Amusingly, whatever one's opinion of the outcome of this contest, the simple fact remains that I was almost completely correct. By late 2004 or early 2005, I had settled on the concept of separate canons for the Lucas movie universe and Licensing's Expanded Universe, which is generally what is argued for in this debate. Lucas had continued to make comments assigning Licensing's Expanded Universe to a separate, parallel universe, reaching a tipping point among many Star Wars fans circa late 2005. By 2009, with the advent of the Star Wars: The Clone Wars series and its many overrides of EU-established "facts", the idea promulgated by folks like Wong that the EU was a true and Lucas-approved part of his universe had been broken.
One amusing thing is that if Wong were to keep his EU in spite of Lucas, he would have to lose his claims about the superlaser. In late 2007 the EU novel "Death Star" came out, and it described the superlaser, not as Wong's brute force laser beam, but as an exotic matter stream composed of unstable hyperspace-energy particles that caused target material to split itself into matter-antimatter pairs, resulting in self-destruction.
In other words, it became a beam of technobabble that at least made a stab at explaining all the weird effects I brought up in the debate, rather than Wong's attempts to ignore and dismiss them, moving the EU's version of the Death Star to my side (along with the Lucas canon one). The only loss on my end is that the original Special Edition effect of the wavefront bands circling the planet has been replaced in the DVD release with a simple planet-wide flash effect . . . a minor distinction.
Thus, regarding both topics, the Wong / StarDestroyer.Net position has been completely marginalized, and thus effectively neutralized save for any residual screaming and bad manners. Star Wars and its fandom have moved beyond them . . . and so have I.
Above is the now-infamous 2002 debate between myself and StarDestroyer.Net's Mike Wong.
I'd been a regular at ASVS and on his then-new message board, but by September 2002 he'd become frustrated with me. He had largely avoided me on his board, but he'd read my posts enough to recognize that I was a problem. I believed it to be because he didn't know how to handle someone just as obstinate as he was, someone who saw through his charlatanism and bluster. He gave various self-contradictory reasons for it, but suffice it to say that he made his hatred clear. He'd decided that he didn't want me on his board and couldn't get away with deleting all my posts without looking weak in the eyes of his fanboys, so he started a poll thread to make sure he wouldn't look too bad if he banned me. However, the thread wasn't going as well as Wong might've hoped, for although many sycophants echoed his lines there were more than a few people who didn't.
In the midst of it, mention of one-on-one debate was made. I replied that I'd happily have a formal one-on-one with Wong if he could possibly force himself to behave like a decent, honest debater, goading his ego a bit to see if he'd bite. Soon enough he did, formally making challenge in big bold letters and with lots of cursing and name-calling. I replied:
I'm really quite sorry, Wong, but I do believe I specifically mentioned that I'd tell you to bring it on, on the condition that you refrained from your childish behavior.
Do you think you can do that? Do you think you can focus exclusively on the arguments and the evidence, and not the man?
I'm not sure you can do that. Your disciples might be disappointed . . . you might even have to back off from an argument you can't win when you can't fling feces at the opposition as a smokescreen. If you want to have a proper debate, and if you are worried that you won't be able to keep the charlatanism to a minimum in a public debate, I'll even accept a private one.
But, if you really think you can keep a promise to maintain civility in a public forum, then let's get it on. But bear in mind that if you break that promise, it will be considered a concession.
However, whereas he'd previously agreed with the tradition that the challenged party decides the terms and topic, Wong did a sudden about-face this time. Again in huge letters with cursing and name-calling, he rejected the concept of an evidence-based debate, saying "Don't give me any of these bullshit conditions". Having thus evaded the debate, he then re-issued a challenge wherein he demanded to be allowed to debate his way, with no conditions.
