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Friday, March 20, 2015

"Lords of Kobol" Finale: Questions, Answers & Trivia

This is the end.  My only friends, the end.

As promised, I'll be answering some questions and dropping some last-minute trivia here in this last post related to the Lords of Kobol series.

There will be a few SPOILERS, so just in case, we'll dive in after the JUMP.


I got the name "Ahljaela" in Book Five from Superman II.  ("Huh?" you're saying.)  As a kid, I  misunderstood a line spoken by General Zod, thanks to Terrence Stamp's scenery chewing.  I could swear he said, "At last we will have revenge on the son of Ahljaela."  I thought "Ahljaela" was Jor-El's nickname or something.  Took me a few years ... I might have been a teenager, even ... before I realized he was saying "our jailer."  Oh well.

When did you decide to start writing your Lords of Kobol series in relation to the broadcast timeframes?

The show ended in May-ish of 2009.  I was drawn to the mythological aspects of the backstory for a long time and I kept thinking about it and what the Lords might have been.  By the end of summer, I had pretty much decided to write a book about it.

Did you have a "Plan" when you started the series, as to a clear idea from first book to last about the storyline—or was it on a book-by-book basis?

(As I've discussed before) I made an Excel chart detailing elements of the Kobol myth we gleaned from the show, with two columns: one labeled "Lords are Cylons" and "Lords are angels."  I realized the Cylons angle would work better from a dramatic perspective, plus it would help keep the story grounded in some semblance of realism, which is something I believed was very important to make it feel like it's in the same universe as the show.

Thanks to that chart, I had a spindly skeleton on which to puts stories.  It took a few weeks of planning and outlining, but then I started to write.  I intended it to be just one big book, but I was halfway into would become Book Two before I realized that just wasn't going to happen.

Most of the big goalposts were planned and mapped out from the start.  Only one, that I can recall, didn't get worked out in my head until later and that was the whole "How could there be a Tomb of Athena if she doesn't die until everyone's already leaving?" thing.  Many of the plot details that happen between those big markers were created in the outline stage or on the fly.  (A lot of Book One worked out this way.  I would write, think of something better and then go back to rewrite again.  The whole Tydea plotline came way later.)

I like having the structure be about seventy-five to eighty percent complete.  That makes my job feel like it's all planned out and I just have to keep the car on the road.  Sometimes, though, I have an idea or maybe something just spills off the keyboard onto the screen that inspires me to go a different way.  And that's good, too.

How extensively did you map and background and outline the story before actually beginning the writing stage? At what point did you stop planning and backgrounding and actually start the writing stage--and did this vary from book to book?

I'll be honest, I love all of that background work.  That's the main reason I post as much "behind-the-scenes" stuff on this blog as I do.  I love making maps and thinking about the world and I do three-quarters of that stuff before I get started.  For the maps, I might leave certain city or nation names blank until I actually write that part in the story (because, again, I don't have every little detail fleshed out before I start typing.)

Once I've worked out a basic outline and organized the information I know I'll have to include, I begin.  Many details come naturally as I go.

Getting more into the outline ... I have the skeleton and I have a few characters in mind.  For me, an outline means creating the Word document that will eventually become the book and typing the chapter headers, such as: "I, CAESAR, X Years Before the Fall of Larsa."  Underneath that header, I'll type something like, "Emperor dazed, seems like he's just waking up, doctors checking him out, reveal at the end it's just his mind stored in a large computer."  And I go to the next chapter.  Naturally, in the act of writing, details may change and I'll have to rework the outline, but that hasn't happened terribly often.

Why didn't you charge for the Lords of Kobol books?

One word: lawyers.

I tried to get them published by the company that published the few BSG novels that do exist, but they didn't bite for whatever reason.  Their form letter was vague.

Even though virtually none of the series directly intersects with Battlestar Galactica, it is very clearly based on the show and concepts established on it.  If I charged money for the books, I'm pretty sure I'd get a cease-and-desist letter, if not a straight-up lawsuit.

By keeping the books free, though, I've reached a larger audience than I would have otherwise.  (Barring being picked up by an actual publisher, of course.)

Why do you hate Book Four?

I don't.  I sometimes poke fun at it because it is the lesser of the first four books (review and rating-wise).

In my own mind, it's the odd-man out because 1) it's not part of the greater continuity and 2) it doesn't fit into the more realistic world of the show and trilogy (something I've already talked about extensively).

Have you read Ray Kurzweil's Singularity?  Have you thought about incorporating that?

(This is an older question asked well before Book Five was published.)

I have and I did.  In Book Five, the Transference that the wealthy engage in is my attempt to bring "Singularity" to this universe.  The total merging of technology and man.  They start by moving their minds into computer storage cubes and/or mechanical bodies, eventually sending their minds into the ether of Larsa's Internet.  I liked the class aspect of how the rich could get this form of immortality and the poor couldn't.  I kept it in the background, sorta, to keep from having to get too detailed.  (Details can often look silly a few years later when real-world science surpasses or disproves them.)

