Lit It's not a toilet, it's a 'fresher: Star Wars and immersion.

Discussion in 'Literature' started by instantdeath, Aug 18, 2013.

  1. instantdeath Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 22, 2010
    star 5
    I brought this subject up in that thread that's not fit for mention in polite company, and because I think I've been pretty good about resisting that shiny "create thread" button for every little thought that comes into my head (they're rare enough for them to be a joyous occurrence), I think I've earned a freebie.

    One "debate", if you can truly call it that, that has interested me ever since I first heard about it is the old classic "hot chocolate" debate. A segment of the fanbase read Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire, were enjoying the ride, until out of nowhere they were ripped from the experience and presumably scarred for life. The cause of this tragedy, of course, is Luke drinking the new exotic beverage, "hot chocolate".

    To clarify, I count myself among those who didn't bat an eye at its inclusion, so I can only speak from that perspective. I do know, however, that the most common accusation against hot chocolate is that it's "too Earth". I, personally, have always found this a bit silly. After all, Earth is all over the Star Wars saga, even if we forget for a moment that both the GFFA and the third stone from the sun are populated by very similar fleshy meatbags. The bigger objects and concepts, of course, receive a name change, aside from Luke using the word "robot" in A New Hope. Blaster instead of gun. Landspeeder instead of car. The aforementioned droid instead of robot (most of the time). Hydrospanner instead of wrench. And so on and so on.

    The EU takes this idea and runs with it to what I feel is pretty ridiculous and occasionally stunningly uncreative levels. 'Fresher instead of toilet. Caf instead of coffee. Holo instead of picture (this led to some supremely awkward phrasing in the X-Wing series). Cigarra instead of cigar (give the genius who came up with that one a raise). Jizz music instead of jazz (no, really, please don't put any effort into this, I don't mind). It gets to the point where I have to wonder if these simple name changes are actually doing anything to help immersion, or to only draw attention to the fact that they're thinly disguising the fact that they're disguises in the first place.

    You could argue, of course, that these objects just need better names. But I have to wonder if it's even worth the effort. I can read a science fiction novel and not be taken out of the story is the main character drinks a beer or watches a television. I can't truly say that I would have felt more immersed if Luke was drinking a Durese [insert analogue for chocolate] caf, though who knows, others might.

    Beyond the simple matter of names, I believe most of us can agree that the GFFA should be regularly portrayed as a place where people live: the "worn universe" approach that the Original Trilogy exhibited. The world shouldn't be treated as an RPG, where everyone can neatly fall into a category. It needs to be a place where people can believably live their lives. To that degree, a certain amount of real-world influence has to take place- the creation of the holonet to mirror the rise of the internet is a good example- and can be used to enrich the universe and add depth. On the other hand, if done poorly, it can come across as a clumsy attempt to draw a parallel to real life: see James Luceno's "Triad of Evil". In my mind, a well done parallel with real life should only be evident upon contemplation. If you read something set in the Star Wars universe and are forced to compare it to the real world, it probably was not implemented well.

    I recognize that everyone has a different tolerance level, and different things that will take them out of a story. These lines are often indefinable. For many, the hot chocolate just doesn't "feel" like Star Wars, and for them, this feeling cannot and does not need to be backed up with anything else. For others, Troy Denning's gratuitous violence may not "feel" like Star Wars. One of both the greatest strengths and greatest weaknesses of a shared universe is that it is not under the control of one creative mind; multiple writers will inevitably bring multiple interpretations, and different ideas on what's appropriate for the setting and what's not. Still, if you ask me, creating a fictional universe completely divorced from reality is simply not possible. I actually don't believe in the term "escapism", but that's another thread entirely.

    So I ask: should the GFFA be treated as a similar yet alien place, where objects that we clearly possess version of in our reality go by a different moniker? Would the appearance of coffee take you out of a story where caf would not? Is the word "toilet" not cool and alien enough for Star Wars? Should creators simply be more, well, creative about how they choose to disguise real-world influence, or should that effort be better spent in other areas? Should Star Wars make an effort to distance itself as much as possible from real-world influences, or do you believe that's as futile as I do? Discuss, puppets, discuss.
    Last edited by instantdeath, Aug 18, 2013
  2. DigitalMessiah Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Feb 17, 2004
    star 6
    I always liked coffeine more than caf. Also, I was more bothered by the following lines that mentioned that C-3PO disliked Lando when Luke mentioned that Lando had told Luke about hot chocolate considering that Threepio was the one exhorting Chewie and Leia "trust him! trust him!"

