Just a reminder to tune in to Sci Fi at 10:00 p.m. tonight to catch this week’s episode, Broken Ties. Jason Momoa acted his heart out in this one, giving his best performance to date, so be sure to check it out. The episode also offers nice moments for fans of the Sheppard-Ronon friendship, explores certain aspects of the wraith feeding process, focuses on Teyla’s struggle to reconcile motherhood with her off-world exploits, and even gives a glimpse of a more sympathetic Woolsey. It also features one of the most beloved guest stars in Stargatedom (so far as the crew is concerned), Mark Dacascos, who reprises his role as Tyre, the former Satedan last seen in season four’s Reunion. Despite an incredibly busy schedule (and I’m sure he’ll fill us in on what he’s been up to), Mark will be doing a guest spot here sometime next week. Starting tomorrow, once the episode has aired, I’ll start gathering questions for Mark and gather them over the next couple of days. So if you have a question for Mark, let’s hear it.
Speaking of guests – today, we’re joined by uber-talented illustrator/artist/designer John Picacio. A quick glance at some of John’s work (pictured above) goes to show why this multiple award winner is a recent finalist for the Hugo Award in the Best Professional Artist. Anyway, his art speaks for itself and John, well, he speaks for himself as well as he tackles your questions and comments about his work.
Before turning things over to John, I’d like to dedicate today’s entry to birthday individual Mercie as well as birthday site SFSignal (www.sfsignal.com) that is celebrating five years of scifi success. Ion cannons and cake for everyone!
The mailbag bats clean up once again today. And, over to John…
Hi, folks – Huge thanks to Joe for graciously offering me this forum, and thanks to all who submitted questions. I tried to answer everyone’s questions the best I could. If anyone has further questions, feel free to ask, and I’ll try to respond in the comments. Before we get started, here’s a quick bio for those who don’t know me.
I make my living illustrating covers for science fiction, fantasy, and horror books. I’ve illustrated covers for books by Harlan Ellison, Michael Moorcock, Robert Silverberg, Frederik Pohl, Jeffrey Ford, Robert Heinlein, Graham Joyce, L.E. Modesitt, Jr., Joe R. Lansdale, and many, many more. I’m currently one of the finalists for the prestigious Hugo Award in the Best Professional Artist category (fourth consecutive nomination). I’m fortunate to have won the Locus Award, the Chesley Award, two International Horror Guild Awards, and the much-coveted World Fantasy Award, all in the Artist category. COVER STORY: THE ART OF JOHN PICACIO, a big, 200-page hardcover collection of my work, was a 2007 Hugo Award finalist. (Still available: Dreamhaven Books has signed copies. http://dreamhavenbooks.com/picacio.php. So does Bud Plant: http://budsartbooks.com/prod.cfm/pc/CVEHS/cid/14) Recent highlights include Ballantine/Del Rey’s major trade paperback edition of Michael Moorcock’s ELRIC: THE STEALER OF SOULS, featuring cover and interiors by yours truly (available now), and the cover of Lou Anders’ forthcoming anthology FAST FORWARD 2 (available October). For more info, please visit http://www.johnpicacio.com/index2.html and for the latest updates, http://johnpicacio.com/blog.html.
Onward toward some answers….
I’m not sure there’s a deep philosophical meaning here, but even back in grade school, I’d draw little images of my classmates’ faces in the margins of my notebooks. I just liked drawing them. I suppose faces are amongst my favorite things to draw and paint. They intrigue me. As a design element, I think faces are really powerful on a book cover, and they seem to jump off the shelf, so that might be part of the reason as well, seeing as much of my work is for book covers. Sidenote on this subject: I’ve never been a smoker and I don’t really enjoy being around it, but despite that I always wanted to do a series of drawings that showed that moment when smokers spark up a cigarette. I always thought that split-second flash of light illuminated their faces in very telling ways – sometimes the light washes away their creases and blemishes and reminds what they looked like in a younger, more innocent time, and sometimes the light really accentuates their shadows and edges, and foretells what they’ll look like at the end. I have no idea how that directly relates to our discussion about faces in my covers, but it just passed through my head again, so I mention it here.
