Despite the fact that I eat out A LOT, there are still those Vancouver restaurants that fly under my radar. And I’m not referring to those bohemian eateries or take-out noodle places that seem to spring up every second week. I’m talking about some of the city’s heavy hitters like the new look Lumiere, the highly-recommended La Quercia, and, last night’s dining destination, Boneta. I’d, of course, heard a lot the place but, for one reason or other (ie. it‘s location in a less, uh, savory part of town), never got around to checking it out until Ivon suggested we go.
Well, thank God for valet parking. I pulled up right out front and walked right in. It’s a nice place, comfortably casual, with high ceilings and plenty of exposed brick. I was, as usual, the first to arrive and so, making good on my New Year’s resolution to drink more, I ordered a Mr. Samuels – bourbon, maple & blueberry, house made ginger beer, and fresh citrus served on the rocks. It was terrific and, had I not been driving, would have undoubtedly ordered a few more. My two dining companions, Ivon Bartok and Lawren Bancroft-Wilson arrived soon after and also ended up ordering (and enjoying) the same drink.
For starters, I had an addition to the evening’s menu: lamb terrine with pickled turnips, bread chips, herb salad, and horseradish foam. The terrine, more a lamb headcheese, was wonderful little consummation of taste and textures. The turnips were a nice accompaniment, thankfully not overburdened with vinegar flavor. The salad was also good but ultimately, given its size, negligible. After some discussion on the correct pronunciation of “endive” (Lawren pronounces it “en-div” and Ivon and I were quick to correct him – at which point our waitress came by and referred to the “en-div salad”), Lawren went with the Belgian en-DIVES with red wine poached pear, Bleu Benedictin, pecan vinegar, and vin cotto – which he enjoyed. Ivon, meanwhile, had nothing but great things to say about the Smoked bison carpaccio which was served with a sherry vinaigrette, walnuts, roasted tomato, and quail egg.
For dinner, all three of us had the Braised AAA beef short rib with parsley root puree, braised carrots, and zuddas potato. It was quite good, but the star of this particular course was the double order of Meyer Lemon gnocchi we’d ordered “for the table”. Very nicely done!
For dessert, Ivon and I wet with the Chocolate and Tonka Bean – a bite-size line-up of four different chocolate creations which included fondant, parfait, macaron, custard, and feuilletine cake. A near perfect assembly marred on slightly by the macaron which I found a tad chewy (although, in all fairness, I fear I’ve become a bit of a macaron snob since my Tokyo trip when I spent every day visiting the likes of Dalloyau, JP Hevin, and Pierre Hermes). Lawren, for reasons known only to him, went with the passion fruit mousse with matcha Chantilly and a matcha and passion fruit milkshake. He claimed to have enjoyed it – until the last bite which, unfortunately, contained a very tart piece of decorative fruit.
Our waitress provided excellent service – despite the fact that she mispronounced “endive“.
Ivon snapped up the bill before Lawren and I knew what was happening, so a big thanks to him for treating us. And, while I’m at it, I’d also like to take a moment to thank him as well for the spectacular job he’s done over the years as the show’s Special Features Producer. Every season, he’s worked hard at developing a solid professional relationship with the actors, earning their trust and respect; creating a comfortable dialogue with them that has resulted in some terrific pieces the likes of which any freelance interviewer would be hard-pressed to achieve. He’s always made it a point to gauge the fan community and come up with unique special features that have proven as informative as they are entertaining. The DVD extras Ivon has produced these past few years have been of so good that I have a hard time imagining anyone else doing the job, much less doing anywhere near as good a job. And, hey, if you missed our Q&A with Ivon, check it out here: http://josephmallozzi.wordpress.com/2008/07/30/july-30-2008-with-special-guest-blogger-stargate-special-features-producer-ivon-bartok/
I walked into the office today to discover a surprise guest awaiting me in Carl’s office: none other than Christopher Judge. We, of course, talked college football, t.v., and acting, and I asked when he was going to drop by and do his own Q&A on this blog. I explained how it worked: I’d gather fan questions, email them his way, then he could answer as many (or as few) as he wished, send them back my way… “This sounds way too complicated,”he interrupted. “How about you take me to lunch, ask me the questions, and I’ll answer them.” Done and done. I’ll reconnect with Chris and find out an appropriate week, and then I’ll start the ball rolling.
