Max Gladstone and the Giant Space Bees of Star Wars

With the recent announcement of the cast of the newest Star Wars movie, I must bring your attention to this absolutely delightful post written by Max Gladstone. In it, he outlines his theory that the humans depicted in the Star Wars franchise are in fact, not at all human. The post originally appeared on Max’s blog, and you can read the full text below. Max’s third novel, FULL FATHOM FIVE, will be available for sale on July 15, 2014.

Star Wars: A Long Time Ago, in a Hive Far Far Away?
by Max Gladstone

October 21st, 2013


“Honey Moon” Image from

There are no humans in Star Wars. This should be obvious from the title card.  We’re a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.  Human beings evolved on this planet, Sol 3, over the last sixty million years or so depending on how you count.  If we don’t want to go all “Chariots of the Gods?” we have to throw out the notion that the people represented by human actors in Star Wars movies are in fact human.  They’re something else.

Why represent them as human?  Let’s assume that the Star Wars movies are dramatizations of real history: that Luke, Leia, Han et. al. actually existed in a galaxy long, long ago (etc.), and that George Lucas accessed this history via the Force and wanted to represent it on film.  Star Wars tells the story of a dominant-species empire arising from a pluralistic society, then being overthrown by courageous rebels and warrior monks.  Lucas had to cast this drama with human actors, and the obvious choice was to use unmodified humans to represent the most common species.

While convenient, this approach does present one problem: watching the Original Trilogy, we assume that the ‘humans’ of the GFFA (Galaxy Far Far Away) are biologically and sociologically identical to Sol 3 humans.  When obviously they’re not!  In fact, I think a few important context clues present a very different picture of the dominant race of the Original Trilogy.

Gender is the most important clue.  The Original Trilogy has a shortage of women when considered by the standards of a two-sexed mammalian species.  Leia is the most prominent female, and the only one to feature in all three movies.  Aunt Beru and Mon Mothma also have named speaking roles.  Aside from these three, I can’t think of another definitely-female-definitely-’human’ in the series.  In RotJ Leia describes her mother, who is obviously a queen.  These females all possess at least local political and social authority.

Family is a second important clue—or, rather, the absence of family.  With one notable exception, people in the series don’t talk much about parentage.  No non-Force sensitive male ever describes his family, if I recall correctly.  Han, Lando, Wedge, Biggs, Tarkin, Dodonna, and so forth, all might as well have sprung from the brows of their ships.  In six+hours of film about war, I would expect to see someone to drop at least a single reference to parents of some sort.  The lack of strong family ties suggests that parenting relationships are much less close for most GFFA ‘humans’ than for Sol 3 humans—which in turn suggests large brood sizes, short gestation periods, young ages of maturity, or all of the above.

So we’re looking for an organism with large brood sizes, young ages of maturity, short gestation periods, and relatively few fertile females who naturally assume positions of social and organizational authority. Here is my modest theory: the GFFA’s ‘humans’ are in fact sentient hive insects, organized around a single queen, a handful of fertile males, and a horde of infertile female soldiers.  For parsimony’s sake, let’s assume that Force sensitivity in this species is possessed by fertile males and females, and that male actors used to represent non-Force sensitive characters are actually representing infertile females.

This explains a few things:

  • The Emperor’s Reproductive and Political Strategy.  The Emperor, a fertile male, has  replaced the old Queen, substituting the use of clone warriors for ‘normal’ biological reproduction.
  • The Horror of the Clone Wars.  The true horror of the Clone Wars thus becomes clear.  They’re not just wars in which cloning technology is used.  They’re wars in which the fundamental structure of the ‘human’ species is inverted: wars in which queens are killed, hives consolidated, and clones take the place of biological reproduction.  Wars about the use of clones instead of queens.
  • The Deal with Jabba’s Humanoid Slaves.  Doesn’t it seem weird that a presumably hermaphroditic gastropod should be so fascinated by displaying captive females of another phylum in bikinis?  The Hive Insect theory makes this habit a clear and calculated display of dominance, communicating to ‘human’ visitors that Jabba is to ‘human’ queens as queens are to drones and soldiers.  (This also suggests that Jabba’s interested in twi’lek girls because they look like ‘humans,’ but may be easier to come by—giving his character a bit of extra complexity, since he wants to communicate dominance to his followers in this way but isn’t able to do more than pretend until Leia comes along.)
  • Why Kill the Jedi?  I mean, sure, kill the old ones, but wouldn’t it be easier to convert younglings than wipe them out?  Well, drones in the absence of a queen naturally rear fertilized eggs into new queens.  If Palpatine is trying to destroy queen-dom, he cannot permit the existence of any drones who are not perfectly loyal to his New Order.  Conversion is apparently a brutal process.  Vader survived it; Luke might survive it.  Perhaps no one else did.
  • What’s with all the Death Stars?  It isn’t hard to annihilate all life on a planet from orbit.  If you’re in orbit, you’ve already done the hard part—just tractor some rocks into the surface.  Obviously a superweapon is nice to have, but why not buildjust the weapon and the shielding system?  That would be cheaper, certainly.  It seems that the superweapon is only part of the purpose of the Death Star—the Star is in fact an artificial hive, built as the perfect environment for the Emperor’s new clone-based society.

