Samuel Delaney reviews Star Wars
April 11, 2015 9:45 AM   Subscribe

 
I can't read this on my screen but it doesn't matter; it is awesome.
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:52 AM on April 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Is there a legible version of this anywhere?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:53 AM on April 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Sorry, I'm not sure what I did wrong! It reads fine on my screen.
posted by escabeche at 9:54 AM on April 11, 2015


I can read them if I open the 1280 versions in a new tab. If it helps anyone else: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4.
posted by automatic cabinet at 10:00 AM on April 11, 2015 [8 favorites]


(Control) +++++
posted by achrise at 10:00 AM on April 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


On an Android device, in Chrome, try checking "Request desktop site". It worked for me...
posted by howfar at 10:01 AM on April 11, 2015


Incidentally, when are developers and designers going to stop building these broken "mobile versions" of their sites and just build proper pages that will render readably on a range of devices?

I know shit all about web design, but I know those sites are possible because I see them all the time. But I know that every time I see some bullshit fancy "mobile-friendly" feature, in for a complete nightmare. Dickheads.
posted by howfar at 10:06 AM on April 11, 2015 [19 favorites]


Yep, the best way is to right-click on each one and open 'em in fresh tabs. I've got a 1600x900 screen and Tumblr's clickthru gallery won't display them at their proper size, but if you can get to the image files themselves it's reasonably readable.
posted by Strange Interlude at 10:08 AM on April 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


It is worth it finding a way to make it readable; this is awesome. A quote:

"This film is going to do very well, if not phenomenally so, and I can see a lot of the elder statesmen in the sf community intoning "That's because it's got a good solid, story!" Star Wars, as far as I can tell, has no story at all - or, rather there are so many holes in the one it's got you could explode a planet in them (about a third of the way through, one does); but it all goes so quickly that the rents and tears and creaking places in it blur out."
posted by nubs at 10:08 AM on April 11, 2015 [8 favorites]


Here's an easily readable text transcription. Taken from this tumblr post; I pasted it elsewhere to avoid the horrible CSS.
posted by Nelson at 10:08 AM on April 11, 2015 [17 favorites]


Whoa--there was a scene cut where a pilot tells Luke about his father? I'd love to know what exactly he said.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:09 AM on April 11, 2015


This is a spectacular review. I'm not sure if we're supposed to look back on it in a patronizing way, but I surely do not.

Odd that I would not know about the deleted scenes he describes, though; should I have heard of those?
posted by argybarg at 10:10 AM on April 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wookieepedia description of deleted scenes.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:12 AM on April 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Sometime, somewhere, somebody is going to write a review of Star Wars that begins: “In Lucas’s future, the black races and the yellow races have apparently died out and a sort of mid-Western American (with a few South Westerners who seem to specialize in being war ship pilots) has taken over the universe. By and large, women have also been bred out of the human race and, save for the odd gutsy princess or the isolated and coward aunt, humanity seems to be breeding quite nicely without them. …”

When those various review surface, somebody will no doubt object (and we’ll recognize the voice; it’s the same one who said, earlier, “…it’s got a good, solid story!”) with a shout: “But that’s not the point. This is entertainment!”

Well, entertainment is a complex business. And we are talking about an aspect of the film that isn’t particularly entertaining. When you travel across three whole worlds and all the humans you see are so scrupiously (sic) caucasian and male, Lucas’s future begins to seem a little dull. And the variation and invention suddenly tun out to be only the province of the set director and special effects crew.

How does one put in some variety, some human variety? The same way you put in your barrage of allusions to other films, i.e., you just do it and don’t make a big thing.

To take the tiniest example: wouldn’t that future have been more interesting if, say, three-quarters of the rebel pilots just happened to have been Oriental women rather than just the guys who didn’t make it onto the Minnisota (sic) Ag-football team. It would even be more interesting to the guys at Minnisota (sic) Ag. This is science fiction after all.

