Newest Book ...

Friday, October 21, 2011

Writing, Part IV: Answering My Own Questions

A few months ago, I pasted the first thing I typed up for LoK: a list of events and facts about Kobol we knew from the show.  Here, I will repost it, line by line, and explain how I tackled each tidbit in my head before I sat down to write (if I was able to).

If you haven't already, download the entire trilogy right HERE for free.

SPOILERS abound.  Also, no Book Four info will be present (I may redo this post later on to handle Book Four solutions to these items).

More after the JUMP.

Distant past - Flood nearly destroys mankind.

Seems pretty self explanatory.  In "The Hub," Baltar attributed writings about the Flood to Pythia, which is why Ino is talking to Pythia about the Flood a bit in the books.  For me, I felt that the Flood would be a good catalyst for the Lords of Kobol to ingratiate themselves to their presumptive subjects.  See the bit on the Tomb of Athena below for more on that.

2,000 years before Exodus - 13th tribe leaves for Earth (Why?); Temple of Hopes built on Algae Planet

Sweet Zeus.  The Thirteenth Tribe.  Simply put, they were one of the greatest difficulties I had in writing these books.  It was one thing to have them be created.  According to "No Exit," they were created by humans.  But their exodus ... holy crap.  They had to have a good reason to depart BUT the Tribe were still polytheist on Earth I.  So the Lords couldn't have done too much to alienate themselves from these Cylons.  It's a fine line to tread.  (Plus, given that the Temple of Aurora is depicted in the Sacred Scrolls, I knew that deity would have to play a role.)

The dates, ugh.  The series is not terribly consistent on when the 13th left, but more often than not, 4,000 years pre-BSG is the date given.

The Temple of Hopes (aka Temple of Five) is also given an age of 4,000 in the episodes "Eye of Jupiter" and "Rapture."  (In the exposition-dump episode "No Exit," Ellen says the temple is 3,000 years old.  I chose to chalk that error up to her frustrations at dealing with Cavil.)  Obviously, this meant the Tribe built the temple on their way to Earth I.  There's another issue that creeps up later with the Lion's Head Nebula beacon, so stand by for that.

1,500-1,600 years before Exodus - Pythia writes her prophecies, etc., for the Sacred Scrolls

Nothing of note here.

1,000 years before Exodus - probe from 13th tribe is left in Lion Head Nebula

Sigh.  OK.  In the episode "Torn," we find a beacon left behind by some members of the Thirteenth Tribe that is infected with lymphocytic choriomeningitis.  In the next episode, Doc Cottle says something like, "We know from the scriptures that this virus sprung up around 3,000 years ago; about the time Thirteenth Tribe left Kobol."  Thanks to several other eps, I've already put a pin in the Thirteenth Tribe's departure as 4,000 years ago, so I've decided to ignore that part of Cottle's line.  In this episode, they seem to suggest that the Tribe left the beacon on their way to Earth I.  Well, why can't the virus have been brought to Kobol by Cylons from Earth I?

I should note that I don't believe every statement by every character in every episode of the show should be written down in stone as factual.  People make mistakes and sometimes (I'm looking at you, Head Six), characters lie or mislead other characters so they will do what they want them to do.

I'm sorry if this bugs some of you, but I made a conscious decision to treat certain statements as simple misstatements for the purposes of the story.

Moving on ...

Time of the Exodus -
Cylon revolt? (Confrontation at the "home of the gods?")

At no point are we ever told that Cylons rose up against the people and Lords on Kobol.  Sure, a "Blaze" is mentioned, but nothing about "servants of steel" or anything like that.  I choose to believe Cylons are involved because of Pythia's cycle of time.

As for the "confrontation at the home of the gods," that's pretty easy, especially if I have angry Cylons running around.  But that's at the end of mankind's time on Kobol.  What about the Thirteenth Tribe?  What if I want to consider their departure as another iteration in the cycle?  (And I do.)

Well, for the "confrontation," look no further than Tydea's blackmail on Mt. Olympus.  No violence, but still a confrontation.

"Blaze" pursues mankind from the City of the Gods (nuclear?)