Reading the manuscript, start to finish, if it’s available to me….highlighting key passages….that’s the first step in the creative process. If the manuscript is not available to me (for example, if the book is still being written), I still gather as much information about the story or novel as I possibly can. Research is essential. For me, it’s a lot of fun. I’m trying to not just literally represent something, but understand its themes and values, and try to express those in an intriguing, evocative way on the cover. I’m trying to get to the essential heart of the book or article. Part of the research stage is listening to what the art director and the various arms of the client have to say as well. From there, I’m doing little thumbnail sketches for myself. Sometimes I write a brief that says in a few sentences what I think the cover might be about. It’s a private thought on paper, just for me to stay on target. Generally, that’s the way process starts before I move into the earnest stages of drawing and painting, which are a whole separate discussion.
I think that depends on who you want to have appreciate it, and what you want it appreciated for. I think it’s maybe appreciated more than ever by genre collectors and fans of the field. There’s been a growing number of cyber-discussions about cover art in recent months, and that’s a very good thing. I hope readers and professionals continue to exchange views about it because that will only raise the bar for the better.
On the publishing side, there was a time when cover illustrators weren’t even CREDITED with their work, which is absurd. Today, cover illustrators generally are at least credited for their work, whereas I find that a lot of the pre-90’s paperbacks and novels sometimes didn’t print the credit, and that was especially the case with pre-1970’s books. I think knowing who created the art helps foster an appreciation (and a marketplace) for the art itself in professional sf/fantasy work. From a professional standpoint, history shows that back in the 1950’s when the Ballantines were first building their publishing empire (now owned by Random House as Ballantine Books), they entrusted avant-garde artists like Richard Powers to create ground-breaking covers for their sf books, and they were rewarded with greater critical awareness, and booming sales of those books. Powers’ covers of the time were very modern and anti-traditional (i.e. anti-pulp, at a time when pulp dominated the book racks). Basically, the Ballantines had the courage to allow an artist to work outside the box of the existing marketplace tropes, and it both expanded the readership of the field and made a lot of money for them. These days, I don’t think publishers owned by multinational corporations are as willing to take a chance on ground-breaking artists like Richard Powers, unless they’re guaranteed in advance that it sells well, which means they’re usually chasing the tail rather than heading it. If you notice, when the Ballantines were working, the editorial department dictated the game to the marketing and sales department. Nowadays, that equation seems inverted. Today, marketing, sales, and accounting departments seem to dictate the final creative say to the editorial department, especially in terms of cover art. I don’t think cover art is better for it. Today’s audience is far more sophisticated than marketing departments currently envision. I’d like to see cover illustration in sf/fantasy be more proactive rather than reactive to the latest fads in movies, gaming, and tv (no offense, Joe). J
Another related thought — there’s another shift that happened around the early-90’s, right around the time when Chip Kidd and the Knopf design staff was making a big splash with their Random House covers. I think an unfair stigma was placed on illustration as being an element that “limited” a book to a genre audience, and publishers therefore relied more and more on stock photography and in-house designers to create covers. In the process, they lost sight of the full potential of original drawings and paintings to sell product in the marketplace. Kidd’s a smart designer, but I often wonder if he perhaps helped spread that stigma in interviews because it glorified designers like him, at the expense of illustration. The fact is, publishing still thinks this way today and I think it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy that stunts the growth of ideas, profit, and outreach. Somewhere along the way there, publishers generated this self-fulfilling prophecy that illustration limited audiences. Perhaps it’s just a nice story that helps them cut costs and save in-house jobs? The fact is, there are dozens of examples of illustrators who didn’t limit audiences, but instead transcended time and context, and expanded audience and profit. The list is long and diverse – try J.C. Leyendecker in the 1910’s, Norman Rockwell in the 1940’s, the aforementioned Powers in the 1950’s, and Dave McKean in the 1990’s, to name only a few off the top of my head. We’re talking about revolutionary cover artists of their time with huge critical and commercial impact that exploded the growth of their publications beyond the existing audience. So if it’s possible in those eras, why say that today’s mainstream audiences aren’t sophisticated enough to embrace progressive, original illustration?