No more explanation would have been needed for that (They came from a world colonized by Chinese where women were frequently pilots? Possibly they came from a dozen worlds and volunteered because they were all historically interested in the Red Guard? Or maybe it’s just because there are, indeed, lots of Chinese women?) than we get for why there just happens to be an Evil, Nasty, Octopoid Thingy in the Death Star garbage dump. (It was busy metabolizing garbage? Maybe it was an alien ambassador who felt more comfortable in that environment? Maybe it just growed?) That kind of off-handed flip is what you can do in science fiction. In the film world in the present, the token woman, token black, or what-have-you, is clearly propaganda, and even the people who are supposed to like that particular piece of it smile their smiles with rather more tightly pursed lips than is comfortable. In a science fiction film, however, the variety of human types should be as fascinating and luminous in itself as the variety of color in the set designer’s paint box. Not to make use of that variety, in all possible combinations, seems an imaginative failure of at least the same order as not coming up with as interesting sets as possible.


Some things never change I guess.
posted by The Whelk at 10:13 AM on April 11, 2015 [58 favorites]


Yeah, I think what's amazing is that there's so much stuff in this review that reads to me as a very modern, sophisticated take on the structure of science fiction and fandom, human diversity, the idea of genre as "childish," etc., and now I realize that SRD was already there in 1977, waiting for everybody else to catch up.
posted by escabeche at 10:13 AM on April 11, 2015 [38 favorites]


Ok! Thanks for the transcript.

It took me decades of watching and arguing Clerks-style to come to these conclusions. Delany is smart. (Even his comment that Luke should have dueled Vader in the first movie is interestingly wrong, in a way that anyone would be having seen just the first film and not knowing what was to come.)
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:14 AM on April 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Pater Aletheias: "Whoa--there was a scene cut where a pilot tells Luke about his father? I'd love to know what exactly he said."

Okay, it appears that the dialog is:
"I met your father once when I was just a boy. He was a great pilot. You'll do all right. If you've got half of your father's skill, you'll do better than all right."
posted by Chrysostom at 10:16 AM on April 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure if we're supposed to look back on it in a patronizing way, but I surely do not.

I'm not reading it in that way at all; Delany's comments are spot on, insightful, places the film as part of the SF context and history of the time, and captures the social problems (lack of racial and gender diversity). This is a fantastic review of the film, a fantastic historical document, and one that should be part of any serious look at the Star Wars films, their history and their impact on culture and entertainment. The closing lines are amazing:

"In any case, Star Wars is a delight. (For those people who like literary parallels, it brings the sf film up to about the Lensman stage.) But perhaps the most delightful thing about it is that it brings so forcefully to the imagination the possibility of sf films that are so much better in precisely the terms that Star Wars itself has begun to lay out."
posted by nubs at 10:18 AM on April 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


Somehow it completely escaped me that Lucas wrote a story with a hero named "Luke S." It's possible that I'm not as clever as I think I am.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 10:24 AM on April 11, 2015 [51 favorites]


How does one put in some variety, some human variety? The same way you put in your barrage of allusions to other films, i.e., you just do it and don’t make a big thing.

For all that I've faulted the worldbuilding (or lack thereof) in Firefly, that's one thing that Joss Whedon got right. How come there's so much Mandarin in everyone's speech and the ads and so forth? Just because. For all that Lucas borrowed from Kurosawa's film The Hidden Fortress, he could have easily done the same with Japanese language and culture.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:24 AM on April 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


His observation that Star Wars delighted in no small part because it was a departure from the nearly-uniform dystopias of 1960s and (up to then) 1970s science fiction film.

And now once again in the mid-2010s science fiction film, comic book adaptations aside, is thoroughly dystopian. I wonder if the Hunger Games / Divergent / etc. audience is ready for another breath of fresh air of non-dystopias.
posted by MattD at 10:25 AM on April 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


It never occurred to me until just this moment that there had to be more people than just Obi-Wan who knew that Anakin became Darth Vader. There must have been people who knew him and knew that he hadn't actually died, and for a Jedi to go over to the Sith makes for wonderful gossip. Luke was made at Obi-Wan for not telling him the truth, but the conspiracy to keep it secret from him had to be enormous. I mean, no one ever says to him "Skywalker, huh? You must be related to Anakin--he came from Tatooine. Too bad how that all turned out."

