?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Favorite Part of Death Game

Continuing my favorite parts of all my books, I think this may be my favorite part of Death Game, Radek Zelenka's backstory. I love Radek so much on the show -- he's a competent expert with no need to show off, easily underestimated and braver than he looks, a short untidy techie who will yell back at Rodney and always comes through for his friends and who occasionally has some very serious moments. I think my favorite Radek moment in the show is in the episode Adrift, when he and John have to make a spacewalk to do vital repairs and Radek gets a micrometeorite through his leg in deep vacuum and continues on to do the job. And later in the episode he's back at his console on crutches, coming through as always. So what makes him tick?

Radek is often written as though he were American, but he's not. He's Czech, and though he's about the same age as John, Rodney and Sam he grew up in a different world. He grew up in Eastern Europe, "behind the Iron Curtain" as we said then, and his life has been much harder in some ways. Certainly he's had to go ten miles further to catch up to the technology of the west -- John and Rodney and Sam probably had Texas Instruments computers in the house when they were twelve, PCs in their schools, Atari and Apple and BASIC. Nobody had PCs in their house in Czechoslovakia in 1981! Radek had to play catch up as an adult to things that the others learned when they were fourteen, and he had to do it in a foreign language. That's how smart he is. That's how dedicated.

In a way, Death Game is as much a historical novel as the Numinous World books, only it's about our present history, about the last four decades as the main characters of Stargate Atlantis have lived them. I put as much effort into their backstories, especially Radek, John, and Lorne, whose stories are about historical moments in our recent history, as I do into things that happened thousands of years ago. John's was easy. John's story really happened as a composite of things that happened to four of my friends. Lorne's was easy. I knew I wanted to connect to Michael and Jenny from SG-1, and some of his story is based on my cousins. But Radek was different -- a different culture, a different world, one that at the time I thought was as remote as the back side of the moon, places that we would never go, people we could never talk to behind an impenetrable barrier. Radek's story was the most work. I am very grateful to several friends from Eastern Europe who helped with it. All errors of course are my own.


I was two and a half years old on August 21, 1968, when Russian tanks rolled into Prague. I remember there was fear. I remember my mother was arrested. I was not there when it happened, but I remember the absence of her, the way my grandmother clutched me, a scarf over her hair and her things ready to go.

My grandmother -- what is there to say of her? She was a young woman when we were annexed by the Nazis, a young woman when she got out of Prague for Plzen because of the fear of bombs. My mother was born there in the winter of 42, child of one occupation as I was child of another. So you see, my grandmother had done all this before.

I suppose I cried for my mother. I do not remember. She was held three weeks and then released. She was one of the lucky ones. Some disappeared forever, but no one denounced her enough, I suppose. She was guilty of nothing except being in the wrong place at the wrong time, caught up in a peaceful demonstration. And so they let her go eventually. They could not keep everyone, you see.

She regretted it all her life, I think. She got away free, and so many others did not. It was betrayal to live and be happy.

My grandmother did not think so. "It is stolen," she told me. "All of this is stolen. Every moment is a moment between the wars. Every moment is snatched from death. You be a thief, Radek. You learn how to steal."

My father was different. He was nearly twenty years older than my mother, a youth rather than a baby before the war, and he was a serious man. He did not have my mother's fire. Perhaps he once had, but he never got over the pneumonia he had in '39, all winter in a work camp before they needed industrial labor too badly to keep them there when they could be building vital things for the war effort, men like my father who were neither Slovaks nor Jews. Those, they killed one way or another. Those like my father, blue eyed with German first names? He had work in a factory. You see he was lucky too. I have it on both sides, the Devil's luck.

It was not so lucky when time came to go to university. My mother had been arrested as a dissident, though she had not been sentenced. My father had been released by the Nazis. University depended on politics as much as anything, and my family was suspect. I should not have gone to university, except that I was very, very good.

And I am also very, very good at not getting caught. I am simple, you see? I am an egghead. I do not think about politics or sex or religion or any of those things. I do not even know who is in office. I have my head in a book, my mind on physics. I am a little egghead wimp, and I am no threat to anyone. I will toil very nicely in the background, doing things that make the reputations of my professors, and never ask for credit. It is good to have Radek Zelenka on one's team. He will get it done and never make trouble. I am good at getting by.

I was two and a half when the Russians came. And I was twenty three when we threw them out.

I was there on November 17, 1989. We did not know what would happen. We did not know if the army would fire on us, if the Russian tanks would come as they had before. We had learned what to do about tear gas, and how to help someone who has been beaten. I was there when the riot police came. You may not think I am much of a fighter, but that is not the point. The point is not to fight, but to make a barrier of your own body. The point is to be unmoved. Breathe through a wet handkerchief, and be unmoved. I was not much hurt, just some bruises from the scuffle. I am lucky too.

