Jo Graham, author of STARGATE ATLANTIS: Death Game,
answers a few questions from our commissioning editor, Sally Malcolm,
about writing and what she lovesand lovesabout Stargate.
1) How and when did you become a fan of Stargate
SG1 and/or Stargate Atlantis?
A friend of mine online told me I had to watch it.
I was intrigued by Rising, and by
the end of 38 Minutes I was hooked.
2) Whats your all time favourite Stargate
SG-1 and/or Stargate Atlantis episode and why?
I have no idea! I can't pick one! Ok. Here's my top
ten...er...eleven. There are so many I love that it's hard to cut
the list down. But for whatever clue into my thinking or entertainment
value, here's the list, in air order, not order of preference:
- The Siege. I can
count that as one episode, right? I love seeing everyone honed
down to the essentials, their backs to the wall, facing the worst
that can happen. It's a truly great ensemble piece, showcasing
everyone's talents and brimming with tension.
- Sateda. The ultimate
Ronon episode. It's character driven, it's action packed, it's
beautifully done. And in the end, I love the bit with Ronon and
- Common Ground. Everything's
better with Todd! There's so much good stuff in this -- Elizabeth
makes the hard decisions, Todd hints at fascinating backstory
for the Wraith, and how can there be bad in John thoroughly whumped?
- Phantoms. On with
the John whumping! Seriously, I love this one for the insights
it brings, and for the way it very subtly moves into much more
mature territory. I love the things we learn about each member
of the team, especially Carson, John, and Teyla.
- Sunday. This is
one of those episodes people love or hate. I love it. It has wonderful
moments -- the way John's head jerks when he hears the explosion,
Ronon's idea of a great game, Teyla getting up to go to the funeral
at the end leaning on John's shoulder, Rodney's grief and regret,
and Radek and Ronon as the world's most mismatched pallbearers.
- Submersion. In
which Teyla totally kicks butt! I love the Wraith, and I love
the face to face confrontation of the three queens.
- Adrift. Backs to
the wall again. I love the tensions, and how we understand all
these people better by now. When John and Rodney have a confrontation,
we understand where they're each coming from and sympathize with
both. And Radek and John's spacewalk is one of my favorite moments
in the whole series.
- Tabula Rasa. I
adore Sam and I think this is Sam's best episode, showcasing how
unflappable she is, even with her memory gone. Lorne shines too,
and Radek whopping Marines over the head is priceless. I love
Ronon shooting John, and his clever little trick with the photo
for Lorne. And of course they'd all be totally messed up without
- The Shrine. I understand
this is one of those love them or hate them episodes too. It's
a tight, beautifully written episode, possibly Rodney's best one,
and Jeannie is a lovely plus.
- The Queen. Here
I go with the Wraith again! Teyla as Todd's queen is wonderful,
amazing, and pricks the imagination in a million fascinating ways.
Aaaaand, number 11, the one I'd have to say is my
favorite episode in the whole series, Letters
from Pegasus. It's tense, it's character driven, we learn
a lot about each person, and about ourselves as well. The best stories
are windows to our soul. This one's stained glass.
3) What made you want to write a Stargate novel?
When I love something I have to write it. I've got
to get my two cents worth in, got to add to the story, play in the
universe. It's a bonus to get paid for it!
4) Whats the hardest thing about writing
in the Stargate universe? And whats the best thing about writing
in the Stargate universe?
The hardest thing about writing in it professionally
is keeping to a PG rating. Neither my other novels or my fanfic
stick to a PG rating, and I find myself constantly having to cut
things that I just can't do. Usually it's mature content that isn't
sex. For example, I cut down a description of an airstrike on a
village in one of John's flashback scenes because it was just too
disturbing for the tone of the series. What I try to bear in mind
is the way they managed it on camera in the episode Phantoms. We
don't see Major Leonard blow himself up with a hand grenade. We
see him pull the pin, and then we see John's reaction shot as we
hear the explosion. Joe Flanigan's expressions have to carry the
scene. So that's probably the hardest thing -- pulling the punches.
The best thing is being able to tell stories about
these iconic characters! I love all of the characters in SGA, and
it's wonderful to be able to write them and in Legacy explore what
happens to them next.
5) Tell me about your favourite scene in your
That's hard! I have so many! There's a scene when
John and Teyla are in prison that I'm really happy with. I love
a couple of the scenes with Radek and Ronon too, and there's one
little exchange where Elizabeth gets Rodney and Lorne back on track
that I particularly like. I think my favourite parts, though, are
the backstory parts. I love Teyla's story about the First War between
the Ancients and the Wraith (and it will be important in Legacy!),
and I really adore Radek's story about how he got involved with
the Stargate program. But I think my favourite is John's backstory
about how he joined the Air Force. I'm terribly proud of that section.
6) What do you hope readers enjoy most about
The backstories! I love backstory, and it was a tremendous
pleasure to write for such wonderful characters. I've put a lot
of thought, effort, and research into the backgrounds and past experiences,
and I hope they ring true.
7) How did you become a professional writer?
And do you have any tips for budding authors?
I wrote fanfic on the internet, and I started writing
Black Ships and posting it in instalments for my own pleasure and
the pleasure of my friends. One of my friends was friends in real
life with an agent, who read it and asked to represent the book.
I've sold seven books now, and every one has been in some way because
So my advice would be that it's far less useful to
send manuscripts off to the slush pile at agents or publishing houses
than it is to simply write well, and to cultivate the relationships
that you have online. There are many pro authors and editors in
fandom -- it's like being able to walk in to a cocktail party full
of everyone you'd like to impress, and you get a chance to show
your best work.
8) Whats your opinion of fanfiction? And
have you ever read or written any?
I've written fanfic for thirty one years now! My first
story was a story about Han Solo as a child, written when I was
nine. I had my first publication in a paper zine called Bullwhips
and Blasters (a Harrison Ford fanzine) when I was thirteen. (I lied
and said I was eighteen, or I couldn't even have subscribed....)
Just counting major fandoms, I've written in Star Wars Original
Trilogy, Classic Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek Next Gen/DS9, X
Men Movieverse, Pirates of the Caribbean, SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis.