Discussion in 'Literature' started by CooperTFN, Aug 20, 2009.
Absolutely right! humanocentrism is a problem outside the GFFA as well.
A Padawan?s Journal, Entry #26: Alienspeak (or Warbling in Wookiee)
After 25,000 years of hyperspace travel, I think that's the idea. So many species have lived together, intermingled, interbred, immigrated, and become a galaxy-wide cultural menagerie... and as a result, the differences between them become largely superficial. For an alien race in SW to present a significant contrast to human thinking, I think a prerequisite would be for them to have had no human contact before. Key example: The Yuuzhan Vong.
Edit in response to Nathan's post: That is a fantastic stance for Bonhoff to take. A Sullustan from Sullust would definitely think that way. But a Sullustan whose family has been living elsewhere in the galaxy for hundreds of years would probably have a more "human" way of thinking, as per my above post.
I want to see a Sullustan who has grown up on Corellia his entire life visit Sullust and make a comment like, "It's like being in heaven!" and get weirded out stares from other Sullustans and feel like the odd one out.
It's not just a matter of sociology though. It's not like with cultures here on Earth where no matter how different we all started out we're all still the same species and thus our psychology can't be radically different. Realistically, many scientists believe that it'd be a miracle if intelligent lifeforms which evolved on different planets could even learn to communicate with each other. An alien's psychology and culture could be so different that we might never be able to wrap our human minds around it, and vice versa. Don't even get me started on how improbable (read, impossible) interspecies mating is. Just think, apes evolved on the same planet as us, share common ancestors, and about 98% of the same DNA and we obviously still can't mate with them.
But obviously Star Wars isn't what's known as "hard" science fiction which strives for scientific realism, and that's the point I was making.
Well, yeah. What's important to remember about most aliens in SW --- that is, most alien species that are frequently used in the EU --- come from the Cantina Scene. And the Cantina Scene was George Lucas making a joke. He was taking aliens from campy sci-fi B movies of the 60's and 70's and putting them in a bar together, drinking. They were never intended to be realistic. If the EU had wanted to go the hard sci-fi route, it would have done well to jettison all of those species into obscurity and start fresh.
So, in other words, I agree with your point.
It's interesting because outside of the DP Denning had quite a few non-human characters... mostly in the background. Either they were seen in crowds or visions or as minor Jedi and other characters. And, interestingly enough, that's similar to the movies as well. Aside from Chewie, Star Wars was mostly a bunch of white guys running around. Yeah, I'd like to see more aliens, and that's actually something I praised about the Coruscant Nights books, but it's something I don't usually notice too much. Though I do miss having some of our old favorites, like the SBS strike team Jedi, pushed to the background. Lowie and Tesar barely get cameos in this one (and, IIRC, Lowie doesn't). The other Barabels kind of make up for it, but they're barely playing parts themselves.
Oh my goodness. The Essential Atlas has yet another little gem / commentary on racism on Page 137. It's an excerpt from a Playbill distributed at an opera--the Kallea Cycle--that was performed in-universe just months before A New Hope. There's also a picture of a human in makeup trying to play a character who is a Duros. He's basically just some dude with a bandana around his nose to conceal it, wearing green face paint. The Opera was sponsored by the "Arts Division of the Commission for the Preservation of the New Order's Coalition for Progress" if that doesn't sound ominous enough.
"Much as (sic) been made by irresponsible media outlets of the decision that Banu Hydia's role--traditionally sung by a Duros double-bass vocalist--will be sung by Chandrila's Amaro Fontee. Neither the Brentaal Council on High Human Culture nor the Brentaal Hall Conservatory countenance the narrow-minded idea that a Duros role cannot be voiced by a human. The council and conservatory also reject out of hand the idea that certain arias in the Cycle should be considered somewhat offensive in their portrayals of nonhumans and their philosophies. The Cycle is one of the highest achievements of Brentaal and Core culture, and as such speaks for itself."
I read this passage and immediately started cracking up. I'm one of the people working on the fan protest against the film The Last Airbender an adaptation of the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender because the producers decided to "whitewash" the cast. The excuses the Empire used to justify the casting of Chandrila's Amaro Fontee really hit home, since we've seen them lobbed at us. Of course the idea of having a Duros singer play a Duros character is "narrowminded," and casting a human is "open minded"--but casting a Duros to play a human character isn't even an available option, and only humans get to be in the opera. And since the Cycle is an amazing work of art, it can't possibly be offensive to alien groups (just like how Breakfast At Tiffany's is a movie classic and therefore can't possibly be offensive.)
The program also notes that "Recent scholarship by Imperial Archivists, meanwhile, suggests Banu Hydia's role in the story may have been exaggerated." Because Imperial archivists aren't totally biased against aliens or anything. Sure his role was exaggerated--it's not the Hydian way was named after him or anything like that!
This little tidbit really fleshed out the galaxy to me and made me think of the setting in a new light. I mean, the novels talk about how the Empire discriminated against aliens, took alien slaves, etc. etc. But the ridiculous picture of a human in green facepaint (with red eyeshadow!) trying to hide his nose to play a Duros really hit home. Not only does it feel eerily familiar to real-world discriminatory practices, it also demonstrates how in Palpatine's order, even a story about the founding of one of the travel routes of the galaxy is presented in a way where the alien contributions are minimized.
