My 11 Force Awakens Questions

X-Wings

These might not be the most burning questions everyone has, but they are ones that I hope will be answered in the next film – but some I fear won’t be answered at all. I had a few others, but they’re answered in books and whatnot.

SPOILERS, obviously.

Who are the Knights of Ren?

We know, thanks to Supreme Leader Snoke, that Kylo Ren is the ‘master of the Knights of Ren’. But who are they? Is Snoke their leader as well as the First Order’s? Did he poach Kylo from them? Did Kylo create them himself?

My previous theory regarding them was that they were the remnants of Luke’s new Jedi Order – those who sided with Kylo when he turned on Luke. It doesn’t seem likely that he would have left the Jedi to become one of them before becoming Snoke’s apprentice (assuming he is Snoke’s apprentice – I don’t recall either of them using the terms ‘master’ or ‘apprentice’ or anything similar), as Leia says that Snoke seduced Ben Solo to the dark side.

We heard before the film that the Knights of Ren were obsessed with the Sith and spent their time hunting for Sith artefacts, but we learned absolutely nothing about them from the film, bar that Kylo is the master of them. Perhaps the biggest question regarding them is: are any of the other Knights of Ren Force wielders?

I’m going to add to this the question of Kylo’s lightsaber: why is it the way it is. Why is it so unstable? Why does it have the guardy bits?

Why does Kylo Ren’s power falter?

When Kylo tries to pull the lightsaber to his hand, he fails. I mentioned this before and concluded that it could be one of two things. Either Rey’s attempts to pull it were disrupting his, or that the crystals in it are so imbued with the light side that they resisted his dark side power. Most likely the former.

However, Adam Driver has said that his lightsaber is a metaphor for the character. That it is unstable and could stop working at any moment. The unstable part we saw, but the ‘stop working’ part we did not – for the saber or Kylo himself.

Perhaps the question is redundant, then, and Rey is the reason he fails to pull the saber. But having killed his father and thus completing his journey to the dark side, and being wounded and surely fuelled by pain and anger, he should be more powerful than ever.

Kylo Ren

Why did R2D2 wake up?

R2 was in low power mode since Luke left, but conveniently wakes up at the end of the film and happens to have the rest of the map that the Resistance needs. Is there a reason for this or is it just a pitiful plot point thrown in for convenience? Unfortunately, J J Abrams’ answer seems to say the latter.

Apparently R2, in his low power mode, heard that they needed the map piece and that eventually leads to him waking up. It’s a case of, after a sad death, the audience needed someone to ‘come back’. I can’t help but feel this is just bad writing.

I was thinking that perhaps Luke somehow activated him from a distance, or that he detected Rey’s arrival and activated, or…something. It’s still possible there is a reason that would be considered a spoiler, and so J J is keeping it to himself, so let’s hope so.

Who left Rey and why?

Rey calls Jakku home. According to the wall she marks at the start, she has done for a long time. More specifically, according to her vision she was left there as a little girl of, I’d guess, between six and nine. But who left her? Why did they leave her? And why did they never go back for her?

The answer could be anything, of course. Her parents may be people we’ve never heard of and they left her for reasons we couldn’t possibly know yet. Or perhaps we do know her parents. The main theory seems to be that Luke Skywalker is her father, but I don’t know what I think about that.

Could she have been at the new Jedi academy when Ben turned into Kylo and destroyed it? In her vision, he does walk towards her – but is that just a fanciful vision-y flair? And if she was there and was somehow rescued or something, why would she not remember? Was her mind wiped? That would be a pretty cheap and poorly written trick to play on us, I think.

The Force Awakens Rey

How does Rey use the Force so easily?

I know she is strong in the Force, but how does she go from thinking the Jedi and the Force are a myth to using a Jedi mind trick on James Bondtrooper? Twice. And Force pulling the lightsaber to her hand.

Channelling the Force mid-fight is understandable enough, because Maz Kanata tells her to close her eyes and feel the Force, or whatever, and that’s what she does. It did take me two viewings to make that connection, though.

Again, perhaps she was already being trained by Luke and her memory was wiped but, again, that would be weak in my opinion. Besides, a padawan of that age surely wouldn’t have been taught mind tricks.

My theory on this is that when Kylo Ren dived into her mind, something of his Force power imprinted on her. But it wasn’t mentioned or explained in any satisfactory way. ‘I can’t explain it’ is the closest we get to any explanation.

Who calls Rey in her vision?

There are voices in the vision Rey has while in Maz’s basement. Yoda is the main one. But as she finds herself in the snowy woodlands, someone calls her name. Who? It sounds remarkably like Alec Guinness’s Obi-Wan Kenobi, but it’s hard to tell with only one word. Plus, we don’t yet know what Luke Skywalker sounds like these days, so it could be him.

Luke looks a little shocked and/or confused when Rey turns up at the end. Would he look at her like that if he’d been calling her through the Force? Perhaps his subconscious was doing it. If it was him, how does he know her name? Thanks to the Force?

