(An Imaginary Review.)
Ah, the 1970s, when the unprofitable and idealistic hippie cultures had collapsed in a wave of tragically-betrayed idealism, and, for a strange, gloriously soulless ten years, all the psychedelics and the drugs and the weird, weird aesthetic choices went straight into corporate culture. “I don’t know what that is,” said corporate America, “but a bunch of really strange stuff went down, and apparently people want that. Why not put it on TV and the radio?”
“Yes, I think that is a wise and well-chosen decision,” said 877,523 tons of cocaine.
Not everyone is privileged to know how much good this did for literary science fiction. And when I say “good”, I mean “The best parts have survived and made it through to today, but unsung and unknown, there are thousands upon thousands of gems of just the worst possible ideas. I collect old scifi books of that period. And let me tell you: it’s horrifying.
Go ahead and think of that era as being synonymous with”Rendezvous With Rama”, “The Shockwave Rider”, or, on very very slightly lighter note, “Gateway”. You do that. I’m going to sit here with “Caduceus Wild”, a novel about a dystopia ruled by doctors, or “I: Weapon”, in which the human race is only saved by interbreeding multiple different species of human (humans are multiple different species in this distant future, each with their own superpowers) so that this one particular individual can go and win a war with space aliens by (at least partly) breeding with them (I am not making this up). (No, this isn’t porn; this stuff just…happens.) Yeah, we got “Illuminatus”, but we also got “Thongor and the Dragon City”, and sure, I worship the former book and really enjoy the latter, but I am too weird for words and the fact that I like things means you should consider running from them very, very quickly.
So for all those whose first criticism is that Star Wargs isn’t science fiction, you’re probably right, but the 1970s bent, twisted, mangled, spun, and warped “science fiction” so much that it doesn’t matter. Consider yourselves lucky that you got spaceships, you ungrateful sods.
Star Wargs had a lot of things going for it, but what it had, more than anything else, was an insistence on its own reality, and it made shameless use of force modifiers which tore through our sense of proportion and forced millions of us to fall in love.
It’s easy to call Star Wargs “Wizards In Space”, but that’s just part of it. It kept pushing past the sale, until few people had the ability to resist, and even fewer had the desire.
Realistically, Star Wargs had Wizards who actually did stuff. Consider how infrequent this is. Magic is generally either world-breaking or frustratingly limited. Either it can do just about anything—in which case, why do magic-users ever have problems?—or it seems to be so limited that one might just as well stick with physics and chemistry and reliable diesel engines. But The Force is an energetic field pervading all life. It can manipulate both matter and spirit because it is a bridge between the two, and its metaphysics do not depend on exterior powers, like demons or angels, nor on incantations, or (in general) on ritual (let’s not get into Sith sorcery, eh?) and therefore, it can do a multiplicity of things, limited mostly by individual strength of will, focus, attunement, and, obviously, as is essential with the supernatural in pretty much all video media, plot convenience.
And they had swords. You can (but I certainly do not intend to) run down the various arguments for and against the utilization of some sort of hand-to-hand weapon in an age of beamed weaponry. Sure, we wouldn’t consider bringing swords into combat now, and presumably our primitive firepower is pitiful compared to the power available in the far future. But these aren’t simply space swords; it’s actually a very natural mechanic for The Force, this combination of will and focus. It makes the magic into some combination of an extension of what we know we can do at the upper echelons of human achievement, and also something which is transformatively powerful, that, if you have the strength of character, the determination, the training, and the sense of self, you can do incredible things.
Some argue that setting these things in a space opera setting, rather than a fantasy setting, is dishonest. Hard disagree. The space opera setting was key to the Star Wargs universe. It said that humans were not, primarily, held to the devices and mechanisms of primitive times, dependent on the fickleness of magic; in fact, the Universe was full of sentient, spacefaring beings of all varieties, engaged in complex and sophisticated pursuits, the result of thousands of years of advanced knowledge, applied through engineering and technology, and even then, in fact, especially then, spirit and will were still the most ultimately meaningful things in the Universe.
This is part of why it was so crushing to find out that the entire set of films was a ruse. When it was revealed that the creator of the series was, in fact, a Sith Lord, and when he bent, not just this world, but every world in the Galaxy to his will, and crushed our souls and minds in the relentless grip of his merciless dominion, we were shocked, demoralized, and utterly defeated.
Plus, he took away our space swords, and that was such a bummer.