krpalmer: (mimas)
[personal profile] krpalmer
The new month's issue of Saga Journal is out, and I took a look at its essays. I found [livejournal.com profile] ladyaeryn's piece really quite good, both for its interpretation of Padme's story and, I must admit, because I wanted to believe its argument that her character remains consistent in taking action through all three movies, as opposed to the lamentations that she didn't have enough to do in Revenge of the Sith before dying.

Matthew Recker's essay, though... left me compelled to respond to its blunt title of "Star Wars is a Fantasy." It's probably my own fault. As an SF reader, dreaming outwards and ambiguous about a time without indoor plumbing and electric light, at times I get a little too prickly about comments that something "isn't science fiction"; they sound a little too much like curt dismissals to me. I suppose I may be a "lumper": I can accept that one work is less perfectly "science fiction" than another, but so long as I give two things on a blurry continuum the same name I'm happy.

Trying to build beyond that first gut reaction, though, I found myself questioning the argument that the Force makes Star Wars fantasy. I can dredge up all sorts of SF works that combine interstellar travel and psychic powers, from E.E. "Doc" Smith's "Lensmen" saga to Isaac Asimov's "Foundation" series to Frank Herbert's "Dune" to Larry Niven's "Tales of Known Space..." and yet, all my examples do seem to date back to before the 1970s. Psychic powers seem to have drifted out of vogue in science fiction's tool kit, and in trying to find an explanation I started wondering about some general publications from the 1970s I've found in the years since. They seemed very credulous about the whole spectrum of "the unexplained," from ESP to the Loch Ness monster to the Bermuda Triangle, and perhaps this mainstreaming of it and the sense of a "flight from reason" made it a bit less appealing to the rationalists who've always played a large role in science fiction.

Of course, it could be that the portrayal of the Force as a power in itself, one that in some ways helps to define things that are good and things that are evil, makes it seem less "science-fictional" to many. (Not that the vast majority science fiction would disapprove of Star Wars's definitions of right and wrong, of course! Still, "right" and "wrong" do at times seem to be treated from a narrower sense.) If the Jedi came across more as scientists and less as mystics, if the Force was more explicitly something to be controlled, the debate might be different. Or, perhaps, if the world-building was more elaborate and careful, if time was taken to explore the ramifications of the corruption and collapse of a galactic system and the problems of insurgency... but as interested as I was when I first spotted efforts to analyse the movies as "documentary reality," I began after a while to wonder if those analysers found it especially easy to "miss the point" amid sober discussions of Walker armour strength and stormtrooper targeting on Endor.

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