Oh, and before I wrap up today’s entry, I’d like to introduce everyone to our Air Force point person, the individual vetting our scripts. Master Sergeant Angelique (pictured above)was in town to check out the sets, meet with production personnel, and kick ass. She’s nothing short of delightful and here’s hoping she makes it back to Vancouver sooner than later.
As another week draws to a close we inch ever closer to our first day of principal photography. We had the costume fittings on Monday and then the super-secret closed-door invitation-only cast read thru on Tuesday. Yesterday was the stage tech survey for Air #1, #2, and #3 while the production meeting for all three episodes was held today. It was followed by the Safety Meeting which, I‘m disappointed to say, fellow writer/producer did NOT attend on our behalf. Given that we is the writing department’s appointed Safety Representative (in addition to Official Synopsis Writer, Food Taster, and Chairman of our Green Initiative), he really should have been there taking assiduous notes on things like the restriction on open-toe sandals and the indiscriminate use of helium cryogenic-system cooled super magnets on set. What the hell are we supposed to do now? Use our common sense?! The all important Hair and Make-Up Tests tomorrow will be followed by a second cast read thru and, if all goes as planned, the weekend.
So, we’ve got our first three episodes on deck – Air #1, #2, and #3 – and veteran director (and cyrogenic-system cooled super magnet collector) Andy Mikita will be doing the honors. Brad is working on Fire and, from what I hear, is very happy with the way it’s coming along. It’s a great story and, as I’ve already said, right up Brad’s alley. Looking forward to reading the first draft. This episode will see a certain fan favorite retake the director’s chair. Marty G. sent in his revised version of Earth weeks ago, but we have yet to sit down and discuss. Carl, meanwhile, completed his rewrite on Water and awaits word on whether he’ll be doing another pass or handing it off. At 57 pages and given the type of episode it is, Rob feels he’s going to need to trim it down. Rob has had his hands full, dealing with prep issues, but, in the interim, has been spinning episode #7 in his head. This one promises to be a lot of WTF?! fun. Carl also submitted an outline for episode #8, received notes, and is poised to do a rewrite – just as soon as he finishes work on a certain movie script. Paul has landed the polish of episode #9 and I’m presently tinkering with the my completed first draft of episode #10. Episode #11 is still in its initial outline stage, but freelance script and episode #12 is shaping up to be a very interesting dilemma story.
Next week, we welcome another potential freelancer who will be flying in, no doubt armed with ideas and ready to spin. And – we finally start shooting!
Still on track to complete a first draft of my short story by month’s end. I woke up early to work on it this morning but only ended up spinning my wheels. I’m hoping for a late night flash of inspiration that will allow me to strike that precarious balance between subtlety and significance. One of the critiques I tend to hear a lot of with regard to my writing is that it is, at times, cryptic and purposely ambiguous. I’ll admit as much and this stems from three things: a) a desire to challenge the audience, b) my hard-to-shake confidence in the intelligence of the average viewer/reader, c) my general distaste for on-the-nose storytelling that spells out exactly what the character is feeling or thinking in no uncertain terms. And so, I end up second-guessing myself. On the one hand, am I being so understated that the narrative comes off as glib and, ultimately, insubstantial? Or, on the other hand, am I being all too direct and conveying a sense of amateur desperation? Hopefully neither and my prose will elicit a positive reaction, falling somewhere between the two ends of the shifting spectrum: utterly baffling and downright cringeworthy. Although, at the end of the day, I suppose I’d rather err on the side of subtlety and, at the very least, try and fail rather than take the easy out. That said, it does work for some people. In fact, there are a number of popular authors whose prose is so earnest that I find them completely unreadable. And yet, they have an audience.
A terrific dinner with Ivon and Lawren tonight. Will file a proper report – with pics – in the coming days.
I’d like to take a moment to invite fence-sitters and prospective first-timers to join our Book of the Month Club.
HOW IT WORKS: I’ll announce the upcoming titles and include a brief synopsis of each and a date for the commencement of discussions. For those interested, the pertinent information is available in the right sidebar under BOTM CLUB SELECTIONS. I’ll pick three books, usually in the fields of SF, Fantasy, and Horror. You, of course, are free to read one, two, or all three. On the Monday of the discussion week, I’ll kick things off with my review after which readers are encouraged to weigh in with their thoughts as well. Readers are also encouraged to post questions for the author who will, more often than not, be dropping by the blog to take part in a casual Q&A.
