Wednesday, March 29, 2017

How does Ad Astra differ from Star Wars?

Someone asked me the question in the post title just recently, and I thought it a fair question.  What I said earlier is a good place to start, but let me then expand from there.
It's new, yet should feel very familiar to anyone who's familiar with space opera tales of swashbuckling derring-do featuring laconic alpha male space cowboys who shoot first, space Templar-like warrior-monks who get into crazy martial arts sword-fights on space-ships, vast legions of faceless soldiers, and sassy space princess damsels in distress.  It may not feel exactly like such stories that you're already familiar with—and that's on purpose—but it should feel like those stories deconstructed... and then reconstructed all over again.  This time, all of the confusion over good and evil, black and white, what heroism is, who the good guys are, what a good guy is, what the dickens SJW dogma and political correctness has to do with space opera at all, etc. has all been washed away and what had become tired and disappointing is now a blank slate, ready to be made new, fresh and exciting again.
In a nutshell, that's the core of it, of course.  Star Wars from the first movie, pretty much—and maybe The Empire Strikes Back.  Expanded from there in terms of content, but not changed in terms of tone, feel, or themes... unlike the actual subsequent Star Wars content.  Star Wars without Obiwan Kenobi turning out to be a lying schemer.  Star Wars without Yoda who encourages Luke to hide and train like a putz rather than rescue his friends like a hero.  Star Wars without Luke who surrenders to the Emperor and refuses to fight and somehow thinks that that's winning.  Star Wars where the stormtroopers aren't stupid jokes who lose a battle to a handful of stone age Care Bears.  Star Wars where the heroes are heroic, the good guys are good, the bad guys are bad, and there's none of the murky moral ambiguity brought about by a creator who doesn't understand morality, heroism, or the nature of good.

And most especially, Star Wars where the characters aren't boring and stupid.  Where the demands of decivilizational "social" "justice" haven't completely ruined it all before it even starts.  The problems with Star Wars actually start very, very early—although they don't metastasize until the Prequels and other subsequent content.  If Luke is supposed to be the hero of the story, growing from immature and impulsive young teenager to champion of all that's right in the galaxy, why is he a sad sack loser who can't get the girl? (Don't even start.  Leia wasn't Luke's sister until that was ret-conned during the script development process of Return of the Jedi to close a potential plot hole. Later, Lucas didn't even worry about closing plot holes, so I guess maybe I should be thankful.)  If the Jedi are so wonderful, why do they have this bizarre zen dispassion and why do they feel like it's OK to run rough-shod over everybody they cross paths with ("aggressive negotiations?")  Why is Obiwan Kenobi a lying, manipulative weasel?  Why does Yoda discourage any kind of heroism or goodness in Luke; and then smile as if Luke didn't win in the end by completely defying everything that he told him to do?  For that matter; Yoda himself must be a lying, manipulative weasel himself—why did he tell Luke that his training wasn't complete in Empire and then when Luke came back to finish his training, tell him that he didn't have anything more that he needed to learn?  Why did Luke put up with being yanked around like that by Yoda and Obiwan, for that matter?  How in the world did Luke think that he was winning against the Emperor by not fighting him?  He deserved getting lightning bolted to death at the end there, quite honestly, for being the stupidest excuse for a "hero" that we'd seen in years.  Even as a little kid back in 1983 or whenever exactly it was that Jedi came out, I was both confused and disappointed in Luke's stupid passivity.  The Jedi are always passive exactly when they need to be brave and stand up to real evil, and then suddenly spring into action to enact tyranny when they should sit back and not interfere with the liberty of the people that they're dealing with.

Don't even get me started on how sideways this all went in the prequels.  It became obvious—although I still don't think that this was Lucas' intention; it was just a side-effect of his complete cluelessness about human nature, and the nature of good and evil—that the Jedi were actually the villains of the piece, and seeing them torn down was a blow for freedom.  Which, sadly, was enacted by the Sith who were even worse, but that's kinda how it works sometimes, isn't it?  And especially don't get me started on the ewoks and the Battle of Endor, and Han Solo pussying out at the end, and whatnot.  As much as I liked Return of the Jedi as a kid, I've come to really see it as the real beginning of the end, and it was just coasting on the virtue and cachet of the previous movies in most respects.

