84 thoughts on “They Are NOT Amused

  1. Well, that didn’t take long. I can’t get to the AMC column. Looks like their servers may have melted under the heat of fan boy nerdrage.

  2. Marc:

    Yes, noted it although have no intention of wading in there.

    In any event a general observation that there are design flaws in the OMW universe is unobjectionable. I can think of a couple myself, although of course I won’t tell you what they are.

  3. Well, AMC ought to be happy ! You must have generated the biggest number of hits for any column they had…
    And, sorry Star Wars fans, but you need to develop thicker skins.

  4. Christopher:

    Well, and that’s what some of them are saying to me, mind you.

    It’s clear that some of them are taking it too seriously, but, you know. Fans are very serious sometimes. It’s what they do. It’s fine.

  5. I thought your column was hilarious and, uh, so what? Much of what Lucas throws into that movie is for visual purposes, not functional purposes.

  6. I thought it was dead-nuts on target! But I’m not a SW (or ST, for that matter) fanatic.

  7. Took me three tries to get the page to load – High traffic?
    At any rate, I was highly amused, and I liked the original trilogy.

  8. Reminds me of the guy who is two years older than me (I’m 43) who STILL lives in his mother’s basement, which is a shrine devoted entirely to Star Trek.

    Because, like Shatner to his universe, John, you just. Don’t. Get. Star Wars.

    (However, you also earn more than minimum wage and get to make this stuff up for a living, so feel free to pour yourself a nice big cup of smug.)

  9. Well sir, I believe you’ve been slashdotted… I guess I’ll leave a snarky comment later after I’ve been able to get to the article. :P

  10. you didn’t even mention my favorite bit of bad SW tech — the manually operated turbolaser batteries in ANH (a.k.a. ‘why every enterprise vs. star destroyer argument was doomed to failure from the start — you gotta be able to see something if you wanna hit it…’.)

    oh, and all those sounds that you hear from craft flying around in space? huh…

    though i will say this — i kinda give SW a pass on a lot of this because it’s nothing more than a fantasy movie using SF iconography (and if you start thinking of it in terms of a rather archetypal fantasy story, it actually feels less problematic.)

    star trek, otoh…

  11. @11: Of course Scalzi is beyond the edge of insanity. How else could he ever write The Android’s Dream, or Agent to the Stars?

    But he has a wife to keep him from getting too far past that edge. So we will allow him his “eccentricities.”

    I got to the article before the fanboys on /. got to work and started reading it, and I agree with it. There are some serious flaws there. That didn’t stop me from liking all 6 movies. There are glaring flaws in the green soldier trilogy, but that didn’t stop me from liking all the books. A lot. It’s science fiction, slashdotters.

  12. You missed the biggest design flaw in the lightsabers. It’s not just the “missing handguard.” It’s the fact that they are activated by an *UN-SAFETIED EXTERNAL SWITCH*. And they’re hung, swinging freely, from the Jedi’s belt.

    “Reason there is Jedi cannot love. Find out you will.”

  13. I like Star Wars, flaws and all. The article did zero to diminish that. The Star Trek one will be the same way.

  14. I was most amused by the comments attacking the quality of the writing of your article.
    My first thought being: “And how many of you have paid writing gigs?”

    Anyway, good job on stirring up the internets again!

  15. JJS #18: Absolutely. It takes one to know one! ;-)

    Christopher #21: Sure, considering that Star Wars survived George Lucas’s Episodes I-III, it can survive a little taunting.

  16. There’s one comment there that’s starts out as a spirited defense, gets a bit less passionate as it goes on and then ends with “Lucas is dead to me for that mitichlorians crap.”

    I feel like a better person for reading that one.

  17. I think the fanboys missed the tone of your article. I didn’t think it sounded like “I am the high and might John Scalzi, who now deigns to pass judgment on another science fiction realm since I am the master of both science and fiction, and I say star wars seems totally, obscenely unrreasonable.”

    I thought your AMC article sounded more like “I like science fiction, and aren’t these robot anecdotes pretty funny? They made Star Wars pretty funny at times and I thought them worth comment.”

    Most of the people who read Scalzi’s work probably enjoyed Star Wars to some extent, and I highly doubt that Scalzi didn’t enjoy SW. SW is a huge cultural phenomenon, and as such, deserve to be picked on sometimes for humor and entertainments sake. Even George Lucas has said on a number of occasions; they are just movies.

    I enjoyed the droid article at face value. Chill out, fan boys.

  18. As a big-ol’-dork-first-generation Star Wars fan, I thought this column was hil-freaking-larious. (In fact, it got me thinking of three or four other things you missed – although maybe they just didn’t make the top ten.) And I admit I can’t bring myself to click on the Slashdot comments because I know I’ll be embarrassed or suffer severe eye-rolling-muscle sprains from what’s in there.

