Why you don't want gods in your fiction

I won’t deny that some of my distaste for the religious ending comes from my own preference for a realistic SF story, where everything that happens has a natural, rather than supernatural explanation, and that this comes in part from my non-religious worldview.

Nonetheless, I believe there are many valid reasons why you don’t want to have interventionist gods in your fiction. God should not be a character in your story, unless you are trying to write religious fiction like Left Behind or Touched by an Angel.

The reason is that God, as we know, works in strange and mysterious ways, his wonders to perform. We don’t expect to understand them. In fact, there is not even a requirement that they make sense. Some even argue that if you’re going to write authentic fiction with God as a character his actions should not make sense to the characters or the reader.

The author of a story is “god” in that they can write whatever they want. But in real, quality fiction, the author is constrained as to what they will do. They are supposed to make their stories make sense. Things should happen for a reason. If the stories are about characters, things should happen for reasons that come from the characters. If the story is also about setting, as SF is, reasons come from the setting. Mainstream fiction tries to follow all the rules of the real world. SF tries to explore hypothetical worlds with different technology, or new science, or even ways of living. Fantasy explores fantastic worlds, but when done properly, the author defines the new rules and sticks to them.

But if you make a divine character, even an offscreen divine character, you give the author too much power. They can literally write anything, and declare it to be the will of god. You don’t want your writer able to do that. You may want them to be able to start with anything, but once started the story should make sense.

As BSG ended, Adama and Baltar describe (correctly, but not strongly enough) how improbable it is that evolved humans can mate with the colonials. In reality, the only path to this is common ancestry, ie. the idea that humans from our-Earth were taken from it and became the Kobolians. But Baltar is able to explain it all away in one line with his new role as priest, it’s the will of god.

In a good story, you don’t get to explain things this way. You need to work a bit harder.

Now, if you absolutely must have a god, you want to constrain that god. That’s not too far-fetched. If you were writing a story in Christianity, and you depicted Jesus torturing innocents, people would not accept it, they would say it’s at odds with how Jesus is defined (though Yaweh had fewer problems with it.) BSG’s god is never defined well enough to have any constraints.

He,and his minions, are certainly capricious though. Genocides, Lies, Manipulations, exploding star systems, plotting out people’s lives, leading Starbuck to her death to achieve goals which could easily have been done other ways. Making that cycle of genocide repeat again and again until random chance breaks it. Not the sort of god we can draw much from. (One hopes if we are going to have gods in our fiction, they provide some moral lesson or other reason for being there rather than to simply be a plot device that explains things that make no sense.)

In literature, bringing in the arbitrary actions at the end of a story to resolve the plot is called a Deus ex Machina and it’s frowned upon for good reasons. The BSG god was introduced early on, so is not a last minute addition. People will disagree, but I think the divinely provided link to real Earth is last minute, in the sense that nothing in the story to that point tells you real Earth is out there, just the rules of drama (that the name “Earth” means something to the audience other than that ruined planet.)

If you want to write religious fiction, of course you can. I’m less interested in reading it. Moore said he did not intend to write this. He wrote the miniseries and made the Cylons monotheists and the colonials polytheists (like the original) and the network came back and said that was really interesting. So he expanded it.

But he expanded it from something good — characters who have religious beliefs — to something bad. The religious beliefs were true. But they were some entirely made-up religion with little correspondence to any Earth religion (even the Buddhism that Moore professes) and as such with no relevance to the people who tend to seek out religious fiction.

Giving religions to the characters is good. It’s real. It’s an important part of our society worth exploring. However, resolving that some of the beliefs are correct, and bringing in the hand of god is another matter.

More loose ends

  • The Colony had several base ships. When it started breaking apart, base ships full of Cavils, Dorals and Simons should have jumped away. What happened to them, and why won’t they come a calling soon? (God’s will?)
  • Likewise, a force of Cavils, Dorals and Simons was invading Galactica and was in a temporary truce when fighting broke out again and Galactica jumped. What happened to them. In particular, since the first Hybrid predicted the splintered Cylon factions would be joined together again, why didn’t they?
  • We never resolved why the first Earth was destroyed 2,000 years ago, and that this was the same time as the fall of Kobol and exodus of the 12 tribes. Was this just a big mistake and all 13 tribes were supposed to flee at the same time?
  • I don’t know for sure about 150,000 years ago (it comes and goes) but 135,000 years ago the Sahara was covered by large lakes.

Who destroyed the 'original'

Who destroyed the 'original' Earth? It was a cylon planet right? And there were no human remains found, just cylon and humanoid cylons. Correct? So who bombed them? Humans? And from where? Not Kobol.

