So it got me thinking, what is it about Star Wars that transcends cultural and religious differences, that appeals to Muslims as well as Christians or atheists or whoever else? Of course, all of the above enjoy the action sequences and cool aliens and so forth as much as the next guy, but I think there's a deeper reason than that, especially for people as devout as most Muslims who weave worshiping God into every day of their lives. In my futile and long since aborted quest to collect all the Star Wars books that existed, I got "The Episode I Scrapbook". It was full of pictures and trivia and it had a behind the scenes section with a couple quotes from George Lucas that I think speak to why Star Wars is so universally appealing and enduring.
"The Force evolved out of various developments of character and plot. I wanted a concept of religion based on the premise that there is a God and there is good and evil. I began to distill the essence of all religions into what I thought was a basic idea common to all religions and common to primitive thinking. I wanted to develop something that was nondenominational but still had a kind of religious reality. I believe in God and I believe in right and wrong. I also believe that there are basic tenets which through history have developed into certainties, such as 'thou shalt not kill.' I don't want to hurt other people. 'Do unto others...' is the philosophy that permeates my work."
"The first film simply sets up Anakin as a sweet kid, which is what we have to do - say, 'First of all, he's just like you and me. He's a nice little kid and he wasn't evil.' A lot of people got very upset and wanted him to be an evil little kid that went around pulling wings off flies, as if that would explain everything. But then where does the story go? The point is not that you are born evil - the thing that makes the film work ultimately is the fact that he is a good kid, trying to be a good kid, and he grows up to be a good kid. It's simply that his emotions take him places he can't control. He becomes evil out of his own ambition and greed, and revenge and hatred - all those things that kids face."
And virtually all of those books are now non-canon anyway. Goodbye, Dave Wolverton's masterpiece "The Courtship of Princess Leia". No more of Han gloating, "Kiss my Wookiee!" No more of Luke threatening, "Take your hands off her or I will take your hands off you." No more of C-3PO singing, "Han Solo, what a man, Solo, he's every Princess's dream!" I hope great lines like these will at least be reincorporated into future movies. The Nightsisters of Dathomir did get used in "The Clone Wars" series, at least, resulting in an utterly ridiculous but thoroughly awesome storyline.
Star Wars is a subgenre of science fiction called space opera, which is sort of grand and sweeping and larger than life. Viewing it as a work of art as much as a story has helped me tolerate some of the more ridiculous elements, like technobabble and single-biome planets and blockades of only three ships and old friends running into each other in a galaxy of over a quadrillion people, while still appreciating the internal logic and consistency and depth of everything else. So many planets and characters and species and ships and droids and stories... it's got to be the largest franchise in the history of ever. And I'm blessed to have been born into the small window of human history when it exists. But the absolute most ridiculous thing that I can't get over is in "The Force Awakens" when Han uses the hyperdrive to get past the third Death Star's, I mean Starkiller Base's shield and then slows down before hitting the planet. Light travels at 300,000 kilometers per second. The Millennium Falcon was going faster than that. Either from hitting the planet or decelerating so abruptly, it would have been pulverized to atoms.
Now that Star Wars movies are being released in December I have to write about them and Christmas at the same time, and there's only so many ways to tie them together. Is there Christmas in the Star Wars galaxy? Their equivalent is generally considered to be "Life Day", first revealed in 1978's really really really bad "Star Wars Holidy Special", a holiday that Wookiees celebrate by covering their nudity with red robes and evidently taking some kind of psychedelic drug so they can walk through space into a star and listen to Princess Leia sing while she's so coked up that her eyes are pointing in opposite directions like a chameleon and she has to hold onto Chewbacca to stay standing. But the special was actually aired (one and only time) around Thanksgiving, not Christmas.
One of my bishopric members really wanted to read my book, providing an opportunity to see how the more chronologically advanced Mormon demographic will receive it. So far he has been thrilled and not bothered by the thematic elements, cynical critiques of the human condition, or references to evolution. He says he learned some new words for the golf course; "Fardles" and "Space spit" (affectionate homages to Anne McCaffrey's "Dinosaur Planet" and R.L. Stine's "Space Cadets" series, respectively).
Originally I used real swear words, mainly because "The Outsiders" didn't and it totally ruined my suspension of disbelief. "We'll kill each other with broken beer bottles, but we won't swear or talk about sex, no matter how contrived this makes our dialogue at times. Also, we have names like Soda Pop and Pony Boy." So I was just being realistic. But then I read an interview with Dave Wolverton, who was asked how his Mormon faith influenced his writing and said in part: "When I first started writing, I was trained by my professors to try to create natural sounding voices (so if people swear, then you should swear), and I started realizing that I was really not being true to myself. Just because people swear doesn't mean I need to do it in my writing. I decided after my first novel to sort of back off on that, and I've noticed that a lot of other fine bestselling authors do the same - they don’t use any profanity at all." I figured that probably no one would read it because of the swearing, but people might not read it because of the swearing. So I fixed that. Though the concept of having words in our language that we're not supposed to say is still stupid to begin with.
I hope Star Wars doesn't steal all my ideas. "The Force Awakens" had me a little worried when the Millennium Falcon's escape from Tatooine, I mean Jakku, bore somewhat of a resemblance to a similar escape in my book.