Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Sci Fi Musings

Let's start with the winners of this year's Nebula Awards:   

Novel: Uprooted, by Naomi Novik (Del Rey).  
Novella: Binti, by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com).
Novelette:  “Our Lady of the Open Road,” 
      by Sarah Pinsker (Asimov’s 6/15).
Short Story: “Hungry Daughters of Starving 
     Mothers,” by Alyssa Wong (Nightmare 10/15).
Andre Norton Award for Young Adult SFF: Updraft
     by Fran Wilde.

Congratulations ladies and fine colleagues. (And more about Naomi below.)

== Even good popcorn can make big mistakes ==

Moving from literary masterpieces to... fluff. Apparently evil just won't stay dead.  Perhaps reflecting the state of US politics and morale, Disney and Lucas film show signs of bringing back the most horrendous character in the history of cinema... Yoda.  Just look at the purported (of course, fictional) body count that results from this vile green oven mitt's "wise" decisions.  And across the years I have defied fans to bring up one - even one - bona fide WISE thing that nasty/grumpy lawn-gnome-thing ever does or says.

Along similar lines... Nothing is more winning and charming... and despair-worthy... than this image of Mark Hamill riding the back of a doughty and strong and fiercely impressive (!) Daisy Ridley, in a pose reminiscent of Luke Skywalker's tutelage under that vile green gnome, Yoda.  Why despair-worthy? Because it is emblematic of the stunning lack of imaginative verve not only of the creators of the third trilogy, but its zealous fans. 

Oh sure, I kinda liked The Force Awakens for its characterizations (J.J. Abrams is brilliant at that vital element) and color and lack of evil lucasian messages. (Huzzah for that last bit!) But everyone instantly saw that its plot was a tiresomely slavish and unnecessary utter remake of Ep IV A New Hope. Yet, instead of merely enjoying it, but with a polite-apropos yawn, people actually kvelled! There was jubilation! Why? For a remake? Albeit a well-made and fun one. Still, come on.

Now? All signs suggest that Episode VIII will slavishly remake the excellent Empire Strikes Back.  Truly. Making me ask: Is no one furious that they wrote a story arc in which Luke Skywalker - instead of learning from the horrific blunders of his "masters" - deliberately and knowingly repeats every single blunder committed by both Yoda and Obiwan, down to every last detail?

Oh, sure, dear sweet Luke was always a dim bulb, like falling for it when Yoda fakes his "death" (to avoid answering Luke's questions.) But THAT dim? To recreate an isolated Jedi Order that puts all its eggs in one basket, then lets an emotionally ditzy "apprentice" kill all the pupils. Followed by the master throwing up his hands and going into exile, instead of facing his duty to clean up the mess he made? If this is what Jedi masters do, every single time? Then make the order extinct!

== From Tolkien onward == 

Since 1999 we’ve heard tales about Kyrill Yeskov’s THE LAST RING-BEARER – his riff (in Russian) on Lord Of The Rings, retelling JRRR Tolkien’s classic from the point of view of Mordor.  In this version, the wizard Gandalf “is a war-monger intent on crushing the scientific and technological initiative of Mordor and its southern allies because science “destroys the harmony of the world and dries up the souls of men!” He’s in cahoots with the elves, who aim to become “masters of the world,” and turn Middle-earth into a “bad copy” of their magical homeland across the sea.”

In fact, this interpretation gets some support from – of all people – JRRT himself, who confesses that the Elves were the cause of all the trouble, from the start.  Still, as I explain in my own Salon appraisal – “J.R.R. Tolkien, enemy of progress” --  he could never bring himself to side with modernity; it was just too painful. (Indeed, had I been at the Battle of the Somme, I might have turned against modernity, as well.)

Finally in 2010, Yisroel Markov posted his English translation of “The Last Ringbearer” as a free download.

Moving on... Always Human is a romantic science fiction webcomic about two young ladies growing to know each other and falling in love in a society where nanotech is widespread and used for everyday things like changing your appearance, improving memory, and the like... but some people have too strong an immune system and cannot use the nanotech mods. 

See a lovely profile about my SF writer colleague and this year's Nebula winner for bets novel Naomi Novik, whose series about Napoleanic era sea captains – with dragons – is selling great guns.  

I’m a bit dubious that the copyrights truly are being respected.  But if they are? Well, this is cool.  The Internet Archive's amazing Pulp Magazine Archive now includes all 176 issues of If, a classic science fiction magazine that ran from 1952 to 1974.

== Sci Fi and Time Travel ==

So weird it could be sci fi. Otto Skorzeny, the Nazi special forces chief who sprang Mussolini after he was deposed and put SS agents into US uniforms, later became one of the Mossad’s most valuable assets. A former lieutenant colonel in Nazi Germany’s Waffen-SS and one of Adolf Hitler’s favorites, he later helped Israeli intelligence demolish German companies helping Nasser’s Egypt to build missiles. id Harry Turtledove ever do anything with this guy?

Genuine alternative universe sci fi. The San Francisco to New York Burrito Tunnel! Except that Carter would have been re-elected if this happened.  

I have a weak spot for low budget, indie sci fi flicks that try to do some thinking.  Time travel seems a favorite, with the recent "Predestination" standing out as a faithful expansion on Heinlein's "All You Zombies." I highly recommend the very cerebral and inexpensive "Primer." And from the sublime to the stupid-but-kinda-fun, we recently watched a British semi-pro called "Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel."  It's madcap and silly and immature...

... but I'll still note a few things. For example, they speak of "editors"... fanatic, time-traveling fans who go back to see their favorite geniuses, and kill them just after their paramount moments, so they’ll never suffer later disappointment. One of the characters says: "So they'd do Kevin Costner, right after Dances With Wolves?"

Okay, given what Costner directed next, that's when I started listening. Then the male loser character meets a young woman in a bar, who gushes how cool it is to meet her hero in his youth, before his fame... which is exactly the scenario – almost perfectly cloned in part – from that story I wrote with Gregory Benford called "I Could've Done Better."  (See it in Insistence of Vision.)  After a few more twitches of recognition, I had to ask: if you guys want to send me a message, try going to http://www.davidbrin.com, scrolling down and sending me an email?

And... um... don't you at least owe me a dinner?

== Final Notes ==

I’m not a huge rap fan, but I sure like Gift of Gab and Blackalicious, especially their excellent pop-rap song “Powers,” which is joyful and stunningly original. So, hey, why would I not follow Gift of Gab over to The Mighty Underdogs doing “Droppin’Science Fiction!” Enjoy an extended epic of sci-fi hip-hop!  Seriously!

Oh, want help moving along your own ambitions to do SF? Alex Bear... whose parents are authors Greg and Astrid Bear, …and whose grandfather was Poul Anderson, the best storyteller I ever knew... has a business copyediting for writers all over the globe. “Copyeditors exist to make any piece of writing flow with correct grammar, spelling, punctuation, and readability. Whether you're writing your first short story or your twelfth novel, all writing needs that last bit of shine.” Set your prose free of reader-halting errors!

And finally... here's a kinda cool Kickstarter  (now ended) – a new, two person card game called NEOLITHIC keeps you busy drawing and using new techs like goat taming and pottery in order to rise up the ladder of civilization.  Not quite as ambitious and challenging – and anthropological – as my own game called TRIBES, which takes eight or more players several hours, replicating the fundamental forces of Darwinian advantage that motivated our ancestors. Get both!  And report back if you find a neat way to combine the two. 

69 comments:

Rob Bos said...

Skorzeny featured prominently in Turtledove's series.

Jonathan Sills said...

