Our commissioning editor, Sally Malcolm, talks
to Steven Savile, author of STARGATE SG-1: The Power Behind the
1) How and when did you become a fan of Stargate
I always loved the concept of a gateway to the stars.
Who wouldnt want to step through it, seriously? Who wouldnt
want to go out there and find life?
I was always a fan of this kind of journey, be it
from Chariot of the Gods to Moorcocks Behold the Man. Theres
something about this kind of science fiction that just inherently
appeals to me. Yet, strangely, I didnt watch Stargate SG-1
until late on. Id been watching Farscape and when Claudia
Black and Ben Browder came over, I followed them. Then I set about
watching all of the old episodes back-to-back playing catch up with
about one hundred and fifty episodes or something crazy. By then
I was hooked.
2) Whats your all time favourite Stargate
SG-1 episode and why?
Oh so hard to say
. I can think of two dozen
off the top of my head that are a lot of fun, but youve asked
for one, so I have to decide between Daniel ascending instead of
taking retribution in Meridian, the mirror worlds stuff
in episodes like Point of View (which I loved I must
confess), or the team labouring in the inferno-like power plant
in Beneath the Surface, not knowing who they truly are,
or the intensity of Watergate or
No, must stop.
Just one. Okay, today, right now, Ill say the season one finale,
Within the Serpents Grasp, where ONeill
and Carter are setting the charges to blow up Apophis ship
that entire storyline was exactly what good TV is all about.
3) What made you want to write a Stargate novel?
Oh boy, so many factors. In part it was for my sister
and her husband, who are huge fans of the show (Hi Sarah! Hi Lee!
Got a lot to answer for, havent you?), in part it was a case
of timing, I had just watched 140 episodes of the show back-to-back
for research purposes (thats my story and I am sticking to
it) and it was ALIVE in my head, in part it was because I thought
I had a great idea that would make an excellent season arc
(I think the ideas in the books have a duty to be HUGE so you can
get lost in them, not just a forty minute race) and in part I had
just finished six medieval fantasy novels and really wanted to flex
my muscles in a different direction, and in part because it was
Stargate and the idea of writing ONeill, Carter, Jackson and
Tealc was irresistible. Its impossible really to say
how much of one and how little of the other it was down to, but
right at the core, the undeniable part was I wanted to do it because
I was a fan of the show. I guess you could say it was a conjunction
of the stars.
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, by far, was placement. Youre
writing inside the heads of these very, very well-known characters,
people KNOW how ONeill will react in a given situation, can
probably guess just what sort of quip hell come out with,
they know Tealcs eyebrow raise, certain things are expected.
Demanded. That, plus almost 200 hundred hours of backstory, and
you have to find exactly the right place to put your story, meaning
certain knowledge is withheld from the characters, and yet keep
within the laws of the show because you know in three seasons
time X is going to happen which proves/disproves what youve
been thinking about, or the threat youve been building, or,
you get the idea. So much is known you find yourself
working within a fairly strict framework. You cant take liberties.
But that is the same with lots of the stuff I have worked on. It
is actually part of the FUN believe it or not.
So what was the best? Oh man, its got to be
the chance to put words into the mouth of MacGyver
5) Tell me about your favourite scene in your
Theres one scene that LEAPS to mind reading
I have Tealc in a war-torn ghetto, lost to the rest of the
team, and basically turn him into the Golem of Prague, or any other
Robin Hood style hero of the common people in need.
I had the scene in my head from day one, it was one of those. I
could see the burning buildings, the collapsed walls, the smoke,
and Tealc moving from shadow to shadow like a vengeful ghost,
doing what Tealc does best, redressing the balance
6) What do you hope readers enjoy most about
Well I hope the fans of the show can feel my own love
for it in the characters and really do feel that theyre experiencing
an all-new episode with their favourite team. Thats why we
do it, after all. I remember growing up reading stuff like Brian
Daleys Han Solo at the Worlds End and stuff like that, and
really truly believing these were the adventures my favourite characters
were having off-screen. It helped bring the universe alive to me
in so many more ways. Id love to think of some fans of the
show getting the same kind of enjoyment out of Power Behind the
7) How did you become a professional writer?
And do you have any tips for budding authors?
I could be flip and say it was a basic lack of other
skills, but that would be presuming I have any unique skills that
qualify me to be a writer. In truth I came late to writing (I am
seeing a pattern develop here) at least if the biographies of friends
who wrote their first stories age four are to be believed. I used
to bunk off university to write, but what that really translates
to would be something more like I used to bunk off university to
stare at a white sheet in my typewriter and then go have a beer
and lament having not written. I wrote three novels and lots of
short stories to no success, and I mean NONE during this time, The
Last Angel (which Ive just made available via the Kindle for
a whopping 99c), The Sufferers Song (a massive 160,000 word
horror novel set in my home town who doesnt fantasise
about killing friends and blowing up local landmarks? Oh, only me
okay) and Laughing Boys Shadow. I went through about eight
agents who kept telling me I was a genius, that I was so talented,
that these books had to sell, but they never did, and for a long
while I lost heart.
I emigrated to Sweden and wrote a few new short stories,
and something happened, somehow I was writing with a new voice and
a new passion and was (dare I say it) getting better at being me
and saying what I wanted to say. Then I wrote Bury My Heart at the
Garrick, a story about Harry Houdini, which won the Writers of the
Future Award (the only European winner that year from tens of thousands
of entrants) and that changed everything. Suddenly, judged by the
likes of Tim Powers, Larry Niven, Robert Silverberg, Kevin J Anderson
and so many more brilliant writers, I had been found worthy. That
was the shot in the arm I needed. I think I worked maybe 3 more
years as a teacher, then quit, leaping into the unknown. Hunger
is a great motivator.
As to recommendations, dont get a good job,
you know one of those career ones, because youll never be
hungry and wont have that same burning need to feed yourself
I practice what I preach. Ive had dozens of jobs that lasted
no more than a few days before I walked out
But in all seriousness, write. Put your backside in
the chair and write. I learn by doing. Read. Not just the kind of
genre you want to write in but out in all sorts of other subjects
outside of your comfort zone. And THINK
think about what you
are watching, about the visual clues and how the writers seed in
ideas so nothing comes out of the blue
its a craft,
and crafts can be learned. You dont have to be a born writer
Im not even sure being a born writer helps as, with lots of
things, if you are too talented, you have it too easy and arent
forced to push yourself. In everything I do I want the current thing
to be better than the last thing, and so on and so forth.
8) Whats your opinion of fanfiction? And
have you ever read or written any?
I wrote about a million words before I wrote anything
someone was actually willing to pay for. Im not sure theres
much difference outside the fact that once I did start selling I
was able to publish these trunk stories that I always
knew were good enough
indeed some of the magazines that had
rejected the self-same stories bought them a few years later once
my name was starting to get out there
So I am all for you doing anything that improves your
skill and helps you hone your craft.
Equally fanfiction is vital for maintaining the community feel of
a show, especially after it goes off the air. It gives the fans
more of what they want. And Ive read some, not a lot, but
some. And some of it was great. Some of it wasnt.
Ive never written fanfiction though, unless you count the
pitch I did for Boxtree for a Quantum Leap novel (Justifying Eden)
that never happened