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Star Wars is Surrealism, not Science Fiction (essay) — Page 2

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Shopping Maul said:

ZkinandBonez said:

screams in the void said:

also , Robert E. Howard deserves a mention in this discussion , he is regarded as the father of sword and sorcery and did a lot of world building for Conan’s world , as evidenced in his Hyborian age essay https://conanthecimmerian.fandom.com/wiki/The_Hyborian_Age Many fantasy authors imitated him afterwards , but never quite captured his spirit . Then there were the many many fantasy film cash grabs that came in the wake of the 1982 Conan The Barbarian film …

Yes, Howard’s another one of those guys that no one has ever quite managed to imitate or adapt to film. Now I do really enjoy the John Milius Conan film, but it really has very little to do with Howard. Unlike Lovecraft though, and despite often borrowing a lot of his ideas, Howard did have a tendency to add a backstory to everything so I’d definitely say he has more in common with Tolkien in that regard then with OT SW. Then again characters/creatures like Yag-Kosha are quite abstract in concept.

Does anyone know if Lucas ever made any direct mention of Howard work as an influence? I would assume he at the very least knew of the character as SW was written right at the start of the Howard boom in the late 60’s and early 70’s.

As a side note: I find it fascinating that Tolkien’s first published book was only one year after Howard’s death. People often forget that Howard did the whole world-building thing before Tolkien, that is, as far as what was publicly available.

Actually, I think the real parallel here is between Lucas and Milius. The thought processes behind Star Wars and Conan are remarkably similar - Milius wanted to create a believable ‘lived-in’ universe in the same way George did, and both were going for a real mythic quality. The ‘father’s sword’ motifs, the aged wizard - Conan even has its villain (played by James Earl Jones) deliver a ‘I am your father’ speech! And both productions had run-ins with Gil Taylor…
Conan and SW have pretty much the same poster art as well…

That’s a really good point. I’d never thought about just how SW-like it actually is. And I do love the whole Riddle of Steel element of the film, it not only serves as a thematic through-line, but as you say, it gives it a mythic quality and makes the story feel like some ancient fable.

“An age undreamed of” is very much the sword and sorcery equivalent of “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” I really wish more storytellers would utilize this storytelling device to its full potential, rather than get bogged down in details like so many series often do. Comparing it to Tolkien again, I have a book from the early 70’s were someone tried to make Middle-Earth match up with a map of Europe, though thankfully people generally just accept it as a fantasy world nowadays. Of course Howard’s Hyborian age map did just that, and that’s fine, but there’s also so much potential in vague settings, like Samuel Butler’s Erewhon or Fritz Leiber’s Nehwhon (literally"nowhere" and “no-when” spelled backwards).

Original Trilogy Documentaries/Making-Ofs (YouTube, Vimeo, etc. finds)
Beyond the OT Documentaries/Making-Ofs (YouTube, Vimeo, etc. finds)
Star Wars is Surrealism, not Science Fiction (essay)
Amazon link to my first novel; Dawn of the Karabu.

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This is a great essay, and really helped me to synthesize some thoughts that have been rattling around in my brain for a while. Along with rocknroll41’s essays, primarily his great 4-parter from last November (https://henrynsilva.blogspot.com/2020/11/the-real-reason-you-probably-dont-like.html?m=1), I was inspired to finally write my thoughts out and get them into a (hopefully) coherent form. I posted that late last night at https://originaltrilogy.com/topic/star-wars-has-felt-off-to-me-since-1980-essay/id/82758 .

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Pakka said:

This is a great essay, and really helped me to synthesize some thoughts that have been rattling around in my brain for a while. Along with rocknroll41’s essays, primarily his great 4-parter from last November (https://henrynsilva.blogspot.com/2020/11/the-real-reason-you-probably-dont-like.html?m=1), I was inspired to finally write my thoughts out and get them into a (hopefully) coherent form. I posted that late last night at https://originaltrilogy.com/topic/star-wars-has-felt-off-to-me-since-1980-essay/id/82758 .

Great essay, Pakka. Glad I could be of some help to verbalize some of your thoughts.