Anyway; the question posed in the title of the post, then, has to address these problems as I see them—if one of the main purposes of AD ASTRA was to start with Star Wars, deconstruct all of the stupidity and cultural Marxism out of it, and then reconstruct it back into the promise of what it should have been to begin with; what structure have I put into place to accomplish that?  First off:
  • Well, first off—I'm not an SJW.  I have no patience anymore, and I'm certainly not going to propagate anti-white, pro-feminist, anti-Western civilizational nonsense.
  • In fact, Christianity is explicitly the religion of the far future.  Because why wouldn't it be?  It's the only religion that's right today, and it's the only religion that's right for all of eternity.  Because Christianity has a firm, objective, moral core instead of "situational ethics" and crap like that, the only question is whether or not someone is a good Christian, or a bad Christian, or a heathen.  If there's an assumed Christian morality underlying AD ASTRA then frankly, most of the problems with Star Wars would go away.  Even if Christianity was literally never mentioned in the movies, assuming Christian rather than cultural Marxist morality would have fixed almost everything wrong with Star Wars.
  • Along those lines, the biggest problem with the Jedi was their fluid morality and incoherent psychedelia-babble.  Get rid of the pseudo-Buddhist David Carradine Kung Fu BS.  Rather, I see the actual Medieval Knight as the prototype.  Some of them are secular Knights—like Ivanhoe or Gawain, etc. while others belong to politicized monastic orders like the Templars or Hospitallers or Teutonic Knights—the Brian de Bois-Guilbert, Maurice de Bracy or Reginald Front-de-Boeuf, etc. of space.  Others may be somewhere in between—guys like the Knights of the Round Table or Bohemond, etc.
  • In fact, in general, assume a Norman Age medievalism but set in space—with pockets of Noir and Godfather-esque crime stories, the American Old West, and other influences all woven in. Instead of doing, like Lucas did, subverting the Vietnam War by making his (universally attractive, charismatic white American) Rebel Alliance a stand-in for the Viet Cong and the Empire a stand-in for America (seriously; he really did this.  In retrospect, it's no wonder that the franchise went so far off the rails with that kind of bizarre cultural Marxist foundation), assume that AD ASTRA is a kind of Ivanhoe (Sir Walter Scott) and The Knights of the Cross (Henryk Sienkiewicz) and The Walking Drum (Louis L'Amour) and Errol Flynn's Robin Hood set in space and you'll be closer to the mark. 
  • That said, I've got some other influences too.  The Monarchy is deliberately set up to mimic some aspects of Imperial Rome.  The Cilindareans are space Spartans (maybe I should even give them Greek names!) The Seraean Empire is the Soviets, except pseudo-demon-worshipping (like the Sith, really—except instead of a nebulous "dark side" they have to have a cult that seeks power from something else.) They and the Old Ones cults have a kind of Lovecraftian menace to them.  The Revanchist Republic is the worst excesses of SJW-infested, totalitarian Democrat party dystopianism.  Really, none of the Big Three interstellar superpowers are a "good guy" protagonist organization.  I'll probably have the closest thing to "protagonists" be the smaller, more independent and liberty-minded polities here and there.  That said, the Monarchy is clearly the least bad of the three.
  • There's no Chosen Ones.  There's no destiny.  Nobody is special just because they're secretly born to be the Special King who solves interstellar hunger by virtue of his innate specialness.  If you accomplish anything in this galaxy, it's because you've worked hard to develop skills that allow you to accomplish things.  There's a much more American can-do attitude; similar to that which motivated adventurers, conquerors and builders all through Western civilization from the Founding Fathers to the founders of the Crusader states.  There aren't any psionic prodigies like the Emperor or Yoda.  The fiction of AD ASTRA is pretty accurately reflected by the rules for AD ASTRA.  
  • This also means that stories and games set in AD ASTRA are unlikely to be about "save the universe", "bring balance to the (Psionic) Force" or any crap like that.  There's going to be the kinds of stories that were told in those modern Medieval swashbuckling adventure stories—but set in space.  Space cowboys (and space injuns) and space knights and space pirates, running from space Vikings and space Saracens, navigating petty kingdom political intrigue, smuggling runs, searching for lost treasures of knowledge (of heck; just plain old treasure will do) from the incredibly ancient times before the Dark Ages.  Rescuing space damsels in distress, running space blockades, space spy missions, space Mission Impossible, space James Bond, space Clint Eastwood The Man With No Name, space Hawaii 5-O, and space Ivanhoe—none of those stories is about saving the world or bringing balance to the Force.  This forced scaling of the stakes is more important than you'd think to keep AD ASTRA from wandering out onto thin ice.
  • Keep in mind that it's already drifting away from Star Wars in details both superficial and foundational. As it undergoes further development, it will drift further yet. When it's really "done" it won't be Star Wars anymore at all, and just another work that's clearly of a similar genre. For what it's worth, if you remove the overt military stuff from The Clone Wars animated show—the six season CGI one that is, that's probably a better font of source material than the movies anyway.

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