We didn’t say “break the Internet” back in 1999, but if we did we could certainly say that science-fiction author David Brin broke the Internet when he wrote in Salon that “Stars Wars belongs to our dark past. A long, tyrannical epoch of fear, illogic, despotism and demagoguery that our ancestors struggled desperately to overcome, and that we are at last starting to emerge from, aided by the scientific and egalitarian spirit that [George] Lucas openly despises.” According to Brin, whose best-selling novels include The Postman, Earth, and the Hugo Award-winning Startide Rising, he received 900 emails on the first day his article appeared, many of which “had (ahem) very little good to say.”
Since then Brin has published a steady stream of critically praised novels, including his most recent, Existence. He is also a planetary astronomer who serves on the advisory council of NASA’s Innovative and Advanced Concepts group. Not too long ago, he wrote for us about why “2015 Was the Best Year Ever in Space.” It’s suffused by his love and passion for space and adventure—both real and imagined. That devotion explains why he has remained an ardent observer of the Star Wars films—he is the “prosecuting attorney” in the book Star Wars on Trial, a mock court case about the pros and cons of the films, featuring other writers—and so we couldn’t resist checking in with him about the new trilogy. His feeling for the subject was apparent in our conversation.
Did The Force Awakens improve on the previous films?
Abrams and Disney appear to have backed off from George Lucas’ heavy-handed propaganda. The first Star Wars film, Episode IV: A New Hope, spoke wistfully about democracy and egalitarian values. The force was only a little bit about talent and more about training: Obi-Wan offers to teach it to Han. By Episode VI, Lucas’ shift in perspective was becoming plain. More and more the story was about mutant demigods, “chosen ones,” fated from birth to be superior not by quantity, but by basic quality. Lucas became less the egalitarian, intellectually curious creator of the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and more a passionate pusher of the “chosen one” demigod theme. This became explicit when Lucas introduced “midi-chlorians” and mystical genetic mumbo jumbo in the prequels. Referring to Anakin Skywalker’s virgin birth and tying most of the force demigods together—good and evil—all in the same mutant family. His portrayal of the Republic poured contempt. The Galactic Republic never does anything in any the first six films. It doesn’t even try to do anything.
Image: Paramount Pictures