Reality 2005, by George Lucas

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Reality 2005, by George Lucas

Post by ren&stimpy » June 7th, 2005, 1:49 pm

The Summer's Space Spectacle, provided by America's own white-trash jungian, George Lucas, has arrived. After a few weeks of watching the Star Wars Inc. images infiltrate the Net, burger stands, Walmarts, etc. I was, after recuperating from the Lucas-induced nausea, reminded of an older essay on simulation by Ho-wood's favorite dead cyberpunk, P.K. Dick: “How to build a universe that doesn’t fall apart two days later.” Here is a brief excerpt from the essay:

“So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing. It is my job to create universes, as the basis of one novel after another. And I have to build them in such a way that they do not fall apart two days later. Or at least that is what my editors hope. However, I will reveal a secret to you: I like to build universes which do fall apart. I like to see them come unglued, and I like to see how the characters in the novels cope with this problem. I have a secret love of chaos. There should be more of it. Do not believe— and I am dead serious when I say this— do not assume that order and stability are always good, in a society or in a universe. The old, the ossified, must always give way to new life and the birth of new things. Before the new things are born the old must perish. This is a dangerous realization because it tells us that we must eventually part with much of what is familiar to us. Unless we can psychologically accommodate change, we ourselves will begin to die, inwarrdly. What I am saying is that objects, customs, habits, and ways of life must perish so that the authentic human being can live. And it is the authentic human being who matters most, the viable, elastic organism which can bounce back, absorb, and deal with the new.”

The Dick universe reveals itself as entropic, unpredictable and disruptive. The Lucas universe does not. It is at best Gene Roddenbury-like, with cute fuzzy aliens and heroic star pilots and nazi-like villains. A Dick story such as "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" (barely recognizable in Blade Runner, nonetheless not a bad flick) offers chaos and plenty of it: Deckard, a hyperspace Philip Marlow, wanders among the heaps of "kipple" searching for the replicants, unable to determine what is or is not human, and some of the replicants, such as Rachel, appear more human and less schizoid than humans themselves. Lucasworld does not present such ambiguities; kipple is rare (though the rusting hulks of the ships and so forth as in The Empire Strikes Back are at least visually pleasing). The EFX may be great and it's safe for the parents and their kiddies, yet regardless of the EFX the Lucas narratives are simplistic and melodramatic, the characters as wooden as those in a John Ford western.


But only a dweeb would take the time to address the narrative structure, one-dimensional characters, or overall Newtonian shortcomings of Star Wars movies. The Lucas spectacle does dazzle yankee consumers with its EFX, but, more importantly, the Star Wars buzz itself is on display--it's not only a movie, but a marketing campaign, suburbanite "mall mythology" (as William Gibson said somewhere), and consumer bonding session bundled together into one tasty product, as Ho-wood execs say; one that sells millions of movie tickets as well as hamburgers, t-shirts, and lunch pails.

Images associated with this fabricated product, the Lucasburger, once released into the spectacle-market, gradually overpower and seemingly replace current political reality, do they not; the puppy-dog aliens and Darth Vaders and space princes are enforced on all. (some French post.mod. figure such as Baudrillard most likely wrote about this issue, and snooty lit.crit people would surely roll their eyes at my admittedly dilletantish analysis). America's most beloved cyber-melodrama subsumes the tragedies of the Iraqi war and terrorism, the catholic church scandals and dead pope, the tsunami (a disaster far more horrorific than Voltaire's Lisbon quake), and the takeover of LA by a nearly maoist mayor. A Bay area wunderkind's jungian bongdream, as much a virus as any hacker's DoS attack, infiltrates and steadily effaces each pulp scandal and political outrage currently in progress.

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Post by Doreen Peri » June 7th, 2005, 2:29 pm

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Post by mousey1 » June 7th, 2005, 2:31 pm

Yes, welcome back!
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Post by e_dog » June 7th, 2005, 3:35 pm

if not empty rhetoric, Dick's hard-on for chaos is an irresponsible as science-fiction itself. despite the subtle and thoughtful intentions of authors, techies always read dystopias as utopias, as the evil mask of Vader on a happy meal makes all too apparent. what i love about the presentation of Start Wars in today's Clearview Cinema Complexes is the promo spot by the US Army Reserves kicking off the long line of previews. I wonder how many people see the connection between that and the armies of droids and clones in the movie?

