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Star Wars on Trial: Science Fiction And Fantasy Writers Debate the Most Popular Science Fiction Films of All Time [Anglais] [Broché]

David Brin , Matthew Woodring Stover

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Star Wars on Trial Debates on the authenticity of the "Star Wars" franchise and the hero-or-villain status of George Lucas are at the heart of these essays by bestselling science-fiction authors.

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Amazon.com: 3.9 étoiles sur 5  21 commentaires
56 internautes sur 59 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 The most fun I've had reading Star Wars in a long time 17 août 2006
Par Daiho - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
Back in 1999, physics professor, NASA consultant, and science fiction writer David Brin contributed an essay to Salon.com highlighting the logical inconsistencies in the (up until then) four Star Wars films and pointing out what he saw as the darker philosophical and ethical underpinnings of the series - a feudal universe in which elite, super-powered beings control the fate of civilization, a galaxy where might is right, in which the life of the commoner is to be ruled by The Jedi or The Sith.

"'Star Wars' Despots vs. 'Star Trek' Populists" generated a tremendous amount of interest and feedback from Star Wars and science fiction fans and over the years on his own website Brin came back to the topic now and then, (often, he laments as an aside in "Star Wars on Trial," taking time away from his other writing projects). With the release last year of the final chapter in the Star Wars film series, Brin is back to update his arguments and lead the prosecution in "Star Wars on Trial," a book-length collection of critical essays on the six-film cycle and its relationship to film-making and science-fiction. The book is organized conceptually around a trial, with a prosecutor leveling charges and a defense counsel attempting to poke holes in the state's case.

The six charges brought to court are, in order: 1) The Politics of Star Wars Are Anti-Democratic and Elitist; 2) While Claiming Mythic Significance, Star Wars Portrays No Admirable Religious or Ethical Beliefs; 3) Star Wars Novels Are Poor Substitutes for Real Science Fiction and Are Driving Real SF off the Shelves; 4) Science Fiction Filmmaking Has Been Reduced by Star Wars to Poorly Written Special Effects Extravaganzas.; 5) Star Wars Has Dumbed Down the Perception of Science Fiction in the Popular Imagination; 6) Star Wars Pretends to Be Science Fiction, but Is Really Fantasy; 7) Women in Star Wars Are Portrayed as Fundamentally Weak; 8) The Plot Holes and Logical Gaps in Star Wars Make It Ill-Suited for an Intelligent Viewer.

Each charge is argued in separate essays, both for the prosecution and the defense. In between the essays are short chapters in which the prosecutor and the defense cross exam the essayists and address the bench on procedure issues.

Leading the defense and providing opening and closing arguments in this literary trial is three-time Star Wars novelist Matthew Woodring Stover (Traitor, Shatterpoint, Revenge of the Sith), a writer whose books I have enjoyed but for whom I have lost some not small measure of respect after reading his smarmy ripostes to Brin's more reasoned arguments. It's not necessarily that Brin's ideas are better (sometimes they are, sometimes not); it's just that Brin is more erudite. Stover comes off like one of those annoying people you read in usenet forums who, when he can't make a cogent argument, resorts to humor to deflect attention from his lack of a reasoned counter argument, or to avoid having to admit he is wrong.

One the whole, the prosecution makes its best case on textual matters, picking at the obvious inconsistencies within the films and demonstrating what everyone who has seen them has known all along, that George Lucas is a poor writer who suffered moreover from having to force the plot when he found he had to make sequels and later prequels. There's also a devastating argument from real-life attorney John C. Wright demonstrating the lack of religious content in the Star Wars universe, in addition to a well-argued essay from astrophysicist Jeanne Cavelos outlining the evisceration of the two major females in the series, Leia and Padme, who go from being strong, independent characters to stereotypical damsels-in-distress.

For its part, the defense makes its best case on the wider issue of cultural matters, on the effect of Star Wars on science fiction and filmmaking. Novelist Karen Traviss, one of the most popular of the current crop of Star Wars authors, argues convincingly that Star Wars literature can be more than turgid prose hastily churned out for cash by revealing some of the positive changes she was forced to make in her own writing when commissioned to write her first Star Wars novel. And addressing the complaint that Star Wars fiction is driving "real" science fiction off bookstore shelves, novelist Laura Resnick points out that the success of Star Wars fiction has in fact provided publisher Del Rey the financial clout to expand its original science fiction publishing.

There are several other well-written and thought provoking essays in this collection addressing issues wider than Star Wars - such as the nature science fiction, the push and pull between art and entertainment, the economics of publishing and film making - that make this an interesting read for those that might like to delve into some of the issues debated among aficionados of science fiction and Star Wars.

For those interested in pursuing some of the issues raised in Star Wars on Trial, publisher PopSmart has a dedicated online forum ([...]) where you can participate in discussion with other readers and some of the essayists.
27 internautes sur 31 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Alternating fun vs. serious. Great for the ambivalent fan. 18 août 2006
Par S. A. Blum - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
My two cents: Book = Good; Website = Disappointing.

Hidden benefit - introduction through these essays to the writing of around 20 authors!

