A Neuromancer movie in 2017 will look a lot like a documentary

It’s well documented that William Gibson started out writing science fiction, and book by book progressed towards the future he had once predicted. By Pattern Recognition in 2003 Gibson was writing about a London that seemed to come into existence even as the book was published. I know, I was living and working in the city of Gibson’s imagination.

So news of a film adaptation of Neuromancer, long speculated on, makes me wonder how fictional that story will seem today. It’s been 33 years since Neuromancer was published. The novel takes place at a non-specified date in what was, in 1984, the near future. Have we arrived at that future already?

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In technological terms, not quite. We don’t jack into the net, yet. We don’t have a spindle in orbit over earth. We don’t even have fully operation cybernetic limbs. But Neuromancer remains the greatest science fiction novel ever written, because it was never about the tech. The tech is a metaphor, for a world Gibson saw coming, and that world is with us.

We are lost in cybernetic spaces, the strange screaming voids of social media, accessed by staring into dark glass mirrors. Our democratic systems have bought out by billionaire clans who wield power through technology. Replace Tessier-Ashpool with Alphabet and the picture doesn’t change that much. Some, like the philosopher Timothy Morton, argue that emergent AI is already with us, in the cybernetic systems of 21st century capitalism.

A talented movie maker, and I have a feeling Tim Miller is such, might realise that, instead of conjuring yet another cliche Hollywood “future” (remember how Minority Report was supposed to be the future?) Neuromancer can evoke far more power and emotion, simoly by looking like our here and now today.

 

 

Your Voice Is In The Sentences You Write

20 years into making my living as a writer, I’m neccessarily a sentence obsessive.

I chose to spend my weekend revising sentence structure, a task I undertook with the help of Brooks Landons’ Building Great Sentences, my favorite text on the subject. Sentence revision filled my Saturday and Sunday for two reasons; I’m planning a new course entitled The Nomad Writer, which has prompted me to review my own stack of writing skills, and on reviewing those skills, I decided my sentences could do with some work.

Learn the Rhetoric of Story, and the 7 foundations of powerful storytelling, with course code STORYTEN.

Sentences are where the hard work of writing begins, but also where a lot of the joy in that work happens. I think it’s a shame that sentences don’t get more attention and love. Not only because, 20 years into making my living as a writer, I’m neccessarily a sentence obsessive, but because understanding sentences unlocks many of the mysteries of writing. Among them the diffuse artefact of writing craft we call “voice”.

Here are my condensed revision notes. A sentence begins will a kernel or base clause, usually composed of a subject and a predicate. The base clause and any information added to it express a set of propositions. Sentences grow from a propositional base in three ways; connective, adjectival or subordinative. Information is added to the base clause with modifying phrases, either bound to the phrase they modify, or as free modifiers. Cumulative syntax takes a base clause and adds information as free modifiers, usually in the end place but also at the start or middle of the sentence. Modifier phrases are either coordinate or subordinate to other phrases and can be mixed in the same sentence. Periodic or suspensive syntax withholds the base clause to the end of the sentence. Within either cumulative or periodic syntax, sentences can assume patterns; twinned, balanced, tryptych and so on.

I’ll stop there. If you know your sentence structure you’ll be wanting to correct me. If any of that left you bemused, seek the assisstance of Professor Landon above.

What does this have to do with voice? Well, the choices we make as we build sentences define the voice the reader “hears” on the page. If you rely heavily and routinely on what we have called above and exemplfied in this very sentence as bound modifiers, your writing will be complex, hard to process, arguably pompous, and make you sound like an academic. If your primary mode of adding information to a sentence is adjectival, you will unavoidably begin to stray into purple hued prose of pulp cosmic horror sylists like H P Lovecraft. If you demand simple sentences. If you hate complex sentences. If length in a sentence enrages you. Then you will stick to propositions. Then you will sound like a hardboiled crime writer.

Sentences aren’t all of voice, but they are the heart of it. When I’m paid as a copywriter or journalist, I’m paid well because I can adopt the voice of the publication or business I’m writing for. I literally sit down and analyse how that voice is structured on the sentence level then imitate the style. Or in many cases define a style for places that don’t have one. As creative writers we talk about “finding our voice”, but that can often mean relying on a small set of sentence structures we have learned unconsciously. Often the best thing to do with the voice you have found is to break it, then rebuild it, the same but richer.