But what I really wanna take exception to is the remark in the Dick quote in which he says that the old must perish to make room for the new. This sounds logical, but totally misconceives the nature of culture's evolution. The new emerges alongside the old, often in a relation of tutelage (master-disciple) or that of creator-creation (say, a droid and its maker). Then they either co-exist or the new rebels against the old and either destroys it or displaces it or is subdued. This much is well represented in Star Wars.

Jean Baudrillard is indeed the theorist par excellence of simulation and simularcra (his book of that title is worth reading, and in fact contains commentary on sci-fi as well as cultural diagnoses).
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Post by ren&stimpy » June 7th, 2005, 4:46 pm

Dickian rhetoric and ideas--whether fictional or not--may be a bit pulpy and not very comforting or PC, but PKD's work does possess a higher degree of verisimilitude than does the Lucas space show. The Dick world is paranoiac, unstable, non-sentimental. He is not my favorite author, but I do think his books represent a chaotic and dystopian future society quite effectively; the human-replicant interchange in "Do Androids..." is I think quite philosophical, regardless if ripped -off by the numerous other cyberpunk writers and The Matrix producers. Other Dick books, such as A Scanner Darkly, also present this issue of "reality vs. the simulacra". Referring to his work by a value-laden and pop term such as"techie" really does it injustice, as much as someone who referred to French deconstructionism as, say, "chi chi bathhouse fantasies."

My point is simply this: in terms of offering technological realities and innovative visions, PKD kicks Lucas's arse. And I think PKD was a real leftist, or at least leftist-libertarian, and a detester of police states, whether Nazi or Stalinist (or Yankee. ) Lucasworld is not far from some Disneylike, patriotic fabrication--a big, megaprofitable lie really--which millions view as some form of metaphorical truth.

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Post by e_dog » June 7th, 2005, 6:11 pm

i don't refer to PKD as a "techie" -- i said that techies tend to read dystopias as if they were utopias; that is, a sci-fi writer will present some vision of the future with technology gone arry -- for example, the Terminator -- and a techie, a reader, will see that 'n' think, 'wow, wouldn't it be cool if i could produce a real terminator . . . of course, i'll make sure my terminator is controlable or good . . . ' and lo and behold we have some jackass who believes in science for science's sake or innovation for innovation's sake or, even, that his experiments, although funded by the U.S. dept. of defense will really, like, help mankind (cure cancer or something). then the DED starts believeing we could really make terminators, after the RAND corp. presents a long details analysis and sooner or later, there are terminators roaming the earth. maybe this is facile and paranoiac, but it is not much of a stretchto think that Star Wars helped moblize Reagan's Star Wars. now, is Dick's leftist or at any rate critical sensibility likely to survive the military-entertainment complex? i doubt it. but his crazy technological ideas will, and so much the worse for humanity's endurance.
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Post by e_dog » June 7th, 2005, 6:22 pm

there was a real interesting article in New Left Review a year or so ago by Fred. Jameson on Wm. Gibson and the cybercommercialism sci-fi thriller.
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Post by ren&stimpy » June 7th, 2005, 6:30 pm

Dick is not so much the technophile that you make him out to be. He's no luddite--and ludditeism is itself not inherently good, and if you think it is I would like to read your argument--true, but his writing is addressed to more authentic or relevant concerns. (The Terminator is not a PK Dick story).

At least there is some Orwellian pulp left in PK Dick; whereas Lucas seems more like Camelot in space, if that. A Scanner Darkly is in some sense about the danger of police-narc state where the cops have all sorts of technology and citizens are continually monitored and at risk of being arrested for whatever reasons, valid or not. I don't doubt that more right wing "techies' might read PK Dick or William Gibson or Burroughs and derive fascistic or nihilistic ideas from them, but that doesn't mean that the writing itself is fascistic or to be disregarded because it might lead to those conclusions.... I read an essay written by Gibson (on his blog a year or so ago) about this--he attacked his more conservative readers (Bush supporters and so forth) for misreading him as a neo-con when he's really quite anti-corporatist and if not leftist, at least a sort of cyber-liberal.