There is nothing to say that the Blaze is nuclear, but after what happened to the Colonies and Earth I, why not?  Now, some people may wonder why the gods -- who have such a tight grip on what mankind is doing -- allow nuclear weapons?  Well, remember Book Two and the asteroid?  I figured an array of nuclear warheads to deflect any future asteroid would be logical (this assumes the approach of an asteroid is seen early enough).  Another "good" thing about nuclear weapons is that they can kill many millions, therefore reducing the population and helping to explain why Kobol was uninhabited two millennia later.  (After all, only so many people can get on those ships.)

Human sacrifice (leaders at Tomb of Athena)

Now, those skulls that Virtual Six showed Baltar on Kobol were in his head.  I say this because exposed bones like that would have wasted away long before two thousand years passed.  But it does raise the question of human sacrifice.

Can a race sufficiently advanced to have developed space travel, artificial intelligence, cloning and so on still cling to the barbaric practice of human sacrifice?  I guess it's possible, but it felt so alien to the world of BSG that I didn't want to go there.  Instead, I decided that the sacrifices should be hidden from public view (otherwise they would be somewhat ingrained in the fleeing colonists).  The gods themselves could conduct sacrifices of nonbelievers, thus angering The One all the more (and by extension, the angels).

Choice between the ship or the high road into the mountains

Seems simple enough.  People can choose to flee Kobol or go into the mountains.  Now, since the high road into the mountains leads to the Tomb of Athena, it only made sense to have the sacrifices of the Tribes' leaders be at the end of this journey.

Gravestones along the path

Easy enough.  Thanks to radiation sickness, I had people dropping left and right.  Also, the song the man sings over the body of his dead wife?  That's the English lyrics to the Gaelic-sounding Adama theme, "Wander My Friends."

Mankind (12 or 13 tribes?) leaves from the Great Meadow aboard a ship named Galleon

Sigh.  Again, we have inconsistency.  The Thirteenth Tribe supposedly left 2,000 years before everyone else, but Athena and Elosha said on a few different occasions that thirteen left Kobol at the end.  Then again, Elsoha, Roslin and others also said that twelve left Kobol.  The prop Book of Pythia, if you can read the text from my earlier post, states that twelve left.

I decided to play both sides of the fence here.  I had the majority of the Thirteenth Tribe leave with only a small pocket remaining.  Then, at the end, the Thirteenth kinda blends in with everyone else as they leave.  So, if you knew there were Thirteenth Tribers, you could say so.  Gideon would certainly know.

Specific details about the Meadow, the ship and people getting on board can be found in that same earlier post about Pythia and her book.

Athena's suicide in despair over mankind's departure at Gates of Hera

As shown in the Kobol-centric episodes of season two, the Tomb is in the mountainside beneath the Gates of Hera.  Having Athena commit suicide wasn't terribly difficult; I needed only to show that she loved the people and was devastated by their suffering and their leaving.

(Who built Athena's Tomb if they all left?)

By the sword of Ares, this one took a while.  Other than fine tuning the motivations for the departure of the Thirteenth Tribe, this is the one that took the longest for me to solve.  In fact, I started writing Book One, finished Book One and started writing Book Two before I figured it out.

It seems like a simple enough question.  The Tomb was pretty big and they had fancy statues, caskets and some sort of planetarium.  If the world is ending, it doesn't make much sense to go to that much effort.  Plus, if the Tomb was carved out after the departure of the ships (since Athena jumped as they were leaving), how would any of the Colonials know about it?

Obviously, the Tomb had to exist before Athena's death.  Given the location, statues and caskets, it must have been a place of some significance.  But what?

Quite simply, this was one of those "standing in the shower, thinking, and it hit me" kinda moments.  I could tie the building of this Tomb into the Flood, provide an opportunity for Athena to demonstrate "immortality" for the humans and ascribe to the Tomb some Christian imagery/connection.

For the full story, read Book Two.

Arrow of Apollo

After deciding that the Lords would be larger than humans, I got a big kick rewatching the scene when Kara takes the Arrow from the museum:
Look at the size of that hand!

Anyway, it wasn't the Arrow that gave me trouble.  It's what the Arrow did.