A copy of my response in the Pakka’s thread:
https://originaltrilogy.com/topic/star-wars-has-felt-off-to-me-since-1980-essay/id/82758/page/1#1404749

ZkinandBonez said:

Yes, the WEG source-books, though delightfully geeky and partially responsible for keeping the franchise alive for a few years, really did transform it into something quite different from what it originally was. I personally don’t mind there being some connectivity, especially when it’s narrative based, so the “I am your father” element works well for me because it has such a mythic vibe to it. And it’s interesting how you pointed out the possibilities of the 77-80 years, and I agree that the comics did a great job to tell new stories without shackling it down with lore, because I’ve heard people make a similar argument that they feel that SW was always meant to be the mythological tale of the Skywalkers and they therefore ignore the side stories. As a franchise it’s a real tough nut to crack, and although Lucas definitely intended for it to be a fairy-tale without having to make logical sense of it all, I don’t think even he fully knew what the core of the franchise was. But then again stories do evolve over time, though the WEG interpretation definitely took a more Star Trek-type of approach to it. I don’t think it’s coincidental that the EU and all the sourcebooks coincided with the second Star Trek boom in the late 80’s and 90’s, not to mention the internet which has made it far easier for fans to share ideas and over analyse things.

There was a section of my essay that I ended up removing (it got a little bit off topic) where I talked about how loose canon was treated back in the 30’s and 40’s, using the Universal monster films as an example, arguing that it related not only to how pop culture was just starting to become a thing, but also how the lack of home media made it kind of pointless. Back then you saw a film once, maybe a few more times if you really liked it, and when it was no longer in the theater you simply couldn’t see it anymore. So if the sequel broke continuity you had no way to go back and check and as long as it felt right (by sticking to the core plot and themes of the previous story) no one really cared. It is completely possible that this modern fascination with lore and continuity is simply a natural development of how we consume media these days, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does put SW in this really weird place. My essay was an attempt to at least acknowledge this, but also to point out that even if a franchise evolves and starts to include a more rigid narrative, I would at least encourage creators to treat the setting with an appropriately surreal approach (and quite a few do this reasonably well IMO).

Original Trilogy Documentaries/Making-Ofs (YouTube, Vimeo, etc. finds)
Beyond the OT Documentaries/Making-Ofs (YouTube, Vimeo, etc. finds)
Star Wars is Surrealism, not Science Fiction (essay)
Amazon link to my first novel; Dawn of the Karabu.

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BTW, I’m curious to hear what people here, in relation to my own and Pakka’s essay, feel about the Dark Empire comics? Especially the first of the three series.

I ask because of how much of an anomaly it is compared to the later EU comics and novels, and because of how it’s often referred to as the last of the early EU days before everything was set in stone and they could go more wild with their storytelling. Now it obviously acknowledges canon in that it brings Palpatine back from the dead, and even Boba Fett returs, but it was and is still quite controversial for how loose it played with the established lore. And that’s why I personally kind of love it. It feels pulpy and kinda silly, while still being very dark and gritty. It acknowledges the personal journeys of the characters, but it visually feels like it belongs to an entirely different universe and it brings in all of these crazy things from out of nowhere. Palpatine’s return, to me at least, feels like something you’d see in some old movie serial or read in an old comic where the bad guy is inexplicably returned through some flimsy excuse simply for the sake of having him return. The later EU spent a lot of time trying to explain how the whole Palpatine clone thing actually worked, especially after the Prequels, but I feel like it treated the concept of cloning in an appropriately surreal and pulpy fashion. It feels almost like something out of ancient mythology where he is simply reborn in a new body and he even tries to possess Leia’s child at some point. The scale of this series is also off the charts, with giant probe droids towering over cities and superweapons galore. It has a very French-Belgian comic feel to it, with style and narrative being more important than logic or world-building, which I feel is very OT-like. And if I remember correctly Lucas was inspired by Valérian and Laureline and other French-Belgian comic series.

Tom Veitch and Cam Kennedy made a comic a few years prior to Dark Empire called The Light and Darkness War which I think is a masterful example of surreal fantasy storytelling, which apparently Lucas was really impressed by (hence why they got the job). This comic is a fantastic example of how to do symbolic stories that only creates the illusion of world-building. And it is in many ways very similar to Dark Empire in it’s overall feel.

