Star Wars

Star Wars
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Monday, September 3, 2012

Come to the Wordie Side of the Force...

I am now about mid-way through "Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor" by Matthew Stover, and enjoying the heck out of it. Much more than when I started and everything seemed a bit suspicious and weird (mostly because I was coming off of "Truce at Bakura" and getting used to a new writing style is always challenging, but more so when it's the same characters who's personalities are already established...). However, and this for me is a BIG however, Stover's writing style is grating. And by grating, I mean it's a cheese grater that's grating the skin off my body. Because this book is so full of cheese and quippy dialogue, it's dulling my nerve endings.

I say all of this with no offense meant to Mr. Stover. Writing a book is hard work (I know, I do National Novel Writing Month every year and have many unpublished novels to my name), and writing a book with pre-established characters with already set mannerisms is even harder. Many a rookie would think it's easier, but no, it's really difficult. Because then you get major fans like me who read said book and get all bent out of shape because the sarcastic remarks coming out of Han's mouth "just aren't right."

Even worse, to this die-hard (in a huge, huge way) fan, Stover's usage of ridiculous titles for things totally undercuts his ability to write well. Such as a neural implant he's created that controls the person it's embedded into called a "Moon Hat." Or the neural implant that the uber villain wears that's called a "Sunset Crown." For no apparent reason. It would make more sense if the race that created these neural implants gave them these names because of something significant in their society. But the main bad guy created these neural headdresses, and he named them thus because, I assume, they're terms connected to the Dark (not the Dark Side, more like the Dark Side on steroids). Honestly, there really wasn't a reason given for the names. It was more sort of like Stover decided to stick in place-holders while he was writing the original version of Shadows of Mindor and just never went back to change them. It's something I, and many other writers, do when writing a first draft and all the details aren't yet in place. But these names give the story a bit of an unpolished feel to me. I want to know the specific reason behind these names, and many other things in the book. But Stover - in between writing adventures for Han, Leia, Luke, Chewie, and the droids - insists on giving us detailed explanations of the fighter ships, and the guns, and the transport ships, and the TIE fighters, and the missiles, and the grenades. Which is cool, because details are nice that way. But if he pulled out of the Star Wars tech for just a few minutes and applied a little more imagination explanations to some of the terms he created, I would be a much happier fan and reader at this moment.

I will continue the book 1.) because Stover does know how to wrangle a reader into his adventures and 2.) because I'm committed to this project. But maybe, in the future, Mr. Stover if you write more Star Wars novels, take a deep breath, relax, and let a little of the Writing/Wordie Force flow through your mind. I promise, it'll do wonders...


  1. You bring up some really interesting points here, Ro, and up to a point, I'm absolutely with you! The wordiness - especially the technical stuff - really gets to me. I believe in the power of word choice but also in the power of minimalism. Don't use twenty words when five will do. I also hate writing that tries to be clever - one of my favorite professors describes this writing as writing that pushes you out of the text by making you aware that you're reading.

    I think the only place I don't quite agree is the naming. MStover's naming of things doesn't bother me. I think it's because, unfortunately for the canon, the entirety of Star Wars is fraught with silly names for things. I mean, think about "The Light Side" and "The Dark Side." Spaceballs managed, in less than ten seconds, to spoof the hell out of the whole premise of the Force when Dark Helmet says of Yogurt, "No, he got the UP side, I got the DOWN side. There's two sides to the Schwartz." And see, just that last sentence (the Force, Darth Vader, Yoda ...) sort of highlights the silliness of all the original naming. The only reason we don't react is because there's so much power and stigma associated with those names and concepts. But, at their heart, they're quite silly.

    As is "moon hat," I don't disagree with you there! My worry is that if we apply this criticism to MStover now, we're going to have to be fair and apply it to the rest of the EU later on and I'm pretty sure "Courtship of Princess Leia," "The Crystal Star," and KJAnderson won't really stand a chance ^_^

    1. Oh, and I really do love your post's title ^_^ Very appropriate!

    2. Oh, and speaking of Spaceballs ...

  2. *mind blown* You, my darling friend, are SO completely right about Star Wars and its simple terms! Why didn't I see this before...? Oh, right, I've been watching them since I was a toddler and it didn't even register. I suppose I am going to have to back down off my Name Things For A Reason pedestal and let it go. And you're absolutely right that language like this may, and likely will, show up in our future reading. I feel like this is part of why we're reading these books now... To see if they stand up to our memories of them. To critique them a bit in the Star Wars canon (which means I need to let the Sunset Crown and Moon Hat go...) is a fun side aspect. I suppose though, because I know such wonderful writers like TZahn are in my near future, I'm expecting more from the current authors. Hence the above post. But, I will let the Moon Hat and Sunset Crown go. I will. I'm trying. Here I go. A teeny part of me is still holding on to it. And now I've let it go... I swear. ^_^

    Oh, how I LOVE Spaceballs!! You're so on about the spoofing. We need to have a viewing the next time we have a movie day!

    "Yogurt! I hate Yogurt!"

  3. Something to keep in mind as we continue reading is that it's important to study those little things that irk us about the books. Don't necessarily let it go! Consider, for yourself, why terms like "Sunset Crown" and "Moon Hat" are so obnoxious. In formal literary criticism (and dear god, let's not go down that road if we can avoid it ^_^), you learn never to ignore a knee-jerk reaction to the language or content of a story because if you're being shoved out of the text, something's off with the writing.

    Rather than loving or hating the text, it can be fun to explore what, specifically, is bugging you so much about it. I know for sure that I've been working my way through that with "Truce" because I had so many eye-roll moments, however much I loved the story itself. It was fun to say, "This is valid. Why am I having these reactions here but not to, say, TZahn?"

    And I agree, TZahn set the bar so high that I know that I, least, am going to struggle a bit with BHambley, KJ Anderson, and some of the other authors in our future, too ...

    Heehee, Spaceballs .... "Raspberry ... there's only ONE MAN who would DARE give me the raspberry ..."

  4. Hmmm, I feel like my reactions were because it was just such an unimaginative name. I like authors who can build an entire world and make the reader believe that every part of it is real. Right down to the Moon Hats and Sunset Crowns. So, while Star Wars canon does use simplified terms like the Force and the Dark Side, I felt like those had a history. Yoda, who was an ancient and wise teacher, had been teaching about the Force for generations. This is going to sound a bit silly, but these terms have a certain weight to them. Whereas I feel the terms Moon Hat and Sunset Crown didn't have any history behind them. No weight. No backstory. They're fluffy, filler terms. I don't mind simple word usage, but it has to mean something if the author is using them as a world building device. It makes a seriously evil villain seem totally frivolous and stupid to me. Sort of like when reading a murder mystery that the author has tried be clever with, but you guess whodunnit right away. There's no one-two punch with this empty writing. I'm enjoying Shadows of Mindor, but I'll like it better once it's behind me.

    I've lost the clicks, the blips, and the *untypeble noise here*