I'm one of those people who both love Star Wars and hate it too. Okay, I don't hate Star Wars itself, but there are some things about it that just drive me batty. It's reassuring to know I'm not the only one.

This book is not a weighty philosophical treatise on the merits of Star Wars as art form, cultural phenomenon, etc. Instead it is a light but thoughtful exploration into some of the ideas floating through the SW fan community. I enjoyed it, but I think that, like the movies, if you take it too seriously, you are going to miss out.

This book is in the form of essays written on behalf of the prosecution and the defense, with some "cross-examinations" of witnesses in the "courtroom" conducted by Brin and Stover. Some of the essays are rather serious, and some entertaining. There is at least one that is just wacky. I read the table of contents at the bookstore, and had to buy it, and am glad I did.

Charge #1: The politics of Star Wars are anti-democratic and elitist.

Charge #2: While claiming mythic significance, Star Wars portrays no admirable religious or ethical beliefs.

Charge #3: Star Wars novels are poor substitutes for real science fiction and are driving real SF off the shelves.

Charge #4: Science fiction filmmaking has been reduced by Star Wars to poorly written special effects extravaganzas.

Charge #5: Star Wars has dumbed down the perception of science fiction in the popular imagination.

Charge #6: Star Wars pretends to be science fiction, but is really fantasy.

Charge #7: Women in Star Wars are portrayed as fundamentally weak.

Charge #8: The plot holes and logical gaps in Star Wars make it ill-suited for an intelligent viewer.

I enjoyed it thoroughly. I found myself reading the prosecution argument and saying, "yeah, that's right". Then I'd read the defense argument and say, "yeah, you tell him." And of course, I also disagreed at times. And as I mentioned this is NOT weighty philosophy, so at times you'll find some logic holes in the arguments on either side reminiscent of the logic and plot holes being pointed out in the subject matter. Why it works for me is that there is room for debate. Even though I ended up mostly agreeing with the Defense, there was a case to be made for both sides, which is what makes these questions worth asking. And this is what I have truly loved about SW fans. They ask these questions. They don't just sit back and accept whatever cockamamy junk is thrown at them. For instance, what percentage of SW fans accept the idea of Greedo shooting first? Okay what percentage born before 1997?

The only big beef I have is with the website. After you read the book, you are asked to perform the duty of the jury, and weigh in with your opinion at a website. The website is really a bit lame. There's an introductory page, and then an online forum. For those familiar w/forums, a section has been set up with an opening thread for each of the nine "charges". For a couple charges, forum registrants have created a voting "poll", but not for most, which just have discussion.

I personally think a no-registration-required poll should have been set up on a main page, separately from the forum, to track an overall reader consensus. While I once had more time to devote to my love of SW, currently it's all the time I can muster to read SW expanded universe novels, and maybe some supplemental material like "Star Wars on Trial". I do not have time to have a discussion about each charge. I do think that the small additional investment in the website I suggest is not too much to ask for those of us who can't benefit from a time-consuming forum interaction.
7 internautes sur 8 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Suitable for both critics and fans, full of humor and enthusiasm 15 avril 2008
Par Christo Popov - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
Intellectually, the Prosecution wins the case with flying colors. Emotionally though, the Defense makes some very good points.

The book is written with humor and enthusiasm, all contributors from both sides are obviously having fun and it should be noted that everybody acknowledges the fun and entertainment value of Star Wars and its ability to make us dream. Including David Brin who gives praise and respect to George Lucas in his opening statement (p.47).

I think the book will appeal not only to Star Wars critics, but to its fans as well. An extremely entertaining read.
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Literary criticism made palatable 20 juillet 2013
Par Julie W. Capell - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
I'm writing this review quite a few years after I read the book, but I remember it was extremely well-received by my sci-fi book club, giving us many topics to talk about. The book is comprised of a series of essays by many well-known sci-fi authors, organized around the conceit that they are arguing either for or against a particular charge that has been leveled against that most beloved of sci-fi franchises, Star Wars. Some of the authors present arguments that are just plain silly (yes, I'm talking about you, Robert Metzger) but most of them understand that the topics they have been given are bigger than Star Wars, existing as indictments of sci-fi as a genre. The charge that Star Wars is anti-Democractic and elitist had actually never occurred to me before reading this book, but once I read Keith R A DeCandido's argument I found myself reassessing much of sci-fi through this lens and realizing he had a very valid point.

The essays on women in Star Wars were another high point. The essay by Jeanne Cavelos,"How the Rebel Princess and the Virgin Queen became Marginalized and Powerless" was the best in the book. In it, Cavelos makes a convincing case that Leia, who starts out as a powerful leader of the rebellion, very quickly is relegated to the submissive and powerless role of victim while the men are cast as her rescuers. This is a perennial problem, not just in science fiction, but in most Western literature and cinema and is a point worth discussing. This essay changed the way I read most books and should be required reading in every women's literature class.