Why name Larsa's Internet the "Matrix"?  Everyone will think of the movie, you know.

I know, but I liked the sound of it.  Plus, beyond our words for it (Internet, web) and the Kobollian word (Stream), I didn't come up with a term that conveyed the same thing as simply as "Matrix."  I found that after a few chapters, I didn't think of Neo and Morpheus any longer.

Any deleted scenes from Book Five?
No, not really.  In my outlining phase, I had several early chapters to build up the history of both the world (mostly Tiberia) and their religions.  Before I wrote them, however, I saw that they weren't needed so I cut them out.  Some of the details ended up in condensed form in the book (such as the religious history recalled in the chapter where the Messenger first encounters Minah Gaber), the rest appears in some of the more verbose entries in this glossary of terms.

In Book Two, Prometheus gets an "upgrade" to Messenger.  Does Aurora get the same?  (Confused, I asked for clarification.)  Becoming angels.

Well, in Book Four, Prometheus and Athena are chosen by The One as the only two of the Lords to remain as angels.  In the trilogy, though, Prometheus didn't get upgraded to "angel" status.  He was chosen by the Messengers to carry out some heavy-duty parts of their plans, but he failed them when he went his own way.  Aurora stuck to the plan very well in getting the Thirteenth Tribe off Kobol, but she wasn't upgraded either.  The Messenger in the form of Hades said she was very inspirational and that he would have to utilize her spirit in the future (intended to be a vague hinting toward Kara Thrace).

And then it hit me ...

Oh.  I called the angels "Messengers" throughout the whole series.  AND, in Book Two, the Draco called Promethues (and Philip Anaxo) "Messenger," too.  Holy crap.  No wonder that's confusing.

My intent with the Draco's honorific was that Prometheus was deemed someone in touch with The One.  A title akin to Mohammed as "Prophet," but without the baggage that word would carry and without much of the reverence.  (Though Draco millennia later may very well revere Prometheus more than before).

Damn.  I'll have to consider another edit.

Since it is known that the human race was born on Earth (our planet), don´t you think that on the end of the series the Galactica (and all the other ships) had jumped in time and went to our past? It bothers me ´cause in the last episode, before the last FTL jump, there's a singularity nearby. I think the right time line is this: we started on Earth, then we went to Kobol, then to the Colonies, then back in time to our Earth.

That's a very cool and interesting idea.  It's not one I've ever heard before either.

However, there's one major problem with it:  only the Galactica was near the singularity in that last FTL jump.  The other ships of the fleet would be stuck in the far future of your idea.

While it doesn't work in the context of what we saw in the show, it's still a nice concept.

Have you thought about a book to connect the new Galactica with the original Galactica?

No.  Simply put, I think they're incompatible.

I would have to explain how there could be two Adamas, two Apollos, two Starbucks, etc.  I'd also have to come up with a reason for mankind to go back to Kobol and then exodus again to establish another Twelve Colonies.  Not to mention the original's set of Lords of Kobol, the Beings of Light, and so on.  Those theological elements, in particular, just don't meld.

Yeah, I know.  "All of this has happened before and all of this will happen again."  That's supposed to be a good narrative device, not a crutch.  For me to establish that the original series happened at some point in the intervening 150,000 years after the Galactica got to Earth II, circa 1980, would strain credulity to an extreme.

That's one of the reasons I didn't care for the comics series called Final Five.  It showed us a Kobol and an Earth I that weren't far off from Caprica at all.  Everything felt the same, right down to the names of characters, designs of Vipers, etc.  There was nothing really new there to grab me.  It was "All of this has happened before ..." with a yawn.

It'd be the same for a TOS/RIS bridge book.  I'd have to re-trod the same ground over and over again and then say "God did it" for the more difficult parts.  And as we all know, there are plenty of fans who didn't care for that aspect of the re-imagined series.

Speaking of ...

"A great book for sap suckin tree huggin hippies. Theire is only one God you queer author. The auther is a fag who has never played a sport in his life. And for all you non believers go crap in your mouth fags. The book sucks major nuts. Dont get it. Overall rank is gay fagtorium."


What is your religious leaning?

Atheist.  Raised Methodist/Southern Baptist, but that didn't last much beyond high school.

If I had to guess a next question, it'd be something like, "How can you write about all of this religious, 'One True God' stuff if you're an atheist?"

Well, I just remember that it's part of the show.  God and the angels were established very early on.  It seems clear to me that the deity of this universe doesn't align with the deity many worship in our own world (though, I guess many people could project their beliefs onto The One, as they do in Book Five).  I'm just writing about an extradimensional being that has taken an interest in our universe.

