STAR WARS on Trial: Charge #6 – Is it only pretending to be Science Fiction?

Does the Star Wars on Trial charge of being more Fantasy than Science Fiction have a leg to stand on?

You might see Star Wars in a different light in this Star Wars on Trial: The Force Awakens book, which puts the Star Wars movies on trial for several different charges.  Science Fiction authors David Brin (for the prosecution) and Matthew Woodring Stover (for the defense) call witnesses to argue their case, and we’re going to focus on the charge of whether Star Wars is guilty of pretending to be Science Fiction, and is really Fantasy instead.

star-wars-on-trial-force-awakens-editionI got a chance to read over this particular section of the book regarding this charge, and as with the other charges, the arguments are well thought out and very thought-provoking, especially for us Star Wars fans.

Ken Wharton, a physics professor from San Jose State University and author of the science fiction novel, Divine Intervention, speaks as a witness for the prosecution.  He is joined by Bruce Bethke, also a science fiction novelest.

Firstly, Wharton explains first what the definitions of science fiction and fantasy are, distinguishing science fiction being more related to proven facts on our reality, whereas fantasy is less so, or more about “magic” and the “what-ifs.”

He points out certain events in the films, with Exhibit A being the first line of Episode Iv: A New Hope.

“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away….”

For Wharton, this one line screams at him as fantasy.  He even points out a statement from Star Wars creator George Lucas himself, in which this apparently was stated:

Since it’s based on a very, kind of, old story, and not a high-tech story, it’s more of a fantasy film than a science fiction film.

And as one example, uses this line from Episode IV: A New Hope to show that there’s more fantasy-like lines than there are sci-fi lines:

[The Force is] an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, it penetrates us, it binds the galaxy together.

There’s talk, this time about the Midichlorians, which were introduced in Episode I: THe Phantom Menace, as being more steeped into science fiction, however, Wharton doesn’t buy that this this genuine.

Second witness Bruce Bethke brings in his support for Star Wars being fantasy when he compares it to that of Anime.  He points out the reason for such a comparison and then gives a few comparisons to the similarities between the two.

This gave me something to ponder for several moments, and I have to admit that there’s some weight into their argument.

Scientist and science fiction author Robert A. Metzger, the first witness for the defense, had a very interesting theory in regards to Star Wars and it’s so-called scientific blunders, saying it was pretty much intentional by Lucas as was used as a way of comparing our world with the Star Wars galaxy.

He used his Star Wars films to clue in those few of us who were savvy enough to realize that what on the surface appeared to be a series of films overflowing with scientific inaccuracies and engineering gaffes were actually carefully crafted scientific clues intended to reveal the true nature of our very universe.

He goes on to point out some of those science fiction blunders from the movies and the Lucasisms, meaning those things unique to Lucas films.  But for Star Wars in particular, that meant the Jedi.  He also does point out the topic of the Midichlorians, which I won’t get into here, because frankly, it’s a long argument that you’d be better off reading on your own than my trying to explain it all.

Adam Roberts, the second witness for the defense, approaches the argument with more feelings and using its popularity and its influence on other science fiction movies as a pretty good reason why it should still be considered science fiction.

So: Star Wars a fantasy? No, no, no. Fantasy, and especially High Fantasy in its Tolkienian form, is all about dignity, weight, seriousness and a hidden message of religious profundity. It is monolithic, often ponderous and arthritic, refusing to accept that society and culture has changed and clinging tenaciously to an outdated past. But SF—the best SF—the sort of SF that Hitchhiker’s Guide and Star Wars exemplified—is the very opposite of this: it is synthetic and diverse in itself; it delights in sprawl and incongruity; it embraces change and traffics in polymorphous joy

All in all, there are very unique and clever arguments for both sides of this debate.  I have to admit that what Ken Wharton had to say had given me pause to reflect on what he was pointing out, and I have to say that I kind of agree with that.  However, looking back on Adam Roberts’ argument about the joy of Star Wars, I have to contend with the fact that I will always think of Star Wars as a science fiction series, despite the arguments made.  If anything, I can say that Star Wars is science fiction with a touches of fantasy elements in it.  I think that’s what makes it such a successful series overall.

So, what do you think?  Do you think Star Wars is guilty of pretending to be Science Fiction when it’s really Fantasy?  Or do you support Star Wars as always being science fiction?  Enter your comments below, and if you would like a chance for a copy of Star Wars on Trial: The Force Awakens edition and read all the charges and arguments for yourself, enter our giveaway below!

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