A REMINDER OF THE FEBRUARY-MARCH SELECTIONS:
Infoquake, David Louis Edelman
From the publisher: “Natch is a master of biologics, the programming of the human body. He’s clawed and scraped his way to the top of the biologics market using little more than his wits. Now his sudden notoriety has brought him to the attention of Margaret Surina, the owner of a mysterious new technology called MultiReal. Only by enlisting Natch’s devious mind can Margaret keep MultiReal out of the hands of High Executive Len Borda and his ruthless armies. To fend off the intricate net of enemies closing in around him, Natch and his apprentices must accomplish the impossible. They must understand this strange new technology, run through the product development cycle, and prepare MultiReal for release to the public – all in three days. Meanwhile, hanging over everything is the spectre of the infoquake, a lethal burst of energy that’s disrupting the biologic networks and threatening to send the world crashing back into the Dark Ages.”
Published in 2006, it was named The Top SF Novel of 2006 by Barnes & Noble Explorations and also received a nomination for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Novel. Infoquake was the debut novel of author David Louis Edelman, a blogger, web programmer, and John W. Campbell nominee for Best New Writer in 2007.
Discussion the week of February 23rd with author David Louis Edelman.
The Book of Joby, Mark J. Ferrari
From Booklist: “The prologue of Ferrari’s first novel sweeps us into a monumental modern-day fantasy of good versus evil when Lucifer proposes a wager that he has made many times over the millennia—the same stupid bet, according to God. If he wins this time, God will have to destroy his Creation, and they will start over with what Lucifer considers an orderly, “virtuous” universe without free will. God will name a champion, who Lucifer will try to subvert by putting him to the test in the hope that he will choose, of his own free will, to follow Lucifer. Also, the Creator must “forbid all immortal beings in His service from intervening unless directly asked to do so by the candidate.” God’s champion is unsuspecting, 9-year-old Joby, a bright, imaginative boy with a loving heart. And so, the Arthurian legend is replayed over a span of 30-plus years and through incarnations of Arthur (Joby), Guinevere, Galahad, and Modred.”
Fantasy Illustrator Mark J. Ferrari’s first novel has been described as witty, thought-provoking, audacious, and unforgettable. It’s also received several requests as a potential Book of the Month Club candidate. Who says I don’t listen to the fans?
Discussion the week of March 2nd with author Mark J. Ferrari.
Dogs, Nancy Kress
From the publisher: “The threat of terrorism and biological warfare become all too real in this riveting thriller when the danger comes from a family’s most cherished pets. Tessa Sanderson, ex-FBI agent, has moved to a sleepy Maryland town to escape her tragic past. When the town’s beloved dogs begin viciously attacking pet owners, federal CDC agents determine that the dogs are carrying a mutated flu affecting the aggression center of their brains, for which their is no known cure. Tessa offers to help round up and quarantine the dogs, even though some unconvinced locals are preparing to protect their pets by any means necessary. But she has another reason for getting involved—someone has been sending her threatening emails in Arabic claiming responsibility for the virus, and Tessa is resolved to go deep undercover to expose this deadly conspiracy. Combining hard science with thoughtful narrative, this chilling tale of science fiction explores the complex relationships between dogs and their owners.”
As a pet owner, the premise for this book really intrigues. As a science fiction fan, the fact that it’s written by multi-award winning author Nancy Kress (3 Nebulas, 2 John W. Campbells, a Hugo, and a Theodore Sturgeon) makes it an absolute must-read.
Discussion the week of March 9th with author Nancy Kress.
Now, in an effort to build on our burgeoning book club, I’ve decided to make two small changes that will hopefully make it more accessible to those considering getting involved.
First off, I’m going to start including the occasional graphic novel or trade paperback. There are a lot of intelligent, provocative, and incredibly well-written (and, yes, well-drawn) TPB’s out there and, while it would be nice to welcome comic book fans into the BOTMC fold, it would be even nicer to introduce non-comic book fans to some of the sensational work being produced in a field they may not have normally checked out.
