Robert Thurston is familiar to BG
fans as the author of the first four BG novelizations (BG, BG 2: The Cylon
Death Machine, BG 3: Tombs of Kobol, and BG 4: The Young Warriors) and the four
original BG novels (BG 11: The Nightmare Machine, BG 12: Die, Chameleon!, BG 13:
Apollo s War,and BG 14: Surrender the Galactica!). In 1988 ANOMALY had
the opportunity to ask Robert Thurston a few questions about his BG writings.
As to whether or not there would be any future BG novels
or novelizations from Berkley/Ace, Thurston said, I was contracted to write four of
the BG originals. No more offers were made. My editor at Berkley says there are
no plans to do any more. If any more are done, I would be asked to do them. If asked, I
probably would since Ive enjoyed my association with the project.
Some fans feel that Thurston never quite captured
the true BG atmosphere in his books, and other fans have apparently been
displeased that Thurstons books have had a different focus than fan fiction.
Thurston remarked, I know that some at the Thirteenth Tribe (the British BG
club) feel Ive veered away from the intent of the series, although I would argue
that I just approach the same material from a different direction. While others may
respond more to the media aspects and, it seems, the romantic levels of the series, I was
already an SF writer when I was first hired, and my approaches and attitudes were those of
an SF writer. That is, I responded to the SF aspects of the show and tried to write SF
novels out of the material.
Some have wondered if the books were intended specifically for a
juvenile audience, and Thurston provided some confirmation for that supposition: The
books were not actually aimed at a juvenile audience. And yet paradoxically in some ways
they were. An event fairly early in my association with the project is to be credited, or
blamed, for this. I had written a fairly straightforward version of the pilot film (from
the script and the script onlyI never saw the series until, I think, Id
completed the first draft of the second novelization), taking liberties where I thought it
feasible or wise or just for fun. There was some adult language and situations
in the novelization. The steam scene was one of them. However, a publishing company, as
you know, will rather greedily go after profits. The book was offered to the Scholastic
Book Club, which is aimed I think at all levels of the elementary and secondary schools.
The representative of the Scholastic Company wanted to have the book as a main selection
for the high school division of the club. At a meeting which I did not attend (I was on
vacation), the Scholastic representative told the editors that the book could not be
purchased unless certain objectionable passages were eliminated or changed. To
get the Scholastic contract, the editors agreed to the changes. Some of them were
ludicrous, and one made a scene sleazier than it had been originally (that may have been
the steam scene, but I no longer remember). I was angry when I heard about it but
contractually had no power, so the book went out in its essentially censored form. I
believe the Canadian edition and a special edition with a blank blue cover that was handed
out at that years ABA convention contain the original text, if you care to compare.
One time I went through the blue book, comparing it to the American edition, and gave a
talk to a fan group on The Unexpurgated Battlestar Galactica. This
event may have influenced my thinking on a subliminal basis, especially since the only
letters I recieved at the time were from youngsters, usually boys, ranging in age from
about 7 to 14. And, in fact, the major audience may be quite young. You say that readers
of your fanzine are all over twenty. Even ignoring that it is not enough of a sample,
since it consists of those who watched and wanted to continue their interest in a series
that debuted a decade ago, the books may indeed have attracted mainly a younger audience.
I dont know whether reruns have continued to attract younger people or whether
youngers of today, assaulted by newer media events, would even gravitate towards a BG
book. Certainly at the time I was working on the novelizations Berkley did not assail me
with any demographics on readership. Ive never heard of anyone there doing that.
Whether or not the books were aimed at the right audience I dont know, since I never
slanted them towards a younger group and, in fact, thought I was working in some fairly
adult political and social ideas (I did note recently that in one of the manuscripts a
political theme had been carefully taken out by the editor, but it was a long time ago and
it didn t even bother me to find out). At any rate, Im not sure what would
make them juvenile. I got the impression at the one Galactica convention I attended
that some people wanted more sex in the books. I have noticed that there is more sex in
the fanzines certainly. I thought at the time, and still do, that it would have been wrong
to introduce more sex into the narratives. But it is certainly debatable. I hope that the
audience they reached got sufficient satisfaction from them.
BG premiere went through many changes before being broadcast, and, as it evolved,
so did the novelization. Thurston remarked, There were many changes done in the
novelization as the film script changed. Each week or so I would recieve new script pages
(new pages were in different colors), which presented new writing and indicated material
cut out, and I diligently tried to incorporate each change into the novelization.
Actually, this was one of the more exciting things about this particular novelization.
Features of it were always changing in the way one alters a clay figure. However, the book
was done several months ahead of the TV premiere, which explains some of the major
differences between the film and the novelization. The most important one, as Im
sure you already know, was the nature of the Cylons. In the script they were always
aliens. When I finally saw the film in a theatre in Canada, they were still aliens. But of
course, apparently due to some network stricture about how many could be killed, they were
changed to robots. The gambling planet section was extensively revised and was, I thought
at the time, better in its original than in its reworking. I wish I could remember
why. The Cylons remained reptilian in all of Thurstons books, and he
explained, I kept the Cylons as aliens in the novelizations and originals because I
liked it better that way. Anyway, it would have been hard to explain all that Cylon social
structure and Imperious Leader stuff over again to accomodate the fact that they
werent aliens anymore. Bad enough I had to find a way to bring Baltar back from the
dead, since hed been killed in the original script.
control appeared as a theme in three of Thurstons four original BG novels.
Asked about this, he replied, The mind control theme you detected in the first three
originals was, I think, accidental. I dont have any memory of making a choice to do
that in book after book. By the third one, I had noticed it, however, and somewhat
regretted that the plot Id submitted included another mind control device (all the
plots were submitted to an MCA office for approval. The person always approved. I suspect
that, as long as it sounded saleable, she didnt much care about BG
which of his BG books he liked best, Thurston said, While of course I liked
what I did, I have to admit that a couple of the efforts must be ranked below the others.
Im not as fond of Apollos War and have some reservations about The
Cylon Death Machine. But in the latter I did like how I developed the character of
Croft from the script. Sometimes I think the background I gave Croft has helped the
characters popularity with fans, but it probably had nothing to do with it. My
problem with the story as a whole was that it was such a blatant ripoff of The Guns of
Navarone, I hadn t even wanted to do it. But the decision was made at higher
levels. My only way out, to satisfy myself if no one else, was to include a lot of
parodies of Alistair MacLean in the narrative. Fortunately I had freedom to veer away from
the material and could be at least marginally creative. My favorite of the
four novelizations I did was the fourth, The Young Warriors. You say that your
personal favorite among the originals is Die, Chameleon! and its mine too.
For your information, my title for that book was Deal, Chameleon. The editors
wanted a more dramatic title. Ive often had difficulty with editors about
©1988, 1999 by Susan J.
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