Battlestar Galactica Audiobook

I have finally received my copies of the audiobook edition of my novel Battlestar Galactica: the Miniseries. It’s read by Jonathan Davis, and it sounds good! (Well, the first ten minutes sound good, which is what I’ve listened to.) If you enjoy audiobooks, you might like to give it a try. (It is abridged, I should point out.)

This is the first of my books to be put into audiobook format, so it’s a new experience for me. It’s also the first time I’ve had one of my books abridged, and that takes a little getting used to. The method was not, as I expected, to go through and remove phrases and shorten sentences. Instead, they simply removed entire sentences, probably about one in every four or five. I think it works okay, though to my (prejudiced) ear, there is something lost. Still, it’s instructive how much you can cut and still have it work. I don’t know who did the cutting.

Note, I’m still calling the novel “the Miniseries,” because that’s what it is, notwithstanding the fact that someone along the way—certainly without asking me—took that informative subtitle off the cover of the book. At first they changed it to “the original hit series,” and when I pointed out how misleading that was, they took it off, but didn’t restore “the Miniseries.” I hope no one is confused by the packaging into thinking that the novel reflects the series that followed. It doesn’t. Some future novel might, though.

Galactica Questions

I was asked to come online at a place called Galactica Station/Ragnar Anchorage and answer questions from BSG fans about the miniseries novel. I’ve gone into somewhat greater depth about the novel there than I have here, so if you’d like to read my comments, you can view them at Ragnar Anchorage.

You don’t have to be registered to read the posts, as far as I know.

Galactica, Bye Bye Birdie, and Joint Compound

Between being busy at play performances, and being up to my elbows in joint compound at home, I think I forgot to mention that Battlestar Galactica: The Miniseries has been approved by the studio—so I think I can say with reasonable confidence that it’s on track for publication by Tor Books in February of 2006. (That really means January, in case you’re not familiar with publishers’ calendars.)

The girls were on Channel 4 TV here in Boston Friday night (late night news), only we didn’t see it because we hadn’t gotten the word about when it was running. We heard about it from friends who happened to watch the news. It was a short piece about online learning through the Virtual High School, and their experience taking month-long courses this last month. Hope we get to see it sometime.

Galactica One Step Closer

I finished correcting the proofs for Battlestar Galactica today. A book always feels different when you see it typeset, and I’m happy to say that it I was pleased by the way it came out. I enjoyed reading it (not always true of reading my own stuff), and I got excited in the right places, and felt for the characters in the right places. So my hopes are high. Still no official word from the studio yet, but assuming nothing goes wrong there, it’s in Tor’s schedule for February 2006. If the Good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise.

At the same time, life just got busy on another level: we started dress rehearsal for Bye Bye Birdie at the Arlington Children’s Theater, and as I’m the head sound guy, I have to be there a lot, trying to get the sound to work out right and training a couple of new people—other parents who want to learn sound. That’s going to take up a lot of time for the next two weeks. My own kids are in four performances of the blue cast, plus there are four other performances by the red cast. It’ll be fun, but tiring.

I haven’t forgotten that I promised to write about rewriting, per Harry’s query. Just haven’t had time to do it yet.

Writing Progress

While doing all this home renovation, I have been trying to keep the writing projects in motion.

The page proofs for Battlestar Galactica: the Miniseries have arrived, so it’s time to go through the novel one more time. Advance reading copies are probably being printed as I speak, for the sales department and chain buyers, etc. Still awaiting word, though, on actual approval by the studio.

Meanwhile, I’ve been trying to return to work on Sunborn, the fourth book of The Chaos Chronicles. As usual, when I return to my own work after some time away, my eyes react to the sight of my manuscript like Teflon to water. It’s maybe a little worse this time, because this first draft has more than its share of problems. Oy. Does it. I’ve got my work cut out for me, rewriting and taming this book. I may need that chain saw again.

Writing Question #6: What’s It Like to Write a Movie Novelization?

