Evaded Cadence – coming December

Evaded Cadence is the second book in the continuity that I began in The Racetrack Chronicle. Although it isn’t a Racetrack book, it follows from the events set in motion at the end of Poseidon (part one of the Chronicle), and I think you’ll enjoy it. Watch this space for details!

First anniversary

A year ago today, The Racetrack Chronicle was released. Let’s do some Q&A.

Why Racetrack?

Racetrack was, with Adama and Helo, the character with whom I most strongly resonated and empathized. In large part, that’s down to Leah Cairns’ portrayal: Ronald D. Moore and Michael Angeli may have named her, but Cairns made her real and vivid. On the page, Racetrack first appears in Kobol’s Last Gleaming, the season one finale, and in season two becomes—in one description that has stuck with me and which became a sardonic sobriquet for David—“ECO of the week.” As we progress through Final Cut and Flight of the Phoenix, she’s visibly more broken and traumatized than her shipmates, and as the weeks go by, we see her as mordant, sardonic, volunteering for anything; “walking on the razor’s edge with a death-wish,” if you will.

From the start she’s painted as very human, very damaged, and very compelling. Those qualities made her feel like a protagonist: That Racetrack is—in a way, she’s us in the story, an ordinary person grabbed by the riptide of extraordinary events. Cairns (as she’s apt to do) brought depth and veracity, and it’s all there, fully-realized from that very first episode: Watch her when Boomer leaves the Raptor aboard the Baseship. That brittle tension between resignation, fear, and survival-instinct. If you seek Maggie Edmondson, she is in the performance, not the script.

So she was a character with whom I connected, and I’ve told the story of the book’s genesis in this post. Still, when I started writing in late February/early March of 2016, I only intended to write a short-story. It was in the process of working on that, of engaging with the character, and unpacking what Cairns put into her, that a feedback-loop developed. The more I got to know Racetrack, the more I was convinced “this is a character who’s interesting and important and whose story I want to tell,” and that made me more interested in getting to know her better.

Are you aware that on modern warships, the “galley” is the kitchen, not the dining-area?

Yes. In the maggieverse, the galley is where they eat (at least the officers). It’s 150,000 years ago; not everything is the same.

Are you aware that the notion of staff-officers used in the Galactica interlude is why the U.S. military has Warrant Officers?

Yes, but it’s Major C. Sherman Cottle, not CWO Cottle. An early draft of Galactica did raise that point—to the confusion of some beta-readers. There’s no indication that the Colonial military uses warrant-officers, and creating them would have raised questions about Cottle’s position. That was a can of worms that I wasn’t interested in opening.

Are there lines of which you’re particularly proud?

I really like “A race of helpers who would soon rise up against their masters”; I think that’s fabulous. I always hear hat one in Cavil’s voice. I really like the few lines written for Aaron Douglas, it’s a pleasure hearing that voice in my head. And really all of Maggie and Abigail, I feel proud that I was able (I think) to bring veracity to them, especially lines where Abigail makes me cringe, which happens a lot. I like the line with which Gareth brushes her off, “you’re a person to be loved, not a thing to be enjoyed,” which is a paraphrase of John Paul II; I was never sure whether the intent of the head scene in Rubicon played, but I like that line.

My favorite line in the entire book is early in Galactica, when Maggie and David are sitting astern of the Galactica in a Raptor: “‘I like the Galactica. Outside and in.’ She gazed out of the canopy, the lumbering battlestar’s incandescent exhaust the only visual cue that she was there, far ahead, a rosette of blue twinkles barely brighter than the stars.” I love that image.

Did you draw on Cairns’ backstory for Maggie’s? There seem to be some parallels.

No, with two asterisks. When I started formulating Maggie’s backstory, I knew nothing about Leah’s, and I deliberately kept it that way until I had the outline in place. If there are superficial parallels, they’re coincidental. The ones that I know about are the car-crash (scripted from very early because it was the most logical way to get the outcome I needed, see Interlude 1 in Poseidon), and Maggie and David having three kids in Future Imperfect, the FlashForward (because they’re each middle children, and there was an “all this has happened before” loop running in my head). If there are others, I plead coincidence.

Two asterisks because there are a couple of details that are deliberate nods. Maggie’s middle name, Savannah, is obviously an allusion to Savannah & Seattle. “Seattle” didn’t fit. (It became the Midtown Caprica City neighborhood in which Forsyth lives in Evaded Cadence.) But “Savannah”—that was perfect. It meshed perfectly with my conception of Falstone and Maggie’s rural-south background.) And insofar as both “Edmondson” and “Cairns” are names from the Borderlands, it seemed an appropriate nod to borrow Maggie’s hometown from that area—whence Falstone, Picon, a calque of Falstone, Northumbria, transplanted to the rolling backhills of Kentucky.

A line I was sorry to lose—it’s not the right book for it, but the original draft of the disclaimer said “any resemblance to any persons alive today is unintentional—but hilarious.” I had to excise that, it was tonally inappropriate, but if I ever write something more Pratchett-like, I’m using that.

Did you draw on your backstory for either David or Gareth?

No. In writing all these characters, you inevitably take fragments from yourself and you own life, and that’s as true for David and Gareth as it was for Maggie and Abigail. (And as it is for Carolyn, Forsyth, and Nagala.) But it’s irresponsible to take too much from one source, or to leave it there in raw form. The biggest influences in characterizing David was David Gilmour; his voice, background, and mien, although Wright is more buttoned-down than Gilmour. And a little bit of David Mailer. If he seems like an old soul, it’s because he’s patterned after a man in his fifties on upward. Same thing with Gareth: The biggest influence in characterizing Gareth was his voice and mien, which is to say Michael Fassbender’s voice and mien in Prometheus. Well, alright, so he’s a very calm, level-headed guy, how do we build that out in the background? And in each case, it’s fun, by portraying each of these characters as the archetype of a culture we haven’t seen, I get to texture them and do some left-handed worldbuilding of Virgon and Aquaria. (What kind of worlds do they come from, and what does that tell us about them and those worlds?) I like that.

What is Proven Beyond Unreasonable Doubt?

In-universe, it’s a pulpy, noirish detective thriller novel that is later adapted into a hit movie. The original impulse was Star Trek: The Next Generation, which presents a culture in an advanced state of decay, after failing (it would seem) to produce a single piece of worthwhile culture in centuries. It’s not that Trek doesn’t show humans engaging in cultural activities (mainly music and drama), but it’s always art from before the twentieth century. Riker never takes out that trombone and blows a tune from a 22nd Century bebop composer; Picard never has Data acts out a play from a 21st century French master. And I know that there are production reasons for that, but canon is the gestalt of what we see on screen. I wanted to show that pop culture existed in the colonies, not just high art. It’s just a way to make it more real.

Are there any beats in the book you didn’t like?

I hated using a shipping-incident as the event into which Maggie and Abigail are plunged on their brief trip on the Triton. I don’t like recycling ideas from the show, but the fact that a shipping incident was Tigh’s first thought when Gaeta called action-stations suggests that that’s the most common reason for it in the timeframe we’re looking at. This is a peacetime navy that hasn’t seen enemy contact, let alone action, in years, and it felt right. But I didn’t like that.

I had mixed feelings about anything that felt sci-fi or places where I had to reference Cairns’ physical appearance. I don’t mind doing tasteful fan-service—giving Helena Cain a call-sign is pure fan-service—but the description of the trap and its operation felt a little much because it felt both like fan-service and a bit sci-fi. That was in and out of the drafts for probably six months before it stuck. Maggie’s physicality and physical expression inevitably come from Cairns and her performance, but it felt worryingly-personal. But there are tics and physical artifacts that couldn’t be avoided, so in the end you just have to swallow hard and hope that you’re taken as working in good faith.

Is The Racetrack Apocrypha collection still being considered for release?

Yes. I hope to have that out early next year, depending on schedules. There’s a whole book’s-worth of material for it in terms of volume, but it’s not organized. It’ll just be a compendium of fragments and production materials.

Will the original draft of Rubicon ever see the light of day?


Rubicon puts the episode “Escape Velocity” at day 1189. Why?

The Demetrius departs at the end of “Six of One,” and “Escape Velocity” appears to take place approximately three and a half weeks later. “Six of One” continued directly from the Ionian Nebula battle, which in turn took place approximately two months after “Maelstrom.” Thus, “Escape Velocity” takes place approximately 84 days after “Maelstrom.” The titular day of “A Day in the Life” is day 1,087, and we can make a plausible guess that “Maelstrom” takes place approximately two weeks later, which in turn puts “Escape Velocity” at approximately day 1,189—just over three years since the Fall, which lines up with Adama’s statement in “Revelations” that it has been three years since the escape from Ragnar. (I am indebted to the BSGwiki for many of the details that undergird the Chronicle, especially the dating of various episodes, which I think to be enormously important to understanding what’s going on in these characters’ hearts and minds. If you contrast Maggie in the last chapter of Galactica with where we find her in Rubicon, a lot’s happened—a lot of time has passed.

Why is Racetrack in denial of the seriousness of the crash?

The flip answer is “because that’s how Cairns played her in the scene from the show that precedes the scene in the book.” Preserving continuity is vital.

The more serious answer is—I don’t feel that she’s in denial in the book when the CAG benches her. She’s fighting the point because she didn’t screw up and doesn’t want to accept anything that implies that she did. And I don’t feel that she’s in denial when she tries to tamp down Tyrol and Skulls in the episode. I think she’s a people-pleaser and that kind of mediation feels authentic to a conflict-averse people-pleaser character.

The realization that Maggie is a people-pleaser was a key development. In the second draft of Rubicon, “mom” became “mama” because Cairns gave her accent those little southern grace-notes. That seemed a nice touch, I wanted to play that up. And then her mom’s reaction seemed pretty good: Maggie is excited about her assignment, but her mom’s just dismissing her, and I thought, okay, that’s a nice thread that implies lots about that relationship. So now you’ve got a disapproving mother, a difficult family situation, for a character who displays a compulsion to be useful: She volunteered for the “extremely high risk” gig in “Kobol’s Last Gleaming, part 2”; for the unprecedented SAR in “Lay down Your Burdens, part 1”; she put it all on the line to help Lee spring Roslin in “Resistance”; in this story, she’s fighting Two-Times to keep flying; in “Torn,” she’s so desperate to keep flying that she’s willing not only to back-seat, but to back-seat a Cylon! A Cylon married to Helo! And after the crash in “Escape Velocity,” what’s the very first thing she does? She tries to placate the conflict between Skulls and Tyrol.

