I don’t actually know how long I’ve been a Star Wars fan. As I’ve mentioned before, one of the first toys I remember having — and I remember it as not being new in my first memories of it — was a Yoda action figure. I first saw Return of the Jedi when I was about six, and by the time I was seven or eight I could recite every line in the movie, and knew every move in the climactic light saber duel. It is still one of my favorite movies, nearly thirty years later. I see other authors talking about this book or that book that taught them how to keep the reader engaged and how to tell a story and is why they write in their genre and stuff like that, and for me — though I’ve always been a rabid reader of all written material put in front of me — the influence like that wasn’t a book. It was that movie. What I’m trying to capture when I put pen to page (or fingers to keyboard, whatever) is the feeling little me had when I first saw the final episode of the original trilogy.
The dedication in one of my books reads something like “Dedicated to George Lucas, because the Faeshild wouldn’t exist without the Jedi”. That’s one hell of an understatement. Universal Nexus wouldn’t exist without Star Wars. I write space opera because as a very small child I fell madly in love with Jedi, light sabers, droids, dogfights in space, and a cocky smuggler who was possibly my first fictional crush.
I hold all other space opera to the standards of that movie. Most fail horribly. This is, I know, what separates me from most of my “target audience.” I don’t think The Empire Strikes Back is the best space opera movie ever; in fact I think it’s pretty dull. Nor do I think the perfect space opera anything is the one with the best fight scenes. Space opera, to me, is excitement. It’s larger than life heroes and villains. It’s good triumphing over evil. It’s scoundrel captains and weird aliens. It’s quirky robots. It’s more a feeling any science fiction work can have than a genre of it’s own, if that makes any sense to anyone but me.
I got a three star review once that was, almost in it’s entirety, “Feels like Star Wars”. I’ll never figure out why that only warranted three stars . . . especially in a book that I dedicated to George Lucas because that rather shows what I was going for, yes?. In my opinion, that’s the highest praise you can give a space opera author. If it doesn’t feel like Star Wars and you’re calling it space opera, I’m going to be disappointed. (Please note, I mean the movies — any of them — not the goddamned Expanded Universe which I think tried way too fucking hard too often to be “real” science fiction and killed the magic more than the midichlorian thing ever did. I have no opinion on the “new” Expanded Universe because I’ve only read the sample of one book. It kept me interested enough that I’ll check it out of the library some day; that’s all I can say so far.)
Yes, yes, I know: space opera book fans want harder science, or they want epic battle scenes, or they want . . . yeah, I don’t give a fuck. It’s not what I want. I want something that feels, if not like Star Wars, then like the old pulp that inspired it. Give me your plot contrivances, your banking turns and sound in space . . . give me that sense of fun and adventure that’s why I fell in love with Star Wars in the first place.
Just please — because this is 2015, after all — give me characters to root for that aren’t all white, heterosexual, cis, able-bodied, males. I’m not saying we can’t have those — that’d be a really daft thing for me to say when I’m writing more than one story narrated by one! — but remember that they aren’t the only option. I’m not asking that they match none of those characteristics, but really, I don’t think it’s asking that much to have characters that don’t match all of them.
That’s what I try to do with my books. I’m not trying to write some deep tale that’ll make you rethink anything. I’m just trying to tell a fun story with quirky — yet real feeling –characters in a neat setting with really cool tech that’s mostly just an excuse to play with “what if”s. (The general concept behind Galfarran tech: lock Nikola Tesla and Jony Ive in a room for a thousand years.) I don’t know how well I succeed. But I do know something that does:
Tonight I had the good fortune of seeing a movie which might, maybe, finally replace Return of the Jedi as my favorite space opera movie. No, I didn’t finally get around to seeing Serenity; I know enough about it to know that I will, most likely, never watch it because it doesn’t contain enough of the stuff that I thought made Firefly great. I saw — on a whim, we’d just gone in to check ticket prices because the website wasn’t working and discovered they weren’t sold out — The Force Awakens. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t gotten a chance to see it yet. I’ll just restate this: Return of the Jedi is, in large part, the reason I write space opera for a living; I think I might like The Force Awakens more.