I've read elsewhere that Lucas didn't intend for Vader to be Luke's father when he wrote Star Wars. Kenobi's mention Luke's dad was originally completely in earnest. At this point, I think it's hard to sort out exactly how much he had plotted out--which is why that mention of a deleted scene caught my eye.

Star Wars--back when it was just Star Wars, not A New Hope and not Episode number anything--is the first movie I remember seeing in the theater. My grandfather took me. I was five, he was 47. Afterward he took me to a toy store, where I picked out a C3-PO action figure and was deeply embarrassed that Pawpaw couldn't remember his name, and just said "We'll take the little gold man."
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:27 AM on April 11, 2015 [32 favorites]


Ah, yes, we'd like one of the little beepy bucket man, please.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 10:37 AM on April 11, 2015 [16 favorites]


ready for another breath of fresh air of non-dystopias.

I hear GoTG compared to Star Wars a lot.
posted by The Whelk at 10:38 AM on April 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think there's potentially a general lesson about privilege, and the value of shutting up and listening to the voices of those who are denied it in one way or another. It seems inevitable, to me, that one factor in enabling Delaney to write such a startinglingly insightful review was his own perspective as a gay man in a society which thoroughly marginalised and oppressed gay men. That is not to belittle the astonishing intellectual rigour and flexibility of the piece or its author, but more to note that, while it may have been possible for people possessed of more privilege to have the same insights into the issue of marginalisation in Star Wars, those people did not write this piece.

It reminds me of something that I frequently need reminding of, which is that my privilege does blind me to issues and complexities that, in 10, 20 or 38 years' time, I will take for granted as real. So I should be careful about that.
posted by howfar at 10:39 AM on April 11, 2015 [12 favorites]


About a decade before Star Wars, Sam Delaney published 'Empire Star', a space opera novella about an orphan from a dusty farm planet who hitches a ride on a rocket ship, travels the galaxy, and eventually leads a rousing defense against an evil galactic invasion fleet. It would make an interesting movie.
posted by ovvl at 10:54 AM on April 11, 2015 [11 favorites]


ready for another breath of fresh air of non-dystopias.

Disney's George Clooney's Tomorrowland?
posted by Apocryphon at 10:56 AM on April 11, 2015


The review mentions that the plot summary text at the start is "a homage to the Flash Gordon chapter synopses from the twelve-part Saturday afternoon serials of another age". Here's an example from that TV show. It's just simple title cards, not the funky perspective crawl, but the effect is similar in setting the stage for what's to come. (Also this 1938 sci-fi TV looks amazing.)

I was also ignorant of the 1972 film Silent Running he mentions as inspiration for R2-D2. Here's the "almost human drones" in that film's trailer.
posted by Nelson at 10:59 AM on April 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Great review, but the reviewer made a rookie mistake ... it's not the future, it's a long long time AGO in a galaxy far far away.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:14 AM on April 11, 2015 [10 favorites]


Delany hits upon a truism, that "The Future" in film tends to be less interesting than the present, then cops out by saying that this fascinating film is by and large an exception to that rule.

He should've stuck to his gut feeling. The reason the future, as shown in the Star Wars universe, is more interesting than the present day is because it's not the future! Remember? "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..." Like Middle-Earth, the Star Wars universe represents a mythic past where creatures with god-like powers roamed free. Whatever magic or midichlorians they possessed, we have long forgotten. It's the past in another sense as well. As he points out, Star Wars is a deliberate throwback to Flash Gordon serials and other tropes that came from earlier generations. In that sense, it abandoned the increasing sophistication and moral ambiguity of 1970's film storytelling and took a reactionary step back to the age of simpler Western morality, where the difference of bad and good was as stark as black and white. And on that basis, as Delany notes, the good guys were unsurprisingly and overhwelmingly White. Not for nothing did Ronnie Raygun borrow the name "Star Wars" for his similarly mythical, magical SDI program.
posted by xigxag at 11:15 AM on April 11, 2015 [8 favorites]


Aside: There were several Flash Gordon serials in the 1930s and 40s and a TV show in the 1950s. The 1940 serial Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe had the scrolling text (about a minute in).
posted by plastic_animals at 11:16 AM on April 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