  19. On a side note, I think the Force in Star Wars is a counter example to one of the Cardinal Rules of fantasy writing. I have read in lots of places that to have a good fantasy book you MUST have a well defined magic system with clear rules. The rules of the Force, per the movies, were something along the lines of:

    with the Force you can do a whole bunch of things that seem completely unrelated, because the Force is everywhere
    what you are able to do is, in some way, to how strong in the Force you are
    you have to be trained by a guy in a robe

    I know, as I have read hordes of Star Wars books and associated lore, that there is much more to the mythology than that, but my point is this: the movies were enjoyable not only despite the fairly ambiguous magical system, but partly BECAUSE of it. SO I don’t think the clearly defined magical system with rules is as important to enjoying fantasy as some of the other folks here on the Interweb.

  20. re: Midichlorians – I had a friend who once worked as an editor for a Star Wars magazine, and everything had to be canon approved. Anyway, he got an awesome story in about black market midichlorians and injections and so on, and the word back from on high was to bounce the story. Presumably because such a story would telegraph one of the flaws in the story building. Sigh.

  21. I thought the article was awesome. Can’t say I’m surprised at the reaction over on Slashdot. Commenters there tend to be extreme nitpickers and are often over-enamored with themselves.

    Keep up the great work. I can’t wait for the Star Trek version. :)

  22. Having just introduced my almost 6-yr-olds to the original three movies (in the unadultered form) and thus having seen each multiple times in the past two weeks….Yes! These and other flaws are rather glaring, though the movies are still a heck of a lot of fun.

    What I want to know, is it a Jedi power to miraculously show up just in the nick of time? Luke does this no less than three times in Return of the Jedi: Hours before Yoda’s death to get a few last pearls of wisdom; in the middle of the Rebels meeting just in time to be the last volunteer for General Solo’s mission, and of course escaping the Death Star right before it blows up.

  23. Re: slashdot: I love the spirited, detailed defenses of the films as well as the ones poking fun. What I hate are the snide “Shut up, it’s just a movie” comments these kind of discussions always attract–as if that’s some kind of revelation to the participants. I mean, Shut up, yourself. It’s just people amusing themselves on the internet.

  24. Scalzi obviously wrote that article (and the veiled threat against Star Trek) as a way to put pressure on AMC: “Are you gonna pay up, or am I gonna have to crush your servers under another pile of nerds?”

  25. IMO, the first two Star Wars movies just about worked — fun adventure romps, but kind of deficient in the world-building department. But with “Return of the Jedi” they fell off a cliff, bounced several times, and went for a swim in the Swamp of Suckitude — since which time they’ve got their sucky snorkel on and are going for nitrogen narcosis.

    (Mind you, I hate Star Trek, Dr Who, Buffy, Firefly, all TV SF series and most SF movies with a vitriol-dripping venom like unto an Alien queen’s saliva …)

    As for Slashdot, welcome to the chimpanzees tea party! Just try not to pay too much attention, lest it rot your brain.

  26. #14 eviljwinter: (However, you also earn more than minimum wage and get to make this stuff up for a living, so feel free to pour yourself a nice big cup of smug.)

    You beat me to the punch (or post). A lot of these insta-haters may have mentioned things like this while giving the films the MST3K treatment at some point (unless they’re too tight-assed to do even that), but hey, John got 2,000 now, and 15 when he reached Alderaan, to write ‘em up, and well to boot.

    (Oh, BTW, John, you didn’t really fall for that “I’ll pay you the rest when you reach Alderaan” line, did you? ‘Cause, well, Alderaan . . . oh, boy.)

  27. @36 Daniel B.

    What I hate are the snide “Shut up, it’s just a movie” comments these kind of discussions always attract–as if that’s some kind of revelation to the participants. I mean, Shut up, yourself. It’s just people amusing themselves on the internet.

    That’s fair. In my case, what I really mean is, I think movies are, for the most part, written to fit into 2-3 hour increments. In the case of SW, maybe Lucas wrote them to fit into 20-24 hours. There is no way anyone, when writing a script, could hope to define another universe and its laws so entirely (unless it is the one we live in) inside the confines of a script, movie, or series of movies that no none would be able to poke holes in it or at least ask some reasonable questions. Particularly not a world as expansive as SW’s.

    My intent wasn’t to degrade or minimize SW… heck, I love those movies. My point was that the expectation that no one would ever be able to point out flaws in a movie, and growing defensive trying to argue that there are none, doesn’t make sense. Movies are limited in length, therefore in scope. That’s all.

  28. Years ago I read an article written from the point of view of an in-universe union safety inspector blowing the whistle on the horrible working conditions on the Death Star: no safety railings around chasms, high-powered laser beams with no shielding, etc. It was awesome.

