but they'd never let him change his style after that to make Blade Runner.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:17 AM on January 1, 2012

Blade Runner was 82, you couldn't make Blade Runner now. You can make some smaller scale indy thing like Scanner Darkly, or some silly long chase scene thing like Minority, but not Blade Runner.

What do you think of At the Mountains of Madness which I think is now finally being made by Guillermo del Toro?

To be fair, of this, he said: "The studio is very nervous about the cost and it not having a love story or a happy ending, but it's impossible to do either in the Lovecraft universe."
posted by disillusioned at 2:31 AM on January 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Retroactively eponysterical:

del Toro's AtMoM has joined the choir invisible.
posted by ursus_comiter at 5:17 AM on January 1, 2012

The first two parts are pretty good. The third goes completely off the rails.

Even if we were to punt the "long time ago" bit, which Sawyer thinks is a tacit admission that there's no social commentary going on, he makes absolutely no argument for his key proposition that buying and selling droids is the same thing as slavery, which is the proposition he uses to suggest that the heroes of Star Wars are morally reprehensible. This is the most obvious kind of Fantastic Aesop, and I was pretty surprised that Sawyer made this mistake. Maybe he's playing to a friendly audience and so thinks he can get away with it, but there's a really good argument to be made that droids aren't people, and he completely skips over it.

This is very similar to the producers of True Blood trying to use vampirism as a metaphor for race relations or gay rights. Vampires may be a persecuted minority, but they are also, to an individual, extremely dangerous serial killers. This isn't a Dred Scott situation where the privileged class is making up arguments as to why the existing power structure should continue. No, in that world vampires actually are, undisputably, killers. All of them. Even the nice ones. One could maybe think of a few reasons to be worried about their presence in society without being a bigot, you know? Just like one can think that buying and selling what amount to robots doesn't automatically raise any kind of ethical issues.

And criticizing Solo as a drug runner and smuggler? We've been cheering for pirates and cutthroats ever since Stevenson wrote Treasure Island. Lucas is hardly the first writer to cast a rogue as a hero. Even if we admit that there are maybe some morally grey areas with our designated heroes, umm, Alderaan. Saying that the Alliance is maybe not so great on "slavery" does not really seem to justify thinking that they, and not the Empire, are really the bad guys. The best he can do is argue that there are some unresolved moral issues here. He can't really say, as he tries to, that we shouldn't be rooting for the Alliance at all.

I don't know what this guy's problem is.
posted by valkyryn at 6:01 AM on January 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

I don't know what this guy's problem is.

He wants to write for Slate, so he has to practice taking contrived contrarian positions?
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 7:32 AM on January 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

Meh. I've been seeing "Star Wars has ruined SF" arguments for 30 years, along with the "Star Wars is bad Sci-fi" ones. And truly, for a time in the 80s that looked to be the case. But there's plenty of "serious" SF out there now, albeit the science tends to be crappy.

One thing critics of Star Wars tend to forget is that the “serious" SF in the decade before Star Wars was boring. And oh-so-serious. And grim and dystopic. It was all "A Dog and his Boy", and "Soylent Green", and "Silent Running" and man it was depressing being a kid who grew up on Heinlein and Norton.

Star Wars was a breath of fresh air, pure fun entertainment that rekindled my enjoyment of SF. In spite of all it's flaws, I have to give kudos to Star Wars for that.
posted by happyroach at 7:36 AM on January 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

R2-D2, having acted as...

JFC, I had to double check but that paragraph is all one sentence. This guy is a professional writer? Pick a thing!
posted by Meatbomb at 7:37 AM on January 1, 2012

The shackling of the droids part is insightful. While in reality droids aren't people, it's morally discomforting to see them shackled when they are played as human analogs with obvious sentience and humor.

So to accept droid trading, you have to suppress their human traits --to see them as 3/5ths of a person. It's not about whether they are technically human or not, it's about how we treat and view other beings. We haven't come as far as we think we have, we haven't lost that penchant for debasing.
posted by acheekymonkey at 7:51 AM on January 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

It's not about whether they are technically human or not, it's about how we treat and view other beings.

