Saturday, August 9, 2008

Fan Fiction by Millarific

Fan fiction is a tough thing to get right. You need to understand the characters and get under their skin, and you need to keep them in character, or the whole point is lost. This requires not only an intimate knowledge of the show, but also some writing and analysis skills. Few people can do it well, but I think Millarific at LiveJournal has a knack for writing Baltar. I came across these in a Baltar fan group on LiveJournal, which has several fan groups for BSG characters, including, amusingly, a Fat Lee fan group.

The Life Within is a particularly clever study in the psychology of Baltar, Six and D'Anna. Partially based on season 3 and the Basestar events, partially imaginary (Six carries Baltar's child, which really is much better than carrying Tigh's child), the story explores the relationships between Baltar and the two cylon ladies. In my favorite scene, D'Anna asks Baltar - just to torment him - if he doesn't feel guilty at all for helping with the destruction of the twelve colonies:

She makes a soft line over his tightly folded arms, down his sternum. “Billions of people – your people – dying a horrific death, all because you couldn’t stop thinking with this?” She stops short at his pelvis.

He hates the terrified way his feet trip over themselves to get their distance from her. “No,” he yelps. The sound of his own voice embarrasses him.

“You don’t ever think of them?” she presses, walking into him while he retreats, their bodies falling into a rhythm not unlike a dance. “Corpses on fire? Half-dead, screaming survivors, their burned and scarred bodies stumbling about blind? Flaming cities? Ash-filled skies? The thought of all that doesn’t bother you in the…”

“Stop!”

[....]

“Oh, so there is a conscience in there after all?” D’Anna mocks him, clearly thrilled with her victory.

“Frak you,” he rasps at her, turning away, afraid to close his eyes.

I was amazed at this, because I can imagine the characters saying these lines. The visual way in which it's written also helps one to imagine how their movements would look on camera. D'Anna's cat and mouse routine is always enjoyable to watch on the show, and it's enjoyable to read here. Of course, she doesn't give a frak about Gaius' conscience, she just loves being able to torture him. And Gaius, of course, tries to deny all guilt and run away from it as well as he can - and is not always entirely successful. I cut some of the longer paragraphs out of my quote, but I was intrigued by the mention that he'd have experience, "going back as far as childhood", of images haunting him when he least expects it. Is ignoring his conscience something he's been practicing since he was a child? I found this thought fascinating.

In Life in Mono, Gaius wanders around the Basestar and meets Boomer, who asks him about the cylon test and why he lied to her that time. It's an interesting scene, and like the author says, we don't often see them together on the show, despite the two important scenes in season one.
More astute analysis of Gaius:

But Gaius didn’t do sympathy well with women, or with anyone for that matter. Despite being charming, articulate, and much smarter than anyone else he’d ever met, he had a hard time paying attention when women got like this– sentimental, brooding, angst-ridden. Generally, in these situations, he either extricated himself as quickly as possible, or else he tried distractions.

Gaius sees himself in a pretty flattering light, and his lack of compassion with most people comes across well here. "Much smarter than anyone else he'd ever met" cracks me up, partially because it's so what he would think, partially because I think Six, in his lover's form, was probably smarter than him ("I re-wrote half of your algorithms"?). He would never admit that, though. I also like the sexism in that paragraph.

“I … I didn’t know what you would do if I told you the truth about your nature. You might have killed me, snapped my neck before I knew what hit me. I was afraid you’d destroy the fleet.”

“Were you?” Her harsh laughter ran him through like a sword. “You know what, Doctor? So was I.”

His head smacked the back of the chair. He closed his eyes. So many mistakes, he thought.

So many mistakes since the destruction of Caprica. And yet, none of them had been his fault, not really. What was he supposed to have done? Go around telling President Roslin that well yes, it was true he’d been in a romantic relationship with a Cylon just before the Attacks, but that he hadn’t actually known it? Or that an imaginary version of said Cylon lover was constantly in his head, chattering at him about his destiny to help the Cylons supersede the human race? That Hera was actually his baby, and that his imaginary lover was threatening to kill him if he didn’t keep their hybrid baby alive at all costs?

