The Rank Lists Awaken

This is the first of MANY pieces I have coming on The Force Awakens. Those other posts will start digging into the content of the film, but for now, I wanted to think about The Force Awakens in relation to the Star Wars canon in general, and the other six live-action films specifically.


Almost immediately after seeing The Force Awakens, one of the first questions I was asked about the film had nothing to do with anything that happens in it. Oh no, the question I got was very specific and not at all surprising – where would I rank The Force Awakens in relation to the other Star Wars films. Frankly, the question left me a little dumbfounded.  I was, at this point, less than 12 hours removed from seeing the movie for the first time and had not fully digested what I had watched. I might be a die-hard Star Wars fan but after one viewing of the film there was just no reasonable way for me to rank The Force Awakens with the other films. So, I politely deflected the question and didn’t answer it.

Empire
Photo Credit – Disney/Lucasfilm

Yet, the question won’t leave me alone. It has popped up in a few other conversations I’ve had about The Force Awakens and I have seen some people post their own updated rankings of the Star Wars films on Facebook,  Twitter, in articles,  etc. Now, to be fair, none of this is surprising. Since a new movie has been added to the list of Star Wars films, it was only a matter of time before conversations started circulating about where The Force Awakens should be ranked in that list. I just didn’t anticipate getting the question immediately after seeing it for the first time, though the person who asked it certainly meant well (as do those who continue asking me).

Here’s the funny thing, though – I don’t have a rank list of the Star Wars films. While The Empire Strikes Back has always been my favorite, I have never taken the time to analyze the others and come up with some definitive list for second, third, fourth, etc. In fact, while “Empire” is my favorite, it’s probably not the one I have even watched the most. I have seen all six films so many times that I have lost count, so I really just don’t know which one tops the viewing chart. Then again, that doesn’t matter. At this point, all six are so engrained in my brain that they are, quite frankly, part of who I am, part of my self-identity.

But the more I have thought about ranking the films, the more various angles and questions began popping into my brain.

Anakin and Ahsoka
Ahsoka Tano sits and talks with her Master, Anakin Skywalker, after the Battle of Christophsis. 
Photo Credit – Star Wars: The Clone Wars (movie)

For starters, when I see fans ranking the films, I can’t help but ask: why aren’t they including The Clone Wars movie? Sure, it isn’t a live-action  film, but it did premier in theaters in 2008. Plus, it  introduced Star Wars fans to Ahsoka Tano, THE most popular character in the Star Wars canon who has never appeared in live-action form. All I’m saying is that if one is going to rank Star Wars films, don’t leave this one off the list just because it’s animated.

In turn, this opens the door to a larger question: why not just rank The Force Awakens with ALL of the Star Wars canon? I’m talking movies, books, comics, video games, etc. Since the Expanded Universe was disbanded by Disney/Lucasfilm, everything going forward is on equal footing as being canonical and relevant. So I have to ask: Is The Force Awakens better than Christie Golden’s novel Dark Disciple, Claudia Gray’s young adult novel Lost Stars, or the Shattered Empire comic series? Perhaps one would rank Ryder Wyndham’s junior novel, Ezra’s Gamble, above The Force Awakens but below the Season 3 episode of The Clone Wars entitled  “Witches of the Mist.” Or maybe someone enjoys The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary MORE than the movie itself and have decided to place it above the film in their list. That might seem counterintuitive to some but to that particular person the decision would make perfect sense.

Realistically, of course, it is difficult to rank the entire Star Wars canon, even for someone like me who is, more often than not, submerged in the Star Wars universe in some way, shape, or form. While everything added to the canon has equal authority, how does one even begin to compare junior novels to the films, or comics to video  games, and so on? There are certainly some stories that I have enjoyed more than others, and there are others that I am more critical of, feeling they fall flat for various reasons. And even if I were to rank the entire canon what would that accomplish? My canonical ranking would look different than someone else’s ranking, and I really have no interest in sitting here trying to argue that mine is the right one.

Theatrical Trailer

Photo Credit – Disney/Lucasfilm

But like I said, the vast majority of people aren’t like me or other die-hard Star Wars fans. For the average moviegoer, The Force Awaken is the newest installment of Star Wars, period. My uncle, for example, has seen all six previous live-action films in the theater, but he certainly didn’t go and see The Clone Wars movie, nor does he read any of the books, comics, etc. AND this takes me back to what I said earlier: I’m not surprised that The Force Awakens is being compared to/ranked with the other live-action Star Wars films. Most people only have the original six films as their points of reference, so I can’t really expect them to include The Clone Wars movie (among other things) in their rank  list.

