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spacer.gif (836 bytes)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.
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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 I’ve enjoyed my association with the project.”
spacer.gif (836 bytes)Some fans feel that Thurston never quite captured the true BG atmosphere in his books, and other fans have apparently been displeased that Thurston’s books have had a different focus than fan fiction. Thurston remarked, “I know that some at the Thirteenth Tribe (the British BG club) feel I’ve 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.”
spacer.gif (836 bytes)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 only—I never saw the series until, I think, I’d 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 year’s 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 don’t 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. I’ve never heard of anyone there doing that. Whether or not the books were aimed at the right audience I don’t 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, I’m 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.”
spacer.gif (836 bytes)The 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 I’m 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 Thurston’s 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 weren’t aliens anymore. Bad enough I had to find a way to bring Baltar back from the dead, since he’d been killed in the original script.”
spacer.gif (836 bytes)Mind control appeared as a theme in three of Thurston’s 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 don’t 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 I’d 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 didn’t much care about BG projects).”
spacer.gif (836 bytes)Asked 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. I’m not as fond of Apollo’s 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 character’s 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 it’s mine too. For your information, my title for that book was Deal, Chameleon. The editors wanted a more dramatic title. I’ve often had difficulty with editors about titles.”

1988, 1999 by Susan J. Paxton

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