Thirty-five years ago, in a movie theater not so far, far away, Georgia Lucas’s Star Wars premiered (It was May 25, 1977 to be exact). More than a blockbuster, Star Wars became a record-setting film series and worldwide pop culture phenomenon. Lisa Yaszek, Georgia Tech professor of Literature, Communication and Culture and executive officer of the Science Fiction Research Association, explains how the film brought science fiction into the mainstream.
The 35th anniversary of George Lucas’s Star Wars provides us with an excellent opportunity to think about the past, present and future of science fiction. Science fiction fans are often extremely fond of Star Wars, but the question of whether or not Star Wars is important to the development of the genre as a whole—or the even trickier question of whether or not it is “good science fiction”—has had scholars and fans talking for decades, and could easily keep us going well into the next century!
Having said that, I suspect there are a few things we can all agree upon. First, Star Wars proved to Hollywood—and maybe to the whole world—that science fiction can be extremely popular and profitable. As such, it paved the way for the explosion of science fiction across media that we enjoy today. At the same time, Lucas’s film reminds us that filmmakers have always been excited about the possibility of bringing science fiction worlds to life; check out any episode of the 1930s serial Flash Gordon on YouTube and you’ll see how Star Wars pays loving homage to the space operas of yore. And the fact that the Star Wars franchise continues to attract new fans and to inspire new stories across media (including novels, comics and video games) suggests that, like so many other kinds of science fiction, its future is, well, the future!
If you’re a Star Wars fan who wants to learn more about what else is new in the science fiction world, I’d recommend checking out the vibrant online science fiction scene. A few places to start include Asimov’s Science Fiction, The Baen Free Library and Locus Magazine Online. Those of you who want to know what science fiction scholars have to say about the genre might check out the Science Fiction Encyclopedia and The Science Fiction Research Association’s SFRA Review.
Georgia Tech's Science Fiction Collection includes nearly 14,000 items and is recognized as one of the top 20 collections in the world.
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