George Lucas has done a lot for — and some might say to — science fiction. But why isn't he doing the most important thing: nurturing the next generation?
A punier, more irradiated man's uncle once said, "with great power, comes great responsibility." I think we can all agree that there's no one more powerful in science fiction than George Lucas. The creative lightning bolt that was Star Wars cemented the director's reputation as a visionary - and his business acumen landed him atop a continually-renewing mountain of gold. And Lucas used that dough to, among other things, build a hidden fortress in Northern California that would allow him to pursue his filmmaking interests away from meddlesome Hollywood.
The Skywalker Ranch, for those of you who've never been, is as beautiful a place as you can imagine. Like the megalomillionaire John Hammond in Jurassic Park, Lucas "spared no expense" in his pursuit of pastoral excellence. His employees and clients enjoy a state-of-the-art work environment like no other, surrounded by rolling hills and lush vineyards, carefully planned and maintained with a painstaking attention to detail. There's even a hotel on the grounds, so those who come to avail themselves of the Ranch's robust facilities won't have to commute.
Now, that's all well and good, but my question is this: Why doesn't Lucas make like Robert Redford and, even once a year, open the gates of the Ranch and sponsor a Creators' Retreat? When Redford started the Sundance Institute back in 1981, it wasn't simply to have his own film festival. He wanted to, according to the official statement, "create an environment designed to foster independence, discovery, and new voices in American film." Why doesn't Lucas do the same thing?
He's got the space, he's got the money...why doesn't Lucas welcome the new voices in genre fiction (from film, television, comics, literature) to his compound and allow them time to create in the very place that's been so sustaining for him? Not that he has to shut down the lucrative businesses that operate on the Ranch for long — one week a year would be a wondrous opportunity for fertile minds.
Science fiction has long been one of the more encouraging communities — even the grandmasters of the form have been openly encouraging to those who would follow in their footsteps. Great ideas could, and would, come from anywhere, anyone. (Not for nothing was Star Trek: The Next Generation one of the last TV shows to have an open-submission policy.)
Why isn't George Lucas helping us find the next George Lucas?
(Photographs by Susan Spann, Gregg Segal)