Except that you have to make an argument that droids count as "beings" in the first place. I'm not "morally discomforted" in the slightest about the way the droids are treated in the movies, and Sawyer hasn't actually given me any reasons why I should be.
posted by valkyryn at 8:36 AM on January 1, 2012

oops, sorry, I think I wrote that, Meatbomb, or at least mangled it from longstanding rumours of such a story existing, and imagination of what could have happened. My bad. No problem, just figured he shouldn't be blamed for my egregious excesses and dis-articulation. His professional writing is much higher quality than my posted writing (obviously); lest anyone think he writes absurdly like that, and think him a fool. His Hominid/Hybrid series is really something unique.

Sawyers outline is actually a bunch different from the "scroll" I posted above (here is a good summary) what I posted is just what I had once thought would happen when I first saw the movies and someone said they were imagined as a nine part epic.

Heh, I, being not a professional writer, who would write like it is my profession, I couldn't just pick a thing... so I picked ALL THE THINGS.
posted by infinite intimation at 8:44 AM on January 1, 2012

If he's really a writer, why does he have to phrase his argument in the form of three YouTube videos?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:45 AM on January 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Except that you have to make an argument that droids count as "beings" in the first place.

I think Sawyer's point is that it should be surprising that Obi Wan Kenobi appears to believe droids don't count as "beings" with rights worth defending. I also laughed at the bit where he calls out Lucas' insecurities in the final "LOOK AT MY HEROES GETTING MEDALS" scene. But I agree, valkryn, that the first two parts are pretty damn interesting takes on scifi history and he kind of loses the thread as he narrows the focus at the end. I also suspect he's being a bit unfair to Jules Verne in the comparison with H.G. Wells, and wonder if the translation issues with Verne (which we've discussed here before - basically, Verne was available to English readers for over a century only in horridly clipped and juvenile form) might not account for most of the difference in their larger impact.
posted by mediareport at 9:30 AM on January 1, 2012

If he's really a writer, why does he have to phrase his argument in the form of three YouTube videos?

YouTube videos don't require writing?
posted by mediareport at 9:33 AM on January 1, 2012

Back when I was an adolescent and a huge Star Wars fan, I remember reading that C-3PO and R2-D2 seemed sentient because they had gone a long time without a memory wipe. In other words, most droids in the Star Wars universe were not self-aware, so long as they received regular memory-wiping.

But this doesn't really settle the issue. Because that means you have these droids who appear totally capable of achieving a sense of self-awareness, but are prevented from it because most responsible owners will regularly reset the droids' memories. Is that ethical? Is it right to deny a being self-awareness through reqular memory wipes?

Also I think I read somewhere that droids weren't allowed in the Mos Eisley Cantina because they were frequently armed with recording equipment and many patrons were very interested in keeping out of sight. And since droids (presumably) weren't self aware, what did the droids care? It's not like the droids' feelings would be hurt.
posted by mcmile at 9:47 AM on January 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Meh. Lucas set out to make a movie that recreated his experience watching Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon serials on TV in the 50s and 60s. Star Wars was as personal a statement for him as American Graffiti had been a few years before. Without knowing what he was doing, he ended up creating the summer blockbuster.

Comparing Star Wars with the source material, you can see how well he succeeded in achieving his goal: a hapless hero, bumbling but useful helpers, a wise mentor, a princess in peril, unremittingly evil villains, and rocket ships. He wasn't looking for scientific verisimilitude or social commentary, he was trying to give the viewer a good time at the theater.

Sawyer has a lot of good things to say, but saying that Star Wars ruined science fiction as a film genre isn't one of them.
posted by lhauser at 9:50 AM on January 1, 2012

Well, it did but, as Monsieur Caution noted above, not for the reasons he cites.
posted by mediareport at 9:58 AM on January 1, 2012

One thing critics of Star Wars tend to forget is that the “serious" SF in the decade before Star Wars was boring. And oh-so-serious. And grim and dystopic. It was all "A Dog and his Boy", and "Soylent Green", and "Silent Running" and man it was depressing being a kid who grew up on Heinlein and Norton.

