From e-mail, in the aftermath of yesterday’s entry on Star Wars as not-entertainment:
As a science fiction writer, don’t you ever worry that badmouthing George Lucas is going to hurt your career?
In a word: no. For one thing, let’s have some perspective: George Lucas is the billionaire creator of the single most financially successful movie series in the history of the cinema, and I’m a guy with four science fiction books and a blog. I can’t imagine Lucas even knows what I’ve written about him, and if he does, that he could possibly care. And even if he did care — if Lucas were up there at Skywalker Ranch, stewing bitterly over my words — he seems to be the sort not to do much about it. Look, people with far more pull in science fiction and outside it have said things as bad or worse about Star Wars and Lucas’ involvement with it, with a far wider distribution, and as far as I know none of them have been stalked down by Lucas’ stormtroopers and/or lawyers (“Look at these torts! Only Imperial lawyers are this precise!”).
I think it’s possible that someone at Lucasfilm might read the slagging of Star Wars; the Lucasfilm folks seem pretty well connected to this whole Intarweeb system of tubes, and I know the essay is getting some play in the SW fandom. But I sort of doubt anyone at Lucasfilm is going to run to Lucas and say “Oh noes, George! Someone’s saying something bad about you on the Internets!!!”. Because, really, when is someone not saying something bad about George Lucas on the Internet? I mean, hell. Someone is always something bad about me on the Internet, and I’ve got maybe a millionth of the fame that Lucas has. What is the Internet, if not the world’s most efficient way to say something bad about someone — and post pictures of cats? I think George Lucas would need to worry about me if all of a sudden I started climbing the fence at the ranch; short of that I doubt he gives me a second thought, if indeed I was even given a first thought, which seems highly unlikely (for the record: No plans to attack the ranch. Lucas lawyers, please keep your restraining orders sheathed).
I do think my antipathy for how Lucas has handled the Star Wars movies means that I’m unlikely ever to have anything to do with the Star Wars universe in any official capacity, of course. I can’t imagine that I’d ever be asked to write a Star Wars novel, for example, since even the slightest of due diligence from Lucasfilm would discover a rather wide paper- and pixel-trail of reviews and commentary from me slagging Lucas for his apparent disinterest in making his Star Wars films entertaining and/or his apparent lack of competence as a writer and a director. If I were a Lucasfilm exec, I wouldn’t hire me, especially if I would then have to have any contact with Lucas at all. Now, to some extent the point is moot, because even if I were asked to write a Star Wars novel (which seems, well, unlikely), I don’t imagine I would take the job. I’m not interested in doing media tie-ins, personally, and even if I were, I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to do so. The Star Wars universe will have to get along without me. I’m sure it will survive the lack.
And anyway, my disregard for Lucas is pretty much limited to his choices for the Star Wars films, particularly the choice to write and direct the prequel films in the absence of anyone who would really tell him that he was doing a crap job at both. Get me away from talking about Lucas as an unsupervised writer and director, and you’ll find I have really an immense amount of admiration for the things he’s done. I’ve long and publicly said that I believe he’s unquestionably the most significant filmmaker of the last 30 years and possibly ever, because of what he’s done for the technical aspects of filmmaking. Special effects, sound production, computer graphics, film editing, post-production, digital filmmaking — basically if there’s a filmmaking process around, there’s a damn fine chance that Lucasfilm or one of its subsidiaries or spinoffs was a pioneer in it or refined the process substantially. We watch film the way we do because of George Lucas, end of story, period. The guy’s a genius, or knows how to hire them, which is almost as good. Indeed, the only two aspects of filmmaking where he falls down on the job are writing and directing, which is ironic (and not only because he has two Oscar nominations for screenwriting, and another two for directing). But, you know what? No one’s good at everything.
Beyond that, I’m fond of many things Lucas has been involved in. Indiana Jones? I dig two out of three immensely (Temple of Doom? Not so much). LucasArts is a videogame house whose output I admire, particularly Grim Fandango (which I wish would be made into an animated movie one day), Sam & Max and most of the first-person Star Wars shooters, because how can you not like wielding a lightsaber? Lucas produced dreck like Howard the Duck, but also interesting films like Tucker and Powaqqatsi, and was significant in helping Akira Kurosawa complete Kagemusha by convincing 20th Century Fox to help finance the film in exchange for foreign distribution rights. I even sort of like Willow, to my shame, because I know it’s not good at all (I find it amusing that Lucas named the bad guy in the film after a film critic, and the dragon in the film for two more). So, you know, as much as I dislike what he did to the Star Wars series, I don’t think you could say that I despise the man, or Lucas as an overall filmmaker.
Someone once asked me what I would do if I ever met George Lucas. I suspect I would compliment him on all the things I think he’s done well as a filmmaker, which is a not inconsiderable list of things, and then avoid talking about the things that I think he’s screwed up. And if those came up anyway, I would simply note that he got to do what he wanted to do with the story, and that’s something very few filmmakers get to do. And then I’d probably fake a seizure to get away. Unless, of course, Lucas wanted to talk about why I think what I think about him in relation to the Star Wars films. In which case I’d just tell him. Because if he asks, I think I owe him what I owe anyone who asks me what I really think about something: The truth.
However, this is all fairly theoretical. I suspect Lucas will go along blissfully unaware of who I am, which is fine with me. And if he does know of me and wants to get back at me, I suggest he do what he did to Pauline Kael: use my name for an enemy in a future film, who is ignominously slaughtered at the end. Because you know what? I think that would rock.
Also, the following is pretty damn amusing:
It’s hard to dislike Lucas after that.