RobotVoodooPower made my point just before me. Maybe I should've followed Lucas's example and edited 15 unnecessary minutes out of my comment. ;)
posted by xigxag at 11:19 AM on April 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


it brings so forcefully to the imagination the possibility of sf films that are so much better in precisely the terms that Star Wars itself has begun to lay out

I remember feeling disappointment very strongly when watching Prometheus, not just because the film was a terrible mess - though obviously it was - but that movie technology had obviously got to the point where someone could make a truly great Space Opera movie, but it looked increasingly likely that for Hollywood reasons, it was probably never going to happen. I live in hope, though! It'll probably happen once HBO style programming is at the effects level of today's films, which probably isn't all that far off.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 11:26 AM on April 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Odd that I would not know about the deleted scenes he describes, though; should I have heard of those?

The scene involving the conversation between Luke and Cam and Biggs is pretty famous all around. It was recreated in the Star Wars radio drama.

Great review, but the reviewer made a rookie mistake ... it's not the future, it's a long long time AGO in a galaxy far far away.

I'm not sure I'd really call Delaney a rookie, not even in 1977. But yes, I was wondering about that myself. It makes me think that maybe he walked in a bit late? Or he just forgot about that bit at the very beginning because he was overwhelmed by the rest of the visuals in the 2 hours that followed.
posted by hippybear at 11:33 AM on April 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Maybe I should've followed (Marcia) Lucas's example and edited 15 unnecessary minutes out of my comment.
posted by maxwelton at 11:34 AM on April 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


What's the point of scanning something in too small to read? effing tumblr....
posted by Sintram at 11:39 AM on April 11, 2015


Yeah, I think what's amazing is that there's so much stuff in this review that reads to me as a very modern, sophisticated take on the structure of science fiction and fandom, human diversity, the idea of genre as "childish," etc., and now I realize that SRD was already there in 1977, waiting for everybody else to catch up.

Hell, we still aren't there yet, we've just gotten a little closer. In another 20 years, maybe the world will catch up to where Chip Delany's head was in 1977.

For those that haven't had the pleasure yet, I see that his autobiography, The Motion of Light in Water, which is also pretty insightful as a perspective on the East Village in the sixties, is out as an ebook now.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 11:45 AM on April 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Samuel Delaney has a tumblr?!
posted by Gorgik at 11:51 AM on April 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Childhood's End depicts, to some degree, a 'golden age of Mankind' utopia, albeit temporary, limited and under benign imperialist masters. Be interesting to see how SyFy handles that; it's a concept that I think the British are more comfortable with than Americans, but the production team does seem to be very British anyway. (aha - there's a trailer out already, which touches on this...)
posted by Devonian at 11:58 AM on April 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


it brings so forcefully to the imagination the possibility of sf films that are so much better in precisely the terms that Star Wars itself has begun to lay out

but one of the problems is that 1977 is probably that last year you could make a movie where the audience is supposed to side with the *rebels*, you know, the wild-eyed fanatics on a suicide mission to blow up a major space-defense project... Luke presents the perfect profile for a suicide-bomber: young, orphaned, no future in his home town, scarred by violence, looking for a way to make his life count in the larger universe.

I assume the coming SW movies are going to be about the heroic soldiers of the new republic government defending against dark conspiracies, shadowy hidden villains, and mysterious foreigners.
posted by ennui.bz at 12:17 PM on April 11, 2015 [27 favorites]


also, note how the "Jedi" groom Luke with their religious system, promise of personal power, belonging, and the potential for life after death.
posted by ennui.bz at 12:20 PM on April 11, 2015 [18 favorites]


What publication was this originally printed in? Citation please!
posted by Sintram at 12:22 PM on April 11, 2015


What publication was this originally printed in? Citation please!


From the tumblr page:
Samuel Delany reviews the first Star Wars movie, 1977, in Cosmos Science Fiction and Fantasy.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:24 PM on April 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Somehow it completely escaped me that Lucas wrote a story with a hero named "Luke S."

Not that uncommon.

Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski gave his leading male character the initials JMS. Then after the first season, when the actor for that part requested to bow out of the show due to some heartbreaking personal issues, Straczynski introduced a new leading male, also with the initials JMS.