So, seeing as I’m back where I started,  where do I go from here? Well, the original question is still relevant: where should one rank The Force Awakens in relation to the other six live-action films? I already noted that I don’t have my own rank list and I’m not interested in starting one. However, if you’re planning on creating/updating a rank list, or have already done so, I would suggest you take the following question into consideration:

Is it fair to place The Force Awakens (or Rogue One) higher in a rank list than any of the original Star Wars films?

Attack
Photo Credit – Disney/Lucasfilm

Now, I am purposefully using the word “original” here to refer to both trilogies for a very specific reason: Episodes I-VI are the films that Star Wars creator George Lucas wrote, the comprehensive story he wanted to tell. Those six films are, in every sense of the word, the original Star Wars stories. So, we can reframe the above question in a different way, coming at it from a slightly different angle: Can a new  Star Wars movie like “The Force Awakens” (or Rogue One), a movie NOT written by George Lucas, be a better Star Wars story than Lucas told in the original films?

Don’t presume, though, that I’m suggesting The Force Awakens is not worthy of carrying the banner of Star Wars. On the contrary, I personally enjoyed the film and believe it’s as much a part of Star Wars as Revenge of the Sith, A New Hope, Attack of the Clones, etc. Rather, what I’m asking is whether its possible that The Force Awakens – or Rogue One – is, a more compelling, a more complete, an all-around better Star Wars story than anything Lucas gave us?

Really, I can’t decide this for you. Whether you’re a “rank list” kind of person or not, you’ll just have to figure it out and articulate the answer for yourself.

4 comments

  1. Hey Jeff. (Joshua here.) Glad to see you’re writing about the new movie. I’ve been wondering about similar questions since I saw the Force Awakens. My thoughts are all over the place. Here are a bunch of off-the-cuff responses.

    1. I’m having a hard time relating to the most recent film as a film, or even as a narrative for that matter. I experienced it more as a cultural event, more like going to church or tailgating or attending a wedding than watching a story set in the Star Wars universe. The original trilogy was probably the defining event of my childhood. It was just amazing, almost 40 years later, to be able to share that same experience with my daughter, who’s just as obsessed with Star Wars as I was at her age.

    For me, given this frame of reference, The Force Awakens is definitely better than the second trilogy. I’m struggling to find the right words, but I felt like it gave me a unique experience of history, my past woven up alongside my daughter’s future. It felt like one of the original Star Wars movies: the aesthetics, the characters, the sense of humor, all the little the nods and Easter eggs. At the same time, the fact that the protagonist was a woman, that the cast was more diverse, that a major theme was precisely the children of the original Star Wars characters working out their relationship to this inheritance…. It all felt very much like passing the torch to a new generation. Like I said on Facebook, I walked out of the theater just feeling blessed that I’d lived long enough to be able to have this experience–to be able to share a crucial part of my childhood with my daughter, and to see it evolve into something new and (I think) better in her lifetime.

    2. Oddly enough, my admiration for the new film has made it easier for me to appreciate the second trilogy.

    I was pretty bitter when Phantom Menace came out. I have a long, sweet story about reuniting with my best friend from childhood, with whom I saw the original movies, to see Phantom Menace together. I remember walking out of the film feeling betrayed precisely because it didn’t give us the kind of cultural experience I’m associating with The Force Awakens. For a long time, I was one of those people who complained a lot about the more recent trilogy.

    I’m starting to have a change of heart. I just finished watching the Clone Wars series, and I’m struck now my how bleak this series and the second trilogy turned out to be. For me, now, it feels like reliving those depressing years following 9/11. Witnessing a divided, petty, indecisive government rush to war and transfer leadership to a supreme leader with dubious values…. All the moral uncertainty we experienced in those times… I’m also finding myself really intrigued by how “grey” the morality system in them turns out to be–the fallibility of the Jedis, the moral ambiguity of the force, the way these films problematize what it might mean to “bring balance to the force”…

    I feel like I want to say the following. For a long time, I couldn’t forgive the newer trilogy for not carrying the cultural mantle of the original series. I value the Force Awakens for rising to this task. But by giving me what I wanted (needed?), I feel like it’s made it easier for me to respect the second trilogy precisely for being so different from the original trilogy. I find all these little differences fascinating now, conversation-worthy, whereas they were a source of resentment before.

