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Star Wars on Trial: Science Fiction And Fantasy Writers Debate the Most Popular Science Fiction Films of All Time (Smart Pop) Paperback – 11 May 2006

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Product details

  • Paperback: 394 pages
  • Publisher: Smart Pop (11 May 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 193210089X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932100891
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,222,534 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

David Brin is the author of 15 novels, including Earth, Startide Rising, and The Uplift War, and numerous short stories. He is the recipient of three Hugo Awards and one Nebula Award. He lives in Encinitas, CA. Matthew Woodring Stover is the author of the film novelization Stars Wars: Revenge of the Sith, as well as Blade of Tyshalle and Star Wars: Shatterpoint. He lives in Chicago, IL.


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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book open up a debate by various science fiction writers on the various failings of the Star Wars movies (all six of them). It is portrayed as a court action, with a team for both the prosecution and the defence calling their witnesses to give testimony on a series of charges aimed at the films.

These charges encompass areas such as the role of women, plot holes, the impact on real sci-fi, media tie-ins and so on. The style works well and once you have got used to it, Star Was On Trial is a very enjoyable read.

It pays to have a good knowledge of the movies to get the most out of the book, and I felt that the balance to the various arguments was generally good. At times the points made by both the prosecution and defence writers are very compelling and make you consider Star Wars in new ways.

Occasionally it all gets a little juvenile and geeky, especially bearing in mind most of the participants are middle-aged, but the style is light and jovial enough that the book just about gets away with it.

If you love (or maybe even hate) Star Wars and like to think beyond simply what is painted on screen, this is a good book for you. You'll certainly not look at the movies in the same way again.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x96fcf5d0) out of 5 stars 25 reviews
61 of 64 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x987aa198) out of 5 stars The most fun I've had reading Star Wars in a long time 17 Aug. 2006
By Daiho - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Back in 1999, physics professor, NASA consultant, and science fiction writer David Brin contributed an essay to Salon.com highlighting the logical inconsistencies in the (up until then) four Star Wars films and pointing out what he saw as the darker philosophical and ethical underpinnings of the series - a feudal universe in which elite, super-powered beings control the fate of civilization, a galaxy where might is right, in which the life of the commoner is to be ruled by The Jedi or The Sith.

"'Star Wars' Despots vs. 'Star Trek' Populists" generated a tremendous amount of interest and feedback from Star Wars and science fiction fans and over the years on his own website Brin came back to the topic now and then, (often, he laments as an aside in "Star Wars on Trial," taking time away from his other writing projects). With the release last year of the final chapter in the Star Wars film series, Brin is back to update his arguments and lead the prosecution in "Star Wars on Trial," a book-length collection of critical essays on the six-film cycle and its relationship to film-making and science-fiction. The book is organized conceptually around a trial, with a prosecutor leveling charges and a defense counsel attempting to poke holes in the state's case.

The six charges brought to court are, in order: 1) The Politics of Star Wars Are Anti-Democratic and Elitist; 2) While Claiming Mythic Significance, Star Wars Portrays No Admirable Religious or Ethical Beliefs; 3) Star Wars Novels Are Poor Substitutes for Real Science Fiction and Are Driving Real SF off the Shelves; 4) Science Fiction Filmmaking Has Been Reduced by Star Wars to Poorly Written Special Effects Extravaganzas.; 5) Star Wars Has Dumbed Down the Perception of Science Fiction in the Popular Imagination; 6) Star Wars Pretends to Be Science Fiction, but Is Really Fantasy; 7) Women in Star Wars Are Portrayed as Fundamentally Weak; 8) The Plot Holes and Logical Gaps in Star Wars Make It Ill-Suited for an Intelligent Viewer.

Each charge is argued in separate essays, both for the prosecution and the defense. In between the essays are short chapters in which the prosecutor and the defense cross exam the essayists and address the bench on procedure issues.