But it's the character of Mikaela Banes from Michael Bay's Transformers movies that might be the most blatant example of it.
posted by radwolf76 at 12:43 PM on April 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Halloween Jack: For all that I've faulted the worldbuilding (or lack thereof) in Firefly, that's one thing that Joss Whedon got right. How come there's so much Mandarin in everyone's speech and the ads and so forth? Just because. For all that Lucas borrowed from Kurosawa's film The Hidden Fortress, he could have easily done the same with Japanese language and culture.

It always bothered me, to the point of ruining the TV show for me, that Whedon didn't follow through with his world-building idea of making America and China the dominant civilizations in the future, and cast lots of Chinese actors.
posted by Kattullus at 12:45 PM on April 11, 2015 [13 favorites]


This might be the first instance where the misuse of parsecs was called out. Although I like to believe that Han didn't actually know it was a unit of distance as he was bragging in that scene and it was intended to show the character's foibles.
posted by cazoo at 12:45 PM on April 11, 2015


RobotVoodooPower and xigxag eloquently made the point I kept thinking about reading Delany's article: it IS a problem there are only a bunch of white people in the film's universe, but it doesn't take place in a progressive future--it takes place in an imaginary, reactionary past. People assume because of the space ships and lasers that it's science fiction, but it has less in common with progressive science fiction than with medieval fantasy like Tolkien and Wagner.

This is part of why I think no amount of more diverse casting in the new movies is going to interest me in Star Wars again. The entire premise of kings and queens and lords and emperors, and sorcerers gifted by their inherited magical ability, is so reactionary to me that I just can't see past it anymore.

Thought I certainly don't mean to dump on anyone who enjoys Star Wars, as clearly many people do! I can still see past it and enjoy Lord of the Rings, which is probably much worse in that regard, so ymmv.
posted by branduno at 12:57 PM on April 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


LOTR is much much worse, casting the enemy hordes as dark-skinned minorities. At least in Star Wars even the enemies were white.
posted by hippybear at 12:59 PM on April 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Great review, but the reviewer made a rookie mistake ... it's not the future, it's a long long time AGO in a galaxy far far away.

I've always taken that text card with a grain of salt. There is no story reason for the films to take place in the distant past or future. You could easily accept that as just stage-settings, a way of informing the audience that what follows isn't intended to be hard sci-fi at all but the spinning of myth.
posted by JHarris at 1:03 PM on April 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


Incidentally, when are developers and designers going to stop building these broken "mobile versions" of their sites and just build proper pages that will render readably on a range of devices?

I think you are blaming the wrong people. It's the suits, man! They want to exploit mobile as an opportunity to make users dependent on their little apps, which are probably half spyware, in kind of a resurgence of the client anxiety that you used to see around 2000: "But if we have links on our site then people might navigate away from it!"
posted by thelonius at 1:26 PM on April 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oh, never mind - my bad - that's for another rant. You'r right, the mobile website versions are often terrible. I'm hair-trigger about sites push9ing the "download our app!" when they detect a mobile device browser.
posted by thelonius at 1:29 PM on April 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


This might be the first instance where the misuse of parsecs was called out. Although I like to believe that Han didn't actually know it was a unit of distance as he was bragging in that scene and it was intended to show the character's foibles.

This is a nice theory, which got me thinking instead that it shows Han trying to draw out how much Luke might know about spaceflight.
posted by GeorgeBickham at 1:37 PM on April 11, 2015


It's funny how the "long ago and far away" fairy-tale start to Star Wars is taken so literally by nearly everybody. I always assumed it was a tale being told in an even further future. I mean, Dune made this sort of framing rather explicit, hinting through epigrams at a Cervantes-esque imagined bibliography behind the novel you're actually reading.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 1:43 PM on April 11, 2015 [13 favorites]


As I recall, the reverse-nerdsplained (and now canon) account of the "12 parsecs" controversy is that the Kessel Run is a run between two points through a treacherous asteroid field or bunch of space debris or something, and Han is bragging that he traversed it so well that he only had to cover a relatively short distance. But, I mean, come on - that's pretty clearly reaching to justify it.
posted by koeselitz at 1:59 PM on April 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


About a decade before Star Wars, Sam Delaney published 'Empire Star', a space opera novella about an orphan from a dusty farm planet who hitches a ride on a rocket ship, travels the galaxy, and eventually leads a rousing defense against an evil galactic invasion fleet. It would make an interesting movie.

