Category: Law Talk

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Law Talk: A Roundtable on Justice and Insturmentalism in Private Law

RoundTableKnights.jpgOver the weekend, the Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities held their annual conference at Boalt Hall. This podcast episode is a recording of a roundtable discussion on justice and insturmentalism in private law, which was organized for the conference by Jeff Lipshaw. The participants include Pete Alces (William & Mary), Robin Kar (Loyola LA), Alan Calnan (Southwestern), and Nate Oman (that’s me). The discussion focuses on the philosophy of tort law and contract law, with Pete sounding a skeptical note using evolutionary biology. Enjoy!

You can subscribe to “Law Talk” using iTunes or Feedburner. You can also visit the “Law Talk” page at the iTunes store. For previous episodes of Law Talk at Co-Op click here.

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Battlestar Galactica Interview Transcript (Part I)

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BSG-starbuck.jpgWe are very pleased to be able to present a transcript of our interview with Ron Moore and David Eick, the creators, producers, and writers of the TV show Battlestar Galactica. Joe Beaudoin, Jr., the project leader of the Battlestar Wiki, transcribed the interview for us. We edited the transcript, but the bulk of the work was done by Joe. The transcript is also posted at the Battlestar Wiki, which has a ton of great information for fans of the show. In editing the transcript, we took the liberty of cleaning up grammatical errors and eliminating “ums” and other distractions in order to make it more readable.

In this interview, we explore the legal, political, economic, and social ideas raised by the show. If you prefer to hear to the interview, click here to listen to the audio files.

Below is the introduction to the interview and the transcript for Part I, which explores the legal system, morality, and torture. I couldn’t fit the entire transcript into one post, so Parts II and III are contained in another post. Part II examines politics and commerce. Part III explores the cylons.

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Battlestar Galactica Interview Transcript (Parts II and III)

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BSG-cylon5.jpgThis post contains Parts II and III of the transcript of our interview with Ron Moore and David Eick, the creators, producers, and writers of the TV show Battlestar Galactica. Joe Beaudoin, Jr., the project leader of the Battlestar Wiki, transcribed the interview for us. We edited the transcript, but the bulk of the work was done by Joe. The transcript is also posted at the Battlestar Wiki, which has a ton of great information for fans of the show. In editing the transcript, we took the liberty of cleaning up grammatical errors and eliminating “ums” and other distractions in order to make it more readable.

Our interview explores the legal, political, and economic dimensions of the show. Part II (see below) examines politics and commerce. Part III (see below) examines the cylons. Daniel Solove, Dave Hoffman, and Deven Desai pose the questions to Ron Moore and David Eick.

Click here to read Part I of the interview transcript, which examines the legal system, morality, and torture.

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Battlestar Galactica Interview Part III

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Dave Hoffman, Deven Desai, and I are pleased to present Part III of our interview with Ron Moore and David Eick, the creators, producers, and writers of the hit television show, Battlestar Galactica.

Part I of our interview explored the role of law in the show, exploring topics such as the legal system, lawyers, trials and tribunals, torture, necessity vs. moral principles, and deference to the military.

Part II of our interview examined the political system and economic issues.

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In Part III of our interview (the final part in this series), we discuss the cylons. How do the humans view the cylons? As mere machines? As quasi-human? Are the humans heading toward a recognition of more humane treatment of the cylons? Why did the cylons choose to try to annihilate the humans? How do the cylons govern themselves? What role does the cylons’ religion play in all this? We explore these questions and more, including what political and philosophical books most influenced Ron and David in their creation of the show. We learn why Adama changes his views about Boomer and accepts her as a person. And we try to coax out spoilers for the upcoming season.

Part III of the interview is 16 minutes, 15 seconds long. You can access it, along with Parts I and II, here.

UPDATE: The interview has now been transcribed. You can read Part I here, and Parts II and III here.

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Battlestar Galactica Interview Part II

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BSG-scene4a.jpgDave Hoffman, Deven Desai, and I are pleased to present Part II of our interview with Ron Moore and David Eick, the creators, producers, and writers of the hit television show, Battlestar Galactica.

Part I of our interview explored the role of law in the show, exploring topics such as the legal system, lawyers, trials and tribunals, torture, necessity vs. moral principles, and deference to the military.

BSG-scene3a.jpgIn Part II of our interview, Dave Hoffman interviews Ron and David about politics and the economy. How did the political system of the Twelve Colonies work prior to the cylon attack? After the destruction of the colonies, how does the economy work aboard the fleet? Why do people still continue to do their jobs without compensation? How does commerce work? Why do people still use money? Dave examines these fascinating questions and more.

Part II of the interview is 13 minutes, 57 seconds long. You can also access it, along with Part I, here.