I had an epiphany: “Oh my gods, she’s a people-pleaser. Wait, she can’t be a people-pleaser, that doesn’t work.” But it does. The people-pleaser characteristics that don’t fit Racetrack as we see her on the show (but which we saw in “Poseidon”: Pliancy, unassertiveness, submissiveness, etc.) are things that you’d expect Officer Training and overcompensation to beat out of a person, and in some circumstances, people-pleasers can take on all the traits we associate with Racetrack: Sarcastic, saturnine, resentful, bitter, brittle, caustic—and, now that we’ve parsed her actions, driven by a need for validation by being useful. (No wonder she was knocked flat by Gareth’s insistence that her value is intrinsic, not derived from what she does. I had no idea about any of this when I gave him that line, but it fits achingly.) Now seal that person in a tin can and take her just below crush-depth for 1,189 days.

What is Gareth’s endgame before the mutiny derails it?

I don’t know; I’m not sure that he knows. One of the questions that FilmCritHulk says writers should consider is what movie each character thinks they’re in. For most of the course of Galactica, from the end of chapter one down to the start of chapter four, Maggie thought that she was in a romance movie, as she claims to have thought in the prelude. I think Gareth’s the same. I don’t think he has an endgame—he’s just got a crush, he likes her, he respects her, and he’s quite religious, and trying to be sensitive to their situation and hers, it’s a bonkers situation they’re in, so he’s trying to work it out as they go. Would they have gotten together but for the mutiny? I don’t know, but I think that’s the choice she’s left to make: Go along with Gaeta’s plan or salve her own wounds. So ironically, she chooses unselfishly, and it screws her. And what we get with Racetrack, again and again, she does what she thinks is right even if she’s not personally comfortable with it, which sometimes is good (Poseidon, Resistance), sometimes not (Lay Down Your Burdens, The Oath.)

So, in the end, she fraks him.

Technically, that’s open to interpretation. To be sure, that scene started with a visual and a mood: The visual was Inara and Fess lying together in “Jaynestown”; the mood was “Clone” by Metric. I felt that it was post-coital, but one of my beta-readers noted astutely that nothing in the text says that they slept together, so it’s open to your interpretation. I don’t think that I really care whether she did or not. And beyond the visual, I didn’t really care what they said so long as she didn’t say “I love you,” which she obviously doesn’t. (I don’t think.) For me, the key thing with that scene was that I wanted for her to be at peace at the end.

Now, behind the curtain: Those scenes were originally drafted as little postscripts, written on background, and they weren’t going to be a part of the published story. So I gave myself some room to indulge my own needs: “No one’s ever going to see this, so frak anyone else’s opinion—I need her to have closure for myself. She’s going to die saving us all, I can’t change that, it’s canon, but she’s going to die at peace with it.” When these scenes came into the story, I had doubts about whether this one plays—whether you can buy that in the few weeks or months between “Blood on the Scales” and “Daybreak,” they’re going to be sleeping together, at least this once. But where we left them going out of the prison scene, they’re both broken and vulnerable, and I’m willing to buy that they sat in that cell together and talked and coupled, especially if I’ve called her right as a people-pleaser at heart: He loves her unilaterally and unconditionally, and I can see why she would both reject and long for that. I’m also willing to consider the possibility that, having made peace with a death that now seems not only inevitable but imminent (remember, she’s seen the shirtshow into which they’re jumping), she might just want a last moment of intimacy. (Cf. Kat in “The Passage.”) Nothing focuses the mind like a hanging in the morning. And I like the idea that he might not be sure whether she’s really giving herself to him as he wants her or whether she’s just using him—that he accepts her just as she is, and will be whatever she needs, for her benefit. That seems to give him something of an arc as well, although it’s not necessarily one you’d expect.

So there are fair questions about that scene, and in the end it either works for you or not. But here’s the bottom line: Writing the main story was an unhappy experience because, as I said earlier, canon demanded that my brief be “take this character whom you love, who’s deeply damaged, and break her completely.” Everyone knows that when you write, you put yourself onto the page; what no one warns you is that the page fights back and forces itself onto you! Rethink “Final Cut”: She didn’t want to die! She saw the obvious likelihood of being killed on-mission, and it terrified her. The closer I got to the character, the less able I found myself to bear the thought of her flying out in “Daybreak” still carrying those burdens and—because Skulls is visibly killed on impact— asphyxiating alone and terrified. I needed her to have some kind of resolution; that before the end, she would be over the fear, stress, and bitterness, and to be at peace.

Which bings us to the ending, which is… Unexpected.

I didn’t want to recapitulate the end of the show. And at the same time, I knew that I had to address it. And so it’s left unclear; the reader who doesn’t know how the show ends is going to be a little confused, but I think that the basic idea that this character who has repeatedly said she expects to die in the saddle is sent out on a suicide-mission and, well, dies in the saddle. After the battle, her friends are left to wonder what happened, and that seems poignant. I knew that I wanted to end it on Gareth and Abigail trying to pick up the pieces, and I knew that I wanted to play the epistemological problem that these characters have no idea what really happened out there. Tigh, Gareth, and Abigail all draw the conclusion that Racetrack, for whatever reason, opened fire right when they needed her to, but didn’t make it home. What other conclusion could they draw? Gareth, though it’s not obvious in the text that made it into the book (again, watch for The Racetrack Apocrypha, which has this) is distraught over the idea that they left her behind. But they don’t know.

I also knew that I wanted to end it on a more hopeful, positive note, and how do you do that? You can’t raise the dead. You instead show the impact she had on the people around her, and I like the idea (alluding to the quote from Sirach in the frontmatter) that while Racetrack didn’t make it to Earth, her name did, and that lived on.

The Chronicle ends with a preview of the next book, Evaded Cadence. Is that still on the way?


Is Racetrack in it?

No. It’s in the same continuity, and I believe there’s an oblique reference to her in the current draft. Her sister, whom we met in Vespers, makes a brief appearance. (She is Carolyn’s flatmate.) Paul Katraine, the father of the “real” Louanne Katraine (whom we never met) appears in a supporting role; he’s also the person on the other end of the phone when Lampkin makes a call on Sasha’s behalf in The Racetrack Apocrypha. But no character seen in the show appears in Evaded Cadence, excepting Richard Adar and Admiral Corman, whom we saw very briefly in the episodes “Epiphanies” and “Hero,” respectively, who are supporting characters. Admiral Nagala, whom we never saw but who was referenced in the show, is one of the six main characters. Everyone else is new. Tory Foster was in the original pool of characters, but she didn’t make it. I felt that I had already pushed my luck with as many characters from the show as I ended up using in the Chronicle; time to look beyond the four walls of the show.

What’s it about?

It’s about the intersecting lives of six people at the top of the Colonial power-structure in the last few months before the attacks. It’s thematically like the Chronicle insofar as it’s about what was going on off-camera that you didn’t see. I would say that the overall tone is more like “Caprica,” but without the teen drama.

All the ships of the Fleet, to intrinsic scale, and their actual sizes

A couple of years ago, I created a graphic titled “The ships of the fleet to intrinsic scale.” It was partly research (early in Poseidon, Maggie and Abigail spend a day on a Valkyrie-type), but it was mostly just sheer nerdy fun. The idea was to take the three types of battlestar seen in the show and scale them correctly based on the one element common to all three: The viper-tubes must all be the same size. I’ve been very gratified to see that image go viral.

Regardless of any published “official” dimensions, we can know something for sure: Because the Colonial Fleet was a continuing body throughout the production-run of various types of Viper, the Valkyrie, Pegasus, and Galactica all launched Vipers with the essentially same dimensions. Their launch-tubes must therefore all be essentially the same size. And so, if we scale images of the ships such that the tubes are the same sizes, we know that the ships are scaled correctly relative to one another.

But there was a ship missing from my comparison. Rather a famous ship, actually: The TOS battlestar. And the graphic said nothing at all about the actual sizes of the ships. It’s time to remedy both those shortcomings.


I recently came across and got to thinking about a graphic that shows the internal arrangements of the TOS battlestar’s flight-pods. Cross-referencing that with images of the original studio model and Lee Stringer’s recreation (here, here, and here), I think it’s reasonable to say that the launch tubes on the TOS battlestar are about two-thirds the height of the “trench” running down the outboard of the flight-pod, or roughly the same height as the flight-pod’s prow at its narrowest. The TOS Vipers, I think we can all agree, are essentially the same size as the RDM vipers. (Objections that they are technically a few inches off make no odds.)

I haven’t been able to find high-resolution elevation shots of the filming miniature (if you have them, I’d love to get them, please, and will update the post), but there’s a popular fan-made image that does the rounds that’s close enough for our purposes. So in the image at top, the TOS battlestar is shown at approximately the correct scale compared to the RDM ships, not based on any “official” published dimensions but based on something intrinsic and in-universe: Uniform size of a detail common to all four ships, viz. the launch-tubes.

I realize that some TOS fans may object. To be clear: I do not mean to degrade or take anything away from the TOS battlestar by correcting its dimensions. And I emphasize that this is only roughly right until we can get a high-res elevation of the filming model. But I stand by the methodology, and I think the execution is correct within a reasonable degree of accuracy.


But the question that I know you’re dying to ask (because some of you did) is: Well, then how big is the TOS battlestar if Glenn Larson’s number is (as it clearly is) wrong?

The beautiful thing about the image at top is that it sidestepped that question, showing only relative size. To answer that question, we first have to know how big the RDM Galactica is.

Competing numbers have floated around for years. BSGW quotes two, both from preeminently trustworthy sources from within “Camp Hutzel”: Lee Stringer said 4720′ (1438.656m), and Mojo said 4740′ (1444.752m). Unfortunately, I have to argue that both are wrong. The battlestar Galactica is approximately 1,330m long.

A few years ago, Mojo dug out the original Stringer model and posted a set of high-resolution orthographic renders. The Viper tube aperture on his “revisited” render is 25 pixels wide and 17 pixels high. Another useful detail that I learned writing The Racetrack Chronicle (from the operators of the Galacticaguise website at the suggestion of BSG Museum) was the dimensions of the actual hangar-bay sets: The full-size launch tube set was 16′ wide (4.8768m). That lines up nicely with the CG model viper, which, per Stringer/BSGW, had a 15.5’wingspan. So, on Mojo’s render, 25px = 4.8768m ∴ 1px = 0.195072m. Based on that, we can calculate the actual dimensions of the ship:

  • From the very front of the bow to the aftmost tip of the upper engine-bell, Mojo’s render is 6835px, i.e. 1333.31712 meters. From the bow to stern excluding the outboard engine nacelles, the’s 6350px, i.e. 1238.7072 meters.
  • Draft is inapplicable and height is tricky because there’s no one “tallest part of the ship.” But if we measure from the highest part of the Roundrel on her gun-deck to the lowest part of the alligator-head’s lower-jaw, excluding protrusions and armor, she’s 988px or 192.731136 meters.
  • It we take the top-down render and scale it carefully, we find a beam—with her flight-pods extended (and extenders braced)—of 2658px, i.e. 518.501376m.

