Laser Swords

george lucas calls them that and that's good actually

Laser Swords

I was reading a Venkatesh Rao article about Matthew Dicks, who is a big lad in the field of The Moth-style oral storytelling, and how he structures his stories. Reading him talk about this, it makes me reflect on what is different about popular but "nerd-coded" media—e.g. Star Wars—in their original form and how they differ in their later iterations, particularly ones not made by the original creators.

I think the most important fact here for me might be that George Lucas calls lightsabers "laser swords", and honestly since learning that it's the thing I like the most about him. What it shows, crucially, is that he isn't a mark for his own gimmick. He is focused on telling a story. His core insight outside of that is “if everything looks a bit worn in, that’s cooler than everything being shiny and clean” and that's probably the thing that makes Star Wars really great, and the fact that he calls lightsabers “laser swords” is good because it shows that he doesn’t care about all the lore that the nerds fixate on, which is bad to focus on too much if you're trying to tell stories.

Once something has become popular with nerds, the people who end up making spinoffs or continuations or sequels tend to be fans of the original thing, and are often focused more on tidying up continuity loopholes or doing references to old things, which leads to the thing becoming far more about itself than about whatever it was about in the first place, or even just telling a good story. Just look at what happened to Doctor Who. I think we need more new stuff, but if we are to keep reviving old stuff, more creators who don't have slavish reverence for said old stuff would definitely help.

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