"Original" Earth

I thought it was their own Centurions but I always wondered what happened to them after their genocide of the humanoid Cylons. Where did they go? Sadly, it's just another loose end out of a very, very long list.

it's not clear

I always assumed (since they made sure to report both dead humanoid Cylons and dead robotic Cylons) that the robotic Cylons started a nuclear war, and then everyone on both sides eventually died. It was never made clear though - it could equally have been one humanoid Cylon faction fighting another, but with the same nuclear holocaust for all result.

Who attacked "Earth?"

Moore recently answered this in a Discover magazine interview.

Who attacked the original Earth?

Moore: The backstory of the original Earth was supposed to be that the 13th tribe of cylons came to that world, started over and essentially destroyed themselves. There was some internecine warfare that occurred among the cylons themselves, which was another repetition in the cycle of “all of this has happened before and all will happen again.” Even they, who were the rebels that split off, [had] enough of humanity in them as cylons that they eventually destroyed themselves.

On Your Last Point-

Although it doesn't fit various in-story given dates, the impression I get is that they ended up writing the history as

Gods create humans on Kobol(?).
Humans create Cylons.
Cylons rebel, there is a war, Kobol is ruined.
Humans go to Colonies and simultaneously the Cylons (13th Tribe) go to "Earth".
Cylons live on "Earth" 2000 years, create Cylons.
Cylons Cylons rebel, there is a war, "Earth" is nuked, Final Five start 2000 year journey back to Kobol/Colonies
50 years before they arrive, Colonies humans create Cylons and have war. Final Five arrive and interrupt war.

I know that doesn't fit dates properly but it seems to me to be the narrative we got from Anders/Ellen. The humans were in the Colonies for 4000 years, after the Fall of Kobol. The Temple Of Five was created 4000 years ago on the Cylon way to "Earth". The Colonies humans remembered a corrupted version of their history and forgot what the 13th Tribe was. There was no communication from 13th Tribe Cylons on "Earth" to the humans, and the Pythian scrolls and their knowledge of "Earth" e.g. Temple Of Aurora are prophecy. The zodiac signs were presumably given to the tribes by supernatural agency- "God" in preparation for the events 4000 years later, and planted in the Tomb Of Athena so they could be discovered.

That's what seems to work for me anyway. There's no given reason why the 13th Tribe would leave Kobol and then it would fall a couple thousand years later to cuase the Exodus to the Colonies. The Fall of Kobol was the first war between humans and Cylons.

I think that covers it.

Of course people will disagree

"People will disagree, but I think the divinely provided link to real Earth is last minute, in the sense that nothing in the story to that point tells you real Earth is out there"

Of course people will disagree, because it's BS. The society on the show has a million parallels to our own, both ancient and modern, and it's the reason so many people would have been pissed if there wasn't a real Earth.

And how was it last minute? I haven't been right about a lot of what ended up happening on the show, but I and many others were 100% right about Kara, the head characters, and their relationship to the original series storyline about Apollo, Starbuck, Sheba, the Beings of Light, and how the fleet were given the coordinates to Earth by them, as soon as Kara came back from the dead saying she knew where Earth was. There was nothing last minute about it.

You have all these problems with the show, but somehow can resolve the unlikely idea that strippers were dancing on poles and laps to rock music 150 thousand years ago on another planet?

You keep moaning and pissing about how fiction should be this and fiction should be that... Fiction is not real, it can be anything the person writing it wants it to be, and is determined by the writer(s) alone, not internet science geeks! You manage to ignore that part every time you whine about and over analyze every scene or piece of dialog. If you want more real science, and less fiction, watch Nova or NASA videos. Did you used to argue with classmates in grammar school, about how it would be impossible for Jerry to hit Tom over the head with a 10 pound shovel, let alone play his whiskers like a guitar? Judging by your views on gods being on BSG, I'm sure you hated the Tom & Jerry that had the cat angels and Spike the Dog as the cat devil... Or the episode where Jerry is sitting on the moon eating chunks of it cause it was made of cheese.

No connection

Yes, the show was full of connections between them and us. But now we see they are imaginary because our culture would not exist for 150,000 years and they deliberately destroyed all of their technology and then descended into primitive barbarism, leaving at most tiny influences on our culture, aside from complex spoken language (not really, but in the context of this story.)

None of the things we noticed in the show as related between our cultures are things which now appear to have been inherited from them.

So no, there were zero hints that this real Earth was out there. Of course, many felt it, but the reasons were:

  • There was one in the 1978 series
  • We kept seeing the stars of the real Earth (turned out to be bogus)
  • We saw the modern Earth (not 150,000 years old) in Crossroads, and we never saw continents on the 13th colony.
  • We knew they would come to a promised land, but nothing assured it would be our Earth
  • We know that real Earth exists outside the show, and the rules of drama say you should not name it and not deliver it.

But none of these were valid things put in the show itself. They are all either mistakes, or dramatic inferences.