Heh. That's the stuff I love!
posted by Artw at 10:00 AM on January 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Eh? I always thought that the background, relatively subtle second-class-citizen status of the droids was one of the best and most interesting things about the original Star Wars movies. They were clearly sentient beings so looked down upon that their lack of status was used as a deliberate plot point within the first five minutes or so (... No living beings on the escape pod? Can't possibly be anything important, then.) Throughout the entire trilogy, one of the main heroes is an unabashed slaveowner, and the culture of this is so widespread that none of the other characters even bother to object or even comment - even though one of the slaves, R2D2, also is more than arguably one of the main heroes of the films.

It was one of the few things I thought was actually *subtle* about the movies. You'd have a hard time convincing me it wasn't even really supposed to be there.
posted by kyrademon at 11:40 AM on January 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Dude, the droids are manufactured objects, not house elves from the Harry Potter books which actually are beings held in slavery. C3PO gets disassembled and put back together repeatedly in the first trilogy. R2D2 is basically a mobile video iPod and self-activated swiss army knife with advanced GPS/vehicle operation capabilities. They are machines, not people.

There's never a hint in the Star Wars movies that there's any way to regard these droids as anything other than objects. They are switched off, restrainer-bolted, remote controlled. Of course they're programmed with personalities, just like the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation had Genuine People Personalities available (your plastic pal who's fun to be with!), but even today you find voice packs available for Garmin units, which is easily the first step toward that.

Perhaps in some fever dream someone wants to be the Hermione Granger of the Star Wars universe and find a way to set the droids free from their indentured state. But based on what we see in the films, they're just really advanced iPads and desktop units which can follow you around and respond to voice commands. Any autonomy they exhibit is a function of their programming for specific tasks and functions.
posted by hippybear at 11:54 AM on January 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is controversial (and longer than I had meant to be, sorry), but I think the Prequels actually do the opposite of what Sawyers talk feels the Originals do... They show, in painful detail, a sclerotic Jedi order, not at it's height, but rather, in the valley of destruction, and misguided shadow; if not outright morally bankrupt, definitely a broken beast, a simpering servant, unquestioningly loyal to a long ago corrupted, fully subverted government body, a body that not only is not egalitarian, but further, actively decides when and where Jedi will go, thus handing over the Order's autonomy to those who facilitate and encourage slavery... no wonder the Sith so easily slipped in.

The Jedi ignorance, PRACTICED un-feeling; cold, calculating, attempting to suppress emotion, love, and all feeling; full of un-admitted dark tendencies (there was actual sentient being slavery going on, un-contested, as Anakin, and millions more like him) and the foolish, blind adherence to "oaths, loyalty and duty - to a government long ago corrupted", at the expense of moderated compassion (Luke going to his friends [this, taken to extremes, can go very badly, as the Tragedy of Darth Vader displays]); the Jedi of the Prequels served the Republic Government, not the Force, not 'light', not their 'Code'... the prophetic 'need' for destruction and "re-birth" (Vader/Balance) is made evident (IMHO) even more explicitly in the Prequels...

There have been some really amazing things written, and stories told about "clones", they are outsiders to their culture, and at the same time, outsiders to the citizens of the galaxy, bred, trained and brainwashed to fight for the Republic (deserters were hunted down and killed), not to mention the bred-in accelerated-shortened lifespans, lack of exit programs, retirement, or benefits. The prequels gave a framework for stories exploring the "ethics of clones as soldiers, workers, or labour" (we can debate all day about "droid sentience [I am on the "they can be sentient", and no, we shouldn't enslave aware machines, even if they are machines, it ends badly] there is a long history of asking such questions in Sci-Fi, for example the Robot series definitely ask the reader to think; is this a machine, to be used and disposed of... is compassion some magical thing that is only to be offered to "Other Humans"?) but CLONES of people... used as cannon fodder... sure, many Jedi are "nice" to the clones... but really; by the time of saying nothing at the use of humans beings, unbeatably sentient, self-aware, thinking, feeling, suffering, pain feeling beings... the "Jedi Order" had lost its' way. The "use" of clones, and refusal to question the Galactic Scale War, by the Jedi led to a downgrading of respect for how they had allowed themselves to be structured. But I think realizing that helped me grow, I love fiction, as it allows such absurd questions (for example ethics of clones as soldiers, or robots as slaves) to be asked, and examined, before it could even be a possibility in reality.