    3. One last thought. I find that the Star Wars IP really screws with my philosophic intuitions about fictional truth and authorial intent. (I actually use the “Han Shot First” debate when I teach this stuff in my Introduction to Aesthetics class!) I know that the whole idea of authorial intent has been sort of taboo in academia for a while now. But, like you’re saying, I feel like it has to count for something that the most recent film is not part of “the comprehensive story [Lucas] wanted to tell.” At the same time, I’m pretty smitten with the Force Awakens, and pretty critical of a lot of Lucas’s decisions in the second trilogy. So, I find myself wanting to argue that Lucas’s intentions, while relevant, shouldn’t be determinative with respect to whether the Force Awakens is better or worse than original movies.

    Here are a few thoughts in support of that stance.

    (1) I’ve always liked the idea of narrative artworks as having souls. Clearly, they’re not full-fledged people, but I like the idea of them having person-like qualities, smidges of personal identity, souls. We often think of authors as owning the artworks they create, but I think it’s possible for artists to misunderstand the souls of the artworks they’ve created. Sometimes Game of Thrones strikes me as more authentically Game of Thrones than George RR Martin’s most recent books. Sometimes the Rick Grimes on the AMC’s Walking Dead strikes me as more Rick Grimes than the one in the comics. I suppose I do have that reaction to The Force Awakens–that it contains more of the “soul” of the original trilogy than what Lucas managed to instill in the second trilogy.

    (2) A lot of what’s happening now with Star Wars reminds me of what’s become, I think, a perennial condition in comic books. All these debates over whether the extended universe stuff is cannon or not cannon, whether Disney gets to make this call simply because it owns enough money to buy the IP, whether Lucas could personally dictate whether or not Han shot first…. It all reminds me of how Marvel and DC are continually retconning their books. For me, with respect to comics, it’s happened so much that I’ve gotten comfortable talking in really contradictory ways. I’m comfortable arguing about whether Nolan’s Batman is more authentic to the soul of Batman than O’Neil and Adams’s run on Batman in the seventies. At the same time, I’m comfortable with the idea that there’s no point in arguing over whether Grant Morrison’s Batman is better than Frank Miller’s Batman is better than the campy late-sixties Adam West Batman…. That they’re all using the same mythology character to do equally valuable but perhaps incomparable storytelling work. I sort feel this way about Star Wars too.

    Anyway, those are some initial thoughts. Looking forward to reading your next post on The Force Awakens.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Joshua, I love what you’ve written here. It’s one of the most thoughtful and honest things I’ve read about ‘The Force Awakens’ since it’s come out. In fact, it’s made me even more upset at so much of what’s been written about the film (with a few notable exceptions, like Jeff’s article above!). Thank you for posting such an eloquent comment. I think Jeff should use it as an actual post on the site in the future! I also appreciate that, while you didn’t love the prequels, you could still see some good in them. There’s very little middle ground on that subject circling around the Internet.

      I have a question for you though. This has actually been bouncing around in my head since I first read your comment yesterday and I’m very interested in your thoughts. I loved your description of the soul of a work of art. I think there’s a lot of truth to how you’ve phrased that. Here’s my question though. Isn’t presuming that the artist who has created the artwork can misunderstand its soul (while someone else can better understand it) analogous to saying some person can understand the truth of my soul better than God (or however we’re describing the Ultimate or the Divine) as Creator? I agree that art is subjective and we may personally prefer one work over another but to assert – especially with the soul as the analogy we’re using – that someone else can better understand the soul of a work than the Creator seems unlikely to me. That’s why I’d argue that Lucas will always have a deeper connection to Star Wars than anyone else ever can. We may not like or love some of the stuff he does, but he created the soul of the work and it’s his to shape. Others may understand it in their own way, and we may personally like that vision better, but can it honestly be a more pure vision than the one the artist has put in the soul of their creation?

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    2. Appreciate the lengthy comment, Joshua! I’ll try to respond to everything (though I am sure I will miss something).

