Star Wars and Science Fiction

Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

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From the Salon site:

Until "Star Wars" came along, you could fool yourself into a sort of progressive vision of science-fiction history, with TV and movie milestones like "Star Trek" and "2001" marking the progress from a mire of galaxy-saving princesses and heavy-breathing heavies toward a more grown-up universe, one in which the creators of science fiction tested new visions of human and technological possibility in the laboratory of the imagination. With the triumph of Luke and Leia and Darth, we had to face the cruel truth: For most people, space opera was, and would remain, the public face of science fiction -- and the stuff we cared about, having, for a brief spell in the late '60s and early '70s, seized the spotlight, would slink off once more to the cool margins.

Like most of my science-fiction-loving friends, I got over it, eventually, and even found some room in my heart for "The Empire Strikes Back," which suggested deeper ambitions for the "Star Wars" saga -- ambitions that, alas, each subsequent installment has betrayed. Today my perspective is more forgiving. The history of science fiction, as of anything else, isn't so linear; progress happens all the time, just not across the board. There's room enough on the planet for both "Revenge of the Sith" and "A Scanner Darkly."

But, you know, really, only one of them has a right to be called science fiction!



-- Scott Rosenberg​
Comments? Complaints? Concurrences? Share 'em!​
 

Leto

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As always, Salon has an elitist point of view. Reminds me why I don't read it anymore.
 

Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

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They also have articles with a less jaundiced view on the movies up.


As a long-term follower of the written SF genre, I find little to quarrel with in Rosenberg's points, except that it is worth noting that fare like SW provides two elements that the new wave crowd, like Disch and Dick, often forgot about - fun. And a sense of wonder. Then again, there are enough writers like David Brin and Iain Banks who're able to do that and tell a weightier story.
 

Brian G Turner

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It's an important point to rmember that science fiction fantasy is a multi-faceted genre. While some people may prefer the more intellect challenging constructs of speculative fiction literature, Star Wars was pitched in a different medium for a different audience - and it's fantastic success can be driven down to a multiple precepts, notably the application of deep-rooted symbols from the human psyche, coupled with a visual revolution in film-making.
 

Leto

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knivesout said:
As a long-term follower of the written SF genre, I find little to quarrel with in Rosenberg's points, except that it is worth noting that fare like SW provides two elements that the new wave crowd, like Disch and Dick, often forgot about - fun. And a sense of wonder. Then again, there are enough writers like David Brin and Iain Banks who're able to do that and tell a weightier story.
Sure, but do we have to read weightier story all the time ? Movie and novel you read just for fun, even forgetting your brain at the entrance, is a way to enter SFF realm, then you can go a littler further into more "intellectual" stories. Remember, Total Recall, the movie wasn't sold as a very intellectual one but it led some new readers into K Dick.
What I disliked is his sentence
But, you know, really, only one of them has a right to be called science fiction!
. Who is this guy to decide what should be called science fiction or not ?
 

Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

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Movie and novel you read just for fun, even forgetting your brain at the entrance, is a way to enter SFF realm, then you can go a littler further into more "intellectual" stories.

A good point, but given that mass entertainment manifestations are what first defines any genre for most people, it's worth noting that things like the SW franchise put as many people off the larger world of speculative fiction as they do pull 'em in.

Who is this guy to decide what should be called science fiction or not ?

I salute your indignation. :)
 

Leto

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knivesout said:
I salute your indignation. :)
A professional one. If I'm not complaining about bad journalism at least 5 times every morning, I'll start complain about my own work.
 

Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

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In Rosenberg's defence, this piece was offered as one in a series of opinion-pieces by former Star Wars fans explaining why they no longer subscribe to the franchise. I agree that in the context of feature reporting, such a statement would have been out of place without some justification and reasoning behind it.

I constantly complain about every form of bad communication I come across - whether it's in journalism, advertising, or what-have-you. :p
 

Leto

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Then, Sir, the precision of the context of your excerpt (sp ?) is missing. That's bad communication too. ;)
 

Winters_Sorrow

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I agree with Brian. There's plenty of room for both.
There's some people who like Solaris and hate Star Wars and the reverse. And there's some who like both.
If every movie was intensely thought provoking I probably wouldn't watch as many... :D
 

Rane Longfox

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I'm obviously having a blonde moment... What point is that guy actually trying to make?:confused:
 

dwndrgn

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knivesout said:
Just as long as the alternative to 'intensely thought provoking' isn't 'intensely mind numbing'. Oh wait, it's too late for that now - already seen the Matrix movies. :p
Ahh, but how would we enjoy, or even recognize a good movie if we didn't have something to compare it with? One of the best ways to recognize greatness is to compare it with what has already come to pass and measure it by that standard.