EDIT: I could have deleted this part. Apparently it IS Obi-Wan – they took his voice and cut it to make him say ‘Rey’, and had Ewan McGregor record ‘these are your first steps’. Which is interesting, since Obi-Wan doesn’t say those precise words anywhere in the originals (or the prequels, I think), thus meaning he must be actually speaking to Rey.

Why does the lightsaber call to Rey?

‘That lightsaber belonged to Luke, and his father before him. Now it calls to you.’ That is, perhaps not word for word, what Maz Kanata tells Rey. But why does the lightsaber call to her? And what does that actually mean?

The lightsaber presumably doesn’t have a consciousness and is literally calling her. ‘Psst! Hey! You with the hair! …….touch me.’ So I presume it’s the Force guiding her to the saber. But why? Why does the Force care about her picking up a lightsaber. So is it the power imbued in the saber by the grace of it being constructed by a powerful Jedi and then wielded by Luke? But again, why her? Simply because she’s strong enough in the Force to hear it? …I may have answered my own question.

The Force Awakens Lightsaber

Why is there a map to Luke?

And why is the main part of it in the Imperial archives? Surely the point of him going into hiding is that he’s hidden. Why would there be a map at all, let alone one that’s broken into two pieces? Or is the map actually to the first Jedi temple, which Han says Luke went looking for. That would make a little more sense, though the island doesn’t exactly look much like a temple to me.

That still doesn’t explain why there is one piece taken out of the map. Luke could conceivably have somehow done it to cover his tracks, but why wouldn’t he just delete it?

What exactly is the awakening?

Yes, we all assume that it is the Force awakening in Rey, but is it? The Force almost certainly guides Rey when she flies the Millennium Falcon. It probably guides her when she slams the door on the…rathtar? Raktar? Tentacle thing. I don’t think she does anything else before Snoke asks Kylo if he’s felt the awakening.

But surely, the Force has been guiding her before that. Perhaps she has done nothing quite so intensive up until then. Or perhaps she isn’t the awakening at all.

Why is Luke looking for the first Jedi temple?

Okay, he’s run away. The Jedi seem to do that a lot. But why go looking for the first Jedi temple? A nice day out? Does he feel like he can be closer to the Force and the essence of the Jedi? Does he think that he will find Jedi teachings there?

And where is the temple? It seems like an incredibly quick hyperspace hop, compared to the other hyperspace journeys. Look how long they were in hyperspace between Han and Chewie’s freighter and Maz’s place. You’d think the first Jedi temple would be somewhere a bit further away and hard to get to. More interesting, in short.

Where has Snoke been hiding?

Granted it isn’t mentioned in the film, but we know that Supreme Leader Snoke is ancient. Even if we didn’t, he’s clearly older than 30. So where has he been all this time? Where was he when Darth Sidious was prancing about as Palpatine? Did he know that the Emperor was the Dark Lord of the Sith? If not, why didn’t he try to seize power?

I suppose it depends a lot on what Snoke is. If he is a Sith, he should be governed by the Rule of Two: one master, one apprentice. So, perhaps he was hiding from Sidious and Vader, knowing that they would want to kill him if they knew of his existence. But don’t we want someone who we feel is more powerful than the enemies who have come before? So why wouldn’t he have done Sidious in and taken power for himself?

Has he come from outside the galaxy perhaps? Is he, as many have wondered, actually Darth Plagueis, Sidious’s master? Andy Sirkis says no. There must surely be a reason that no one has heard from him until now.

Lastly, if he is ancient, does that mean that his species is long lived? That the dark side has kept him alive? Or that he has mastered ‘essence transfer’ – immortality through taking over another’s body? Is that what he is grooming Kylo Ren for?

Supreme Leader Snoke

What questions were you left with? Do you know/think you know the answer to any of mine?

The Force Is Awake

The Force Awakens

This will be a pretty short ‘review’ anyway,but before I mention any spoilers, I will say that The Force Awakens is very good. It does suffer from some pacing issues, though, so that it feels too rushed and doesn’t contain any of the more relaxed, slow scenes that the originals had. It also contains some things that are a little too easy and convenient – and no they can’t be excused with ‘Oh, it’s the Force manipulating events’.

These two things are really my only problems with the film, which is good. Well, that and the music wasn’t remotely memorable, which is a shame. And a few too many scenes and lines from the trailers found themselves cut from the film itself – a couple of which were very good lines. But otherwise, it was better than the prequel trilogy combined, though that’s not really saying much. The fact that it was entirely predictable and nothing happened that surprised me couldbe taken as a negative, but since I liked pretty much everything that I predicted, it isn’t a bad thing.

I can’t say anything more, really, without it being slightly spoilerish. So, here begineth the spoilers!

SPOILERS!!

So, the timeline is pretty much what we all expected. Ray on Jakku, Finn breaking Poe out, Finn finding Rey, them finding Han, Finn fighting Kylo, etc. But most of the film in general is what I expected. It’s quicker to say what was different.

