A fine little book to which I made a fine little contribution is reviewed over at I Can Stay, as well as a mention of my one movie in which I appear for one second, speaking half a line of monologue.

Here is an except. The words in italics are from the intro to the book:

Star Wars on Trial edited by David Brin and Matthew Woodring Stover

In any event, there is one conclusive answer to “it’s only a movie.”

That answer is: You’ve already bought a book whose whole purpose is to discuss meaning and consequence in the Star Wars Universe! Everybody who contributed, from accuser to defender, believes there is something worth arguing about. We’ll do it because the topic matters, or because it’s fun to argue, or because we’re being paid to argue. Most likely, all three.

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of speaking to Alexandre O. Philippe, director of The People Vs George Lucas (interview for Filmink magazine here). The film itself is well worth checking out, as it perfectly captures the – to outsiders – seemingly inexplicable fanrage of Star Wars devotees. However, even if the rantings and ravings on camera are not something viewers can relate to, a person would be very hard-pressed to claim they had no idea what Star Wars was, or who George Lucas is, or even – what is the Force? So from that point of view, it is difficult to write off the science fiction franchise as being ‘just for kids’, although on the opposite extreme it is equally hard to insist that it is actually a twentieth century monomyth with a straight face.

Confusingly Lucas himself has made both claims. That is just a hint of how contradictory the man’s relationship with Star Wars is.

Star Wars on Trial amusingly sticks to a court-room cross examination of the franchise itself, its strengths and failings, and the effect it has had upon the various industries swallowed up by Lucas’ empire. David Brin, following on from his evisceration of The Phantom Menace in 1999 for Salon, argues for the prosecution. Matthew Woodring Stover, also a science fiction writer, is our plucky court-appointed defence lawyer.


The witnesses are themselves writers or cultural theorists, who present their evidence and are then questioned by Brin or Stover. Amusingly a ‘Droid Judge’ presides over these interactions. The topics argued include the political subtext of the series, its status as science fiction – Brin argues that it is fantasy literature in drag, the would-be mythic significance of Lucas’ work, alleged plot-holes, mischaracterisation of women within the franchise and finally its legacy for the film industry.

This book has one undeniable highlight for me, a moment of pure ‘gotcha’ brilliance. For years I have heard that the Force draws upon Buddhism, Taoism, y’know that whole ‘Eastern’ lark, to pad out its pseudo-religious significance. Witness for the prosecution John C. Wright disabuses Stover of that notion quite brilliantly during the cross-examination. Robert A. Metzger mounts an especially, uh, interesting defence, arguing that Lucas has actually created a work of Gnostic significance. I found that quite fun, but hardly convincing.

Read the whole review here.

I should mention this is the only book for which I receive a tip in person from a customer. I was in a gaming store, buying models of orcs or warhammer 40K wardroids or something equally absurd for my kids, and the young clerk and I fell into a conversation about the religion in Star Wars. It turned out he had read STAR WARS ON TRIAL, but hadn’t bought it, partly because he was so angry at some of the articles and their points of view. Sensing nerdrage, I cautiously asked about the one article on how and why the Force is not Taoism, but is instead Way Cool Mind Powers of a sort you need for fun and kinetic cinema. He said he adored that article! Throwing aside my cloak, I revealed I was the author thereof. Realizing that by not buying the book, he had deprived me of my cut of the cover price, roughly twelve cents, the bold young man immediately yanked a fiver out of his billfold and bestowed it with a blessing upon me. Hoo hah!

You may read more about the book on my boast page

Han shot first.