Given Bonhoff is writing the Holostar novel, I wonder how casting practices like these might come into play in her book, and/or if this is foreshadowing.
Ironically enough, the cantina seen really impressed many movie goers, like my parents for example, with its alieness: they were used to aliens people with different colored skin or a weird haircut.
Yeah, that is exactly the appeal of the cantina scene. The aliens were creatures/monsters being civilized (mostly). In the original Star Trek series- all the "civilized" aliens were just humans with funny ears, foreheads or skin color and monsters were just monsters. That was why I was disappointed to see so many human-looking aliens in the PT (Ki-Adi-Mundi, Agen Kolar, etc.). Granted the podrace aliens were pretty alien but some of those were just silly and cartoonish....
Back on the main topic though... I just wish authors would vary the kinds of aliens they use in their stories- So many Twi'leks, Zabraks, Wookies, Mon Cals, Hutts and Bothans while the other races languish in obscurity.
I'd take them over the silly blue stuffed cuddly elephant pianist thing we got the pleasure of viewing in Jabba's Palace =P
Overall, as far as Abyss went, there was plenty of variety in terms of aliens, etc. The Mind-walking Gotal, tekli/Cilghal, the list goes on and on. Not to mention, a lot of this book talked about how odd and alien Jedi Knight 'Barv' is...yes, we get it Mr. Denning, Barv is a really big alien dude
Don't get caught up with the DP....the DP has been wasted space ever since NJO ended...it was useful in NJO but now it's just there to remind us that Luke Skywalker is a Jedi Grand Master (Thanks DP, you're so helpful)
I'm sure part of the reason why the DP exists is so casual readers can pick up a book, flip to the dramatis personae, and figure out if their favorite EU characters are involved or not. The thing with the DP is that (despite whatever usefulness it may have outlived) it's purpose is to list the most important players in the story. And while alien characters are present and part of the story (that's a start) they're not always included in a significant or meaningful way--which seems unrealistic given the Star Wars galaxy is supposed to be a rich and diverse galaxy.
For example, the aliens in Episode IV seemed to exist to add some "exotic flavor" to the galaxy far far away and make it feel less like Earth. But if you really think about it, once you get past Mos Eisley, the only alien that plays any role is Chewbacca (does that make him a token?) In fact, you are even shown that ALL of the pilots facing the Death Star in the epic battle are white male humans.
(I could add fuel to the fire by also noting that Chewbacca does not get a medal.)
Of course, Star Wars is a product of its times 1977--back then, a strong female character in science fiction like Princess Leia was already considered trailblazing. But this is 2009 and the majority of the kingmakers; many of the most significant characters--as evidenced in the DP, are white, male, humans. It doesn't feel fleshed out to me. I'm sure part of this is because of the focus on the Solo & Skywalker family, but you'd think there'd be other characters getting equal billing this far into the future post RotJ.
To me, it's more than just aliens (or minorities etc.) being "present" and with ancillary involvement (let's call Cilghal over to heal somebody!) When do they get a chance to actually shine? We know it's possible to create original EU characters that can become almost as popular with the fans as the movie characters, like Corran Horn, Mara Jade, and Kyle Katarn. When are we going to get breakthrough (Earth) minority human characters and alien characters, or am I in the minority and is that not what most fans want?
Are we actually pushing for equality with regards to fictional alien lifeforms? Hey, haven't you guys noticed that droids are underrepresented too? The world really has gotten too P.C.
There have been plenty of threads that have discussed the morality of how the droids are used and whether the EU has dropped the ball by not dealing with issues raised by the droids sentience.
Dropping the old; "What is the world coming to that we're all so PC!"? Just strikes me as a bit...
No one is arguing for quotas or anything of the kind, and ALL the characters in our fiction are...well, fictionally. Saying that, as readers, we'd like to see a more interesting and varied look at the alien races instead of just mono-attributes is hardly PC. Asking that alien races be more than stereotypes and instead be treated in new and interesting ways (and that doesn't mean just used as human stand-ins, but how about some honestly alien aliens?) is hardly said readers engaging in puritanical political correctness.
Now, the topic of discussion has wandered a bit as things will do in, well, discussions, but that's what discussion forums are for. We're talking about how aliens are seen in a thread about diversity, not in the Earth meaning of it, but diversity of a galactic scale where there are millions of alien races that have always been set up as more than the bumpy forehead brigade. Asking for a little more diversity than "Race X is angry!" or "all Gamoreans are stupid!" is hardly PC; it's just asking for better writing and deeper writing, and hopefully bringing more originality and thought to the franchise.
Most of them aren't, though. Or at least we're told that's the case.
The moral question that I think surrounds droids is whether or not their potential for sentience makes, say, mind-wiping unethical irregardless of the fact that - at the time - they're just software.
Pro-Droid Life or Pro-Choice?