Originally published for my patrons.

Why teach writing? To learn of course.

There’s a story of a lazy Buddhist adept, whose name escapes me, who was made to teach a lesson by his master. The student never paid attention in class, or did his chores around the monastery. But when made to teach, he gave a long lecture on compassion, that remains a high Buddhist teaching to this day.

I’m guessing the lazy adept didn’t know how much he knew until he taught it.

“In a classroom full of writers, the writing teacher is the most dedicated student of all.”

I think about writing as a practice. It’s a path that many people choose to walk to give their life shape, and that helps us develop and grow. With all the challenges that come with a pro writing career, when I think about who I would be if I’d never disciplined myself to write, I literally shudder.

(I know many writers who can’t rub two pennies together, but none who are shambling shopping mall zombies, so every writer I know is a winner.)

At some point in your writing practice, teaching becomes a logical next step. And here’s the thing. That will probably happen before you reach the titanic success levels of Stephen King. In fact that was true of Stephen King himself, who taught English and writing as a postgrad student, in the space between publishing his early short stories and his first novel. I think it’s likely the teaching process helped King in that evolution.

Teaching makes you do something really hard. You have to take all that knowledge you have acrued as a student, years of it, swilling around in your mind like an ocean, and structure it into a form that you can communicate to others. This is not a comfortable or neccesarily fun activity in and of itself. But you will never understand your own craft as well as you will by teaching it. In a classroom full of writers, the writing teacher is the most dedicated student of all.

My reward for composing The Rhetoric of Story as a course, a process that took over a year, wasn’t recruiting 1300 students or making a useful bonus income, though both are nice, but is that I understand my own storytelling process infinitely better. Now that courses can be preserved forever in video, I love knowing that future writers will be able to see into the process of so many other creators. It’s going to lead to the telling of many great stories.

Game of Thrones is epic fantasy for social justice warriors

Game of Thrones and Hilary Mantell’s Wolf Hall offer two different takes on how social justice overpowers aristocratic elites. In the age of Trump, we need these social justice metaphors more than ever.

The cosmetic similarities between Game of Thrones and Wolf Hall are not hard to list. Both occupy a similar period in history, soon after the fall of the Plantagenet kings (recast as the Targaryens in GoT) and the early history of the dynasty that succeeded them. Both wallow in the power plays of courtly intrigue and its brutal consequences, from the Blood Wedding of fantasy, to the endless beheadings of history. And both have dominated the recent consciousness of storytelling.

“If ever a fantasy character has represented the ideal of a Social Justice Warrior, Daenerys Targaryen is she.”

The differences are also quite clear. There are no dragons, dire wolves, blood magic, white walkers or talking tree roots in Wolf Hall, while GoT wanders rather drastically from the history and geography from which its fantasy is spun. Wolf Hall is crafted as a tight internal monologue that never takes us beyond the perceptions of its protagonist Thomas Cromwell, while GoT moves the reader from one point of view to another in a rather more workmanlike style. These are differences of emphasis: one is designed to play to mass audiences attuned to televisual storytelling, the other for audiences who value emotional depth above narrative lucidity.

The dramatic question at the heart of each story is, nonetheless, identical: Who rules and why? What makes a just monarch? Both stories set their audience the same conundrum. A society dominated by great families and inherited wealth, representing a history where the most greedy, the most deluded, and the most violent have tended to triumph, leaving a world riven by corruption and injustice. We’re always hungry for stories that reflect the dynamics of power because we are never free of them, but it seems more than coincidence that GoT and Wolf Hall have risen to popularity in a period of modern history where the super-rich have reclaimed much of their old power.

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GoT’s answer to this age-old problem is in the tradition of most popular fantasy from King Arthur to Lord of the Rings – to achieve a just world, a just king must rule. Or more accurately, a just queen. Thundering up from the fiery end of the fantasy map in this Song of Ice and Fire is Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons, in every sense the most just candidate for the Iron Throne, with a trio of dragons on hand to incinerate any lords who oppose her. And she’s liberating every slave, whore, eunuch or other downtrodden soul along the way to demonstrate just how just a ruler she can be. If ever a fantasy character has represented the ideal of a Social Justice Warrior, Daenerys Targaryen is she.

