First, a viral video update: As “Midicholorian Rhapsody” peaked on YouTube, my fiendish husband, Jeff, released another parody music video—this one of our parody of “Margaritaville”—(“Wastin’ Away on Tatooine.”) This is a parody of Jimmy Buffett and classic Star Wars.
But now to the “serious” subject of todays’ blog—the debate over the nature of the Force.
Much thought by creators and fans alike has gone into the nature of the Force. In fact, it’s at the center of one of the great debates in the GFFA.
When Michael and I wrote Patterns of Force, the nature of the Force was very much on our minds … and on the minds of our readers. For example, I found Michael’s suggestion that different Force sensitives relate to the Force differently—and through different metaphors—absolutely fascinating. So fascinating that I made it one of the major threads of the story and suggested that if one Force-adept knows how another imagines the Force as they work with it, it can help them understand that adept’s strengths and weaknesses. Since it could be used to aid allies—and undermine enemies—sharing that information could be dangerous.
Jax Pavan visualizes ribbons and connecting threads when he “sees” the Force, while Inquisitor Probus Tesla visualizes waves and currents. Kaj Sevaros, our teenaged Force prodigy, uses the Force as he does because he was raised on a farm, and unconsciously reaches for familiar symbols when he attempts to harness his new and unsteady powers. How, I asked myself, would the Force manifest itself through someone as naturally talented as a Mozart but with no formal discipline? I decided that it might make Kaj quite powerful and brilliant … but also random and dangerous. He literally strikes without thought—the Force becomes an extension of his imagination and reflexes. He is a loose laser cannon (cough).
This sparked a little disagreement (not to say controversy) in some quarters. One fan objected to our portrayal of a brilliant but random Force adept. They saw a powerful usage of the Force as being a function of the Jedi discipline alone. But it had not been my observation that a controlled use of something was necessarily the most powerful as an event. A small wild animal can be more dangerous than a much larger domesticated one simply because it’s acting from unreasoning instinct, which makes it unpredictable. In Kaj’s case, Michael likened his use of the Force to a sneeze or seizure. A sneeze is basically an expelling of air. While a discipline such as yoga teaches one to intake and expel air in such ways that it can give the yogi more control and awareness, a sneeze, as an event, is far more powerful than the yogi’s careful breathing.
Another bit of theorizing about the nature of the Force that causes occasional ripples in same, is the debate about whether there really is a “dark side” and a “light side” or whether the darkness lies within a particular Force adept. Some fans see the Force as coming in two distinct flavors—deep, dark chocolate and gleaming vanilla—and the suggestion that it’s neutral or entirely benign and that the wielder (read: filter) is the source of any coloration is just short of blasphemy. There is no debate. Period. End of story.
I don’t see it as that (ahem) black and white. And I am not alone. The debate about the nature of the Force is dealt with in Jedi versus Sith: An Essential Guide to the Force (from Del Rey). The majority view has it that the Force has a dark side (as in “come over to the dark side, my son”) that seduces the Jedi actively. But Jedi Leor Hal founded a “philosophical group” that challenged the idea of the Force having an actual dark side. There was even some idea that the mythos of the dark side was introduced by the Sith as disinformation. Leor Hal proposed that there was only a benevolent energy—the Potentium—and that the darkness came entirely from the individual.
It’s interesting to me that some of the first statements we hear about the Force are ambiguous. “If you once start down the dark path,” Master Yoda warns Luke Skywalker, “forever will it dominate your destiny.” This makes the dark side sound like an entity. But then in Return of the Jedi, Palpatine urges Luke to continue down the path of blind fury and aggression. “Give in to your anger,” he says. “Strike me down with all of your hatred and your journey toward the dark side will be complete.” This puts the onus right back on the individual and makes the concepts of “light” and “dark” look as if they are, themselves, symbols for a reality that is not nearly so simplistic.
All this probably sounds familiar to anyone who’s debated the existence of a Devil or Evil as a force unto itself. Personally, I think it’s great that while art is busy imitating life, it’s also providing food for thought and a great deal of entertainment.
Next time: What is a holostar, anyway?
Maya’s fiction has been published in (among others) Analog, Interzone, Amazing Stories, and Jim Baen’s Universe. Read some of her fiction on her bookshelf page.