Keep in mind that Mojo’s render, while glorious and gorgeous, isn’t remotely big enough for us to be as precise as those decimals might imply. (They’re given to that many figures so that you can check my work.)  We have to squint a bit, and round. Nevertheless, I’m comfortable saying that the “correct” overall dimensions of the battlestar Galactica, based on the sets and CG models, are 1,330 meters long, 190 meters high, and 520 meters wide.

With these numbers measured and calculated, we can now move on to the approximate lengths of the Valkyrie, the Pegasus, and the TOS battlestar.

  • On my original of the comparison-chart, Galactica is 1173px long (engine-bells included but bow antennae excluded), ∴ 1173px=1333.31712m ∴ 1px = 1.13667273657289m.
  • From bow to stern, the TOS battlestar is 679px, so she is a nose shy of 772 meters long.
  • From bow to stern, the Valkyrie is 456px long, so she is a nose over 518m.
  • From bow to stern (excluding the pipework protruding from the stern), the Pegasus, despite her bow being clipped in the image as posted, is 1,421px long and 249px from the lowest part of the ventral launch-bays (protrusions and bow antennae excluded), so she is 1,615 meters long and 283 meters high.

Now: Just one more thing. There’s a last bit of business we can do; call it a cyclic redundancy check of sorts. If we take the fan-created but looks-right render of the Valkyrie that does the rounds, the Valkyrie is 2358px long, ∴ 2358px = 518m ∴ 0.2196776929601357m.

Remember that the whole premise of this exercise is that the launch-tubes must be of consistent size between different ships in the same military operating the same fighters. If all these calculations and measurements have been correct, then, we should be able to line up the bow projection of the Valkyrie from that image and find that the tubes are the right size—within the fudge-factor of the imprecision inherent in the scale. Remember that those tubes should be 4.8m wide to match the actual hangar-bay set.

Ladies and gentlemen, on that image, the Valkyrie‘s tubes are 19px wide. That’s 4.17m—correct to within barely a meter.

With all this in mind, I think that we can be very confident that the battlestar Galactica is approximately 1,330 meters long, the Valkyrie-type battlestar is approximately 520 meters long, the Pegasus is approximately 1,615 meters long, and the TOS battlestar is approximately 770 meters long.


Some notes on the Chronology

Appendix IV of the book, excerpted here, sets out a chronology of two thousand years of Colonial history. This post discusses its creation.

In his preface to the Second Edition of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien wrote: “This tale grew in the telling, until it became a history of the Great War of the Ring and included many glimpses of the yet more ancient history that preceded it.” When I started writing The Racetrack Chronicle, I knew what had happened on Kobol (because Edward T. Yeatts has told us in his Lords of Kobol novels), and I had a sense of what had happened in recent decades (because BSG and Caprica paint a vivid picture of the world). Despite the mythopoetic prelude that opens Poseidon, though, I lacked a strong sense of what had happened between those two epochs. Somewhere in the process (around the time the next book was conceived, not coincidentally) I realized that this was an unsatisfactory state of affairs. I needed a glimpse of that ancient history, the context that necessarily preceded my narrative.

I had already taken a stab at some Colonial history. In a couple of short stories, I had tried to flesh out the worlds into which Maggie and David, in particular, were born. Margaret Cavendish, the Pican first President of the Colonies and Maggie’s namesake, appeared in Atalanta, and, in broad strokes, I told the history of Virgon in Carillon, which, truth to tell, as an exercise in storytelling, was a large tail wagging an awfully small dog.

Those forays were satisfying and enjoyable. Cavendish (embodied by Rekha Sharma) seemed like an interesting character, and I’ve done more writing with her that may see the light of day. And the Virgon of the present-day, the Virgon whence David Wright comes in The Racetrack Chronicle and (to let one cat out of the bag) Edward Hackett Nagala comes in Evaded Cadence, took on a feeling: That of High Hopes. Of decline, melancholy, and regret.

(In my telling of it, Virgon is the heavy sigh of a man whose time has passed. It was, but has lost, its place as the preeminent power and quintessential civilization of the Twelve Worlds. And I say “civilization” in Spengler’s sense: It long ago became the Thing Become. And then it ossified, decayed, and watched the rise of its upstart neighbor Caprica, jealous, powerless, and suspicious (rightly) that rivals ancestral (chiefly Leonis) and strategic (chiefly Canceron) were fueling that rise to undermine its own. The reference-points were the Centauri Republic, interwar England, a neverland version of Imperial Russia. I say Russia because I like the idea that it was an absolute monarchy (and a successful one) until relatively recently, about a century before the Fall, and interwar England because it seems more interesting that it not be a ruined civilization but a civilization in terminal decline that cannot yet quite grapple with or face that decline or decide what to do about it. )

Nevertheless, they were only glimpses, and Tolkien fleshed out his mythos with a lot more than just glimpses. Ditto Herbert, another influence. Moreover, I feel that knowing the background in great detail gives me confidence in writing. The more specific I could make the history, the more vivid the worlds around Maggie Edmondson would be, and the starker the relief in which I could portray her. So I began constructing an enchiridion that would eventually become Appendix 4.

All of which brings us to another quotation attributed to Tolkien, of late, but which seems to be original to the Jackson movie. As centuries passed after the cataclysm ending Sauron’s reign in the second age, Galadriel tells us, “some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend. Legend became myth. And for two and a half thousand years, the ring passed out of all knowledge.”

What a line is that! History becomes legend; legend becomes myth.

With all this in mind, let us consider: How long ago did the Colonials leave Kobol? At the end of the Miniseries, Cdr. Adama tells his crew: “‘Life here began out there.’ Those are the first words of the sacred scrolls, and they were told to us by the Lords of Kobol, many countless centuries ago.” Even were “countless” rhetoric, even were the antecedent the exodus rather than, technically, when the gods handed down the Sacred Scrolls, history becomes legend and legend becomes myth. That history is old does not mean that it is false or indeterminate. But as centuries pass, even in advanced societies, it accretes legendary aspects and fades to a point where a skeptical man like Adama might well dismiss the remaining gestalt as religious tales from before the memory of mankind, just as today, Higher Criticism is apt to dismiss the historicity of biblical events.

Later, in Kobol’s Last Gleaming, we get a more specific timeframe: The Colonials left Kobol “around” or “approximately” 2,000 years ago. And, finally, during Caprica’s run, Serge Graystone confirms it explicitly: The exodus took place 1,942 years before the events of Caprica, which in turn predate the Fall by 58 years.

To be sure, a multiplanetary civilization presents timekeeping challenges. Some of them are alluded to in the book and in other posts; it’s not subtle, but I particularly like the line in Galactica that “[f]or a Pican and especially a Virgan, there were, quite literally, not enough hours in the Galactica’s 24-hour day.” But anyway: For writers and readers, you have to have some fixed point of reference for timekeeping, unless time is itself to become a significant player in the story. (As in, for example, Interstellar). Otherwise it becomes a distraction and an annoyance. Even if it’s a contrivance, then, it seemed reasonable to take so cataclysmic an event as an entire civilization leaving for new pastures as a basis for timekeeping—or, more specifically, to posit that by the calendar of Gemenon and Caprica, the Fall takes place in the spring of 2,000 A.E., i.e. 2000 years “After the Exodus.” This is not to say that other colonies did not have other calendars; how could they not? Days and years would be significantly different throughout the Twelve Worlds. But if any colonies would have kept it, Gemenon as the elder colony and Caprica as its erstwhile vassal felt logical, which gives a us a consistent throughline from the exodus to our modern calendaring: The divine providence that first Gemenon/Caprica and ultimately Earth II would have almost identical spins.

(Elsewhere, I have gone into how the date of April 15 came about based on measuring the angles of shadows on-screen during the Miniseries.)

So what happened in the intervening centuries? I wanted to sketch a history that that would produce the Colonial landscape I envisioned in the Background Notes: “In my reading, the twelve United Colonies of Kobol are not the Federation (“Star Trek”), nor even the Alliance (“Firefly”); they are America in 1810. They are a vast, sprawling, diverse collection of societies. They are tied together by history, commercial intercourse, and a remote federal government on Caprica, and of course the silver chain of the Colonial Fleet, but ineluctably separated by immense distances [slower-than-light communications] and profound cultural and aesthetic differences.”

Armed with that, and with a map, I sought to provide the Maggieverse with a two-millennium backstory that was fractious, difficult, real, and which bridged the end of Lords of Kobol and Carillon with the immediate backstory of The Racetrack Chronicle, Battlestar, and Evaded Cadence.

I wanted to posit a backstory that took seriously the implications of what we knew about the Colonies: That took into account the effects of geography, economics, politics, logistics, science, language, ethnicity, culture, petty rivalries, personal ambition, and above all, sheer, raw distance. If it isn’t too obvious to say, I wanted a timeline that felt plausibly like real history. The real history of a real place. The scope was too large and long for it to be reducible to neat, pat sci-fi-sounding themes—the besetting sin of the QMX map, which is acceptable as an in-universe product but which is far too rosy to reflect real history. I wanted to start with the ancient names of and relationships among the nations of Kobol and evolve them toward where we arrive by the timeframe of Caprica in a way that felt organic and happenstance, not contrived or constructed, in a way that would inform the stories I was telling in a more recent timeframe in the Chronicle and Evaded Cadence. There should be wars in there, I said, but there should also be cold wars and coincidences and stupid, petty, personal rivalries among outsized personalities. And there should also be long stretches of time where nothing in particular happens and the commercial intercourse of the colonies goes on long enough to have several epochs of different “normal”s. It should be possible to pick any moment in the timeline and imagine the worlds as a real place with a rich history supporting any number of stories.

It was, in short, like an insane, upside-down game of chess, in which I started checkmate, and tried to move the pieces back into original position.

The result was a document that now appears in Appendix 4 of The Racetrack Chronicle. At fourteen pages, the Chonology risks failing on both fronts: I had to chance it being too long to absorb but too brief to satisfy. But I hope that, to the contrary, it’s concise enough to be readable and evocative enough to fire the imagination.