Ooooh Empire Star. Such a brilliant piece of writing. Such a shame that so much of the Star Wars saga is just crap. Often entertaining "B movie" crap, and now ubiquitous...

Could one make a film of Empire Star, that did it justice?

Edit: meant "...is just flup..." of course.
posted by emmet at 2:51 PM on April 11, 2015


This is part of why I think no amount of more diverse casting in the new movies is going to interest me in Star Wars again.

Shaak-Ti v. Grievous in the Clone Wars made up for a lot...
posted by mikelieman at 2:55 PM on April 11, 2015


The argument about whether or not Star Wars takes place in the far future or distant past is so dorky I want to forget how to read.
posted by The Whelk at 3:18 PM on April 11, 2015 [13 favorites]


Who's arguing, The Whelk?
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 3:24 PM on April 11, 2015


I am. It happened a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. It did not happen in the future, and it is not being retold in some further future.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:15 PM on April 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


In a galaxy far, far away,
that may have been a long time ago
or in the distant future depending
on an observer's velocity relative
to that galaxy and your own...
posted by chortly at 4:45 PM on April 11, 2015 [11 favorites]


I never got into Delaney's books, but this review explains why rural Ohio seems to love Star Wars so much and for that I am grateful.
posted by fivebells at 4:50 PM on April 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Begun, the chron wars have.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 4:53 PM on April 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


reviewer made a rookie mistake

For what it's worth, Ctrl-F in the text version reveals nine times that The Future is mentioned. Maybe Delany came to the screening ninety seconds late?

As with "the future," his quoting Solo's boast as "three parsecs" grated for its misfire, but I cannot fault him too much. But we cannot fault him too much: I really like reading a keen, insightful review written by someone who has seen it (presumably) once, a day or three earlier, when the dialogue was not imprinted on an entire generation's cerebral cortexes. It is an odd perspective: on a good day, I am about three-fifths as smart as SRD but I realize that just for pop cultural reasons, the SRD who wrote this understood about 18% as much about Star Wars as I do.

I was talking with some friends just this afternoon about how many false memories and weird mythologizing has grown up around the film. Anyone who has been to an sf convention has met a lot of people who talk about the breathless anticipation and the lineups around the block for opening day on May 25, 1977. In fact, it opened on something like sixteen screens across the USA and my people in the frozen north did not even get their first glimpse of it until late June (by which point it was a juggernaut). Since the coining of "the May the Fourth be with you" meme a decade or so back, many people's memories have now auto-corrected to seeing it on opening day of May 4.

By the same token, I know many people who will stake the lives of loved ones that the Episode IV: A New Hope subtitle was there from day one. Jay Scott writing in the Globe and Mail was probably the most influential and thoughtful film critic of his generation, and he famously praised its in medias res approach by saying it was like seeing "Part 6 of a serial." Even if I did not recall it being added in one of the re-releases (the 1981 one, I think), what are the chances that Scott would have overlooked the Episode IV thing? Why, that is as unlikely as someone as eminent as Samuel R. Delany overlooking, "A long time ago..."

In conclusion, Star Wars reviews are a land of contrasts.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:57 PM on April 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


In light of Delaney's comments on the joy of seeing an optimistic and exciting view of the future it seems to me that only a fool who didn't understand what he had on his hands would set Star Wars in the past.

Oh.
posted by howfar at 5:21 PM on April 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Star Wars was the first movie I saw in the theater. It's an unsophisticated movie for kids. The fact that SRD, one of the greatest scifi writers of the 20th Century, thinks it takes place in the future is a minor red herring in the context of his excellent, intelligent, and highly readable review. He has more insights to share and that are worth sharing than any pedantic SciFi dork.

I grew up with the movies and the toys (and now my own kids are infatuated with the drek) and I'm always amazed at how seriously grown adults take this fluff.