Leading the defense and providing opening and closing arguments in this literary trial is three-time Star Wars novelist Matthew Woodring Stover (Traitor, Shatterpoint, Revenge of the Sith), a writer whose books I have enjoyed but for whom I have lost some not small measure of respect after reading his smarmy ripostes to Brin's more reasoned arguments. It's not necessarily that Brin's ideas are better (sometimes they are, sometimes not); it's just that Brin is more erudite. Stover comes off like one of those annoying people you read in usenet forums who, when he can't make a cogent argument, resorts to humor to deflect attention from his lack of a reasoned counter argument, or to avoid having to admit he is wrong.

One the whole, the prosecution makes its best case on textual matters, picking at the obvious inconsistencies within the films and demonstrating what everyone who has seen them has known all along, that George Lucas is a poor writer who suffered moreover from having to force the plot when he found he had to make sequels and later prequels. There's also a devastating argument from real-life attorney John C. Wright demonstrating the lack of religious content in the Star Wars universe, in addition to a well-argued essay from astrophysicist Jeanne Cavelos outlining the evisceration of the two major females in the series, Leia and Padme, who go from being strong, independent characters to stereotypical damsels-in-distress.

For its part, the defense makes its best case on the wider issue of cultural matters, on the effect of Star Wars on science fiction and filmmaking. Novelist Karen Traviss, one of the most popular of the current crop of Star Wars authors, argues convincingly that Star Wars literature can be more than turgid prose hastily churned out for cash by revealing some of the positive changes she was forced to make in her own writing when commissioned to write her first Star Wars novel. And addressing the complaint that Star Wars fiction is driving "real" science fiction off bookstore shelves, novelist Laura Resnick points out that the success of Star Wars fiction has in fact provided publisher Del Rey the financial clout to expand its original science fiction publishing.

There are several other well-written and thought provoking essays in this collection addressing issues wider than Star Wars - such as the nature science fiction, the push and pull between art and entertainment, the economics of publishing and film making - that make this an interesting read for those that might like to delve into some of the issues debated among aficionados of science fiction and Star Wars.

For those interested in pursuing some of the issues raised in Star Wars on Trial, publisher PopSmart has a dedicated online forum ([...]) where you can participate in discussion with other readers and some of the essayists.
27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9733dc48) out of 5 stars Alternating fun vs. serious. Great for the ambivalent fan. 18 Aug. 2006
By S. A. Blum - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
My two cents: Book = Good; Website = Disappointing.

Hidden benefit - introduction through these essays to the writing of around 20 authors!

I'm one of those people who both love Star Wars and hate it too. Okay, I don't hate Star Wars itself, but there are some things about it that just drive me batty. It's reassuring to know I'm not the only one.

This book is not a weighty philosophical treatise on the merits of Star Wars as art form, cultural phenomenon, etc. Instead it is a light but thoughtful exploration into some of the ideas floating through the SW fan community. I enjoyed it, but I think that, like the movies, if you take it too seriously, you are going to miss out.

This book is in the form of essays written on behalf of the prosecution and the defense, with some "cross-examinations" of witnesses in the "courtroom" conducted by Brin and Stover. Some of the essays are rather serious, and some entertaining. There is at least one that is just wacky. I read the table of contents at the bookstore, and had to buy it, and am glad I did.

Charge #1: The politics of Star Wars are anti-democratic and elitist.

Charge #2: While claiming mythic significance, Star Wars portrays no admirable religious or ethical beliefs.

Charge #3: Star Wars novels are poor substitutes for real science fiction and are driving real SF off the shelves.

Charge #4: Science fiction filmmaking has been reduced by Star Wars to poorly written special effects extravaganzas.

Charge #5: Star Wars has dumbed down the perception of science fiction in the popular imagination.

Charge #6: Star Wars pretends to be science fiction, but is really fantasy.

Charge #7: Women in Star Wars are portrayed as fundamentally weak.

Charge #8: The plot holes and logical gaps in Star Wars make it ill-suited for an intelligent viewer.

