Star Wars as science fiction?
Posted March 19, 2008on:
(Yes, I know, countless geeks online have had this discussion ad finitum.)
Astonishingly, I think I may become one of those SF readers who hold to the view that one can’t simply plop a space ship into your novel and automatically ascend into the ranks. Take Star Wars, for instance. I know that genre fans place it in the SF romance pile but as Robert C. Wilson has led me to a new fascination I can’t afford, the Lucas films look nothing so much as a mishmash of Lord of the Rings and Camelot. It occurs in space and they get to fly around in beat up space ships and zing around fancy swords but does the technology impact their understanding of themselves, their philosophies, anything? Do we even have to know how any of it works beyond plot utility? The asthmatic whats-his-face’s Deathstar may as well be the ring of doom, except with less flexibility because a gun is a gun is a gun.
This is unfair to Star Wars because the sequels aspired to be nothing more than great B movie shlock but films are what make up the bulk of my SF experience so far. I also blame SF fans who have hollered long and hard for the genre’s distinct identity separate from (and superior to) fantasy. If I read a SF work and don’t find my mind operating in a notably different way I tend to lose interest; while I hold an innate interest in elves, gods and sea monsters, well-lit flying saucers and oogy green men don’t hold a similar basic appeal.
By the by have you read any Georges Simenon? He wrote some weird little thinkers (or roman durs as he preferred to call them). Norman Rush, in the introduction to Tropic Moon, rightfully brought up Graham Greene’s work and his attitude towards it, but after I finished the very short novel (133 pages) my thoughts fell on Joseph Conrad. If I can allow Simenon the legitimate investigation in colonization’s effects on the colonizer with less focus on the colonized why can’t I do the same for Conrad? Maybe if his book had a better title; I’m so over the “Dark Continent” bullshit.
Which reminds me of a little rant I’m brewing about the Virginia Quarterly Review and the angle they choose to pursue when covering different peoples. I must get over my ire about the cover choices first and, you know, read the content before I can make any substantial complaints. But perhaps you can see the difficulty. I don’t need to tell you which ones are the African issues. We all know (sub-Saharan, because who needs those random countries up top there…somewhere? Are we even considering them a part of the continent anymore?) Africa = misery. As if it has any art and culture to put on the cover. (Or to put within its pages judging by the need to get Art Spiegelman, as an example, for certain issues and not for others.)