      1) What you said about the Prequel Trilogy being a disappointment entirely makes sense since the Original Trilogy was the defining moment of your childhood. Having such a profound affect on you as a child, I can certainly see how the PT would have been a let down even if I didn’t have that same experience. And I think that is the key word here: experience. The way we experience and then internalize something in the present is profoundly affected by our earlier experiences. I mean, that is just “Growing Up: 101” (maybe THAT should be a philosophy class you teach). For me, my experience of the Prequels was fundamentally different than yours for a lot of reasons – I didn’t see the OT in theaters when it came out; for me, the PT was THE next (new) big screen rendition of Star Wars, I was still young enough in 1999 to not think to much about the aesthetic differences between the films, things like “midi-chlorians” or all the political/economic conversation in The Phantom Menace didn’t bother me because it was all just Star Wars to me. And the list could go on and on…

      My point, I suppose, is that now, when I look back on my experience of the Prequels at that point, I can’t identity any personal disappointment which is starkly different than you and what you brought to the Prequels. And, this sort of gets at why I even wrote this particular piece about ranking the films – it really had nothing to do with The Force Awakens. Or rather, it did, but it really has more to do with the Prequels. At this point, A LOT of people are saying that The Force Awakens has somehow rejuvenated Star Wars, has righted the wrongs of the Prequels and so on. But to me, that statement hurts, maybe in the same way that you were hurt by the Prequels. The Prequels, to me, are as much a part of Star Wars as the Original Trilogy, which is why, in my mind, it IS all a cohesive story, and why I just can’t rank the films. Now, The Force Awakens will be added to that story, and I am fine with that. I loved the movie, I thought it was fantastic. Did it have its hiccups, of course, but they aren’t enough for me to trash the film (well, I will say that I am tired of superweapons at this point). But I also, in my heart, can’t view it as a better film than any of the Prequels. All 7 are on the same level and going forward the same will be the case of 8 and 9. HOWEVER, I think this is a good spot to bring up authorial intent because I am worried about new writers/authors affecting the mythos/philosophy/theology underlying the Original Trilogy…

      2) Before Disney bought the rights to Star Wars from Lucas, the way the “canon” worked was a tiered system with Lucas having the final say. In essence, whatever Lucas wanted to be the case would be the case. This naturally made sense because if Lucas wanted to write a new Star Wars story, and there was, say, a novel that contradicted his story, that novel was thrown out. In fact, The Clone Wars tv show DID force a lot of things to be thrown out and it really pissed off some people. One author who wrote one of the most profound and intriguing series (the Republic Commando novels) was so upset that she refused to write for Lucas Books anymore. But, the system was the system, and Lucas wanted to tell a DIFFERENT story in the Clone Wars Era. So, we got the television show (which, interestingly, incorporated some elements of the Republic Commando novels/video game). While Lucas did not personally write all of the Clone Wars episodes, he did have the final mark of approval or disapproval. The system worked, even if the system was at the whim of Lucas at times.

      Fast forward to him selling the Star Wars rights to Disney and obviously the system changed. No more Lucas meant someone had to give the final approval on content – so, enter the Story Group, a collective of individuals who know the ins/outs of Star Wars and will ensure that the universe is a comprehensive system that doesn’t contradict. While they do write a bit of content (like the Visual Dictionary I referenced in the article), they aren’t the ones writing the film scripts, books, comics, etc. At the same time that the Story Group was formed, though, it was determined that the entire EU would be disbanded (another moment that really hurt since I grew up loving those books). But, I was willing and ready to give everything a chance and, for the most part, I have really enjoyed a lot of the new stories.

      I am absolutely of the opinion that Lucas doesn’t HAVE to be involved for someone to experience a good Star Wars story. You and I have talked at length in the past about our love of KOTOR. The main writer for it, John Jackson Miller, is, in my opinion, as good a Star Wars writer as Lucas. He GETS the universe which is why I loved his book A New Dawn (the first book published in the new canon). BUT, I think the films are a different thing entirely, a different entity. Like I said in the post, how does one even begin to compare a film to a book? Can it be done, yes, but it is also exceedingly hard to rank them. So, that is why I boiled things down to just the issue of the live-action films, the stories that Lucas wanted to tell. And, I think you are correct in noting that if one is going to rank the films, Lucas’ intentions may not be as relevant as one might want. As you said, GoT and The Walking Dead have moments where they feel more authentic than the books/graphic novels. But Martin also works with the GoT show runners, and Kirkman is one of the main writers for The Walking Dead. Lucas, though, he had zero input on the new film (other than being responsible for the creation of the entire universe). But I am not saying this to try to have a “gotcha” moment. I still think you are right, his intentions aren’t really going to be the defining “thing” that one bases their ranking off of. I would be a jerk to sit here and say “Well Joshua, you hated the prequels but they were Lucas’ story sooooo you are wrong to put The Force Awakens above them,” particularly after what you noted about your personal experience of the Prequels. Ultimately, that is why I left the question(s) open ended – I really can’t answer the question, all I can do is posse it and one needs to decide for her/his-self.

