Star Wars is not Science Fiction

Star Wars is not science fiction.

It’s a small point – an irrelevant point, many would say – but it’s something that’s been bothering me for a long time. In no way (except one) are the Star Wars movies at all related to the realm of science fiction. It involves spaceships and some advanced technology. For a layperson I guess that is enough to make it sci-fi. But geeks should know better.

True science fiction usually serves one purpose– exploring the impact of technology (or more broad scientific discoveries) on society or the individual - although the technology may be unlike anything we consider to be technology today. Science fiction is science based. Science is used as a plot device, either explanatory or as a setting or as the driving force to the story. In many ways the Steampunk genre is more science-fiction than Star Wars would ever be. The technology in Star Wars is rarely discussed and if you were to replace it with analogues the story would still stay mostly intact.

We are actually quite bad at classifying science fiction and fantasy. For example, many comic books have, at one point or another, played with science (or pseudoscience). The Hulk, the Flash, the Fantastic Four, X-Men, even Superman is more sci-fi than things that are considered “classic” examples of sci-fi. This is probably due to the fact that in the young origins of science fiction, anything related to “space” was automatically related to science. We’ve grown accustomed to the idea of space – it is no longer simply the realm of science. We can now think about alien cultures and races in a non-scientific context, so we should be able to throw away the immediate sci-fi classification for anything involving interplanetary travel.

So if Star Wars isn’t sci-fi, what is it? Well, ignore the setting and explore the plot: we have a mysterious and unexplained force (literally, The Force), a set of wise and powerful wizards who can use it, some evil wizards and their followers bent on domination and destruction, a rag-tag band of heroes who must mature and discover their talents, politics, romance, a generation-spanning story, and lots of epic battles. Replace light sabers with swords, alien races with mythical ones, planets with “lands”, Clones with an endless horde of summoned minions and some technology with magic and you get a classic fantasy story. The best genre would actually be something like: space epic; space opera; space fantasy. But not ever science fiction.

So what can I do about it? Well, my small silent protest is to refuse to tag Star Wars related things as "sci-fi" on my tumblr (instead it falls under the general "geeky" tag) and from now on I'll use logic on people who call Star Wars science fiction until they give in.

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Star Wars is not Science Fiction

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