Check back Tuesday morning, when we plan to post Part III of our interview — the final part — which addresses issues involving the cylons.

UPDATE: The interview has now been transcribed. You can read Part I here, and Parts II and III here.

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Battlestar Galactica Interview

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We are thrilled to offer readers of Concurring Opinions an interview with Ron Moore and David Eick, creators of the hit television show Battlestar Galactica. Daniel Solove, Deven Desai, and David Hoffman ask the questions. We would like to thank Professor John Ip for suggesting some of the torture questions. Our interview lasts a little over an hour, and we’ll be providing it to you in several parts over the next few days.

Our goal was to explore some of the themes of the show in a deeper manner than many traditional interviews. Ron and David graciously agreed to give us an hour of their time, and we had a fascinating conversation with them.

BSG-trial1a.jpgOur interview is structured in three parts. Part I, available in two files (see the end of this post to download), focuses on the issues of legal systems and morality. It examines the lawyers and trials in the show. It also examines how torture is depicted, as well as how the humans must balance civil liberties and security.

Part II examines politics and commerce. It explores how the cylon attack affected the humans’ political system, and it examines how commerce works in the fleet.

Part III examines issues related to cylons, such as the humans’ treatment of cylons, how robots should be treated by the law, how the cylons govern themselves politically. Additionally, Part III will explore the religious issues involved in the show.

The new Battlestar Galactica, which premiered initially as a miniseries in 2003 on the SciFi Network, is only loosely based on the earlier show by the same name during 1978 and 1980. The new Battlestar Galactica is breathtaking science fiction, and it has widespread appeal beyond science fiction fans. Numerous critics have hailed it as one of the best shows on television. Time Magazine, for example, listed it as one of the top television shows and described it as “a ripping sci-fi allegory of the war on terror, complete with religious fundamentalists (here, genocidal robots called Cylons), sleeper cells, civil-liberties crackdowns and even a prisoner-torture scandal.”

BSG-scene1a.jpgThe show chronicles the struggle for survival of a small band of humans who escaped a devastating genocidal attack by intelligent robots called cylons. The humans created the cylons for use as slaves. The cylons rebelled and a war erupted between the humans and cylons. But a truce was reached, and the cylons disappeared. But forty years later, the cylons launched a massive surprise attack, destroying the human society (called the Twelve Colonies) with nuclear missiles. Only a small group of humans aboard spaceships survived.

The show depicts the humans’ difficult fight for survival and the tough choices they must make along the way. The cylons have developed technology to allow them to take human form, and some of the humans within the group of survivors are really cylons. More information about the show is here.

BSG-pic1.jpgThe show is heavily influenced by modern events, especially terrorism, war, and torture. In a time of emergency, how should we balance security and liberty? How do we deal with enemies who may be burrowed in among us? How does a society decimated in a war reconstitute its political, economic, and legal systems?

Battlestar Galactica was honored with a prestigious Peabody Award and twice as an official selection of the American Film Institute top television programs for 2005 and 2006.

Because the show explores so many interesting issues so deftly, it has attracted a large group of fans in the legal academy. We know of many law professors who count Battlestar Galactica as one of their favorite shows, and this is why we thought it would be fascinating to speak with the creators and writers of the show — Ron Moore and David Eick.

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Law Talk: George R. R. Martin

gm-lochness-t.jpgIn today’s episode of Law Talk, we hear from George R. R. Martin, the prolific author of the “high fantasy” series The Song of Ice and Fire. George has also been a screenwriter and Hollywood producer, an editor, a chess tournament director, a union leader, and a volunteer media director for the Cook County Legal Assistance Foundation. As I’ve previously written, George is a leader in the movement to bring a degree of realism to fantasy, and he has been dubbed (by Time Magazine) “The American Tolkien.”

George and I talked for almost an hour, on topics ranging from the role of law in fantasy books (starting 3.5 minutes in); the limits of magic as a plot device (20 minutes in); law professor Robert Cover (22 minutes in, brought up by me, to my shame); why most fantasy novels seem to be set in merry olde england (28 minutes in); fan fiction and copyright infringement (31minutes in); how writing sci-fi is like selling music, and whether he likes Radiohead’s distribution model (35 minutes in); how to keep control over your work when it is transformed into another medium (39 minutes in); and inheritance law (toward the end).

George is a fantastically interesting, well-read, thoughtful guy, and I think you will enjoy this interview quite a bit. (If you aren’t a fan of the books, ignore my constant, irritating, references to characters you have never heard of.) Finally, if you want to learn more about George, visit his blog (which he says isn’t one) and join the hordes of folks waiting for the next installment of the series, A Dance With Dragons, to ship.

Missed the link? Here’s the interview again. Warning: it’s a big file!