It surprises me that everyone who disagrees with my first post only seems to argue the "moral" aspect of it - whether the creators should feel compelled to step up the diversity for its own sake, or whether - as dragon said - it's actually bad to ignore a minority if they're fictional anyway. Obviously, all that white liberal guilt I clearly have would never allow me to push all that aside, but even if I did, the fact of the matter is that there's a simple issue of suspension of disbelief here. It's hard enough to believe that big event after big event would continue to happen almost exclusively amongst the Skywalker/Solo clan, but that's far too central to the franchise to expect differently - but when all the other characters involved are Antilles, Fels, and Horns...and Daalas, and Hamners, and Solusars, and Khais, and Dinns, and so on.....it feels more and more implausible. Even if humans are the overwhelming majority.
Ironically, one of the only big characters whom I think has mostly escaped this phenomenon is Lando. Sure, there was a while there where every operation he set up seemed to get attacked, but only Dubrillion - that he'd just happen to be right in the path of the Vong arrival - really felt contrived. And even then, like with Nkklon, the bigger contrivance isn't that the attack would be happening, but that the Solos and Skywalkers would happen to be there just in time for it. As much as I've missed him lately, the whole Tendrando Arms plot has been a very realistic and rational role for him to have played in the last few stories.
Well, that's kinda what I'm talking about. We're told that droids aren't sentient, but we're given stories where lots of them feel rather sentient, and the best stories make C3PO and R2D2 feel like not only part of the case, but also characters in their own right. Now, a good writer can make a SHIP a character, and that doesn't mean the Falcon is alive, but at the very least a good writer can project human characteristics onto droids.
I think this is partly why the droids in TCW got some vocals and started acting goofier, because they needed to at least write the enemies in some way to make a connection.
Loads of people have also lamented that the idea of the droid army being the larger slave army was utterly untouched save for a few lines in the comics and if you squint really hard the Callista portions of ONE TCW novel touch on the idea of what it'd be like to merge with a battledroid and how she'd never be able to look at them again the same way. Hardly in-depth examinations.
Yeah, while some of those who agree with you have taken the moral argument, it seems like most people have simply talked about wanting to see that expansion of storytelling, and to at least get some new, different, and perhaps stranger characters in. I'm rereading the Rogue Squadron books and comics and it strikes me as very, very obvious the number of aliens that fill the ranks of Rogue Squadron.
And those aliens are more than just a line or two of stereotyped behavior, they exist with their own passions and lives and loves, and their cultures are different than the human cultures. The Kuati culture alone was fascinating when shown that Corran had to play the lesser role because of the way Kuati society works. It's little things that show me that the GFFA is a more diverse place in terms of IDEAS, not skin color, morality, etc. It's the diversity of IDEAS that a lot of people seem hungry for.
Why that keeps getting hijacked to be a PC argument is beyond me. It's no different than saying that lots of ship types are cool because they enrich the SW universe if we have more than ISD's in every story.
Heh, now I'm remembering Black Fleet Crisis's failed attempt at introducing the K-Wing.
I remember reading that book and if I recall correctly, Luke used one? And his POV was like, "Isn't this great? A K-wing!"
And all I could imagine was a lopsided X-Wing.
Ulicus,that very thing is cropping up in the latest YA series by that Alexander fellow. Lucas seems much more willing to have his droids granted sentience than his nonhumans. Over the years the balance of things changes slightly but the new frontiers of the first cantina scene are now the old standbys and seem corny. Lovable droids who accrue 'personality' are like favorite stuffed animals and we hate to see them put in the washing machine.
Well, the book's still out on Cal Omas's appearance. But hey, at least we got two pictures of Legacy-era Boba Fett.
The sad thing is that reading about the K-Wing it's actually an interesting ship in terms of using hardpoints that could be modular and rotate weapons a lot easier (an idea that pops up again with the Mandos Ballisk Starfighter in LoTF) which makes it an all-purpose spacecraft that could have easily at least had some interesting stories written about it.
Shame that it never really caught on. Didn't K-Wings pop up in one of Allston's LoTF books?
I just wish someone had made the obvious "Special K" version of the ship ;p
I thought it might be interesting to point out to continue the discussion, the official image of the Exile from KOTOR 2. All I can say is, there is no way she's a Sunrider, it's not going to happen most likely. So.... why? I just think considering the wealth of EU characters out there and the fact that the Exile never had an actress cast to play her, I really have to wonder if this is a blind spot or what. Its not an open and shut case considering Lando and Tendra (the only interracial married couple I can think of off the top of my head) and Goran Beviin and Medrit Vasur (the only married gay couple in the EU), but it's still tiring in terms of the diversity of our humanity in terms of ethnicity, religion, political philosophy, etc etc
I just honestly don't know what to make of it or if it means something, but it seems to be uniform across too much of the latest EU products. It's just so puzzling when you look at the Star Wars films by comparison.
Do you mean the image of her from the miniatures? Her mini is brown haired with fair skin, so it could mean anything, really.
I have noticed that the minis are pretty diverse...lots of aliens, some of the mooks are painted with darker colored skin..as diverse as tiny figurines can be, anyway.