As for moaning, critics of fiction are regularly giving views on what makes fiction good or bad. That’s what literary criticism is.

They took themselves very seriously at the UN

Last week, RDM, Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell and David Eick appeared before the United Nations to talk about the issues brought up in the show. Things like war, AI, racism, treatment of children, women and non-combatants were all on the table. I agree all these issues and more came up in the show and at the UN they discussed the morality of them all. They had an audience of Collage Kids asking questions about the show, at no time divine intervention come up in the discussion. I wonder what they would be asking about after the last hour of the last episode. I wish they had scheduled it for next week but I suspect they knew what would happen. The conference took BSG very seriously and talked like it wasn’t fiction and had relevance to today but the super natural never came up. If they take themselves that seriously I don’t think its to much to expect for a more rational explanation than “divine intervention did it”. I don’t like to say God did it because I’m a believer according to Roman Catholic faith and nothing I saw on the show looked like a god or Angles I recognize. Sorry if I took the show as a serious morality play, I thought it was trying to warn us about the dangers of technology run amok and AI which could turn on its creators. I think the head people could have been described as something other than super natural and the power behind it all as some kind of super AI or even Count Iblis and beings of light from TOS. I liked the first half of Daybreak part two.

of course people will disagree

You are totally missing Brad's point about good story writing. All good novels stories etc have consistent rules to them. If these rules are ignored you basically end up writing a really crappy story. Why can't you get that simple fact? Its not rocket science.

Shaggy's picture

neo-lithic

IT would of made more sense to have them arrive around the time of the agricultural revolution. Cant remember when, but there was a point in history were in a retaliative short period ppl from all around the world started living in the one place and quality farming began.
That could of tied them in better. This time was long before the Greeks and the Egyptians, so it could still of been where and why our religion, and the religions of our past are similar to the 12 colonies.
Also where did the chief go? England? Scotland? If is im offended. I dont like the idea of being cylon one bit!

Totally Agree

Here's a possible alteration to the plot that I think would have made much more sense.

In "33" one of the angels inspires Starbuck. to enter co-ordinates based on a tune she'd been humming.

The fleet arrives at Earth.

Hera is not required.

Everyone lives happily ever after.

Even shorter...

In the minieseries, the fleet is destroyed at Ragnar Anchorage. No humans survive. 150,000 years later, the original humans on Earth evolve and build New York City. No Hera involved. Eve is discovered, and turns out to have been African, not half-Korean-cylon-European. :)

We go on living happily ever after. We still don't remember the Colonials, FTL, AI, or immortality through consciousness upload to new bodies.

even shorter still

scientists find it impossible to develop technologically advanced robots,or inhibit them by using something really sensible akin to failsafe devices like the 3 laws of robotics.

They don't need battlestars and just explore the universe.

The gods get bored having nothing much to do and commit conceptual mass suicide by thinking themselves into the form of a brick wall. A brick wall doesn't have a mind so they just end up......being bricks i suppose.

Nothing much happens as there are no other life forms in the universe. 150,000 years pass .......and nothing much happens again.............

Literature, Mormonism, Narrow View of God?

Of course, in the past 6,000 years of literature on earth, the vast majority of it has to do with gods, God, the spiritual, the philosophical, and the supernatural. Not wanting God or gods in your fiction means you don't want something that has been the cornerstone of human arts and literature for eons. That's fine as a personal taste thing, but as some kind of critique of fiction it's not really well situated in the actual world of arts and literature. And I say that as a third-generation atheist. :-)

Incidentally, the whole underlying premise of Battlestar Galactica has to do with Mormon theology. There are a lot of parallels to be drawn even in the reimagined BSG from Mormonism that aren't finding voice in discussions of BSG as readily as one might expect. For instance, this "God" in BSG (Baltar: "You know he doesn't like that name") may be more akin to a God in Mormonism, where (I'm simplifying here) there is a belief that any man can rise to the status of a God if he follows the example of Jesus. The original series also had those Beings of Light and angels and even a devil character--all allegories of Mormon theology.

Rather than contemplate "God" in BSG as a purely spiritual or supernatural thing, we might also consider looking at God as the result of a certain kind of human evolution. I can think of various ways that account for hominids on Earth II, for instance, that draw on Mormon allegories a bit.

Looking purely at science and "real" world motivations and rationales can only get you so far with BSG: I think taking a serious look at philosophy, religion, and Mormonism in particular can be quite illuminating.

Undoubtedly these issues will be addressed in the fall in "The Plan," telling the BSG story form the Cylon perspective, as well as in "Caprica." I wouldn't be surprised that various things like the constellation flags will find retconning in either or both, possibly with a satisfying result.

God in fiction

Yes, the classic forms of fictions, like the ancient Greek stuff, and much other ancient stuff, was about gods playing with men, and showing men as pawns.