Since the Lords were more grounded in realism than they would have you believe, the mechanics of the Tomb's planetarium was fairly easy to mention and not go into detail on (I just have to hope Olympian technology could survive 2,000 years in a closed-off cave).  But the stars.  Those damned stars.

You see, the constellations that Adama, Starbuck, et al are shown in the Tomb are for Earth II, even though Apollo was ostensibly programming the devices to show people the way to Earth I.

I asked Kevin Grazier, science adviser on the show, about the stars and he said that at the time of the Kobol episodes, there was no second Earth.  Earth was just going to be Earth.  Later came the idea for Cylon Earth I and our Earth II.

(As for why Gaeta said they were at Earth II according to the Tomb's constellations when they were actually at Earth I, Kevin noted that Galactica's view of the sky was greatly obscured by the planet and that -- assuming Earth I & II are sorta in line with each other -- some of the constellations may, indeed, appear to be the same around Earth I as they are around Earth II.)

So anyway.  Back to my problem of changing the Tomb's programming.

When all else fails, say God did it.  (Hey, it works for lots of people, so why not me?)

Seriously.  Only The One knew of the existence of Earth II thus no human or Cylon or humanoid Cylon could knowingly change the program.  I could have had an angel appear to Gideon, I guess, and have her change it, but the end of the book was lousy with these head messengers and I didn't want to go into that all over again with another person.

This is probably the most blatant "interference" of The One in the machinations of the end of days on Kobol, but its influence over Hecate is minor compared to what The One did in the show itself.

"Lower Demon" helped mankind

Rather obvious one, as Sharon helped the Colonials on Kobol in the show and Gideon helped Acastus and others in the book.  To help bolster this one, Zeus talks about the Cylons as being demons in the final months before the exodus.

Dying leader

Stephen Acastus, RIP.  One of my favorite characters.

Serpents "numbering two and ten"

Ah, the fuzziness of prophecy and scriptural allegory.  I hesitated making anything literal since Roslin's vision in  "The Hand of God" was so literal.  Thus the naming of the Thirteenth Tribe as snakes by the masses for their "sneakiness" in infiltrating society.  Remember the scene before their exodus when Aurora is addressing the crowds of all twelve models of Megarans?  "Serpents numbering two and ten arrayed before them."  Yep.  Also, you know all the Tribes are named after the zodiac, right?  You've heard of the thirteenth constellation of the zodiac?  Ophiucus, the serpent bearer.  Snakes again, baby.

Yes, I know the bits in Tomb with Gideon looking at the display and hearing about the Hydra missiles and her thinking about the scripture was a stretch.  That's why Apollo and Acastus roll their eyes so much at her.

Just because Ino, a messenger of The One, visited Pythia and gave her some holy insight, I don't necessarily think that everything Pythia writes (or other writers of the Scrolls) need be 100% perfect all the time.

God abandons Kobol (why?)

This was a big one.  I had to make what the Lords did to the people of Kobol bad enough and extensive enough that The One would desire a complete 'reboot' for everyone.  The minds of nearly all upon that planet were poisoned for five and a half millennia by polytheism and beliefs in beings that were not immortal at all.  Many millions of believers in The One Whose Name Cannot Be Spoken were wiped out in a purge and then persecuted for centuries thereafter.  Zeus himself took the lives of hundreds of believers in the dungeon beneath his temple.

The decision, though, is very likely in the hands of the Messengers, though.  I established that The One doesn't really care about worship; it cares about free will.  Zeus and his machinations prevented free will for five and a half millennia.

Zeus warns fleeing humanity not to return; "exact a price in blood"

Goes in hand with the previous one.

humanity left Kobol after a "jealous god" tried to take over

This comes from a deleted scene, wherein Elosha answers Tigh's question about humanity's exodus.  Now, I could very well have let a deleted scene go ... if it was deleted, then it's not really canon.  But, frankly, it's just too juicy to let slide.

The One isn't really a "jealous god," though.  That's mankind imposing their own traits on the unknowable.  Still, in the confusion of the end of the world, that where it gets lumped.

I am planning a full post dissecting the theology of Lords of Kobol and Battlestar Galactica/Caprica, but it will have to wait until after the publication of Book Four in two weeks.

(All BSG pics are from

No comments:

Post a Comment