What sums up Gaius better than that paragraph? Nothing was ever his fault. It was just the frakking cylons! He made mistakes - yet he couldn't have done anything any other way, because it was all destined to go that way, and he was between a rock and a hard place. All of this is implied on the show, which is what makes this such good fan fiction. It doesn't stray too far from the characters' reality as we see it on the show, but rather expands on it and offers a more detailed view of their personalities.

Crossed Frequencies chronicles a brief mail exchange between Baltar and Felix Gaeta. It takes place in season 4, when Gaius has already acquired his cult-leader persona. The delicious bickering and Gaius' incredibly condescending attitude - "Felix, Felix, Felix: You've got to let go of this anger" - are spot on. It's a shorter story with no ambition to show the characters' inner motives, but it still manages to portray both Gaius and Gaeta deliciously in character.

The only time I don't agree with Millarific's take on the characters is when s/he writes gay porn about Gaeta and Gaius, for instance in Muscle Memory. I've tried to put my finger on why it doesn't work for me. It's not that Gaeta wouldn't want Gaius - he surely would. It's not that Gaius wouldn't sleep with him, either - I think he'd sleep with anyone, to be honest, and he certainly has no moral considerations about sex. But would he be submissive in a sexual relationship with Gaeta? No, I don't think he would. I don't think Gaeta would command him to undress, and I don't think he would do it. It'd be too much for Gaius' giant ego. He may be submissive in his sexual relationship with Head Six, but she's a cylon, and she has a choke hold over him because of his guilt. I don't think Gaeta would be that domineering, and I don't think Gaius would be that submissive, and I think some of the dialogue beomes forced as a result. Some of the porn fic is good though; I quite enjoyed the Six-Head Six action in Aperture.

All of Millarific's fan fiction can be found here.

3 comments:

boot-the-grime said...

I almost never read fan fiction. And when I do, even in the best of the fanfics, I usually find myself thinking "Well, this would be a fun story on its own, but it would never work on the show. This is wrong, and this is out of character, and this I would never want to see". So it's better to refrain from reading that stuff, otherwise I'd just be criticizing a lot. (There are sometimes scenes and episodes on the show that feel like bad fanfiction, but that's another story.)

I haven't read any of the fanfics you quoted, but even in the paragraphs you quote, I see a lot of things I find unconvincing. First off, that conversation between D'Anna and Baltar comes off as totally fake, based on the stereotypes as D'Anna as a torturing bitch, and Baltar as someone who's always squirming and afraid. D'Anna asking Gaius if he feels guilty about the deaths of the billions of humans would be the most absurd and hypocritical thing ever, and Baltar's logical answer is more than obvious: "And do you feel guilty for killing them?" The whole idea is based on the premise that D'Anna would even think of the genocide in such terms, as if she's a bad guy who knows that they are a bad guy (a Hollywood cliche that is the staple of bad storytelling), when in reality all religious fanatics like D'Anna think that they are right in killing their enemies. They prefer not to think about the dead bodies and suffering of their victims, and are certainly never going to start waxing poetic about them. (Watch any war crimes trial to see what a phychology of a mass murderer really is like.)

I disagree with that other quote about Boomer as well. On the contrary, I find that one of Baltar's good - and surprising - qualities is that he's able to feel compassion for people. The only problem is that he tends to put his own needs above everyone else's. I think he did feel genuine compassion for Boomer even when he was practically convincing her to commit suicide. The part about Baltar disliking vulnerable and needy women rings completely wrong after we've seen him with Gina. The only woman he ever reached out to emotionally and showed real love was one who reminded him of his former lover, but who was broken, tortured, and in need of saving, a perfect object for a rescue fantasy. As much as he is drawn to strong, powerful women, with Gina we have come to realize he's at least as drawn to vulnerability. It was also interesting to see in Season 4 that in the conversation between the real and Baltar and Head Baltar, they both found Tory "fragile" and pointed it as a positive quality.

A few other comments:

I find it funny how many people claim that Baltar would certainly sleep with anyone, despite the fact that we've only seen him sleep with attractive women within a certain age range.

About Baltar's submissiveness and the lack thereof, I think that he is only really submissive to Head Six - not because she's a Cylon, because he's been involved with real Cylons and they've never controlled him like that - but because she's, well, his head person. :) Caprica Six is submissive to Head Baltar as well, isn't she?

Deniselle said...