I would have none of that. Wong's debate style has about as much to do with fact-finding as drunken crack-addicted prostitutes have to do with chastity. Goading his ego further, I made fun of him for being a hypocrite who was running from an evidence-based debate. However, he saw an opportunity here, and responded in big bold letters by demanding that I accept his re-issued challenge or be banned. I replied:
Is that what this silly posturing of yours has been all about? Have we finally come to the crux of the issue? This thread was your attempt to test the waters and see how a banning of me would fly, but I've ended up with some surprise support, and a few votes in my favor, even on your loaded poll.
So, you challenge me to a debate, and then fail to follow your own stated beliefs, running away from an honest, evidence-based debate because that's your biggest fear. Having been caught in the act, you suddenly have to try to play off the fact that you're not just a pussy, but indeed a huge, gaping vagina. Then, the icing on the cake . . . you threaten to ban me. This is the only force you can apply in the situation . . . the only way you can hope to make me acquiesce to a debate which has nothing to do with the issues, but everything to do with ego and audience.
I've already told you and everyone else a hundred times . . . I'm not interested in ego and audience . . . I'm here for the facts and evidence.
Having thereby told Wong to go ahead and ban me if he was so afraid of an honest, rational, one-on-one debate, he rapidly did so. But of course, I'd goaded his ego and he had no public answer for what I'd said. Thus he followed me to ASVS, where he finally acquiesced to a rational debate. To be sure, he complained bitterly about the idea of a rational debate, even claiming that it was an "escape clause". I tried to dispute this at the time, but eventually let the matter go for the most part. It wasn't until much later that I noted the clever evil behind his claim. As I noted to another fellow who wanted to debate Wong:
An additional layer of truth-cloaking comes with Wong's attitude. I tried to constrain this in my debate with him by demanding that he not use his patented strategy of personal attacks with which he seeks to hide the weakness of his arguments, but of course since that wasn't tied to a win or loss in the rules he didn't feel particularly bound by it.
Unless Wong is barred from acting like a jackass (thereby placing him in a fact-oriented debate, and thus straight-jacketing him), he will use every form of ad hominem he can find. This gives plenty of spectacle but no substance, and serves only as a distraction from the real meat of the issue(s).
(And, of course, if you're trying to constrain him to a fact-based debate, tying his behavior to a win-or-loss rule will present a bit of a conundrum. After all, if one is only interested in facts then a slimy debater can say 'then what does behavior matter? ... if its fact-based then abrasive attitude shouldn't decide who wins.' That's a very tempting argument, and is the reason I didn't demand that violation of that rule is a loss. Of course, it's rather wicked, too . . . kind of like a thief arguing that you shouldn't install a camera system because you say people should be trustworthy. It's an appeal to one's idealism made by someone who doesn't share it and who intends to avoid its constraints.
In the final analysis a fact-based debate must conform to rules which are intent on keeping it a fact-based and rational debate. If someone rejects inclusion of a formal rule that says they can't be a jackass . . . . that is to say, if he refuses to trouble himself not to stray from the simple precepts of rational debate . . . . then that might tell you something about the truth of his arguments.)
Speaking of wickedness, since he'd chosen to ban my entire ISP instead of my username, he had the advantage of having many of my topical arguments and calculations on-hand while I was unable to access them. While this might not've been of consequence in a true one-on-one debate, it became an issue since, within hours of acquiescing, Wong was asking for help from SD.Net denizens on how to deal with my arguments. In other words, it wasn't Wong vs. G2k . . . it was SD.Net's-BBS-filtered-through-Wong-as-the-frontman vs. G2k-without-many-notes. When this was pointed out, he gleefully refused to change it.
Nonetheless the debate went forward . . . Wong and his assistants versus a guy with a couple of arguments he'd been developing for about three months.
The debate was based on attempting to discern whether the Expanded Universe was part of the same continuity as Lucas's Star Wars canon, and thus whether it could be considered admissible evidence. Per Wong we would defer to the owners, which in regards to property rights fell to George Lucas via LFL, and to Lucas himself in regards to the moral rights.
