Thursday, June 01, 2006

"Battlestar Galactica" creator's favorite sci-fi novels

Ron Moore, the creator and executive producer of the Sci Fi Channel's Battlestar Galactica series, lists five of his favorite science fiction books.

Click here to see all five choices. And #1?
Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein (Putnam, 1961). In part a retelling of the Christ story as seen through a science-fiction prism, this sprawling social commentary tells the story of Valentine Michael Smith, a son of human colonists lost in the first manned flight to Mars. Raised by Martians, Michael has been returned to Earth, before whose society, and foibles, he stands uncomprehending. Soon enough, he is a victim. It says something about the complexity and intellectual edge of Stranger in a Strange Land that it remains one of the few science-fiction classics to have escaped adaptation by the movie industry. The book is very much of its time, the 1960s, in the way its central story of Valentine's reintegration into human society challenges organized religion and gender roles. Not to mention its embrace of those swinging '60s themes, free love and group sex. An emblem of this book's influence: the word grok"--Martian for complete, instinctive understanding--has entered the language and a dictionary or two.
Not a sci-fi fan? Neither am I, particularly.

Think Battlestar Galactica is a cheap and cheesy Star Wars knockoff from your youth? Well, so did I when Friend of the Blog Kurt van der Walde recommended the series to me.

Boy, was I wrong.

Salon's Heather Havrilesky sells the show better than I can:
"Battlestar Galactica" is much, much better than you can possibly imagine. The battle scenes are claustrophobic and paranoia-inducing, with the enemy always hidden from view but omnipresent in the imagination, thanks to closely framed, hand-held shots. The power struggles are complicated and nuanced like the ones you find on "The Sopranos." The soundtrack is odd and moody and completely unique as far as TV soundtracks go. The stakes are always high, and there's an incredible amount of action in each episode--you never feel like the characters are just spinning their wheels, or the situations are repeating themselves, as you do with so many other dramas. The show takes a deeply ambivalent approach to religion: The Cylons attack in the name of their god, which makes them a little bit like fundamentalist Christians or Islamic extremists, but the president of the humans also embraces some pretty odd beliefs and so-called ancient prophecies.

What's most remarkable about "Battlestar Galactica" is that it's populated by distraught, fallible characters who fumble around in the dark and make big mistakes, but never lose our sympathies. Many of them aren't likable or even easy to understand, but we're offered some way of seeing the world through their eyes.
--Marshal Zeringue