Sorry for the long answer, but it’s a nuanced question that merits an even longer, nuanced response than I’ve given. Enough for now though. Let’s take a step back, and look at what we’re all sharing right here at this second – we have the busy and beloved executive producer of STARGATE: ATLANTIS opening his personal forum to a book cover illustrator….think about that….so from a personal standpoint, I’m very appreciative of the friends and audiences that continue to find my work, and yes, I think the circle is expanding, thanks to people like Joe Mallozzi and others like him who think outside-the-box.
Whew…..those answers are constantly in flux. Hopefully the following offers a snapshot of what’s in my head at the moment. Of course this is likely to phase into something else tomorrow, and at the end, the snapshot includes manuscripts I’m working on for current cover jobs. Here goes — Posters of revolution and protest….John Berkey spaceships….the writings of Andrey Tarkovsky….the art of Dean Cornwell….the art of Gustav Klimt….the art of Francis Bacon….the music of Boxcar Satan….the music of Arvo Part…. the DARK KNIGHT soundtrack…a jagged leaf I found on the ground today….a spectral swirl that I saw in an oil puddle yesterday….a cloud formation spinning off of Hurricane Dolly….Jimi Hendrix setting his guitar on fire….ancient Celtic design….Gothic buttresses….Mark Chadbourn’s AGE OF MISRULE; Dan Simmons’ MUSE OF FIRE; Jack Skillingstead’s ARE YOU THERE; Mike Resnick’s STARSHIP: MUTINY; and Michael Moorcock’s ELRIC: THE REVENGE OF THE ROSE. This list subject to change completely tomorrow.
For one thing, that last sentence above is part of it. I love the diversity of the work itself — simultaneously illustrating covers for science fiction, fantasy, horror, and places in-between.
I guess if I had to really nail it down though….it’s the collision of my vision with an author’s words, and how those things birth an illustration that might not have existed otherwise. What I mean by that is that when I read a manuscript, it’s naturally going to filter through my own way of seeing the world, and something fresh and new comes from that, not just a visual regurgitation of the author’s words, which would be pointless. Of my own illustrations, my favorite ones usually have a higher degree of surprise for me, in that I might not have expected myself to arrive at a certain solution in months prior. I like when I know I’ve turned a corner and evolved, and wish it happened more often. Examples of these are the covers of Frederik Pohl’s GATEWAY; Lou Anders’ FAST FORWARD 1; and Jeffrey Ford’s THE EMPIRE OF ICE CREAM (which coincidentally seem to be amongst AMZ’s faves as well).
It depends which images you’re looking at. You have to remember that a lot of my early work was commissioned by the horror side of the publishing industry and I’ve also done my fair share of dark fantasy covers as well. So those two genres are going to naturally demand a darker tone. If someone said that my general sensibilities also leaned toward darker tendencies, I’m not sure I’d argue, but overall, I’d have to say that I appreciate drama, tension, contrast, and texture. I once explained to someone that in order to see the beauty of light, you have to understand the dark, and I think that still holds true. Although some of my illustrations may appear “dark”, I’d say my outlook in life is a hopeful one, at the end of the day. I don’t really have an explanation for why my stuff looks the way it does. I just do it and it comes out that way. J
I really appreciate that last statement. Thanks. As far as there being a connection between the cover art and the written story, it’s important to me. Most publishing folk will say, “the main job of the cover is to sell the book.” I don’t disagree with this. However, I feel like that’s one vector, and an equally important vector is the art’s ability to be true to the integrity of the book in some meaningful way. If you find the point where those two vectors intersect, that’s where I want to be. Some cover art makes a successful sales transaction for a book, but then readers find that the book has nothing to do with the art. OK, great – the publisher made a sale right now, but at the expense of a reader who is now turned off to that author and tells their friends? Not good for the client. So that’s why I think trying to find the intersection of those two vectors is where it’s at, especially for the long haul.
As far as having a say in my assignments – I’m fortunate that the answer is ‘yes.’ I do pick and choose, and I’m grateful that I can afford to do that.
