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Star Wars and Parsecs

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Scott Roberts
Star Wars and Parsecs
on Dec 8, 2010 at 6:21:32 pm

Here's kind of a funny video of a guy named Brian Malow, at a science convention, who seems frustrated at the fact that Star Wars had misused science terminology:

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Mike Cohen
Re: Star Wars and Parsecs
on Dec 8, 2010 at 9:30:22 pm

This has been debated for decades. The Kessel Run is something of a galactic obstacle course that can be completed along different routes, so completing it in the shortest distance possible is how you win.

But more important is the fact that it was the ship that completed the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, not the ship's current pilot. So Han Solo was touting the advantages of the ship, but likely the record setting distance was only possible because of the ship's previous pilot (and perhaps the maneuverability and hyperspeed capabilities).

The Falcon is seen in the prequel trilogy, so likely there had been a number of pilots before Solo acquired it in a game of chance.

And the guy in the video makes a mistake of his own. Star Wars is not Science Fiction - it is Space Opera or Fantasy. Star Trek is Science Fiction.

Mike Cohen
Star Wars Geek


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Scott Roberts
Re: Star Wars and Parsecs
on Dec 9, 2010 at 8:42:16 pm

"The Kessel Run is something of a galactic obstacle course that can be completed along different routes, so completing it in the shortest distance possible is how you win."

You know what? That actually makes complete sense to me. If that's actually the case with the Kessel Run, then Han Solo wasn't inaccurate. I just assumed he was talking big with fancy words to sound impressive because he was a smooth talking swindler type. AND A HERO, ALSO A HERO! NO DISRESPECT MR. SOLO!


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Mark Suszko
Re: Star Wars and Parsecs
on Dec 10, 2010 at 2:10:34 am

Well, to be a stckler, Trek, except for perhaps a handful of episodes, is also space opera and not really science fiction. I got my definition for this at a writer's workshop with Barry Longyear, who wrote "Enemy Mine". BTW, he REALLY hates what the movie did to his book, but that's another discussion.

So why are Trek and SW not "real" science fiction? Because their stories don't really require any scientific premise to make telling the basic story possible. Longyear's "test" for this was by this example:

If you can replace the alien or robot in your story with a red indian, the ray guns with six-shooters, the starships with sailing ships or railroad trains or horse-drawn wagons, and you can STILL tell the same basic story, then what you have is not science fiction, but a story with some technological or science-fictional elements overlaid on it. A "real" sci-fi story has the premise come out of the scientific fact or extrapolation of a known fact or technology, such that, without that element, you have no story. My current favorite example of a movie that fits that rule is "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind".

That story's premise is based on the extrapolation of a currently known technology to a logical extension: that our current knowledge of brain functioning and how to monitor it, leads to a technology to locate specific memories and erase them. The extrapolation of the premise into story is, how does the fact of that technology or scientific discovery alter how man lives, how society functions? In the movie, the technology becomes widely adopted but leads to situations where people make poor choices because the technology allows them to escape bad memories and thus repercussions of their actions. People choose to erase painful memories instead of letting them inform their character. You take away the science spine of the story and I find it hard to see how you can still tell it. "Primer" is another good example, I would say. Firefly is an awesome show but is really just a space horse opera.

Now, I think I p#ssed off Longyear at that conference, by pointing out that the movie version of "Enemy Mine" could essentially be told just fine if you changed the space war to WW II, made the two warriors airplane pilots crashed on an uncharted Pacific atoll, and made one of them a female WASP pilot, who was already pregnant when she crashed.