Most of the fan fic was far from impressive, which is why millarific's deep analyses were a pleasant surprise. Mind you, there were things I didn't find as convincing as others, but I didn't feel like doing a blow-by-blow post as my main reaction was "wow, this is pretty good." I didn't expect to like ANY of the fan fiction. I suspect we're always more likely to forgive the show writers than fan fic writers. millarific's view of the characters corresponds pretty well with mine, but your mileage may vary.

You raised some interesting points, here are my thoughts...

The way D'Anna's written is, to me, consistent with her on the show. I do see her as a torturing bitch. (The torture scene with Baltar? Joking to Laura that she's the final cylon?) She likes to play mind games. While it's stretching it to claim she thinks about burning victims etc. - and I must admit I thought that quote was off - it makes sense that she'd use Baltar's very obvious weakness - his immense guilt over the attack - against him.

I could see Baltar reacting in that way, too. He isn't squirmy and scared throughout most of that bit, he only gets that way because he's confronted with his guilt. I don't think he'd ask D'Anna if she feels guilty - I think he'd focus on his own guilt, which is too overwhelming to really think logically. Plus I'm not sure if he considers the cylons guilty in the same way he is, but that's another story.

I do think the bit is more reminiscent of the Head Six/Baltar interaction than the D'Anna/Baltar interaction on the show, but I don't find it unfeasible.

Empathy: I think Baltar can be incredibly compassionate in some situations and incredibly self-centered and lacking compassion in others. It really depends. It makes sense to me that he'd have trouble dealing with a woman crying; lots of guys do.

In the miniseries, there are two instances where Caprica Six shows vulnerability and Baltar sees this as a disturbing weakness. Firstly, when she asks, "Do you love me?" and secondly, when she talks about religion, which he clearly sees as an emotional weakness. I'm quite sure that the miniseries Baltar would find a weeping woman disturbing. He's become more caring since then, but there are still more instances of him acting self-absorbed and not overly compassionate.

With Gina, I think the compassion had two major reasons: 1. She looked like Caprica Six and he couldn't really separate the two, 2. she had been cruelly tortured, and he isn't used to seeing torture. But I don't think Baltar, despite his empathy, is very good at handling "fragile" women. Take, for instance, the scene where he tries to seduce Gina and she pushes him away. If he were thinking of her fragile emotional state, he'd wait until she's ready. Even when she offers to have sex with him later, I think he should have said no - clearly she isn't ready for it, and many viewers even got a rape vibe out of that scene (which I don't agree with, but I can see where they're coming from).

Tory is another story, but I haven't rewatched season 4 yet, so I'll suspend my comments until further notice.

Sex: I'm not saying he'd have sex with JUST anyone - Cavil, Adama, Lily, etc. - but surely Gaeta is attractive enough to be a potential partner. He's had fantasies about Laura, so it's not all about age range though.

I'm not sure if Caprica is submissive to Head Baltar in the same way that Gaius is to Head Six - there are some very violent scenes between Six and Gaius, and the dynamic is overall a bit different. I'll be writing more about the head creatures later, as I want to give this a bit more thought.

boot-the-grime said...

I'm not saying that Baltar would necessarily have answered that, but it's the logical answer and anyone who acted like D'Anna is in that scene would be setting themselves up to lose an argument. Besides, I would find such a scene extremely annoying in its absurdity, but apparently not many people share my opinion that perpetrators of genocide are more guilty than their unwitting accomplices. *shrug* Or maybe the idea is, you're not guilty if you're commiting genocide against those who aren't "your people"? Too bad that our Earthling international law disagrees...

D'Anna didn't torture Baltar because she was enjoying it, she tortured him for information, to find out if he was betraying the Cylons. If that makes her a torturing bitch, than Kara, Roslin and Adama are also torturing bitches/bastards. She does like to play mind games, but who knows if she didn't have some other motive forasking Roslin than just to get a laugh? This is just a speculation, but we'll see. Anyway, D'Anna was nice to Baltar since "Hero" and she was concerned about his condition in "The Hub". The dynamic in that scene really is more HeadSix/Baltar, as you said.