I'd also like to recommend "A Girl and Her Fed", a sci-fi webcomic by a lady by the name of K. B. Spangler. www.agirlandherfed.com

At the companion site, agirlandherfed.tumblr.com, you can see the early strips with author commentary. Either way, though, it does reward starting from the beginning - so you can see how what starts off as a nameless young Asian-American woman (who seems to be haunted by the pixie-ghost of Benjamin Franklin) being stalked by an almost-as-nameless federal agent (who himself is haunted by a bad computer interface, wired directly into his brain, that looks like George W. Bush and is almost completely incoherent) evolves into a tale of unleashed cyborgs who have to make their own place in the world, with the help of all the dead famous people you'd care to name (although Abe Lincoln's grasp on reality seems more than a little tenuous - and given that a ghost's power depends on its fame in life, that's really scary).

There's also a villain, of course, a product of the Program who never seemed to have any trouble with her implant, and who now boasts an impressive artificial arm and seems to be angling to start a worldwide plague so she can become the most infamous person ever before she dies (and graduates to being the most powerful ghost ever...).

Robert said...

Thank you, Dr. Brin.

Always Human deserves a nod and I hope a number of your more casual readers (those who usually don't bother with the comments section and stay primarily for the blog itself) will partake of it and grow to enjoy this quiet little webcomic which takes a look at what it means to be human... in a science fiction setting where humanity appears to be at peace with itself and with the surrounding world.

Given all the dystopias out there, it's nice to see a science fiction story that has a more hopeful feel to it.

Rob H.

Treebeard said...

LOL @ the Soviet-style culture the social justice warriors are bringing to our civilization. Will none of you "liberals" resist the slide into PC tyranny?

Treebeard said...

I just figured out how Dr. Brin can win a Nebula: get a sex change, change his name to Davina Brin, and write a novel about the Transsexual Revolt on Mars in 2087.

Tony Fisk said...

Skorzeny's feat springing Mussolini inspired the operation to kidnap Churchill in 'The Eagle Has Landed' (although I don't know whether it inspired the actual writing of the novel)

Tony Fisk said...

I see TB gets VD.

Laurent Weppe said...

From the last comment section:

* "It's been six months now since the last attacks, and while investigations are ongoing, I can't see the justification for emergency powers"

Soccer.
That is literally the justification used by the government: since France will held the UEFA Euro championship from June to July, the government is invoking the risk of terrorist attacks happening during the championship to justify keeping the state of emergency going longer.

***

* "I've seen my share of hooligans with knives and razors in Egypt - but wasn't aware of violent protests in France)."

For the most part, protests aren't violent, but hooligans often try to infiltrate the processions and use the anonymity to commit violent acts: normally, there's good coordination between the unions' own security personnel and the police, except this year, it didn't happen, and now the cops are accusing the bureaucracy above them of deliberate sabotage.

***

* "I haven't heard or read about that sort of mass protest in France for a couple generations"

On the contrary, mass protests remain a staple of France's political culture: there's been protests against increasing the age when workers get pension rights in 2003 (one to two million protesters), the protests against the CPE (a specific type of contract that gave employers the right to fire without motives employees less than 26 years old: 3 million protesters, mostly youths) in 2005, protests against the Sarkozy administration's handling of the financial crisis (two million protesters) in 2009, protests against another projects in favor of increasing the minimum age for pension rights in 2010 (two to three million protesters, in several demonstrations between march and november 2010), protests against Gay marriage in 2013 (500.000 to a million protesters), demonstrations in favor of Charlie Hebdo after its slaughter (four to five million people), protests against the change of the labour code this year (around a million protesters).

***

* "Perhaps body cams for riot squads are in order too..."

Some cops are already bringing their own cameras. It's more of a hunch than anything else, but I suspect that the cops who bring their own filming gear aren't the ones who en up beating protesters or trying to steal or destroy the protesters' own cameras.

ZarPaulus said...

Heard of "Stellaris" yet?

Apparently it's a 4X game where you can uplift pre-FTL species, or adopt the Prime Directive, or invade and conquer or enslave them. It depends on the ethos your interstellar empire adopts at the beginning of the game.

David Brin said...

Stellaris. Gotcha. I've long gotten used to not even getting a tip of the hat. No links to books. Nada, zip. Ah well.

donzelion said...

@Laurent - soccer (football) - really? I'd always associated that nastiness with hooligans from across the Channel. Maybe it's my stereotypical view of French je ne sais quoi. But then, it would be very interesting to an American to learn about French fears of terrorism focusing on WHITE terrorists for a change (ah, how the world has shifted in 20 years...back when I started studying the subject, everyone had heard of the IRA, and now, few folks here have a clue).

"For the most part, protests aren't violent, but hooligans often try to infiltrate the processions"
Always, that's a problem, and sometimes, hooligan infiltrators come from the party trying to cast aspersions on the party that was protesting (South Africa is the best example, as the apartheid government hired Zulu thugs to beat up other black Africans). Last weekend's death threats from "Bernie Sanders supporters" to Democrats (which was alluded to) was almost certainly the same gambit - people trying to sow discord among their enemies, when their own side is morally bankrupt. But from what you're describing, that is not what is happening in France - you believe this is authentic. And that is intriguing. So thank you for sharing and I'd love to read more as this develops.

donzelion said...

@Dr. Brin - "Yet, instead of merely enjoying it, but with a polite-apropos yawn, people actually kvelled! There was jubilation! Why? For a remake?"
For a continuation of what they'd feared to have been utterly destroyed and lost, but now appears likely to persist for a new generation. Think of it like a religious revival tent: the revivalists don't inject anything 'new' into their tent-ceremonies, they take the good old stuff that has long been cherished, and make it shiny and 'novel.' The act of preservation can itself be a creative, joyful experience.

So too with Tolkien (did he really read Yeskov's work?). His day job and proclivities made him someone only slightly interested in crafting something "new" - rather than using something old, worthy, that others might shrug off as irrelevant. A bunch of dead languages and myths? bah...meh...how much money is any of that antiquarian nonsense worth? I suspect his hobby of crafting the Middle Earth mythos was an outgrowth of that joyful love of his own, person, linguistic garden of delights.

But as for Yoda - the wisest thing he ever said: "There is another." (To Obi-Wan's ghost/shade, in response to Obi-Wan's "He's our last hope.") After "Return of the Jedi," folks assumed that meant Leia, but it's an unresolved plot hole that is actually a bit of realistic wisdom, following a deeper mantra: NOBODY IS OUR "LAST" HOPE - there is always another (so long as we are ourselves capable of hope). Now, perhaps "there is one other" is the intended meaning (this is Lucas, after all, who came from the 'chosen one born to save us' motif), but as an unresolved plot hole, it's simply possible to interpret as, "there is more than one savior" - more than one (new) hope.

"Because [the Hamill on Ridley back image] is emblematic of the stunning lack of imaginative verve not only of the creators of the third trilogy, but its zealous fans."

I am thinking that Mark Hamill is smart enough to realize that the image, as a joke, would offend the directors (and prevent them from similar nonsense). A joke, yes. And an argument as well. Hamill, the man, prefers Luke, the character, to be more than Yoda II.

But if I presided over an order of failed knights, as their "wise and beloved" green Merlin who screwed up so royally that they wound up killing themselves, I'd go into occultation as well.

As for this bit -
"he later helped Israeli intelligence demolish German companies helping Nasser’s Egypt to build missiles."
In intelligence circles, the guy publicly credited with helping to achieve a thing is almost never the guy who helped actually achieve that thing. This is how sources and methods are secured. Again, occultation. The better story is the human one: how a person who did something horrific might be redeemed by heirs of those he horrified. One thing to be sure of though: there are several reasons why Egypt embraced Soviet missile systems after the '67 war...

Paul SB said...

"We don't need to see your remakes"
"You don't need to see my remakes."
"These are not the stories we're looking for."
"These are not the stories you're looking for."
"Move along."
"Move along, move along!"

Tony Fisk said...

I thought that Hamill/Ridley shot was hilarious! (btw, has anyone else noticed that Hamill's face in publicity shots so far has been rigidly deadpan to the point of gormlessness...!?)

