Star Wars, one letter at a time

This is the simplest piece of electronic literature that I have examined up to this point. I was drawn to it because there is a part of my soul that owes an eternal debt to Lucas and the world that he created. The movies are alright, and I loved them when I was a child, but the universe was where I lived. There are hundreds of book in the EU, and although Disney has chosen to disregard this rich world and destroy the Canon, it will always hold a special place in my heart. This being said, this text is almost entirely incomprehensible. On the entry page there is a authors description that states, “ A retelling of the classic story of one California boy’s mission to save the universe from boredom one letter at a time”. I thought I was in for a new take on the stories that I have loved my whole life, but this was only partly true.

So, on to the description of the text. This is one of those frustratingly simple texts that you occasionally encounter that makes you question how hard it really is to get something classified as art if you have a name behind it. My first thought was of Himself, and I hoped that the author was not sitting somewhere laughing at me for trying to say something about something that meant nothing. I said last week of Project for Tachitoscope that perhaps the words could move even faster than they were. Well, if you want something moving much faster than that, so fast that you can make neither heads nor tails of it, this is the text for you. The entirety of the work consists of single letters flashing on the screen, accompanied by the sounds of a typewriter chiming and sliding in the background. The letters compose the words to the screenplay of Star Wars. But it presents every single letter at the speed at which an accomplished typist can type when they have a deadline to meet, aka, much too fast to form into words and comprehend. In the very beginning, I could follow the lines, Star Wars, Episode V, A New Hope, By George Lucas, and perhaps the first sentence of the iconic blue, receding text that introduces the movie, but that was only because I knew them so well. After that, it was just a constant bombardment of letters, broken only by the typewriter sounds chiming, sliding back to the start of a new line, then bombardment again. I was honestly disappointed at first. I had desired to enter once again into the childhood stories that were so influential to me, but instead all I got was an incomprehensible jumble of letter flashing so quickly that I could not comprehend a single word. But, being the patient scholar that I am, I waited to see if there was anything that I could glean from the text, and a few minutes in, as my mind began to wander, I got something.

The text breaks the story Lucas told me into letters. 26 symbols. The constant bombardment allowed me to see the letters for what they were. Just shapes on a screen, or in Lucas’s case, on a page. Each one individually meant nothing, and as they were thrown in my face, it made me think of the man who chose those combinations of symbols. And those specific combinations were able to give me his thoughts. They allowed him to tell me his story. It made me think of the incredible power the 26 symbols I consume everyday really has. It focused my attention on the fact of that all words are symbolic representations of thoughts. I knew this prior to experiencing this work, I’ve had a liberal arts education my whole life, but it was a refreshing reminder to respect words and the letters that form them. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go read some Star Wars.

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3 Responses to Star Wars, one letter at a time

  1. argyle8 says:

    When I encounter works as inaccessible as this, it makes me feel very grateful for traditional literature! But I think Brian Kim Stefans is doing some cool things with the writer-reader relationship here. The audience member plays the writer, making us feel like we’re creating the text. Yet unlike George Lucas, we can’t see the context – it’s just individual letters. We quickly forget the preceding words, making for an uncomfortable reading experience. How do you think your experience of the text would change if the words were an unfamiliar story instead of Star Wars?

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    • pmc9122 says:

      I think it would be pretty much the same in that I was completely lost almost immediately. Knowing it was Star Wars got me about ten words, but the rest were gibberish. I would hesitate to even call this reading, in that there is no way to construct meaning out of it aside from the information the reader brings to it.

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  2. Steph Roman says:

    As a fellow Star Wars superfan, I feel you here. But this text sounds absolutely fascinating, especially because of how quickly it loses context and meaning based on the rapid keystrokes. It seems to have a very alienating affect to it, which I think must be part of the point. “Star Wars” is something so easily recognizable and something that holds extreme value to a lot of people. It might have simplistic formal aspects, but the effects it leaves must be jarring—like how you ended by saying you wanted the familiar material back. It kind of sounds like blasphemy to interrupt and “ruin” “Star Wars” in such a way, but again, that seems to be the point. It forces viewers to pay attention to the whole massive construct that is “Star Wars” (and moviemaking in general) by drawing such exacting attention to the individual letters that make up the script.

    Like

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