In physics, one of the distinctions we draw is whether forces are conservative or not. And no, this has nothing to do with the politics of gravity – although politicians do talk too much, and incorrectly, about strong and weak force.
Today is “Star Wars Day”, largely because of a horribly weak and limp pun. But the actual important thing that may as well be discussed today is whether Star Wars the cinemas are actually science fiction or not? They are clearly SciFi but that doesn’t mean they can transcend the inanity of horror flick to be actual SF!
The standard of comparisons are the classic “Space Operas” of book fame, notably, Edward Elmer Smith’s Lensmen and Skylark series and George O. Smith’s Venus Equilateral series. So we have to ask whether the Star Wars cinemas (and stories) live up to the standards of these classics?
Now clearly they do on the fiction dimension. For space opera, characterized by troglodytic geniuses with horribly menacing alien sidekicks (or bemused capitalists, which may be more menacing?,) Star Wars quite readily satisfies the fiction requirement. Although the glorification of robots definitely fails the Dune test.
But on the science dimension, Star Wars is an abysmal failure. No where is some wonderful new technology revealed or pivotal. The Death Star is nothing more than a space going CCC project of space-going democrats with dictator envy. And “light sabers” are not only Boy Scout projects but rather tame when compared to Delameters or truly insidious weapons like duplicators or no space – no time transporters.
This vacuity is not surprising. After all, the archetypical cinema space opera was only saved from mediocrity by the technology of an extinct race of aliens and the tender ministrations of a sociopathic linguist.