Admittedly, this doesn’t explain what’s going on between Leia and Han.  It’s possible that Han is in fact a drone and doesn’t know it—he is phenomenally lucky, after all, which suggests Force sensitivity.  On the other hand, it seems reasonable, given the importance of queens, that some sort of queen-soldier pairbonding could occur.  This may even be the sort of relationship that the Emperor is intending to replicate with Vader.

So that’s a theory.  I mean, what’s more likely—a Galaxy Far Far Away full of psychic alien super-bees, or one in which you can cross thirty solar systems and run into three women with speaking parts?

— DISCLAIMER: I love Star Wars.  It rocks.  And precisely because of this, it’s fun to tweak.  Obviously, the above argument only refers to the OT; the EU features a much broader range of characters and situations, and I don’t want to be responsible for creating a consistent interpretation of the prequel trilogies.  (Though just off the top of my head, Naboo-’humans’ do seem to fit with Hive Insect theory.)


ABOUT MAX GLADSTONE: Max’s first two novels, Three Parts Dead and Two Serpents Rise were published by Tor Books in 2012 and 2013.  Full Fathom Five, the next book in the Craft Sequence, is due out on July 15, 2014. Max has taught in southern Anhui, wrecked a bicycle in Angkor Wat, and been thrown from a horse in Mongolia.  Max graduated from Yale University, where he studied Chinese. Follow him on Twitter: @maxgladstone.


Tor Books – May 2014 Releases

We’ve got some really excellent titles coming soon from Tor this May. What are you looking forward to?

9780765337511_FC (1) 9780765337245_FC MotherlessChild-4pass 9780765330284_FC 9780765332653_FC 9781466810686_FC 9781466843103_FC 9780765337108_FC 9780765329028_FC

May 6 – American Craftsmen by Tom Doyle – Excerpt

May 6 – People of the Morning Star by W. Michael Gear & Kathleen O’Neal Gear

May 13 – Motherless Child by Glen Hirshberg – Excerpt

May 20 – The Severed Streets by Paul Cornell – Excerpt

May 20 – My Real Children by Jo Walton – Excerpt

May 20 – The Boost by Stephen Baker – Excerpt

May 20 – Cyador’s Heirs by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. – Excerpt

May 27 – Artemis Awakening by Jane Lindskold – Excerpt

May 27 – Strange Country by Deborah Coats – Excerpt


Short Fiction Review – Martin Cahill and Nancy Hightower

Short fiction is a new realm for me. I’m completely fascinated with structure and how people write, so I’m taking a critical look at short fiction magazines lately as a sort of hobby of mine. I am lucky enough to count several writers among my friends, including Martin Cahill and Nancy Hightower, and it’s been a privilege to read their recently published short stories. I am blown away by their talent, and I wanted to share my thoughts on each of their stories here.

coverI discovered Nancy’s story, “Bound,” when she read it at the New York Review of Science Fiction reading series earlier in the year. I have a problem with fidgeting at readings, but this time I was completely engrossed in the story, and I knew I had to read it again when it came out in Bourbon Penn in February. This story is very surreal, and what I love about it is that you don’t really know what’s real and what’s imaginary, but it has enough emotional depth and engagement with the characters that you know what you WANT to be real. You can read the full story for free here. Tell me what you think in the comments!

Nightmare_19_April_2014-200x300The second story, “It Was Never the Fire,” by my friend Martin Cahill, is the second of his that I’ve had the pleasure of reading, but the first published story that the rest of you absolutely should read yourselves. This story was published today in the April issue of Nightmare Magazine, so a hearty congratulations goes out to Marty! Marty is a very talented new writer who is about to start a new adventure this summer at Clarion Writer’s Workshop in San Diego (I’m completely jealous), and after having read his work, I can see him becoming a very strong voice in the genre in the future. “It Was Never the Fire” is a beautifully poetic, dark, and surreal story that just grabs hold of you and doesn’t let go. I devoured this one. Marty has a gift with the way he uses language to instantly captivate the reader and bring them right into the story. I’m really looking forward to seeing what else he comes up with in the future. GO READ THIS STORY NOW. It’s free, and I want to know if you love it as much as I do.