What is the rhetoric of story?

Wolf Hall’s challenge to social privilege is slightly more radical. Thomas Cromwell is no king in waiting. His story foreshadows the rise of the power that would truly threaten the ruling aristocracy – the modern democratic state. It is the state that will rein in the power of the rich, transform taxation from robbery to redistribution and enfranchise women and the poor with the vote. If Thomas Cromwell resonates as a modern-day hero, it is because we sense once again the need for strong democratic statesmen.

How will these two stories of our time end? History certainly suggests that Cromwell’s will not end well – though Wolf Hall has already ventured close to alternate history in its characterisations (as Thomas More apologists would tell you). Imagine the possibilities if she were to take that further in the third volume. George RR Martin has certainly shown himself more than happy to brutally murder even his story’s most empathetic characters. Daenerys may end not on the Iron Throne but in the basement of the Red Keep as a new plaything for Ser Gregor. A nasty climax to a fantasy story, but not such a long way from reality.

Originally published in The Guardian.

How do stories work?

The Rhetoric of Story isn’t a writing a course. It’s the answer to a question that has fascinated me for over a decade. How do stories work? How do a few words on a page, some flickering images on a screen, convince us for a time that we are a different person, living a different life, in a different world?

When I first launched The Rhetoric of Story a year ago, a good friend told me to give it a more exciting name. Well meant advice. But while “”The 7 Secrets of Kickass Stories” is more eye catching, it’s less useful. Because the Rhetoric of Story is more than a title…it’s the heart of the answer to my question…how do stories work?

Storytelling is magic. It’s a kind of illusion. The storyteller shapes words, images, symbols, and we are transported to other worlds. You don’t have to be a brilliant literary writer, or a genius auteur filmmaker. If you can pull off the magic trick, and immerse people in a story that transports them, they will love everything you create.

The Rhetoric of Story is big and ambitious. Nobody has tried before to set out a simple framework, a “rhetorical mode”, for how the immersive effect of story is created. If your storytelling can embrace all 7 foundations – Change, Self, Other, Conflict, Events, Structure and Emotion – then whether it’s a 2 page short story, or a 10 hour tv show, it will work.

As a teacher, I want to give my students the clearest possible guidance on achieving the single most important goal for any writer – telling a great story. I think in The Rhetoric of Story I’ve achieved that. And now you can find out for yourself…

…the course is now on Udemy and, for one week only, it’s free. Click the link and use course code STORYTELLER at checkout.

The Rhetoric of Story.

Game of Thrones: 6 predictions for season 7

Just watched episode one of season 7 and RAWWWWR that’s some powerful storytelling. George has been skillfully setting up these epic conflicts, getting us emotionally invested in every one, and now they’re all about to pay off. Ice and Fire are ready to clash at last. The only question now is, what twists will GRRM throw at us along the way?

These aren’t spoilers, BUT, I’m spookily good at predicting stories. Don’t be shocked if they all come true.

Things go badly for Daenerys and Jon.

Thrones is a gritty, pseudorealistic fantasy world where death is brutal and strikes at random. But two characters do not live by the established logic of Westeros. Jon can fight an infinite number of men and win, while Dany is literally fireproof and rides the fantasy equivalent of an Apache attack helicopter in battle. George lets his two leading heroes get away with murder…but don’t expect that to last for this season. The two Targaryen’s wedding to unite Westeros is the obvious ending…and therefore the least likely.

Cersei has the bankers on her side.

Things aren’t looking good for the Lannister twins. Cersei is bat shit crazy, Jaime is going grey and jowly. On the strategic map of Westeros, they are a single state surrounded and at war on all fronts. But consider this…the Iron Bank are into the Lannisters for an epic sum. And they’ll only recover it if the Lannisters win. Banking clans have a long real world history of dirty tricks to put their puppets in power. Expect to see the Iron Bank throw some serious black ops behind a win for Cersei.

Tyrion for Prime Minister.

