Star Wars and the Need for Reinvention

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Have you ever felt it was time to reinvent yourself?

Sometimes I wonder the same thing about some of the most well-loved universes in popular fiction, be it Star Wars, Sherlock Holmes, or you name it. Many of the most beloved characters and legendary stories have been reinvented over the years, and to stunning effect. Sherlock Holmes is a wow-ing example of that – just take a look at the cornucopia of movies and TV shows that have embedded him in the popular mindset – shows like Elementary, Sherlock, or the Robert Downey Jr. films to mention just a few…

Recently I saw a blog post over at Dear Author which mentioned that there will be a new series of Star Wars books released in tandem with the upcoming Star Wars film. (http://dearauthor.com/features/industry-news/thursday-news-publishing-profits-piracy-gone-wild-return-star-wars-franchise-logical-fallacies-101/).

We live in exciting times, do we not? And yet…

When is reinvention a good thing, a necessary thing, and when is it being “disloyal” to the source material or on the other end of the spectrum, simply not enough? That’s a difficult question that readers often have to face when they get attached to a particular fictional world and the characters who populate it. Particularly in today’s age, where longer book series are becoming more common, readers are more vulnerable than ever to being left out in the cold when it comes to their favorite storytelling universe taking unexpected turns.

Take Harry Potter as a perfect example. A series which began as a great magical adventure certainly takes a darker turn as the books progress. You can make a strong argument that J.K. Rowling “reinvented” Harry Potter as she went along, maturing its themes along with her protagonists, until she ended up with a very different story than the one with which she began.

Not so say that this is necessarily a BAD thing, and perhaps most of her readers appreciated that growth in her storytelling. It does make it harder though for readers to know that by the time they reach “The End” they will actually feel satisfied.

But do we ever try to reinvent things in ways that are harmful or just downright unimaginative too? The upcoming Star Wars books may be proof of that…though let’s hope otherwise. Now I’ve heard that many of the stories will follow the traditional Star Wars characters – Han, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia – you get the idea. For those of you who are die-hard Star Wars fans, maybe you’re salivating already.

Yet the truth is that if they’re focusing on the traditional big players of Star Wars yore, I think it shows a missed opportunity, an epic failure in imagination on some level. It’s a mistake to try to introduce an awe-inspiring universe to a new generation using the same old characters again and again. Sometimes reinvention requires destruction. A little annihilation. A delicious dose of chaos.

And that’s why I’m worried the new round of Star Wars stories won’t live up to the hype. We need NEW, (fresh!) heroes to root for, not just the same old faces. For the same reason I would vastly prefer a 2016 presidential election WITHOUT Jeb Bush and Hilary Clinton as the two too-familiar frontrunner faces, I would love to see a Star Wars reboot series of books that does not focus primarily on the same overused characters.

What do you think? Should reinvention be a gradual process or something a little more violent? My two cents? An earthquake or two, a few seismic shifts in the Star Wars universe, not to mention several others, certainly can’t hurt!

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