But we got over that. Today our fiction rarely has an interventionist god. And our Science Fiction, very rarely. What you say used to be true but has changed.

And I think part of the reason is the reason I say. Gods are, believe it or not, boring. If you believe in your own personal god, then fiction about made-up gods isn’t going to speak to your world. If you are an atheist, it’s just going to be not just fantasy, but bad fantasy.

The Mormons (Glen Larson was Mormon but Moore was certainly not) do have a bit of SF to their religion. Our god was once a being on another planet/cosmos who was good, and got to have his own planet, and you can follow in those footsteps if you’re good — that’s roughly how I understand it. In this case, though, the real Earth has evolved humans. We never learn if Kobol has them, but we get the sense that the humans believe they were created by the Greek-style gods of Kobol.

All fitting well with alien abduction to Kobol, of course.

Anyway, rude as it may seem, I think Mormon theology, Christian theology and BSG theology are just fairy tales and I am not particularly interested in them.

I’m interested in a good story. Good characters. And plots and settings that explore great ideas and situations with relevance to the real world. That’s why I consume SF.

BSG (absent its ending) may talk to us about struggle, about the battle of man and machine, about slavery. about war, about terrorism, about the nature of mind and what it means to be human. That’s good, I want to see those things explored.

But why do I have any interests in the capricious nonsensical “mysterious ways” of a made-up god with no bearing on reality? If this god were interesting on his own, I might be happy to read of him. But this one was just a plot device. Who needs that?

Bad is just bad

I'm not fan of bad religion or bad science, and the same is true of these elements in a story. Bad religion, bad science, and bad stories are just bad.

A Perfect Sequel

"The Colony had several base ships. When it started breaking apart, base ships full of Cavils, Dorals and Simons should have jumped away. What happened to them, and why won’t they come a calling soon? (God’s will?)"

The remaining freed Centurions hunt the Simons, Cavils and Dorals through space. They finally catch up to them after a 150,000 year chase and the final battle takes place on Earth, in the sequel series-- BATTLESTAR: 2080.

Or they take over via a

Or they take over via a company named Skynet...

Even more loose ends

1. I'm displeased with the ending, it didn't make sense to me. Through the actions of Tyrol and the mayhem that it caused, it seems the colonials, cylons (both rebels and Cavil's loyalists), and the F5 f***ed up their last chance at either achieving peace or breaking the cycle of violence.

Why the hell would they then be rewarded for this spectacular fail, with the gates to Earth-2? What exactly did the colonials, cylon rebels, and F5 do that made them more deserving of entry to Earth-2 than Cavil's team?

2.Cottle's observation that the colonials and protohuman genes were compatible throws more questions:

Assuming that F5-cylon cross-breeding is impossible and that Hera was a one-off human-cylon crossbreed, it means that all the cylon rebels died out within a generation, being unable to reproduce with either colonials or protohumans. What exactly did the colonials do to deserve the continued existence of their race, far more than the cylons?

3. Hera's importance to the 'survival of both human and cylon races' lies in her role as an object/person/reason both civilisations can agree to strike a permanent and lasting peace deal over. (Both civilisations could survive and sustain themselves whether they left each other alone or co-existed under the conditions of peace.)

Once the leap for peace was broken in mid-stride, Hera was of no value to the plot as it stood - it has never been about her magic powers or special knowledge. Her purpose was fulfilled and negated, her map to Earth-2 was in the hands of Kara - so the mitochondrial Eve reveal was not just silly - it was needlessly tacked on.

Also, why would all this

Also, why would all this make any difference anyway? The myth that human cylon genes if they could converge would make a blind bit of difference to the actual behavior of either species is absurd. It is laying the problems of humanity at the feat of nature. As soon as anyone has a political or selfish agenda or even the fight for survival over resources they are gonna start wacking each other through environmental/evolutionary forces. Humans do it all the time, the portrayed cylons do it to each other and the cylons and humans do it to each other. There is no point to a cylon/human hybrid whatsoever.
The mitochondrial eve is just a really bad idea, badly thought out. Mitochondria were around way before humans anyway and are found in animal species so mitochondrial eve is bullshit of the highest order.

Ok if you wanna take the notion this wasn't really sf it still needs to be consistent and use rules, i had no qualms with religion being used in the plot to explain peoples psychological motivations and actions but as a cop out plot device i do have complaint. And if you decide to bring in scientific terms willy nilly you should have the decency to portray them accurately.

The god portrayed in BSG is a mish mash of various gods. The search for perfection in the eyes of god is in most religions especially judai/christian ones, and proving you are worthy to gods as well (this was a major theme of early series 4)

It seems to me the god(s) of BSG should take a good look at themselves and decide to punish themselves for bad behaviour by vanishing in a conceptual puff of smoke.