The rank-structure of the Colonial Fleet

The Racetrack Chronicle mentions two ranks of the Colonial Marine Corps that seem to follow uncontroversially from canon: Brigadier and General, the CMC equivalents of Commander and Admiral. Natalia Caldwell receives a brevet to the former at the end of Poseidon, and General Ishawa is mentioned as heading the Colonial Forces Training Command. Commandant of the Colonial Marine Corps General Kim Bratton, plays a supporting role in the next book, and General Hague (spot that reference, sportsfans) instigates an important event in its backstory.

More controversially, the Maggieverse implicitly discards a rank that has been presumed to exist. Fanlore bifurcates the Colonial Lieutenancy into two ranks, junior-grade and full, relying on a blog post from RDM and a slight difference in rank-devices worn by different actors playing different Lieutenants. I’m skeptical, and I wrote the Chronicle with an assumption that the Colonial Lieutenancy is a single rank.

Assumptions, canon, and the costuming-department.

Watching a show like BSG, we generally assume that what we see on-screen are specific instances of a broader, coherent world. Thus, for example, we assume that the uniforms worn by Cdr. Bill Adama in the Miniseries are typical for a Commander in the Colonial Fleet, and the badges worn on-set by actor Edward James Olmos that correspond to the character Adama’s rank-devices are, in-universe, the rank-devices that ordinarily denote the rank of Commander. Thus, when we see Jurgen Belzen wearing the same uniform and rank-devices as Col. Tigh, we infer Belzen’s rank and position. This insinuation of a world beyond the frame—one that is consistent with but larger than the on-camera environment—creates a veracity and suspension of disbelief that to draw us into the portrayed world.

Let’s start, then, with the badges and ensigns of the Lieutenancy as they appear on-screen and in the canon.

On-screen, the portrayed universe shows us junior officer ranks that progress linearly through spearhead-shaped rank-devices: Major (three chevrons), Captain (two chevrons), and Lieutenant (one chevron):

But there is a common variation of the Lieutenant badge—in fact it was the most commonly-worn badge on-set—with a short chevron that doesn’t hang over the side of the badge:

For purposes of this post, I’ll refer to these as the “long” and “short” badges, meaning only the IRL badges worn on-set, not whatever the might denote in-universe. Alessandro Juliani, playing Lt. Felix Gaeta, for example, wore the short badges, while Katee Sakhoff, playing Lt. Kara Thrace, usually (but not always) wore the long badges prior to Thrace’s promotion to Captain:

(During his brief demotion to Lieutenant, Lee Adama also appears to wear them interchangeably, although the resolution is too low to be sure.)

Fanlore—citing this RDM post written after season one—treats these badges as distinct rank-devices connoting distinct ranks. RDM explained that “[f]or our internal purposes, we’ve decided that the ranks are indeed a mixture of naval and army nomenclature and are basically as follows: … Ensign, Lieutenant JG, Lieutenant, Captain, Major, Colonel, Commander, Admiral.” This list can be thought of as an addendum to the show bible: It’s not canon, it’s a guide for the writing staff’s assumptions. And like the show-bible, ex natura, it is and proved subject to revision. Significantly, for example, RDM’s list omits Lieutenant-Colonel, Jack Fisk’s rank in “Razor.” (And that of Galactica second-officer Nathan Blake in the Chronicle.) The list wasn’t intended as, and in fact can’t be, an exhaustive, well-considered taxonomy of the ranks of the Colonial Fleet.

I accept that as products of the costuming department worn by actors on-set, the short and long badges are distinct. (They are, confessedly, more distinct than I thought when I formed my conclusions on this issue, which was before I had access to the resolution provided by Blu-Ray disks.) But as to what if anything their distinction connotes in-universe, that is, whether they are in fact different rank-devices in-universe, connoting different ranks (rather than, for example, older and newer patterns of the same rank-device)—that’s another question.

The two best canonical arguments for the bifurcated lieutenancy come from very early in the show. In the Miniseries, the nameplate JRLT SHARON VALERII “BOOMER” is visible on Boomer’s Raptor, and in “33,” a captured Helo verbally offers the familiar prisoner-of-war formula: “Agathon, Karl C. Lieutenant, junior grade, Colonial Fleet. PK789-9348….”

Taken in isolation, I concede that these point toward a bifurcated Lieutenancy, albeit not with certainty and not without some minor difficulties. For one thing, they aren’t quite consistent: If the rank is called “Lieutenant, Junior Grade,” why not LTJG? For another, that isn’t Helo’s serial-number; Propworx auctioned his dog-tags, which give his serial number as 384162. (1 Propworx, at 145, lot 390.) That sounds like splitting hairs, I know, but if we can to infer canonical information about the world from props, it would seem odd to say that only some props count.

Still, JRLT is a plausible substitution of “Lieutenant Junior Grade” for that purpose. It’s two other issues that really scuttle the theory.

First, if Boomer and Helo are our prototypical JGs, it bears noting that although Grace Park (playing Boomer and later Athena) wore the short badges throughout the show, Tahmoh Penikett (playing Helo) wore the long badges throughout season one:

Helo has no opportunity for a change of clothes in the 62 days between being marooned on Caprica in the Miniseries and his escape in the middle of season two. He was assuredly not promoted between episodes 101 and 103. Future promotions notwithstanding (were “Final Cut” our only evidence, one could argue for offscreen promotion), he left Caprica holding the same rank with which he arrived. If the long badges are taken as denoting a discrete rank, full Lieutenant rather than the JG as which he seems to identify himself to Six, this is a discrepancy.

Second, no other pilot has a JRLT nameplate on their plane—even those who wear the short badges. Luciana Carro’s Louanne Katrine (AKA Sasha Billings in Vespers) was a Lieutenant until her promotion to Captain. But Carro wore the short badges until or even after Kat’s promotion to Captain; if the Colonial Fleet had a JRLT rank, Kat’s pre-promotion nameplate should have read JRLT LOUANNE KATRAINE “KAT”. It didn’t. Her nameplate styled her LT. (2 Propworx at 286, Lots 785 et seq.) The same goes for her on-again-off-again lover (fight me), Bodie Olmos’ Brendan Costanza. Olmos wore the short badges throughout the show; if the Colonial Fleet had a JRLT rank, Hot Dog’s nameplate should have read JRLT BRENDAN COSTANZA “HOTDOG”. It didn’t. His nameplate styled him LT. (2 Propworx, at 287 lot 789.)

“Ah,” I see you getting ready to say—”but why assume that Raptors and Vipers follow the same nameplate conventions?” Alright: Leah Cairns wore the short badges throughout the show, but Racetrack’s Raptor was always designated either LT MARGARET EDMONDSON “RACETRACK” or LT. MARGARET EDMONDS. “RACETRACK”, never JRLT M EDMONDSON. (2 Prp. at 288 Lot 793.) The same goes for “Sharon Mark II.”After Grace Park’s Sharon Agathon received a field-commission, her Raptor styled her LT SHARON AGATHON “ATHENA”, not JRLT, notwithstanding Park continuing to wear the short badges.

With all this in mind, it is reasonable to assert this much: Canon doesn’t settle the question. At best, there is canonical evidence consistent with the existence of the JG rank, and there is other canonical evidence that cuts against it. Each set of evidence can be attacked on the IRL grounds that it was later retconned or was a production error, but when all’s said and done, canon is ambiguous on this point. And ambiguities in the canon should be resolved in favor of coherency.

Why fight it?

Very early in the writing-process, I needed to resolve a knot of closely-related issues about the career-paths of some key characters, which meant engaging with deployments, time-in-grade requirements, and rank-structures. I wanted to understand the trajectory of my characters through the Colonial Fleet’s normal world.

You have to start somewhere, so I started here: Cairns (Racetrack) and Park (Boomer, Athena, Number Eight) are the same age and each wore the short badges. In trying to reconstruct Racetrack’s career path, I started with an operating assumption that she and Spitfire were the same age as (and so reported aboard at the same time as) Boomer, whose arrival we can bracket from canon. In “Sacrifice,” Tigh says that Boomer reported aboard “two years ago.” That episode isn’t dated, but its timeframe is bracketed by “Epiphanies” (day ~217) and “Downloaded” (day 270). Accordingly, the timeframe in which Boomer, Racetrack, and Spitfire reported aboard the Galactica is approximately days -513 through -460. At Zero Hour, then (i.e. the Miniseries, or chapter four of Galactica), our heroines had been aboard the Galactica for between fifteen and seventeen months. The original operating assumption may not have been sound, but it yielded a workable initial number.

The ordinary naval life.

In peacetime, U.S. Navy officers are not eligible for promotion before serving a minimum period in their existing rank—the time-in-grade (“TIG”) requirement. And ships, especially aircraft-carriers, operate on activity cycles comprising deployments, maintenance phases, and time in port. These are perfectly reasonable, comprehensible patterns that any well-ordered military operating aircraft-carriers or their analogs might be expected to follow. It stood to reason that the Colonial Fleet would have similar cycles.

More canonical facts fill in more blanks. We know that the Pegasus’ maintenance-phase was to last three months (“Pegasus”). We know that at Zero Hour, Gaeta has been aboard the Galactica for “three years” (Miniseries), which is unlikely to mean 36 months to the day. And we can presume that the Galactica is at the end of a deployment at Zero Hour because she is on the cusp of being decommissioned. (A scene scripted and shot but excised in post would have canonized that the ceremony was not held in advance of the event, and that the Galactica was in fact no longer a commissioned warship at Zero Hour.)

Further assuming that rooks typically reported aboard when a battlestar deployed rather than when she went in for maintenance, I could posit a sixteen-month deployment based on Boomer’s arrival. The numbers then lined up nicely: Gaeta reported aboard after the Galactica’s penultimate maintenance phase, then served a sixteen-month tour, followed by a three-month maintenance-and-training phase, followed by another sixteen-month tour (the one I chronicled in Galactica from the perspectives of Maggie and David). That gives us to a nice round and close number of 35 months for Gaeta’s pre-zero-hour tenure on the Galactica.

(Sixteen months is a long time, to be sure, but given the exigencies of real-life spaceflight on the scale of the Cyrannus system, it seemed a plausible unit, especially when a sixteen month tour could cleanly break into shorter deployments strictly-defined. At any rate, I gave Blake a line about exactly this point in Galactica.)

