"A scientist's aim in a discussion with his colleagues is not to persuade, but to clarify."
- Leo Szilard
Recently on the StarWars.com forums, Wayne "Darth Talas" Poe has been posting links to an entry of his on the StarWars.com blogs. The topic is the canon issue, and the basic idea he presents is that Lucas has consistently said the Expanded Universe actually is part of the same universe as his Star Wars films.
Naturally, a lot of folks find this claim quite curious. After all, when directly asked about the "Star Wars Universe" and the material from the EU novels and whatnot, George Lucas responded . . . well, let's just look at it again, shall we?
And of course, he's maintained this line of reasoning throughout the years, via interviews and in direct responses to fan questions on canon and continuity. He's even exercised the idea in reference to Boba Fett, who he considers to this day to have been killed in RoTJ, but who he has simultaneously allowed to live on in the EU.
However, Wayne claims that, in fact, Lucas really wasn't referring to canon and continuity at all, and that any related notion is false. Borrowing the argument used by his EU Completist comrades at alt.startrek.vs.starwars, Wayne presents the claim that Lucas was in fact referring to production issues . . . i.e. the medium of the story (films vs. books & such), the staff creating it (Lucas, actors, and CGI artists vs. Del Rey, authors, and Licensing's publishing department), and so on. Wayne believes this idea means that all the talk of multiple universes that Lucas has made over the years are merely misunderstood by most Star Wars fans.
Inevitably, Wayne claims that this 'misunderstanding' is intentional, with those supporting it being "willfully misrepresentative" evildoers. This is amusing, given that everyone who has read the Starlog quote (excepting Wayne and his little group) have 'misunderstood' and 'misrepresented' it equally:
1. Sue Rostoni, Lucas Licensing, who said that Eddie's paraphrase of Rayten (see below) was pretty much what she'd heard.
2. Leland Chee, Lucas Licensing, who said the quote "makes it sound like the EU is separate from George's vision of the Star Wars universe."
3. SW.com forum participant Galvaron, who broke the story online and provided the somewhat-condensed version of the Starlog quote known as the "Galvaron Rendition".
4. SW.com blogger Rayten, whose blog entry popularized the article online.
5. SW.com forum poster "eddie", who brought Rayten's report to the attention of Rostoni.
6. The entire "EU Defense Force" of GalacticSenate.com (reg. req'd) regarding the Galvaron Rendition. (Note the anti-Lucas personal attacks flung, too.)
7. The entire "EU Defense Force" of TheForce.Net regarding the Galvaron Rendition.
The above having been said, Wayne's blog entry is impressive . . . that I'll hand to him. The claim that Lucas referred only to production was made before, but never defended at all previously. It was simply asserted without reason and counterclaims were rejected without cause. As such, Wayne has presented perhaps the single strongest and most coherent defense of the "Production Claim" that I've ever seen (though as we'll see this is not saying much).
Indeed, I'm not the only person he loathes to have given him compliments on it. EU author and all-around impressive person Karen Traviss is among them. In October, as noted in a prior post, she was a target of vitriol from Wayne and the gang at StarDestroyer.Net (See "Lord Poe" et al. at http://bbs.stardestroyer.net/viewtopic.php?t=78447 and other threads from October), and the combat was carried on all over the place, including TheForce.Net and his blog. She labelled such parties the "Talifan" based on their behavior, a term from Brian Herbert that is both entertaining and remarkably applicable.
Nonetheless, she referred to Wayne's post as an "intelligent and well-sourced analysis". However, that last word must've been a slip of the pen.
What Wayne wrote was not an analysis. It is instead an almost textbook example of the "persuasive essays" from elementary or middle school in which you try to convince the reader of something. And as with all such persuasive essays, it is geared toward an audience. Obviously the hardcore debaters of canon are not the audience, for reasons that will be illuminated later. Instead, Wayne's post is intended to sway those who are largely unfamiliar with the facts and evidence of the canon civil war.
Let's pick one of the myriad scholastic sites providing details on how to write a persuasive essay. For instance, here's a good one from Yorba Middle School in Orange County, California. As noted there:
Persuasive writing is often used in advertisements to get the reader to buy a product.
