Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Stop Watching Star Wars! - A guest blog by Gavin Smith

Stop Watching Star Wars!*

(*In which a struggling science fiction author commits career suicide.)

I’m perfectly serious. Yes that means you at the back.  And Star Trek, and Battlestar Galactica, and Firefly (“Not Firefly!” I hear you cry.  “But poor Firefly, murdered before its time, like a baby Bambi kicked to death by a cruel studio exec.  How could they do that to poor, multi-millionaire Joss Whedon, forcing him to go onto other more successful projects like that!”  I know, I’m a monster, right?). I want none of your Blake’s 7 nonsense either.  You need to stop watching them, stop buying their boxed sets, stop showing the slightest bit of interest in any of them.  (For the purpose of this blog I will not be talking about Doctor Who, largely because I don’t want to be burnt in effigy, or indeed person, in the Charing Cross Road.)

One of the best ways to get booed at a Science Fiction convention is to publicly state that you don’t like Star Wars.  Well, I don’t like Star Wars.  I have numerous excellent reasons why I don’t like Star Wars, and most of these are designed to upset my fellow geeks late at night at conventions. (This can result in urban fantasy books being flung at my head.  Those books that you get given at conventions, apparently they’re not actually books, they’re ammunition.  Incidentally if you do throw a book at someone at a convention and get into trouble, the best way to get out of trouble is to repeat the following: “Stephen Deas made me do it!”)

    Anyway what was I talking about?  (I am not a natural blogger.)  Oh yes, Star Wars.  I liked it as a child but as I grew up the flaws in the films became more apparent to me and I lost interest. 
Star Trek, on the other hand, I’m quite fond of.  (I would just like to point out that this isn’t an excuse to involve me in the fan-based football hooligan style violence that is sweeping conventions at the moment.  I don’t like any media enough to shiv someone.)  I have no strong opinion about BSG, but I’m very fond of Firefly.

We still all need to stop watching them and here’s why:  the Star Wars and Star Trek franchises dominate the sub-genre of space opera on television and in the cinema.  This is in part because movies and television series cost a lot of money to make and the companies that produce them like to know that when they make something that there is already an audience waiting to watch it, and by watch I mean pay for.

“So?”  I hear you cry.  “They are good, we like them.”  Well fine, so do I largely (except Star Wars, did I mention that Star Wars is rubbish?).  Here’s the problem.  Star Wars is 36 years old (and arguably took its direction from science fantasy much older than that). The first episode of Star Trek aired in 1966. Space opera has moved on significantly in the last three-to-four decades.
    “So?” I hear you cry again.  “They may be old but we still like them.  Old does not mean bad, and new does not mean good.”  And you would be right, but I have a dream!
I dream of a parallel world where HBO has lavished as much time and love on an adaption of Peter Hamilton’s Night’s Dawn trilogy as they did on Game of Thrones.  (This is the reason I can sometimes be seen outside HBO headquarters waving a placard with the words: “Living ships are at least as cool as incest!” on it.)

    A world where Iain M. Banks’s Consider Phlebas, which is many things as a book but one of them is certainly a rip-roaring space pirate adventure, has just kicked off the beginning of the Culture franchise (I have come to despise the word franchise, and the word build - but that’s another story.  On a positive note I love the word Domino) and where Al Reynold’s Revelation Space has done similar for that author’s work.  
I become positively erect when I think about David Fincher making an adaption of M. John Harrison’s Light (Not read Light?  Get thee to a bookshop!), or Ridley Scott, despite his more recent disappointing works, spending as much time and attention on an adaption of Hannu Rajaniemi’s the Quantum Thief as he did with Blade Runner.  That film which would blow your mind, though perhaps Jodorowsky would be a better director for such a project (I would slightly fear such a film).

    “Well yes,” I hear you say, those of you who are still here reading this, as I suspect that most of you stopped when I committed the cardinal SFF sin and said I didn’t like Star Wars (How does the emperor look in his new clothes?)  (I’m such a dangerous iconoclast, and so clever.)  “But why can’t we have both!” you scream with the true exuberance of a fan that makes me love you all.  Because if you have a lot of money to invest in a film or TV series, why would you risk it on trying something new when you have a guaranteed return on trotting out the same old thing?

See, literary science fiction/space opera have moved on a great deal since Star Trek and Star Wars were envisioned.  Glancing at the summer blockbusters this year it would be easy to believe that science fiction is the dominant form of media on the planet (something sadly not reflected in book sales), but room needs to be made for some of the new ideas that have appeared in the last thirty or so years in books, to appear on
our screens.  This will not happen unless people stop paying money to watch rehashes and remakes of ideas that, if we’re honest, have seen better days.  This will not happen unless we vote with our wallets.

    There is hope.  There are non-franchise, big budget films on the horizon like Nolan’s Interstellar. I have high hopes for Elysium (and indeed Neill Blomkamp in general), and from the world of literary science fiction there’s All You Need is Kill, and Ender’s Game (Oh yes I did!).

But if I’m being honest I rather enjoyed Star Trek: Into Darkness. Like the rest of you I pine for Firefly, and look forward to a remake of Blake’s 7 (Incidentally, if whomever is making that is looking for a script writer I am available.  What!?  I’m just saying.) With a sense of self loathing and the unpleasant taste of mouse semen in my mouth I’ll probably go and see the next satanic Star Wars film (Star Wars is still shit though, have I mentioned that?) and thus I destroy my own dream in a flurry of bad prose.

(Gavin Smith is the angry and bitter writer of the science fiction novels Veteran, War in Heaven and Age of Scorpio, and the short story collection Crysis: Escalation.  He has been banned from Eurodisney for attacking the cartoon characters and has no idea why he appeared to be channelling Stephen Fry during parts of the above blog as he’s much more a Snake Plissken kind of guy.)

Follow him on twitter here

1 comment:

  1. I can see your point, I think. But I'm still going to like Star Wars.