I do my underpaintings in greyscale oils (Rembrandt and Winsor & Newton brands, mostly). The colors are done in acrylic for the most part (Liquitex brand). The greyscale oils and the acrylic colors are merged digitally via Photoshop. So the ingredients are all drawn and painted by hand, non-digitally, with traditional materials, but their juxtaposition has the possibilities of the digital world. Sometimes I paint completely traditionally as well, such as the triptych cover paintings for Jeff Ford’s WELL-BUILT CITY trilogy, which are part of a larger mixed-media assemblage. For brushes, it runs the gamut. I’m all over the place with those. My wife even gives me her old unwanted makeup brushes and I’ve used those to paint with. My favorite brush is a traditional #4 Round from Princeton Art & Brush Company. As far as special tips, I’d say don’t be afraid to use unusual items to apply paint and try different textures. Brushes aren’t the only ways to apply paint. Try sponges, leaves, sticks, rags, your fingers, etc.
Unfortunately, that’s not uncommon. Sometimes it’s the simple fact that books have to be solicited so far in advance and in fact, authors are still writing the books. However to generate orders, publishers need covers to sell a book that’s still being written. That’s fairly common. In general, I try to read whatever parts of the book that I can get from the publisher, even if the book’s unfinished. In addition, I always do my own research as well. Readers can tell when a cover makes no connection to the book, and everyone loses in that scenario. Good covers don’t just have to be literal interpretations. They can be abstract interpretations or even evocative ones, and still have a powerful connection to the story.
Easiest – They’re never easy.
Hardest – The hardest ones tend to not be because of difficult clients, but because of my own expectations for what’s possible. As a result, some of my favorite pieces are ones where I had to grow, evolve, or surprise myself in order to accomplish the job. Sometimes the idea comes immediately, and the execution has to evolve slowly. Other times, the idea takes forever to find its way, and the execution has to come together in short order. (A few that come to mind — FAST FORWARD 1; THE EMPIRE OF ICE CREAM; SHELF LIFE; GATEWAY; and more recently, THE WELL-BUILT CITY triptych; SON OF MAN; and FAST FORWARD 2, which all happen to be amongst my favorites)
Most frustrating – A cover I’m working on right now for a book by a well-known author….the book is profoundly deep and wonderful, and it deserves a great cover and I’m having trouble reconciling its scope and wonder in a succinct image. I’ll get there, but I’m frustrated that the idea hasn’t fully coalesced yet. It’ll happen (and it’s probably best not to give specifics beyond that).
Most fulfilling – Several over my career, but two from the last 12 months would be the cover of Lou Anders’ forthcoming FAST FORWARD 2 (Pyr), and the triptych I did that will form the three covers for Ford’s forthcoming WELL-BUILT CITY trilogy (Golden Gryphon Press). I’ve also got a soft spot for the cover of James Tiptree, Jr.’s HER SMOKE ROSE UP FOREVER because it won my first Chesley Award, and the cover of Walter M. Miller, Jr.’s A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ because it’s an honor to do the cover of a classic book like that. That CANTICLE art has been so well-received that many foreign editions now use it for the cover.
Advice – run your own race. If you look just like your heroes, the best you’ll ever be is a second-rate version of your heroes, which does no one any good. It’s okay to start off wearing your influences heavily, but work toward finding your own way of seeing, and make that your foundation above all else.
Warning – be wary of any client (comic book companies, gaming companies, movie companies, etc.) that demands to own all rights to your work in perpetuity. Avoid clients that demand those terms. If it’s work-for-hire dealing with trademarked characters, the company will own all of your work, but make sure you’re compensated appropriately before signing any contract. For work dealing with non-trademarked characters, a few companies try to get away with that because new talent is often desperate for a break. That’s why most established pros avoid them. Go work elsewhere with clients that don’t demand that. The only sensible reason to agree to that is if you’re getting double the normal fee, or some commensurate trade-off. Again, just “getting exposure” is not good enough.
