The worst thing that ever happened to science fiction occurred in May 1977 when Star Wars premiered, says Toronto science fiction author Rob Sawyer.
“Because it started with these words ‘A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…’ George Lucas established indelibly in the public consciousness that science fiction was at a discontinuity from our reality,” Sawyer says during a discussion about references to current pop culture in his latest novel, Mindscan, which is set 50 years in the future.
“The general public still thinks that science fiction has nothing to do with their day-to-day lives.”
I think I would blame the general public more than George Lucas in this regard, myself. Lucas has always been up-front about the fact that Star Wars was inspired by the Vietnam War — the lo-tech Ewoks are the Viet Cong to the hi-tech American Empire — and the prequels have included some not-so-subtle references to current politics, too (e.g. the villainous Nute Gunray appears to be named after Newt Gingrich and Ronald Raygun … er, Reagan).Of course, as myth, Star Wars is open to multiple readings; hence, despite Lucas’s evident disapproval of Republican politics, Republicans seized upon his “evil empire” rhetoric and directed it at the Soviet Union during the last stages of the Cold War.
So Sawyer may have a point when he says that the applicability of Star Wars to current political realities is not as obvious or direct or didactic as the applicability of his own current novel (of which I know nothing beyond the description in the CP story) seems to be. But I’m not so sure that that’s necessarily a bad thing. The stories that last, after all, are the ones that transcend their origins.