The Force Awakens was fine until Han and Chewie turned up without any real explanation. Not the actors' fault, just bad backstory abetting the slavish adherence to an old rut (and helping establish the feel that this galaxy far, far away was an *awfully* small one). If SW VIII storyline is an Empire remake, Abrams has either no imagination whatsoever,
... or is out to show Lucas how it's done. (which, on the showing so far....!)

Any thoughts on Rogue 1? So far, it seems to be a retelling of TFA set just before the movie TFA was a retelling of... ooh, the mirrors in here stretch on forever!*

*Oh yikes! I think I've just glimpsed the plot, which I'll leave you clever folk to figure out.

Tony Fisk said...

If this is what Jedi masters do, every single time? Then make the order extinct!

Sounds suspiciously like the life cycle of a mindcontrol parasite. Are Jedi and Sith in symbiosis? This puts those midichlorian thingies in a whole new light.

Laurent Weppe said...

* "it would be very interesting to an American to learn about French fears of terrorism focusing on WHITE terrorists for a change"

Oh nonononononono: french authorities are not afraid of white terrorists (although they should: between the destructions caused by farmers a few months ago, threats against public servants and elected officials in Paris after the construction of a new homeless shelter was announced, the multiple threats of murder against the mayor of Verdun when he invited a black rapper to sing during the commemorations of the Battle of Verdun 100th anniversary, and the increase of racists assaults, many white frenchmen are becoming increasingly unhinged).

French authorities are invoking the risk that Daesh's suicide squads will take advantage of the competition to come and commit another slaughter.

***

* "But from what you're describing, that is not what is happening in France - you believe this is authentic"

Yep, as far as I know, the violent rioters aren't sent by the government or anyone but themselves, and are acting independently: the accusation from the police is that their higher ups are deliberately ordering them to let the rioters (who often are multiple offenders, giving policemen enough probable cause to stop, question and search them before they join the protests) to join the processions.

***

* "The Force Awakens was fine until Han and Chewie turned up without any real explanation"

Something that could have easily been corrected: instead of having Han reverting back to his smuggler's ways after his son turned into a Vader fanboy, they should have had Han pretending to be a smuggler on Leia's request, and in fact being looking for Ben: you just need to tweak a couple of dialogues: have Han tell Leia "I spent years on the Order's borders looking for our son without ever finding a single clue, and suddenly I see him, just a few meters away from me, right in the middle of Maz' turf": lampshade hanged, explanation given: the Galaxy Far Far Away isn't that small: Han had been in the sector searching for his son for a long time when the people he was pursuing crossed path with him.

Anonymous said...

Car sitters rack up a Somme in America alone on roughly a 50-year cadence without so much as batting an eye, or perhaps with maybe promises of some future technology that maybe some day might maybe do something about that death-rate. Certainly nothing to-do now, with strong opposition to bicycle lanes and life-saving road diets being typical for the average American car-sitter (and besides, their DOT is broke). One need not the Somme to experience the horrors of modern progress, as one only needs to bicycle or walk about the stroads of America to learn that they are, at best, mostly survivable.

http://www.streetsblog.org/2016/05/16/driver-kills-toddler-in-the-bronx-as-nypd-and-the-press-declare-accident/

Accident. Uh-huh.

Robert said...

Delighted to learn you've seen Predestination and Primer and like them as much as I do. Primer had a strong "this is how it would actually happen" feel throughout that I really liked.

And thanks for the news of Alex Bear, and for the mention of Poul Anderson. You're well up there, but for my favorite SF author, it's a tossup between him and his good friend Jack Vance.

Bob Pfeiffer.

Larry C. Lyons said...

@Treebeard

Will you reich wing trolls EVER stop trolling discussion and comment boards that have nothing to do with your gormless obsessions?

Seriously take your drivel somewhere where it would be appreciated, like WingNutsRUS.com

Ed Seedhouse said...

"Will you reich wing trolls EVER stop trolling...?"

Ooh, an easy one!

No.

No they won't.

matthew said...

I suspect that our "car-sitter" anonymous is a (fairly long-ago)familiar face using the "car-sitter" rants to mess with any attempt at using style-recognition software to identify them. Put a few random comments in, sprinkled with distinctive terminology, in order to build a new profile. After a while, revert to old rants, but continue to sprinkle in the new words, now linked to a more harmless online persona. Maybe true, or maybe not, but makes reading "car-sitter" at least more fun than otherwise.

LarryHart said...

Treebeard:

LOL @ the Soviet-style culture the social justice warriors are bringing to our civilization. Will none of you "liberals" resist the slide into PC tyranny?


I think you are making the same mistake Dave Sim often does, confusing the lives and examples of celebrities with those of everyday people.

My interactions with family and neighbors and friends and coworkers looks nothing like the "PC tyranny" you imagine if you think real life resembles tv shows and internet comment sections.

LarryHart said...

Laurent Weppe:

Soccer.
That is literally the justification used by the government: since France will held the UEFA Euro championship from June to July, the government is invoking the risk of terrorist attacks happening during the championship to justify keeping the state of emergency going longer.


The possibility of a terrorist hit on a high-profile sporting event has been invoked at least since the 1991 Superbowl, when it was feared that Saddam Hussein would cause mischief there.

That was 25 years ago. In the interim, has the reality of such an event happened even once?

Zepp Jamieson said...

"Predestination" did the impossible: made a coherent and complete film from Heinlein's "-*All You Zombies*-". Michael and Peter Spierig, who are Australia's answer to the Coen Brothers, did a steller job on it (I wrote for Electic Review at the time it came out and raved about it.) I highly recommend it.

Robert said...

Actually, Dr. Brin, let's consider for a moment what Luke did when he bailed on the Republic and went into seclusion.

He was perhaps the greatest image the Republic (and Rebellion) had. He destroyed the Death Star, brought about the death of the Emperor, and is the sole member of the Jedi Order, which has passed into legend and is probably considered in a far better light than it honestly was.

What would happen if the First Order killed him publicly?

But let's go one step further. What were the Jedi? They were symbols of hope and unity, they were superheroes and saviors. They were an ideal that no one could hope to truly be... as became obvious after one group of Luke's Jedi pupils turned on the rest of them and slaughtered them. (I very much doubt Ben Solo was alone among the Jedi students in killing Luke's other Jedi students. "Knights of Ren" strongly suggests a group of Force Users.)

So obviously the teachings of the Jedi Order are... flawed. Luke got to see this visibly as his efforts to create a new Jedi Order blew up in his face. So. Would you recommend he try to do this again? Keep training groups of Force-sensitives and watching them turn on one another until he finally got it right?

Or should he do some studying, find out the truth of the Force and of Jedi teachings, until he can determine what it was he did that was wrong? And in that case, is being the sole Jedi Knight left (sorry, at this point Jedi Master) should he be risking his life to kill a bunch of Force Users that went to the Dark Side and risk having no one to continue the REAL job here? To determine how to best create a Jedi Order that doesn't self-destruct?

Luke going into seclusion and doing some research may in fact be the brightest and best thing he could have done. Obviously he screwed things up in trying to teach a new Order. And running off to be a Superman and Save the Galaxy... would probably result in his own death... or worse, his own fall to the Dark Side.

So. Was going into seclusion the wrong thing? Or might this have actually been the smartest course of action... learning the truth of the Force and how not to screw things up a second time?

I mean, when you get down to it... Luke isn't responsible for the First Order. The New Republic is. They shut down its own military, keeping a small force available, and closed their eyes to the Empire reforming into something new and horrific. How is one man supposed to stop all that?

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

But as for Yoda - the wisest thing he ever said: "There is another." (To Obi-Wan's ghost/shade, in response to Obi-Wan's "He's our last hope.") After "Return of the Jedi," folks assumed that meant Leia, but it's an unresolved plot hole that is actually a bit of realistic wisdom, ...


What makes you think this was an unresolved plot hole? My sense of it from back in 1983 (a year that looks exactly like this one, at least after February) was that Leia was the "other", end of story. In fact, many fanboys took that one step further--that the fact that Leia was the "other" Yoda spoke of made it obvious that she was intended all along to be a blood relative of Luke's.