My main qualm is the lack of consistency and logical plotting. If fans expectations are so low its very sad. Its like the old B/W cinema stories of the perils of pauline where every week the heroine is in a perilous situation and the following week she gets out of it with the help of some cheap cheat which is utterly obvious. That was the ending of BSG i'm afraid like it or not.

This was not about God

1. About the chronology: The Cylons left Kobol 3600 years ago, we don't know why, found a planet, called it Earth, made there own Cylons who rebelled and they annihilated each other 2000 years ago. At the same moment, "something" happened on Kobol, the Lord of Kobols died (at least Athena), maybe because of the one who is later the "One God", and the 12 tribes left for the colonies. Moore said he would give an explanation. He did not. Maybe in Caprica ?

2. The God of BSG has nothing to do with the judeo-christian (and muslim) God. Baltar said that this "God" is a force of Nature and neither Good nor Evil. The God of our monotheists religions is beyond Nature, that was the great intellectual revolution of the Israelites, and of course, Good - the very essence of goodness. The BSG God is more like the Gods of the Greeks, and can be compared to Aton, the Sun God of Akhenaton, who was supposed to be the "One God" but was still a force of Nature. In fact, the God of our religions does not fit to this story at all, because he is a reveled God, who wants humans to act according to his laws / or to believe in Jesus /or whatever. The BSG God is secret and just seems to influence and scheme from behind but is not the great leading force of the events.

Ineffable

What you're describing sounds like Buddhism and other religions. The Label "God" as something that is a force of nature, and beyond good and evil is the ineffable within and beyond our world and morals. "God" may be something concious or just the turnings of some cosmic wheel. Who knows? This starts getting a little more complicated when you accept that "nature" may be more than we perceive and that the essence of reality, and all the impetus (concious or unconcious) at the grand plan or microscopic level, is in everything. I'm explaining it badly but it's really quite simple.

It's quite absurd that some scientists and religious people get in such a snit over this, just like the absurd head banging over left versus right politics.

I think its even simpler than that.

However they started with Glen Larson’s TOS Beings of Light (Mormonism I guess, I have no idea and don’t care) the Head Characters and God where RDM nods them. I didn't care for it showing up then and it turns out to be even worse this time around.

RDM's expectations

One could argue that those of us who dislike the use of a 'god' as the lynch pin weren't paying enough attention to not only BSG where religion played a large role right from the start, but his past work on both TNG and DS9, as well as Carnivale and the extremely short-lived 'Good Vs. Evil'. Religion and spirituality are clearly a large part of his writing, and I feel foolish now for expecting anything different from BSG.

Head Six kept telling us that this was all god's doing, that she was an angel, and their paths were being guided by a force divine. Why were we so insistent that there would be a more scientific explanation?

Exactly

I think a few of us have been trying to point this out for a while, but no one wanted to listen.

I think the answer is...

To answer my own question, I think many of us-- myself included-- felt that BSG was more realistic (on a ground level, so to speak) than any of his previous work, that we felt that the religious aspects were just another dramatic device, and not the center of the narrative as it turned out to be.

I think it is a failing

I think it is a failing within the scifi community and I think it is why Star Wars, Firefly and BSG are so accessible to the non-scifi world. Most people balance science with spiritualism, whether that be religion, or other forms of belief in the unknown.

Slow grip

I am slowly coming to grips with the fact that the show was not what I thought it was. I accepted the religious aspects on DS9 a little more easily because they were explained-- they were highly evolved, ancient bajorans. On this show, I kept waiting for that explanation for the head characters, for Kara's resurrection. We never got one.

My guess is that in RDM's head, there is an explanation, as Baltar's final line so subtly suggests, but he wanted to leave it 'up to the viewer'. I choose to believe that Head Six/Baltar are representations of non-corporeal, highly evolved ancient humans (perhaps the very gods that were worshipped on Kobol) who went through a similar destructive cyle, and like the final five, were trying to guide the fleet to end their cycle of invention, rebellion and destruction.

Mainly i'm just disappointed at what WASN'T addressed. Like what was the connection between the cylon god and the Kobolian gods? Again, I choose to believe that the Cylon god (head six's master) was the fallen 13th Kobolian god, who sought redemption with his brethren by ending the current cycle of violence.

Religion vs. God

There is a difference (or can be one) between religion playing a role in a story, and an interventionist god playing a role in a story.

Yes, there was much talk of religion (fine). There was much evidence of a behind the scenes being pulling the strings. That it was a supernatural god was not revealed until the end. Yes, there was reason to suspect it. And also reason to hope not.

DS9

The gods in DS9 were also "wormhole aliens." There was an attempt to write their mundane vs. supernatural nature as ambiguous and that's why it worked. In science fiction, the default is to expect at the very least an ambiguous treatment of godlike characters/entities if not an outright pulling back of the curtain a la Oz.