I can’t help but feel that the little “opening crawl” that was added to Dark Empire issue #1 explaining how it takes place shortly after the Thrawn trilogy kind of did it disservice. I like the idea of a SW story that continues the overall narrative of Luke, Leia and Han’s personal journeys, but which only tangentially related to the OT movies in that they take place at some unspecified point after ROTJ.

At least that’s my interpretation. What do you guys think? Do you agree that Dark Empire was one of the last fully surreal SW stories before the West End Games sourcebook model of thinking took over as the foundation for the lore going forward?

Original Trilogy Documentaries/Making-Ofs (YouTube, Vimeo, etc. finds)
Beyond the OT Documentaries/Making-Ofs (YouTube, Vimeo, etc. finds)
Star Wars is Surrealism, not Science Fiction (essay)
Amazon link to my first novel; Dawn of the Karabu.

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^ I loved the first Dark Empire series ,and for the way they handled the Emperors return ,it worked for me better than TROS .It certainly had a surreal touch to it in the artwork ,from the color palette to the recursive imagery of the star destroyers surrounding the planet Byss . ( which was picked up on in TROS ) .I remember being in a comic shop about a year before the first issue came out and seeing The Light And Darkness War and thinking this creative team would be great doing a Star Wars book …in fact , I mistook it FOR Star Wars at first glance .As a huge fan of the original Marvel Star Wars comic ,which was in publication before all of the over explained EU stuff , I was bummed when they stopped publishing it . When the first Dark Empire issue came out , I was ecstatic and bought it on the spot .I would now be getting my monthly Star Wars comic fix after 5 long years ! That first series felt very cinematic to me and indeed it felt like the possibilities of where they could go were limitless .I liked the Tales Of The Jedi comics for that reason as well .Dark Empire 2 and Empires End were a letdown to me though as they got too formulaic and I could accept the Emperor coming back once , but it was overkill after that and he just came off as another carton villain .Then there was the whole matter of these stories later tying in with the Kevin J. Anderson novels …while they had some cool concepts ,the execution was clunky . I was glad that the novel I,Jedi summarized those events more coherently and kept the cooler aspects in without going overboard .I also liked the audio drama of Dark Empire as well as Tales Of The Jedi and Crimson Empire .

https://screamsinthevoid.deviantart.com/

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It’s quite interesting reading about the making of Dark Empire II and Empire’s End as you can tell Veicht and Kennedy weren’t overly enthusiastic about making them as the first series was pretty much intended as a self contained story. Though I would say that Dark Empire II deserves some credit, nor just foe the top notch art, but for some interesting ideas it played with. I especially like Ood Bnar; the idea of an ancient Jedi that is so old he became an old gnarled tree is about as mythological as you can get. His origin story in Tales of the Jedi was a tad bland I think, but that series overall did a great job at feeling different from the OT while still fitting within the SW mold. It definitely embraced the more fantasy-like elements. As much as I like Timothy Zahn, I do think it’s a real shame that the EU used his style as their standard instead of embracing the wilder aspects of the early Dark Horse comics. Like the Marvel comics before they weren’t afraid to go crazy with the IP and try new things, but after a few years they began playing it safe (the comic crash in the 90’s probably didn’t help either) and much of it began feeling very formulaic. Plenty of solid stories, but not living up to it’s full potential IMO.

Original Trilogy Documentaries/Making-Ofs (YouTube, Vimeo, etc. finds)
Beyond the OT Documentaries/Making-Ofs (YouTube, Vimeo, etc. finds)
Star Wars is Surrealism, not Science Fiction (essay)
Amazon link to my first novel; Dawn of the Karabu.

Author
Time

yeah , I did like the old tree dude and Dark Empire 2 had some decent art in places ,the whole steam ship world etc . Oddly enough , I did enjoy The New Jedi order series , as they finally got back to taking some risks with the IP and moved beyond the Empire /Rebellion conflict and brought in a new threat ( even though Marvel did it first with the Nagai ) after that was when I bowed out , as thee cast of characters became too overblown to follow for me . I did keep up with what happened with Lumiya though and read about the final battle between her and Luke ,as I was a fan of the character from the Marvel series .The Truce at Bakura was another one I enjoyed .

https://screamsinthevoid.deviantart.com/

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All of this had me thinking about Dark Empire - I obviously need to re-read it, now.