Quite. The school even provides a rubric at the bottom of the page with which to grade persuasive essays. The basic elements elements of this somewhat-longer-than-normal sales pitch are given as follows:
1. Introduction -
In the introduction, one states the opinion one is supporting, preferably opening in some interesting, attention-getting way, and optionally includes background info.
Hmm . . . Wayne opens up with comments about how certain fans are engaging in "spin-doctored tirades" attempting to drive a wedge through Star Wars itself. Poe dismisses the separate universe idea, and says Lucas has been consistent regarding the EU.
Using the rubric, I'd give Wayne a four on the attention-getting part for the claim of 'Star Wars under fire', with threes for background info and the clarity of his thesis.
2. Body -
The body is used to provide supporting evidence for the thesis. A normal middle-school five-paragraph persuasive essay would contain three main elaborating arguments, often in the form of three facts and some text afterward to draw the facts toward your conclusion.
Wayne bases his argument around six quotes, so this section is a bit different than the standard middle-school length. We'll be pondering Wayne's bod- ... er, "elaborative text in the middle" ... in a moment.
3. Conclusion -
To quote the school site, "persuasive writing usually ends by summarizing the most important details of the argument and stating once again what the reader is to believe or do."
And indeed, Wayne restates his position, paraphrasing his arguments, and while awash in the heady glow of completing a middle-school assignment he even goes so far as to exit via the aforementioned inevitable ad hominem against any who would dare to oppose his view.
Using the rubric, Wayne gets a four . . . nay, a five . . . in regards to the "personal comment or call to action" section, what with the quite personal comment noted above. We'll give fours for the restating of his thesis and the paraphrase of his main points.
Now, about Wayne's supporting ev ... about his elaborative ... (dammit, there's no getting around it (no pun intended)) ... about Wayne's body. Frankly, this section is about as good as it gets for the "Production Claim". The parts Wayne wants us to focus on are bolded, and after the quotes Wayne makes a statement about what he believes.
The Yorba Middle School page on persuasive essays suggests that opposing views should be anticipated and addressed. The most effective way Wayne and company have found to do so is to reimagine quotes which clearly dash their position, manipulating them to support their own viewpoint.
(This they use in addition to a veritable scattergun of other tactics. I've gone on at length before explaining in detail why each quote reimagination is false (1, 2), thereby succumbing to the same sort of strategic flaw evolution supporters experience when confronted by a scattergun attack by creationists. That is to say, I get boring by necessity. As the boring parts have already been written again and again, we'll focus below on the tactical level of Wayne's post.)
This concept of quote reimagination is of great import in understanding Wayne's blog entry. Wayne employs the quotes in a specific pattern intended to guide the reader toward the "correct" conclusion. There are two goals . . . the first is to keep the production idea in mind. The second is to deflate quotes on canon and continuity so that they appear to be production-oriented. In general, he alternates 'helpful' quotes and 'harmful' ones.
1. He opens with a 'helpful' quote easily misunderstood, the 1994 Splinter Intro. Wayne claims that it proves the EU to be factually equal to the films in regards to what is 'real' in Star Wars.
This oft-repeated claim has been regarded as silly for a long time, given that Lucas actually contrasts the works of others with his own works. He certainly paid Splinter ... the very book Lucas introduces ... no mind whatsoever when making the later films of the original trilogy.
However, what's important for the moment is the tactical utility of Wayne's claim insofar as his persuasive essay. Based on a single misrepresented quote, Wayne dismisses both movie purism and dual-canonism. This forms the basis of his later comments.
2. Wayne then jumps to one of the lowest-key 'harmful' quotes from the 2001 TV Guide. Given that the quote has Lucas specifically referring to EU materials as being "outside my little universe", some might find Wayne's direct jump rather peculiar. However, Wayne chooses instead to bold the section wherein Lucas mentions that a lot of people make a lot of Star Wars-brand stories. He then points out the bolded portion, quotes it yet again, and goes so far as to claim that there is "No distinction between "his" Star Wars and EU Star Wars".
Of course Wayne is simply ignoring the "outside my little universe" portion. That's why Wayne's direct jump had to occur that way . . . since Wayne had freshly dismissed the separate universe idea, he presumably felt he could ride the wave of that right through the TV Guide quote. He then tries to reinforce his view by restating his thesis, noting: "You'll see this stated every time he discusses the different venues in which Star Wars presents itself."