Now if you want an unresolved plot hole, why was there "something familiar" about Dagobah to Luke? I know that's probably answered in derivative works or fanfic, but it never was in the movies. Not even a hint.

Paul SB said...

Something the car-sitter troll is missing is the fact that our modern problems are largely a result, not of modernity, but of our cave-man fecundity. If our ancestors never had more than 2 children per couple, we would still be living in the Stone Age and no one would be getting run over by cars or dying or hardening of the arteries. But the more we reproduced, the more it became necessary to advance our technology to support all that life that did not exist in the Stone Age.

if you don't like modern life, you need to clamp your reproductive system. If you have procreated, you have nothing to bitch about.

Next step is going to have to be technology that can alter our very nature, starting with our taste buds.

LarryHart said...

@Paul SB,

You're a better man than I am for even reading through those posts. As soon as I've detected "Anonymous" and "car-sitting" together, my eye jumps to the next post. "Move along. Nothing to see here."

Zepp Jamieson said...

Larry Lyons: It's tragic when sad puppies get kicked.

Berial said...

@LarryHart
"As soon as I've detected "Anonymous" and "car-sitting" together, my eye jumps to the next post. "Move along. Nothing to see here.""

Same for Treebeard and most of the time Locumranch for me.

David Brin said...


RobH interesting riff on Luke’s possible reasons for going into exile… and I don’t buy it. Repeating every single Yoda & Obiwan mistake is not fixed by proceeding to re-make their other mistakes.

Note also how JJ Abrams wrote off the Republic by destroying it so it could not help the rebels. Huh? The Order destroyed… the … republic? What? Twenty million… a hundred million worlds?

The notion that the Republic would shut down its military when faced with a new emperor is just drivel.

==

I am less cheesed at locum and the ent (good name for a folk group circa 1967?) than you guys. Frankly, I kinda enjoy having them around. And yes, I am that contrary.

Laurent Weppe said...

* "My sense of it from back in 1983 (a year that looks exactly like this one, at least after February) was that Leia was the "other", end of story."

When I saw it as a kid for the first time, I thought that Han was The Other. The thing is, my mothers had read to me the Arthurian legend a little before the movie, and well, my kid's brain was still filled by the tales of the round table, and as a result, from the get go, I saw Leia as Far Far Away's Arthur, and since Jedi knights were, well, knights, Leia couldn't be the "other one" since she already outranked them.

***

* "Note also how JJ Abrams wrote off the Republic by destroying it"

The new republic switches its capital very few years.
As I said in an earlier discussion, I for one adhere to the theory that not only the New Republic wasn't destroyed, but that Snoke never even intended to destroy it: the role of the Starkiller base wasn't to destroy the Republic, which would crush the imperial remnant in any conventional competition, but to bring its citizenry to the Dark Side by taunting them into a revanchist war.

LarryHart said...

Laurent Weppe:

"My sense of it from back in 1983 (a year that looks exactly like this one, at least after February) was that Leia was the "other", end of story."

When I saw it as a kid for the first time, I thought that Han was The Other. The thing is, my mothers had read to me the Arthurian legend a little before the movie, and well, my kid's brain was still filled by the tales of the round table, and as a result, from the get go, I saw Leia as Far Far Away's Arthur, and since Jedi knights were, well, knights, Leia couldn't be the "other one" since she already outranked them.


Your brain worked in similar ways to mine, albeit in different directions. Myself, I had just recently read an adventure series in Marvel's "Epic" magazine in which the masked villain who you're supposed to suspect is the hero's missing father turns out to be the hero's supposedly-dead uncle instead. That got me thinking that Darth Vader would turn out to be Luke's Uncle Owen, who had only faked his own death on Tattoine. I still think that would have made a better story than what we got.

I was very disappointed that "There is another", which I took to simply mean there was another possible champion for good against the Dark Side, had to turn out to mean specifically "another Skywalker". By the time ESB was over, there were plenty of clues that Leia was the "other", but her being Luke's brother came way out of left field. Not to mention how retroactively creepy it becomes when she gives Luke that big kiss on the lips at the beginning of ESB.

We all read our own expectation into these sorts of things, and I understand it's not fair to complain "Lucas wrote it differently than I would." However, I think its a legitimate complaint when Lucas writes a less satisfying story than the movie in my mind.

Robert said...

I'd say "We'll see" but... no. We won't. I didn't go see The Force Awakens in the theater. I didn't buy it on DVD. I've not seen it. I bought the novel, and only got halfway through it before putting it down and getting drawn into Harry Dresden (Dresden Files being far better written). I've no plans to see the next part either. Though Rogue One does look interesting...

That said, there appears to be a difference between what Yoda and Kenobi did and what Luke has done. Kenobi laid a trap for Vader that never got triggered. Seems Vader had a serious hate-on for his home world and never went back until his Star Destroyer caught Leia's ship above the planet. Yoda decided to do god-knows-what in a swamp (though I hope the entire world wasn't a swamp even if Lucas is known for his single-biome worlds).

Luke? He went to Ahch-To, a water world. Wookipedia has this to say about it: The first Jedi Temple was an ancient building established and maintained by the Jedi Order on Ahch-To.

There is one other thing to consider, Dr. Brin. Luke was busy trying to build a new Jedi Order. Then some chap came along, corrupted his nephew, convinced him and some others to go to the Dark Side, massacred his Jedi students, and essentially pissed on his hopes and plans. Now if that happened to me, I'd be rather pissed. And Luke already has been warned about hate and anger leading to the Dark Side.

If he went after Ben Solo and his Dark Side mentor, he'd risk falling to the Dark Side himself. Even those of us who aren't Jedi know better than to rush into something when you're angry... and a betrayal by family likely digs in deeper than just from some random asshole.

Could Luke actually go after his nephew and Darth Gollum without being at serious risk of falling himself? And don't forget... in the original trilogy... Luke fell. He succumbed to hate and anger. He drove his father to his knees and sliced his dad's cybernetic hand off. He stepped back from that moment. He moved away from the edge of the cliff. But he'd gone Dark Side, if only for a minute. And only the parallel of seeing his father with a mechanical hand... and his own mechanical hand... made him realize "he's just like me."

Heck, from what I've read, in one draft of Star Wars, Luke was supposed to have remained Dark Side after the fight with the Emperor. Lucas decided against this. But when you look at Luke leading up to this... he's using mind control on people, dressing in black, keeping secrets, and giving other hints that not everything's kosher with him. Indeed, I have to wonder just why Yoda was pushing him to "confront" Vader one last time. But seeing that you consider Yoda to be the most evil muppet in existence, no doubt Yoda was trying to make Luke fall.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Robert:

I bought the novel, and only got halfway through it before putting it down and getting drawn into Harry Dresden (Dresden Files being far better written)


My wife bought me three of his graphic novels for Christmas.

Robert said...

I strongly recommend the novel series as well. There are several that aren't quite as good, but it's a fairly strong series and quite enjoyable. I really enjoyed the last one, "Skin Games," as it included a fun bit about Hades... who apparently named his three-headed dog "Spot" in the ancient Greek language.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Robert:

Heck, from what I've read, in one draft of Star Wars, Luke was supposed to have remained Dark Side after the fight with the Emperor. Lucas decided against this. But when you look at Luke leading up to this... he's using mind control on people, dressing in black, keeping secrets, and giving other hints that not everything's kosher with him.


Maybe, but except for Darth Vader, black was always the rebel color, whereas the imperial stormtroopers dressed in white.

You might be onto something, though, that if Lucas really bought into the notion that Luke's leaving his training to rescue Han and Leia had to have negative consequences, maybe he did originally intend for that to lead Luke permanently down the dark side, and it would be up to the "other" to carry on. Or maybe the "Children Of Tattoine" would have to pick up where "Tattoine Messiah" fell flat.

donzelion said...

