Star Wars Episode VII Announced

As a huge Star Wars fan this is another story I must comment on.  So the big Star Wars news  is that Disney has acquired the rights to the Star Wars franchise and will produce a new trilogy of films that take place after the events of Return of the Jedi, beginning with Episode VII, due for a 2015 release.

Now, I’m someone who is very interested in and has extensively read post-RotJ literature, from The Truce at Bakura (1 day after the Battle of Endor) to Invincible (37 years after the Battle of Endor).  There are a lot of good stories in the post-RotJ literature – better than the ones in the movies, in my opinion – and to me the best option, both from a good storytelling standpoint and to avoid creating continuity errors or alternate timelines, is to simply adapt the post-RotJ books.  The logical starting point would be the so-called “Thrawn Trilogy”Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising and The Last Command – which I think were the first post-RotJ books to come out and are considered among the best.

Cover of Heir to the Empire.  Source: Books & Review

And of course, logic and plain old good sense rarely prevail in the cinematic world.  According to an anonymous source within Lucasfilm, the trilogy will use “an original story” – see here, here, and here.  Of course, this is an anonymous source and everything is in the very early and tentative stages, but given the way Star Wars has been going lately it would be more of a surprise if they did do the right thing instead of coming up with a new and probably stupid story. (For his part, the author of the Thrawn Trilogy, Timothy Zahn, claims that it’s possible for the movies to use his novels as source material without his knowledge, or more likely, bypass the issue by taking place farther ahead in time than the novels.)

In any case, I think the right thing to do is to simply adapt the Thrawn Trilogy instead of coming up with a new idea that will 1. probably suck and 2. totally screw up existing continuity.  The rumor mill has it that this new trilogy will take place around 20 years after Endor, which in the books would roughly coincide with the New Jedi Order series.  The NJO is one of the most brilliantly dark, unconventional, philosophically-charged, and gripping of the Star Wars series – in a way, it’s like to Star Wars what the Chris Nolan movies are to Batman – and a film adaptation of the series would be totally kickass.  It would also probably never happen, given that the NJO books are way darker and more adult-oriented than any of the movies , not to mention that they’re chock full of violence and feature barbaric sadomasochistic skeletal-looking savages as the primary antagonists, so the NJO film adaptations would have to be PG-13 at the very least, if not R-rated.   Anyway, it’s gotta be “an original story” apparently, so it’s not gonna happen.

The one good tidbit in all this news is that George Lucas isn’t directing.  As long as George Lucas isn’t the director the movie has a fighting chance of being decent, not to mention free of some of the worst romantic dialog imaginable.

My Position on Gun Control

In the wake of the horrific Sandy Hook shooting and the explosion of pro-gun control commentary that has popped up and engulfed me on Facebook, I feel that I should lay out my longstanding position on gun control.  Most of the following is reposted and adapted from my Facebook conversations.

My position on gun control is that I support the existing federal gun laws on the books, plus maybe some increased requirements one must go through to get semi-automatic or automatic fire weapons.  I can’t provide any specifics on those requirements beyond some sort of measures designed to deny availability to the mentally ill and criminally violent.  Current law already addresses the mentally ill and those with criminal records to some degree; the problem may be in the implementation.  I don’t support a categorical ban on either semi-automatic or automatic fire weapons, so I don’t support renewing the 1994-2004 Federal Assault Weapons Ban.  Just as I don’t think just anyone should be able to get a semi-auto or auto weapon, I don’t think absolutely no one should be able to either.

State-by-state measures vary in their degree of harshness.  California has probably the most restrictive gun laws in the country and I don’t see any evidence that they’ve helped reduce gun violence at all.  My position is that California and other high-control states need to seriously relax their gun control measures (particularly when it comes to concealed carry permits, which they routinely deny to even the most conscientious gun owners), perhaps in exchange for tighter federal laws.  If gun control advocates are correct in that guns are easily smuggled across state and municipal lines (as they argue every time someone brings up high gun violence rates in high gun control jurisdictions), then I would say that overly restrictive state laws combined with lax federal laws are counterproductive at best and oppressive at worst.

Couple of more points:

1. I love how gun control advocates are so quick to pull the trigger (pun intended) on the anti-gun arguments after every shooting in this country.  Why do they fixate on the instruments with which people kill rather than the things that actually cause people to kill each other – poverty, mental illness, lack of education and job opportunities, inter-group hatred, etc.?  I’m personally much more interested in why people kill each other than how they’re doing it.  Violence of any form is bad and we need to treat the root problem rather than just what’s used for the problem.

2. Likewise, there’s the issue of whether or not we should really be organizing our policies based around these sensationalized mass shootings instead of the everyday crime that goes on.  Is one shooting where 27 people die really that much more horrible than all the homicides (gun-facilitated or otherwise) that go on every day but are not reported in the news, and are thus out of sight and out of mind?  I know gun control advocates mean well but the fact that many of them only seem to speak up in the immediate aftermath of a widely publicized mass shooting makes me wonder if they’ll actually feel satisfied with themselves once certain “dangerous” guns have been banned, without actually addressing the underlying causes of violence involving any kind of weapon.

3. To actually reduce violence of any kind in this country, we (and by “we” I include the government at all levels) need to seriously tackle issues such as poverty, education, mental heath, gangs, etc., and we should also dramatically increase police presence, training, and funding.  These proactive measures should be how we actually address the problem of violent crime in a positive and constructive way, one that doesn’t dismissively sacrifice the personal liberties of law-abiding gun owners.

4. To me it makes much more sense to regulate gun owners than to regulate the guns.  Regulating gun owners is weeding out the 1 percent of people who are actually dangerous from the 99 percent who are peaceful gun owners.  Regulating guns is telling the 99 percent peaceful people that they have to pay for the insanity of the 1 percent who commit crimes.

5. I feel like blaming guns for gun violence is a very short-sighted, knee-jerk, and authoritarian reaction one would expect from, ahem, dumb conservatives.  I don’t see how reflexively blaming guns is any different from, say, giving the government extraordinary measures to invade our privacy in the wake of 9/11.

I’m open to the idea of a more rigorous screening process for obtaining semi-automatic and automatic weapons.  An all-out categorical ban on an entire class of weaponry goes too far for me, though.  That kind of ban is basically the government saying, “We don’t think anyone in this country can be trusted with these rights, no matter who you are or what process you go through.”  It lends itself to a very paternalistic, anti-democratic form of government.  Government should be the means by which we collectively address societal concerns, not an authoritarian hammer with which we oppress the personal lives of a minority to provide a (possibly false) sense of security.  It’s easy for the fearful to view any kind of liberty as dangerous to the safe, comfortable blanket of perceived safety.  If our fear leads us to go after supposedly “disposable” rights now, what other “dangerous” rights will we sacrifice in our paranoia next?

I view gun ownership through the same lens as other liberties which could have “dangerous” effects, such as exercising free speech, voting, driving cars, drinking alcohol, and so on.  I think we need to be very careful in general about sacrificing personal liberties in the name of security, and I don’t regard gun ownership as inherently more disposable than other liberties.