Sith, Slayers, Stargates, + Cyborgs
John Perlich and David Whitt
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Buy *Sith, Slayers, Stargates, + Cyborgs: Modern Mythology in the New Millennium* by John Perlich and David Whitt

Sith, Slayers, Stargates, + Cyborgs: Modern Mythology in the New Millennium
John Perlich and David Whitt
Peter Lang Publishing
232 pages
February 2008
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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In the digital age, the idea of mythology takes on entirely new meanings. Less often does the mythology, a type of cultural cohesive, manifest in a long-spinning tale told and sung by some performer. Rather more uniformly in American culture, our mythology comes from the fantastic and the amazing presented to us in the form of television and film in the genre of science fiction. Whether you want to be a Jedi, a Klingon, a vampire hunter or are just fine with being a muggle, this collection of essays gives readers an interesting and sophisticated understanding of some of the classic and paradigm-changing science-fiction series that help shape our modern mythological landscape.

The selected pieces of study make up an excellent and well-rounded mix of influential and pivotal pieces, well-established and often highly regarded for their more powerful and influential narratives. Text under authors’ scrutiny include Star Wars, Teen Titans, Battlestar Galactica, Stargate, Firefly, Dark City, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Trek and, most interesting, Spaceballs. While overall the chapters work well together and are interesting, their categorization into sections feels a bit coerced and more a matter of habit than necessity.

Given the cultural significance of Star Wars, the opening essay “I’ve Got a Bad Feeling About This…: Lucas Gets Lost on the Path of Mythos” by John Perlich, may cause some readers to stop right there. His argument addresses whether Star Wars in its entirety (first and second trilogy) constitute a passable mythos. Ultimately, his argument rests on pseudo-scientific explanation of the Force in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, ruining a core aspect of mysticism and thus crumbling the entire possibility. It’s not entirely believable - or rather, Perlich doesn’t approach the series in story-order but in order of chronological release. This approach is akin to dealing with Odysseus and Telemachus’s battle on Ithaca before going back and reading the first half of The Odyssey.

Regardless of disposition on Perlich’s piece, readers will enjoy all of these articles, though they may find themselves drifting to those that are more interesting, relevant, or familiar. The book’s two gems are Michael Marek’s “Firefly: So Pretty It Could Not Die” and Beth E. Bonnstetter’s “Of Structures, Stories, and Spaceballs: Parody as Criticism of Genre Film and Myth.” Marek’s article does a fantastic job of deconstructing the short-lived Firefly and accompanying film (Serenity). While it might have been useful to see him tackle the comic book as well, he still does a lot with the series, extrapolating some of the more impressive and powerful elements that the series accomplished. Bonnstetter’s article, on the other, hand is a rewarding if not amusing assessment of how Spaceballs used elements of parody and intertextuality to remind us of what we are tying into when we find comfort in these newer mythologies.

While certainly a book that academics can utilize, the lay reader will also find Sith, Slayers, Stargates, + Cyborgs accessible and insightful. Whitt and Perlich have put together an impressive collection that reveals the inner workings of some of the most popular and attractive narratives in our culture.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Lance Eaton, 2008

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