I enjoyed it thoroughly. I found myself reading the prosecution argument and saying, "yeah, that's right". Then I'd read the defense argument and say, "yeah, you tell him." And of course, I also disagreed at times. And as I mentioned this is NOT weighty philosophy, so at times you'll find some logic holes in the arguments on either side reminiscent of the logic and plot holes being pointed out in the subject matter. Why it works for me is that there is room for debate. Even though I ended up mostly agreeing with the Defense, there was a case to be made for both sides, which is what makes these questions worth asking. And this is what I have truly loved about SW fans. They ask these questions. They don't just sit back and accept whatever cockamamy junk is thrown at them. For instance, what percentage of SW fans accept the idea of Greedo shooting first? Okay what percentage born before 1997?

The only big beef I have is with the website. After you read the book, you are asked to perform the duty of the jury, and weigh in with your opinion at a website. The website is really a bit lame. There's an introductory page, and then an online forum. For those familiar w/forums, a section has been set up with an opening thread for each of the nine "charges". For a couple charges, forum registrants have created a voting "poll", but not for most, which just have discussion.

I personally think a no-registration-required poll should have been set up on a main page, separately from the forum, to track an overall reader consensus. While I once had more time to devote to my love of SW, currently it's all the time I can muster to read SW expanded universe novels, and maybe some supplemental material like "Star Wars on Trial". I do not have time to have a discussion about each charge. I do think that the small additional investment in the website I suggest is not too much to ask for those of us who can't benefit from a time-consuming forum interaction.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9719e3a8) out of 5 stars Suitable for both critics and fans, full of humor and enthusiasm 15 April 2008
By Christo Popov - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Intellectually, the Prosecution wins the case with flying colors. Emotionally though, the Defense makes some very good points.

The book is written with humor and enthusiasm, all contributors from both sides are obviously having fun and it should be noted that everybody acknowledges the fun and entertainment value of Star Wars and its ability to make us dream. Including David Brin who gives praise and respect to George Lucas in his opening statement (p.47).

I think the book will appeal not only to Star Wars critics, but to its fans as well. An extremely entertaining read.
HASH(0x973d8b1c) out of 5 stars Interesting Debate in a Unique Setting 25 Jan. 2016
By Lupine Smile - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
BenBella Books and NetGalley provided me with an electronic copy of this book, in exchange for an honest review.

Star Wars on Trial: The Force Awakens Edition is a critical examination of this huge science fiction universe, dramatized and set in a mock courtroom. I chose not to take this book too seriously; after all, who can when the judge is a droid? I can surmise that I enjoyed it more than those who took these arguments to heart. The idea that Star Wars is really pure fantasy in a science fiction setting was ridiculous to me, as anyone who went to the theater in 1977 to see the epic blockbuster Star Wars: A New Hope can attest. As the first mainstream science fiction movie, the ideas and concepts were brought down to a reasonable level so that all viewers could enjoy the genre. When it comes down to it, the passionate debate that the franchise has sparked in this book proves that Star Wars in total has made a lasting impact. Although some characters are more beloved than others, the entirety of the Star Wars universe has changed the way that most people view science fiction. I recommend Star Wars on Trial, with the understanding that readers will not take this as a strictly serious debate and enjoy the insider tidbits and passionate discourse.
HASH(0x97dcfee0) out of 5 stars New title on an old, often dull story 6 Feb. 2016
By Paul - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Two supposed experts—never heard of them—argue as to why Star Wars is so great and why it isn’t. There’s a droid judge. Other people I’ve never heard of testify—the original meaning, not the urban slang—to that effect with their own essays, and then get cross-examined.
I’m surprised by how much of this tediousness I enjoyed. Helps that there was plenty to laugh at, especially between the councilors. I managed to annoy myself by thinking one side had a great point and then instantly the rebuttal had me thinking, “That’s true too!” I loved that the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles was mentioned, as all of George Lucas’s catalog was fair game.
But let’s be honest: this is an old book masquerading as a current edition, supposedly given a makeover due to the new movie. Not true. With renewed interest in the series they could have simply been honest about it.
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