The littlest Lannister carried the first two seasons of Thrones. Most viewers are expecting a new King, but the show has an outspoken social justice agenda, that doesn’t sit well with the values of Monarchy. While electoral democracy is some distance off in Westeros, we could see see a constitutional monarchy with a rudimentary parliament. Tyrion would be the natural choice for PM, with Varys as Chancelor.

Matriarchy for the win.

Strong women are now in charge of most of the map of Westeros. Dany and her Dothraki hoarde, the Dornish Sand Snakes, Cersei in Kings Landing, Olena Tyrell in Highgarden, Sansa in the North, with Brienne as the toughest sword in the land and Arya poisoning entire halls of men while sparing all women. Jon Snow and Jaime are both well under the thumb. Thrones is going to be an all woman affair from here on, as the matriarchy replace the old patriarchy of Westeros.

Bran finally gets to do something.

Bran’s story is the most compelling in the books, a psychological journey through trauma and grief and a slow awakening to magic and grief. All that interiority has never translated well to screen. But in this final season Bran is no longer an adept. He’s now the only true wizard in Westeros, with unbounded powers, ready to make merry hell on the battlefield. Army of zombies? No problem, Bran can field a whole army of wargs.

Personal Betrayls.

The final battle for Westeros will be won or lost on loyalty. Jon and Sansa, Cersei and Jaime, there are serious fractures within each of the camps vying for power. Jaime could well be the one to kill Cersei, and then himself. The open question about Thrones at this point is how willing GRRM is to upset the audience by foregoing pat heroism and epic final battles, in favour of more realistic politucs and human fraility that have defined the show up until this point. Whatever the answer, I’m certain George has a few very nasty suprises for us before the Game of Thrones is won. Or lost.

The principle of creative opposition

I’m reading Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had reading a Pynchon novel. And I think I know why.

Creative. Opposition.

Pynchon is an ideas man. High-concept, conspiracy theorist, humanity as an organic mishap in a grinding clockwork universe kind of ideas.

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Inherent Vice is a small scale, comedy of errors, sundrenched California noir novel. It’s still Pynchon, but with the vast conceptual frameworks snipped into human insights.

This is a brave and good thing to do as a writer. Or any kind of creator. Figure what your strengths are, realise they are also your weakness, and locate a force to oppose them.

  • If you’re a writer of intimate character studies, place your characters in a galaxy spanning quest.
  • If you’re a sculptor of monolithic bronzes, apply those shapes to a pendant.
  • If you’re a songwriter of zippy pop ballads, work with an industrial techno collaborator.
  • If you’re a great cook of French meat dishes, experiment with a vegetarian menu.
  • If you’re an international businessman, spend a weekend running a market stall.

You get the idea. This might not produce your bestseller or top 40 hit, but it will reignite your creative engines. And it might produce your bestseller or top 40 hit.

Creative success can be its own trap. We always need something to resist, a force to challenge our strengths, a source of creative opposition.

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The top 5 Iain M Banks novels

30 years after they were first published, the Culture novels of Iain M Banks are more popular than ever.

Our first image of Iain M Banks’s Culture universe is a man drowning in sewage: a stark precedent for what was to come. And 30 years after its first publication, Consider Phlebas remains a novel grimily opposed to the shiny rocketships and derring-do of most space opera. Banks broke the genre apart, and with a little inspiration from M John Harrison and Ursula Le Guin (and some outright theft from Larry Niven), he created a series of space opera novels that remains unmatched.

But for all his mastery of high-octane action sequences, and the sheer invention of his Big Dumb Objects, Banks’s science fiction – credited to M Banks, his fiction going without the middle initial – has lasted because his deft balance of galactic scope with human-scale stories. Stories of loss, grief, rebirth and self-discovery are the core of the best Culture novels. He did not write sci-fi and literary novels – he was a master of storytelling that combined both.

These are my top five Culture novels, but I could have included at least five more. I’d put Use of Weapons at six, which might perplex fans of Banks at his most gung-ho. Seven would be short-story collection The State of the Art, which contains only brief glimpses of the Culture. Matter (eight), Inversions (nine) and Surface Detail (10) all have their own strengths, but lack the genius of Banks at his best – which I think you’ll find here:

 

Five: The Hydrogen Sonata
The final published Culture novel was a return to top form for Banks. The Gzilt are ready to “sublime” to the the next plane of existence. But first some old scores must be settled. It’s the most openly satirical of all Banks’s SF novels, offering an angry critique of “third-way” liberal leaders like Tony Blair. But the star of the show is the Mistake Not, a Culture ship of “non-standard” type IE packing lots of high-level weaponry. It shows exactly how tough the utopian Culture can be.