      But, this is where I also think things get tricky. Going back to what I said at the end of part #1, I am EXCEEDINGLY worried that the new direction things are headed in without Lucas will undermine a lot of the mythos/philosophy/theology that Lucas built the Star Wars universe on. While I think there are a lot of strong authors/writers who get Star Wars, I fear that things will start bleeding into Star Wars that begin to royally mess-up what Lucas created in the first place. Now, in some sense, Disney can do whatever the hell they want with Star Wars. Hell, they could have someone shit on a piece of paper, publish the shit stain with the title Star Wars and THAT gets to be canon (extreme, I know). Of course I don’t think anyone is going to intentionally destroy what Lucas did in the Original films, or even in the Prequels. But there have been some little things here and there that are starting to add up, things that are starting to slightly warp how we are to think about even the Original Trilogy. At this point, there hasn’t been anything so overt that it would be like taking a wrecking ball to any of those six films, but there have been some small things that are starting to add up.

      And I am not, NOT, okay with Star Wars fans turning a blind eye to those things. I get that editorial mistakes happen, that is fine. I am not going to harp on everything I see as a mistake (and believe me, as someone who is really entrenched in Star Wars, I can see a lot). But there are some things that should make us do a double-take, make us question what the hell is going on here. And we should hold the writers/authors/Story Group to a high standard, forcing them to look more closely at things not only on the surface of Star Wars but BEHIND Star Wars, at the “soul” of Star Wars that holds it together, the mythology that binds it. And this is precisely because, as more stuff is added to Star Wars, the risk becomes even greater of something fundamentally changing Star Wars.

      Okay, my eyes are starting to glaze over because I haven’t gotten more coffee in the last hour. There is more I can probably say but, for now, I will let you read through and respond accordingly (if you want). Thanks again for the thoughts, though. I appreciate your perspective!!!

      Jeff

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  2. Hi Michael! Thanks for the thoughtful reply. (You too Jeff!) Here is a response to the question Michael asked me.

    So, there’s a MASSIVE literature in philosophy (aesthetics) about issues involving artistic intent, fictional truth, authenticity, etc. I’ve looked over some of it, but I’m not smart enough or ambitious enough to fully comprehend it. But I guess I’d characterize my semi-uninformed position as being pluralistic.

    Here is what I mean.

    I reject the idea that things are subjective when it comes to what’s fictionally true in a given fictional world. It’s fictionally true in Harry Potter that the Hogwarts Express departs from platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross station. It’s fictionally true that Harry is better at Quidditch than Ron. It’s fictionally true in DC comics that Batman can win any fight, given he has enough time to prepare for his opponents.

    At the same time, I’m skeptical of the idea that any one party or one consideration can be determinative of what’s fictionally true within a given fictional world.

    I think the consensus position for a long time was that the author had final say on what’s fictionally true in his/her creations. As you say, the author is kind of like the God who created a fictional world. So, shouldn’t he/she get to decide what’s true of its “soul?’ Also, it would be kind of weird if he/she couldn’t. There was a lot of hoopla a few years ago when JK Rowling said that Dumbledore was gay. A lot of fans rejected her claim. But it seems weird that she should get decide that his first name is “Albus,” that he prefers raspberry jam to other flavors, that he has a pet phoenix named Fawkes but that for some reason she shouldn’t get to decide his sexuality.

    (Similarly, it’s a little weird that Lucas should get to decide that Han Solo won the Millennium Falcon from Lando in a game of sabacc but that he can’t decide whether “Han shot first.”)

    So, yeah, I don’t reject the idea that authorial intent is relevant for determining what’s fictionally true in a given fictional world. I think there are a lot of reasonable arguments in support of this claim. But I don’t think it’s the only game in town. I guess I see fictional truth as being determined by a nexus of different parties and consideration, with the artist perhaps having a louder voice than others.

    Here are few examples/arguments for this “pluralist” position–one where a plurality of consideration determine what’s fictionally true.

    1. I think artists/authors can make mistakes. They’re fallible. There are some extreme examples of this. Supposedly, Dickens once wrote a novel so long he forgot he’d killed off one of the characters. When he tried to have the character do certain things later in the story, he got the fictional truths of his own story wrong. Conversely, the fans were right to point out that the character had died earlier. Dickens might’ve created the fictional world, but he was capable of misunderstanding its fictional truths.