@Laurent - "French authorities are invoking the risk that Daesh's suicide squads will take advantage of the competition to come and commit another slaughter."

A reasonable fear of a known threat then (that, and the lone wolves inspired by Daesh).

For the protests (riots?), I can appreciate the challenge the police face, and balance that against the need to protect the rights to protest. I don't know that cameras will actually tip the scales, but I do think that seeing multiple vantages of the same incident can shed a great deal of light upon it, particularly as professionals and amateurs are contrasted. One cannot necessarily reach 'truth' - but I don't know how else to mitigate propaganda from whichever side might otherwise monopolize the cameras - and perhaps, debate alone (and competition) is sufficient. Certainly a better approach than hoping for the camera wielder to be an unbiased, or the press to be angelic (professionalism is enough of a standard).

donzelion said...

LarryHart - I love the notion of PC tyranny as a threat. Seriously?

Daesh is a threat. The Soviet Union was a threat. But the real danger (in their minds) is folks who think 'n#gger' is a nasty word and would like to ban it from discourse. Or other similar words. By denying the opportunity to use such epithets, they make the folks who want to use them feel bad. It takes a pretty wacky reading of history to perceive that as somehow being equivalent to Stalin.

Of course, what they're really up to is "fighting the war on Christmas" against the phantom menace that seeks to destroy other symbols. Well, I watched the Phantom Menace. It sucked. I hope those guys figure that out too and stop jousting at windmills. Or demanding the opportunity to utilize their preferred slurs freely, and pretending that the freedom to be a bigot - without being held accountable - is worth defending. Sheesh, "Obama said a mean word about those folks who said XYZ! He's just like Stalin! The purge is coming! 20 million Americans are about to be shipped to Alaska to work in the mines..." Bah. Pansy wimps who buy Trump as a 'champion' - because they're so scared of someone suggesting just how pathetic they actually are, and even, refusing to laugh at an off-color joke they liked (how tyrannical!).

donzelion said...

@LarryHart - "That was 25 years ago. In the interim, has the reality of such an event happened even once?"

Off the top of my head, Boston Marathon and Atlanta Olympics (not to mention Munich). Basque separatists promised a ceasefire during the Barcelona Olympics in '92, which was a big deal at the time, but threats are a fixture of international sporting events. There are so many such threats that sifting credible from fanciful is a difficult process. But the play goes on (with a lot more going on behind the scenes than most people realize).

Robert said...

Anyway, my comments were disjointed. It was one of those days when the tangent is strong in me.

Luke sought out and found the first Jedi Temple. This is where Rey finds him at the end of TFA. Now, why would he seek out the FIRST Jedi Temple?

Well, consider for a moment: why would someone seek out the first Bible. Or the first Epic of Gilgamesh? Or any other original for a historical source of data?

Luke wanted to see the original information. And while the original may not be the BEST incarnation... it is still the original from which you build a foundation. And even more... it gives Luke something to build from... and a simpler foundation which could possibly help him detect the errors the first Jedi made which split the Force into Light and Dark Sides. Or even what led to the Dark Side to begin with.

Of course, a better author writing these things would help make things more understandable... but that can have bad blowback. It leads to thinks like mitochlorians if you're not careful. ;)

Rob H.

donzelion said...

@Robert - "let's consider for a moment what Luke did when he bailed on the Republic and went into seclusion."

Perhaps Luke was actually contemplating Dr. Brin's point: should the Jedi Order go extinct? Perhaps that is the real meaning of Yoda refusing to take any more apprentices other than Luke, who had a role to correct another Jedi mistake, but might not be the one to reconstruct the order? Perhaps the whole point is that something within Lucas actually agrees with Dr. Brin: perhaps it is best to let the Order die...who can prove that it actually has something meaningful to offer (to people other than Star Wars fans, who have their own religious commitment)?

@Larry - Leia as the "other hope" Yoda mentions is the only plausible candidate with script to support it, BUT (1) it's never explicit, (2) what interest did Kenobi or Yoda ever take in Leia, and (3) her own catchphrase from Episode IV, "Help me Obi-Wan, you're my only hope." In an episode entitled "A New Hope." But not entitled "THE New Hope." Cryptic, no? In the prequels, one might describe them as the "pitfalls of misplaced hope" - perhaps all this "chosen one" stuff is nonsense? Restoring balance to the universe? Bah.

Who can say what Lucas actually intended (JJ Abrams shrugged off Lucas' own storylines, and led things his own preferred direction). But I like the idea that underneath the fanciful superstitions and grandiose 'chosen one' mythos, that it's the everyday, normal folks trying their best who make it all work. Those unsung legions of pilots, soldiers, diplomats, and others. The 'eye candy' stand in figures, adding not just 'color,' but the actual aesthetic purpose behind it all: why save the universe in the first place? Because it can be beautiful. Oh yeah, and big stuff gets blown up, which can be both tragic and beautiful too.

donzelion said...

As for this - "I am less cheesed at locum and the ent (good name for a folk group circa 1967?) than you guys. Frankly, I kinda enjoy having them around. And yes, I am that contrary."

Locum won my heart by advocating flipping NASA's and DoD's budgets some months ago. I'll forgive much for such a stance. And seriously, if we can't interact semi-anonymously but civilly with folks we often disagree with, what's the point of even trying? There's common ground. (And in my field, the line is: "I may hate what you say, but will fight to the death to defend your right to say it.") It's all good.

Treebeard? Well, heck, he likes Tolkien, so again, one of my people.

David Brin said...

Laurent: “Snoke never even intended to destroy it: the role of the Starkiller base wasn't to destroy the Republic, which would crush the imperial remnant in any conventional competition, but to bring its citizenry to the Dark Side by taunting them into a revanchist war.”

Okay that’s better… and far far too hi IQ for JJ.

Rob: Bah I think the “anger makes you evil” thing of Lucas was one of his 3 dozen truly vile faux-wisdom evil-rants.

First Jedi Temple: “This is where Rey finds him at the end of TFA.” Aaaaaand it never occurred to anyone to look for him there?

donzelion said...

@RobH & LarryHart - "Luke sought out and found the first Jedi Temple. This is where Rey finds him at the end of TFA. Now, why would he seek out the FIRST Jedi Temple?

I concur, but on an existential level (which JJ Abrams may not even be writing about, but which is a fair interpretation). What if Obi-Wan, Yoda, and Luke were all vaguely in agreement with Dr. Brin: why shouldn't this order of knights just go extinct?

I can appreciate the thought of going to the First Temple to seek meaning. As a young man, I visited Jerusalem, looking for meaning and answers to questions about my place in the world. As a less young man, I went seeking clarification: was all of those early thoughts mere vanity? On the third trip, I decided, yes, indeed the thought of objective meaning from such a wellspring was vain, but even so, the place is quite beautiful: the meanings of others cannot touch me, I must construct my own meanings, but I can be at ease with that.

But as for this - "the “anger makes you evil” thing of Lucas was one of his 3 dozen truly vile faux-wisdom evil-rants" - my interpretation wasn't that anger itself makes one evil, so much as indulging in anger (or worse, striving to utilize it to amass power). I still like that view. There are leaders who strive to construct, who try to balance competing factions (who often appear weak by refusing to declare 'evil doers') - and there are the Donald Trump/Rupert Murdoch rage cults of the world, deploying anger to amass power.

Robert said...

From the sounds of the sources I've read, Luke was searching for the First Temple. That it had not been destroyed by the Empire may either mean the Emperor didn't know of it, or he felt it wasn't a threat to him. And that may be because the original Jedi didn't divorce themselves into Dark and Light Side, but actually accepted reality has different gradients of grey. (And in fact, I've been seeing some advertisements for "Grey Jedi" shirts, and a quote which is pretty much superior to the Sith and Light Side: There is passion, yet emotion. Serenity, yet peace. Chaos, yet order. There is no Dark Side, nor a Light Side. There is only The Force.)