Apart from lining up the numbers in a pleasing way, this hypothesis would suggest a few more things. First, at the beginning of the miniseries, Gaeta was probably under consideration for a promotion before his next assignment. Second, Boomer, Racetrack, and Spitfire would have reported aboard together on the deployment after Gaeta, and would have been eligible for promotion to captain approximately halfway through the sojourn over New Caprica but for the Fall. (It does not require a particularly astute reader to realize that both Simon actual and Maggie are somewhat traumatized by the idea of where these characters would have been had life gone on as everyone expected, and Future Imperfect was, without doubt, the hardest and most emotional bit of writing in the book.) Third, it contextualizes the remark that I gave Racetrack in Rubicon about a 55-month deployment: Colonial officers expect deployments in units of three, eight, or sixteen months and assignments of 35 months.

Sorting into ranks.

But when it came to the rank-structure, there was a problem. Some oddities of the show can be ascribed to wartime exigencies; Adama continuing to wear a Commander’s piping after his field-promotion to Admiral, for example. That’s one of the caveats to the presumption of regular order I mentioned above. But when it comes to the presented world before the Fall of the Colonies, we assume regular order. And there isn’t room in a regularly-ordered rank-structure for a bifurcated Lieutenancy.

At Zero Hour, Apollo is a Captain and Gaeta is either a Lieutenant, or, if such exists, a JG. Thus, we must posit a rank-structure that can reconcile Apollo being a Captain after not more than four years in the service (“Daybreak”) with Gaeta, an ambitious go-getter (“Final Cut”) with around four years in the service (Miniseries; “The Oath”) still being a Lieutenant. If the JG rank exists, then, even if Lee is a freshly-minted Captain (never stated in canon but surely canon-compliant), even if Gaeta had been due for promotion immediately after the Galactica’s deployment ended, no amount of string-pulling-by-daddy (a thumb on the scale that would be in tension with several canonical facts) could satisfyingly explain Apollo managing to progress from JG to LT to CPT in the same (arguably less time) that Gaeta was a JG. Not unless Gaeta was shockingly incompetent, that is—but that seems wildly inconsistent with the character.

The discrepancy between Apollo and Gaeta exists (and the epicycles required to explain it need be incanted) only if we presume a bifurcated lieutenancy. The problem disappears if there is no JG rank.

Absent contrary evidence, we assume that a character’s approximate in-universe age is consistent with the apparent age of the actor on-set. (Sidebar/tangent: I wrote Racetrack as three years younger than her actor. Cairns would have been 30 when KLG2 was shot in spring 2005; in-universe, Maggie was 27. Carro would have been 24; Vespers noted Sasha’s age right before Zero Hour as 22.) Alessandro Juliani (Gaeta) and Jamie Bamber (Apollo) are approximately the same age; Bamber is slightly older, and while age isn’t dispositive as to rank, it seems entirely plausible that Gaeta is just a step or two behind Apollo. It also becomes less critical that Apollo’s promotion have come fast.

Another age-related point worth noting: Michelle Forbes was 40 when “Pegasus” was shot, but Helena Cain can’t have been much younger than seven in the “Razor” flashbacks, which makes her ~47 in “Pegasus.” That is very young for an admiral, and this is where the TIG requirements start to really bite. If the Colonial Fleet has two ranks of Lieutenant through which Cain’s career had to progress, her rise is even more meteoric, or else she is significantly older than the actress who played her. But if there is no JG rank, her rise is merely fast rather than astonishing,

Difficulties with three more field-promotions likewise disappear if there is no JG rank. Kat and Helo are each promoted to Captain during the New Caprica sojourn. (The exact dates of their promotion are a subject for another time.) If Helo was in fact a JG notwithstanding Penikett wearing the long badges, he jumped a rank. And Kat definitely did: Carro went directly from wearing the short badge in “Occupation” to wearing Captain’s badges—days later, in-universe—in “Exodus.”

Likewise Kendra Shaw, who is promoted to Captain (“Razor”) while wearing the short badges. If a JG rank exists, Cain skipped Shaw over a rank. All three of these promotions are more plausible if the Colonial lieutenancy is a single rank, because all three examples then become a straightforward promotion from one rank to the next rank up: LT to CPT.

Still, there is a counterargument to be acknowledged: Wartime exigencies. Helo and Kat received their promotions in order to take up specific positions, and one can argue that their promotions were to ensure the consistency of the chain of command. The CAG must outrank the next-most senior pilot, that argument goes, and the XO must outrank the next most senior line-officer aboard, so Adama skipped JG Agathon and JG Katraine over the full lieutenant rank in order to give them the rank required for their position.

That theory doesn’t quite work, though. If we’re skipping ranks to preserve the integrity of the chain of command, why skip only one? Why promote Kat merely to parity with the squadron-leads (“The Passage”) instead of making her a Major, giving her rank over all the remaining pilots and the LSO? A fortiori Agathon: If the argument is that Adama had to promote him in order for the XO to outrank the next most senior line-officer and would skip ranks to do it, why not make him a Major, giving him authority over the new CAG, Cpt. Katraine, and parity with the most senior staff-officer, ship’s surgeon Sherman Cottle, nominally a Major?

The theory also fails to explain Shaw, whose promotion is a reward rather than required to fill some exigency. Note also that Shaw is later promoted to Major when she becomes the Pegasus’ XO; if skipping ranks is acceptable, at least in the circumstances, why not Lieutenant-Colonel? Why not a full-bird? Granted, there are plausible explanations; Major is probably the minimum rank required by the T.O. for a battlestar’s XO (thus explaining Apollo’s promotion to that rank in “The Captain’s Hand”), and perhaps, insofar as we know the Pegasus had several Captains in her company but know of no line-officers ranking Major in her company, no jump in rank was necessary for Shaw to outrank the next-highest-ranking line-officer aboard. The significant point for now is, once again, that canon fails to resolve the question definitively, leaving the question ambiguous.

(Concededly, Lee Adama is promoted directly from Major to Commander. But that promotion seems bespoke, and one can imagine several in-universe explanations ranging from “proud poppa” to “T.O. requires that the CO of certain classes of vessel hold the rank of Commander.”)


Ambiguities in canon should be resolved in favor of coherency. We have seen that canon is ambiguous as to the existence of the JG rank, and that it would create difficulties if that rank were held to exist. Accordingly, in the Maggieverse, it does not. Instead, the Fleet’s rank-table with time-in-grade requirements is:

Note that this makes Cain at least 22 years into her career, which, if 47, means she was graduated from one of the Academies no later than age 25. That seems reasonable, and leaves some breathing-room to finesse her age downward, closer to Forbes’. It also puts her in the ballpark of the expected duration of service for a new USN Captain (O6), leaving intact the idea that she rose through the ranks quickly compared to the norm.

This supplies a simple rank structure that reconciles Apollo and Gaeta and we can explain the otherwise-anomalous single year in which Gaeta served somewhere other than the Galactica: Ensign, with a one-year TIG requirement; Lieutenant, with an eighteen-month TIG requirement, and then Captain on up. Thus, Racetrack served at least one year in the Colonial Fleet as an ensign before her commission as a Lieutenant and sixteen-month deployment aboard the Galactica—sufficient time for the bloom to come off the rose.

To be sure, the show sometimes made costuming mistakes. The CO’s jacket and Admiral’s rank-devices in which Costuming vested Michael Hogan in one scene in season four don’t require us to imagine a whole subplot in which Tigh receives and loses a promotion. In the same vein, I have no doubt that Sakhoff’s pins in “The Hand of God” were a mistake. At the same time, it’s important to remember that characters sometimes lie and sometimes make mistakes, and sometimes things in–universe don’t mean what we assume them to mean based on analogies to our own experience. Maybe Helo lied to Six. Maybe JG is a thing that exists in-universe but means something other than what we understand as a discrete rank.

At all events, though, creators’ intent is not the same thing as canon, and we should construe canon in a way that promotes the coherence of the portrayed world. Inferring a whole discrete rank introduces a number of problems and for that reason, my continuity operates on the assumption that the Colonial Fleet and Marine Corps have a single O1 rank, Lieutenant, and that Racetrack, Starbuck, Helo, Kat et al all held the same rank, even if some had more seniority than others.

Kara’s coordinates: Notes and the scale

Spoilers for the Battlestar Galactica series finale

In the climactic moments of “Daybreak,” the Colony is struck by a volley of nuclear warheads—fired (depending on how you choose to interpret it) either by our heroine Maggie “Racetrack” Edmondson in her dying moments, or at least, by divine intervention, from her plane. In its death-throes, the Colony slides toward the black hole it orbits, dragging with it the Galactica and what’s left of her crew. At this moment, the significance of “The Music” (i.e. the Final Five theme and Hera’s notes) is revealed: Ordered to jump the ship to literally anywhere else, Kara “Starbuck” Thrace intuits numerical values from the notes, punches them into the FTL control console, and turns the key.

For just a moment, above the report “Jump Complete” displayed in large, friendly letters, we glimpse what Kara typed:


Where,” Laura asks, “have you taken us, Kara?” Home, it turns out.

“Daybreak” ties together many threads of story and mythos, but it leaves us with some technical questions. This post considers one of them: What did Kara tell the FTL system to do?


Some context. Colonial faster-than-light technology involves an instantaneous, space-folding jump rather than rapid travel in what Larry Niven’s books call “Einstein space” à la Trek. The mechanics and limitations of this technology are unspecified. The practical limit on its use is the compounding uncertainty about one’s destination as jump-range increases: The speed of light is finite, so any observed information about a destination 1 light-year distant is, by definition, a year old. Safe operation of jump-drives therefore require sensory equipment to observe the vicinity of your destination and computers to calculate the motion of every object that may cross through your arrival-point. The farther you jump, the greater potential for error, and the less certain you can be about your destination.

During production of season 4.5, producers asked composer Bear McCreary to figure a theory that could explain Kara’s intuition, linking his Final Five theme to something the FTL system can accept as input. In a blog post that has won wide but uncritical fan acceptance, McCreary explains where he came out on the question. First, he consulted science advisor Kevin Grazier, who said:

“When we specify coordinates in astronomy, it’s usually done with two angles – one that ranges 0 to 360 degrees, the other +90 to -90 degrees. Necessary also is the distance … we’ve already established that one unit of measure used by Galactica is the SU, … similar to the Astronomical Unit used in our Solar System … So as I see it, we will need from the music: XXX carom YYY dist ZZZZZZ.”

Then, after discarding more complex approaches to generating numbers, McCreary

decided to assign each note in the C# scale a number, excluding the chromatic notes between them. This is a diatonic approach instead of a chromatic one … [with] several advantages. It produces only single digit numbers. It is also the most intuitive solution … [because] In basic ear training exercises they make you sing melodies with words or numbers corresponding to the notes … So, someone like Kara who was taught by a professional musician as a youth could be familiar with thinking of the tonic as ‘1’, the second scale degree as ‘2’ and so forth. It’s believable that Kara might be humming the tune to herself as the numbers come to her mind. With this philosophy in mind, I took a second look at the Final Five Theme. The melody is either 11 or 13 notes (depending on if you count the little triplet ornament figure that does not consistently appear with the theme). The easiest way to arrive at 12 notes was to discount the triplet figure and then repeat the first note, which is technically the way the phrase is looped in my arrangement of “Watchtower” anyway. Assigning numbers based on the diatonic scale system I described earlier yielded … [a vector]: 112 carom 365 dist 365321.

