Varily I say unto thee…mine own brilliance shall be in italics. While normal font is for the other persons complaints. [note yep gonna do my own bitching about this one so be warned.]
Most people think of science-fiction as being about the future; it’s a genre that explores possibilities, from Dr. Frankenstein’s invention of artificial life to Ursula K. Le Guin’s world populated by humans who have all evolved into single-gendered hermaphrodites. What might happen if? What could happen when? Sci-fi thinks about new technologies, new societies, and new ways of being, good or bad.
It also is simply a way to tell a story in different circumstances, with a different but somehow familiar setting to us. Even if it is far in to the future. However. I got a sneaking suspicion this dude wants to whine about transgenderism, and equality and be preachy whilst he does it. Hang on lets find out shall we?
And then science-fiction fans turn to the new Star Wars trailer, and find, not the future, but a reshuffling of 30-year-old detritus. There are the storm troopers, there’s the Millennium Falcon, there’s Tatooine, there’s one of those cute droids we’re always looking for. There’s nary a pretense that we’re actually supposed to be imagining a different world. Instead, the pleasure is in reshuffling the old, worn-out bits. Nostalgia is so paramount that even minor tweaks become the grounds for think pieces and extended canon questioning. Are there black stormtroopers? What’s up with the new crossguard lightsaber? Explain why these new toys are not exactly the same as the old toys, and be quick about it!
Uhhh…Noah? Have you actually READ the novels that up til now have been considered universe canon? Seriously? It’s all just variations on a theme. Same or similar tech…because the books cover from the end of the original trilogy up through about what? 50yrs or so AFTER? Same or similar tech. Same or similar story lines with some possible history of how we got there mixed in. Pop ups out of nowhere of a resurgence of the evil empire and the sith. Some new baddies thrown in from time to time for good measure. Now I will give you the cross guard light saber. I myself just find that one heinously stupid and unimaginative. OTOH we’re dealing with Disney now….and while I love the early stuff. The poor bastards haven’t had an original thought in recent years. As for the black storm trooper? It’s open to debate. Some predict the species homosapiens…if it survives [which I have grave doubts about given the enshrining of and praising of gross and willful stupidity]….. that man will be a blend of all the features of the various tribes of the race of man. And that our skin town will probably be various shades of brown…ish. Interesting argument that one.
Admittedly, Star Wars never billed itself as a forward-looking endeavor. It’s not even supposed to be set in the future, but rather “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.” The cobbled-together, backwards-looking aesthetic of the franchise is part of its charm (as I’ve written before.) Still, if you watch the Star Wars trailer and then immediately afterwards watch Ursula K. Le Guin’s speech at the National Book Awards, where she won a medal for Distinguished Contribution to Letters, you’re likely to get ideological whiplash.
Hmmm seems I might have been right doesn’t it? Or I suppose he could just be a LeGuin fan boy.
Over here is Le Guin, taking a stand for science fiction on the grounds that “we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope.” And over here is Star Wars, showing you more pictures of the Millennium Falcon. So much for Le Guin’s call to elevate creators who know “the difference between the production of a market commodity and the practice of an art.”
Okay fanboy. Stop complaining.. if there wasn’t a market for it. If Star Wars fans hadn’t been DEMANDING this for decades…do you honestly think these films would be getting made? No. Honestly? I personally would rather they made one of the trilogies that were written. Zahn’s Admiral Thrawn trilogy for instance. But Disney proved they don’t give a shit that a good portion of us would rather that, then the direction they are probably going. They proved that when they made the defacto announcement that the last 20 years of novels set after the original trilogy are NOT canon. The ONLY reason I have any hope at all for this trilogy is JJ.
It’s not just Star Wars either. Science fiction is everywhere in popular culture, and it seems like it’s managed to be everywhere in the present by largely jettisoning the future. The massive, major franchises are all decades-old; the triumphal rhythmic successes of Star Wars and Star Trek and Dr. Who vie with sporadic reboots of Robocop or Planet of the Apes. Even newer stories, like The Hunger Games or Divergence feel less like fresh visions than like re-toolings of stagnant dystopias. Poor George Orwell wants his panopticon back.