In other words, Wayne has dealt with the oft-used TV Guide quote via bypassing the parts which hurt his position, claiming the contrary, and instead claiming that the quote only refers to production (or "venue"), with no applicability to canon or continuity whatsoever.
3. Wayne then moves to a safer quote that actually does deal with questions on production, insofar as the Star Wars brand continuing beyond Lucas. While it might've been tactically superior to use a quote on continuity that was even stronger than the 1994 Splinter quote, Wayne's problem was twofold. First, there are none available, since all the canon and continuity quotes are 'harmful'. Second, the production claim and the construction of his persuasive essay required him to focus on production at this juncture.
Lucas makes one of his many statements that Episode III would be the last film, and (elsewhere in the Chung interview) repeats a statement he's been making since the '70s that his successful theatrical movies are going to bankroll his more esoteric and exploratory personal films. The part that interests Wayne is where Lucas says there will be no more films and that no one else will be making Star Wars films (echoing his statement in September 2004 that he's locked it up so no one else can do SW films),
though offshoot Star Wars stories will continue to appear in non-theatrical areas.
Wayne takes this to mean that "The EU is a legitimate part of the overall SW saga. He simply keeps the movie portion to himself." The latter is pretty close to what Lucas said here, but the former is not. Yes, Lucas refers to stories with the Star Wars name, but he calls such things "offshoot stories". And as we know, Lucas doesn't even read the "offshoot books that come out based on Star Wars" (emphasis mine).
So yes, Lucas recognizes the existence of these offshoot stories inasmuch as they are written and published, but that doesn't touch on the question of whether they are a legitimate continuation of his own work. (Indeed, Lucas says in the interview that he wants to keep the films special . . . does having an expanded universe of TV and novel product that's part of the true story help that?)
In any case, Wayne has at this point pretty well got us thinking about production issues as we read through his blog entry, especially with that last bit. He's also pounding the pulpit in favor of the idea that Lucas thinks the EU is a valid and true continuation of his films.
4. Now Wayne goes up against the second strongest 'harmful' quote of Lucas from the 2002 Cinescape. This quote is the origin of the term "parallel universe" so often bandied about in the canon civil war, and which helped to provide the origin of dual-canonism simply because, in any parallel universe situation, contradictory facts can both be true.
Wayne's response is surprisingly limited here. He simply says that "Once again, the filmmaker explains that he alone tells the story of Star Wars via the movies." While it's true that Lucas says his world is the movies, he specifically calls the other world "the parallel universe". (Commentary and past arguments about this quote can be found here.)
But still, you can see that Wayne has appropriated a 'harmful' quote from his opponents and adopted it as his own. The fact that it contradicts him is of little consequence . . . the appearance he seeks to give is that it supports his view. Thus quoting it and giving a single sentence of commentary achieved the desired goal.
5. In keeping with the alternating pattern, we again have a safe quote about production, one which is not followed by any commentary. From a 2004 AP interview, we have Lucas talking about the future of the Star Wars property.
The idea Wayne hopes to convey via his selective bolding of the quotes is that Lucas allows people who create works in other genres to create such genre work based on Star Wars, and that he's cool with it. Well, of course that's true (otherwise he'd be suing the pants off of folks), but the fact that he allows and enables it to occur has no bearing on whether he considers it part of the reality of his Star Wars universe as depicted in his films.
Roddenberry and Paramount allowed all sorts of tie-in materials, but all agree that he reserved the final say of what was or wasn't Star Trek. Linus Torvalds gives folks free reign to make Linux computer software, but he alone determines the contents of the kernel. And likewise, though there are all sorts of Star Wars products, Lucas is the one who decides whether sugary transmogrifications in one's breakfast cereal or anything else is actually a part of the Star Wars story of Lucas's films.
6. Now we come to the quote Wayne is really aiming for. It is, of course, the aforementioned Starlog quote. This is the reason behind his entire essay. After all, no one reading that quote by itself would ever presume that Lucas could possibly have been referring to production issues. But now, with Wayne having gone on and on about production, people will thus have the idea in mind when reading the quote, despite the fact that Lucas's statement is a direct response to a question on continuity. And indeed, Wayne doesn't even trouble himself to bold any of the text, and simply peters out by saying it is Lucas commenting on how he sticks to the films.