  29. This is pretty funny though. I love watching fanboys squirm. I love BattleTech/Mechwarrior universe with an undying passion, but I’m not going to stand around and argue about the economics of a two story tall WALKING assault machine.

  30. (Mind you, I hate Star Trek, Dr Who, Buffy, Firefly, all TV SF series and most SF movies with a vitriol-dripping venom like unto an Alien queen’s saliva …)

    Damnit, Charlie! Now I have to stop reading your books. This isn’t quite Orson Scott Card level, but To Speak Ill Of Joss Whedon’s Work is just unacceptable.

    (mostly jesting. mostly.)

  31. While I enjoyed the Star Wars article, and look forward to the Star Trek edition … yeah, deadline pressure would indeed be the best justification for such easy and well-trod ground. So let me just say I hope you find something *new* to point out about Bad Star Trek Design. That would be fun. (If there’s still an amc.com by then.)

  32. And let us not forget the worst bit of SW science: It’s psychology.

    Han DID shoot first, and no CGI will ever change that.

    (That said, I do like the reshot scene between Vader and the Emperor in EMPIRE STRIKES BACK better than the original. “Skywalker had a son?” “Um… Er… I thought I told child support to keep that one quiet.”)

  33. Well, I howled. And I particularly cherish the comment “The failure mode of science fiction is NOT “fantasy,” it is “bad science fiction.” That one gets written on the Wall of Great Pithy Sayings. (Someday, we’ll find a pithier name for the Wall.)

    I loved Nardo Pace too.

  34. Slashdot: Proof positive that expertise in one area does not imply expertise in another area … and proof that many experts can remain blissfully unaware of the personal implications of that simple fact.

  35. Since Star Trek is pretty much perfect, I’m sure that one’s going to be quite short…perhaps you could do some items from your mailbag to fill the extra space?

  36. I’ve found that there are still untapped veins of win and awesome in the Star Wars universe, but they appear to be outside the lifetimes of Anakin and Luke Skywalker. There’s a lot of good work being done in the Knights of the Old Republic era (two excellent computer RPGs and an ongoing comic book series from Dark Horse), and Drew Karpyshyn’s Darth Bane books (he was the writer on KOTOR, Jade Empire, and Mass Effect) are quite good.

    I think one of the difficult things about Star Wars media tie-in fiction is that there’s a tendency to try and cram the whole ensemble cast in. The best books I’ve seen from the era near the films are ones where an author had a chance to take a character or two and run with them, while the rest of the ensemble stayed in the background.

    (I’ve been reading up on Star Wars lately since I’m prepping a role-playing game in that setting, and yes, much rationalization is required to result in a world where all those stylistic details make sense, or be jettisoned in favor of “the movie was exaggerating things for dramatic effect, like the starship accelerations”.)

  37. “Hmm – wonder what John could have said to attract so much ire?

    “Oh my, HERESY!!!!”

    Could have been worse – he could have criticised the science in Star Trek.

    It’s a story folks – not a religion.

    (Note to self: do not go any further in that direction!)

  38. #45 U.G.: Funny you mention Battletech. Years ago, I watched what looked like a well-tricked-out Battletech session—beautifully painted minis, hex mat nicely inked with terrain and hazards, etc.—grind to a screeching halt because one player vehemently objected to being told that the forested hex adjacent to his ‘mech was on fire, and therefore was either inaccesible to movement, or threatened his heat sinks, or blah blah fun-killing blah. All I remember is that the game was utterly derailed by a point that an amicable coin toss could’ve resolved.

    Since then, interjecting a whining, fanboyish “That hex is on fi-i-i-re!!” has been a macro in my circle for obstructive game-nitpickery.

  39. My favorite part:

    …one can say that a significant goal of all those Star Wars novels is to rationalize and mitigate the bad design choices of the movies…

    and the response:

    Nu uh! See the the Death Star was under construction and R2D2 was an autopilot and C3PO was gay and …

    Uh, slashdotters, you’re making Scalzi’s argument for him. Generally that’s considered a non-optimal tactic in a debate.

    Who’s this John Scalzi guy anyway? The dude obviously knows nothing about Science Fiction…

  40. I love that those guys miss the *real* reason for the storm troopers armor–so the same stunt guys can be used in shot after shot.

    Sheesh.

    And yeah, the Empire needed some kind of OSHA. Who would build all those high catwalks with no railings?

  41. I reckon the Sarlacc might have lived on those big furballs the Tusken raiders roder around on. If they’re stupid enough to fall into a giant hole. And isn’t there something about it digesting for a thousand years? Suggests that they are long-lived and efficient utilizers of intermittent meals.

    As far as C3PO’s wiry abs go, I would just chalk that down to the desire for a world that isn’t the usual perfect shiny sci-fi environment.

