Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year, you’ve heard of “Battlestar Galactica,” the revamp of the infamous television series from the seventies. Updated with more grittiness, controversy and more political discourse than most news programs, “Battlestar Galactica” has been a bonafide hit for the Sci-Fi Network. The sprawling epic focuses on a space-faring warship called the Galactica, which along with a few other civilians ships, comprises the surviving members of humanity, the rest eradicated by the genocidal Cylons. The Cylons themselves are robots, created by man, and who later rebelled, in addition to creating twelve unique models that resemble humans. Dynamite Entertainment has been publishing comic books based on both the old and new versions of “Galactica,” telling untold stories, but come March 2007, they’ll be telling the big untold story: why and how did the Cylons rebel against humanity? Set firmly in official continuity, this companion to the current “Galactica” series has piqued the interest of many. CBR News caught up with writers Joshua Ortega and Eric Nylund to learn more about the book and exactly what secrets will be revealed.
“‘The Cylon Wars’ occurs 40 years before the start of the series,” Nylund told CBR News. “Fans will recall that humanity and the Cylons have had no contact with one another since the truce that ended that first war between man and machine.”
As a fan of science fiction, and with a lot of experience writing it, “Battlestar Galactica” is a natural choice for Ortega, who is also a fan of the show. “It’s an amazing gig, and I’m really flattered that Nick Barrucci and Dynamic Forces asked us to do this – sometimes you have to debate whether or not you take a project, but needless to say, this wasn’t one of them. ‘Galactica’ is too good to pass up,” Ortega told CBR News.
Nylund added, “It’s funny because Joshua came to talk to me about this hot new assignment he had to write in the BG universe. I was naturally jealous, and told him there was one great story he had to tell – the Cylon Wars. It’s what every fan (meaning myself) wants to know about, I told him. In a few minutes we hammered out the basic plot points, but then I said, ‘Naw, they’ll never go for this. Ron Moore has to have it all figured out and ready to do his own miniseries about CW.’ Well, Josh persisted and we shot off the outline and were given the greenlight to write it. You could have knocked me over with a feather!”
While there will assuredly be nods to the current “Galactica” and characters within that series, don’t expect to see a lot of those characters because of the time period in which the “Cylon Wars” take place. “We’ll be introducing a few new characters in CW and you might see a few favorites from the series. But remember this takes place 40 years before the new Galactica series starts, so Starbuck and Apollo haven’t even been born yet!” said Nylund. As for the look of this book, he added, “Without giving too much away, in the show there seems to be a unifying theme to the art design. In CW, we’ll be highlighting the differences between the aesthetics and philosophies of the 12 colonies.”
The strong political undertones of “Battlestar Galactica” have thrust it into the spotlight for not only being such a daring show, but also for what some see as commentary on the war in Iraq (a claim producer Ronald D Moore denies). Ortega told CBR News that fans should expect the same kind of challenging political discourse in “Cylon Wars.” “There will definitely be political allegories in the ‘Cylon Wars,’ though not necessarily intentional ones- when dealing with the themes of civil war, civil liberties, and the nature of humanity you really can’t help but get political! Stories of liberation, whether that’s human, animal, or in this case, robots, are always fascinating, and are packed with emotional and dramatic possibilities,” said Ortega
Nylund assured fans that this doesn’t mean that he and Ortega will be on a soapbox, preaching their views. “I’ll echo Josh’s sentiments,” said the “New York Times” best-selling author. “Our first goal is to tell a great story and knock your socks off! Having said that, it’s impossible to not draw from contemporary events. All that stuff seeps into your writing no matter what. You might as well just admit that and try and consciously direct it.”
The co-writer also explained that while the Cylons won’t seem more sympathetic, they will be better understood by fans after reading this series. Speaking of the fans, Nylund said, “They’ll be “teh OMG H0x0r!” and hinted that there may be more going on with the Cylon psyche than some realize.
When it comes to the real world possibility of artificial intelligence and harnessing that AI to create worker robots, both men have different opinions. “I suppose I lean on the wary side considering all of the warnings we’ve received from literature and popular media,” answered Ortega. “From ‘Terminator’ to ‘2001’ to ‘Galactica,’ we could never say we weren’t warned if our creations ever turned on us!”
However, Nylund said, “I hate to douse the story potentials here, but as a scientist I think creating a real self-aware AI has about as much a chance of occurring as a pod of dolphins materializing in my coffee cup. Until our understanding of the myriad quantum interactions that comprise consciousness are understood better, it ain’t happening.”
“Battlestar Galactica” may be a popular science fiction property, but it’s not the first that has been touched by Ortega, whose work on “Star Trek” and “Star Wars” stories seemingly only leaves him one last big sci-fi property to influence: “Babylon 5.” “JMS, you hear that? Bring on the B5!” laughed Ortega. “No, seriously, it’s been great working on so many of the great sci-fi franchises, and I suppose the appeal for me is the fact that storytelling possibilities are so often limitless in sci-fi. You can explore other worlds, alternate realities, multidimensional timelines – the options are literally endless. And of course, it doesn’t hurt that I grew up on Star Wars, Star Trek, and Galactica either.”
If Ortega were to tackle “Babylon 5,” you can bet that Nylund would be happy to join him, as the co-writer said, “I love B5, but I think it’s a single shining complete arc. I wouldn’t want to mess with that. Unless [pause]. Oh well, better keep that idea to myself for now.”
Regardless of any “B5” dreams, these two creators will be busy on a bevy of new projects in the near future. “Right now I’m working on a book fantasy novel called ‘Mortal Coils,” revealed Nylund. “A few games for Microsoft and a few other pet projects.”
Ortega added, “I’m finishing up a really cool ‘Star Wars’ project for Dark Horse, Frank ‘Frazetta’s ‘Death Dealer’ for Image, and a new ‘Necromancer’ story for Top Cow. There are a number of other projects brewing, but it’s too early to talk about ’em.”
If you’re still on the fence about checking out “Cylon Wars,” Ortega urged fans to check out this essential chapter in the “Galactica” mythos. “At the very least, Galactica fans should pick up ‘The Cylon Wars’ to get some of their most requested questions answered,” said the author. “This is a huge part of BG history, and I think most fans of the new series will be quite interested to see what happened in this legendary period of history.
“Readers who are new to Galactica will get to read an epic ‘period piece’ with tons of action, intrigue, and drama. I think there’s going to be something for everyone in this series.”