Jo Graham and Melissa Scott talked with us about
Stargate Atlantis Legacy series - their love of the show, the
Wraith, and the complications of writing across long disntances
Can you tell us in a nutshell what the Legacy
series is, and how it came about?
Melissa: It's mostly Jo's doing. *g* But in essence, I'd
say it's a virtual "season six" - carrying on the story
of the Atlantis characters from where the series left off. That
make sense to you, Jo?
Jo: One of the things that's very exciting about it is
that it's a true continuation -- no reset to zero. In other words,
things will be different at the end of the series than they were
at the beginning. Characters will grow and change, and their jeopardy
is real. There's no assurance that everything will be put back
neatly where it was. In fact, it won't be put back!
Melissa: Yeah, that's a major point for me, too. It's
exciting to have some leeway. To be able to let the characters
be changed by the stories.
Jo: The characters will grow and change, their relationships
will change, and the scars will be real.
What were the challenges of that, of writing
a story that moves the characters beyond what we've seen on screen?
Jo: It has to feel like Stargate Atlantis. It has to grow
organically out of the events of the show. Fortunately, there
were some wonderful things to hang a plot on. So many interesting
questions were raised and not resolved in episodes like Remnants
and The Gift, in Submersion and Outcast and The Queen. To name
a few of my favorites!
Melissa: Staying true to canon while at the same time
moving forward with new ideas, new themes. As Jo says, there are
lots of things that were explored a little in canon, and then
never resolved. Being able to take those dangling threads and
weave them into something that continues what the show was doing
- that's the fun part.
The first book, Homecoming, sees the team return
to Pegasus - will all the familiar characters be back, and can
you tell us a little about what they'll be facing?
Jo: All the familiar characters will be back. And yes,
they're returning to the Pegasus Galaxy. But in the months they've
been gone, things have changed. A new Wraith queen has emerged
and she's gone a long way toward unifying the Wraith under her
command. Already she's started destroying human inhabited worlds
in the most vicious culling anyone has experienced since the First
War. So this is by far the most serious challenge they've ever
Melissa: One of the things that was most fun for me was
working in everyone, making sure that we were able to bring in
Chuck in the control room, for example, and still keep the story
Jo: And we do mean EVERYBODY! It felt like Homecoming
had a cast of thousands!
Jo: Jack O'Neill has a meaty part in Homecoming, and while
Sam Carter is a cameo, we'll be seeing a lot more of her in The
Lost. We even have Dr. Lee walk through!
The fact that you're fans of the show is really
evident in the writing.
Melissa: I hope so! I'm a huge fan myself, and being able
to extend story - it's a fan's dream as well as a writer's pleasure.
Jo: I love the show, and I hope that love comes through.
I think all of us care about all the characters. There's no character
bashing here, and I think everyone gets a fair share of 'screen'
Melissa: We're certainly trying to keep it balanced, to
make sure everyone gets their share - and, as Jo said earlier,
to make it feel like Stargate Atlantis.
So are we in for some cliff hangers, or is
each book a discrete story?
Jo: Lots of cliff hangers! It's all one long plot arc,
so the things that happen in one book lead into the next, like
a multi-part episode. Like, for example, Letters From Pegasus,
The Gift, and The Siege Part 1-3.
Melissa: Though each book has a complete plot to it. It's
just that sometimes there's a little kick at the end....
The Wraith are very well developed in the books,
you go into a lot of detail about their culture and origins. What
did you draw on to establish those ideas?
Melissa: So much of it was implied in the show, really.
For me, it was a matter of looking at those episodes, taking the
information given, and putting it together in ways that made sense.
For example, the social structures that are likely to arise from
a single queen leading a hive of warrior and scientists - plus,
of course, drones - are all hinted at. We just took that and wondered
how the warriors - blades - and the scientist/technicians - clevermen
- would interact, who would have status.
Jo: One of the things we talked about was the sex imbalance.