Second, I’m going to announce upcoming titles sooner in order to give you all as much time as possible to track down and read the books. To that end, here are April’s selections:
Powers: Who Killed Retro Girl?, Brian Michael Bendis (illustrated by Mike Avon Oeming)
From the publisher: “Heroes glide through the sky on lightning bolts and fire. Flamboyant villains attempt daring daylight robberies. God-like alien creatures clash in epic battle over the nighttime sky. And on the dirty city streets below, Homicide Detective Christian Walker does his job. Walker has to investigate the shocking murder of one of the most popular super-heroes the world has ever known: Retro Girl. He is teamed up with spunky rookie Detective Deena Pilgrim, and the murder investigation takes them from the seediest underbelly a city has to offer, to the gleaming towers that are home to immortal beings. As shocking, hidden truths about Retro Girl come to light, Walker finds that to solve this crime, he might have to reveal his own dark secret.”
Five time Eisner award winner Brian Michael Bendis is one of the most successful writers working in comics today. Some of his major works include Jinx, Torso, a 55-issue run on Daredevil, and a staggering 110-issue run on Ultimate Spiderman. If you’re looking for a book with a clever story, engaging characters, and witty dialogue, then look no further than Powers which, incidentally, is in active development as a live-action series at FX (they of The Shield and Damages). And fear not, fans. He’s writing the pilot script himself.
Discussion the week of April 6th with author Brian Michael Bendis.
The Big Over Easy: A Nursery Crime, Jasper Fforde
From Publisher’s Weekly: “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, and, well, you know the rest. But was Humpty’s fall an accident, or was it murder? It’s up to giant killer Jack Spratt of the Nursery Crime Division to get to the bottom of it. Humpty was quite a ladies’ man, but a few people thought him a bad egg. Jack has a number of suspects, a new partner to break in and gloryhound/antagonist Detective Inspector Chimes to deal with.”
Author of the hugely popular Thursday Next literary detective series, Wodehouse prize winner Jasper Fforde is often mentioned in the same breath as Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams for his wildly inventive narrative. His writing has been described as “stunningly imaginative“, “utterly delightful”, and “sheer gut-busting fantasy“.
Discussion the week of April 13th with author Jasper Fforde.
Poe: 19 New Tales Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe, edited by Ellen Datlow
From the publisher: “Compiled by multi-award winning editor, Ellen Datlow, this collection commemorates the second centenary of Edgar Allan Poe’s birth. It features Poe-inspired tales by some of the finest talents in the field, including Kim Newman, Pat Cadigan, Sharyn McCrumb, Lucius Shepard, Laird Barron, Suzy McKee Charnas and others. This all-star line-up has several Hugo, Edgar, Tiptree and British Fantasy Award winners.”
Over the course of her career, editor Ellen Datlow has received the Shirley Jackson Award, two Bram Stoker Awards, two Hugo Awards, three Locus Awards, and eight World Fantasy Awards. Poe: 19 New Tales Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe is her latest anthology.
Discussion the week of April 20th with editor Ellen Datlow.
That’s it! Plan a head, pick up a book, and start reading!
Mamsue9 writes: “Will you be a guest at the San Diego Comic Con? Would you consider being a guest at Shore Leave 31?”
Answer: Alas, no, I won’t be at this year’s San Diego Comic Con. And, while I appreciate the consideration, I hope to keep travel to a minimum this year so that I can stay home and spend quality time with the dogs.
Herbertsommerfeld writes: “Have you heard anything about the show Defying Gravity that is being filmed at Bridge?”
Answer: Not much. I know they’re in the FX Stage.
Blademos writes: “Hey do you think a network like ABC,NBC,CBS or even FOX would take chance on a show like SGA?”
Answer: Afraid not. As much as many of us would have loved to have seen a sixth season for the series, the reality is the show has ended and not even the most successful of petition drives will bring it back. L
Quade1 writes: “BTW did u get the motivational poster??”
Answer: Not yet. Is it the adorable “Hang in there!” kitten?
Green writes: “I didn’t get past the first bit where the device dies three times.”
Answer: Three versions of the jumper in three different timelines = three after-effects of the device overloading.
PG15 writes: “My major quibble though, is what happens with Past!SG1 and Future!SG1? The Past version just seems to disappear after they delete the Aschen from the database, and the future versions are jumping ala Scott Bakula?”
Answer: The past and future versions merge in subsequent jumps. I know, that needs to be clear.
Gollysunshine writes: “And Daniel was where for this episode? Doing what? Out having a holiday or holding up the background?”