I was twenty four when we won, when we had our country back.

I got my doctorate at Cambridge, and now I am in a distant galaxy doing things my parents and my grandmother could not have dreamed of. And one day I will go home. I will teach and I will research and I will be astonished by the things that children think of.

Or perhaps I will die here. Perhaps the Wraith will have me one of these times, or any of the other innumerable hazards. If it is so, then it is, but I do not plan for it to be. I have the Devil's luck. It may be true that every moment is stolen between the wars. But you and I, Ronon, we can steal.

I'd love to hear what you guys think!

Tags:

Comments

( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
tielan
Feb. 1st, 2012 01:04 pm (UTC)
So. Much. Love.

Oh Radek!
jo_graham
Feb. 2nd, 2012 02:41 pm (UTC)
I love Radek too! And I'm glad you like it.
kickstand75
Feb. 1st, 2012 02:51 pm (UTC)
finally stopped linking my account through facebook. :)

I think my absolute favorite part of this is this quote:
I got my doctorate at Cambridge, and now I am in a distant galaxy doing things my parents and my grandmother could not have dreamed of. And one day I will go home. I will teach and I will research and I will be astonished by the things that children think of.

It so sets Radek apart from say a Rodney, who doesn't comprehend that someone (namely a child) could say something that would astonish him. I think Radek is one of my favorite secondary characters. He's so pragmatic about things and yet totally devoted to what his does and braver than what most give him credit for. Thanks for fleshing him out a bit. --kristan

jo_graham
Feb. 2nd, 2012 03:21 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you like the way I write Radek. I love him so much, and he does have a different perspective. In real life, I'd wind up with Radek. There is a certain resemblance to my partner of seventeen years!
kickstand75
Feb. 2nd, 2012 03:48 pm (UTC)
:) 17 years! Wow! Impressive in this "divorce mentality" day and age. Sigh - I somehow wound up with a John Sheppard....he likes to save the world a lot, would go the extra 5 miles if a friend asked it, and avoids speaking about emotions if at all possible. It writes well on paper as the dashing hero, but translates to needing an extra large helping of patience and understanding to make it 13 years! lol.
jo_graham
Feb. 2nd, 2012 10:57 pm (UTC)
Well, a John Sheppard is very nice too! :) I would say that my dear partner most resembles Xandros in Black Ships. Definitely.
miso_no_tsuki
Feb. 1st, 2012 09:05 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Radek is one of my favourite characters - the first fanart I drew for SGA was a pencil sketch of Radek, because I thought he was more interesting in lots of wys than most of the "lead" males. One of the shows strengths was in the minor roles -Radek, Peter Grodin, Kate Heightmeyer;not just cardboard cut outs to be slotted into place or "red shirts" to be introduced solely to be killed off instead of the Leads.
The back story is wonderful- many fans have wondered how Radek fared, what sacrifices he had to make just to be educated (join communist Party?)and in so many ways his story is so different to the rest of the main cast.
jo_graham
Feb. 2nd, 2012 03:50 pm (UTC)
That is one of the great strengths of the show, yes. The minor roles are fully realized and interesting! I'm so happy you like my backstory for Radek.
kensieg
Feb. 2nd, 2012 08:40 am (UTC)
this was great! Where can I find backstory for Peter Grodin?
jo_graham
Feb. 2nd, 2012 10:56 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I don't know that there's backstory for Peter in any of the pro books. Hummm. That's something that should be remedied!
sheppardkid
Feb. 2nd, 2012 07:04 pm (UTC)
My grandmother did not think so. "It is stolen," she told me. "All of this is stolen. Every moment is a moment between the wars. Every moment is snatched from death. You be a thief, Radek. You learn how to steal."

Or perhaps I will die here. Perhaps the Wraith will have me one of these times, or any of the other innumerable hazards. If it is so, then it is, but I do not plan for it to be. I have the Devil's luck. It may be true that every moment is stolen between the wars. But you and I, Ronon, we can steal.

-------

I get chill bumps every time I read the above 2 quotes. They're very powerful statements of who Radek Zelenka is. Sometimes we forget how he grew up and then to read this...just mind-bending.
jo_graham
Feb. 2nd, 2012 10:58 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad you like it! He's very tough. One of my touchstones is in Tabula Rasa. Radek is the one nobody can catch. He beat up a Marine team and disappeared into a ventilation shaft?
sheppardkid
Feb. 3rd, 2012 04:29 am (UTC)
Exactly! He knows how to survive. He knows how to dodge and weave, both physically and mentally. That's why I think he's such a good foil to Rodney's forthright and sometimes overcompensating demeanor. I love to see them interact together, much like I do Sheppard and Rodney.
jo_graham
Feb. 3rd, 2012 11:59 am (UTC)
Yes, that! He does know how to dodge and weave, and somehow Radek always comes out ok. He's a survivor.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )