Battlestar Galactica and Philosophy

I’ve just finished Battlestar Galactica and Philosophy – the Open Court one, not the Blackwell one, edited by Josef Steiff and Tristan D. Tamplin. I’m such a geek. The book is a collection of essays, some of which, naturally, are cooler than others, though I enjoyed them for the most part.

The essays in the book are divided into thematically linked sections. Several of these focus on the Cylons – and were generally the ones I found most interesting. The section ‘Battlestar Iraqtica’ I found fairly dull, but that’s my own taste. My sister likes the political themes in BSG, but they’re not so much the focus for me – I’m only interested so far as they influence and allow for the plot.

‘Finding Purpose in the Void’ was again not so fun – I found the first essay there, Jean-Paul Martinon’s ’33, 34, 35 . . . The Life of the Limits, particularly bizarre. It’s about the first episode in season one, where they have to jump every 33 minutes, and the metaphorical implications of this – and then it starts getting weird.

The final section, ‘Nearing the End of Our Journey’ is a bit of a dumping ground – it has the meta-meta, discussing people discussing Battlestar, it has the majority of the essays talking about anything other than the most recent BSG, and all the essays discussing women in BSG.

The other kind of bizarre essay was Heather Rolufs’ ‘Eve, Lilith and the Cylon Connection’, comparing Sharon and Six to Eve and Lilith. I’m not entirely sure what the point of that was, unless it was simply a comment on the complexity allowed for in BSG? Okay, now I’ve written that, that probably was the purpose. The ‘Cylon Connection’ part just seems a bit like grasping at straws – you certainly don’t come away feeling like, omigosh, that connection is so obvious, I can’t believe I never saw it before! So it was unconvincing, in other words.

I liked the stuff on ‘narrative disruption’ (Daniel Milsky’s ‘The Narrative Disruptions of Model Eight’), and I liked the stuff that debates Cylon personhood – probably mostly because they give me new ways of thinking about things I’m already interested in. Which is pretty much the point of non-fiction, for me. Oh, sure, there’s learning and stuff, but when I really like something it’s because it doesn’t just give me new information, but new ways of processing information.

I would read another book entirely on Cylonhood. I would also read more on women in BSG – there really wasn’t much in here. There’s also an essay on ‘Queering the Cylons’ by Shira Chess that made me uncomfortable – using homosexuality as a metaphor. Particularly as there’s nothing that really discusses representations of homosexuality in BSG. Not even getting into the ways they may or may not be problematic, but things like, what does it say about Cylons that we have seen a Cylon in a lesbian relationship, what does that imply about Cylons if they’re seeking out relationships for purposes other than reproduction? I would totally read that essay.

Ewan Kirkland’s ‘A Dangerous Place for Women’ talks about how BSG shows a fairly gender-equal society, but one without feminism – particularly it discusses Starbuck’s character arc, parts of which can be seen as quite feminist, other parts that are more problematic (hi Starbuck’s mum!). I would’ve liked to see something similar with regards to race – there are apparently no racist attitudes with regards to skin colour amongst the Colonials – but then, why are only three of the Cylons PoC? How come we still get racist tropes in the storytelling? For example, see this article by Jean Anne Lauer- “They finally killed off Kat”: Battlestar Galactica and the Limits of its Politics. But ‘race’ in the book is only discussed in terms of the human vs. Cylon races – which, of course, are the only ones we see constructed within the series.

Overall it’s a good book, though I guess in the future I’d want to read essays around more specific topics, and only get what I’m interested in! But I suspect that’s asking too much of the print world.

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