My story’s a little unconventional. I graduated from the University of Texas with a Bachelor of Architecture degree (1992), and didn’t have formal art training. My dream back then was to work in comics, so I started writing and drawing my own comics and self-publishing them. At that point, I didn’t have any interest in doing anything other than my own comics. However, the covers I created for those comics eventually caught the attention of a publisher named Mojo Press and they were looking for a cover illustrator for a 30th anniversity edition of a book called BEHOLD THE MAN by Michael Moorcock (published 1996). It was a book, not a comic, but I took the job because I knew Moorcock was a legend. I did the cover illustration and design, plus interior illustrations for that book, and simply put, I fell madly in love with being a book illustrator. That job changed my life, and from that point forward, I left comics behind and looked for cover jobs with small press book publishers and started building a portfolio. I spent a lot of years sending out promo postcards to hand-picked clients and took a lot of expensive trips to New York City, knocking on publishers’ doors and getting polite rejections. All the while, I was working dayjobs in architecture offices, until I finally jumped off the cliff in 2001 and quit architecture, and committed body and soul to being a fulltime freelance illustrator, even though I had no backup plan and almost no savings (not recommended unless you have a tough stomach). I just kept hacking away because I wanted to work in this business more than anything else. Being an artist meant everything to me, and it still does.
How do you put yourself into a “frame of reference” to design book art?
Do you present a number to the client for choice?
Do you “choose/recommend” based on the book?
How long do they give you to present a design?
Which begs the question, how long would you prefer?”
Wow, Sylvia….that’s a heckuva question. I’ll try to answer in one pass.
Hate to say it, but as my wife will attest, my mind never really shuts off from art. The faucet’s running 24/7. Everything I do probably in some way informs my current work, if only subconsciously sometimes. Even if I’m doing things that aren’t drawing or painting, the work is “on” in the back of my mind all the time. It’s in the blood.
Some cover ideas arrive in one sketch; others arrive in fragments and it takes several generations to get it right. It varies from job to job. I try to make as many decisions as possible before I start throwing ideas at the client. That decision-making is just as important as the drawing and painting in my mind, and it’s part of the reason they’re paying me. Time and budget have a lot to do with how many sketches a client gets. If a client pays less money, or if the given schedule is razor-tight, they get less preliminary work.
As far as how much time is given, it often depends on how organized a client is. If you’ve got a superior publishing client like Pyr, they generally don’t wait until the last minute to commission cover art. Their schedules generally give at least eight to ten weeks for working out the cover, sometimes more, and that includes the time it takes to read the manuscript and/or research. Some clients are less organized and expect things in a rush. As an illustrator, you learn to adjust to each situation and weigh them all accordingly. That said, it’s probably no surprise that Pyr’s covers look as good as they do across the board, and get so much acclaim. And that’s also why Pyr’s editorial director Lou Anders has the rare distinction of being one of the few editors to ever be nominated for a Chesley Award for Best Art Director.
I’ve never used a Wacom tablet because I don’t like the drag of plastic on plastic. I like Photoshop for the way I can composite traditional materials in interesting ways, but as a drawing or painting tool, it doesn’t hold much interest to me, nor does any other piece of software. I definitely use traditional pencils, oils, and acrylics for that. It’s more fun to get my hands dirty. That said, there are plenty of folks that do terrific work using straight digital means, and I’ve got no problem with that. I’m just not one of them. I’m definitely more of a hybrid between traditional and digital.
I love the freelance life. It’s got long, tough days and nights, and doesn’t have the built-in cushy benefits of a company job, but there’s no substitute for controlling your own destiny. Going freelance full-time was the best move of my life. As far as creative control, I’m fortunate in that most of my good clients know that they’re hiring me just as much for my head as they are for my drawing hand. So I get a lot of creative control with most jobs. I also try to be careful with the rights granted in my contracts, so that I own the copyright, as well as other significant rights, to virtually every work I do when I’m done.
I read as much as I can get from the publisher. I always ask for the full manuscript so I can read it all, if it’s humanly possible in the time given. Sometimes the only thing that’s available is a story summary because the book is still being written. Sometimes only a few chapters are available for the same reason. Sometimes the deadline is so razor-tight that there’s no time to read the entire book. Unfortunately, these things occur. In general, the best way to really understand the heart of a book isn’t via marketing copy hype, but to do due diligence and read the book. Most publishers prefer the illustrator not confer with the author, which is probably because it allows them more control over the process. In most cases, publishers aren’t contractually obligated to please the author with the cover, so discussions between author and illustrator are discouraged, even though logically it would seem that the author’s input is a valuable one. On the rare occasions that I have sought out an author, it’s usually with a specific question in mind, but not so much for them to give a blessing to my work. One of the most memorable author interactions I ever had was with Lucius Shepard when I did the cover for his TWO TRAINS RUNNING. He sent me a memorable email and I printed the following in my art book COVER STORY: THE ART OF JOHN PICACIO because I thought it was amazing. Lucius Shepard: “The hobos, among the most miserable of society’s folk, derive strength from the trains, I think. From the association with these big monsters, they derive the power to mythologize their own desperately seedy lives—which is how we all get along. So, in retrospect, I guess I’d say that the title also refers to that process, the human process of taking the hard truth and making it into something more bearable.” As far as original artwork, a few are available, and I’ll do a blog post about it after I get back from the World Science Fiction Convention. I’ll soon be announcing the availability of signed prints of my work as well. Check out http://johnpicacio.com/blog.html for more details soon.
