Star Wars on Trial
Debates on the authenticity of the Star Wars franchise and the hero-or-villain status of George Lucas are at the heart of these essays by bestselling science-fiction authors. The incredible popularity of the movies has led to the formation of strong emotions within the science fiction community on the strengths and flaws of the films, exemplified here by David Brin's attacks and Matthew Woodring Stover's defense of the movies. This intense examination of the epic works addresses a broad range of issues?from politics, religion, and the saga's overall logic to the impact of the series on bookshelf space as well as science-fiction film. The question Is George Lucas a hero for bringing science fiction to a mass audience or a villain who doesn't understand the genre he's working for? is discussed before a final "Judge's Verdict" on the greatness?or weakness?of the franchise is reached.
Mike: The average fan's first reaction to Star Wars on Trial, one could be forgiven for assuming, is to wonder less about the book's actual content than about the conclusions it draws. Guilty or not, anyone who spends time thinking about the questions the book poses is bound to wonder whether their own perspective receives some degree of validation from the authors involved. It was not my initial intent to reveal the book's conclusions in this review, because such knowledge would inevitably taint one's future enjoyment of the book for the unbiased debate it's meant to be.
It turns out, however, that the book offers no conclusions: the "Verdict" section is essentially an invitation for readers to visit a web page and discuss the matter further with some of the creative personnel involved as well as other fans. Not only is this kind of disappointing when viewing the book as a self-contained experience, it also seems to indicate that no conclusion will ever be drawn by anyone. The web page's discussion forums, whose location I won't divulge here, don't look to have been terribly active in the time following the book's initial release last June, and there isn't even any kind of poll to gauge the overall reaction of people who did find their way there.
What makes this acceptable, though, and what drives me to reveal this to you now, is that it wouldn't really matter what conclusion was reached, either by the pros or the fans. The book succeeds not because of its ability to sway anyone one way or another, but because of the conversation. It might've been better, in fact, to call it something like Star wars: Perspectives; what makes it worth the read, and the lack of a verdict, is the plethora of fascinating points of view presented on both sides of the aisle: Star Wars as fantasy, and as the hardest of sci-fi; as anime, as parable, as cultural pariah, and as comedy; as a big, shiny sports car in Karen Traviss' driveway (read the book).
And besides: as defense attorney Matthew Stover, I think, would agree, the debate's very existence ensures that Star Wars comes out on top. The value of the saga, and by extension, this book, is inchoate in the fact that so many intelligent, creative individuals can each have a wildly different interpretation of it, without a single one of them being wrong.