On August 20th, Dynamite Entertainment is going to mix the beloved Battlestar Galactica and the world of Steampunk. Writer Tony Lee is leading the voyage, in this 4-part miniseries and Mark Waid talked to him about this series and where it came from with Lee.
MARK WAID: This is arguably the coolest high concept I've heard in forever. Where'd it come from?
TONY LEE: I wish I could say it was my own idea, but I can't - I was in Los Angeles back in February and Joe and Nick emailed me. They'd had a vague idea about it, wasn't too sure how to play it. At the time I was in a meeting, but by the time I got back to my hotel, the drive had given me enough time to work out the characters and the world. That said, we didn't immediately go with that, my first thoughts were to have characters from original BSG meet their alternative counterparts, but that started to become more confusing as I worked the story through. By the time I flew back to London, I'd worked out the characters, story, villains and ending, spending a chunk of time in my hotel room at stupid o'clock in the morning brainstorming ideas down when I should have been sleeping!
MW: What can you tell us about the story?
TL: I joke that it's BSG meets Star Wars meets Pacific Rim in a steampunk setting, but it's far more than that. It's a new, alternate world far closer to the 'steampunk' tropes of popular fiction. The Colonial Empire are similar to the steampunk 'British Empire' we always see, taking over the twelve colonies, with an Arch Duke and a Crown Prince and all that. They fly in cavorite and solonium powered Aetherships, and as the story starts, they've just finished a long and painful war against the Ovion race (from Saga of a Star World), a war that they had to find their own Oppenheimer to end, the weapon they created being the Cylons. But the Oppenheimer of the story, Baltar wanted more than credit, he wanted adoration and, when he was curtly shown the door, he fought back. And the story starts, as the show did, with Baltar's Cylonic soldiers destroying Caprica.
During the battle the Crown Prince Apollo was taken, and even though he's proclaimed dead, his sister Athena decides to find and rescue him, using the only man who'll help, a disgraced former Lieutenant and now smuggler named Starbuck. And while Athena, her manservant Boxey, Starbuck and his co pilot Muffit hunt Apollo down, Apollo's met with fellow prisoners Boomer, Jolly and Count Iblis and they're breaking out. All this happening while Baltar's Cylons attack Arch Duke Adama's Colonial fleet with devastating results. And of course there are secrets, and twists and double crosses and all that sort of thing!
MW: What were the biggest challenges in transposing the BSG world to a steampunk setting? What was the most fun?
TL: The most fun was the Cylons. Turning them into clock creations with punch card brains was incredible fun. As for the biggest challenges? That was probably working out the role that each character played. I wanted to ensure that nearly all the main characters were represented, but wanted to do more than have them standing in a group shot. So Cassiopeia and Sheba are pirate queens that both hate Starbuck, Boomer and Jolly are both ex-soldiers shunned by the Colonial Empire, Iblis was Baltar's old lab partner, the list goes on. Thanks to the militaristic style of the show, there wasn't that much I really had to do!
MW: How did the shift in venue challenge you in (re)inventing the villain?
TL: Baltar was always a politician in the original series - it's only in the reboot that he has a more scientific background, and even then he becomes President at one point. So I decided to ramp this to the Nth degree. Batlar in this is a germaphobic megolomaniac scientist, with delusions of godhood. He's 60's Lex Luthor with a fishbowl on his head. But the biggest problem was creating why he was doing the things he did. Sure, he was angry, but he's decimating planets here. I needed to have a reason that he believed that, to him, was completely rational and reasonable. Of course, that said, are we really sure he's the villain here? I mean... really?
MW: Is there more to this story to be told if readers demand?
TL: Absolutely. We even changed the ending to ensure it if sales did well. I don't know how they did in the end, but at worst, we have the building bricks already laid out for another miniseries if the fans like it!
Check out STEAMPUNK BATTLESTAR GALACTICA on August 20th and see an exclusive extended preview of the issue here!