Tough question, when you’re asking a guy with almost no formal art training. Here’s what I’d say – encourage her early and often. It doesn’t matter what she’s drawing as long as she’s drawing. Personally, my advice might be to wait until she’s old enough to ask for formal training rather than giving it to her too early. Let drawing be fun in these early years. Believe me – if she decides that a pro career is what she wants, she’ll go after it. The advantage you have is that she’s discovered drawing early and positive reinforcement right now means a lot. Visiting the art section in bookstores and museums is an excellent idea while she’s finding her way. The only other thing I’d say is if there are certain media or stimuli that she likes that encourage drawing, then let her explore them. For me, a big childhood stimuli was superhero comics, but it was a starting point. I started to idolize certain comic book illustrators and comics were something that inspired me to draw more, until I was able to process more diversity. As far as finding a great art teacher, I think the best one for her right now is life, which means anything that excites her. Once she defines her own creative interests some more, then it’ll be easier to find a teacher that plays to her strengths, rather than vice versa.
Thanks, Pauline. I think I’ve covered this one above in some detail, but yes, for the vast majority of jobs, I read the book first.
I suspect it was always in the blood. As mentioned just now, superhero comics were a big thing to me as a kid. So I’d have to say those were a huge influence. Like I mentioned above, when I did the cover of Michael Moorcock’s BEHOLD THE MAN, it was literally a life-changing experience, so I’ve always said that without Mike Moorcock, I’m not sure that I’d be doing this right now.
I’m not sure that I’m given free reign, but I take it anyway. Here’s what I mean by that: as a professional illustrator, I’m hired by clients to perform a service, which is creating the best cover I can for them. Hypothetically, if I had to select a doctor to operate on my heart, I would trust his expertise or I wouldn’t let him operate. I wouldn’t tell him where and how to make the cuts, or how to sew me up. So I take the same attitude when I do a cover. I trust that I know how to do my job better than my client, and expect that they understand the same. I listen to the input of all parties concerned and then my ideas come from the intersection between how my head works, what the client needs, and what the book says. I’ve never looked at myself as a hired set of hands because my ideas are as valuable to my finished work as the physical execution, and clients are hiring me for both.
I was good at architecture and could’ve eventually made a lot of money doing something stable. I liked architecture a lot. But I loved illustration. So I chose what I loved over what I liked, even if what I liked wasn’t necessarily stable. I think it’s worked out well. My days in architecture were definitely numbered after working on that first book cover job, BEHOLD THE MAN.
Jorge Luis Borges…..I’ve always wanted to be hired to illustrate a cover for his book DREAMTIGERS. Alan Moore would be a dream. China Mieville is a great author, and I’d love to work on one of his books someday. Same with Ted Chiang. Maybe Jonathan Carroll. My wife’s all-time favorite author is Stephen King, and for her sake, I’d love to do a King cover someday.
Tough question. I don’t get blown away by myself. With every job, I see my faults more than anything. I’d say though that I knew my cover for Frederik Pohl’s GATEWAY was something special when I finished. Same with the cover for A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ by Walter M. Miller, Jr. Both books are major science fiction classics and I knew both had never seen covers like I did for them. I’m proud of that.
Actually, way back in 1997, I showed my portfolio to a head guy of a particular publisher, and he completely torched my work and dismissed me. It wasn’t just professional; he was on a power trip, and got personal. Fast forward to 2007 — he phoned and asked to commission a cover from me. He didn’t remember he torched me a decade earlier. My schedule was booked solid, but I took the job and kept it professional, remaining silent about his treatment a decade earlier. Before I could even read the first sentence of the manuscript, his company abruptly closed down and he was unemployed. Karma.