SRD on the other hand deserves the close analysis.
posted by Nevin at 5:23 PM on April 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


It did not happen in the future, and it is not being retold in some further future.

Something something Journal of the Whills.
posted by radwolf76 at 5:28 PM on April 11, 2015


Somehow it completely escaped me that Lucas wrote a story with a hero named "Luke S." It's possible that I'm not as clever as I think I am.

o_O
posted by George Lucas at 5:36 PM on April 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


It's already been identified as Cosmos, which I identified from the logo symbol at the very end of the article. I picked up issues of Cosmos years - decades - ago along with several issues of Galileo. There were some good little SF magazines in the late 70's
posted by jkosmicki at 5:43 PM on April 11, 2015


The titles may have say "long ago" but the vision is clearly something that is not of our past, but only of a potential future for us . So SRD is probably, as someone more than well versed in science fiction and fantasy, correct in seeing it that way.
posted by Death and Gravity at 6:03 PM on April 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


ricochet biscuit reminded me of the late Jay Scott, my fave film critic, sigh.
posted by ovvl at 6:07 PM on April 11, 2015


I want to hear what he thinks about the newer prequel trilogy. Specifically the part where Amidala sleeps with Anakin right after he confesses to cutting down baby sand people. Because you know that kind of bad boy thrill is indicative of some deeply weird sexual needs that Delaney at least would understand. I'm not saying that there is consensual force choking and interrogation droid play, but at the very least someone has a novelty condom that looks a little like Mandalorian armor.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:48 PM on April 11, 2015


This is pretty cool, but nowhere near as awesome as George Lucas' review of Hogg.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:25 PM on April 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


Heh. You are a bad person. I was so excited there for a second...
posted by koeselitz at 8:06 PM on April 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm not sorry :)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:28 PM on April 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


At least in Star Wars even the enemies were white.

Um, James Earl Jones?
posted by octothorpe at 8:30 PM on April 11, 2015


Uncredited voice actor. And yes, his suit was black, but David Prowse was not.

(JEJ was not credited for the use of his voice until ROTJ.)
posted by hippybear at 8:41 PM on April 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


Further complicating/clarifying it: Sebastian Shaw was eggshell white.
posted by mazola at 8:43 PM on April 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


This whole Darth Vader/race thing is beginning to remind me of the Hedwig/Yitzhak gender thing.
posted by mazola at 10:02 PM on April 11, 2015


Something something Journal of the Whills.

It says 'a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away'. Anything else is nerds needlessly multiplying entities.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:48 AM on April 12, 2015


(JEJ was not credited for the use of his voice until ROTJ.)

It's not like it was a secret. Thirteen year old me recognized his voice the first time I heard Vader speak.
posted by octothorpe at 5:15 AM on April 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


At least in Star Wars even the enemies were white.

Sidebar: over the course of the Expanded Universe canon, the Empire was gradually revealed to be a pro-human, anti-alien ideology. Or, in other words, space racists.
posted by mightygodking at 6:20 AM on April 12, 2015


Sidebar: over the course of the Expanded Universe canon, the Empire was gradually revealed to be a pro-human, anti-alien ideology. Or, in other words, space racists.

They were Space Nazis from day-one, with all the inhumanity that goes along with it. ( e.g.: destroying Alderaan )
posted by mikelieman at 7:25 AM on April 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Kattullus: I was also bothered by that in "Firefly", and sort of created an internal workaround by deciding that since we were off on the ass-end of civilization, it wasn't fit for the actual rich powerful dominant culture members to visit, but the closer you got to the actual core of civilization, the more heavily Mandarin-speaking Chinese the population makeup would skew. Having them out on the filthy frontier would be like European aristocracy showing up in the middle of Jackass Flats during the late 1800's. Which is a mediocre explanation, but it was sufficient to let me suspend that particular bit of disbelief enough to watch the show.
posted by rmd1023 at 10:12 AM on April 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


There's no saving the parsec line really: The definition of a parsec includes the earth to sun distance, and would not make sense for a star-hopping civilization without a reference planet/solar system.
posted by Dr Dracator at 3:35 PM on April 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Surely it'd be reckoned by some capital system's dimensions, then - absent any historical precedent, a cradle of galactic civilization if you will, I imagine Coruscant would do just fine.
posted by lumensimus at 5:38 PM on April 12, 2015


Plus, they aren't speaking English, right? Seems plausible it would be translated to Earth units.
posted by Chrysostom at 5:46 PM on April 12, 2015


Plus, they aren't speaking English, right?