I apologize if this ruffles feathers or if, suddenly, you seem to enjoy my books less.  That's the last thing I want to do.  By all means, appreciate them on whatever level makes you happiest.  If that's a spiritual level, go right ahead.

Do you have any regrets?

Oh, I have a few.

Regrets about the books?  Well, that's different.

I really don't.  Not aching, painful-to-consider regrets.  I have a few wishes.

I wish I had kept Book Four more separate.  Maybe released it under a totally different title or umbrella.  Of course, when I finished Book Four, I had no idea that I'd be writing a Book Five.  I don't like that the flow is interrupted by an "Elseworlds" issue, I guess is what I'm saying.

I've said before that I wished I could have come up with a way for the Prometheus and Athena arc from Book Four to have been part of the trilogy, but given how the story was structured, it just wouldn't work.

I wish there was a more thriving market for "expanded universe" BSG books.  If there were, someone might have been interested in buying mine.

I wish more people who liked Lords of Kobol would give my other books a shot.

Wishes and horses, you know.

Who in the world takes off their shoes AFTER taking off their shirt and pants? lol (early scene of Mar with his wife, Book Five; Chapter III)

Um ... his pants were very loose fitting.  It's not that big a deal.


What recommendations would you make to anyone else who would like to write their own BSG-based mythos?

Oooooh.  Well, depending on the setting, you'll definitely want to make it feel like it's in the same universe.  If, for example, you're not on a battlestar or in a Viper, you have to make it feel grounded and real.  That, to me, was the key to making Lords of Kobol work.  Don't shy away from complexity because both the characters and the storylines were often complex on the show.  HOWEVER, make sure your complexity makes sense.  Make sure the dots connect.

Don't namedrop a bunch of characters or make your characters the "great-great-grandfather of Adama" or whatever, just in hopes of currying the readers' good will.  That kind of stuff just reeks of the lowest of fan fiction.  Do, however, rewatch the series and do plenty of research on the aspects you want to cover.  You don't, for example, want to write a book about how the Cylons found God without ever having seen Caprica because you heard it was lame.  Sorry; that's just lazy.  Also, don't rely on "All these things have happened before and all these things will happen again" as an excuse for why your story essentially copies certain episodes or events and, therefore, isn't terribly interesting.  It was a prophecy, but that doesn't mean it's always 100% true.

Will there be a Book Six?

No.  The story of Larsa/Kobol is finished.  The only unexplored element of that world's history is most of everything that happens before Book Five.  Since there are no Psilons or Cylons involved then and since that's before the Messengers arrived, it's not really germane to the overall story.

Also, there are tidbits in Scythia as the remnant of mankind tries to survive the nuclear fallout before the Draco lands but that's just a story of basic survival, maybe with the Messengers lending a helping hand.  Then there's the Golden Age of the Lords of Kobol after the war with Prometheus and before the organic Cylons are created, but everything was going well and would likely be boring to read about.

What's next?

Oh, I'll catch up on some TV shows and movies I neglected while I spent most of my free time writing.  Then, in about a month, I'll get restless and somewhat depressed.  I'll continue in that vein, spiraling down for a couple of weeks before I finally realize that I miss being creative.

I plan on re-reading my other novels (Displaced, Diary of a Second Life, Sexcalation, The Red Kick) and doing an edit on each.  Then I might head back into How to Raise a Geek, my pseudo-parenting book.  I stopped once it became obvious that it was barely going to be a pamphlet.  For some reason, I'm very brief when dispensing advice.

After that?  I've got some ideas, including a scifi book that has a pretty compelling hook.  More on that some other time.

I cannot thank all of you enough for reading along with me these last few years as I cranked out books no one asked for.  It's very heartening to see how much you enjoy them.

Until next time.

1 comment:

  1. It's funny because after the series finale I too was REALLY tempted to write my own mythology stories for Battlestar Galactica. For some reason or another I never got around to it. I recently re-watched all of BSG on blu-ray and fell in love with it all over again.
    I read your trilogy and am just starting book five now. I think a lot of your ideas are really good. Particularly the idea of Kobol's past as Larsa. A lot of your ideas are VERY different from how I'd do the mythology, but I think that's the beauty of how the show itself handled the mythology. It left so much room for fans to all design their own backstory in their heads.
    I'm very interested in Gnosticism, so if I ever get around to writing mine (which I probably won't) that's the way I'll lean.
    I agree with you about "The Final Five" comics. I really hated the "due to relativity the thirteenth tribe only lived on Earth 1.0 for about 100 years" aspect. Bleurghhhh.
    I have a love/hate relationship with Caprica. I love the show, but in many ways I feel mistakes were made. Tying the Adamas into the creation of the Cylons was a step too far for me. It doesn't ring true. Caprica feels like two different shows married together: the Graystone show and the Adama show.