Any further questions – feel free to comment below or email me directly. Thanks again, everyone – and again, many thanks, Joe!! J
Rose writes: “I’m just curious why you decided to go in a different direction for Atlantis. I’m not saying that a McKay/Keller romance is necessarily a bad thing but it seems like a pretty risky venture.”
Answer: By and large, our interest in a possible storyline rests on its potential to develop as-yet-unexplored facets of our characters. We ask ourselves “Is this story worth pursuing?” and “Why?”. In the case of this (or, in fact, any romantic arc), we also have to ask ourselves whether it is “good” for the characters involved, be they McKay, Keller, or Ronon. Does the storyline allow us to flesh out their characters by placing them in atypical situations? Can the storyline give us a glimpse of the characters at their most human and vulnerable states? If the answer is yes, then that particular storyline will get the go-ahead. One of our aims over the past couple of years has been to focus on the relationships between the various members of the expedition. In real life, friendships form over time. But, occasionally, so does romance.
Thornyrose writes: “Could you re-list the scheduled guest bloggers, and when questions for them will be taken, and/or about when they are going to appear on the site?”
Answer: I’ll give you the heads up as we get closer to their various appearances. For the guest authors, simply check the right-hand border. Robert C. Cooper is presently working on the fan questions I sent his way. Starting tomorrow, I’ll be gathering questions for Mark Dacascos. Some time next week, it’ll be questions for Stargate Atlantis Director of Photography Jim Menard and Production Designer James Robbins.
Sandra Lee writes: “Who does the promo photos for SGA?”
Answer: Sci Fi.
Squall78 writes: “I read an article that MGM wants a new series and a pair of new movies here…http://www.straight.com/article-154772/new-dvd-stargate-continuum
What does this mean for SGA or is this article just taking info out of context? It seems MGM has approved SGU and 2 new movies. Any clarification would be appreciated.”
Answer: It’s no secret that MGM is very eager to do Stargate Universe, the second Stargate spin-off. Now, it’s just a matter of finding a home for the potential series. Given that Stargate: Continuum looks like it’ll follow Stargate: The Ark of Truth’s lead and blow away projected sales estimates, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that MGM would want to do a couple of more SG-1 movies. The Atlantis season 4 dvd box-set is also selling well, so it’s hard to imagine MGM not wanting to do another season. But this decision rests with the network.
Gracey writes: “Thanks Joe for recommending “Old Man’s War” I loved it and when finished went right out and bought “Ghost Brigades.” They didn’t have “The Last Colony.” Did you read all three? Do you normally read an entire series, or maybe just the first couple?”
Answer: Hey, Gracey, I’m pleased to hear you’re enjoying Scalzi. He’s a terrific writer and most of those who I’ve recommended him to have loved his books. Yes, I read Ghost Brigades about a year after reading Old Man’s War. The Last Colony is on my to-read list (which, if you haven’t noticed, is very, very long). In general, I prefer to read the first book in a series and then take a break before picking up the second.
AutumnDreamPrincess writes: “Any chance of an episode somewhere down the line wherein one or more of the characters exist entirely within the distorted landscape of their own minds, conducting unfathomably profound psychoanalysis?”
Answer: Marty G. pitched something very close to this, but it never got past the “submitted for your consideration” stage. Maybe in season 6?
Tuskin writes: “I noticed in some season 5 pictures on gateworld that Sheppard has gone from using a Beretta as a sidearm to a Colt (Possibly 1911) is there a reason for this?”
Answer: Off the top of my head, I don’t know why the change was made. It was either a decision by our armourer Rob Fournier, or one made by the actor who may have preferred the feel of the Colt. The latter was the case with the P-90’s that are not only compact and easy to carry, but much more production-friendly given they expel shell casings straight down rather than off to the side (where they can potentially ping off neighboring actors).
Brendan writes: “I did notice that in some episodes of Atlantis there are some references to the 60s Batman TV show and various references to other shows and movies, who usually thinks of them and includes them in the episodes?”