I thought Finn would die – though I stopped thinking that closer to release – but instead Han died. I thought Rey would be Han and Leia’s daughter but instead Kylo is their son. And that’s pretty much it. Not, as I said, that it’s a bad thing, because I wanted Rey to be the Force sensitive. I wanted the film to be mostly about their search for a missing Luke Skywalker. I wanted him to have disappeared after trying and failing to rebuild the Jedi order.

I’m not really sure what to say about it. It wasn’t quite as good as I had hoped, but it was much better than I’d feared. The issues, as I mentioned were really only the rushed pacing and the convenience of some things.

Maz just happens to have Luke’slightsaber? Oh, that’s a story for another time is it? So you’ve definitely got an actual reason have you? It’s definitely not just a convenient plot point because you couldn’t be bothered coming up with a decent way for the saber to come into their possession. Please don’t try to excuse it with ‘the Force did it’. Had Rey found herself there without Han’s help, then I could buy that, but it was Han who thought that was the place to go. That’s a little far fetched even for the Force, I think.

And Rey just happens to be able to do a Jedi Mind Trick completely out of the blue when she shouldn’t even know that such a thing exists. She doesn’t even know she can use the Force. My guess is that Kylo Ren inadvertently awoke the Force within her when he delved into her mind. Perhaps her getting into his mind too somehow imprinted some knowledge of the Force on her, but I don’t know. It seems far too convenient.

R2D2 just happens to wake up in time to show them where to find Luke? Okay, that one is more interesting. It happens to coincide with Rey arriving at the Resistance base. Perhaps Luke knows about her and has him waiting. But there are things wrong with that theory. First, Rey is about 6 when she’s left on Jakku. Unless Luke is the one who dumped her there, how would he know about her and have R2 waiting for 20 years before waking up for her? Second, Rey isn’t there in front of R2, so how would he even detect her presence? Is he Force sensitive too?

Kylo Ren lightsaber

I really wanted Rey to be the Force sensitive one, though I’m not sure why, so I was glad when she started to hear the whispers and cries and I recognised it as the Force speaking to her. I liked Finn more than I’d expected, but I couldn’t imagine him become a Jedi.

I can’t help but feel that Chewbacca should have gone on a rampage after seeing his friend killed, rather than getting a bit upset and then kind of never being seen for any proper length of time again. I think Han should have fallen onto the bridge, not off it, and then Chewie should have fought his way through Stormtroopers to get to his body. However, it was a bit of a sad death. It should have been more sad than ‘a bit’, though, and I didn’t really feel it until the Leia/Rey hug (how did Rey even know that was Leia?), and that was thanks to the music. And why did Chewie And Leia – the two people who care most about Han – completely ignore each other? Shouldn’t it be them hugging?

I don’t know what else to say – I need to see it again. At the moment, in my mind, it’s mostly just a mess of action sequences cobbled together into a film.

It’s very good, and I want to see it multiple times again, and I very much want to see Episode VIII now.

Last thought: is Snoke a Sith? Or something else? And if he is, could he even be the apprentice? What if he has taken Kylo as his own apprentice in preparation of confronting his own master? …Probably not.

The Force Is With Leia – But Which Side?

Force Awakens - Leia

Recently, I saw someone on Facebook complain mention that Leia’s poster for The Force Awakens doesn’t have her holding either a blaster or a lightsaber. According to some who responded, it’s because she’s a woman. Not because she’s a politician, or because her brain and her words are her weapons… No, not holding a weapon is just outright sexism. But out of this came a question: Why was Leia not trained as a Jedi, but Luke was?

So why was Luke chosen over Leia? Is it really necessary to point out that these are only my opinions?

Let’s start with the fact that he was not chosen over Leia. He was barely chosen at all. Remember the start of A New Hope, where Leia is asking for Obi-Wan’s help? She doesn’t stand in front of him asking for help only for him to tell her, ‘Okay, but you’re not going to be a Jedi – that’s for men’. No, she sends a message through R2D2. Luke buys the droid, finds the message, and later relays it to Obi-Wan.

It is, therefore, Luke who is sitting beside him when he realises he needs to help Leia. So it is Luke whose training he begins by handing him Anakin’s lightsaber, because Kenobi himself is too old for this shit. Not once does Obi-Wan come into contact with Leia in order to give her, or indeed deny her, Jedi training.

Then comes Yoda. Luke finds Yoda because Obi-Wan tells him to. Could Obi-Wan have told Leia to go there too? Perhaps. Would she have believed the disembodied voice of someone she’s never met? Unlikely. Could he contact someone to whom he doesn’t have a connection and who has had no Jedi training yet? Would she have left the Rebel Alliance, where she was a very important figure, to go searching swamps for someone to train her in some mystical nonsense that the galaxy no longer believes is real?

Obi-Wan and Yoda

In the original trilogy, Obi-Wan doesn’t seem to know that Leia is Luke’s sister. He tells Yoda that Luke is their only hope, only to be told ‘There is another’. The prequels clash with that, so maybe his memory just isn’t what it used to be. Or maybe Lucas made it all up as he went. …nah.

