On Star Wars

The Joy of Star Wars

By Adam Roberts

The charge is that Star Wars is fantasy masquerading as SF?

Have the Prosecution even seen these films?

Let me try to understand here. Why would somebody think such a thing?

Well, perhaps because they have an unusually narrow sense of what SF is. Sure:

If we are looking for a rigidly and technically exact transfer of “science” into “fiction,” then Star Wars doesn’t fit the bill terribly well. If we want an example of a “literature of ideas,” then we’ll find slim pickings. If our fetishes are seriousness of purpose or emotional maturity then we’d better look elsewhere. But who says that these are the true benchmarks of SF?

There are other forms of SF than the dull and the weighty, the serious and profound; Star Wars belongs to one of those other forms–a specific, joyous and enduring sort. But that doesn’t make it fantasy. (Uh–excuse me–spaceships? robots? a whole planet converted into a giant hi-tech city? Fantasy? Puh-lease!)

Actually I’d better rein in my outrage. Now that I come to think of it, there is something interesting in the charge that Star Wars is fantasy: it reveals something important both about the Prosecution’s preconceptions about the genre, and their shortsightedness about Lucas’s six-piece masterwork. They’re missing the point, and I hope to explain how.

Put it this way: Here are two sorts of work from, roughly, the same period as Star Wars, both types being irreducibly SF. On the one hand there are films like Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), or books like Arthur  …

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