(N.B. One of the main ideas that dates the debate is the use of the term "LucasBooks" to refer to Licensing's publishing department . . . at the time it was not yet realized that LucasBooks was merely a publishing imprint.)
Wong's primary attack pattern was two-fold. First, he based his entire argument on the term "overall continuity" as used by then-unknown folks in Insider #23 who he identified as Lucasfilm editors. Second, he made the common EU Completist attempt to re-understand the Lucas quote in Cinescape about parallel universes by taking "intrude" out of context and trying to use it to override the rest. Insofar as his debate tactics, Wong was relatively toned-down in his opening message, only making two or three accusations of dishonesty. Compared to his normal routine, this may very well have been his most well-mannered moment ever.
My response was ill-considered, since I was expecting more of a fight . . . Mike's post seemed oddly small. And thus I went ahead and opened up on him, intending to sledgehammer him with fact and to pre-emptively strike against any of his assistants' favorite claims. In the process I showed the flaws of how the various methods of EU inclusion led to logical error. In retrospect, however, I left things too broad, and had opened some cans of worms that on a tactical level were best left sealed. In other words, I left him open to make impressive-sounding but vapid attacks based on non-concrete matters in the next round. More on that later. In the meantime, I drew a connection between the single-use term "overall continuity" and the numerous EU-specific uses of the term continuity, equating the two as being the same thing. This maneuver was rather risky on my part at the time . . . EU Completists usually referred to the Insider #23 quote as coming from "Lucasfilm continuity editors", and it was somewhat speculative to question that claim and assume that the quote had actually come from 'LucasBooks'. Regarding Lucas in Cinescape, I launched a volley wherein I did an overview of all then-known misinterpretations of the quote (including his), explaining briefly why they were flawed and closing with Lucas in TV Guide.
Mike's second round post featured a tactical shift wherein virtually anything I'd said had a fallacy label attached to it. This attack pattern was a stylistic strength which served to cloak the weaknesses in his argument. Or, to put it more directly, Wong started up the smokescreen machine. He quickly conceded that the "overall continuity" was the internal continuity of Lucas Licensing, but argued that its existence (i.e. as an "overall" continuity) and its inclusion of Licensing's EU made the EU count. In other words, he'd already moved away from the idea of ownership dictating inclusion. And, in a remarkable moment of both self-contradiction and question-begging, he argued that the term "overall continuity" was unimportant to his argument because some sort of continuity must exist between the EU and the films. Elsewhere, Wong continued to claim that it was me, not him, taking part of Lucas out of context with the Cinescape quote, and he made the rather odd claim that in a "general sense", Lucas was validating the EU. He also cherry-picked the Cerasi line regarding "foggy windows" and claimed it as proof that the EU was valid, though interestingly he utterly failed to argue why this was so. However, he did argue that Cerasi's mention of Marvel comics being considered in-continuity by LucasBooks was a "case closed"-level statement. In short, Wong's argument focused not on the question "does Lucas/LFL consider the EU to be valid", but "does anybody?" Further, Wong attempted to suggest that the existence of "Infinities" materials (i.e. works Licensing considers outside the EU continuity) make it clear that the EU is in the overall continuity . . . a concept I refer to as the "continuity whiplash theory". Finally, Wong attempted to carry the debate beyond the concrete matters with frequent tangential arguments about how the EU should be considered were it considered valid (a can of worms I'd opened, unfortunately), not to mention making various weird claims about what he felt I believe about science.