In short, Leia was never in a position to be trained as a Jedi. Even Luke only received very basic training. Return of the Jedi has Luke telling her, ‘You have that power too; in time, you’ll learn to use it as I have’. Very clearly, he intends to impart his training to her.

However, there are some reasons that it would have been potentially disastrous to train Leia as a Jedi. Though she grows as a person throughout the films, she certainly doesn’t display any kind of personality traits conducive to being a Jedi. In fact, could she have ended up being too tempted by the dark side?

Leia is incredibly arrogant and hot-headed. She is spiteful. She’s borderline racist towards Chewbacca. She is very reminiscent of a certain Anakin Skywalker.

When Luke and Han find her, there’s no word of thanks. Just complaining and insults. And let’s take a moment to remember that she was not the damsel in distress. Not only does she immediately take over her own rescue, but Luke and Han didn’t go there to rescue her in the first place – they’re trying to rescue themselves.

Remember when Lando comes to apologise and explain his ‘betrayal’ to them? Leia doesn’t care about Lando’s plight and the difficult situation he’s in, trying to protect a city full of people. No, she just wants Chewie to choke him to death. At no point does she care about all of that suffering. Instead, she stands over him while he’s on his knees, gasping for breath. Does it remind you at all of Vader choking the Rebel at the start of A New Hope?

Leia lacks the humility that Luke has. While he was raised as a farmer on a backwater planet, working hard for his family, Leia was raised as a princess. She thinks of herself as hugely important and superior. He looks up to Obi-Wan and Yoda; Leia looks down on people.

In short, Luke displays many qualities of a Jedi. Leia displays many qualities of a Sith.

leia

And to complete that journey to the dark side, what would have happened if Leia had confronted Vader and the emperor instead of Luke? Yes, Luke tried to kill the emperor, but he believed fully that Vader could be redeemed. He threw aside his lightsaber and put his life in the hands of his mortal enemy, believing that the light in Vader would overcome the dark. And he was right.

But what if it had been Leia? What if the man – the monster – who, for her, embodied the Empire even more than the emperor himself lay helpless at her feet? The man who stood by while her entire planet, her people and her family were obliterated. Would she have done what Luke did? Or would she have given in to her hate and killed the man she despised more than anything?

Either way, I suspect The Force Awakens will see Leia with a little more knowledge of the Force. I doubt she’ll be a Jedi – I don’t think she’d even accept the training – but the Force will be with her.

BvS: Dawn of Unjustifiable Nonsense

Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman

I have just watched the new Batman v Superman trailer for the second time and I wanted to rant about it. I needed to rant about it.

The first few teasers and trailers were okay. I felt a bit better about the film with each one (not including the teaser that came just before this new trailer). But now comes the three minute trailer that basically gives us the entire skeleton of the film. Obviously the following rant will contain spoilers.

So basically, Clark Kent – the super journalist – doesn’t have a clue who Bruce Wayne is. Bruce Wayne calls Superman a ‘freak dressed as a clown’ in a stare-down that kind of alludes to the possibility that Bruce knows who Clark really is.

Then the ridiculousness that is the new Lex Luthor pops in to tell Bruce not to pick a fight with Clark…oh ha ha…ha? How awfully humorous that writing is. How clever. I don’t know if the personality Lex displays in that scene is just his public persona and is completely different from the real him (I hope so), but it is terrible. Jesse Eisenberg is quite a good actor, yet his acting in this scene was a little embarrassing to watch.

Then the part that we all knew was coming, but weren’t necessarily expecting to be shown outright in the trailer: Lex Luthor creates Doomsday from Zod’s corpse. And he looks like one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fell into an acid bath while he was injecting himself with steroids.

The penultimate scene contains the worst case of ‘seriously?’ of the entire trailer, which is saying something. Wonder Woman saves Batman from Doomsday’s attack with her shield, and then Superman asks ‘Is she with you?’, to which the witty and original response is ‘I thought she was with you’! Oh what amazing writing this film will contain.

I thought Chris Terrio taking over the writing of the film would be a good thing, but it seems like the stain of David S Goyer can’t be cleaned off that easily.

Batsignal

It’s not just the few bits of awful writing that gets me, though. It’s Batman. From the line ‘You will’ at the end of the original teaser (about whether Superman bleeds), I’ve wondered if they were going in a decent direction with Batman. The scene at the end of the first proper trailer where Batman stands up from his wrecked Batmobile to face Superman was a brilliant scene that partly allayed my fears…but now we have this.

In the newest teaser, Batman looks terrified of Superman. It’s almost certainly a nightmare sequence, so it’s forgiveable. However, he seems to show too much emotion for my liking in the main trailer. There’s too much baring his teeth, too much slack-jawed…stuff (‘I thought she was with you’). And what the hell is with him throwing his arms over his face when Doomsday attacks? Batman wouldn’t do that. A) Batman would have a way out, as he always does. B) Even if he didn’t, he wouldn’t hide from his death, he would simply narrow his eyes and glare at it, striking terror into the heart of the poor Reaper sent to collect him.

