Star Wars fans anxious to see “Episode VII: The Force Awakens” get a taste of the new universe in a new book, Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath: Star Wars. But not all fans are rejoicing — many are panning the book for bringing sexual politics into mainstream science fiction. Don’t worry about all the haters, though — they’re evil homophobes with the Empire.
This was — truly — the author’s response to criticism on his blog. To anyone with the gall to question his inclusion of not one, not two, but 5 gay characters, Wendig wrote, “You’re not the Rebel Alliance. You’re not the good guys. You’re the f**king Empire, man. You’re the sh**ty, oppressive, totalitarian Empire.”
Woah. Cool down a bit there. It’s just a book, and even when critics attack the homosexuality, they have good literary reasons to complain.
The ‘Anti-Gay’ Reviews
Not everyone who complains about gay characters is a regressive hater. Many reviews explained that the inclusion of gay characters in Star Wars feels false on a literary level.
Vale Walker mentioned the gay issue, arguing it adds nothing to the story. “Let me state quite clearly that I have nothing against gays, and my problem is not even that there is some sort of ‘agenda’ in my science-fiction reading,” Walker explained.
“My problem here is that, the sexuality of some characters serves NO purpose whatsoever to the story.” Instead, “it seems like they were added as an afterthought, just so the author could appear to be inclusive.” Any detail that does not advance the plot or a character’s personality should be left out. “This is not about political and social views, it is about storytelling sins.”
“This is not just a book that happens to introduce one token gay hero in the interest of diversity,” Amazon Reviewer Kevin Lamb wrote. “There are no less than FIVE homosexual characters referenced in Star Wars Aftermath. Two married women, two married men, and of course one of the main heroes.” The overt and unnecessary inclusion of gay characters broke Lamb’s suspension of disbelief by introducing a tense present-day political issue into a fictional story.
Earl Hall, writing on Allen West’s website, asked a pertinent question about this book, and the other forms of art which seem to go out of their way to present LGBT characters. “Is this really about diversity, or is it more about forcing a story line and lifestyle down our throats?”
“This new novel is just a part of a long list of ‘art’ that wants to change our traditional values,” Hall declared. He recalled enjoying Star Wars as a kid and lamented how this book forces sexuality into a story about adventure.
Homosexuality is Far From the Only Problem
While a few critics have attacked the gay themes, many more have focused on the novel’s literary flaws — weak character development, inconsistencies with the Star Wars universe, and a choppy writing style.
IGN’s Jared Petty attacks the book as “muted, fragmented, and incomplete.” His review focuses on weak character development and a confusing story that fails to intrigue. “There’s a haphazard quality to the whole thing,” he argues, “a sense that this is only the first part of a larger work, a leg of a tripod unable to stand on its own.”
Like Petty, Amazon reviewer Kevin attacks the haphazard quality — not just of the story, but of the writing itself. 284 people found his review helpful, and it’s funny too: “This book-what can I say? It is written differently. Differently than anything I have ever read. Why? Never seen so many short sentences. Very short. Super short. Choppy? Yes. Hard to concentrate? Yes….Hard to follow. Just like this review.”
Reviewer Evil Otto declared: “The Force is not with this one.” Evil Otto quoted a line of the book — “The TIE wibbles and wobbles through the air, careening drunkenly across the Myrrann rooftops — it zigzags herkily-jerkily out of sight.”
“And that was the moment when my eyes started bleeding.” Evil Otto pans Wendig’s writing style as “horrible…with a jarring present-tense narrative.” He also calls the characters “dull and formulaic.”
Troy Rodgers, in a top review at GoodReads, attacked Wendig’s writing style and his story’s inconsistency with the overall Star Wars universe. Not a mention of the gay issue.
Who’s the Real Bigot Here?
In responding to critics on his blog, Wendig appeared reasonable — at first. “As for my voice: I can’t do much about that. I’m me,” he argued. If readers do not like his style that “doesn’t make it ‘bad’ writing….It’s just not what you prefer.” While the assertion that these critiques are based in taste rather than substance seems a bit insulting, it’s nothing compared to the next bit.
Addressing those who complained about his gay characters, Wendig wrote: “Sorry, you squawking saurian — meteor’s coming. And it’s a fabulously gay Nyan Cat meteor with a rainbow trailing behind it and your mode of thought will be extinct.”
Ouch! Can you imagine actually looking someone in the eyes and saying “your mode of thought will be extinct”? That’s harsh — it’s also rather presumptuous.
Then comes the good bit. “You’re not the Rebel Alliance. You’re not the good guys. You’re the f**king Empire, man. You’re the sh**ty, oppressive, totalitarian Empire. If you can imagine a world where Luke Skywalker would be irritated that there were gay people around him, you completely missed the point of Star Wars.”
As if forcing his own political views on a fictional character were not enough, Wendig stretches even further. “It’s like trying to picture Jesus kicking lepers in the throat instead of curing them.”
Rather than responding to the true style and substance of many reviews, Wendig ignores the serious literary complaints and then engages in extremely harsh rhetoric to attack a homophobic straw man.
One more time — “your mode of thought will be extinct.” If that isn’t bigotry, I don’t know what is.