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I haven’t kept this project updated with new novels or new films – it’s something that I’ll try to do more frequently. But I wanted to leave one thought here as a possible prompt for a future essay or keynote: what does science fiction have to say about literacy (not simply “school” or “education” per se)?

After Star Wars released a trailer for its upcoming moving, The Last Jedi, someone commented on Twitter that they thought it was the first time they’d seen print in the Star Wars (movie) universe. Indeed, in 2012, Ryan Britt had made a similar observation about the absence of reading and writing, arguing that “Most Citizens of the Star Wars Galaxy are Probably Totally Illiterate”:

Not once in any Star Wars movie does someone pick up a book or newspaper, magazine, literary journal, or chapbook handmade by an aspiring Jawa poet. If something is read by someone in Star Wars, it’s almost certainly off of a screen (and even then, maybe being translated by a droid), and it’s definitely not for entertainment purposes. As early as the 1990s-era expanded Star Wars books and comic books, we’re introduced to ancient Jedi “texts” called holocrons, which are basically talking holographic video recordings.

This raises all sorts of questions about the decline of literacy and the rise of authoritarianism. But it also makes me think about the rise of robots and the decline of literacy as well. In our imagination, of course. I'm sure none of this will actually come to pass...

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Audrey Watters


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