About gods and angels, religion and sci-fi

This is best explained by using Starbuck as the lynch pin.

Starbuck was never a “Head” character. She isn't really an angel either. She was an agent of the God(s) reborn after she died in the maelstrom.

One of the many God characters established (Colonial and Cylon) put her into play like a chess piece to make events turn they way he wanted them to. (S)he/They also brought forth Head Six and Head Baltar for the exact same reason.

Like the film “Contact”, BSG is, at the end of the day, about a balance of man needing both science and religion. One shouldn't exist without the other (I’m an atheist, it is why I went and studied religion because I was fascinated by what draws people to it). It is the classic story that when you isolate and believe in only one side, you weaken your abilities and growth. It’s like only listening to one form of music. This is why Mitochondria Eve was Hera. We are the bond of two pieces made stronger by the connection.

Starbuck was put into play and but the knowledge-of-self was withheld because she could not influence the outcome by knowing the outcome. The Greek Gods loved to play games with man to teach them. Remember that to the God(s) this is all a game and they can keep starting anew with man again (much like Noah and the Ark) whenever they please.

I think many here were looking for a neatly wrapped scifi explanation for BSG. Ron Moore gave us more than that in my opinion. Not everything in a good story should be laid out for us to know every detail. The best stories are the ones we personalize and find meaning with ourselves. I am sick and tired of scifi that feels they have to wrap everything up by story end (I kinda blame Star Trek and X-Files for this). Even though BSG ended pretty firmly, it left us all questioning the story’s meaning, the same question everyone seeks, "Why?" Let's face it, no film or TV show can answer the meaning of life, so leaving a "why?" at the end is actually quite poetic.

I think Ron Moore donkey punched a whole lot of folks and said, “Think beyond sci-fi.” That was the Mission Statement.

Winner!

This post wins the prize for most intelligent post on the entire blog.

Seconded.

Seconded.

AI is evil?

I'm not sure why "focusing on the characters", as RDM believed was the key to writing the finale translates into "not giving a shit about the writing of the series from '33' til 'Islanded in a Stream of Stars'. It is indefensible to maintain that one of the main themes of the show is that cylons/AI is evil. Sure, the heroes of the show were mostly colonial humans, and they were on the run from the cylon bad guys...but the writing achieved real nuance, especially during season 3 in the portrayal of the cylon perspective. It is a lasting achievement that the moral development of AI beings was so plausibly portrayed directly alongside the emotional weaknesses and failings of human, and none of it dipped into trite, overused tropes, s-f or otherwise.

So if after watching the finale I sound like a jilted boyfriend, it's cuz that's how I feel! What should we do on this earth...build a new civilization of cylon and human, taking the best parts of each? No. We reject all technology because it is the worst part of us. But that's not what the whole damn show was about! Technology was problematic, the relation of humans to AI was too, but it was.not.evil.

And that ominous close with dancing robots! That's what all of the intricate storytelling, all of the moral gray zones, all of the character development ulitmately leads to? Watch out for robots, electricity, and tv cuz they'll kill you? Utterly unnecessary, and a straight up insult to 99% of the show's fans.

Finally, if AI is so evil, how come it was the cylons who (correctly) worshipped a monotheistic 'one true god'? In this aspect (and many others) the finale created a muck of incoherence among what has gone before. Perhaps in 'The Plan', cylon monotheism will be touched upon...but I seriously doubt it.

AI is evil

How can anyone have a problem with Asimo? The dancing robots are cool. AI is a massive pipedream anyway and very unlikely to happen in reality. Let alone attain any sentience. Evolution has had billions of years head start to evolve consciousness.

I also have a problem with the possible convergent evolution in BSG. The likely hood of evolution throwing up 2 species of human seperated by vast distances of time and space are incalculable. Oh i forgot god did it.

Commendations

Thanks Brad, for maintaining the BSG analysis blog with keen and thought provoking entries, and for providing space for discussion that I've enjoyed quite a bit (at least in the last month since I found the blog). I have a lot of sympathy for your views on the value of properly done 'hard' s-f, but little familiarity with recent novels that serve as exemplars of this sort of work. A top 10 works or authors, would be greatly appreciated ;)

The bottom line

I don't want to use the word "God" or "gods" because of the religious and mythological implications which I would rather avoid. But the bottom line here is that as soon as you introduce omnipotent beings as a cause of major events in the story, you shoot the plot full of holes. Audiences can legitimately ask questions like: "Why didn't the omnipotent beings do X?" where X is a much simpler course of events than the one depicted in the story. For example, after Kara died, why didn't the string pullers, instead of bringing her back, or sending an "angel" in her form to do their bidding, or whatever they did, just give the coordinates for Earth to someone else? Or why didn't they let her discover Earth earlier (say, right after the attack on the colonies), and save everyone four years of misery? Or why didn't they use their influence to prevent the Cylons from attacking the colonies in the first place? Once viewers start asking questions like this, the suspension of disbelief crumbles.

