Coming back from walkabout

I’m just stopping in to let the Loyal 3.6 know that I am still alive and (approximately) functioning, but I have been submerged in a wallow of trashy pop culture whilst waiting for my brain to return from going walkabout.

Thanks to all who spoke up in favour of my M*A*S*H pieces; I shall continue the series, and have the next instalment in drydock, waiting for the hull to be put on. This language may possibly be figurative. At present my shipyard has three or four unfinished essais, also including a new piece by H. Smiggy McStudge, and some all-new content to put in the Style is the Rocket collection, in a mean and scurvy attempt to part you all from three of your hard-earned dollars. My resident mathematical genius informs me that $3 × 3.6 = $10.80 or thereabouts, and I plan to squander this ill-gotten fortune upon riotous living. I may buy a pizza.

However, those pieces remain unfinished at present, because I took them up to the point where I required my brain to put in some work, and it was off doing Crocodile Dundee stuff somewhere in Western Australia. When last heard from, it was lounging about in the Pilbara, contemplating the ancient rock formations. Over three billion years ago, Pilbara was joined up with a chunk of what is now South Africa to form a primaeval continent which the geologists call Vaalbara; the oldest stone yet dated in the Earth’s crust, so I am told, is a chunk of sandstone from Vaalbara nearly four billion years old. Since sandstone is sedimentary, this rock formation was made up of the eroded rubble from still older Vaalbaran rocks – which takes you impressively close to the origins of the Earth itself. It is soothing and reassuring, at my brain’s age, to keep company with things even older than oneself.

Needless to say, I myself have never been to the Pilbara. My brain is ashamed of me and never takes me anywhere.

So I stayed behind, as I have said, wallowing in pop culture. I mentioned a while back that John Williams wrote the incidental music for both Star Wars and Gilligan’s Island; and I have come to the important conclusion that both these works are, in fact, the same story – if you squint at them just right. Five passengers and a crew of two board a rickety old vessel and set sail on what is supposed to be a short and routine voyage, whereupon everything imaginable goes wrong. It is true that the five passengers were never aboard the Millennium Falcon simultaneously; this is one of the ways in which George Lucas filed the serial numbers off of his sources. But once you have made the basic identification (as the folklorists would say), the rest becomes clear. Consider:

Han Solo and Chewbacca are obviously the Skipper and Gilligan, respectively. Han is in charge; there are any number of times when, if he had owned a hat, he would undoubtedly have whacked Chewie on the head with it. The Falcon is Han’s Minnow, an ancient tub which ought to remain in a museum somewhere, but which he insists on jury-rigging with bad repair work and shoving off in, and to hell with the consequences.

C-3PO and R2-D2 are clearly the Howells, an aging married couple with more money than brains. Nothing says billionaire bling, after all, like a solid gold protocol droid. Threepio is obviously Mrs. Howell. They not only speak with the same accent, they even have similar mannerisms, including a way of throwing their hands up (just from the elbow) for emphasis. Artoo, like Jim Backus, is a reliable scene-stealer. His personality, however, probably owes more to another of Jim Backus’s characters, Mr. Magoo. Artoo and Magoo are both short, bald, and on occasion, stupidly brave, one because he doesn’t know what he is getting into, the other because he is too nearsighted to see it.

Obi-Wan Kenobi is obviously the Professor. He knows everything, explains it to everybody, and is nearly always wrong.

This leaves a conundrum, for we have left two female roles and only one woman in the Star Wars cast. A little thought compels the conclusion that Princess Leia is Ginger Grant. The Slave Leia costume is the sort of thing one can well imagine Ginger wearing, but that Mary Ann would not have been caught dead in. Besides, the equation of glamour between movie stars and princesses is well known, as Grace Kelly and Rita Hayworth especially could attest.

This leaves one with the inescapable conclusion: Luke Skywalker is Mary Ann.

At first this seems odd, but a closer look reveals the similarities. A farm kid from the middle of nowhere dreams of travelling and seeing the world, or galaxy, as the case may be. The first time away from home, he or she has the bad luck and poor judgement to book passage on a doomed vessel, on which, as mentioned above, everything imaginable goes wrong. He or she never reaches the intended destination, but winds up running aground on the sandy shore of an uncharted Death Star.

Clearly the two stories are the same, and if they had been traditional folktales, Sir James George Frazer would have devoted a chapter of The Golden Bough to this surprising but incontrovertible mythological identity.


  1. This analogy resonates with me. Rather like a didgeridoo.

  2. Sir, I do believe you are a genius.

    And I would like you to know that though I rarely speak up, I have bought and plan to continue buying each of your books as quickly as they come off the digital press. Genius, after all, deserves the kind of encouragement that helps put bread on the table.

  3. Andrew Parrish says

    This is uproariously funny. Absolute gold. Thanks for posting.

  4. Bravo.

  5. Carbonel says

    V. Amusing. Thank you. Looking forward to plunking down some cash-y money for SITR.

  6. Matt Osterndorf says

    I’m looking forward to reading Rocket. If it’s anything like your other essay collections, I’ll treasure it to digital dust.

  7. I about spit my Cheerios reading your one inescapable conclusion. I too am looking forward to purchasing Rocket.

  8. Stephen J. says

    “Luke Skywalker is Mary Ann.”