You'll need to have this fish in your ear.
posted by hippybear at 8:33 PM on April 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


hippybear: "(JEJ was not credited for the use of his voice until ROTJ.)"

octothorpe: "It's not like it was a secret. Thirteen year old me recognized his voice the first time I heard Vader speak."

Huh. Really? Are you saying you were actually thirteen years old in 1977? Because, yeah, thirteen-year-old me recognized him right away, too, in 1992 - after he spent more than a decade starring in huge movies and rising to prominence. But maybe I just don't have a fair grasp of the arc of James Earl Jones' career. I know he was nominated for an Oscar early on, but somehow I doubt most young teens knew about Claudine, which would've come out when they were around ten, or even The Great White Hope, which would've been lost to the dustbin of time since they were five when it was released. But - like I said - maybe I'm wrong, though.
posted by koeselitz at 9:37 PM on April 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


My recollection is that JEJ being DV's voice came out unofficially sometime in the wake of ESB, and at the 11am opening day showing of ROTJ I ditched school to see (don't tell my parents) when his name came up in the credits for the first time there were hoots and hollers and shouts at him finally being credited.

I don't remember any conversation or press or even speculation about who was doing his voice when SW came out. But then, I was 9. Although I digested basically any and all SW stuff that was out at that time, because, well, I was 9. Perfectly targeted at me.

If there are any linkable articles from 1977-78 talking about JEJ doing DV's voice (I know, this is a long shot), I'd love to read them.

Yes, I know, parts of this comment read like a sentence in a P.G. Wodehouse novel.
posted by hippybear at 10:05 PM on April 12, 2015


I was 13 in 1977 and while Jones wasn't a huge star then he was well known enough. I definitely remember seeing him in The Man and in an alien abduction TV movie before Star Wars and also A Piece of the Action which came out a few months later. I also remember having a discussion with my older sister about how uncomfortable she was having a black man as the villain.
posted by octothorpe at 3:48 AM on April 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Huh! Well, chalk that up to me not being very culturally aware. Truth be told, I probably didn't even know who James Earl Jones was at 13 in 1992. But I was rather sheltered, I should say.
posted by koeselitz at 7:09 AM on April 13, 2015


Star Wars, as far as I can tell, has no story at all – or rather there are so many holes in the one it’s got you could explode a planet in some of them

Star Wars Episode VII opening.

Exterior: Tosche Station

Medium shot: Tosche Station attendant (played by Nick Nolte) wiping counter, clearing out debris, spring cleaning.

*picks up bulky paper wrapped package*
*examines it*

Dialogue: "Aw, hell, that kid's never gonna show up"

*tosses old power coverters*
posted by Smedleyman at 9:55 AM on April 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


I like Robot Chicken's take on power converters better.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:12 AM on April 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I think what's amazing is that there's so much stuff in this review that reads to me as a very modern, sophisticated take on the structure of science fiction and fandom, human diversity, the idea of genre as "childish," etc., and now I realize that SRD was already there in 1977, waiting for everybody else to catch up.

Anyone that is surprised by the level of sophistication in a Samuel Delany review hasn't read his non-fiction. The Jewel- Hinged Jaw and About Writing are essential pieces on writing in general and on Science Fiction in particular.
posted by rtimmel at 1:26 PM on April 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


If there are any linkable articles from 1977-78 talking about JEJ doing DV's voice (I know, this is a long shot), I'd love to read them.

Enjoy.
posted by The Tensor at 3:47 PM on April 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm going to chalk it up to the latent racism society has taught me that I am learning to recognize in a hope to obliterate from within myself that my first reaction to The Tensor's list was "Jet"?!

But very cool, and thanks! I had not seen any of these.
posted by hippybear at 1:34 AM on April 14, 2015


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