For the record, I wrote everything published heretofore with the Grazier-McCreary solution assumed. It never became relevant to consider in depth. But further reflection has changed my mind: While the producer’s intent is clear, intent isn’t canon, and that can’t be how the FTL targeting system works.

In Grazier-McCreary, Hera’s notes become Kara’s vector: 112365365321 becomes 112 carom 365, range 365,321. The smaller objection to this solution is that it doesn’t match what’s shown on screen. The number-grouping displayed on the FTL console is 1123,6536,5321 not 112,365,365321. It would be very strange—nay, weird—to write military software displaying a vector that way. That contradiction bugged me while I was writing; not enough to get stuck on a detail that wasn’t relevant to my project, and it’s not conclusive, but it’s worth noting in this context.

The bigger objection is units—365,321 whats? Grazier & McCreary say that the range input is in SU, the Colonial equivalent of AU. That can’t be right.

For one thing, if the FTL targeting computer takes SU as its range, then, with no room for decimal places in evidence, 000,001 SU would be the minimum range cognizable by the computer. That feels far too imprecise. If the targeting computer uses SU, it is incapable of the precision that we have seen in the show: Jumping into orbit, jumping into an atmosphere, jumping in close formation, jumping within a boat-length of the Colony. SU is just too coarse a unit.

And even if the minimum jump distance were precisely 1 SU, i.e. 150 million kilometers, that’s far larger than the minimum-distance jump we’ve seen Galactica perform. For example, in “Exodus,” Galactica jumps from ~4900 meters (sic.) over New Caprica to orbit, a jump of no more than ~40,000 kilometers. So the input can’t be in SU.

But obviously if SU is too large and coarse a unit, the input can’t be in a unit so small and precise as meters, either. So—what?


Let us observe that if one aspect of Grazier & McCreary is unsound, others may be, too. Fan Thomas Roewer has suggested that we discard the vector framework entirely and consider the possibility that the FTL computer takes only range as input. We don’t need bearing, Roewer argues, because the system could take those from the orientation of the ship: From the axis made between the FTL spin-sync generator and some counterpart unit that, in the Galactica and most other Colonial ships, is located in the bow.

That solutionis surprising, but, intriguingly, nothing on screen contradicts it. Several things are at least consistent with it; a few could be read to affirm it, if implicitly. In several episodes, not least “Daybreak” itself, we see Colonial vessels engage in positioning-maneuvers before making jumps. We also see the apparent conservation of rotation and direction through jumps, not to mention conservation of relative positioning and attitude of the ragtag fleet. It could also explain why jumps produce first a visual flash from the presumed location of the spin-sync generator and a second flash that travels down the long-axis of the jumping ship.

At very least, then, canon doesn’t exclude the Roewer solution. And there’s a very good argument in favor of it: Roewer liberates Kara’s numbers from the need to provide a bearing. If all twelve numbers are available to describe range, we can solve the “stellar units are too big but meters  are too little” riddle.

Assuming that the input takes a single variable, range, we’re back to the “what units” problem with a different number: 112,365,365,321. Still, we can now discard SU as a contender. For one thing, any problem of the coarseness of SU as a unit of input is vastly multiplied. But there’s another and stronger reason why it isn’t SU.

Bracket the question of the theoretical range of the FTL system itself. Assume that the engines are effectively limitless—or at very least, they can perform any jump within a margin of safety beyond the maximum input range of the FTL targeting computer. (Why would anyone design a control system that lets a helmsman ask the engines to perform beyond their ability?) If the FTL input is range in SU, the Galactica’s last jump was 112,365,365,321 SU or 1,776,778 light-years. And the maximum range that can be entered into the system is 999,999,999,999 SU, or 15,812,507 light-years.

That’s an absurd result, and so an implausible one. It isn’t just that the telescopy and computing-power required to perform the necessary observations and calculations at even the lower end of that range is implausible, although that’s certainly a problem. The fatal flaw is: Why would Colonial civilization—limited, so far as anything even vaguely canon-adjacent tells us, to a single system less than a light-year across (Cyrannus rounds to .1616LY at total Opposition)—write software that accepts so vast a range as an input? That doesn’t pass the laugh-test.

So if SU isn’t a viable unit, what about something smaller? 999,999,999,999 kilometers is .1057 light-years. Better yet, 999,999,999,999 miles is a very Trek-friendly .1701 light-years. We don’t know what units the Colonies use in this ballpark, but any unit in the general scale of miles/kilometers would allow for jumps as precise as those into and out of the atmosphere of New Caprica, and as far as from one end of Cyrannus. That’s a reasonable distance that fits within the parameters and scale of the presented world.

* * *

Two objections should be met. First: The QMX map says that Kobol is 2,000 light-years from the Colonies, and a maximum jump-radius of .17 light-years is too small to make it there in the number of jumps shown in season one. Still, that objection isn’t fatal. The 2,000 LY number isn’t canon, and there’s no particular reason to believe that the Colonials share our lack of a standard unit larger than 1km but far smaller than 1AU. As “33” opens, the fleet is on the run from the Cylons and has completed jump 237; we see jump 238. At a range of .1701 LY, if they are running in a straight line, they’ve made it 40.48 LY from Ragnar. Kobol could be closer than QMX says, and the colonial unit of input could, without any violence to the foregoing analysis, be significantly larger than a kilometer. If the Colonials have a unit of measurement answering to 5000 meters, the same logic applies.

Second: It’s stated more than once that it’s supposed to be impossible to track a ship through a jump, and if Roewer’s right, insofar as a ship’s orientation can be seen before a jump, wouldn’t you just need to look along that axis to track a ship? Not necessarily. For every additional light-second of range, the uncertainty field increases in area, spreading conically, with different possible solutions based not only on distance but small variations in observed orientation. You would need to know orientation with great precision past a few light-minutes.

All told, the evidence is not conclusive, and significant deference is owed to production statements like the Grazier & McCreary solution.And Roewer’s theory isn’t without difficulties and contrary evidence; one could point, for example, to “Crossroads,” in which Racetrack does not appear to perform an orientation before the emergency jump back to the fleet. Nevertheless, Grazier & McCreary leaves a significant problem for interpreting Kara’s numbers, and adopting Roewer’s theory opens the way to solving those numbers: An FTL control system that takes bearing from orientation and accepts input in some unit approximating miles (or within a few orders of magnitude thereof) provides a possible solution for how the FTL system operates.

Ltc. Jackson Spencer

The battlestar Galactica’s CAG during her last deployment is Jackson “Dipper” Spencer, CF. The Miniseries script specifies neither a name nor rank, but the Viper he flies off the Galactica has a nameplate for MAJ JACKSON SPENCER “DIPPER,” whence the CAG’s name and presumed rank has entered the lore.

Accordingly, The Racetrack Chronicle refers to him twice as Major Spencer. But in the waning days of the deployment chronicled in part two, “Galactica,” I reference Spencer receiving a promotion. That’s to accommodate the fact that in the Miniseries (which coincides with the following chapter), Spencer wears the bright, shiny rank-devices of a newly-minted Lieutenant Colonel rather than those of a Major:

There are a few ways to think about this, but my own view is that Spencer should be treated as a recently-promoted LTC for his short life on screen.

To be sure, I doubt that it was intentional, and the pins are clear for only a few frames, but canon is a gestalt that includes unintentional and even unintended elements. Still, it’s worth considering how this seemingly-contradictory costuming datapoint made it onto the screen.

An in-universe explanation could be that the Viper flown by the CAG was not his own, and so the name and rank on its plate don’t pertain to him. Plausible, perhaps, given the stand-down, and given that other characters in the Miniseries fly planes with other names on them. (Starbuck, if memory serves, flies Raymond “Raygun” Lai’s plane. It was the first to hand.) But that explanation’s unlikely, because the CAG climbs into that Viper at the peak of Colonial civilization. And in any event it’s unattractive, because that would leave us with no canonical name for the character.

An IRL explanation is that the pin was a costuming mistake. It was early in the show, the script didn’t specify a rank, so the props department went one way, costuming another; who’s gonna notice?” And, to be fair, I’ve argued that we must make allowances for mistakes and artistic license, and so we could just say “well, it was a mistake, they gave the actor the wrong pins.” (Worth noting on that point is that the scripted sequence in which the Armistice Officer ages through the ranks was shot, according to RDM, which would suggest that rank-devices proper to both MAJ and LTC were already imagined and fabricated for the Miniseries.)

But why would we do that in this case?

To be sure, we shouldn’t invest costuming mistakes with canonical significance. But we shouldn’t rule out acquiring new information and in-universe texture from costuming, either.

The crux is: What’s a mistake? Something on-screen that seems to introduce information contradicting established canon may be a mistake. I can point to two examples of clear mistake in BSG, both involving Colonel Tigh. In a scene in season one, Tigh wears the ship pin from his dress-uniform in place of his wings, and in a scene in season four wears Adama’s jacket, including latter’s rank-devices. Neither of these scenes should be taken as introducing canonical novelties or tension; they’re just production mistakes. No big whoop.

But it introduces no canonical tension if the CAG is wearing LTC rank-devices, even if he was flying the correct plane and was, for the preceding deployment, Major Spencer. At the time of the Miniseries, the Galactica is concluding her deployment. The CAG, like much of the crew, is moving on; he is literally leaving the ship right then. That’s exactly the time when we would expect a promotion to come in. It’s also a time when we would not be surprised if it’s not a priority to repaint the nameplate of a recently-promoted officer who won’t be flying that Viper again.

Thus, it seems to me that the most elegant solution, one that preserves all the canonical information presented, is to say that Jackson Spencer was a Major for most of his tenure as the Galactica’s CAG but was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel in the days or weeks before the events of the Miniseries as he prepared to leave the ship for his next assignment—which is exactly what I reflect in the Chronicle.

Re-post: The Background Notes

Back in May 2016, about two months into writing the first parts of the Chronicle, I wrote a blog post that set out some of the basic ground-rules I was following, including some interesting math on the Cyrannus system (cf. this post). I thought this might be a good time to re-surface it.