You can subscribe to “Law Talk” using iTunes or Feedburner. You can also visit the “Law Talk” page at the iTunes store. For previous episodes of Law Talk at Co-Op click here.

For other posts in the “Law and Hard Fantasy” Interview Series, see:

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An Interview with Pat Rothfuss

rothfuss.jpgI’m very pleased to bring you the first-fruits of the Law and “Hard Fantasy” Interview Series: a talk with author Pat Rothfuss.

Pat is the author of the new epic fantasy trilogy, The Kingkiller Chronicle. Book one, The Name of the Wind, follows the adventures of a boy named Kvothe as he learns to be an arcanist, something like an alchemist mixed with a wizard, at the “University.” The story is largely told by Kvothe in retrospect. It’s autobiographic fantasy, if such a genre existed. The book has been highly praised, and for good reason. I read it early in the fall, and liked it more than any fantasy debut I can remember picking up in several years.

I hope you will find the interview interesting. I’ll warn you: Pat has a flair for … earthy … language, so you are on notice if that kind of thing offends you. My questions are in bold.

I’ve claimed elsewhere that most “high fantasy” – multi-volume books that intend to tell large stories about pre-modern worlds – contains remarkably little civil law. The agents of the criminal system, like the hangman and the sheriff, are present, but not the civil law courts. Do you agree with this basic description?

Yeah. That’s pretty fair.

Can you imagine creating and writing explicitly about a world where magic and a litigation-based, common-law system, co-existed?

Absolutely. In fact, I’ve written such a world. You don’t see much of it in this first book, but there is a working common-law system in my world. I don’t think that the rule of law and magic are mutually exclusive at all.

The problem I’m thinking of is that law really self-conceives as a scientific, proof-based, system. Even in rules-based magical system, reality inevitably gets warped.

Hmmmm….. Good point. But honestly, I think that when that happens in most books, it’s because the writer is being lazy. Think about England in the 1500’s. People believed in magic and the courts still churned along. John Dee claimed to talk to angels. Alchemists were everywhere. People really believed they could transmute metal, and hell, maybe some of them could. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t still laws against fraud or theft…

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Introducing: The Law & “Hard Fantasy” Interview Series

Matteson-witch.jpgEarlier this summer, I wrote a post titled Fantasy’s Apocalyptic Turn, about the development of the “hard fantasy” movement in modern fiction. As I commented:

[I]t is worth briefly thinking about the relationship between epic fantasy and law. Although the legal aspects of fantasy role playing games are now well-marked out, there has been little work (outside of the Potterverse) on how fantasy authors imagine legal rules’ role in society. If epic fantasy is read largely by adolescent boys, this missing attention makes a great deal of sense. You don’t see law review articles about Maxim. But, if fantasy, or hard fantasy, has become a literature for the rest of the population, it is worth thinking about the complete and total absence of civil law in these books, and the light touch of criminal law more generally. Is it impossible to imagine lawsuits and magic coexisting in the same society?

This post got some folks blogging – in agreement and dissent.

I’m still interested in the relationship between epic fantastic fiction and law, and I realized that if I really wanted to know about how law makes it way (or doesn’t) into fantasy novels, I might as well ask some actual authors about it. So, I got in touch with a few writers who I consider to be among the best practitioners of “realistic” epic fantasy, and I’ve put questions to them. Now in doing so, I realize that I’m in danger of over-intellectualizing books that require a certain amount of suspended belief to be digested. Worse, really digging into these stories calls to mind E.B. White’s quote about frogs and humor. Indeed, as the picture to the right illustrates, law’s relationship to magic has the potential to be pretty gruesome.

But it’s worth a try. Over the next several months, I’ll be bringing you several author responses. Some terrific folks are already on board, including the reigning king of the movement, George R. R. Martin, and I’m hoping for more responses to trickle in. But our first guest is a newcomer to the genre, Pat Rothfuss, author of the new, acclaimed, novel The Name of the Wind. I’ll be posting my interview with Pat (hopefully) later on in the weekend.

(Image Source: Examination of a Witch, Thompkins H. Matteson, Wikicommons)

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Law Talk: Linda Malone on Litigating Global Warming

In this episode we hear from my colleague Linda Malone, at William & Mary Law School. Linda is an expert on international law, national security law, and the legal issues surrounding global warming. In this episode Linda discusses new litigation strategies that are using domestic courts as a way of enforcing international norms on global warming, as well as forcing action by domestic regulators. Her remarks were originally delivered as the St. George Tucker Lecture at William & Mary, which is given each year to honor the scholarlly accomplishments of a senior member of the law faculty.

You can subscribe to “Law Talk” using iTunes or Feedburner. You can also visit the “Law Talk” page at the iTunes store. For previous episodes of Law Talk at Co-Op click here.