There is subtlety in Star Wars. There is ham-fisted joyrides and funnies in Star Wars... it is at once both. I am not of the mind that "showing" an ignorant society, or putting people making sketchy ethical choices as "silently condoning" such. I think that showing broken societies, and people displaying broken ethical systems can help real people come to terms with their own humanity, the difficulty of "being moral". I think the last chapter of the talk is too glib, to definite, too certain... but definitely the topic raised is cool, huge, and full of room for differing [concurrently valid and interesting] opinions. Robot respect has been a question that many Sci-Fi masters have struggled with, Asimov's robots series asks about this idea (and I don't feel he gave a 'definitive' opinion either way [despite showing a society glibly using as objects the robots, and discarding them, as in the "mass-graves" of discarded robots, the first Star Wars movies don't really raise robot rights... but "Star Wars" definitely has a long tradition of examining the topic). Anyway, the worst part of the medal scene was the lack of CHEWIE getting a medal (until one of the updates... I wonder if one day, the droids will get medals too...)

One last thought; Droids can be aware, because Droids can be Jedi (It is goofy story; but think of this before dismissing it... it negates Midichlorians!)
posted by infinite intimation at 12:58 PM on January 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

They are machines, not people.

Humans are machines. And almost everyone thinks humans are people.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 1:09 PM on January 1, 2012 [5 favorites]

"Any autonomy they exhibit is a function of their programming for specific tasks and functions."

*Shrug*. You apparently saw different films from the ones I did. No big deal, really, they're just movies.
posted by kyrademon at 1:11 PM on January 1, 2012

kyrademon, I agree with you that the social status of the droids is very interesting in the Star Wars movies, but I disagree that it's intentional. Why?

1.) As you said, there is nothing else subtle about Star Wars. I don't think you'd find much else that is subtle in George Lucas' works. He's just not that kind filmaker. Remember Anakin's line in Episode III, "You're either with me or you're my enemy?" (or something like that?) Not subtle. The reference to contemporary, real-world leadership was pretty obvious.

2.) George Lucas loves, and Star Wars was based on, epic poetry, mythology, and early Hollywood adventure films. These are also three genres that typically lack in subtlety. They also lack in concern for what they see as second-class citizens. These stories focus on the king, or the hero, or the hero/king. If peasants or slaves factor into these stories at all, it's only to help the hero achieve his destiny, much like the equally troubling "magical negro" archetype in cinema. Otherwise, the peasants or slaves just don't exist, and their concerns aren't important.

To sum up, I think it did not occur at all to George Lucas that Luke Skywalkwer was akin to a slave trader, or that droids were an oppressed group. Still, it's valid and interesting to interpret the movies in that way.
posted by mcmile at 1:38 PM on January 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

What's Sawyer got against fairy tales?

This is a pretty weaksauce argument. My husband and I recently started watching Flash Gordon serials on netflix. I don't think you can say that Star Wars ruined modern SF anymore than Flash Gordon meant that the SF of the 40s was politically irrelevant (1984, anyone?). The problem with arguments like these is that the supporting evidence is often cherry picked, the assumption being that everything out there was of high literary quality and political relevance when really it's only what survives today.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:08 PM on January 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't know what this guy's problem is.

I've seen him for years on local television (usually TV Ontario and the CBC) and each time I am confounded and annoyed.

I don't care for his fiction either.
posted by juiceCake at 5:42 PM on January 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Bob's kind of a dink. Here's an article I wrote about one of his recent novels. It's been edited to take some of the edges off, but read between the lines a little and you'll see what I'm getting at. I didn't mention the whole "describe the blooming sexuality of my teenage heroine who happens to be a mathematics genius" thing either. Yuck. Just yuck.
posted by Wolof at 11:37 PM on January 1, 2012

And here's an article about Wonder.
posted by juiceCake at 1:02 PM on January 2, 2012

Man, this list of "science fiction" movies for 2012 makes some depressing reading - there's about half a dozen of them that sound like they might be a little SFish, out of seventy.
posted by Artw at 3:58 PM on January 4, 2012

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