Eons ago, man lived in harmony with the gods in the paradise of Kobol. Eventually, the twelve tribes of man left Kobol, and founded the twelve colonies: Caprica, Gemenon, Picon, and Virgon;  Leonis and Tauron; Scorpia, Sagittaron, and Libran; Aerilon, Canceron, and Aquaria. 

For millennia, the children of Kobol bickered and fought amongst themselves. But one day, a man distraught for loss of his daughter resolved that death should not be the end. He created life outside of its natural order, and thus came into being the Cylon: A race of robotic slaves who would rise up against their masters, convinced that God—not the long-dead gods of Kobol worshipped by man, but rather the one, true God—loved them, the Cylon, the children of man, just as well as He loved man, His children.

War raged; by necessity, the Twelve Colonies united against their common enemy. At last, an armistice was concluded, and the Cylons left the Colonies to search of worlds of their own. We now live in the golden age of man; not since Kobol have the nations of man known the peace and harmony that we now enjoy.

No one has seen the Cylons in over three and a half decades.

So opens the first draft of the [first] novelette component of my Racetrack Chronicles story-cycle, a fiction project on which I’m working, set in the universe of Ronald D. Moore’s reimagined Battlestar Galactica. This is the “official myth” of the colonies, the Colonials’ self-perception of their history after the Cylon War. Chronologically, I open six years before the Fall and follow Margaret “Racetrack” Edmondson thence down to, ultimately, the end of “Daybreak.” Three very, very, very short teaser ficlets are out; more are on the way [see this post –SD]; the first short-story is in private beta; the novelette and second and third short-stories should appear over the summer and early fall.

In the background of the last two, you’ll catch glimpses of the broader Colonial world as I imagine it. But the Racetrack Chronicles collection is all about Racetrack; it is narrow, personal, and specific in its focus. You’re going to know this woman a lot better by Christmas. [How overoptimistic I was about the timeline! -SD.] Once it’s done, though, I intend to broaden my focus, hoping to write something that will flesh out my vision of the worlds. For the most part, my continuity follows the geography established in the QMX map of the colonies (with two exceptions explained below), but I want to take a few minutes to outline that world, as I see it, partly to stake my claim, partly to whet your appetite.

In my reading, the twelve United Colonies of Kobol are not the Federation (“Star Trek”), nor even the Alliance (“Firefly”); they are America in 1810. They are a vast, sprawling, diverse collection of societies. They are tied together by history, commercial intercourse, and a remote federal government on Caprica, and of course the silver chain of the Colonial Fleet, but ineluctably separated by immense distances and profound cultural and aesthetic differences. Communications are limited by the speed of light but the existence of FTL jump technology means that travel is not—and so most  information is conveyed on paper or digital media by FTL courier.

Not only are the worlds separated in time, they don’t line up: Fly from Aerilon’s southern continent (“Sporkshire” home to Gaius Baltar—no, it’s not literally called that, come on, but you know what I mean) to its northern continent (“Spireland,” home to Romo Lampkin and Abigail “Spitfire” Ainslie) and you go from Spring to Fall, but FTL jump to Caprica City, CA, and you end up in Winter. Colonial Day, the federal holiday, is thus early summer in Caprica City, but mid-spring in Falstone, PI, Racetrack’s hometown, and may well be midwinter  in Gareth “Nightlight” Lowell’s northern Aquaria, or high summer for Nicola Edmondson, esq., on Libran. Moreover, different colonies have slightly different gravities and different average temperatures. [A point that  the book surfaces in “Galactica.” -SD] The diverse realities of life in the kind of society latent in the QMX depiction are the precise opposite of Star Trek‘s cloying uniformity. And that’s intriguing.

The Cyrannus system in which the colonies are located comprises two pairs of binaries, the Helios αβ pair and the Helios γδ pair; sublight travel within each system is like long-haul flight IRL, and FTL jumps between systems are routine. But there is a constant flow of sublight traffic within each pair, and intra-pair travel takes about eight to ten days. There is also a flow of sublight traffic down the long axis between pairs (the “deep black”), along well-defined shipping routes (“Intercolonial Lanes”—the Galactica’s final pre-Fall cruise takes her parallel to “I9,” for example, en route from Helios Delta to Helios Alpha), a trek that takes between sixteen months and three years depending on speed. Because of the length of the latter, the lanes are packed with very large non-FTL ships, often serving as mobile manufacturing/processing platforms similar to the refinery towed by the Nostromo in Alien.

A word on canon

For purposes of the Racetrack Chronicles continuity, I accept three levels of canon.

The A-canon is the word of the gods; it comprises only the show itself, as aired—that is, everything said and shown in the Miniseries and the four seasons, including “Razor,” but excepting “Hero.” (The latter is so riddled with errors and continuity headaches that I have written it off as a dream sequence.)

B-canon includes things like the show bible, the QMX map (linked above), etc., webisodes (“The Resistance” and “The Face of the Enemy”), extended cuts and some deleted scenes. B-canon materials are presumptively binding, except insofar as A-canon materials contradict them, whether explicitly or by necessary implication, as I’ll discuss in a moment.

Finally, C-canon includes statements and commentaries by the production team, most deleted scenes, the dailies (should they ever emerge), interviews with actors, novelizations, Edward T. Yeatts’ “Lords of Kobol” series, and “The Plan.” C-canon materials are not binding, per se, but receive significant deference.

Long-grass math on the geography of the colonies

Now we’re going to talk math. I think it’s pretty interesting math, but if that frightens you,  feel free to skip this and move on to the next subhead if you don’t want to know the long-grass details that undergird the geography that I’ve summarized above.

My vision of the Colonies is influenced by but not beholden to a slightly harder sci-fi ethos than the show depicts. Let me say up-front: I’m not interested in writing science fiction, and while there are certainly science fiction stories to tell in the BSG universe, the stories that I want to tell are about people. I don’t care how the FTL drive works; I care about Margaret Edmondson and showing you how she evolves from a damaged young woman from rural Picon into the Racetrack we know and love on the show.

Nevertheless, it is important to realize that the background setting in which those stories will occur is science fiction, and we must tip our hat to science. I start from several canonical facts and the QMX map linked above. Let’s start with what canon tells us: As Colonial Heavy 798 leaves Caprica, Billy reminds Laura that there is a thirty-minute comms delay between them and the Galactica, and the pilot says that their flight-time from Caprica to the Galactica is “approximately five and a half hours.”

Consider what this tells us about the Galactica’s position. The comms delay puts her at approximately thirty light-minutes from Caprica. That’s because the maximum speed for a communication signal is the speed of light, with one exception: Quantum-state communications are conceivable, but since they would be instantaneous over any distance, the existence of a delay means that Colonial wireless isn’t based on QS. On a Sol-system scale, assuming for sake of argument that Caprica’s orbit is roughly analogous to Earth’s, that puts the Galactica about five light-minutes inside the orbit of Jupiter, which is consistent with what we see on screen. (This hard limit on communications speed combined with the availability of instantaneous FTL travel felicitously explains why, in a modern, technological society, the Colonial Fleet would rely heavily on hand-delivered, hand-signed paperwork, and adds what I think is an enormously interesting texture to the continuity.)

Now consider what it tells us about velocity. First, we have to clear away an obvious difficulty: We can conclude that Colonial Heavy 798’s flight doesn’t include an FTL jump, for two reasons. One, because if you’re going to make a jump, you’d just plot the jump from Caprica’s orbit to wherever the Galactica is. Two, because they have a Viper escort for the trip home; while it’s conceivable that the trip back to Caprica is longer than the outbound flight, it can’t include an FTL jump and it can’t be longer than it’s plausible to imagine sitting in a Viper cockpit. Thus, the reasonable assumption is—no FTL jump.

Therefore, second: Let’s assume that we can average Colonial Heavy 798’s velocity as distance over flight time. Jupiter’s orbit is approximately 4.2 AU from that of Earth, so the math on Colonial Heavy 798’s speed is: ((149597870 * 4.2)-(18,000,000 * 5)/5.5, i.e. (628,311,054km-90,000,000)/5.5 i.e. 538,311,054/5.5 = 97,874,737km/h. For comparison purposes, that’s 387 times faster the current recordholder for fastest human-built widget, Helios 2’s 252,792km/h: Very fast. But it’s not implausibly fast by sci-fi standards; it’s only one-eleventh the speed of light, and there would be no significant time dilation at that speed. For sake of rounding, let’s say that the pilot’s got his foot on the gas, and that Colonial liners would ordinarily cruise at 96,000,000km/h.

(Hard sci-fi would point out that the human body would liquify under a fraction of the ΔV necessary to achieve these speeds in a gravity-well, but again: This isn’t hard sci-fi, and we can look past that for the sake of science fiction, let alone human drama.)

Now let’s consider scale. The QMX map supplies some  details. The long axis between the two pairs is .16ly, and we can average the barycenter of each star to its barycenter at the ends of each end of the axis at 65SU (1SU = average distance of the Caprica-Gemenon barycenter from Helios Alpha = 150,000,000km). So the stars in each pair are 130 * 150,000,000km apart—19,500,000,000km. If we’ve clocked Colonial Heavy 798 at just shy of 98 million km/h, let’s round up and say that the Galactica cruises at a nice, round hundred million per hour. That gives us an approximate flight time of 199 hours across the short axis—just over eight days. That’s close enough that you can easily imagine both “United Colonial Postal Service” and long-haul shipping doing it sub light, but also far enough away that you can just as easily imagine “Colonial Express” and “Pan-Colonial” jumping between systems. The long axis (the “deep black”) is 1,513,684,544,800km between barycenters. Sticking with our hundred-million-per-hour benchmark, the Galactica would take 15445.76 hours or 643.57 days to make the cruise, sublight. That’s longer that the standard sixteen-month deployment. (Why sixteen months? You’ll find out in the first short-story.) But keep in mind, that’s barycenter to barycenter, and it doesn’t take alignment into account. Again, this is close enough that you can easily imagine long-haul shipping  doing the trip sublight (imagine mammoth tylium tankers-cum-refineries! As I mentioned above, I’m picturing the refinery towed by the Nostromo in Alien), but far enough away that the commercial intercourse of the twelve colonies would demand regular FTL travel. The scale fits the universe like a glove.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that because B-canon must give way to A-canon, the same math demands two corrections to the QMX map.