    Anyway, the X-Wing books always struck me as straying too close to the mundane in their depiction of "a day in the life of" a Star Wars character. I think Star Wars should be more informed by Dune than Star Trek, and the correspondence of the mundane should be at least partially removed from reality. That Star Wars characters drink what is essentially coffee doesn't strike me as particularly consistent or "real" to the universe that we see in the films, especially considering that coffee as a morning beverage that is used for its caffeine for alertness and to eliminate drowsiness is such a modern concept. If Star Wars is going to take cues from real cultural practices, I'd prefer that they use ones that aren't necessarily 20th century western ones.
    Last edited by DigitalMessiah, Aug 18, 2013
  3. TrakNar Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 4, 2011
    star 5
    On one hand, it's fine, as I see it as slang, and slang in different cultures would be, well, different from the slang that we are familiar with. So, why wouldn't the GFFA have different words for stuff? "Caf" as coffee is fine. My coffee mug has "coffee" written in several different languages, including "cafe," "caffe," "kaffe," "kawa," and "kahvi." "Caf" would fit right in on that mug, so I see no problem with its usage. "Refresher" is fine, too. It's like "restroom," "lavatory," "commode," "head," "john," and "water closet."

    Though, not everything should have a different moniker, so as to keep some grounding in familiarity for readers. If that's the case, then the IU term for "asthma" would be "hackwheeze," if we go by such naming conventions as "greenputt" and "smashbone fever."
    Ewok Poet and Valin__Kenobi like this.
  4. Gorefiend Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 23, 2004
    star 5
    Absolutely especially if they are things that are really not completely alike. Fresher for example actually seems to be a restroom not just a toilet in general and also often laid out for Alien species that have different "fluid exchange needs". Whilst classic pictures are actually pretty rare in the GFFA as they way more often will use semi interactive 3D Holos instead. Something like a hyrdospanner is also a tad more complex then a simple wrench :). Gun is also something of a "meh" to be used in the GFFA as it comes from the english word has it's origin in the Domina Gunilda, a giant ballista mounted on Windsor Castle. Also they can't make the terms to odd as no one will be able to get what they are talking about, so I am pretty fine with them just using certain slang to describe stuff they have and is rather exotic, as slang just adds to the "worn universe" flair, as living people will just develop slang since it is the world they life in and we just get to take a glimpse at it. :)
    Valin__Kenobi likes this.
  5. instantdeath Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 22, 2010
    star 5
    I can agree with the "slang" angle, but most of the examples I listed seem to be more along the lines of "universally accepted term" rather than slang. Like I said, I don't mind when it's done well, but it can feel very, very artificial.

    Well, as long as I don't see anyone disagree that Jizz music was uninspired.
  6. HWK-290 Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Jul 29, 2013
    star 2
    Substituting one real word - or some made-up-on-the-spot slang like "caf" or "fresher" - for another doesn't really bother me. Neither do curses like "Sithspit" or "Emperor's black bones". That said, couldn't help but laugh at Stover making fun at the practice.

    No, what bothers me is when terminology is inconsistent between authors and novels. You have no idea how irritating it was for me, after having grown up with the X-Wing novels, to read Shadows of Mindor with Stover using "dust" instead of "vape".

    Oh, and "stang." "Stang" is on my s***list for least immersive EU expletive.
    Last edited by HWK-290, Aug 19, 2013
    instantdeath likes this.
  7. instantdeath Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 22, 2010
    star 5
    Ah, the curses are something I completely failed to mention. That's another thing that depends on the execution, but I find is incredibly annoying more often than not. When it comes to fictional cursing, the only author I can think of that just really gets it right is Steven Erikson. Malazan has the perfect balance of real world curses and fictional curses that actually fit the setting and have a sense of meaning- and yes, curse words almost always have very colorful history, it's why they become naughty in the first place- without sounding silly or juvenile. Other fantasy writers, like Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, fall just below this IMO. Jordan's curse words are real life words given new meaning that can sound very effective and convincing, but just sound ridiculous when overused (there's a character who's shtick is his potty mouth, but he doesn't sound like it at all when every other word he spouts is "burn", "bloody" or "flaming"). Sanderson is good about giving curse words a sense of history and relevance to the fictional setting, but similarly, they usually just sound silly ("Storm" being used in place of the F bomb).