It’s true that trailers can give a false impression of a film, and I really hope that is the case here, but if they aren’t going to get Batman right, then I don’t think I’m exaggerating to say that the entire DC movie universe that they are setting up is kind of doomed before it gets going. The Trinity – Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman – are the foundations of that universe, and if they aren’t done right, said universe will crumble.

One of the things I knew would make a big impact on whether Batman works or not is the voice that Affleck chose to use. I still don’t know about it. He does speak as Batman without the armour that changes his voice drastically, but it’s not enough to go on. It sounds as though he’s just using the gravel that’s already in his voice, which could be okay. But it also sounds as though he may still be using a voice modulator, which I don’t really like. The main thing is that it sounds okay. But Kevin Conroy is still the best Batman voice.

Damn it, Batman doesn’t do crap like ‘I thought she was with you’! No, I can’t get over it, shut up. Batman does the ‘Thanks, Batman, we couldn’t have done it without you’, ‘I know’ lines. He does the hilarious, usually scathing one-liners that don’t take away from his terrifying Dark Knightness. And he doesn’t show the kinds of emotions that he does in this trailer. Fear of Superman, fear of death, shock at seeing Wonder Woman. HE’S THE GODDAMN BATMAN!

And now that abysmal Frank Miller line has made me feel unwell.

Incidentally, here are a few semi-related articles that you might like read:

The Big Blue Boy Scout

Birth of the Superhero (I used the same top image :( )

Batman: Arkham Knight (review)

The Force Will Soon Awaken

The Force Awakens poster, landscape

Are you ready to desperately want to be a Jedi again/still? Star Wars Episode VII is coming soon (December 17 in the UK) and we know little about it so far, aside from rumours and speculation. So here’s some more! I could babble on and on about it for ages, so I’ll just briefly give a couple of my theories.

I don’t really know what I think about the idea that Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) are Han Solo and Princess Leia’s children. That might align too much with the no-longer-canon Expanded Universe books and be too predictable. But it might go some way to explain why A) Kylo is apparently obsessed with Darth Vader, and B) He says (or his toy does anyway) ‘That weapon is mine’ about, presumably, Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber.

I also wonder if Luke Skywalker might not be on the poster because he isn’t really in the first film or even dies fairly early on. My theory, kind of, is that Kylo was one of Luke’s students when he restarted the Jedi Order. Because Luke was never properly trained, he didn’t know how to handle a difficult student and it led to a clash – a physical clash that perhaps resulted in Kylo having to wear that mask. Luke, feeling like he failed, goes into isolation.

Kind of carrying on from that, I have another theory which I don’t think I actually believe. But I wondered if the Knights of Ren – the group that Kylo takes his name from – are either A) The Jedi Order that Luke failed, or B) Simply Force-sensitive people banding together to create their own group that is neither Light- nor Dark-side. The fact that they are supposedly hunters of Sith relics could simply be in an effort to better understand their powers. Or not.

Daisy Ridley - Rey

Rey, I think, will be the Jedi rather than Finn (John Boyega) – I think him having the lightsaber is misdirection. I also think she may already have some Jedi training. I even wonder if her ‘scavenging’ is actually a mission that Luke gave to her, and she is hunting for Jedi relics just as the Knights of Ren are hunting for Sith relics. Will that be one of the big twists/reveals? She seems to be a normal person and then suddenly uses the Force, perhaps to save Finn in that snow scene. (EDIT: The new trailer pretty much destroys this theory.)

That doesn’t cover the ‘There has been an awakening’ line. I have no theory for that. I do, however, have some theories about who some of Kylo Ren’s toy’s lines are delivered to:

‘I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time.’ – Following my Luke/Kylo theory, this could be delivered to Luke when Kylo tracks him down again. This time, I think Luke will lose.

‘You know what I’ve come for.’ – This could be, as everyone assume, referring to Anakin’s lightsaber, but it might also be delivered to Luke along with the previous line.

‘Don’t fight it. You know you can’t’ and ‘Together, we will destroy the Resistence and the last Jedi’ – These could both be delivered to the terrified-looking Finn in that snowy scene from the second teaser trailer. Or the second line could just be delivered to Snoke (his boss/master, voiced by Andy Sirkis).

‘Is it true: you’re just a scavenger?’ – This is almost certainly delivered to Rey, as she is…well, a scavenger. But the way it is delivered is odd. Could it be that he has reunited with his sister and is disappointed with who and what she is?

Again, I could go on for ages with conflicting theories, but I won’t. What do you think will happen?

Kylo Ren lightsaber

Tips For Your Trip To Space

Trip To Space

I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.
Neil Armstrong on looking back at the Earth from the Moon in July 1969

So, you’re planning on becoming a space pirate. Or an intergalactic bounty hunter. Or an astronaut, maybe…if you’re boring. Maybe you’ll be an entertaining one like Chris Hadfield. But things aren’t quite like the films and books. I should know: I’m a sci-fi author, after all, who doesn’t do much research. I shouldn’t have said that…

Before you climb aboard your death-trap of a spacecraft, there are some things you need to be aware of. You should probably do some research and ask a professional to accompany you. For now, here are a handful of useful titbits:

You’re Probably Going to Die

Yep. Space hates you and wants you dead. It’s a harsh and unforgiving place, much like the internet. If you go there, you might die. I don’t have the stats, but I’m going to hazard a guess that there’s more chance of you dying than not. Nevertheless, good luck out there!