In my response, I unfortunately paid too much attention to Wong's fallacy-label pedantry. However, I did engage in one explicit and readily-confessed fallacy . . . where Wong had claimed that I "helped support my website's longstanding position that the EU material should be treated as "historical literature and narrative" (as written on my Canon page) rather than observation", I found that I couldn't help but point out that this was false. As anyone who's been to his site can attest, Wong frequently uses EU material as completely factual, even dismissing or reinterpreting canon in favor of it. Elsewhere, I pointed out the logically-exclusive "only" used by Cerasi in regards to where the real story of Star Wars could be found (i.e. the films), and pointed out that per Cerasi's "foggy windows", even if we analyzed the EU perfectly we would still be in trouble because the facts themselves were wrong . . . this was about as far as I went in that direction, in the hopes of carrying things back to concrete matters on quotes and facts about what was said by people like Lucas. Regarding the "overall continuity" quote, I had discovered (much to my delight) that the source for the Insider #23 statements was indeed Lucas Licensing . . . specifically, Allan Kausch and the publishing department's Sue Rostoni, which to my mind was a "case closed"-level event. Unfortunately I didn't catch on to his question-begging wherein he said some continuity must exist (I did not realize he was implying that there was a continuity between the EU and SW) and did not respond appropriately. I did, however, lay into him for use of the whiplash theory, and also for continuing to take "intrude" out of context and reimagine Lucas based on it, especially given that we had two separate quotes of Lucas stating that the EU was not his universe.
Mike's third round effort was quite disconcerting. He based his entire third-round post around trying to accuse me of fallacies and to defend his prior accusations from round two, effectively making a huge ad hominem attack out of the matter. But I digress. On a topical level, Wong's third round was also disconcerting. Wong tried to redefine the debate in progress, arguing that the issue of the EU being part of a separate and parallel universe was different and separate from the concept of whether the EU was admissible evidence. In other words, his "overall continuity" would have to serve as some sort of meta-continuity wherein all parallel universes were one truth, or something. And yet, at the same time Mike continued to argue the point about the parallel universe, which would seem to be unnecessary. Wong continued to claim that he was correct to take the "intrude" line out of context, saying "George Lucas is a human being, and you cannot carefully analyze his choice of words. He may have an entirely different interpretation of "parallel universe" than you do, so your literalist method of interpretation is entirely fallacious." Wong also misrepresented my point wherein I'd taken his claims about the quote to their self-contradictory conclusion (i.e. that "intrude" must've been 'ad-libbed'), and attempted to argue that it was my position. Finally, Wong stated that because Sansweet had said that "In George's mind" the EU didn't exist, we should dismiss the quote because Sansweet is not qualified to testify about the content of Lucas's mind. This, of course, used the very same "literalist method" that he'd claimed I was employing, but Mike gave no other reason for denying the validity of the statement. Further, Mike argued that Sansweet's use of the term "quasi-canon" from the SW Encyclopedia was Lucasfilm-approved.
In my reply, I was forced to separate out all the off-topic bits. In the first half of my post I expressed astonishment at the attempted redefinition of the debate. And regarding the overall continuity, I retorted that even per Sue Rostoni, the very same person whose quote had included that single-use term "overall continuity", the Licensing continuity was an in-house affair not meant to override Lucas's films. I pointed out that Sansweet's SWE quote was from a LucasBooks publication, written by Sansweet before he was with LFL and the term had never been used again. And, I challenged Wong's subjectivist claim regarding Lucas's words having no clear meaning. In the second half of my post, I went ahead and called Wong to the carpet for his various misbehaviors and BS personal attacks, an opportunity I quite enjoyed.
For the fourth round, after a senseless volley of false accusations (such as decrying my "voluminous theatrics"!), Wong moved back toward topical matters, separating his on-topic portion into four morsels. The first was Cerasi, the second Sansweet, the third was a point about the EU continuity being subservient to the canon, and finally he once again pressed his claim that the existence of an overall continuity was separate from the issue of parallel universes. He then ended with a spray of questions which contained a number of embedded concepts that were wrong.
