Monday, May 25, 2015

10 Minutes About: Splinter In The Mind's Eye

I finished Splinter In The Mind's Eye the other day.  It took longer than I'd thought it would because I'm reading several books at once these days.  I didn't do that for a long time.  For most of the past few years I had a few rules about reading, like I would only read one book at a time, and I wouldn't re-read old books, but I've slowly abandoned those and now I just read whatever I want.  So for the past few weeks I have been reading Splinter In The Mind's Eye, and also Faithful Place by Tana French (which is a murder mystery that Sweetie and I are reading together.  We formed our own book club, and are now on our third book that we're reading together and discussing with each other, a chapter at a time), and I started reading Perdido Street Station by China Mieville, but I only get digital books for 14 days at a time, and that one expired before I finished and couldn't be renewed.

Splinter In The Mind's Eye was about as good as I remembered it: a sort of slightly-advanced YA novel, not very deep or hard to read but fun in the way a Star Wars book should be.  I'd forgotten a lot of it, and I'd forgotten, too, how fun it can be re-reading an old old book and remembering all the parts that I'd once loved.  In this case, the underground tunnels with the Coway and the battle with the stormtroopers I hadn't remembered at all, and once I got to that part, there was a oh yeah that's right this is okay moment that I enjoyed.

One thing I was surprised by was how much of the book seemed to leak into the later Star Wars movies.  I suppose I shouldn't be, not just because why wouldn't Lucas filch from what was the first official Star Wars tie-in (or so I think it was?) but also because they're sort of tropes of that kind of glossy space opera scifi anyway: the primitive natives joining forces with the technologically advanced rebels, for example: There wasn't much difference between the Coway and the Ewoks, so far as I could tell, except that the latter lived in trees rather than underground.

There was more, though: [SPOILER ALERT!] like Luke slicing off Vader's arm in their battle at the end, or hints about Leia's abilities with the force, too.  Leia, in this one, picks up Luke's saber and begins battling Vader while Luke is trapped, and doesn't do terribly (although it's made clear Vader is just toying with her.)  There's even an older lady who knows about the Force and helps Luke get in touch with it a bit.  Okay, so Yoda was no lady but still.

Overall, what I found myself thinking was why Star Wars seems so expandable where other universes did not.  There's not an expanded universe of Frozen, for example, or E.T., or any number of other Really Big Deal movies.  Star Wars, with only a few other titans of pop culture, has for some reason lent itself to the kind of incredible expansive creativity that literally has spawned an entire universe.

And here's my answer: Star Wars really is a blank slate that people fill in.  If you go back to the original trilogy that this whole shebang was built on, they tell you squat.  I was trying to remember what I learned about the Star Wars universe in the movie itself, and there wasn't a whole lot: there's an Empire, and an academy, and there's Alderaan, and the Kessel Spice Run, and almost none of it is explained.

So we, the viewers, are free to make stuff up to fill in those gaps.  It's almost the exact opposite of something like Lord Of The Rings or His Dark Materials or Star Trek; they give you everything, and it's incredible and detailed and well thought out and all, but it's not the same as the way Star Wars felt like you could make it your own.  We didn't have a backstory for Han Solo, had only hints about how Luke and Leia got where they were, knew nothing about Vader or Kenobi or anyone.

Maybe that's why the later sequels were so panned? Not that they were as bad as people said (I liked them all, even Phantom) but because they were more detailed, any by filling in the cracks, they felt closed off and inaccessible?

That's ten minutes.  Consider that your take-home question.

PS: If you didn't come over here from there, check out my What If? post on Liz's Laws Of Gravity blog

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