And the fact that the omnipotent beings were introduced from the start makes no difference because we didn't know how powerful they were until the end. For all we knew, until the final episode, the being the Cylons were calling the "One True God" could have been a very powerful computer program.

RDM set out to give us a sci-fi series without aliens or time travel. Instead, we got omnipotent beings. He substituted one Deus ex Machina for another. Personally, I would have preferred aliens and time travel.

Actually...

Actually, RDM promised us no God-like beings too.

What are you talking about?

What are you talking about? RDM admits to following the religious element of the show since an exec said it was interesting that a robot believed in god. I think you misinterpreted something somewhere. A lot of fans didn't expect it, but, he said he read the theories and said y'all were way off.

What am I talking about?

I'm talking about this:

http://en.battlestarwiki.org/wiki/Naturalistic_science_fiction#Ron_Moore...

"Story. We will eschew the usual stories about parallel universes, time-travel, mind-control, evil twins, God-like powers and all the other clichés of the genre."

Following the religious element (as in both humans and Cylons having religions) is different than actually introducing characters with God-like power, which he said they would eschew.

And that is what they did.

And that is what they did.

Deal

Why can't people deal with the fact that people can change their minds? That's not what we should be complaining about. There's lots reasons to be disappointed, but most of you seem to be focusing on the inane rather than the legitimate.

either way, ron didn't

either way, ron didn't include those things. did any character on the show have god-like abilities? god being god has those powers, being god, however, no character had "god-like" abilities. not to mention, what did god actually do? gave them parallel evolution? wow, what a big aid that was in all the battles, oh wait...

I actually

I actually agree with you, my comment was directed at Ausir. Sorry.

The Not-God Character

did any character on the show have god-like abilities? god being god has those powers, being god, however, no character had "god-like" abilities. not to mention, what did god actually do?

The Not-God (the "String Puller" who has been mentioned in the show since the beginning) that headBaltar and headSix serve did three "god-like" things: (1) sent messengers with warnings to the Final Five as well as appeared to Baltar, Six, and Starbuck (Roslin too, but that's debatable); (2) through interaction with Starbuck gave the Colonials the Watchtower song, which were the jump coordinates to Earth; (3) created the Opera House vision/projection.

If this Not-God entity had not intervened with these "god-like" powers, the Final Five would have died on the 13th Colony and the Colonials would not have jumped to our Earth. Moore has left it ambiguous whether this entity is actually God or some other kind of intelligence, such as some kind of "ascended" being like Starbuck might have turned into.

Angels in the Interpretation

Via Galactica Sitrep, here's an interview with Espenson where she clarifies what Starbuck, the Not-God character, and head characters might be:

Question: Starbuck an Angel??? Really???

Espenson: I'm going to answer re Starbuck and the "head" people, too. Well, here's how I always saw it. If someone from a far-advanced culture somewhere in the universe took an interest in humanity, isn't it possible that with their advanced tech that they could have abilities that would seem to us miraculous. Maybe we'd think of them as "Angels." Maybe they're the whole reason we have a myth of "Angels." But that's just me. The great thing about great novels (or tv series) is that some things are left open to your own philosophical solutions.

Question: I was wondering if the angel Baltar in Times Square was actually Lucifer.

Espenson: I can see that -- there is something very much like the ol' bar bet about Job going on there, isn't there? There's something very appealing to me about Head Baltar having been the original source for the Lucifer character.

Question: ...I'm still a bit stuck on the Kara Thrace story...I don't make the conection on how she was the "Harbinger of Death" - it would seem that she was quite the opposite. Can you elaborate?

Espenson: I took that to be a reference to the fact that she led us to the place at which (pure) humanity ends -- from here on out, what we call human has Cylon DNA in it.

exactly what i said, god had

exactly what i said, god had god-like powers. congrats, it is god, so they aren't god-like powers, they are god powers. no character (adama, lee, roslin, etc, even starbuck) actually uses any god-like powers.

so once again, other than god (whose powers cannot be god-like, by definition they are godly) show me a super powered act in the show. oh, wait, you can't. so even with the aid of the divine the actions of the characters are nothing more than normal human actions.

The point is that the human

The point is that the human and cylon characters acting through "normal human actions" could not have brought about the resolution of the plot without divine intervention. It's up for debate whether that god-like character is, you know, actually supposed to be God.