Battlestar Galactica: the Miniseries was my first movie novelization, and a refreshing experience. First off, it gave me a welcome breather from working on the long-delayed Sunborn, coming as it did just as I finished the first draft of that book. Secondly, I enjoyed the miniseries and loved the acting (Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell were terrific, and so were the others). It was just plain fun to work in that world and sort through the details of the story. (Sidelight to that: my daughter Julia is homeschooling, and we made it an assignment for her to watch the DVD with me, and compare the action onscreen with the written script. Many differences.) Third, it forced me to work at a fast and furious pace, which was good. I didn’t have to make up the story—it was already there. Many of you have probably already seen it. If not, I recommend it, from the SciFi Channel.

But that doesn’t mean it was all easy-sailing, either. I found some unique (to me) challenges in writing this book. Turning a story on screen into a novel is not a simple matter of transcription, even though I was working from the actual show on DVD—and even though I tried hard to be faithful to the story as it appeared, including the dialogue.

When you’re writing the novel, you have to flesh out things that go by quickly onscreen, or get left out altogether, perhaps due to time constraints. This was a 4-hour miniseries—3 hours, without commercials. They had to work very hard to squeeze the story into 3 hours, and a lot wound up on the cutting room floor (either literally, or figuratively—in scenes not shot or perhaps not even written). This meant writing new material to bridge gaps or abrupt transitions, and there were many. Or to fill in background.

What surprised me more was the amount of… how shall I put it?… re-imagining needed to tell on the page a story that’s already been told on the screen. Things happen fast onscreen, and as a viewer, you don’t always have time to think about what you’ve just seen, and whether or not it makes sense. I’m not talking about large plot elements, so much as details and pieces of dialogue and motivation. The show’s writers are trying to compress the action, and sometimes the results—which might be perfectly acceptable to a viewer—are less persuasive when you see them laid out on the page. (This is not a criticism; it’s a fact of life.) Things have to be explained. Motivations for even small actions have to withstand a reader squinting at the page and going, Hmmm.

The challenge, then, is to tell the story without changing it (much), reproduce the dialogue without changing it (much), and tweak it or bolster it in just the right ways to make it work on the page as well as it worked onscreen (or better, if possible). It’s not always easy. But it’s generally pretty interesting.

Oh—and it gave me an excuse to write about flying. I always love writing about flying.

Galactica’s Done! Plus Other Cool News

That’s all she wrote: Battlestar Galactica: the Miniseries: the Novel is finished and turned in. Big sighs all around. Initial reaction from my editor is very positive. (He’d read the whole thing less than 24 hours after I sent it to him—a first for either of us.) The book is going into an accelerated production schedule for publication next winter. I’ll post more definite details as they become official. The publication stuff is all tentative right now.

Meanwhile, the other cool news is that my younger daughter, Julia, just won national ranking in the middle-school category of an international SF short-story writing competition. The competition is sponsored by Eurisy, which as far as I can tell is an educational consortium of many European space organizations, including the European Space Agency. Students in 18 nations are submitting SF stories depicting life in space, each to go through a selection process at the national level, with each nation’s top two in middle school and high school going on to the international competition. The U.S. entries were judged through the National Space Society. Julia’s story is one of two selected by the U.S. judges to go on to the international competition. Excited she is, yes. And so are we.

Deadlines, Deadlines

I’ve got deadlines looming, particularly with the Galactica book (oops! I didn’t say that!), so I probably will be posting less for the next few weeks.

But let me leave you with a few cool links. In preparation for the new Star Wars, you should all first watch Store Wars.

And you must, by all means, see George Lucas in Love, if you ever get a chance. (I don’t think you can watch it online, unfortunately.)

Finally, for a more serious look at real space travel—the current state of the U.S. space program, and prospects for the future, there’s an excellent recent article from the Washington Post. (You might have to register to read this. But that’s worth doing anyway.)

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