Most movies and TV shows that call themselves sci-fi are really just really re-dressed horse operas, or sea-operas, or WWII retellings. Look at Wing Commander or the Balance of Terror Episode of TOS Trek, and it is easy to spot "The Enemy Below" , with Kurt Jergens and Robert Mitchum as the dueling commanders of a u-boat and a destroyer. Roddenberry himself described to studio execs that Trek was "Wagon Train... in space" and that Capt. Kirk was Horatio Hornblower in space. "Lost In Space", the show CBS picked over trek, was a thinly disguised re-telling of The Swiss Family Robinson. They didn't even change the family name. Battlestar Galactica is a crossing of Mormon theology with a WWII aircraft carrier story line. Both times. Doesn't mean I watched the heck out of and enjoyed them, but really, not pure sci-fi. Now, the recently cancelled spin-off series, "Caprica", I would argue is more purely sci-fi than Galactica was, because it explored the nature of A.I. and what computer scientists call "the singularity"; where human consciousness transcends a physical body and can exist separately as a data construct in a virtual world... and the stories are about the implications of such a discovery for human society and individual lives.

"Real" or "pure" sci-fi shows that are any good are actually pretty rare and always have been. Because their basis is more intellectual, they seem harder to mass-market effectively.


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Scott Sheriff
Re: Star Wars and Parsecs
on Dec 12, 2010 at 6:40:22 am

That line has always bugged me. Sure, I suppose you could argue that the Falcon pilot has figured out the shortest route. But that really doesn't work. He is clearly bragging about the speed of the ship, and not the accuracy of the nav computer.

Say it isn't so!
The whole thing about is it sci-fi or not is a real buzz-kill. Because almost everything I like is apparently not sci-fi after all.
But wait...
If you can replace the wagon train, with space ships. And the Colts, could be blasters, then there are actually no westerns either!
Ah, it's all OK now...

Scott Sheriff
Director
SST Digital Media
http://www.sstdigitalmedia.com


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Mark Suszko
Re: Star Wars and Parsecs
on Dec 13, 2010 at 6:05:31 pm

That "explanation" for the use of the word "parsecs" is what we in the Sci Fi community call a "ret-con". Ford gave the wrong line or Lucas wrote it wrong, but nobody working on the movie gave a hoot. Only stickler fans of the movie did, later.

The "explanation" is something tortuously arrived at by a book author, retroactively (retcon means retroactive continuity).

Retcons are cheap and dumb tricks to excuse simple errors. Retcons are like when you were playing war with cap guns in the back yard and after getting surprised by the other guy point-blank, you on the spot make up the excuse for not layign down dead that you were wearing secret body armor all the time so it doesn't count.

retconning is like taking away free will in the universe; what's the point of anything then?


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Mike Cohen
Re: Star Wars and Parsecs
on Dec 13, 2010 at 11:33:38 pm

[Mark Suszko] "Retcons are cheap and dumb tricks to excuse simple errors."

Excellent point Mark. Certainly when Lucas made Star Wars he never anticipated making more films or creating the extended universe or back stories. The legions of fans with their paper route earnings (and dad's credit card) necessitated more movies, more toys and more back story. I have certainly made my contribution!

Mike Cohen


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Scott Sheriff
Re: Star Wars and Parsecs
on Dec 14, 2010 at 11:26:01 pm

Mark
"retconning is like taking away free will in the universe; what's the point of anything then?"

IMHO, this is pretty much how 90% of Trek next gen episodes get out of whatever predicament they are in. Never understood why sci-fi fans were so gaga over this show. It reminds me of Truman Capote in 'Murder by Death' when his character (Lionel Twain) criticizes all the mystery writers for sticking in some fact in the last page of the novel that wasn't mentioned earlier. And without this fact, it would have been impossible for the reader to solve the mystery.

Mike,
"The legions of fans with their paper route earnings ..."
Hey, I resemble that remark. I actually have a funny story about paper routes and Star Wars I would love to tell, but I have it in a screenplay I'm writing and don't want to let the cat out of the bag on the net.

Things we spent paper route money on. At least those of us that went into TV/Film:
1. Star Wars, and all things Star Wars.
2. Bikes.
3. Radio Shack.
4. Heathkit.
5. Burnstein-Applebee.
6. Saving for a muscle car.
7. The local electronics surplus store.

Did I miss anything?

Scott Sheriff
Director
SST Digital Media
http://www.sstdigitalmedia.com


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