Since Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens is right around the corner I think this is a good time to talk about the impact of Star Wars.
I tend to step back from sating things like “all,” or “everyone,” or “no one.” Always, never, those are dangerous words. Very little is 100% true, but I will say that most people who are nerds or geeks, most people who have chosen to take on a nerdy career path owe something to Star Wars. Even in the most indirect ways, but as time goes on the butterfly effect is so far-reaching that very little in geekdom is not touched by it somehow. How many sci fi writers can you think of that were not influenced by it, either conforming to the genre it codified or rebelling against it? How many people were molded by those works afterwards, the grandchildren of Star Wars?
My story is a little bit different. When I grew up, I played Nintendo. Stick with me, it’ll circle back. NES, SNES, Nintendo 64, Gamecube, I would buy those and never buy a rival system. Mario, and later Zelda, were my jams. Metroid Prime was my go-to SciFi. Insert joke about how pretty much that’s all Nintendo does that’s worthwhile here.
I had seen Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (When I was a very small child still simply called “Star Wars” by most people) and the other two actual Star Wars movies as a kid (the original trilogy is what I’m getting at), and I liked them a lot. They were fun even for my dumb kid self, and as a child I didn’t realize there was more levels to them than just cool space swordfights, didn’t realize the contrast between galactic scale and individual scale that made each plotline more powerful than it would be on its own, the symbolism, the myth-making, homages to movies I wouldn’t see and like until my late teens. I just saw awesome lasers and swordfights in space.
The prequels were coming out at the time of this story, Episode II had been out for a while, and while I didn’t think it was all the great I thought it was just simple, dumb swordfighting fun. Looking back, I can see how someone with an emotional investment in the series could see such a poor, mediocre action flick as a betrayal of a much better franchise, and in that way be worse than the sum of its parts. And they’d be right, I think, looking back with my ability to analyze things as an adult. But in 2003 a much better Star Wars iteration came out, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic for PC and the original Xbox.
That game was friggen incredible. I would count down the days to the weekend so I could go to my best friend’s house and we would play it on his Xbox, getting repeatedly ruined by the Rancor in the Taris sewers. Watching the Sith glass an entire planet as populous as Earth or even more to kill one woman. A ship’s translator learning the ways of the Force and discovering, in the belly of the whale that was the Sith interdictor ship literally called the Leviathan that he was the most feared Sith Lord of his era, Darth Revan. Maybe because I didn’t know it going in like I did with the “classic” Star Wars twist in Empire, but that twist punched me so much harder than anything in any of the movies. More than Darth Vader being Luke’s father, more than Leia being his sister. To this day it ranks as one of my favorite plot twists ever. And because of that game I bought an xbox to play it myself.
And if I had not bought an xbox, I would not have ever bought The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. And would therefore never have become a writer. Or bought Halo and started watching Red vs. Blue. So in an indirect way I literally owe what my life is now to Star Wars. Never mind that Knights of the Old Republic II is, despite being woefully incomplete, even in its current state the best installment of Star Wars across all media by miles and has influenced my style and the morality of my characters enormously (seriously, if there’s any other material where a character very rationally claims that the Force, essentially a non-anthropomorphized view of an omnipotent and omniscient God, is an evil, terrible thing and isn’t really refuted by the story or shown to be a loon, please tell me because I want so much more of that). That’s a whole different post.
And I know this isn’t the only story.where Star Wars, directly or indirectly, changed someone’s life forever. So for those reasons, and the ones with the whole “it has the power to fix so much of what we discovered is broken in the SFF community in 2014-2015” thing thanks to its casting choices, I really hope it’s more like the real movies and less like the prequels, a story that is grand and glorious in scope, stakes and consequence but able to shrink down to the level of why it is important that Han says “I know” and not feel schizophrenic in its delivery or tone or lessening the impact of the enormous events that happen around the main cast.
Best of luck, Force Awakens. Please be what SFF need you to be. You really well may be our only hope.