Baltar has changed a lot since the Miniseries, and showed sides of himself that probably even he didn't know he had. I think he is capable of feeling a lot of empathy and compassion, but his selfishness often gets in the way, although he seems to have become less egotistical with time. I wouldn't say that he doesn't know how to handle fragile women - he knew exactly how to push Boomer's buttons and manipulate her. Well, not just fragile women, strong women as well - he knew how to deal with D'Anna as well. It seems to me that it's just the Sixes that he doesn't fully understand, as if they're still a mystery to him, or maybe he just isn't good at dealing with them because he is more emotionally invested than with other people. His dealings with Gina post-Pegasus is a perfect example. I think the main problem was that he saw Gina as a version of Caprica Six and expected her to heal and turn into the woman he knew on Caprica... and we know that he had a distorted idea of Caprica Six in the first place (basically, Head Six was his idea of what Caprica was like). His relationship with Gina was, for him, an attempt to re-create the relationship he had with Six on Caprica. He even told Gina, in LDYB2, "This is our chance to be together again!"

I've seen people call that Baltar/Gina scene "rape", and I must say I am amazed that people throw that word around so lightly. Maybe they should rewatch "Pegasus" to remind themselves what rape is. But I also saw that scene very differently to start with, so I was surprised with that point of view. You might be interested to read a discussion about it on the "Chillout Pilot Love Zone" thread on Skiffy. I think she would have still nuked herself and Cloud 9, actually I think the only reason she asked him to have sex with her was because she was planning to die. So I don't see how Baltar saying no to Gina would have made any difference in the end result or done anyone any good. But I think he definetely should have noticed her emotional state and realized that something was seriously wrong with her, rather than going to his ceremony and leaving her there... although, the deleted scene from LDYB2 suggests that he did notice, but was confused and unsure what to do. (And obviously he never should have given her that nuke in the first place... That was just beyond stupid and crazy... I still think it was a plot device more than anything.)

re: Gaeta: in season 1, Baltar was very disappointed that Gaeta was assigned as his assistant, instead of a woman, and he proceeded to ignore Gaeta while hitting on Starbuck. It was pretty obvious that he wasn't sexually interested in Gaeta, even though he is an attractive man. If Baltar was bisexual/pansexual, I think he would have shown a sexual interest in some man by now, it's not like there is a shortage of attractive men on the show (and, as you said, he certainly wouldn't have allowed any 'moral' misgivings to stop him - and there's no reason to think that Colonial society has any problems with homosexual sex anyway). I the meantime, he's had sex, flirted and fantasized about all sorts of attractive women.

Roslin isn't such a big departure from Baltar's usual taste, she is an attractive woman (and Gaius likes intelligent, strong women who challenge him), she is under 60 and IMO she looks about a decade younger than MMD's real age.

You're right that the dynamic between Caprica and Head Baltar is different than between Baltar/Head Six... If anything, she is more submissive to Head Baltar than Baltar is to Head Six, at least from the few scenes we've seen of them on the show. Baltar has argued with Head Six many times, mocked her beliefs, "broken up" with her (in Kobol's Last Gleaming I), done something she was begging him not to do and made her go away (in Resurrection Ship II, the scene with Gina, Baltar and Head Six). We've never seen Caprica really question or argue with anything Head Baltar says, the extent of her rebellion was looking annoyed with him at one point (although, it is possible that the dynamic was different earlier on, but we missed the first 9 months of their relationship). It seems that she already thinks that what he is saying is true. Head Baltar doesn't flatter her and stroke her ego the way Head Six does with Baltar, most of the time he seems to be mercilessly criticizing her. He doesn't need to use threats and violence to get his point across, his logic, her guilt and her love for him (and her wish to be loved by him) is enough. The dynamic is different because Caprica and Baltar are different people. Threats and violence wouldn't work with her, but the possibility that she'd be rewarded with his love works perfectly (as we see in "Downloaded", in the garage scene, when he tells her he loves her more than he's ever loved anyone). And there's also the fact that Head Baltar is an idealized version of pre-attack Baltar, and Caprica would see him as an arrogant, sarcastic man, but not a violent one. (Of course, there's also one other thing - imagine how differently the audience would react if a female character on the show was having a 'relationship' with a virtual male lover who was releatedly hitting her, choking her or smashing her head into mirrors! I'm sure it would be very, very different than seeing HeadSix do these things to Baltar!)