  42. Andy @59 – to some of the geeks on Slashdot, Star Trek and Star Wars are a religion. I’m a computer programmer and frequent reader of /. But there are some guys in there that scare me….

    Meanwhile, I have to agree with John’s belief of the stupidity of C3-PO’s design. I’ve always wondered how he translates sign language. 6 million forms of communication, minus that one.

  43. Harry Connolly: “And yeah, the Empire needed some kind of OSHA. Who would build all those high catwalks with no railings?”

    An evil empire, of course.

    I mean, they built this thing to destroy inhabited planets! Worker safety probably wasn’t a big concern.

    I guessing that when the Emperor dissolved the Senate, he probably also cut funding for OSHA, the FDA, the NTSB, the SEC, etc, etc. I mean, if you’re going to pump up your military budget enough to build a moon-sized battle station, you’ve got to cut back somewhere, right?

  44. John Scalzi @ 4:
    In any event a general observation that there are design flaws in the OMW universe is unobjectionable. I can think of a couple myself, although of course I won’t tell you what they are.

    Well, yes… but am I the only person who can be remarkably tolerant of ‘design flaw’ if they serve, rather than hinder, telling an engaging and entertaining story?

  45. I’m waiting for the upcoming additions to the back cover blurbs about the author. You know, the ones that will shortly have words similar to:

    “…..who was able to bring two well known website servers to a complete halt just with the power of his observations on a couple of SF’s most iconic movies and TV shows….”

    Talk about the Force! And written somewhat (a lot) better than the above but along the same general line would really get the geeks attention and generally send book sales soaring.

    Just a thought…..

  46. Bearpaw @66, an Eeee-vile Empire wouldn’t cut those programs to save money. They’d run huge deficites to that, just in case the tax-and-spend rebels regain power.

  47. AMC must be loving all the attention. The worst sin committed against the Star Wars universe are ewoks, Episodes I, II, and III, and Jar Jar Binks. Satirical articles pointing out the lack of scientific thought/effort that goes into the design in these movies (form over function) has a lot of good material to work with. Suspension of disbelief takes on a new meaning when watching most of George Lucas’s movies.

    I think that we all have at one time in our lives enjoyed the original Star Wars Trilogy and articles pointing out logical flaws in the movie do nothing to diminish their appeal.

    Thank you for the entertaining article and I look forward to the Star Trek Edition. A note of warninig: Please be sure to clarify between Trekkies and Trekkers… You don’t want to be responsible for bringing down the internets… do you?

    Rabid

  48. Wow, did I miss the bit where Scalzi said George Lucas financed his movies by selling crystal meth to children, then pimping them out to perverts on the internet. Oh, well, at least nobody implored him to stop raping their precious childhood memories…

  49. my personal definition of “Trekker”: someone who takes their love of Trek WAY WAY too seriously and expects you to as well. Me, I’m a Trekkie. Not all the episodes were good, but I’m a fan, not a nitpicker (usually.)

  50. Tom G@73:

    Indeed — and I’m always highly impressed that Wil Wheaton turned out to be the big ball of well-adjusted win that he is after years of bitter and crazy strangers shitting on him in public regarding things he had precisely no influence over.

  51. How about an analysis of the religious and technological flaws in the Star Wars Christmas Special? You could extend your poking stick even further! (For me, poking fun at Star Wars is like poking fun at a good friend – I only make fun of you because I love you!)

  52. I thought the article was hilarious, but I tend to lurk and waste mod points on Slashdot rather than take time to post, since /. is just FARK for “smart people”.

  53. It’s 1030 at night on the West Coast and I still can’t get in to read MRK’scolumn on AMC.

    Sigh. Perhaps they’ll go elsewhere tomorrow

  54. I read this blog and the AMC column on a very regular basis and I just gotta say that I laughed my ass off over this one!! I even sent the link to some family and friends that I know who would appreciate it. Looking forward to the Star Trek edition! :-D

  55. I agree, Hannah. I suspect that Scalzi is going to have more fun than a basket of kittens taking apart Star Trek‘s approach to FTL spaceflight.

  56. Just to put this in retrospect – episode IV Movie made in 1975-76, released June 1977 – I think the world worked really well then – geez the speeder on Tatooine was just outstanding – “real anti grav technology that works” kind of breakthrough moment….. and the first time the Millenium Falcon went to hyper drive, well it just didn’t get better than that – relativistically speaking isn’t that the first time we saw jump to light speed from the flight deck?? Star Trek just had stars moving by the view screen, no Einsteinian effects.

    It was the 1977 WOW moments that counted – almost like sex the first time.

    Now we can do the revisionism and get a good laugh. Bring on the Trek takedown, gotta have a testimonial to styrofoam boulders. (Just thinking – did transporter “mistakes” have to be hosed down to clean up the goo, or did Scotty just transport it back out to space?)

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