That said, I do agree with you within reason. Anger is not evil. Anger which controls you leads to evil. (And that would have been a fascinating bit for prequel #3 - if rather than Force Choking Padme, Vader just stared at her and put the Force Suggestion "Die" in her and she collapsed. The whole "lost the will to live" bit would make sense because she had what has to be one of the more insidious and vile abilities of the Jedi used for harm.

------

Going off on a tangent of course, that makes me wonder about the ethics of telepathy. If someone used mind control to "convince" a person to lay down a gun and surrender... is that not essentially enslaving someone? You stripped their will from them, if only for a minute.

Yet is it any different than a telepath inflicting intense pain (essentially hitting someone with an extremely potent migraine) to disable someone?

Indeed, the use of the majority of "superhero" abilities could be considered unethical. I mean, let's take healing. With all the people out there who are sick and need help... how do you pick and choose? What right do you have to determine who should be healed and who should not? And what right do you have to STOP healing even if it's for your own health and sanity? If you have that power, then should you not use it until you die so that people suffered for the least amount of time? If you choose those in the greatest pain... then are you not discriminating against those who do not match your criteria? But if you just heal whoever is closest, no matter how minor their harm, are you not wasting your talent and hurting those who are in greater need?

For that matter, what of those like Superman? What right does he have to refuse to help people? Yet if he helps everyone, does he not risk making them dependent on his aid? In that case, should Superman be disabled somehow, would his constant aid up until then actually be harmful as it disempowers people to try and help themselves?

Which of course brings us back to the Jedi. Was Luke right in abandoning the galaxy? After all, people don't NEED the Jedi. Can they not help themselves? Should they not?

Rob H.

donzelion said...

@RobH - in an age of digital wonders, how can wondering about superpowers be a tangent?

For the healer, at least one aspect of 'healing power' comes from self-sacrifice (as many doctors find). Many suffer intense guilt for failing to help as many as they could, or for helping one when another who needs help more is turned away. It is fitting to wonder at the ethics of it all. And yet those of us outside their art have no space to judge, but only to speculate.

For Superman, he helped many, especially the young, especially during his time of origin, the Great Depression. Not in fantastic worlds, but in this world, where the thought that an immigrant alien might be the paragon defender of truth, justice, and the American way, even in a country that had severe distrust of 'foreigners' (back then, particularly 'European foreigners' - code for Jewish immigrants). There is the psychology of a fictional character, but there is also the reality of a struggling nation looking for heroes less fallible than Babe Ruth or John Wayne.

For telepathy, I actually like the treatment of tele-empathy in Jessica Jones - a very particular sort of control, which the writers interpreted as a form of rape (the show even explored the possibility of using such powers for 'good' - and shrugged that aside, concluding no good comes from quashing personal control). Our Jedi heroes, by contrast, could work their powers only on "weak minds" (not like those strong cynical minds of Solo-loving individuals who embraced the sereis) - and further, only did so to avert 'evil' - thus dodging the interesting ethical implications. So it goes with so many portraits of evil: they must look like Hitler/Mussolini/Stalin - they must be opposed - operatic motifs and black/white hats.

Still...a piece of me is infatuated with a Bhagavad Gita interpretation of the Jedi: should we intervene, when action itself is so likely to impede liberation? And yet we must fulfill our role, for this is what we are. Lucas, Abrams, and others writing have read at least cliffnotes spirituality, if not more intense study - and at the end of the day, each wants his work to be meaningful, somehow. Even if it's derivative, or a remake of a derivative. And so many found so much meaning within, that I at least refuse to judge, but just to try to enjoy and accept, and be glad of it's existence.

Laurent Weppe said...

* "First Jedi Temple: “This is where Rey finds him at the end of TFA.” Aaaaaand it never occurred to anyone to look for him there?"

Perhaps nobody remembered where the temple was, kinda like how the location of Earth ends up being forgotten in the Foundation series: the Jedi built their main temple on Coruscent and as time went on, the memories of the order's origins faded away.

***

* "my interpretation wasn't that anger itself makes one evil, so much as indulging in anger (or worse, striving to utilize it to amass power)."

Anger, and most importantly revenge.
One aspect where the Star Wars series is clearly atypical compared to your run-of-the-mill righteous fury, revenge-is-the-valid-answer-to-injustice flick is that seeking retribution clearly sets one on the path to evil and their ultimate demise:
When Luke wants to avenge his father and Obi-Wan, Vader easily dominates the fight; when on the contrary he wants to redeem his father, the balance of power is reversed: the final duel lasting longer than it could because for most of it Luke isn't even trying to defeat Vader. Sure, the emperor zaps him afterward, but one of the good things (buried under all the dialogue and clunky plotting) of the first trilogy is that it established that experienced Jedi had not trouble handling Palpatine's force lightning, thus establishing beyond doubt that the emperor gaining the upper hand in RotJ came from Luke still being somewhat inexperienced, not a result of "Evil makes you stronger"
On the other hand, Anakin starts to slip toward the Dark Side when he slaughters the Sand People: that's not simply anger we see in that scene, but an old school vendetta: "You killed one person dear to me? I'll exterminate your whole clan, from the infants to the senile elderly, and I'll feel good about it!".

donzelion said...

@Laurent - The appeal of vendetta is the juxtaposition of the 'pre-legal ancient blood codes' with the requirements of modernity. To that extent, I think Lucas has endorsed modern sensibilities, and the 'prevailing' legal order, rather than the instincts of powerful and enraged. Cut out the hamfisted product and painful dialogue, and the premise is actually a good one: the old ways are seductive, but we must move beyond them to embrace something new.

That same principle, however, may apply to the Jedi themselves - what, if any, place should an ancient order from a pre-modern time have for us now?

An interesting quandary. These days, the Republican insiders like to regard themselves as knights 'conserving' an ancient order against evil enemies (bent on destroying Christmas!). Trump is an expression of an even more primal imperative - carpet bomb the enemies, build the Great Wall of America - make America Great Again by making us a lot more like feudal China. Bush played the "Men of the West" notions in Jackson's opus to justify the war against Saddam/Sauron.

What if Abrams & co. are actually smarter, actually read critiques like Dr. Brin's, actually think: is our work doing anything other than making us money? What if a bunch of silly people mistake the Trumps/Bushes/Cruzes of this Murdochian world for Han Solo, rather than Jabba or Palpatine? What if, despairing of their "only hope" (or at least, their audacious hope), they embrace a far worse monster as a "savior" during the "emergency"? If we bring a gotterdamerung twilight for these 'gods' - will Marvel simply replace us with their own deities and galactic guardians? I like to think of them grappling with grandiose notions over a number of drinks (or other substances), then laughing, shrugging, and trying their best to process something 'cool' while hoping to do no harm.

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

Leia as the "other hope" Yoda mentions is the only plausible candidate with script to support it, BUT (1) it's never explicit, (2) what interest did Kenobi or Yoda ever take in Leia, and (3) her own catchphrase from Episode IV, "Help me Obi-Wan, you're my only hope." In an episode entitled "A New Hope." But not entitled "THE New Hope." Cryptic, no?


Interesting.

Also evidence of bad retconning. Kenobi had no interest in Leia as a potential Jedi in the first movie because the writer had not yet decided that she and Luke were siblings. And that movie wasn't actually entitled "A New Hope" until one or two re-releases later.

Paul SB said...

Larry, Berial (the Vedic, I suppose?) & Don Ze Lion,

Larry wrote,
"You're a better man than I am for even reading through those posts. As soon as I've detected "Anonymous" and "car-sitting" together, my eye jumps to the next post. "Move along. Nothing to see here.""

And Berial seconded with the Trollish Duo.

I'm not sure I'm a better man, I just can't decide whether it is better to ignore bullies or take them on. On the one hand, a bully tends to get bored when you don't react to their posturing & eventually leave you alone. But then, they will just go slash at someone else from under their bridges. On the other hand, when people through out certain toxic memes and they go unchallenged, there will always be those who absorb those memes, mistaking silence for tacit agreement.