In my response I chastised him once again, and then went over his four morsels slowly. There was only one more round to go, after all, so I wanted to ensure clarity. First I explained, slowly, how Cerasi's statement meant that the real story of Star Wars was only the films, as opposed to Wong's claim of the reverse. I then once again detailed how Sansweet's "quasi-canon" was 'quasi-topical'. I then explained how and why the EU's continuity was subservient (per Rostoni, et al.), and challenged him on the matter of where this overall continuity of his supposedly came from. I then went over his embedded-concept questions, untangling the ridiculous bits and explaining in detail why he was wrong. I consider this to have been a strong post.
For the final round, Wong repeats his tactics from round two, but then gives up shortly thereafter. Instead of rebuttals, he just says "Your opinion. Nothing more." Wong's main rebuttal was merely to try to employ a shell game wherein Licensing and LFL were claimed to be interchangeable. Beyond that, he did very little, not counting his peculiar argument that the Special Editions weren't accurate and were to be ignored.
For the final response, I went ahead and made a full rebuttal, again addressing the few points Wong repeated. However, Wong's virtual absence from the round was quite telling.
I still think I said it best to Wong back in 2002:
You and I have a fundamental disagreement about the nature of Star Wars, who
gets to decide what that nature is, how such a thing should be determined,
and . . . even more fundamentally . . . a disagreement about the nature of
reality and whether anyone can know anything about it.
In the face of fact and logic, you declare everything an opinion. In the
face of words and sentences, you declare everything equivocal, not subject
to logical analysis to any degree. You seem to think that we should just
feel our way through a reading of something, never bothering to actually
think about what we're reading.
In the face of a series of quotes and facts, you assign weight to them
arbitrarily, depending on which best suits your position du jour.
I place Lucas at the top . . . Star Wars is his baby, and he gets to decide
what is and isn't real Star Wars, and he can add to it or change it at his
whim. He has informed us that the EU is outside his universe, and part of
a parallel one. He has revised his canon to be more in accord with his
vision of it.
You stand against his statements, and against his vision.
You choose to put LucasBooks and Lucas Licensing at the top, selectively.
You accept the statement in the Encyclopedia without question, and try to
"massage" other quotes into falling in line. In the case of Lucas quotes,
you either ignore them outright (as in the case of the TV Guide and Original
vs. SE quotes), or attempt to take a quote fragment and override the
remainder. Further, you claim that Lucas is an idiot who must've misused
the terms he applies in the remainder.
You claim that the LucasBooks in-house Continuity is inclusive of the Canon,
and assign it a superiority over that canon. You believe, in spite of
everything to the contrary and nothing in support of your view, that
LucasBooks can add to the Canon in this manner.
I place LucasFilm above LB and LL . . . your response is to try to confuse
them at every opportunity.
I accept that there is the Canon . . . it is the inviolable fact of Star
Wars. The real story of Star Wars is this canon fact . . . all else is
meaningless speculation, speculation that is part of a parallel universe.
When confronted with the logic of this position, you claim that it is all
opinion, based on narrow interpretation of words. You continue to claim a
false dilemma, arguing that your delightfully liberal interpretation allows
for a third option that must be considered, in spite of the logic of the
In your last message, you should've made your stand . . . instead, you have
confessed what was already known: your position is absurdly illogical.
As of this writing, it's been three years since the debate. The basic tenets of my position have continued to be reinforced by new statements of Lucas and others, and others in Star Wars fandom have come to share the same views using similar arguments. For the current state of affairs with the Star Wars canon, take a look here.
Not to give the superlaser debate short shrift, but (a) it would be rather complicated to give post summaries of such technical minutiae and (b) thanks to additional details discovered over the past three years (as of this writing) since the debate occurred, it would be altogether quite pointless. While my position has evolved in light of the new evidence, Wong's has not . . . he continues to maintain, just as he did in the debate, that the Death Star reactors supplied all the energy of Alderaan's destruction, even though he acknowledges that his theory utterly fails to explain the majority of effects we see (and doesn't explain why we don't see some his theory requires that we should).
For a more comprehensive and consistent take on the matter, see here.