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Post by e_dog » June 7th, 2005, 6:47 pm

i know Terminator ain't Dick -- that's why i said for example "a sci-fi writer' etc. etc. -- just using that as dramatic sample to ,make the point which holds, mutatis mutandis, for Dick's work.

Orwell isn't "pulp" is it? what do you mean by that, anyway?

regarding the machines vs. man, depends on what you mean by Ludditism. as far as i know the (hi)story, which isn't that detailed, the Luddites were just frustrated with their local situation; don't think they had much of a theory at all behind their acts but i could well bewrong 'bout that.

my thought are simply this: in the long run we are all dead. the species will entinguish. either this will happen due to nature or due to ourselves. it may be that science -- acting as that god which heidegger ironically implored -- will save us. e.g. maybe we really wil deflect that fateful comet through superman-like rocket boosters. but i surmise -- and this is mere speculation -- that we will do ourselves in, maybe a supervirus of the Stephen King scenario or a nuclear holocaust of the Sellars-Kubrickian sort. the fact is, all of our mainstream culture is on the side of believing in scientific-technological progress and this is all but unstoppable, and the risks are truly astronomical when you rrealize that the very conditions for continuation of the species are at stake-- so just so that a global precautionary principle isn't erased from collective memory, in the hubris of science and freedom -- i announce the position which says that technology may actualy be bad for us as a a species -- take stem cels research: in the effort to retain our minds (or pretend we can live forever), without getting alheimerz, etc. etc. we are enabling the develpment of the future clone armies (to point to the relavance of the Lucasplot concerns you think are trivial) that will wipe us all out. again, it is difficult to state these sorts of concerns without sounding silly and paranoid (this essay fails, but a more sober one could be written) but the truth is, what is truly insane is the way that we as a society allow technocapitalism to through caution to the wind and, to transpose the words of Trakl, commit our unborn grandsons to sacrifice on the bloody altar (he spoke of war, i speak of technology; war is to technology as sitcoms and games shows are to consumer culture).
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Post by ren&stimpy » June 7th, 2005, 7:02 pm

"a nuclear holocaust of the Sellars-Kubrickian sort."

That's surely a distinct possibility. I watched Dr. Strangelove a few months ago (Hail Terry Southern), not without some discomfort, and sort of felt like, this is not really sci-fi but the world. And it hasn't changed all that much. The officers and the Slim Pickens character however silly or grotesque they seem could be right out of the Bush administration--some wild-eyed (perhaps Baptist) cowboys who decide in some moment of heroic idiocy that its time to bring it on. Reading the stuff about Iran and North Korea's nukes as well as Chimpy McBush or Rice's recent messages I sometimes think the shit is really on and it might be only a few years before the occurence of some monstrous hellish war involving nukes. If you have some time surf the net for some of the groovy new Russian MIGs and Chinese war gear: the chinese infantry alone outnumbers us by millions.

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Post by ren&stimpy » June 8th, 2005, 5:22 pm

war is to technology as sitcoms and games shows are to consumer culture).



Recently I've been perusing some history of WWI battles, and simply from a barebones empirical standpoint there may be some truth to that statement. If men are warlike, sadistic, and driven by hubris, then being equipped with more gear-- tanks, chemicals, machine guns, massive cannons, planes, etc--- could amplify the horrors of war. SO I think you surely could argue that--that the technology has made the miseries of war--and the body counts-- all the much worse. In fact there is a sort of war-technology PP contest always goin' on--like hey we have the baddest-assed jets, tanks and missiles and ships, so we are superior to the Reds or muslim or whatever--you see that on neo-con sites where the hawks take pride that the USA is NUMBER 1 BAYBY. It is sort of sickening, but the f-ed up thing is that the "Reds" also are engaging in that. It sort of started with Bismarck, late 1800s, when the Germans began the massive manufacture and stockpiling of weapons and big guns; the French and Brits tried to keep up and then the US, Russia, Japan etc. And many of the key battles of WWI were decided by the guns or gas--the same now--its who has the best gear, and I think the US is always afraid the redskis will surpass in gear quality (they're more hung man!). I recall seeing a painting by Ferlinghetti of this--the Uncle Sams shoving their dickies out while Stalinist redskis did the same.

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