Boots Ri­ley on the pol­i­tics of sci-fi

SFX - - Red Alert -

“I’m a sci-fi fan def­i­nitely,” says Boots Ri­ley, the rap star who makes both his di­rect­ing and genre de­but with Sorry To Bother You, “but I have a cri­tique of sci-fi in that many peo­ple on the left hide in sci-fi. They hide in it by cre­at­ing worlds that are so dif­fer­ent from our own that it’s fun to be in, but none of the lessons, none of the ideas that you put in there end up mean­ing any­thing.

“You could have ul­tra right-wing fans of Star Trek that say, ‘Star Trek is a so­cial­ist world,’ at least in the orig­i­nal ones. Star Wars was [orig­i­nally cre­ated], ac­cord­ing to Wal­ter Murch – who was part of that whole [Amer­i­can] Zoetrope thing – be­cause Ge­orge Lucas had the idea for what be­came Apoca­lypse Now. He was mak­ing a movie that was fol­low­ing the Viet Cong as the pro­tag­o­nists go to find their ver­sion of Kurtz, who was some­body that had gone over to work with the US and be­come this big pow­er­ful per­son. Lucas couldn’t get it funded, so he was like, ‘Okay, I’m putting that story in space.’ So the Rebels are the Viet Cong, the Em­pire is the United States.

“But the point is, does it mat­ter? You’re spend­ing your life writ­ing this thing, trapped away from peo­ple, sit­ting in bed­rooms and of­fices and cafés, writ­ing this stuff, putting these ideas about the world into these things that, as peo­ple take them in, it doesn’t mat­ter to them, be­cause we’ve di­vorced it so much from re­al­ity.

“The rea­son we can get them made is be­cause they’re di­vorced from re­al­ity. It’s not just that it’s es­capism. [These sto­ries are] so al­le­gor­i­cal that no­body un­der­stands what you’re get­ting at. And once they do un­der­stand, they can go on about their life with­out even ap­ply­ing it. I think there’s a way to use sci­ence fic­tion as a tool that doesn’t have to be so far re­moved from ev­ery­thing we’re do­ing [in real life].”

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