Veg Out

Neal Stephenson’s take on Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith in the New York times is interesting on a few levels. He makes some common observations, such as the prevalence of geeky details in supplementary material of the Star Wars universe (such as the Clone Wars cartoons or books), but the real gem is his explanation for why the geeky stuff is mostly absent from the film:

Modern English has given us two terms we need to explain this phenomenon: “geeking out” and “vegging out.” To geek out on something means to immerse yourself in its details to an extent that is distinctly abnormal – and to have a good time doing it. To veg out, by contrast, means to enter a passive state and allow sounds and images to wash over you without troubling yourself too much about what it all means.

Stephenson says the original Star Wars is a mixture of veg and geek scenes, while the new movies are almost all veg out material. The passive vegging out he describes is exactly how I think of the prequels (except that Episode III seems to have a couple of non-veg out scenes, which is one of the reasons I think it fares better than the other prequels). He also makes a nice comparison to the business world, but then takes a sudden sort of indirect dive towards outsourcing and pessimism at the end of the article, making a vague reference to going “the way of the old Republic.”

I’m not sure I agree with those last few paragraphs. I see the point, but it’s presented as a given. Many have noted Stephenson could use a good editor for his recent novels, and it looks to me like Stephenson was either intentionally trying to keep it short (it’s only two pages – not what you’d expect from someone who routinely writes 900 page books, including three that are essentially a single 2700 page novel) or his article was edited down to fit somewhere. In either case, I’m sure he could have expounded upon those last paragraphs to the tune of a few thousand words, but that’s what I like about the guy. Not that the article is bad, but I prefer Stephenson’s longwinded style. Ironically, Stephenson has left the details out of his article; it reads more like a power-point presentation that summarizes the bullet points of his argument than the sort of in-depth analysis I’m used to from Stephenson. As such, I’m sure there are a lot of people who would take issue with some of his premises. Perhaps it’s an intentional irony, or (more likely) I’m reading too much into it.

1 thought on “Veg Out”

  1. As I’m sure you know, I love Stephenson’s writing…I enjoy how long winded he can be, especially since a bit of his humor depends on it.

    I also didn’t think it was that great of an article, though I did see what he was trying to say. My main problems with the article:

    First of all…honestly, Episode 4 – 6…I love them, like many people, but if I look back honestly, they’re not really the greatest movies I’ve ever seen. Much as I love them, there are plenty of things in them that are annoying or lmae (the Ewoks come to mind). So, to look back through memroy hazed by nostalgia to compare the new movies to the old is perhaps not so fair.

    Secondly…we get it, Neal. You like geeks. That’s cool, and I’m glad that you do, and continue to write about them. Now, can we have fewer articles and statements about how god-like geeks are?

    I really like Stephenson, but the geek worship gets to the point where it reads like postings on slashdot…”We’re geeks, and we rule. Everyone else is inferior/doesn’t understand us.” It’s why I hate reading the comments over there…people get more than a little full of themselves.

    That said, I will happily read anything Stephenson has written, even a two page article in the NY Times, and enjoy it, even if I disagree on some key points.


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