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Monday
Jan022012

Is Star Wars a travesty of science fiction?

Robert J. SawyerRichard Brenneman's Eats Shoots n Leaves blog has a post about science fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer's critique of Star Wars, together with three YouTube clips which pair Sawyer's critique (given as a lecture at the University of Waterloo in October 2007) with images from the science fiction works he discusses. 

Sawyer argues that Star Wars' famous opening, "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far way" invites viewers to turn off their critical thinking skills. By contrast, works of popular science fiction in the 1960s and '70s like 2001 and Planet of the Apes tackled contemporary social issues and challenged their audiences to see their own worlds in a different light. 

Sawyer's critique culminates (in part three of the YouTube videos) with an attack on the plot of Star Wars in which he depicts Artoo and Threepio as slaves of plantation-owner Skywalker and Kenobi as a collaborator in this disenfranchisement. (A similar criticism has been made of the Phantom Menace, in which Jedi acquiescence to slavery is far more explicit.) 

Brenneman's post describes Sawyer's critique as "devastating". I do not agree. The big problem with Sawyer's take, in my view, is his premise that Star Wars is science fiction at all. Science does not appear to me to have been of any interest to Lucas. What motivates much of his story is the opposite of science--religion, or possibly magic, in the form of the Force. I think it unfair to range Star Wars against works of science fiction. The proper comparison is to works of fantasy like Lord of the Rings, or fairy tales and myths. Sawyer sets Star Wars up for a fall by comparing it to Star Trek, 2001, Planet of the Apes and other science fiction works which preceded it but did not inspire it. 

Eats Shoots n Leaves: Star Wars as a travesty of science fiction

Robert J. Sawyer on Star Wars (YouTube video part 1 of 3)

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Reader Comments (1)

Star Wars is clearly FANTASY, not scifi. The Force, for crying out loud--the Force! Guys with energy swords! Space stations larger than moons! nothing science-based in the least. But such fun!

March 11, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermatt

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