In the old days propaganda mostly passed through newspapers, television & radio (on mass scales, though word-of-mouth, classrooms & pulpits have always been big media for propaganda). Now the internet has become a huge medium for propaganda, and you don't have to be a 1%er to use it. But even here we keep hearing their propaganda coming from those who have swallowed it, hook, line and sinker. The powerful have played the game of divide and conquer all through human history. Race, sex and religion are all squirrels that the masters can point to. Every time they shout "squirrel!" the pack looks the other way, and ignores who their true enemy is. Anonymous cowards and other pseudonymous fools now can use the internet to shout "squirrel" along with them. I just want to tell them to shut up about squirrels and turn their teeth to the masters.

And Don Ze Lion, you're a relative newcomer here. I've only been around for a couple years, so I'm a bit of a junior member myself, but in the time I have been hanging around I have seen a whole lot of decent, intelligent people debate their ideas as mature and decent people do - and then there's locumranch and freeboard, who behave like playground bullies and constantly resort to petty name-calling and childish mockery. One in awhile they might say something that is actually intelligent, just as a poor-quality pop star might once in awhile hit on a good tune, but those two have bring the discourse here down to middle-school cafeteria level.

donzelion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
donzelion said...

@Larry - I thought "A New Hope" was appended after Empire came out, so whoops. Still, my ultimate take on misplaced hope and false saviors applies across the board. Whatever Yoda meant (and there really isn't another candidate), the whole notion of hope being vested in a single person is one I'd love to see squelched, and am curious if the Star Wars crowd can do it (skeptical...the 'chosen one' trope is a cash cow).

Instead of a wise leader of a scrupulously necessary knighthood, the midget Confucius, maybe Yoda was just a well-meaning, depressed old puppet wanting to make peace with his mortality and/or think up some new course that might replace the old order, retiring to Dagobah to try to figure out what the Jedi ought to be since they'd clearly failed.

Maybe Obi-Wan was also just an old man, trying to define his place, who at least had the luxury of some purpose with his occasional visits to check on Luke (but the distance he maintained meant he also wanted to avoid training him, unless it became "necessary").

Maybe Luke assumed, as a young man might, that his duty was to recreate the old order and ensure it's survival - but he failed so spectacularly that he quickly reached the same conclusion as his mentors: the order itself is flawed, and cannot continue as it was.

Hopefully, they'll eschew "we must find the ancient talisman of zippededoo and that will provide our fortune cookie answer..." - that's more Marvel territory. There are interesting questions that could be raised as to "what galaxy should we have, when we have no mystical orders?" (Or maybe Ren/Finn will be the new 'gray jedi.')

donzelion said...

@Paul SB - re responding to Locum/Treebeard - "I'm not sure I'm a better man, I just can't decide whether it is better to ignore bullies or take them on."
A good one not to decide, since it really depends on context (there is a time...but not every time). Besides, when bored, Locum at least offers some alternative views that are fun to poke holes in, which can be good practice for one who feels a need to do so (like me). (I prefer the 'circus' metaphor to the 'squirrel' metaphor - people aren't dogs, so much as easily misled, particularly when they want to be misled.)

But with the seniority card pulled, I have indeed been trumped (har har). ;-)

And frankly, I'd rather pick up the messianism thread alluded to earlier in the Dune allusions than prick easy targets. Herbert's treatment is may, in some sense, parallel the Star Wars mythos, albeit out of sequence -
Dune I, the 'false but well-meaning messiah' wrapped in a kickass coming-of-age tale
Dune II, the 'false but well-meaning messiah confronting the price of actual messianism'
Dune III, the process of messianism is ugly wrapped in a weak-ass coming-of-age tale, and Dune IV - the actuality is tedious, so who would actually want it in the first place?

I thought they grew progressively less interesting, and stopped with God Emperor, so perhaps I missed something.

Still, given that creative template about chosen ones (not to mention the history of Earth religions, as at least a mythological source to pull ideas), is it any wonder Abrams remakes 'A New Hope,' rather than offering something new? How many different versions of the Life of Jesus have been made, rather than trying to do an interesting "life of the Apostles, but whose communist conduct must be omitted lest it confuse Americans"? And really, a Philemon story wouldn't play all that well today.

Berial said...

When it comes to Star Wars I find it's best to just take what they give you and hope for the best. When I watch overgrown teddy bears beating the 'most feared troops in the galaxy' with stone age weapons, I kinda lose the desire to think too deeply about the show, ya know? HOPEFULLY JJ has put some thought into it this time around.

As for ignoring some of our posters, some are just one trick trolls. I've seen their trick and am bored with it, so I just ignore them. Over half the time loci is sending us messages from a foreign planet so I try to figure out if he's visiting planet reality before reading his missives too much.

Oh, and Donzelion, you managed to go further than I did with the Dune series. I lost interest about half way through 3. I'm not sure I even finished that one. I used to never do that, (stop reading a series) but after forcing myself to read all of the Thomas Covenant series I broke myself of that habit.

Laurent Weppe said...

* "I thought they grew progressively less interesting, and stopped with God Emperor, so perhaps I missed something."

Herbert should have been more didactic in his later books: some people privilege style over substance, Herbert's style ended up smothering the substance.

***

* "When I watch overgrown teddy bears beating the 'most feared troops in the galaxy' with stone age weapons, I kinda lose the desire to think too deeply about the show, ya know?

What? Leia & her Teddy Bear Armies was awesome! So awesome that when Stallone tried to remake it without the Teddy Bears, the final result ended up being disappointing.

Berial said...

@Laurent Weppe
I love all the 'accolades' that movie got!

SteveO said...

I am more Star Trek than Star Wars, but I keep hoping that JJ Abrams is moving towards a realization like others have mentioned - the Jedi Order was deeply flawed, requiring of its members an impossible price. Combine that with the already discussed ubermenchen-dependence in the Former Republic and you have a very unstable power structure that needs to be stabilized.

Also that the midichlorians are parasites in it for parasitic purposes, not any greater good. They only care about making more midichlorians. War makes good opportunities for contagions...and the midichlorians seem to actively push Anakin to the dark side given a little provocation.

So on the one hand, there seem to be hints that Luke is the first Jedi in at least a while to experience his dark side and...tame? assimilate?...it. So maybe the movies are heading to a more realistic "everyone has the possibility of good or bad in them, it is our choices that make the difference."

On the other hand, wouldn't it be cool if the last movie is Luke hunting down a cure for midichlorians? Deciding that ubermenchen running around, even good guys, is a net negative? And having the moral courage to give up his own superpowers for the good of the sentient races?

Luke said...

Luke's first words right after the end of The Force Awakens is, "I don't need a lighsaber. Get me off this worthless puddle of a planet."

See he only planed to be there 2 days, but his x-wing had engine trouble that couldn't be fix, and ended up trapped for years.

donzelion said...

@Berial - re Thomas Covenant - if only I could laugh Donald Trump out of existence!
@Laurent - re Dune series - well-said. Still, I've yet to read any other Herbert books that resonated like Dune I did, so that may have been just an exceptionally good idea, mined commercially long after the well ran dry. Still, how many authors would dare to write a book about just how tedious the 'messiah' actually proves to be?

re Jedi - I am thinking of the historical Western knightly orders, and what they became (Samurai, so far as I'm aware, were never banned from marriage - the Jedi are a Western vision of knighthood). Templar bankers. Teutonic oligarchs. The Hospitallers morphed into a naval order of marines...and slave-traders - and are the only group that functioned as knights semi-connected to their original mission. (BTW, strong recommendations for Crowley's "Empires of the Sea" - boy's own history, the riveting tale of the valiant last stand of the very diminished, disreputable knights against hopeless odds offers nuggets for those enamored of knightly orders. That's my context for thinking about Jedi.

donzelion said...