First, I have to flip Virgon and Tauron. It seems reasonable to assume that the Galactica can go much faster than a liner, if necessary, at least in interstellar space, but there are limits on what’s plausible. Shortly after events are set in motion in the miniseries, Gaeta says that “the main fight is shaping up over here, near Virgon’s orbit. But even at top speed, they’re still over an hour away.” And Adama observes they can approach the fight unnoticed by keeping Virgon between them and the fight. That is a problem if Virgon is where the QMX map shows, even assuming optimal alignment (i.e. the Galactica is near the orbit of Zeus and on its way out of the Helios Alpha system bound for the Helios Beta system. I can suspend disbelief for a lot, but I can’t buy that the Galactica (which has to be thirty light-minutes from Caprica, i.e. in the Helios Alpha system) could sail at subluminal speeds to the Helios Beta system in an hour.

Thus, in my continuity, I take QMX to have made a typographical mistake, flipping the positions of Virgon and Tauron. Getting the fundamental building blocks right is what makes it possible for an audience to suspend disbelief and come along for the ride, and flipping Tauron and Virgon is the solution that does the least violence. Nothing canonically insists that Tauron is in Helios Alpha, and canon seems to require that Virgon must be. If Virgon is just inside the habitable zone of Helios Alpha and the Galactica is between the asteroid belt and Zeus, it becomes conceivable that if the fight is far enough toward Zeus’ orbit that it can plausibly be called “near” Virgon’s orbit, and if the alignment’s just right, maybe the Galactica could make it there in an hour? It’s still stretching it, but it becomes close enough that the objection is, like the objections to raw speed, fundamentally a hard sci-fi objection, and, once again, this isn’t hard sci-fi.

Second, Ragnar must orbit the αβ pair not the γδ pair, again based on canon and inexorable math. Col. Tigh says that “the Ragnar station is at least three days away at best speed.” There is absolutely no way  that the Galactica could sail down the long axis in three days. If Ragnar is where QMX places it, then, assuming optimal alignment, she would have to sail the lion’s share of (1,513,684,544,800km – (110 * 150,000,000) = 1,497,184,544,800 in 36 hours. That would imply a “best speed” of 41,588,459,578kmh. That’s forty times the speed of light. Even if we set aside the physicists’ objections, the economists should have their hands in the air: If conventional engines could push a ship to FTL speeds, why would you ever develop a superluminal jump technology? It’s just not plausible. So applying math to canon demands a second correction of the QMX map for purposes of my continuity. The correction that does the least damage is to agree with their inference that Ragnar orbits a pair, and simply say that it orbits Cyrannus’ αβ pair rather than the γδ pair. That does it nicely—nicely enough that we don’t have to get too granular about the last piece of the puzzle: Assuming the same 110SU orbit, we can stipulate that the Galactica is no more than 16,500,000,000km from Ragnar. At the hundred-million kmh cruising benchmark we’ve been using, she would cover 3,600,000,000km in 36 hours, and it doesn’t strike me as so implausible that her maximum pedal-to-the-metal speed is four times faster than her cruising speed that I feel compelled to work out the precise math on that.

Notes on the fleet

The Colonial Fleet operates approximately 120 of its principal assets, “battlestars,” heavily-armed aircraft-carriers, plus numerous smaller warships including non-FTL littoral combat vessels, plus support vessels. While ships do sail solo, Battlestar Groups (commanded by an admiral) are anchored by larger Mercury-type battlestars, supported by one or more Valkyrie-type battlestars and a few destroyers and support vessels. All told, the fleet has in the vicinity of three to four hundred thousand men and women at arms, plus the permanent ground staff and admiralty. It is a lethal force run by men who have grown restful and indulgent, fattened by years of peace. [This is a point that I hope comes across with adequate force in the book, but it’s played subtly. -SD]

We know from the miniseries that the fleet comprises approximately 120 battlestars; for sake of argument, I say that they have 80 Valkyrie-types and forty Mercury-types. BSGwiki says that the Mercury-type has a complement of 2500, and it seems a reasonable guess that the Valkyries carry about 1600. That gives us 228,000 by themselves, and provides a maximum of 40 BSGs. But we want to include some slack, so let’s say there are 30 BSGs, each comprising a Mercury, two Valkyries, and support vessels. That leaves thirty battlestars (ten mercuries, twenty valkyries) available for solo assignments, plus special cases like the Galactica, and so on. At any given time, most of the fleet is at sea, on sixteen-month deployments, but between deployments they spend three months in a maintenance phase; offers are typically attached to a battlestar for a tour comprising two deployments and the down phase for training: The “front sixteen,” “down,” and “back sixteen.” (The commentary for “The Turning Point” [the working-title Rubicon for most of the project -SD] for  will explain the math that drives that sixteen-month deployment.)

It seems reasonable to double and round the 228,000 deployed on battlestars to give us the total for the fleet: Call it a round half-million officers and enlisted, roughly the size of the U.S. Navy. And based on the U.S. Navy’s ratio of enlisted to officers (approximately 80% enlisted), we would expect an officer corps of around 100,000, which is small enough (especially when served by only two officer-candidate schools) that one can easily imagine that officers who went to the same school at the same time would recognize one another even if they don’t know (i.e. aren’t close with) one another, which accounts nicely for the little Apollo-Helo interaction at the start of the Miniseries.


There’s a lot of writing ahead. The Racetrack Chronicles are my focus for the next several months, but I intend to spend a lot more time fleshing out this universe.

This post originally appeared on May 11, 2016, at this link.

Of Two Davids

[Light spoilers for the book]

Sometimes inspiration is very general; sometimes very specific.

In a previous post, I noted that the first full draft of The Racetrack Chronicle went out on December 1, 2016. In the pages of that draft, we find Maggie’s inamorato, David Wright, basically complete. But two weeks later, Travelers began airing in the United States, and Patrick Gilmore’s characterization of David Mailer swam into view.

And it changed everything, really.

So much so, in fact, that Gilmore’s mentioned by name on the “thanks” page. Right by James S.A. Corey, without whom I couldn’t have written the dang thing at all! What gives?

I wrote about Travelers after season one, so I won’t rehash those praises here. Suffice to say that it’s the best show on television at the moment, challenged only (in a different genre) by The Good Place. (I’d associate myself with Jason Snell’s comments on The Incomparable.) This post is about how Gilmore’s performance as David Mailer helped me bridge my “empathy gap” with David Wright and Maggie.

Here’s a window into how things work in my shop. Because I’m a fraud—that is, because I can’t actually just make things up, like wot proper writers do—the only way that I can write is to do what I think actors do: Fully-imagine fully-formed characters, get into their skin, develop Stockholm syndrome, and let them tell me what they think, how they feel, and what they say. Of course, actors go through that process after getting the script, whereas I’m doing it precisely in order to create the script. But you get the idea. There’s almost no line of dialogue in the book that I feel that ”Simon actual” “wrote”; I finessed, polished, and structured, but in substance, it’s all from the characters.

(Especially Abigail. She routinely spouted things that made me blush and sputter “there’s no way that’s going in the book, Abi.” And then we’d fight, and she’d usually win because Jon frakkin’ Winokur kept sandbagging me, posting quotes about how writers need to be brave and just put the frakkin’ line in the frakkin’ book. “See?” Abi would cackle. Sometimes reprovingly, but mostly lecherously. But I digress.)

In the first round of drafts, inhabiting David Wright was fun but difficult. By contrast, inhabiting characters like, say, the COB or Jackson Spencer was just fun, and I understand better now what attracts people to acting. (Writing a couple of lines for Aaron Douglas’ Chief Tyrol was pure joy.) Inhabiting Abigail was fun and difficult in equal parts; she gets some of her traits from me, her self-loathing, misandry, and overcompensation, for example. David was tougher because the stakes were higher: I’m not like any of those characters, so writing any of them required an act of empathy. But David was central to Maggie’s character-arc. He, more than any character save Abigail and Maggie herself, had to work; had to not just scan (as he did in the pre-Mailer 12/1 draft), but feel right.

Inhabiting Maggie was usually painful, but—because she’s the primary character, the person with whom I always identified in the first instance, of whose personality and background I had the strongest impression, and in whom I was the most invested—it was never hard. With one exception: David.

Structurally, I needed Maggie Edmondson to fall in love with David Wright. Truly, madly, deeply, irrevocably. Dramatically, I needed the reader to feel it. And personally, just for myself, I needed to feel that I was doing that relationship justice. That it was organic and fair; that nothing was imposed on her.

As a near-middle-aged, heterosexual male with more than a little bit of misandry, that posed a serious challenge of empathy: How could I write a young woman in love, with a man, in a way that had veracity and integrity, in a way that conveyed real feeling? David falling for her was easy to empathize with; her for him? I found that difficult. So it’s fair to say (and some beta-readers did say) that in that first draft, David Wright (and Maggie’s romance with him) was functional, but felt hollow.

Enter stage right Travelers, Gilmore, and “other David.”

From the instant we meet him, David Mailer radiates warmth, integrity, decency, and humanity. It’s no surprise as Marcy is drawn off-mission and in. Always hard to know how much of a characterization comes from the writing and how much from the performance, of course; I think that what’s sympathetic in Maggie Edmondson came from Cairns, but I’m less certain where Kat MacLaren is concerned, for example. My feeling—with due respect for the writers—is that what connects us to David Mailer is in the timbre of Gilmore’s open-hearted performance. Either way, though, the operative point was this: In David Mailer, Gilmore believably provided a model of a good man, and I felt that I could entirely empathize as Marcy falls for him. And that gave me a way “in” for writing Maggie falling for David Wright.

I don’t think that Wright’s then-existing dialogue changed an awful lot. There’s more of it in the final draft, to be sure. What changed completely was the way that the character felt to me, and as a result, Maggie’s interaction with him and the way it’s presented. Maybe it’s in my head—I hope not, I hope it’s on the page—but I see a sea-change between the December 2016 draft and the final text in how Wright comes across, and in Maggie’s feelings for him. There’s a warmth and veracity to him, and I think a depth to her feelings, that couldn’t have been there. After seeing Gilmore as Mailer, I was able to get into Maggie’s skin on this and feel her feelings for him as her boundaries melt and gives herself over to their relationship.

And when (as he eventually must) he meets his untimely end, I genuinely feel it as a hammer-blow, not only in Maggie’s reaction, but directly and organically as a reaction of my own to this character’s fate. It changes the context of that event, not only in the book, but when watching season one of the show. It amps up the pathos to the “flash forward,” Future Imperfect. And in Rubicon, Maggie’s lingering hurt years later rings true in a way that I’m not sure that it did before; the theme that we don’t really ever get over these losses resonates more strongly because of the warmth watching Mailer let me imbue into Wright and his relationship with Maggie.

Gilmore’s performance created a context and inspiration, and a range of empathetic and emotional possibility for the 2017 redraft that significantly and materially improved the book. And for that I’m very thankful to him.

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