Seamus Kevin Fahey is one of the newest staff members promoted to the position of Staff Writer for Battlestar Galactica. He was kind enough to set aside some time to answer our questions. — ed, N.E. Lilly
Seamus Kevin Fahey was working as a Writer’s Assisant on Battlestar Galactica for two years before being promoted to staff writer. Meanwhile he helped create a story arc for the Battlestar Galactica: Origins comic series based on the show, and also won the Slamdance teleplay competition for his script “Ghost Town”. In 2007, after he was promoted to Staff Writer, he wrote his first script for the series’ fourth season, which is also his first professional credit.
How did you get involved in writing for Television?
I always loved movies, books and television — just good story-telling in any form. I started writing short stories as a kid, then for my high school and college newspapers. After I graduated (Emory University) I just had to give it a shot — I worked in New York for a couple years doing various jobs in film and television. The whole time I was making short films, or writing specs, and after a while I was encouraged to move out West and I finally took the plunge and did it… eventually leading to writers’ assistant gig, and then staffing on Battlestar Galactica.
How did you get involved with the Science Fiction genre?
Science Fiction is my favorite genre. Bradbury was one of the first authors I really enjoyed and felt the desire to read as much of his material as I could. Most of my early writing had a science fiction bent. Even when we played guns in my neighborhood it was under the rules of this elaborate sci-fi world, these make-believe missions of the near future and all that. When I moved to LA, I heard there was an opening on Battlestar Galactica and naturally jumped at it. I couldn’t care less about the pay – it was not only the best science fiction out there, it was the best television.
What was your first introduction to Space Westerns?
I’d have to say Star Wars. Han Solo is a gunslinger. He’s a total cowboy. So, I’d consider that my first introduction. I’m not sure if I was aware of the film having all these western themes when I was a baby, but it probably became evident quickly. Also, I’d have to point out Westworld, which came out before Star Wars, but I didn’t see it until it they ran it on television in the 80s — and Outland, which I remember my father telling my brothers and I it was a remake of High Noon, a western, when it was playing in the theater… and I was like, five years old at the time.
How would you define “Space Western”?
I guess the simple definition is a combination of the genres of science fiction and the western. I’m sure you could classify it as a subgenre, in the same way you do romantic comedy. I think the key elements are a conflict with a changing world (a morality tale, essentially) and they typically deal with the conquest or expansion of a new world or different culture. I think the iconic imagery of the western has expanded to the virtual fx shots of science fiction — this sense of awe, this sense of the undiscovered, this sense of man vs. nature, the cosmos. Whether it’s Han Solo or Mal Reynolds, I think the archetypes of the genre don’t shift too much, it’s the changing world around them that’s the key ingredient, that’s what makes these guys change.
What do you think the attraction is to Space Westerns?
Rugged individualism has a timeless appeal, I guess. Again, I think it’s this sense of awe. Whether it’s a cowboy riding across Monument Valley, or an astronaut stepping foot on the surface of the moon, there’s something about how the surrounding just totally eclipses the man, and there’s this struggle to be part of it, to make your mark in all of it, to belong. Plus, you normally have a good share of action and adventure, which always keeps folks entertained.
You recently won the grand prize in the 2006 Slamdance Teleplay Contest for your screenplay “Ghost Towns.” Can you tell me more about that?
It’s a horror/western that I wrote with Clay Carmouche. We still have high hopes for it becoming a television series at some point. Possibly in the visual style of Sin City or 300. We’re planning to turn it into a comic book series, so I’ll have to keep some of the plot points close to the vest. Essentially, it’s about two disillusioned Civil War vets who head West in order to stop this supernatural force from taking control of the frontier. I’m really proud of it, and it was definitely the first script that was a validation of my writing — we won a blind script deal with Fox because of it, it landed me representation and definitely helped get me staffed on Battlestar Galactica.
What was your first introduction to Battlestar Galactica?
I was aware of the show when I was a little kid. It was on repeats or whatever. I remember a friend told me about the old version, and I thought the premise was actually pretty intriguing. So, years later, when Ron Moore and David Eick put together the mini-series… I was just blown away. It is arguably the greatest example of a re-imagining in the history of television.
What is it like writing for the Battlestar Galactica series?
Dream come true. I’ve been spoiled by my first writing gig! Seriously, the staff is incredible. All of them are great writers and great people. The actors and the crew in Vancouver are equally incredible. Being in the Writers’ Room is a crash course in writing. I feel like I have an MFA because of what I’ve learned breaking stories. Everyone has a different voice, but it’s the perfect combination of talent, it all adds up, fits together… hopefully, that’ll show this season.