When you have many many more males than females, how does the
society deal with that? It's very Elizabethan in some ways, these
gorgeously attired blades circling around their queen. The court
intrigue, the competition, and the subtle politics of it all.
Melissa: Yes. Everyone is competing for the queen's favor,
and she is absolute ruler.
Reading Homecoming, there's a lot of texture
and it's very visual. There are great details about their clothing
and its fabric.
Jo: Funny that you mention the clothes! The circuit board
embroidery is taken from the real embroidery on the season four
team jackets, where it implies something important about each
character! Teyla's has sleeves of a different material, John's
is a bomber jacket, and Sam's has the same stitching as the headpiece
of Ra from the SG-1 credits.
Melissa: Another thing that seems clear in canon is that
the Wraith see a slightly different spectrum of light, so that
we can assume that the ships the human characters see as dark
and gloomy are actually better lit, more brightly colored.
Jo: Shades of black, to the human eye. But actually to
a Wraith it all appears in jewel tones.
Melissa: We drew on that to build up a picture of a society
that takes care with individual appearance. And I think the Wraith
do care about how they look. It all has to be done with grace,
with style, not just thuggery. Look at the time they have to spend
on their hair!
Jo: All of the Wraith are beautifully dressed, even the
commando in The Gift.
There is something sumptuous about the Wraith.
They're not just bad guys - it makes them more sympathetic as
characters. Was that your intention?
Melissa: I think it says something about the society to
start with, that each individual has a great deal of pride at
stake in his adventures. That it matters that they look their
best, and presumably also act their best, by Wraith standards,
when they are dealing with outsiders.
Jo: That's continuing the plot arc that started in Common
Ground. Are the Wraith people? It's a really important question.
Because if they are, then what? Do our heroes commit genocide?
And if they don't, how is this war with the Wraith ever going
to be resolved?
Will we see that question resolved?
Melissa: It's a complicated question, but I think a resolution
will be achieved. I'm not sure that means the question will ever
be fully resolved, or if it can be.
Jo: I'm not sure it can be. Not in a lifetime, certainly.
But our guys have to do the best they can -- that's all anyone
can do -- to carry the banner proudly in their own time.
Melissa: They have to make some profoundly difficult choices,
and certainly the characters themselves aren't sure of the best
way to fix this problem. But they will get to a workable place
- not perfect but, as Jo says, they're doing the best they can.
The series raised some big questions about exploration, alliance,
politics, questions that don't have easy answers in the real world.
Nobody on Atlantis is going to find this easy.
There are three of you working on this project,
how did you all get involved with it?
Melissa: I'd been following the progress of Jo's first
SGA novel, STARGATE ATLANTIS Death Game, and getting seriously
hooked on the series, to the point of beginning to talk idly with
Jo and Amy Griswold about what a 6th season might have looked
like. And then Jo had this fabulous idea.... *g*
Jo: Amy is a long-time fan writer in a number of fandoms,
including SGA and SG-1.
Melissa: What's been really neat is the way our styles
have meshed - really, all of us.
And can you explain how the collaboration process
works? What are the mechanics of writing a book together?
Jo: We all have different favorite characters , and so
we kind of divided things up by point of view characters so that
each person is being written by someone who loves them a lot.
And we each usually write the pov scenes for "our" characters.
My main four viewpoints are Teyla, John, Sam and Radek, for example.
Melissa: And I tend to do the Wraith, John, Ronon, and
Radek. Plus others.
Jo: Amy writes Ronon, Rodney, Radek, Lorne, and Jennifer.
Melissa: And certain parts of the plot are more exciting
to one person than to another, too, so we try to make sure each
of us gets the sections we're most enthusiastic about.
Do you write your scenes and email them back
and forth? You don't all live close together...
Jo: Which makes some of the action sequences very challenging.
For example, in the end sequence of The Lost, there's the team,
there's the space battle, and there's the Wraith. So we have pov
from Rodney, John, Ronon, Teyla, and Sam -- all in one sequence.
All of those pieces get put together, like cutting back and forth
from camera to camera.
Melissa: Yes! Challenging is a fair word. In one action
section in Allegiance, in progress,, Amy and I laid out the specific
events that had to happen - 8 in all, I think.
Jo: In terms of mechanics, we post each piece friendslocked
on livejournal so we can all see it. That way we each have a working
draft at all times with constant real-time feedback. And of course
the books have to mesh with each other. Right now we're writing
Allegiance and Avengers simultaneously.
Melissa: The only thing that doesn't get posted straightaway
are some of the action sequences, where we'll build it up - because
there are so many pieces to put together that there are going
to be corrections and changes in the sequence - and only post
It sounds really complicated, but also a really
dynamic way of writing.
Jo: It's really dynamic and also fun!
Melissa: Having the immediate feedback really makes a
difference, I think. It gives you a sense of progress. And, yeah,
lots of fun!
Jo: And we have a small number of early readers to keep
us honest, and to tell us if we're not making sense.
Melissa: The hardest part so far has been making sure
we remember to set up things that are going to happen two book
Jo: Sometimes it's complex, like when something in Avengers
refers to something in Allegiance that hasn't been written yet!
Melissa: Well, Stargate has always done a lot with time
travel/warped continuities.... It seemed to fit.
You've both written original novels. What made
you want to write something like this - tie-in fiction?
Melissa: It's the show itself that grabbed me. I'm excited
to get to write in this universe, and it's an opportunity that
one doesn't always get.
Jo: I tell hero stories. I tell stories about good people
struggling in a world full of dangers and contradictions. STARGATE
ATLANTIS is a modern hero story. It's a privilege to write such
beloved characters that are so important to so many people.......
Melissa: And Jo's right, it is a privilege. It's a fascinating
universe, and to get to play in it, to get to write these characters
- yes, a privilege.
You're both fans of the show, so you know that
SGA fans are passionate about it! Are you prepared for the fan
response to decisions you make in Legacy?
Jo: I think we're aware that we're not going to please
everybody. Fans are passionate about the future they want for
these characters, and what we do won't fit everyone's vision.
And that's ok. That's what fanfic is for -- an infinite number
of possibilities. We've tried to tell a good story that's true
to the characters and the universe, and especially to the mood
and style of Stargate ATLANTIS. I think most people will like
it a lot!
Melissa: Much as I wish I thought everyone everywhere
was going to love everything about Legacy, I know there are people
who will wish we had done things a differently - no matter what
we actually do! But what I hope readers will see is that we respect
the show - that what we've done is true to Stargate Atlantis.
Jo: I do think that people are going to get excited about
these books! I think that there will definitely be some waiting
on tenterhooks for the next installment.
Melissa: I think the stories are good - I think they're
There's huge respect for the show in these
books, and I know people will be on tenterhooks!
Melissa: Thank you! Those cliffhangers.... *g*
There is still some talk about an Atlantis
movie, if that were to happen it would most likely create a different
future for the SGA team. How would you feel about that?
Jo: It happens! Many of my favorite Star Trek novels were
jossed by later movies, and I love them anyhow. I'm happy to be
in distinguished company with A C Crispin, Diane Duane and Jean
Melissa: Yeah, that's the risk you take in doing any tie-in
project - and there's always yet another alternate universe!
When the readers close the book on the first
in the Legacy series - Homecoming - what do you hope they'll be
thinking and feeling?
Jo: OMG we have to wait until February!!!!!
Melissa: *g* Which is that much worse than waiting till
next week, but the book will have been longer....
Jo: I hope they'll be thinking that this is what they
wanted -- a new beginning, a new adventure, the team doing what
they do best, back where they belong.
Melissa: I'd like them to have the kind of satisfaction
that they got from the show itself - that the story is continuing,
as Jo said, back where they belong.
Find out more about STARGATE ATLANTIS: Homecoming
and download the first chapter to read here.