    Now, that’s an extreme example. But I feel like I encounter something similar when I workshop stories to friends in my writers’ group. I’ll have a firm sense of what should happen in a scene. But then I’ll have a friend who is a better writer read it, and he’ll/she’ll immediately see the mistakes and propose a rewrite that’s more authentic to the story I was trying to tell. Or, I don’t know, maybe you have a musician who’s working on a song, and a more accomplished, technically proficient musician can hear it and immediately recognize the flaws in it and transform it into the song the composer had been trying to write but couldn’t because of her lack of training.

    To take your metaphor of the artist-as-God maybe what I’d say is that the author is God-like in being able to create a world but un-God-like in that he/she is fallible, merely human, and so he/she can misunderstand/misrepresent the soul of the world and the characters she’s trying to bring into creation.

    2. I think issues of authorial intent become really murky with collaborative artworks. There’s a story about Blade Runner–that Ridley Scott and Harrison Ford had different viewpoints on whether it’s fictionally true that Deckard is replicant. I read somewhere that Scott would direct scenes with the belief that Decard is one, and Ford would try to undermine his direction through his body language, affect, etc. I think that in some cases what’s fictionally true can be difficult to pin down because there’s more than one author/artist in play. (Who knows Han Solo better, Lucas or Ford?)

    And then there are cases where, say, a director wanted to shoot a film one way, but a studio executive or a focus group or a ratings board forced a scene to be altered. What’s the “real” fictional world? The one the author/artist envisioned? Or the one he/she agreed to based on the demands of other parties?

    3. Similarly, I think legality mucks up this discussion. Disney bought the rights to Star Wars. So, legally, they can change this intellectual property as they see fit. I hate the idea that they have absolute control over what’s fictionally true in this fictional world–that they’re it’s new “God.” But it does seem as though their ownership of the IP means they can shape what’s fictionally true in it, at least to an extent.

    4. I think genre conventions partially shape fictional truth. If Lucas wants to tell a story about the hero’s quest in a New Hope, then there has to be a hero, a break with the everyday, a descent into the underworld, etc If he wants to film a mystery, there has to be a whodunit. I think genre conventions can sometimes place parameters on the fictional truths artists/authors can introduce into their fictional worlds.

    5. I think some artists are “stronger” than others in that they can take some one else’s creations and alter what’s fictionally true in them. Bob Kane’s original vision for Batman was, I think, kind of a cross between Zorro and Sherlock Holmes. I don’t think he envisioned him as being a boderline sociopathic vigilante–an antihero whose strength came, in part, from the fact that his childhood traumas had left him a hairsbreadth away from the demonic violence he sought to oppose. But after Frank Miller’s Dark Knight comics it become impossible, I think, to think of Batman without seeing this internal struggle as fundamental to the character.

    So, yeah, I think it’s possible for one artist to take another’s work, see unexplored potentials in it, and simply be so creative and so compelling and so awesome that they alter the fictional truths at play in the original.

    6. And then there’s that whole idea of “souls” I was toying with in my comment. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me. But I never feel as though I’m fully in control of the characters in the stories I write, or the stories themselves for that matter. It’s like the characters have lives of their own. They have their own desires, their own hopes, fears, passions. I rarely feel like I’m the one creating them whole cloth. It’s more a relationship of stewardship. Like I’m trying to help guide them into existing on the page, but less by creating them and more by passively listening to them and allowing them to make the decisions they would make for themselves if they were real.

    Or, sometimes I want a story to go one way, or I’ll have a clear crisp vision of how I’d like it to end, but It will decide to go off in a different direction, or I’ll realize that I got the ending wrong, and that the ending the story wanted was four pages earlier than the one I’d written for it.

    I like the idea of artworks as having their own agency–that they’re capable of pushing back against authors and audiences and IP holders.

    Anyway, for all of these reasons, while I agree that authorial intent is RELEVANT for determining what’s true in a given fictional world, I don’t see it as being DETERMINATVE. I favor more of a pluralist position–one where fictional truth is shaped by a nexus of different considerations. Authorial intent is relevant. But so are legal considerations, genre considerations, artistic superiority, and what I’m calling the “souls” of the fictional world and characters in it.

    Does that make sense? I think people get into big debates over who or what gets determine what’s fictionally true in a given fictional world. As if there has to be only ONE voice or judge. As if every fictional world must has some single God presiding over it and deciding what’s true in it. (And then, in academia, they’ll segue into a debate over whether there can be any fictional truths given the so-called “death of the author.) By contrast, I think that fictional truth is a product of a bunch of different considerations, more of a noisy parliamentarian debat between authors, the artworks they’ve created, IP holders, audiences, and so on and so forth.

    Anyway, this reply turned out a lot longer than I’d anticipated. But thanks so much for posing your question!

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