Which is your favorite episode of Battlestar Galactica that you’ve worked on (so far) and why?
I’m really honored to be part of this final season. We watched the cuts of the first half of the season at Ron Moore’s house after the strike ended and… I’m just so damn proud. Every episode is just pushing the limits of the genre, of dramatic writing period. I’m really happy with my first episode “Faith”, but they’re all excellent.
You’ve written for issues #1 to #4 of Battlestar Galactica: Origins for Dynamite Comics dealing with the origins of Gaius Baltar, (while Issue #5 to #8 written by Robert Napton will deal with William Adama). How does writing for the comic differ from writing for the show?
Basically, it’s different in that you get a chance to explore a small detail, or a minor throwaway comment and find a story in it. Whether it’s Baltar mentioning that he grew up on a farm or went to a Pyramid game, it’s all material for these stories. The show can’t afford to do everything it wants, and examine every aspect of these characters’ lives… the comics can.
Obviously, in the writing itself, you are respectful of what is canon, what’s been established by the show. So, whatever the story elements are, you need to find something that’s also visually appealing about it — it’s a comic, after all — which is a different part of the brain, I think.
Which episodes of Battlestar Galactica do you think best exemplify Western genre themes?
I’m not sure. I think you could find elements in plenty of episodes. There’s something about our stand alones, like “Black Market” or “Woman King” which have a western flavor to them, I guess. A man trying to stand up to the injustice of a certain group of people or a corrupt individual or whatever. I’m sure you could draw the comparison that when the fleet is attacked by the Cylons, that we’re essentially pulling the wagons together and fighting off the Indians. I will say this though, David Weddle, one of our writers, he wrote a book on Sam Peckinpah. So, he’s buried in a few choice lines during the run of the show that are definitely paying homage to various westerns. We probably quote John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance every day in the Writers’ Room.
You were recently promoted to staff writer for Battlestar Galactica and have been credited with writing the upcoming season 4 episode entitled “Faith.” What can you tell me about that episode?
As I mentioned earlier, I’m really pleased with the show. Michael Nankin directed it and did a great job. The writers all helped me out along the way, as did the crew when I went up to Vancouver for the shoot. The episode itself… I don’t want to give away anything… but, the episode is entitled “Faith” for a reason. It goes into the belief system of the Fleet. Faith, not only in some higher power, but also in each other. Plus, there’s some nice action in there and a couple of surprises.
Can you give me a peak at some of the highlights in the upcoming season 4 of Battlestar Galactica?
This is the last season of Battlestar Galactica! What more of a reason do you need to watch it? It’s all really come together so well. I’m amazed. There are some of the best action sequences and some of the best character work in the history of the show. Fans will not be disappointed.
Can you let me in on any exclusive information, unknown insights, or trade secrets?
No frakkin’ way.
What else can we expect to see from you in the near future?
It looks like we’ll be doing some more webisodes in between the airing of the first and second half of the season, which I might be involved in. Other than that, sadly, we’ll all be breaking the last episodes and then trying to figure out a way to work with each other again in the near future. I’ll have some more Battlestar Galactica comics coming out in the near future, and a self-published western anthology I’m doing with my brother… beyond that, we’ll see what the future has in store for me.
Other works by N.E. Lilly
- Interview with Phil Foglio (Nov 8, 2009)
- 10 Most Influential Space Westerns (Oct 25, 2009)
- Space Western Most Wanted (Jan 25, 2009)
- Interview with John G. Cawelti (Dec 7, 2008)
- Interview with Beth Nelson, 2008 Browncoat Ball Chair (Sep 21, 2008)
- more by N.E. Lilly
- 10 Most Influential Space Westerns by N.E. Lilly (Oct 25, 2009)
- Space Western Most Wanted by N.E. Lilly (Jan 25, 2009)
- Space Western SenryÅ« Contest Winners by N.E. Lilly (Aug 6, 2008)
- Battlestar Galactica Role-Playing Game Review by Kenneth J. Newquist (Jul 27, 2008)
- Interview with “Mojo” by N.E. Lilly (Jul 13, 2008)
- The Battlestar Galactica Code: The Last Cylon by N.E. Lilly (Apr 22, 2008)
- Interview with David Weddle by N.E. Lilly (Apr 20, 2008)
- Space Western Holiday Specials by N.E. Lilly (Dec 16, 2007)
- Interview with Jane Espenson by N.E. Lilly (Dec 9, 2007)