    Generally, I think Star Wars fails pretty spectacularly when it comes to curse words. I mean, "kriff". What the hell is that? I'm also completely with you on "stang". If it comes down to using either of those, I think I'd just prefer the author write the sentence in a way that doesn't require a damn or f*** substitute; it worked for six movies, it can work for a novel. While I don't have any overt problem with "sithspit", I find one general problem with the curse words is that every author has different favorites, so you get a large sense of disconnect throughout various works. Every character in the X-Wing books loves to say sithspit, for example, but you don't hear that one very often in other works. I think Stover had a very clever fix for this, by not actually having characters curse in the dialogue, but in the narrative. He'd often write things like, "Tycho went through every curse in his vocabulary", so that the reader could imagine Tycho saying nasty things without having to stain our virgin eyes. I'd actually say it could reflect a bit of embarrassment on Stover's part- similar to how Daniel Keys Moran hated having to refer to "Jizz music"- but it's much better than the alternative.

    On the subject of curse words, I notice that Timothy Zahn's Scoundrels has a much higher volume of curse words than any work I've read by him. It seemed so odd, coming from him, since when I think of Zahn's style I always think of formal and dry, but it actually was very refreshing.

    And now I have to face that awkward moment where I realize I've just written a long post about curse words. I clearly need some sleep.
    Last edited by instantdeath, Aug 19, 2013
    Skywalker Thing likes this.
  8. Gorefiend Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 23, 2004
    star 5

    Oh Scoundrels pretty much has to have them given the characters involved, especially Tavia and Dozer seem to enjoy swearing up a storm.
  9. Jeff_Ferguson Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 15, 2006
    star 4
    It's a fine line to draw. Sometimes I like it and sometimes I don't, and if I were the one writing I doubt I would be any better at it. I usually don't have problems with "caf," but I can't help but feel that I wouldn't have thought twice about the overabundance of it in Paul Kemp's Jaden Korr duology if the characters had been drinking coffee instead. Jizz is definitely a pretty lazy one --- they might as well have clissical, too.

    Nearly every word has a specific origin like that, though. "Democracy," "holocaust," "asteroid," etc, have Greek origins but are still used in the GFFA. "Gung ho" has been used in several books despite having a real-world origin in Chinese Industrial Cooperatives. If we applied that logic, then the Star Warriors wouldn't have any English words left to say.
  10. Gorefiend Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 23, 2004
    star 5
    Words taken from another language is less of the problem, then things named after specific occurrences, items or people that the GFFA cannot really no. Gauss and Gatling for example are clearly such words, whilst Gung Ho funny enough actually works because it is just a mispronunciation of "working together".


    Of course English has it's limits and I by no means just want them to speak in a fantasy language, it just draws me out if they drop words that they really should not know and have their own ones for, though of course it can sometimes simply not be avoided. :)
    Valin__Kenobi likes this.
  11. Reveen Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 4, 2012
    star 3
    I just want the authors to stop using fancy sci-fi materials for the very basics. You can call the stuff Luke's mirror is made of "glass", it's okay. Mirrpanel is just silly.

    And every basic window has to be transparisteel, even when it's not being used in a starship. That just makes me wonder who the hell is shelling out for military grade windows just to keep the rain out of some guy's office.

    As far as the level of familiarity with real life goes, they shouldn't be going too far with making it resemble the 21st century. But I think as soon as Luke walked in a bar with tons of alien dudes hanging out getting drunk listening to jazz music any "alien" feel went right out the window.
    Last edited by Reveen, Aug 19, 2013
    Skywalker Thing and Bib Fartuna like this.
  12. GrandAdmiralJello Moderator Communitatis Litterarumque

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Nov 28, 2000
    star 10
    Eh. Star Wars is translated from Basic into English at our convenience, and the amount of words that preserve GFFA slang or use comfortable terrestrial slang depend on the translator's discretion. That's my mental conception of it, and it's one I'm sticking with. :p


    Greek and Latin partly exist in-universe anyway as Tionese and High Galactic, due to their omnipresence.
  13. Quinnocent-Till-Sith Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 21, 2004
    star 3
    And china's used in Dark Rendezvous...
  14. Jeff_Ferguson Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 15, 2006
    star 4
    Heh, remember when Ben sent a text message in Sacrifice?
  15. Gamiel Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 16, 2012
    star 6
    But jizz is not jazz, it is jazz-like but it is not jazz, so they can not call it jazz since it is not jazz:-B

    I can not see James Luceno's "Triad of Evil" so can you explain your example? Bitte
  16. Sandtrooper92 Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Jul 31, 2013
    star 2
    immaterial unless its the movies.