Ignoring xenophobic aliens and black holes, there are some far more mundane things out there looking to kill you:

  1. Dust! Moon dust is lethal to human lungs, and it’s so fine that it can creep into your spacesuit and so abrasive that it can wear through even Kevlar-like material (and it has done – three layers of the stuff, in fact). And that’s just the moon. Other planets with little-to-no gravity might have even more dangerous, homicidal dust.
  2. More dust! But this time in orbit around Earth. Clouds of it, travelling at phenomenal speed, are enough to rip off pieces of your spacecraft and alter your course. So what about the 5000+ tonnes of space junk littering our orbit? Also pretty dangerous, funnily enough. If a cloud of dust particles can do the aforementioned damage to your craft, what do you think the leftovers of the last space mission, travelling at 17,000 mph could do? Wait…do space toilets flush stuff into space?
  3. If your chosen professional is annoying you, rub a balloon on his suit. Static electricity in the ultimate dryness of space could short-circuit said suit and he’ll die horribly. Or she – professionals can actually be ladies these days! How the times have changed. Also look out for solar storms for similar reasons.
  4. Systems failure. Explosion. Fire. Decompression. Spacesuit failure. Manoeuvring controls failure. Your spacecraft hates you, too.

Okay, Houston, we’ve had a problem here.
Apollo 13’s John Swigert when an oxygen tank exploded on April 13 1970

Fashion Police

So the typical Michelin Man/Stay Puft Marshmallow Man spacesuit might not look cool. You might not attract any green alien women/men whilst strutting about in it. But that suit stops you freezing. It stops you overheating and suffering heatstroke. It gives you air to breathe. It stops the sun burning your skin. It’s pressurised. It lets you drink water and even go to the toilet. It also has lights and a camera to record your microgravity exploits. You can even strap into a rocket pack, kind of like a fat Rocketeer.

If, however, you fail to heed this warning, you’ll die. Permanently! You’ll lose consciousness first, luckily for you. You won’t notice, then, when you swell up to twice your size, the sun’s UVs cook you, and the various forms of radiation mutate your DNA and give you cancer.

So leave the leather jacket at home.

No Captain Kirking!

Captain Kirk

Don’t choose an attractive co-space-farer, lest you get bad ideas. Gravity changes the way blood flows. Upon contact, you could send your attractive person sailing across the spacecraft and into the airlock. But, on the plus side, they won’t be so attractive with the sticky and disgusting sweat-film that will be covering them by the time you’ve tied yourselves together and tethered to a wall.

Also, don’t get pregnant. Especially if you’re a man. Without Earth’s gravity, a baby will not develop correctly, and that’s before the issue of radiation.

The probability of success is difficult to estimate; but if we never search the chance of success is zero.
From the paper ‘Searching for Interstellar Communications’, September 1959, regarding the search for extraterrestrial intelligence

Fine Dining

(Food + drink) – gravity = problem.

But don’t let my complex scientific equations confuse you. What it means is there’s nothing keeping water in your cup. Nothing stopping particles of food, crumbs, from floating around and getting inside equipment, potentially damaging it. ‘Oh, crumbs!’, you’ll exclaim to the amusement of everyone while the electronics burst into flame. Then who’s laughing?

While the favourite pastime of throwing small items of consumable matter at each other’s mouths would be considerably easier, it poses quite the problem if you don’t want to wreck your spacecraft and get stranded in space. And die.

Assuming this is not one of your life goals, take note.

One thing to remember is that, in space, you will need more calcium and vitamin D, because your bones are WEAK LIKE LITTAL GORL. But ignore the difficulty of using the bathroom and drink plenty of water anyway, because you probably don’t want to die an agonising death by kidney-stone-induced kidney failure.

Eating in Space

You can get plenty of food freeze-dried, including ice cream. Freeze-drying was invented for space travel, after all. But not everything is edible when freeze-dried. This is where your professional can help with meal selection. Generally, it means rehydrating dehydrated food and heating it in a forced-air convection oven. Very carefully, and with special Velcro-fitted trays and the like, you can then eat the same way you would in a fancy restaurant, where people are watching you.

Water is easier, as its stored in a pouch with a straw thing.

Are You Crazy?

You will be. YOU WILL BE! Or you might be. The stress and frustration of being in a confined space for a long time, especially with someone else annoying you, can easily get to you. You may find it hard to sleep, become fatigued. The lack of gravity will be hard to get used to, may make you quite nauseous, makes simple tasks more difficult, and you might not get used to it at all.

Imbalances in your brain stuff could occur and you might have a full-blown mental breakdown and start worshipping the sun. Which is fine as long as you keep your distance. From the sun and from people.

