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Luke Skywalker Can’t Read and Other Geeky Truths by Ryan Britt

Luke Skywalker Can’t Read and Other Geeky Truths by Ryan Britt
Book Name: Luke Skywalker Can’t Read and Other Geeky Truths
Author: Ryan Britt
Publisher(s): Plume
Formatt: Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook
Genre(s): Non-Fiction / Humor
Release Date: November 24, 2015

I think it is fair to say that nerds tend to be obsessive completists who love to study things at a very granular level. And one of our favorite things to do with that knowledge is to show it off: we pontificate, we spout off, we rant, we theorize. And sometimes this ends badly. It leads to arguments, trolling, and demands for proof of nerd cred. Heck, this is probably the main reason why so few of us read the comments (although you should always read the comments here and leave one of your own).

But sometimes these show-off sessions can be great. I am sure many of us can recall late-night conversations in dorm rooms, laughing and debating at a bar during a convention, or maybe even making predictions with strangers while waiting in line for The Force Awakens. What makes these moments great is that they are not about competition or right versus wrong. Instead, they are about sharing our mutual love of entire universes, even if we disagree on the details: we all love the wizarding world of Harry Potter, even if we prefer different Houses; we’d all jump in the TARDIS, even if we prefer different iterations of The Doctor; and we all love guilty pleasure movies, even if we have different taste in cheese (by the way, the Fantasy-Faction Forum is a wonderful place to share such love, hint hint).

The essay collection (with many memoir elements), Luke Skywalker Can’t Read and Other Geeky Truths is the paperback version of one of those late-night conversations because Britt comes from a place of love. He shares our favorite obsessions. He presents his personal theories (many of which I’ve never heard before). And he made me laugh throughout. In other words, Britt is the college roommate I think we all wish we had. He is an essayist, critic, and odds are, if you read this site, you also read several of the sites Britt has written for: the New York Times, Electric Literature, The Awl, VICE, Clarkesworld, Story (where he is a consulting editor), and as a former staff writer and current contributor at Tor.com.

I know that if I say Luke Skywalker Can’t Read has something for every species of sci-fi and fantasy nerd, that this implies a sort of lowest-common-denominator writing. But that is not the case here. I mean that he covers so many topics that a glance at the table of contents is enough to hook just about any reader. For example, Britt writes about why we shouldn’t get upset about rapid-fire reboots of superheroes, why Tolkien was just as big a revisionist as George Lucas (although maybe better at it), why the Back to the Future movies are built on fake nostalgia and paradoxes (why is Biff Tannen’s family tree missing every other generation?), or why Sherlock Holmes lives at the heart of pop culture. And of course there is the eponymous essay that argues that everyone in the Star Wars world is functionally illiterate (which does put lines about “hokey religions and ancient weapons” in a very new light).

But it’s not all pop culture riffs and inside jokes. Britt also offers both personal anecdotes (like how he got the birds and the bees talk after seeing illustrations of dinosaurs having sex in an old issue of Omni) and insightful thoughts (like how the movie Barbarella is similar to Margaret Atwood writing for Playboy: the mix of high and low requires, almost demands, attention and study to determine the line between trash and art). And that’s all in the same essay. There are also stories about his parents, as well as how his career improved after he recovered from depression, thanks to binge-watching Doctor Who.

Luke Skywalker Can’t Read came out just prior to The Force Awakes, much to the delight of Plume’s marketing department, I’m sure. And while the title might earn a reader some funny looks if it’s read while waiting in line for the movie (I speak from personal experience), I hope you won’t view it as part of the Star Wars cross-promotional juggernaut. Please don’t look at it and see something akin to R2-D2-branded soup. Yes, it’s silly and funny at times, but it is not frivolous. Just look at the last essay, “The Fans Awaken” for an excellent breakdown of the complicated relationship between creator and fans, what it means for a creator to “ruin” his art, and why fans should aspire to be more than just haters. This essay will have you looking at the prequels and sequels in an entirely different light.

Luke Skywalker Can’t Read is substantial and sincere, and it will make your nerd pride grow three sizes while also helping us view the things we love with a critical eye and a loving heart.


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  1. […] Fantasy Faction (“…substantial and sincere, and it will make your nerd pride grow three sizes.”) […]

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