They did do it through

They did do it through normal human actions. No one went Luke Skywalker, or Q and started shaping the world with god-like powers. The decisions made were still choices made of free will. All the mysterious power has done has orchestrated points of convergence where major "human" decisions had to be made. That is all. The decisions are still in the hands of humans. In fact, the only major decision this supposed god made was to create a parallel evolution planet for a restart. Funny how this power disappeared after that and left it all to "human" decision again. Even Baltar giving the information to Caprica 6 to start the events was all very human and done via free will and choice.

God-like powers...

When they make the edit with Kara Thrace and Adama launching fireballs out their asses at Cavil's forces while Lee is playing soccer with planets, come talk to me about god-like powers.

Gods and god-like powers

There are a few subtle points here. I consider the use of an actual, intervening god fairly similar to the use of less divine characters with god-like powers. When Moore wrote he wished to avoid the use of god-like powers, he was writing wisely because divine (or divine-like) powers ruin the story, especially if they are a late introduction. They take things out of the hands of the real characters and put them into the realm on what we can’t understand. This is not to say you can’t use them, but you must be sparing.

Moore was wise to say he would eschew them, along with other things like time travel and aliens. He has the power to change his mind of course, and he did change his mind. However, it is fair to be critical of this change of heart. God-like powers are tempting to a writer to resolve plot points, to force the story in some fantastic direction that would be harder to write through purely natural means and human actions. It is because they are so tempting that they should be avoided. They are an easy and cheap way out.

Hi Brad. Neat page. Please

Hi Brad. Neat page.

Please try and remember that the orignal premise of Battlestar Galactica in 1979 was based greatly on religion (i.e the Lords of Kobol, the mysterious aliens/angels that Count Iblis was running from, etc). I believe that Ron Moore stayed true to Glen Larsen's original premise for the show. I am amazed that more people have not picked up on that fact.

The Sahara was covered in lakes 135,000 years ago? Are you absolutely sure about that? Geological dating is far from exact so I wouldn't hang my hat on that argument. We do not KNOW what was there on that date. We can only guess at the time.

Yes, the original series did

Yes, the original series did have god-like beings, but RDM himself specifically mentioned them as something he doesn't want to include.

I see a lot of people saying

I see a lot of people saying RDM said, "X, y and z." If you are going to make that claim throw up some proof, other than the Mission Statement which was horribly misinterpreted by science minded fans.

RDM has said a lot of things

RDM has said a lot of things that were quoted and discussed close to the time. It was all great when BSG was riding high but now there's some dissatisfaction with the show and memories are fading the revisionists and trolls are leaping on the bandwagon. Nit-picking this stuff always ends up in a bad place.

no credibility

And all of it is available to be found online if it was said. Or you could continue to make it up to support what you want with no proof and therefore no credibility.

RDM said he didn't wanna

RDM said he didn't wanna include the characters, the general concept itself was never off the table though.

That is all besides the point though, RDM can say what he wants, and do something different, he's the one telling the story, and he doesn't owe it to anyone to stick by the story he may layout in an interview. It seems like a lot of people tuned in each week just to feed their ego, see if all the stuff the blogged about for a week was right, and when it wasn't... well you can see.

Back to the Future

I recently purchased the BttF box set, and writer Bob Gale says something on the featurette that i'd like to mention. He says that, as a writer, you're never going to end up with the story you originally envisioned. As you are writing, and even as you are filming, your story will change, whether because your original ideas just aren't working out-- or as more often happens-- better ideas come to mind. I've been saying this for a while, but it was good to finally hear a writer say it.

Climate in the Sahara

he Sahara was covered in lakes 135,000 years ago? Are you absolutely sure about that? Geological dating is far from exact so I wouldn't hang my hat on that argument. We do not KNOW what was there on that date. We can only guess at the time.

From Dienekes' Anthropology Blog quoting Nature Geoscience:

"New North African climate reconstructions reveal three 'green Sahara' episodes during which the present-day Sahara Desert was almost completely covered with extensive grasslands, lakes and ponds over the course of the last 120.000 years."

Strange, but true.

More people die of drowing in the Sahara each year than die of thirst.

Strange, but true.

in regards...

You definitely don't want to read American Gods then, because thats rife with gods in a fictional book.Or Good Omens...or Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal..all have gods of some kind in em. Just wanted to put that out there so you knew what to stay away from. :)

American Gods

The difference is that American Gods, as overtly as possible, declares from page one what it’s going to be about. (And in addition, the gods of American Gods are not the sort of god we see in BSG, they are “just” superbeings fueld by mortal belief systems.) And American Gods is about the divine characters, which is fine, and doubly so because they are not that divine.

Your story can be about gods or about human (like) characters. But the more it is about the gods, especially all-knowing or all-powerful gods, the less the story of the human characters means. You always have to have some human characters for the audience to relate to of course, but if they are just puppets of the gods that’s not too exciting.

Religious fiction is fine, if that’s what it tries to be. It’s taking some good SF and declaring at the end, “actually this is religious fiction” that is a mistake.

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