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The "Versus Culture"

The "Versus" culture is a way by which fans of different soft sci fi franchises compare the capabilities of the ships and tech in their respective universes.

obligatory disclaimer: - The following is a humorous essay on "versus" subculture. This essay was originally included on the external link Orion's Arm website, but was removed as it was felt to be inapplicable to the OA Project. It is official OA policy not to engage in VS debates, although we cannot stop people from using our setting (or anything else) for that purpose. I decided therefore to put this essay up on my own Sci Fi section.

The Versus Subculture - with especial reference to Star Wars and Star Trek

A few fans of various Sci Fi universes - especially the popular mass-media franchised ones like Star Trek and Star Wars, on occasion tend to be very dismissive of rival universes and franchises. This is not to say all, or even the majority, do, just the opposite in fact; and most SF fans can appreciate each universe for what it has to offer. But there are some individuals who state that the ships, weapons, industrial capacity and so on, of the universe of their preferred franchise - assuming it is in fact real - is much more powerful that that of their rival(s). This has resulted in the "Versus" phenomenon, "VS" for short

Currently the two most popular franchises would have to be Star Trek and Star Wars, and here is where most of the arguments and discussions are.

The best known is engineer Mike Wong's StarDestroyer site at external link Star Wars vs Star Trek, in which he argues, with great persuasiveness, as to the superiority of Star Wars technology over Star Trek technology (assuming for the sake of argument that the tech that both franchises describe could actually work). The chapter on the phaser, the most unergonomic weapon ever designed, and how a phaser beam is supposed to disintegrate a person (or person-sized object) without any backwash of energy, superheated steam etc (answer - by converting them to neutrinos!), are among the many amusing observations that reveal how silly sillytech really is.

Not surprisingly, one also finds a rival site that - using only canonical sources from both franchises - argues with equal persuasiveness, as to the superiority of Star Trek over Star Wars technology - external link  Star Trek vs Star Wars. Here again there is much to inform and entertain. The section on how vulnerable the Stormtrooper Armor is (pierced by Ewok arrows) shows how implausible a universe created by someone with no background in military technology, hard science, etc can be (however, this would be refuted from the Stardestroyer site, just as the impracticality in SW tech (such as the phaser example mentioned above) would be refuted from the Star Trek vs Star Wars site).

Just compare the following two pages for some examples of how this works (or doesn't) :-)

As to how one person can argue that Star Wars can easily beat Star Trek, and the other that Star Trek can beat Star Wars, both using canonical sources, reminds me of how radically different religious sects can each base their beliefs on the same Bible. One also gets the impression - reading these sites and the associated correspondence and various message boards - that there is a fair amount of ill feeling on both sides. Obviously the fans of the respective franchises have invested a lot of emotion in their preferred franchise.

Given the vast amount of time and effort and love these authors have put in their sites, it is easy to forgot that neither author is arguing for the plausibility of one universe over the other, but rather, arguing which is more powerful, by comparing what we know about both universes to be factual in their respective canon (and there is even disagreement on what constitutes the SW canon), and determining which has the superior technology on that basis. Mike Wong for example doesn't claim that anything in either SW or ST is plausible. Rather, he analyses the way the society and tech stuff works in that universe, as if it were real, because thats the only method that functions properly. The same goes for "G2k" (the author of ST-v-SW.Net) and other debaters as well. In vs. debates, the debates are not about which is the most plausible or realistic (although there are a few debaters who apparently do believe the universe of their choice is the more realistic) but which has the superior technology and military power, all other things being equal.

Even so, there is a serious problem with all these VS arguments. That is, they all assume that both universes rest on the same (imagined) physical laws. But it is clear that (within the limits of their restricted soft science and sillytech settings) each of the franchises rest on very different laws. For example, the SW Universe has something called Midichlorians (sillyscience). The ST universe has something called dilithium crystals (more sillyscience). These things are true within those particular (soft science) universes. So why assume that the laws of the SW and ST universes are even the same? For example Mike Wong points out that "Hyperdrive allows us (SW Empire) to traverse a galaxy in hours or days." but "Their (ST Federation) warp drive is so slow that they require decades to cross their galaxy." This of course forgets the fact that the ST universe is one in which there is no such thing as Hyperdrive! Similarily the SW universe is one in which there is no such thing as warp drive. So each universe is different from the word go. This simply reflects the different approaches of Messrs Roddenberry and Lucas. It is not that one's creation is "better" or "more powerful" than the other.

However, when vs. debates are engaged in, as a rationalisation, it is assumed that both universes have all the same relevant laws of physics and that the various civilizations just have not discovered them all (so the Empire has not yet discovered dilithium crystals, and so on).

Another problem with the "VS" sites is their inherent "munchkinism" i.e. the tendency to say how much better their franchise is than the rival one, even though anyone who knows science knows that none of it is real, and never can be real, as presented in the movies and on TV, which are just a form of entertainment. Sillytech is not meant to be explained in this way!

For example the SW Empire has more colonised worlds, a bigger population, better ground forces, and bigger ships including the odd moon-sized death star (although admittedly the latter was easily destroyed by young Skywalker), while the ST Federation has much fewer worlds and smaller ships that take longer to build. But is this really that important? After all, the ST Federation may be stronger than the B5 Earth Alliance (the former seem to have much more powerful (shields, weapons, etc) ships). Does that mean ST is better than B5? B5 for example doesnt seem to have shields (or maybe they do). That makes their ships weaker from a "vs" perspective, but it also makes B5 more realistic than ST. One assumes in the B5 universe, the SW and ST ships would be unable to generate shields.

still under construction

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content by M Alan Kazlev.
page uploaded 2 June 2003, removed from OA website 27 Nov 2003; uploaded to the Kheper website and modified (menus) 18 January 2005, last modified (menus) 10 January 2006