Star Wars

The uncanny parallels

I try to keep this blog free of politics, but the last few weeks have brought out a series of very alarming parallels between the current situation in America and that in pre-Civil War Spain.

As Stanley G. Payne pointed out in great detail in his Spanish Civil War, by 1935 the Spanish Left reached a point where it believed that no other party should be allowed to govern Spain.  This repudiated the constitution that they themselves had written only recently.

Time and again, they broke laws, ignored customs and always chose to escalate rather than calm.  Payne goes through an entire checklist of "off ramps" the Left ignored, any one of which could have avoided the resulting carnage of war.

The fact of the matter is that it is difficult to push a war on people who don't want one.  The Man of Destiny series was written in calmer times, but I recognized that one of the fatal flaws in the Star Wars prequels was how arbitrary and random the start of the Clone War was.

Thus when I began telling my story, I spent all of the first book and half of the second chronicling the downward spiral, including opportunities for both sides to de-escalate.

All historical parallels are inexact and one can rightly note that the standard of living, technology, international reach of modern American cannot be compared with that of Spain in 1936. 

Still, I cannot deny that part of the frenzy that drove me to write Long Live Death was a desire to get out in front of events and supply the book as a cautionary tale.  Spain's leaders in 1936 did not have many examples of how a seemingly united and peaceful society can disintegrate into conflict.  We do, with not just Spain but the breakdown of Yugoslavia serving as grim reminders that the bonds that keep nations together can collapse with frightful speed.

I will conclude by asking those of a religious bent to include a plea for reconciliation, forgiveness and renewed unity in your prayers.  We need all the help we can get.

Another harsh take on Star Wars

I've already written my latest Star Wars anti-review, but over at, I go a bit farther and ask the question that leaves me increasingly frustrated:  When will people stop making excuses for these terrible Star Wars movies?

There's a bonus reference to Rise of the Alliance, since the movie's title is so similar. 

Check it out!

Movie Anti-Review: The Rise of Skywalker

This is my second anti-review, which I define as an explanation of why I'm not going to see a particular movie.

The first anti-review was The Last Jedi, so I'm sure this isn't a huge surprise to my readers.

Indeed, I'm even less interesting in this film than the one before it.  It's clear to me that Disney has used Star Wars as a strip mine, extracting every bit of cash out of it and leaving nothing but desolation.

I've seen some of the reviews and once again, I'm troubled by how they keep referring to it as a "Star Wars movie."  Once, Star Wars stood in a class by itself as the ne plus ultra of popular entertainment.  Now it's been demoted to a sub-genre of space fantasy.  It's primary features are thin plots, flat characters, familiar music and lavish special effects designed to induce nostalgia for older, better movies.

One of the thing that galls me is the fact that by all accounts, Disney brought back old actors and characters and essentially did nothing with them.  Well, other than kill them.  Or bring them back from the dead.

Basically, it's a mess. 

I will go out on a limb and predict that the lukewarm reviews this month will morph into full-on hatred a few months from now as the hype and nostalgia die down and people realize just how terrible this "exciting conclusion to the Star Wars saga" really is.


The wild raspberries won

The crazy weather has delayed the wild raspberry harvest, but it's a pretty big one all the same.

This of course reminded me of the lesson of the wild raspberries: in nature as in fiction, something what you want to work, doesn't.  The cultivated raspberries I planted years ago have been completely overrun.

Meanwhile, the wild ones are flourishing - so much so, that I'm having to cut them back so they don't take over the entire back yard.

The similarity to writing has only grown more pronounced.  Since I wrote the post linked above, I've written two more novels and am now working on a third.  This is a project I'd set aside years ago when it was roughly halfway finished.  I figured it was but a short sprint to the end.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the final draft - I realized the story didn't work as well as I thought it did all those years ago.  Thus, I've ended up not just heavily re-writing it to improve its style and flow, I've actually jettisoned the entire cast in favor of a new one.  Only a couple of bit-part players have managed to survive, and even they got some form of re-working.

Unless you have the courage to do that, you end up with a stilted piece of bad writing.  We see this all the time in contemporary culture where characters do things the writer wants them to do rather than what would organically flow from the character's prior behavior.  It's jarring and wrecks the story.

Maybe the next book will stink, but it will at least have a consistent flow.

A look at Star Wars: Episode I 20 years later

My latest article at looks back at Phantom Menace, which opened 20 years ago today.

It was a very different time and I was a different person.    Many of the themes I brought up are familiar to people here, but it's interesting to contemplate the different cultural moment we live in compared to the one of 1999.

I won't say they were simpler times, but the certainly seemed safer.  Take a look and leave a comment.

The creative pressure paradox

Monday will be my first day in the office since December.  I'm looking forward to it.  There's a strange sort of lethargy that takes one over when there is too much free time.  Other than a few firm things like bills and doctor appointment, the project list can be postponed almost indefinitely.

After all, what else are you going to do?

This is a well-known paradox - people in a rush often make mistakes, but those mistakes may be beneficial.

To use a well-known example, the original Star Wars movies have numerous short-cuts and mistakes in them, yet they were huge blockbusters and retain their power to inspire even today.

The prequels had none of those limitations.  Being self-finances, George Lucas had total control and a loose deadline to do whatever he wanted with them.  They are but a pale shadow of their predecessors.

Normally when I write, I consider a session where I write less than 1,000 words to be something of a failure, almost a waste of time.  (Of course, if I'm working through a difficult passage, that's different.)

Yet on furlough, it took me several weeks to scrape up the measly 4,000 words for a short story.  I'd do as few as 300 words and call it a night.  Why not?  What's the hurry, anyway?

I think retirement can be like this, which is why so many retirees take part-time jobs or volunteer.  it gives the day structure and provides a needed limit on hobbies and leisure activities.

Speaking of writing, I've begun to move ahead with another book project, which was dug out of the archives and is getting a substantial revision.  I'm measuring my progress in what I delete rather than what I write.

I don't have a name for it yet, but as it comes together, I'll let you know. 

And of course once Three Weeks with the Coasties comes back from DoD, there will be an announcement as well.