SteveO - "On the other hand, wouldn't it be cool if the last movie is Luke hunting down a cure for midichlorians?"

I like it - that's a form of Gotterdamerung that could bring the series to a fascinating, fitting closure. I can see the script being proposed, Abrams hemming and hawing - "Yep, it's a good story, but what about Part 10, 11, and 12? If the Force is banished into superstition and forgotten, will people still watch Star Wars? Of course, if his contract stops at 9, perhaps he'll have an incentive to do just that.

David Brin said...

I like the cure for midichlorians thing... a lot like that 4th x men flick or Batman countering superman. But it won't happen.

A.F. Rey said...

The only good thing out of "The Force Awakens" is that gal from Tatooine. There's something about her I really, really like, although I can't figure out what it is. Hmm...

A.F. Rey

Deuxglass said...

I see Luke's twenty plus years at the ancient Jedi Temple differently. It looks like he hasn’t shaved or maybe washed in a while so he may have been alone in a sense but Luke is a doer and I don’t see him spending all that time just gazing at his bellybutton. Luke is good at fixing droids. His father was a mechanical genius. He even built droids for fun when he was just a boy! Luke inherited his instinctive knowledge of machinery. My guess is that Luke has given up on biological Jedis. He spent his time there building Jedi droids and Jedi AI and they can’t be tempted by the Dark Side because they can’t HATE. He has an army of Jedi droids with light sabers and they will make mincemeat out of the Empire’s clone soldiers. They would be networked and act in swarms guided by AI with input from Luke and his sister. The rightful place of the princes, dukes and counts will be reinstated and all will be well in the galaxy.

David Brin said...

Ooh, cool. Midichlorian infected droids! What could go wrong? ;-)

onward

onward

matthew said...

Re: locum, treebeard, et al

Locum is interesting. I am terrified by his assertion that he is a physician, but I read what he has to say for much the same reason as David has given - he is an alien brain. I hope he is as patient with us as we are with him.

Treebeard is the same old right-wing coward blowhard. I'm bored with what he has to say, but I've pretty much spent my entire life getting into fistfights, yelling matches, and out and out feuds with his type. I'm too old to change, and besides, I enjoy it (righteous indignation junkie, that's me). I apologize to those that have to read what I have to say to him, but I certainly do not apologize to him.

And our "car-sitter?" Like I said earlier, I think that person is even more of a construct than is normal in internet dialog. I certainly sense a pattern there, and I think the pattern is intentional, not a product of internal conflict, just a product of a conscious decision by that certain "anonymous" to use certain phrases and themes to mark their posts as their own. I gave one possible explanation above for this behavior.

**********

Not in the same group as the above, but his own category, Alfred is interesting also. I do not understand how his brain works, how his version of libertarian idealism colors his worldview. As long as I'm not pissing him off (tell me, Alfred, when I get there?) I'll keep on poking away at his ideas, maybe finding some truth, maybe just using his counterpoints to sharpen my own.

donzelion said...

And back to our host, whose essay on Tolkien I once wanted to respond to, and which merits substantial thought. The key critique is here:
Calling the scientific worldview “soul-less,” he joined...many European-trained philosophers in spurning the modern emphasis on pragmatic experimentation, production, universal literacy, progress, cooperative enterprise, democracy, city life and flattened social orders.

Perhaps, on one level. And yet -

(1) Rational experimentation. Tolkien's sensibility was more toward crafting a sort of garden with words, and as many gardeners experiment, without necessarily adding to biological knowledge, their little efforts can pay off remarkably (ask Mendel). The experiment was in sharing that garden, with his son, then more broadly - wondering if anyone might embrace his voluble fruit. If they did, what would they actually desire? Another genealogy chart for Sam? The Elven word for an extinct, but delectable fruit?

Linguists learn by experimentation. The Romantics morphed into Philologists, seeking a common tongue to end wars in Europe, then watching with horror as 1s and 0s of finance replaced their initial vision. No wonder one of them fled to Middle Earth.

(2) Universal literacy. As an author of a beloved work, Tolkien taught many (including me) how to read. As an Oxbridge professor, he doubtless maintained a curmudgeonly disdain for semi-literacy, yet the university system itself is a breach in the ancient tradition of higher education being limited to monastic orders or the extreme oligarchs. Universities are among the finest creatures of the Enlightenment (though these days, with a few trillion dollars of debt, they're morphing into something far uglier).

(3) Cooperative enterprise. The notion that elves, dwarves, men, and hobbits must band together to fight against orcs suggests Tolkien was at least somewhat supportive of cooperative enterprise. A Fellowship splinters and ruptures, but enough fellows remain true to get the job done and save the world together. Even agrarian hobbits have something essential to contribute to that enterprise (and part of me wonders if Tolkien regarded his children as 'hobbits' once upon a time).

Tolkien's vision of 'progress' is not an Englishtenment Rationalist, but it serves the agenda of rationalists by reminding us (us?) of the value of the old. A world sans elves, orcs, dwarves and wizards may be better if it's not beset with cataclysmic wars - but that old world was still beautiful in its way. Tolkien makes space for the 'gardeners' of modernity. While some converts will crassly adopt silly religious trappings (e.g., Whole Foods evangelists), there are both Rationalist and Romantic reasons to love farming.

Strayed Romantics can beget Nazism. Strayed Rationalists can beget Socialism. Tolkien, as I read him, strove for a balance, and if he fell more on the Romantic side, one can attribute that to training as a linguist (rather than a scientist). As I see it, a Romantic faced with the very real risk of losing his son in a war, would strive to distinguish THIS war from the futile effort he'd fought in, and also to express his love of family through his art (and even ponder the possibility of leaving something more for his children, if his books actually sell).

Jefferson, the Roosevelts, and Lincoln are the American leaders who respected the power of Romanticism and Rationalism - and made our country great by fusing the two streams. Never "the only good knowledge is old knowledge" - so much as, the "old knowledge is still good, even if it's old" - along with "new knowledge is also good, even if untested." Or more accurately, a neo-Enlightenment premise: knowledge is good, and respect better.

Respectfully... - D

donzelion said...

And as for Star Wars -

"...despite techie furnishings, relentlessly preaches the nostalgist party line — an ideal society ought to be ruled by secretive-mystical elites, unaccountable and self-chosen based on inherent qualities of blood."

- one hesitates to raise the question, given the risk of misconstrual, but as a Jewish filmmaker, perhaps Lucas was discharging his own internal uncertainties (just as Tolkien certainly was discharging Catholic uncertainties). The old is still good! It must be preserved. There is a legacy and history in the blood that defines a piece of identity, and that is a good thing. But blood identity (or genetics, or midichlorians) cannot be all that matters.

There are crass commercial reasons Disney may opt to preserve the Jedi Order in films to come. But there are also other reasons...perhaps Hollywood itself endorses a concept of a 'knightly order' - not out of a fear of progress, or a desire or intention to secretively control the world - so much as a mix of the painful fear of the excesses of progress, with the painful struggle to answer "Who am I?"

David Brin said...

Matthew you nailed my reasons for tolerating locum and the ent (still a great band name!) Locum as an alien mind, yes, who appears to be in real pain. Treebeard because there's some pleasure in responding to each jab with a much stronger counter that lets me vent my inner asshole. Righteously.

Donzel, in Jefferson's day, romantics were ALLIES of the enlightenment democrats, because Athens had never been rebuilt and was romantically of the past. As soon as the US was underway though, the romantics were appalled by the same things that impressed deTocqueville... shopkeepers and farmers arguing in public and claiming to be the equal of any aristocrat. Romanticism veered ever more toward enmity with enlightenment.

Tolkien? hm. The "allies" aren't very helpful in LOTR. And while his books helped literacy in our modernist world, inside his own worlds there is very very little. The Palantir is way cool, till you realize they could have put one on every desk in Middle Earth and changed everything.

Now I am moving onward

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