This week I find myself ruminating about the power of Belief. I received my first rejection back for my story “Silence Will Fall.” The story came out as well as I hoped. It differed from my dream slightly (the ending), but matched the tone that I wanted. I decided to submit it to a larger publication for SF, but alas, as always it seems, it came back fairly quickly. Like, an earlier post this year, “The Well is Dry,” I find myself wondering what’s the use? Publishing a story every 2-3 years is NOT the way to build a writing career. Unlike that post, however, I find that I’m trying to take the lesson that Luke learns in the trilogy and apply it so as NOT to write another post like “The Well is Dry.”
Luke, in Episode IV, gets a bum rap. He gets tagged with the character traits of “whiny,” and “callous” and “annoying” in popular culture than he really should based on the movie. The character is a product of his time and a teenager to boot, so it should come as no surprise that Luke acts like a (surprise!) a teenager from the 1970’s (yes, I know in the fiction, Luke comes from “A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far Away,” but Lucas’ model was the 1970’s–the fuzzy dice hanging from the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon is a dead giveaway.) Yet, Luke’s journey with the Force is the KEY to the character. Luke goes from being able to sense the Force during his practice against the remote to actively using it in the battle against the Death Star. They pivotal scene for me is when Luke switches off his targeting computer. The power of Faith/Belief in something larger than yourself is on full display with this scene. When Ben’s voice implores him to “use the Force,” his switching off the computer is an act that signifies that he can’t trust the information of the physical world to help him, but that in order to be successful, he MUST believe in the Force and use it to help guide him to the perfect time to fire in order to destroy the death star. The movie even shows the result of blindly relying on technology when the first X-Wing’s trench run results in the “bomb’s just impacting on the surface.” The Force is NECESSARY for the success of the mission–without it there can be no victory.
EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
“I don’t believe it.” (Luke)
“That is why you failed.” (Yoda)
This sums up the entire movie–the lack of faith. Even though Luke is following his dream and learning more about the Force, he is living too much in the physical world. He doesn’t have the same Faith in the Force. Like any student, he must question his teacher and ask the why of things. Now that he is learning about the Force at a deeper level, the need to know seems to override his instinctive reliance on the Force and listen to its rhythms. Yoda, for instance, tells him that he will not need his weapons in the cave of the Dark Side, but Luke doesn’t listen. The look on his face is actually one of incredulity and defiance. What do you mean I won’t need my weapons; this place is dangerous, the look seems to say in one quick glance at Yoda. What Yoda knows and Luke later discovers is that the cave is an illusion and is meant to show him what the Dark Side holds for Luke should Vader and the Emperor manage to turn him to the Dark Side. Another instance where Luke doesn’t believe in the Force’s powers is when he rushes to save his friends before finishing his training. Both Yoda and the spirit of Ben counsel Luke to stay and finish his training, but Luke ignores the counsel of both of them who are far greater in tune with the Force than he is.
THE RETURN OF THE JEDI
If The Empire Strikes Back is a repudiation of the Force, then Return of the Jedi is a calm acceptance of the Force. Han doubts Luke’s abilities (“you’re going to die here, you know,” as he tells Luke when the are on Jabba’s barge on the way to the Sarlacc pit. Luke calmly tells Vader “that my father is truly dead,” when Vader prepares to bring him before the Emperor. Even at the end, when the Emperor goads Luke to take up the Lightsaber and he has to fight Vader, he is able to stop himself before he becomes like Vader. Even the resolution of the story rests, not on a massive fight scene to the death, but a son’s belief that there is still a good man wrapped in the evil shell that is Vader. Luke’s agency in that scene is that he trusts in his intuition and insight into his father’s character. Without that trust, without having faith and accepting the Force, even when it seems contrary to what is happening in the physical world, Luke would not have succeeded.
IMPLICATIONS FROM MY WRITING
This is something that I need to remember for my own writing. The rejection letter came from the first market on Wed. (10/19). Add to the fact that I was sick with a sinus infection or something, and it really seemed like hopeless. After reflecting on the movie, I just have try and believe–even when it seems hopeless. I just sent the story to a 2nd market today and I have a 3rd market ready to go should it also quickly come back this week.
I really believe that Silence Will Fall is one of my best stories and that eventually it will find a home. I just have to my part and keep sending it out until it does.
May the Force Be With You, Always.