    The interesting thing is, when you ask a bunch of guys who they’d rather date, Ginger or Mary Ann, you get a fairly even split: Ginger is more overtly glamorous, but a lot of guys seem to find Mary Ann’s sweet innocence just as appealing for its own sake (and some because they imagine it to conceal a rather more earthy or carnal nature). When, on the other hand, you ask a bunch of girls who they’d rather date, Han or Luke, the predilection is obvious and massive: Han, by a landslide.

    This may demonstrate the vast and profound gulf between masculine and feminine aesthetic thought, or it may just demonstrate that I’m unaware of Luke’s massive female fanbase, if he has one. Or it may demonstrate that I’m taking the whole thing entirely too seriously. But it struck me as an interesting curiosity.

    • Coming back to the matter late (which I hope you will forgive):

      It’s not so much the vast gulf between masculine and feminine aesthetic thought, as a difference in the attractiveness of personalities. You can never trust Ginger. She turns on the charm at the drop of a hat, and pretends to be wildly attracted to any man she happens to want something from; and the moment she has got it (or been refused), she switches it off again. It’s obvious that she is not genuinely attracted to anyone; the only thing she really loves, it would seem, is her own reputation. Han Solo is a rogue, a scoundrel, and a reprobate, but he is not so self-absorbed as to be incapable of genuine feeling for others. I think audiences are sensitive to this difference.

      As for myself, if Mary Ann expressed an affection for me, I could frame to believe that she meant it; whereas I would not believe the same from Ginger on any terms, because she is such an inveterate liar on the subject. I would not trust Ginger as far as I could throw the S. S. Minnow.

    • Depends on the pair of guys whether we find them real alternatives. An example with more even-handedness would be Napoleon and Illya, for instance.

      • Matt Osterndorf says

        Is Napoleon the French general, the pig from Animal Farm, or someone else entirely?

        I looked up Illya and the only results I found related to some anime girl. My only other guess is one without any particular factual merit, which is that it’s a nickname for Vladimir Lenin. Perhaps Animal Farm has put me in a Soviet frame of mind.

        • I think she means Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin, from The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

          • Matt Osterndorf says

            I am not doing very well on this thread.

            Although in this particular case it’s probably because I’m eighteen and had never heard of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

            • Not to worry. I am older than the hills, and while I have heard of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., I have never actually watched it. ‘Spy stuff’ was never my thing, except for the gloriously goofy send-up thereof in Get Smart.

            • I confess to having seen it only in re-runs, myself. But the contrasting heroes are archetypal.

  9. Anonymous says

    So you’re a Sad Puppy? Gosh, how terribly difficult your life must be, as a straight white man. No one has ever written from your point of view, and the whole world is against you. I will make a point of forwarding money to your bank account to make up for the centuries of abuse and discrimination you have suffered.

    • Matt Osterndorf says

      The problem here is that nobody is seriously making the claims you’re parodying, mostly because reasonable people don’t treat victimhood as a prerequisite to being a writer.

    • I am not a ‘Puppy’ of any description, nor am I personally concerned with the current squabble over a worthless award. My post makes no mention of the matter on either side, and you are both impertinent and stupid to drag it into the comments. I do have the honour to be employed (irregularly) as Editor-at-Large of Abyss & Apex, which is one of many nominees on this year’s Sad Puppies list; and if it is to this that you refer, I suppose I must plead nolo contendere. However, I am neither the editor nor the publisher, and the decision to accept the nomination was not mine to make. I am therefore free of any guilt that your fevered imagination may somehow attach to the association.

      I have not suffered ‘centuries of abuse and discrimination’, and nor have you, nor has any human being alive; we don’t live that long, and the nervous system is not so constructed as to inherit pain from our ancestors. But I do have, it seems, to suffer ignoramuses like you attacking me without warrant, without reason, and above all, without manners. I advise you to be silent about things that you obviously know nothing about.

      • Matt Osterndorf says

        “My post makes no mention of the matter on either side, and you are both impertinent and stupid to drag it into the comments.”

        I apologize. It’s a bad habit of mine and I’ll try to leave it behind on this blog.

        • My remark was not directed at you, but at Anonymous above. You have nothing to apologize for, and I am honoured to have you as a guest and commenter.

          • Matt Osterndorf says

            Oh. I read it as “you both are impertinent,” etc.

            Thanks for your kind words.

            • Ah, yes. I can see how that happened. No, it is Anonymous who is impertinent and stupid; he, she, or it performs both those roles, evidently without external assistance. If you wish to volunteer for one of those adjectives, to take some of the surplus weight off of Anonymous’s brain, I suppose you may; but I should advise you, Sir, to choose impertinent, and leave stupidity to one who is evidently far better qualified for it than your good self.

              • Carbonel says

                And that’s how you write invective. Obscenities really do “cheapen the soul and weaken the mind.”

                Well said, sir.

  10. Brilliant, Tom! Welcome back.

  11. Hello Mr. Simon,

    Just so you know, the offer to submit a robot story is officially still on the table. It hasn’t been sent in officially to the editors yet.

    • Hello, Mr. Cynic!

      I do thank you for the offer, but unfortunately, I haven’t had any suitable ideas for a story. Best of luck with the anthology!

      • Thank you! I wasn’t counting on anybody else, necessarily; “I, Robot” had nine stories, so that was our minimum, and we’ve got ten from six authors. So it’s being proofread, and is going to be officially submitted soon. I just knew you were in the middle of radio silence, and I didn’t want to cut you out if you came up with an idea.

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