But I don't want to give the impression that this book was a serious, hard slog through the marsh of literary criticism. There are many laugh-out-loud moments, such as this one from Jeanne Cavelos' essay: "If Leia has a `bad feeling' about Cloud City, then she should investigate, not change her clothes and braid her hair." Another of my favorite quotes comes from John C. Wright's "May the Midichlorians be with You," in which Wright states that there is neither ethics nor religion in Star Wars. Instead, he makes the case that the Force "is for doing super-ninja-leaps with Way Cool psychokinetic powers." In another excellent essay, "Star Wars as Anime," Bruce Bethke points out that Lucas borrowed from so many sources, from Buck Rogers to the Hidden Fortress, that you can find any influence you are looking for. "For example, the story of the original movie can also be summarized as, `A restless young boy chafes at life on the farm, until he meets a wizard and is swept away to a wondrous land where he meets some munchkins, a tin man, a cowardly lion and Harrison Ford as the scarecrow.' "

Serious readers of science fiction will find a lot to think and argue about in this ingenious book.
3 internautes sur 4 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 superficial debates 19 octobre 2012
Par Enjolras - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
I was excited for this book, but it ultimately promises more than it delivers. You'd think the authors would realize anybody who buys this book is interested in a serious debate. However, far too often the book descends into silliness, leading me to quit the book midway through.

I thought Brin for the Prosecution was generally intriguing but he doesn't take some of his points far enough. I love his clear writing style and ability to treat the subject seriously, but there are a lot of crucial points he just leaves hanging. For example, he never connects the Star Wars message of refusing attachments and belief in self to Eastern religions such as Buddhism - admittedly an important influence on Lucas.

Unfortunately, Stover for the Defense was almost a joke. As much as I like Stover's novels, he frustrated me. He spends half of his "debate time" calling the prosecution evil and hinting that they sympathize with the Sith. Moreover, his arguments about the moral arc of the Star Wars saga are interesting, but seem to come out of nowhere. Admittedly, he has the harder job of clarifying the prequels, but Stover spent more time making snide comments than explaining his comments.

All that said, all of the authors write in an engaging and humorous style that makes the book fun to read, despite its sometimes frustrating content. I keep the book on my iphone and might revisit it during my commute one day just because it is so lighthearted. However, I had been hoping for a more intellectually serious discussion of the Star Wars saga.

Given that the Kindle version of this book is so cheap, it's probably worth buying for any Star Wars fan, but be prepared to be frustrated at points. I'd give it 3.5 stars overall.

UPDATE (10/22/12):

After reading more of the book, and especially the takes of different authors, I'm revising my initial judgment. I think the way to read this book is to read it selectively, i.e. only read the good chapters. Here are my recommendations:

David Brin for the Prosecution:

Brin is generally thoughtful, but at times I felt like screaming at him because his interpretation of the movies was so superficial. I enjoyed his discussion of the role of myth, but at times he seemed to be arguing both for and against mythology. Worth reading, but ultimately not satisfying.

Matt Stover for the Defense:

He spends way too much joking around and mock-attacking the prosecution. He made some good points, but I found him to be a chore to read.

POLITICS

Keith DeCandido on politics:

While I wouldn't have chosen DeCandido to defend Star Wars' politics (I'd have chosen an expert on, well, politics), he does a decent job showing that Star Wars isn't just elitist. He's certainly much better at defending the saga than Stover.

ETHICS

John Wright on ethics:

Waste of time. Wright doesn't engage in analysis, he just tries to demean Star Wars using Big Capital Letters to make things sound Silly. Also, he doesn't seem to acknowledge Buddhism and other eastern religions as viable sources of ethics.

Scott Lynch on ethics:

Surprisingly good! I'd never heard of Lynch before reading his chapter, but he has a neat way of viewing the morality of the saga. He takes some commonly accepted points and took them to a new level. His ability to distill the entire saga into a moral whole really impressed me. This chapter did what I wish the others had - it got me thinking. Definitely worth reading.

WRITING

Lou Anders on writing:

While Anders makes some good points, essentially all he says is that Star Wars isn't the type of writing he likes. He laments that Star Wars isn't science fiction, but of course Star Wars was designed to be science fantasy, and does NOT have anything to do with the effect of technology on mankind. After admitting that he's only read one Star Wars book, I just can't see him as credible to discuss the genre.

Karen Traviss:

Her defense of writing for Star Wars was surprisingly strong. She discusses her personal experience writing in the Star Wars world and how she claims it made her a better writer. While it's impossible to tell how many authors share her commitment to self-improvement, her autobiographical account provided a very compelling case.

Unfortunately, most of the other essays in Charges 4-6 ping-pong back and forth between the Prosecution claiming Star Wars isn't genuine sci-fi, and the Defense agreeing that it's really science fantasy, and that anyways publishing is a business. Unfortunately, it's generally much ado about nothing.

CONCLUSION

While Star Wars, especially the prequels, have their flaws, I generally found myself nodded more with the Defense than the Prosecution. Unfortunately, I feel like that's more because the Defense actually knew and cared about Star Wars while the Prosecution just "phoned" their essays in (with the exception of David Brin, who both made excellent points and clearly loves the movies). It's too bad as I would have enjoyed a more vigorous debate.
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