Four: Excession
Minds – sentient thinking computers – are the secret stars of the Culture novels, but here they take centre stage. What do virtually immortal, super intelligent AIs do for fun? Among other things they play out decades-long plots to topple less developed, more barbaric civilisations. But even Minds sometimes run up against opponents they can’t outwit. Featuring the Affront, a race literally named for how outrageously evil they are, this is Banks at his most playful, comedic and inventive.

Three: Consider Phlebas
After almost drowning the hero in sewage in it’s opening scene, the first published Culture novel goes on a rip roaring killing spree across the major sights of the Banksian universe. Space pirates, ringworlds, cannibal cultists, a lethal card game, and a Planet of the Dead… the Culture is shown through the eyes of those who hate and fear this machine lead society, creating by far the darkest of all Banks’s science fiction writing.

Two: The Player of Games
Both a love poem to the joy of game play, and a warning against the psychology of the game player, the story of the Culture’s best gameplayer, who is on a quest to compete against an alien society where games decide real world hierarchies, is the most complete and accessible book in the Culture series. This makes it a good starting point for the Iain M Banks neophyte, and also the first book I recommend to non-science fiction readers curious about the genre.

One: Look to Windward
I suspect that Look To Windward was Iain Banks showing off at the peak of his talents – and what a great show it is. The meddling Culture have accidentally set off a caste war in a civilisation they were trying to liberate. A young, high born officer, maimed in battle and broken by grief, is manipulated to commit a terrorist attack in revenge against the Culture. Meanwhile, an exiled composer creates a symphony to mark the light of an ancient super-nova, seen at two points and six centuries apart, by the immortal Mind who blew the star up. The fact that half the cast are six limbed tiger-like predators somehow only adds to the poetry. Look to Windward is where Banks’s interleaving of science fiction imagery, and literary themes,reaches it’s own symphonic climax, making it not just the greatest Culture novel, but perhaps the greatest ever science fiction novel.

The poetics of SF

Science fiction is scared of language.

It’s practitioners come, in bulk, from the numbered disciplines. Physicists. Engineers. Coders. The number is absolute. Seven is seven is seven is seven. It’s not six and it’s not eight. This is the whole point of whole numbers.

Infinity is just a slippery sound made by a monkey with highly trained lips and tongue. Represented as a set of scrawled sigils on paper. Even if we can agree on a spelling for spectre (specter to my American readers) it’s still a ghostly concept, summoning one net of denotations and connotations for me, entirely another for you.

Dammit Jim, I’m a semiotician not a mathematician!

Science fiction deals with it’s fear of drowning in uncertainty by staying in the shallow end of language’s infinite slipperiness. It’s science fiction, not science poetry, and it’s remarkable how descriptions of the alien and interdimensional can be so conservative in their use of language.

“Language is the true portal to sensawunda, to other worlds, to alternate realities.”

To be an “easy read” fiction must meet the reader on many levels. Narrative must conform to the psychological rhetorics of story. Language must conform to a shallow pool of concretely agreed terminology. You are going to need to understand these rules before you can break them. But you are going to have to break them.

If I only communicate with you in words you already understand, I can only show you a world you already know. It matters not if that world is in the galaxy Andromeda, in its assumptions about society, hierarchy, the realities of class, gender, sexuality, the operations of the human mind and psyche, it will be only an imprint of the shopping mall world of today.

Samuel Delany talks orniphoters in his collected essays on writing craft. Science fiction finds its poetry when it synthesises new words for non-existant things. Ornithology plus helicopter gives us a bird like chopper. A doorway irises open. Into a wider liguistic world. But this is only the the start of the downslope into the deep end.

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Science fiction’s poets – Delany, Gibson, Le Guin, Ballard, Mieville, Bradbury, Valente, Chiang and sorry for those I leave out – do not write poems (they might also, that’s another matter). They strain at the boundaries of language and narrative, to push them just so far beyond the reader’s understanding that an “easy read” becomes a “rich read”.