    Sent from my SGH-T989 using Tapatalk 2
  17. Darth Ridiculis Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Jul 15, 2013
    star 1
    I'm still ticked we haven't seen that dinosaur planet mentioned in the Lando Calrissian Adventures.
    Barriss_Coffee and CooperTFN like this.
  18. Gorefiend Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 23, 2004
    star 5

    Oh the Centrality in general needs some artwork.
  19. Lugija Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 3, 2009
    star 4
    The end of the Rise of the Empire era.... A herd of Chasmosaurus is unusually jittery!
    They now know they have more to fear than Tyrannosaurus! Now they face an even greater danger...
    TYRANNOSAURUS IN X-WINGS!

    That would be so cool!
  20. Gorefiend Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 23, 2004
    star 5

    Or just so-so [face_whistling]
    [IMG]


    Edit: Totally off topic btw. but by the gods everyone needs to see Danger 5, the Dinosaur Episode alone is so outright insane it justifies that show all on it's own.

    Darth Ridiculis likes this.
  21. Jedi Ben Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 19, 1999
    star 7
    Labyrinth of Evil had a SW politician using the term, which is a clear riff on the notorious Axis of Evil one-liner. For some it jerks them out the story, for others, like me, it's a mick-take of a line of such incredible stupidity it's amazing whoever wrote it still has a career.
  22. _Catherine_ Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 16, 2007
    star 4
    "Damn" is a G-canon curse word.

    Also I remember in DNT Luke randomly shouting about "Kriffing splicers!" in front of his five-year-old son and I thought, well, on the one hand that's horribly OOC behavior for Luke, but on the other "kriff" is like the most awkward and embarrassing fake profanity ever so this isn't really offensive at all. It just made me feel dumb for reading it.
  23. Gamiel Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 16, 2012
    star 6
    Axis of Evil [face_thinking] you mean the comedian group? [face_batting]
  24. Jedi Ben Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 19, 1999
    star 7
    Nope, this is the phrase in its full Presidential glory:


    (my emphasis)

    It was beyond dumb, as North Korea doesn't give a toss for anyone besides North Korea! Iran and Iraq? Had a little fracas called the Iran-Iraq War that ran for about 8 years that involved use of chemical weapons, they ain't going to be seeing eye-to-eye any time soon. And then, beyond the immediate impact of a US president issuing dumb speech it severely undermined the reformers in Iran, likely giving us Ahmadinejad. So yeah, anything that whacks this for the cretinous abuse of language it was is fine by me.
  25. Cynical_Ben Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 12, 2013
    star 4
    This is an interesting topic. I like it.

    Really, this is an issue that pervades through all fictional entertainment media, not just Star Wars books. Video games, movies, TV shows, all of them deal with immersion in one form or another. It's a bigger issue with books, though, since immersion is the only real tool an author has to build a world; they can't rely on visuals like a movie can. The question then becomes, how does one build immersion, and how does one destroy it?

    References to real-world things are difficult in a franchise like Star Wars since, unlike Star Trek or Firefly, it doesn't take place in a future version of our own world (conspiracy theories notwithstanding). Star Wars is more akin to a fantasy universe, similar to ours but still distinct and different; the line between immersion and jargon is wire thin at times. If too much "real world" slang is used, it makes the universe seem too familiar, too mundane to really be Star Wars. But using too many "spacey" words and descriptors make it too sci-fi at best, or campy at worst.

    In the end, though, it comes down to personal opinion. Someone might be perfectly fine with Luke drinking hot chocolate, others (like me) see it as odd and out of place, but not immersion breaking, and some people immediately scream, hurl the book against the wall, and curl up into a fetal position if their reaction online is to believed.

    the biggest problem I have with Star Wars terminology and slang is one that @HWK-290 already brought up: it's not consistent. I understand that authors might have different tics and ideas as to how they write, but they could at least make some effort to make sure that, if a character refers to something as a "glowrod" in one source, they don't turn around and call it a "lumina rod" in another. Cursing is one of the worst offenders of this, I find. Each author has different fake expletives they use to keep their books PG (or PG13, as the case may be). Traviss got "fierfek" from the Republic Commando game and ran with it, along with all of her Mandalorian words. Keyes-Moran uses "barve" and Luceno uses a smattering of real-world but established IU curses. The F-word seems to be a favorite to play around with, I've seen frak, frell, frag, freg, frink, frip, frang, frotz, floob, flott, flack, ferglutz, and farkled, and that's just off the top of my head. I'm sure there's more.

    The problem isn't which words are used, it's that each author has their own pet words to use. It would be a lot easier to swallow the hot chocolate thing if more authors had it referred to as a rare but tasty drink.