Do you know what I can’t stand? When people say, “sounds like you’ve got a little too much time on your hands!” Setting aside the fact that it’s awfully trite, I hate it because it’s dismissive. We all have the same amount of time, it’s just that some people choose to use that time in service of some specific or esoteric or – let’s just say it – geeky interest.
I have a feeling that Ryan Britt has heard this many times in his life.
It was only by chance that I came upon his collection of essays Luke Skywalker Can’t Read. My girlfriend and I were in Portland, OR being touristy, going to Voodoo Donuts and Stumptown coffee and, of course, Powell’s Books when she saw that there was a reading there that night for this book that I hadn’t heard of with a promising title. I’m not the hugest Star Wars fan but that means merely that I love it, not that my wedding will be Star Wars themed. So, we went.
He read from the title essay and I was intrigued not because of the essay, though it is an interesting premise, but with how deep he went with it. I asked, half joking, that since neither John McClane nor Martin Riggs pick up a book in their movies, would it be fair to say that they’re illiterate as well? He basically told me that, yeah, it’s possible for those individuals to be illiterate – though, they probably aren’t, cops have to fill out reports, after all – but those characters exist in our present world with a print media unlike the world of Star Wars that seems to rely quite heavily on holograms. I also asked (it wasn’t too packed and there weren’t many questions) don’t the names C3PO and R2-D2 prove that there is an alphabet, so there is some literacy? Again, his answer was at the ready. He posits that the people in the Star Wars world know enough to get by but they are, still, probably functionally illiterate.
He had given this some thought. And, frankly, he’s given a lot of things a lot of thought. The book starts out with his science fiction awakening with the possible feminism of Barbarella and then moves on to an intro Dr. Who, to Dracula’s pants, to how Frodo is by far the cooler Baggins, to the science fiction relevance of Sherlock Holmes (hint: Sherlock is also flawlessly logical). In one essay, he even posits a possible Return of the Jedi sequel that leads into an Indiana Jones prequel.
His thoughts about Star Wars and Star Trek are not only pulled from his deep knowledge of the shows and movies but also through his knowledge of their non-canon literature. (Yeah, he’s read the fan fiction.) He manages to admit to trolling Star Wars fans, be an obsessive Star Wars fan, and make a case for why Star Wars fans need to chill out with all of the Monday morning quarterbacking (another hint: it’s not because George Lucas is a misunderstood genius, quite the opposite).
I found myself thinking not that this guy has a lot of time on his hands but, damn, this guy has taken some time with this. He’s read and watched it all. His depth and breadth of knowledge is impressive. I watched Back to the Future probably fifty times on VHS as a kid and it never once occurred to me why, if there’s a grandpa Biff Tannen and a great grandpa Tannen, why isn’t there a Tannen who’s Marty’s age? Well, Britt noticed and he’s got some theories about why that is.
Maybe I enjoyed it so much because I’m not well versed enough in the things he talks about to disagree. But I doubt it. If you love Star Wars, Star Trek, science fiction, or movies, television, and pop culture in general, give this a read. I think even the bitterest sci-fi obsessed internet troll could find something interesting in this book.
The only way this book disappoints is in its completion before the release of The Force Awakens. So, we don’t get to hear any thoughts on any of the discoveries or questions raised by the new film (while we may not need anymore speculation, I think Britt’s is a voice to seek out). I guess you could google it or try to track him down and ask? You know, only if you have some extra time on your hands.