When Star Wars came out originally, it was seen as an amazing movie. Why? It was new and different. It was imaginative. The characters were cool, had cool gadgets and outfits. It had a heartwarming story and an identifiable hero. Not because it was great science fiction. It wasn't even so-so science fiction. Arthur Clarke probably yelled at the screen several times (I can imagine) "that wouldn't work", "what about the atmosphere?" "what kind of silly spaceship is that?". So why do people now want great science fiction? A 'continuation of the legacy' that is Star Wars would be more movies with cool gadgets/outfits, identifiable heroes (and villains) and a basic good over evil story. To me, while the latest in the franchise haven't been as interesting, I must say that they fit in with the franchise.

I've never been a huge Star Wars fanatic. I did see it (at the drive in :p ) when it first came out back in the 70's. I saw the sequels. I even own the original trilogy 'special edition' on VHS. Yet, I've never dressed as Princess Leia to attend the premiere. I don't own any action figures (unless you count the stormtrooper pez candy dispenser that I couldn't resist for a dollar :) ). I don't use the Star Wars theme as my personal ringtone. However, for some strange reason it irks me when people criticize these movies because it has not lived up to their personal expectations. Sure, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but they should mention that the movie didn't live up to their imagination and that is why they were disappointed. They generally say otherwise. I hear lots of criticism of Lucas. For the very reasons he was lauded back in the day. Overuse of special effects? Take out the special effects and the original is a dreary wasteland of overacting. Wierd new characters? What would you call Jabba the Hut?

Thomas Wolfe said it best; "You can't go home again."
 

littlemissattitude

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dwndrgn said:
However, for some strange reason it irks me when people criticize these movies because it has not lived up to their personal expectations. Sure, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but they should mention that the movie didn't live up to their imagination and that is why they were disappointed. They generally say otherwise. I hear lots of criticism of Lucas. For the very reasons he was lauded back in the day. Overuse of special effects? Take out the special effects and the original is a dreary wasteland of overacting. Wierd new characters? What would you call Jabba the Hut?

You know, what really bugs me is the people who try to claim ownership of the story and get upset that Lucas didn't do things in the later films exactly the way they wanted it done, or that when he reworked the original trilogy he messed with something they liked. I've got news for them...it's his story, his characters and, very frankly, his to do with whatever he wants. But there are folks who act like they were deliberately betrayed because everything isn't just exactly the way they want it. Those are the folks who I'd like to shake by their lapels and tell to get a life.

As far as the bigger questions JP raised here...I get very uncomfortable when anyone tries to read what they don't like or don't think is "good enough" out of a genre. Somebody once said (and I think it was a sf writer, although I can't recall names right now), "97 percent of everything is crap." (Well, he didn't use the word "crap", but this is a family-friendly site, after all.:p ) I don't think that anyone has the right to say that the only work that should be admitted to any genre is the 3 percent that is "brilliant", or "relevant" or "significant". Who'd be the gatekeeper - everyone's taste is different, after all.

JP, you said:

it's worth noting that things like the SW franchise put as many people off the larger world of speculative fiction as they do pull 'em in.

I think, and this is of course just my opinion, that anyone who would judge all of speculative fiction by the one collective example of "Star Wars", or by any other film (or series, such as "Matrix" trilogy) or book, needs to widen their sample a bit before they go off making decisions on an entire genre.
 

BAYLOR

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Star Wars is more in the vein of sci Fantasy and then science fiction . The Force , the Jedi and the Sith but, so what ? it entertains and there plenty of room for films and stories like this within the science fiction genre .:)
 

Swank

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Couldn't find anything older to excavate? Is there any list serve Chrons material?
 

BAYLOR

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Couldn't find anything older to excavate? Is there any list serve Chrons material?

Swank , Im sorry I do a bit carried away . :(

Besides , lately I can't come up with any good topics of my own . :(
 

BAYLOR

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Lucas originally wanted to do a Flash Gordon movie :)
 

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