Answer: All of us are big fans of 60’s t.v.
Zoniduck writes: “If you did want to use something from that nanotech article for a future story on SGA, would you be prevented from doing it because of any legal concerns since you found out about the article from someone on your blog?”
Answer: Nope. The subject of nanotechnology is one that has been well-mined in contemporary SF fiction. In fact, we touched on the medical applications of nanotechnology just last season in Miller’s Crossing.
Davidd writes: “Joe, before you actually begin writing an episode script are all of the other writers involved in the development of the basic idea, then you just write it? Or do you come up with the storyline and write it all on your own?”
Answer: Although the scripts are written individually, the formation of the story and its various beats are a team effort. Someone will pitch out a story, we’ll offer suggestions, then that person will go off and work on a beat sheet. We’ll all weigh in with our suggestions, then they may go off and flesh out the beat sheet into a proper working outline. From there, after another round of input, it’s off to script. Different writers prefer different methods however. While we all pitch out initial ideas to the room and rely on the other writers for suggestions/criticism, I prefer to head off and write up a fully detailed outline as a next step. Carl usually proceeds to a beat sheet first and then a revised beat sheet. Alan will go to a beat sheet, then outline. Marty G. always prefers to have everyone in the room to help break his story. Of course, there are always exceptions and someone who usually goes straight to beat sheet may prefer to have all of the writers in the room breaking the trickier stories.
Helia writes: “Hi, can you please tell us whether or not we’ll hear anything about the Tria this season?”
Answer: We will not.
SusantheTartanTurtle writes: “*I don’t understand the ratings system for TV programmes. What does the number – 1.35 (or whatever) actually mean?
And what is a good score and what is a bad score?
*I saw the second episode – does nobody put the lights out in Atlantis – it looks pretty glowing in the dark, but what a waste of ZPM power.
*When Carson fell out of the freezer whould he not have just fallen forward instead of to the side?
*In the 100th episode – is there any chance of Lulu (or Mars) doing a cameo as a sniffer dog of some kind. The dog could lead Colonel Sheppard to the suspect – or the mess hall.”
Answers: 1) 1 ratings point = 1.1 households. The 1.35 for our premiere indicates that approximately 1.5 million households tuned into the 10:00 p.m. telecast of Search and Rescue. Those are same-day viewers. The show averages a 30% bump from households that DVR or Tivo the show. So, all in, almost 2 million households saw the premiere. Is that good enough to get us a sixth season pick-up? Only the network knows. 2) Given that the city is powered by ZPM, turning off those lights isn’t going to make that much of a difference. It’s like unplugging your electrical appliances when they’re not in use. Sure, theoretically you would be saving some energy, but enough energy to warrant going through all the trouble? 3) Carson’s fall. Sure. Forwards, backwards, side to side. 4) Lulu is holding out for her own t.v. series.
JimfromJersey writes: “ I just received BREAKING NEWS email from SyFy Portal: “Brad Wright announces that a third Stargate movie is in the works”
So is this aforementioned breaking news Project Terzo or Project Twilight?”
Answer: Zoniduck already pointed out that Terzo is third is Italian. So, to answer your question – yes, Project Terzo refers to the third Stargate movie that Brad has already started work on.
Masterchief writes: “hey Joe I was wondering why did you get rid of the old table in the conference room?”
Answer: Honestly? Because it was a pain to shoot around and the new table offers the directors the opportunity to shoot more dynamic conference room scenes.
Thornyrose writes: “Great pics, and can’t wait to see what the final shot of Woolsey’s digs look like.”
Answer: You’ll get a peek at Woolsey’s quarters in tonight’s episode.
Cat1 writes: “did Katie decorate Rodney’s room? I thought the plants were meant to suggest that. After all, Rodney’s looking after the turtles – is he also looking after the plants?”
Answer: Yes, Katie certainly helped with the decorations.
Chelle db writes: “So Joe, what’s been the most difficult episode to produce this season?”
Answer: For me, Whispers was certainly the most involving episode I’ve produced in years.
Shirt ‘n Tie writes: “Does The Carl Binder Memorial Theatre have a restaurant???? What are today’s specials??”
Answer: It’s always schnitzel.
5) How did you get your own break in the industry?