No, Wayne, it is not. It is Lucas being as plain as possible with his viewpoint, yet again . . . much to the chagrin of certain people who abjectly refuse to listen.
Wayne moves back and forth from quotes about filmmaking and production to quotes on canon and continuity, with an evolving persuasive essay that pretends there is a uniting thread woven through the quotes. His essay is an attempt to carry the reader to the Starlog quote with the "correct" idea-set in mind so they will associate the quote with other production issues.
This framing is an attempt at disinformation and the creation of confusion, one that skips context altogether. Indeed, despite the fact that this is the best defense of the anti-Starlog "Production Claim" that has ever been attempted by EU Completists, it is still entirely lacking in any explanation of why this claim is true! Wayne's entry represents nothing more than a shell game of other quotes meant to support his undefended and apparently indefensible claim that Lucas, when asked about continuity issues, would go off and start talking about production matters.
People who are genuinely interested in the facts of the canon policy do not need to resort to sales pitches and persuasive essays. Instead, they will approach it like a scientist approaching some unknown . . . they will abandon their bias and let the facts carry them. Or, to once again quote Leo Szilard, "A scientist's aim in a discussion with his colleagues is not to persuade, but to clarify."
Logical rigor isn't very sexy in today's soundbite culture. It can seem dreary and dull, lacking the impact of a persuasive essay. However, it's honest and thorough. In a world that prefers simplifications over thoroughness even at the expense of truth, Wayne's blog post is a gem. However, for those of us who want logical rigor no matter how unsexy (or how lengthy), it just won't do.
And you know, I was once a purist . . . I knew the films, but assumed that as with Trek the Shane Johnson manual I was poring through just didn't really count. Much later I found Star Wars online, eventually ending up at alt.startrek.vs.starwars. The folks there talked a lot about the books, and at ASVS there was even the claim that the books were valid per Lucasfilm, with the matter was long since settled among fans but for a few sticks-in-the-mud who didn't listen to the EU because they just didn't like it. And so I was thus an EU Completist.
But it was their insistence that the canon policy of "the respective owners" was to be followed that was the undoing of this aspect of the ASVS groupthink. After seeing them change their collective mind on the Trek policy, I came to realize that perhaps their opinion on Star Wars wasn't the only one possible. This led to my discovery not only that there were serious problems with their EU Completist arguments, but also my finally bumping into the long-running "canon civil war" online (from which the term "EU Completist" originates). Soon thereafter Lucas came out with the "parallel universe" quote in Cinescape, and their fate was sealed.
As such, for a time I was again a purist, this time on the grounds of evidence and not the grounds of assumption. However, even purism has its flaws, and so with EU Completism and Movie Purism both being wrong I found a new way in the form of the Dual-Canon idea. Both Completism and Purism are correct . . . from certain points of view. This idea is not so irrationally exclusive as purism or completism, yet remains more logically inclusive than Abel Pena's free-for-all view.
In short, over the past five years or so I've changed my opinion not once, not twice, but four times. Far from being subject to claims of inconsistency, however, I have at all times been guided by the best evidence available at the time. As the quality of research has increased (if you'll forgive the tooting of my own horn), so too has my opinion evolved.
Meanwhile, for the past ten years that Wayne Poe and his comrades have been involved in the Star Trek vs. Star Wars discussions, their view has never changed. No matter what evidence is presented, no matter how clearly Lucas makes his point, they have always believed that the EU is part of the same universe as the films and is equal to the films, barring direct contradictions that can't be (even crappily) rationalized.
This is why they attempt to persuade and not to analyze. This is why their ego is wrapped up in whether the EU is valid. This is why their anger at opponents is based on the existence of disagreement, whereas mine is based on the insults and claims of dishonesty they fling at me and their many other opponents. It is a fundamental difference of worldview.
That's precisely why I don't expect this write-up to persuade . . . it is meant, after all, only to clarify. But hey, I'll be fair . . . I'll let Wayne get his A+ from Yorba and I'll take the F for failing to write a good persuasive essay. I don't mind.
(EDIT: Comments are disabled for this entry. To leave a comment, go to the reposting of the entry at the new Canon Wars website.)