Language is the true portal to sensawunda, to other worlds, to alternate realities. There’s a reason great SF is so often about language 1- Babel-17, Embassytown, Arrival, to name a few. To crack your reality open, we need to go Sapir-Whorf on your ass. We need to recode the code your reality runs on – the slippery code of language.

Science fiction is scared of language. You must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer.

Is another world possible?

I grew up with these words, “another world is possible”. On the two council estates I lived on until I was 18. At the radical bookshops I found in my late teens. In the ant-capitalist protests I joined in my 20s. Working for New Internationalist, then Amnesty. And now, I see the idea has made it all the way to Glastonbury.

ANOTHER WORLD IS POSSIBLE.

I believe those words are true.

Let me put the question to you…do you think another world is possible? Can the world be fairer? Can we stop exploiting others and care for everybody? Does somebody have to go without, for you to have yours? Are the weak doomed to suffer at the hands of the strong? Or can those who have the luck of privilege, act with nobility, and use it to look after others?

Is another world possible? Tell me your answer.

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DAMO: Rebranded

My general approach to productivity is: if I don’t remember to do it, it’s probably better undone. But I do handwrite a ToDo list every couple of weeks. Not to remember things, but to forget them. A swirl of tasks in the mind gets in the way of more creative thinking. Writing them out as a list is like house cleaning.

Looking back at lists for the last few years, I have a variety of entries along the lines of “Social Media WTF???” and “Blog vs. Patreon!” or “FB page…what is it?” There are a lot of exciting tools today to publish writing of all kinds. In fact, there are far too many, and they can easily stop being useful, and start using you.

Social media is heavily “gamified”. Facebook and other social networks want your attention, and they’re setup to grab it and keep it, by playing on the dopamine hit we get from the little red status alerts indicating people are showing us approval. Social networks are potentially powerful tools. But I suspect for most writers, they are really just an addictive time sink.

Social media. You can’t live with it. But you probably can’t live without it either. I’ve taken the puritan path of switching it all off. But it’s like a starvation diet to solve a fast food addiction. Creatively and professionally social media is HUGELY important. But as it grows more and more powerful, using it without being used by it means much greater self-discipline.

So I set aside a few days to seriously look at and plan out my social media use. My website is recategorised to make sense of the 1000+ posts and essays I’ve written. My patreon page is completely rewritten. I’ve rediscovered my Facebook page and reduced my Twitter usage. Welcome to the new DAMO: Rebranded.

As I shared with my patreon backers this week, branding for writers is a counter productive activity. But that still leaves us with these powerful tools built, in large part, for projecting a brand image. I suspect I’m far from the only writer both intrigued and deterred by the struggle to use them in a balanced way.

The trouble with intersectional political alliances as illustrated in Star Wars

Intersectionality is a powerful idea conveyed in an overcomplicated word. But Star Wars is a great way to understand it better.

One thing I love about scifi? It provides all the best metaphors to help folks understand the fierce complexities of contemporary politics. Mid-way through the snap UK general election a lot of Harry-Potter-as-political-metaphor memes went around, like Corbyn Black saviour of the muggles, or my own tweet on the theme.

They work well, Harry Potter is after all one huge metaphor for British class structures. Scifi & Fantasy are genres that tell stories as metaphors, and the best of those metaphorical narratives are always applicable to our actual reality today. Lord of the Rings as allegory for World War 1 is well known. But the mother of all scifi political metaphors today must be Star Wars.

Star Wars is a metaphor for a very specific kind of social / political / military conflict. It happens to be the dominant conflict of our era, fought in many forms, and in many places, for well over a century. Amusingly, many people only woke to Star Wars metaphorical meaning with the release of Rogue One, which amped up the political commentary to levels that even weak willed fanboy manchildren could not miss.

A diverse alliance of rebel forces fight for Liberation from an imperial force aiming to Conserve the priviledge and power of one single racial / cultural / gender identity. That’s the political background of Star Wars in a sentence, and it’s also the politics of most 20th and early 21st century conflicts. From WW2 Nazis vs Allies, to the fierce polìtical conflicts tearing up the USA today, it’s the fight between Liberal vs. Conservative powers that we see repeated time and again.