Simple mood and anxiety issues are less simple in space, where you have few ways to relieve stress. Punch your professional.

Not to mention your insignificance. Space is quite vast, and once there, you’ll quickly realise that you are quite tiny. So tiny in comparison, that you might as well not exist. That’s not a comment on your worth, of course. But a sand grain on a beach isn’t even a good comparison.

It might be difficult to come to terms with the unending, black vastness of space. Your little mind might not be able to take it. Again, not a slight against you, really.

From out there on the Moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch’.
Edgar Mitchell, Apollo 14 astronaut, April 8 1974

Newton’s Apples

There are a multitude of things, as mentioned earlier, that you may wish to know before setting forth on your interstellar adventure/colonisation effort/Green-Lantern-cosplay-gone-to-far, but the final one from me is Newton’s Laws of Motion.

– Newton’s First Law (law of inertia):

Superman Baseball

Every object persists in its state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed on it.

In other words, everything Superman has thrown into space – including that baseball Mr Reeve hit – is still going, unless it has impacted with another world somewhere, causing death and destruction, and possibly its total annihilation.

In terms relevant to you, when you take off, your thrusters must have enough power to get you off the ground, push through air resistance, and into space. Once in that vast darkness, there is no resistance. All you need the thrusters for then is to reach your optimal speed. And to stop again! That’s an integral part of not dying or getting lost in space like Gary Oldman did. And he turned into a big spider-man thing and not in a superhero way.

Make sure you don’t run out of fuel getting your fat ass off the ground, because you’ll be needing it to stop when you reach your destination.

– Newton’s Second Law:

The acceleration of an object as produced by a net force is directly proportional to the magnitude of the net force, in the same direction as the net force, and inversely proportional to the mass of the object.

The simplified equation to go along with this is f=m*a (force = mass x acceleration).

Basically, this is how you work out what kind of energy (thrust) you need. It’s important for getting off the ground, getting into orbit and staying there, etc. Of course, the problem is that, as your fuel depletes, your mass decreases. Ask your professional for help.

– Newton’s Third Law:

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

The most well known. It takes two to tango. It also takes two to create a reaction. This is how you move in space. If you want to stop, you’ll want an action that will create enough of an opposite reaction to stop you. In other words, reverse thrust. This is why you need to not run out of fuel while still moving.

Some people have a hard time understanding how this works in the vacuum of space, where there is nothing for the craft to push off. It is simply that the thrusters push the exhaust gasses, created by burning fuel, in the opposite direction to where they want to go. Newton does the rest. The gasses going one way is the action, the craft going the other is the equal and opposite reaction.

This also means you have to be careful with seemingly mundane things. If your robotic sidekick runs out of batteries and you need to take out a screw to put the new ones in, you’ll need a special screwdriver so that you don’t spin instead of said screw.

Newton's Cradle Planets

So, that’s about it. You’re now less unprepared to take a giant leap for mankind. Have fun. Make us look good if you run into any aliens. Don’t forget your lessons, always ask your professional if you’re unsure, and go to the bathroom before you leave. But you’re still probably going to die.

When I first looked back at the Earth, standing on the Moon, I cried.
Alan Shepard on his time on the moon during the Apollo 14 mission, February 1971


This blog was originally written for Uproar Comics.

The Big Blue Boy Scout

Superman - Truth. Justice. Hope.

The Man of Steel. Big Blue. The Man of Tomorrow. The Metropolis Marvel. Supes. The Boy Scout. The Last Son of Krypton. Smallville. Kal-El.

Superman.

He was one of the first superheroes and has endured 76 years of ups and downs for the comic industry – and it only took him 73 of those to learn where his underwear is meant to go. He is the template, the blueprint, for superpowered heroes who came after. And we still love him today. He still catches our imagination and makes us feel excited, like children again.

My first experience of him was from the Christopher Reeve films. I remember getting my mum to make me a cape out of a red velvet curtain, and poking the lenses out of an old pair of Ray-Bans (sorry!). Then I’d stroll around the living room in my Clark Kent disguise, until trouble inevitably erupted in a nearby land (the dining room). Then, off would come the glasses, and I’d fly, via the sofa and chairs, to said land. Apparently, the sewing machine’s brass-looking handles were actually Kryptonite, because it was on one of these, in the process of saving lives, that I fell off a chair and sliced my finger from top to bottom. Even Superman can cry.

Age 7 was the start of my depression and it was partly due to this that, for more years than I can recall, I’d go out into the garden, stare straight up at the sky and try as hard as I could to take off. Perhaps it’s for the best that I never did, because my dad carrying me through the house while I pretended to fly taught me that flying is damn sore on the back.

But that’s about as far as my personal story with Superman goes. I didn’t grow up with comics; I grew up with Knight Rider, James Bond, Indiana Jones, Crocodile Dundee, and the Dean Cain Superman series. He was only one of my ‘heroes’, as it were – though I never really considered anyone my hero.