Oh puhleeze. Have you ever considered that those are the futures we may end up with? Okay disclaimer here. I hate the damn dystopias myself by and large. Especially the recent spate of teen angsty crap.They bore the ever loving hell out of me. My 10yr old niece was stunned when I told her on the phone recently that I don’t LIKE the Hunger Games. That I only watch the movies for the sake of her, her sister and their mother. Or have any interest whatsoever in Divergent and Mazerunners. I take issue with your including Dr Who in this but that’s probably because I’m a Whovian. I also despise all the reboots that have come out in theatres. OTOH I understand that hollyweird except for some rare moments of brilliances, hasn’t had an original thought in…well hell, since about the time I was born. Certainly hardly any in the last decade or so. Seriously it’s jettisoned the future? Have you been reading much sci fi lately? If there’s stories that give no hope for the human race…then maybe it’s because of special snowflakes that man will have not much of a future. Least not the one many have dreamed of since we started the space race and put men into space and on the moon
It’s no accident that the most ubiquitous, overwhelming sci-fi sub-genre around is the one that has the least to do with the future: superheroes. Much of the superhero genre, in fact, is devoted to the fantasy that we don’t need to wait for technological marvels, but can experience them right here, right now. More, we can do so, magically, without the comfy old familiar world we know changing that much at all.
Noah…do you not recognize the adults pining back to our childhoods in these films of superheros? The joy of simply reliving things that made us happy as children, comics and cartoons…given new life? Qualifier. I’m getting tired of Transformers..Stop murdering my childhood..Michael Bay you raging asshole! And the less said about the recent reboot of the Turtles the better. I like having my childhood brought to teh big screen. I think a number of them[ turtles and transformers] could have been done a hell of a lot better. Though the special effects of the transformations and how they realized vehicles transforming was pretty damn good. The stories though…
Tony Stark invents new magical energy sources three times before breakfast, but he uses them mostly to punch Thunder-Gods in the head, rather than, say, to completely transform the world’s technology and economy. Aliens land on earth, and rather than conquering England with H. G. Wells or forming an utterly new human race through tentacle-sex gene splicing a la Octavia Butler, they perform minor acts of altruism while taking their shirts off to reveal the pecs of Henry Cavill. Superheroes are sci-fi wonders without consequences, the future resolutely flattened by today.
Uhhhhhhhh. Let it go man. Smoke some pot, drink some brew, indulge in the munchies and watch Scooby Doo or something and chill the fuck out will ya? God Damn.
Iron Man and Superman and most of the other superheroes with film deals are even older than Star Wars; compared to Batman, Han Solo is a fresh-faced whippersnapper who has not yet been turned into a commodity. Still, whatever the exact age of the antihero, the takeaway is the same: progress presented in timeless vacuum. American capitalism is dedicated to the cult of growth, expansion, and the new boss ever bigger, better, and cooler than the old. It’s an ideology of eternal improvement, and pop sci-fi fits that presumption neatly. Technology advances and humans mutate into X-Men without ever prompting a consideration of ” alternatives to how we live now.” The future, outside of time, brings empowerment but no change
Apparently he didn’t take my advice
Some fans argue that Star Wars is not sci-fi but fantasy, complete with force-wielding wizards. I don’t think that’s quite right, though. Fantasy has its own tropes and its own timelessness, but a changeless dream of the past is different than a changeless dream of the future. Harry Potter is nostalgic for a world of quills and noblesse oblige, where magic takes the place of modern technology and the folks with the power are clearly separated from the folks without. Star Wars is nostalgic too, but, like with superheroes, that nostalgia is directed not toward the past, but toward an ongoing future of awesome gadgets and self-actualized New Age ninjas.
Actually if you look at it…Star Wars really IS a fantasy story set in a future sci fi world. Wizards, Kings, Emperors, Unicorns, Pixies, Goblins, swords and sorcery oh my! Doesn’t mean I don’t just love the hell out of it though. Hell what is Han but a D&D style thief/rogue trope. [okay I’ll await the arguments that I’m wrong on this one. :P] Luke the reluctant knight fantasy trope. Ninjas? Where the fuck do you get ninjas for satans sake? Are you sure you aren’t confusing yourself?
Never mind forget I asked that last question.
Tomorrow isn’t a potential where things might be better, or even different; it’s just a place to rearrange the robots on a Titanic that never sinks. Progress has conquered the present so thoroughly it doesn’t even need to push forward anymore. In pop sci-fi, we’re all always already picking up the shiny new old lightsaber; there is no other future, and no other dream.
Bitch please. Stick a tampon in your butthurt butt, take a midol, and a sleeping pill and go pms in your dreams instead of irritating the rest of us with your whining with a voice that’s like finishing nails across a chalkboard.
I’ll note to my readers that I do believe this article was longer when I first saw it day before. IIRC it was 3 pages long. Guess it’s had some editing if that’s the case. Probably just as well don’t you think?