“Admiral Ackbar feels his people are the real leaders of the rebellion, and as allies the humans should probably damn well shut up and take orders.”

Liberals face a serious problem in this battle. Consider the Rebel Alliance. It’s made up of the most diverse possible set of allies. Not even cross species, it includes military and other forces who literally come from different evolutionary systems. Star Wars never goes into it in depth, but we have to presume the Rebel Alliance has overcome a lot of infighting to unify conflicting agendas into one coherent strategy.

From what we see, Rebel X-Wing pilots are predominantly male, blue collar guys with security / technical backgrounds. In contrast the alliance diplomatic corps lead by Mon Mothma and Leia seem to be mostly women with liberal arts / humanities educations. These two groups probably see the rebellion very differently, and have to continually negotiate to find a good working relationship.

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The Mon Calamari cruisers can take on multiple Imperial star destroyers at once, but were only coverted for military function after the Mon Calamari were targetted and nearly wiped out by Imperial forces. No doubt Admiral Ackbar feels his people are the real leaders of the rebellion, and as allies the humans, who basically caused all these problems with their history of colonialism, should damn well shut up and take orders.

Who knows what the Bothans want from the whole thing, but many of them died to recover those plans, so they probably expect a cut of any political settlement when the Republic is re-established.

In real life we have a word for the problems of factionalism faced by Liberal political alliances.

INTERSECTIONALITY.

It’s a word much mocked by Conservative a*holes. And perhaps with some cause, because while it represents a very useful idea, it is in itself an overly complex term, drawn from academese, expressing the tendency of intellectuals to cloak their discussions in invented jargon. Intersectionality emerged from academic feminist discourse of the 1980s, but is widely used today in the raucous online arguments spawned by social media. But for all its problems, intersectionality does literally mean what it says.

Intersectionality means this. That gender discrimination, racism, classism, homophobia, ableism and other social justice causes all INTERSECT. They share a single common cause. And they all benefit by working together. All of these groups: women, people of colour, LGBT, the working classes, and many more, are all victims of political oppression. And the people doing the oppressing are the Empire. The political and economic elite of the day. The 1%. For whome class, race and gender are all convenient pretexts to divide and conquer the masses they rule over.

Without a widely held concept of intersectionality, of shared political interest, it’s all too easy for different groups of people suffering under political oppression, to blame each other for their problems. Look at the situation today, where the white working classes in America and Europe are told to blame poor immigrants for the lack of jobs. In fact both groups are equally exploited by the 1%. If they work together they can improve their situation. But that can only happen if they recognise the intersection of their shared interests. Otherwise the divided will always be defeated.

Can X-Wing pilots and the diplomatic corps ever work together?

One of the most bitter divides between liberal causes today is along the fault line of gender vs. class. You can see this in the fight between Berniebros socialists vs. Hilary Clinton feminists that broke out in the 2016 US presidential primaries. This is an old, old conflict. Socialism evolved through the late 19th and early 20th century as a political movment focused on liberating working class men, and has always clashed seriously with feminism as it emerged over a similar timeframe, as an ideology lead by middle and upper class women. Berniebros vs HRC Feminists is only the latest flareup among groups who should be alies.

I’m not here to offer a solution to white male working class socialism vs. white female middle class feminism. Only to point out that if X-Wing pilots behaved with the rank misogyny of Berniebros, the Rebel Alliance would never have even formed, let alone found victory at the battle of Yavin. Then again, maybe X-Wing pilot assholery was only resolved by the more intelligent, better educated diplomatic corps never lowering themselves to the level of trading insults.

A better word for the intersection of shared political interests?

The oppresive power of communism was cast off in part because political leaders like Lech Wałęsa in Poland could draw on the idea of Solidarity. Maybe today we need to stop using a confusing term like intersectionality, and return to using simpler words like unity or togetherness.

Of course Star Wars has it’s own word for intersectionality. The Force is, after all, what surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together. So next time you see a Star Wars fanboy making an ignorant rant about intersectional social justice warriors, maybe just calmly point out that he’s taking sides against Jedi knights wielding the Force.

Writer. Story geek. Travelling the world while writing a book.