Superman Saved My Life

But everywhere I look, there are a lot of real people who have been brought through real tragedies and trying times by Superman. He isn’t just an inspiration and symbol of hope to those 2D citizens in comic books, he’s a very real symbol to very real people. And I think there’s something quite remarkable about that. That symbol is hope. You might be surprised, after the “It means ‘Hope’” scene in Man of Steel, that the S emblem on Superman’s suit didn’t actually mean that for a long, long time. Not until the 2000s, in fact. To me, this is a case of writers realising that Superman himself had become a symbol of hope, and so it made sense to bring the emblem’s meaning into alignment.

Even as a baby, he was sent away from a dying world as their last hope. As a baby, he embodied hope.

So Superman is the shining beacon of hope. The bright blue ideal that many other superheroes look to for inspiration and leadership. He is the icon that shows us that there is something better out there, that we can be something greater. He is a shining light in the darkness not because of his strength and his powers but because of his purity, his incorruptible moral compass. It’s probably rivalled only by that of Captain America. He is unwavering in his ethics and values, and will not stray from or betray those under any circumstances, no matter what he faces and no matter the personal cost. That is an ideal many people find inspiring and aspire to. He is an example to people in this way and relatable for us because he doesn’t put himself on a pedestal. He doesn’t consider himself better than humans in any way, even while some of those humans refer to him as a god.

superman cries

What makes him so relatable is very human: loneliness. He is the last of his people (in some storylines), his birth family is dead, his Earth father dies relatively early-on, and (again, in some storylines) his Earth mother dies later on too. He embodies the sense of isolation that so many people feel. Although he has adopted humans as his people and Earth as his home, he is alone. Kal-El is neither Superman – the invulnerable, perfect hero – or Clark – the bumbling fool. These are two facades he puts on every day and so, surrounded as he is by people, he is still profoundly alone.

And Superman doesn’t just save the world from larger-than-life villains, he is there for people. For individuals. An alien who has travelled the stars, battled gargantuan monsters, and…bent steel, cares as much for individual people as he does for the world and humanity as a whole. Whenever we fall, he is there to pick us up.

So a near-perfect, incorruptible symbol he may be, but he is also relatable.

But is an alien with so much power that he could rule the world, but instead chooses to serve it, a bit boring? The struggle for acceptance and against loneliness is more of a theme rather than something directly addressed, and his choices always come across as easy for the Man of Steel. Physically, he is practically invincible.

Many people think that Superman is too perfect, too overpowered, too boring. I can kind of understand why, but even my limited knowledge of the character leads me to believe that if those people read more about him, they might appreciate him a little more.

Superman does what is right. That doesn’t mean that it’s easy. Sometimes his choices, though clearly right, are a struggle for him. He doesn’t fail to make those choices, but in some ways this means he sacrifices more, and more frequently, than many other heroes. No matter the cost, he will always do what is right.

Superman - remarkable dichotomy

Perhaps he is overpowered for normal battles. But there are plenty of supervillains out there to equal his strength and power. Again, it is usually his purity and the good within him that allow him to overcome. Do we hear the same amount about how overpowered Thor, the god of thunder, is? Or Green Lantern, with his ring that creates practically anything he wants? Superman gets beaten to a pulp as much as, say, Batman, does he not? So, what’s it all about? He has a weakness to Kryptonite, and magic, and a surprising amount of other things, yet Batman can defeat him even without those. A human man. Dressed as a bat. But his biggest weakness is his humanity, his compassion, that same good within him. It can so easily be exploited.

Superman is not human, but he will give his life for us (and has). You may think that it wouldn’t be easy for him to do that, but I’ve just closed an article full of comic pages detailing all the ways to kill Superman, and it’s so long I gave up before I even got halfway through.

I don’t really understand the idea that darker, tortured heroes are better. Those who give in to their weaknesses on occasion. Why is that? Because being pure good is boring? Because identifying with someone like that, giving in, is easier than striving to be something greater?

Batman isn’t too different to Superman, but he isn’t considered boring. Is that because his broken bones don’t heal as fast as Superman’s? Because he breaks lots of other people’s bones? He’s human and risks his life every time he goes out, but…so does Superman. The things that threaten the latter’s life are just, by necessity, more out-of-this-world.

The real world would be a better place with Superman. Not because of his powers, or because it would be cool to look up and see him flying overhead, but because of his purity, his morals, his ideals. And if that’s all it takes to make the world a better place, then shouldn’t we all strive to be Superman? If he, an alien, can be humanity’s greatest example, why cant we?
I think that is why Superman endures.

And now, because I don’t know how to end this article…here’s Martian Manhunter:

“Though we gather here today, bound together in sorrow and loss, we share a precious gift. We are, all of us, privileged to live a life that has been touched by Superman. The Man of Steel possessed many extraordinary gifts, and he shared them with us freely. None of these gifts were more remarkable than his ability to discern what needed to be done, and his unfailing courage in doing it, whatever the personal cost. Let us all strive to accept his gift, and pass it along, as an ongoing tribute to Kal-El of Krypton, the immigrant from the stars, who taught us all how to be heroes.” – Martian Manhunter

Thank you, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

This article was originally written for Uproar Comics.