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I remember really enjoying Dark Empire and I agree that it’s one of the more creative and unique pieces of SW related media to be released since the OT.

ZkinandBonez said:

It’s quite interesting reading about the making of Dark Empire II and Empire’s End as you can tell Veicht and Kennedy weren’t overly enthusiastic about making them as the first series was pretty much intended as a self contained story. Though I would say that Dark Empire II deserves some credit, nor just foe the top notch art, but for some interesting ideas it played with. I especially like Ood Bnar; the idea of an ancient Jedi that is so old he became an old gnarled tree is about as mythological as you can get. His origin story in Tales of the Jedi was a tad bland I think, but that series overall did a great job at feeling different from the OT while still fitting within the SW mold. It definitely embraced the more fantasy-like elements. As much as I like Timothy Zahn, I do think it’s a real shame that the EU used his style as their standard instead of embracing the wilder aspects of the early Dark Horse comics. Like the Marvel comics before they weren’t afraid to go crazy with the IP and try new things, but after a few years they began playing it safe (the comic crash in the 90’s probably didn’t help either) and much of it began feeling very formulaic. Plenty of solid stories, but not living up to it’s full potential IMO.

I remember really enjoying Dark Empire and I agree that it’s one of the more creative and unique pieces of SW related media to be released since the OT.

The second book felt a little rushed from what I remember and the third read more like a treatment of a story then a finished comic book but they still had some interesting ideas and the artwork was always top notch.

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I enjoyed Dark Empire to a degree but it never felt ‘real’ to me. I only got halfway through Zahn’s first SW novel for the same reason. Ultimately it came down to the fact that RoTJ was such a conclusive ending in my view, so anything else just felt like more SW for the sake of it. More importantly, the EU emphasised just how dissatisfied I was with RoTJ overall. The ‘Leia as twin sister’ thing just doesn’t work for me at any level, so any continuation with ‘Leia as Jedi raising Jedi kids’ just seems like so much BS to me. I’m one of the few people I know of that genuinely enjoyed TROS as a legitimate piece of post-TESB Star Wars (every other movie since and including RoTJ has annoyed me at some level!) and it’s a shame that the Leia Skywalker thing is unavoidable in this case.

On a side note let me just thank ZkinandBonez, Rocknroll41, and Pakka for these great essays…it’s such fun nerding out with everyone here!

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First, thanks for including me in that list - I really appreciate it! It was seeing ZkinandBonez and Rocknroll41 post their thoughtful, nuanced essays that gave me the push to finally write mine after having it bouncing around in my head for years, so being included with them is humbling.

Also, if I can paraphrase, you made me realize that, for me, everything from “I am your father” on feels like BS. Knowing that Vader wasn’t Luke’s dad when Star Wars was made makes that feel untrue for me; same with Leia not being Luke’s sister when Empire was made. Those were two of Lucas’s first retcons, and they diminish what the Star Wars Universe felt like to me as a kid. I will grant that the Vader thing works from a mythological POV, but I still feel like Lucas made that decision in part because it would be shocking, and in part because it would simplify the story for his purposes. The Leia decision was just doubling down on that - the OT was really hard on him (directing Star Wars was physically overwhelming), and it felt like RoTJ was made knowing that it would be successful, so he just wanted to tie up as many loose ends as possible so he could do something else with his life.

Along the same lines, I don’t think Lucas imagined the look and feel of the PT before the mid-90s (at the earliest). I know he likes to portray things as “I couldn’t make the movies I saw in my head before the technology was ready”, but I think that puts the cart before the horse. I think the look of those movies, and many of the events in them, came about because he saw that they might be technically possible, and modified his basic storyline to fit what he thought ILM could pull off.

For me, the historical events hinted at in Star Wars took place in a universe that fits (roughly) with the look and feel of what we saw in the first two movies. I’ve never fleshed that idea out beyond that thought - what would be the point? - but that’s my basic stance, and why nothing since has felt right to me.