Answer: The entire team is present throughout as evidenced by the fact that when the team first travels to the past, Dr. Lee expresses surprise at seeing Daniel who was apparently reassigned.
Jedi43 writes: “I thought Y,T & T was going to be a Atlantis episode? Why all the SGC people?”
Answer: It was originally and SG-1 story whose structure I considered using for SGA.
It shows the 40 something French Bulldogs that competed to be the one to compete in the Non-Sporting group.”
Answer: Thanks for the link, Tim. I forwarded it to my wife. While the pugs aren’t exactly show material, Lulu does come from a champion line.
Suziesbluefeather writes: “The only thing that I didn’t really get was the awareness. Why would the team in the present and in the future be aware of the changes?”
Answer: The conceit is that their exposure to the device has essentially placed them in the unique position of self-awareness – unlike anyone else who wasn’t in the jumper in the time.
PG15 writes: “ 1. Of the SGU scripts written so far and the notions that are “on the table” (or board), does any of them involve our people visiting alien civilizations?
2. What’s John Scalzi been up to with the show? Has he been in the writers room, spinning stories?
3. Any new permanent writers yet?
4. How many SGU scripts have titles BESIDES the ones you already revealed to us (Air 3-parter, Fire, Water, Earth)?”
Answers: 1. No comment. 2. John is/will be reading and providing notes on scripts. 3. Not yet. 4. We have 12 titles so far.
Juralas writes: “If they’re the past versions, they were the ones sent 14 months back, but now they’ve become the present versions?”
Answer: Eventually, all three versions of the team merge.
Jinx writes: “But it fades out before there is resolution….”
Answer: The attack of Byzantium Tech (thanks to the tip from the alternate timeline Mitchell) is the resolution in that it thwarts Baal’s plot to take over the planet. In the final scene, the team from the past makes their final jump – back to the present where they will merge with their alternate selves.
Michelle Lumsford writes: “And I would have driven myself bonkers trying to figure out if Vala’s taking the coin over and over was supposed to have some secret significance.”
Answer: It was meant to illustrate the cross-effects of the different timelines. Present Vala misplaced the coin long ago and we learn, from Past Vala’s filching of the coin, that she was responsible. However, the fact that her present self does find the coin at episode’s end is intended to suggest that the three timeline versions of our team have merged – birnging Vala’s long lost coin along for the ride.
JJ writes: “So SGU will start shooting in this week right?”
Answer: Nope. Next week.
Mackenzie’s Momma writes: ”Silly question(probably) do you read any other genres than the Horror, Sci Fi, and Fantasy?”
Answer: Sure. I’m a big fan of David Sedaris.
Planet_tv writes: “In Enemy at the Gate was Teyla’s son with her on Atlantis or in the Pegasus Galaxy with his father because I don’t thing she would up and leave her son especially with what she said at the end of The Prodigal (If the answer to this is in the movie can you say the answer will be in the movie or something like that)?”
Answer: Although we didn’t see them, Kanaan and Torren made the trip back to Earth with Teyla.
Kuonji writes: “Have you ever done a Neil Gaiman book? Or Terry Pratchett?”
Answer: I’ve read and enjoyed books by both. I think they’re terrific authors.
Meils writes: “Jo, if you like detective novels with a weird twist then investigate the death of Humpty Stuyvesant Van Dumpty III in The Big Over Easy.”
Answer: Oh, I plan to. And so will a lot of readers here.
Chevron7 writes: “I’m curious though about your Theatre Room. Is it very geeky?”
Answer: Not particularly, although the walls and ceiling are black.
Charlie’s Angel writes: “ Have you read Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami?”
Answer: No, but I do have The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle sitting on my to-read pile.
DasNdanger writes: “Does Sheppard really have respect for Todd, but puts on a Wraithy personality when dealing face-to-face with him, in effect speaking to Todd in the language he understands best (as is hinted at in EatG when Todd says Sheppard knows how to talk to him), or is the hostility we see in Sheppard the way he truly feels about Todd?”
Answer: I believe that there is definitely an undercurrent of respect there (as evidenced by the end of Infection), but there is no way Sheppard will tip his hand publicly, especially to Todd himself.
So, several months ago, I gathered questions for Playback Supervisor Krista McLean and sent them her way. I didn’t hear back for some time and simply assumed the worst: she’d been kidnapped, joined a cult, or was trapped under a refrigerator and desperately in need of help. Thus, I put it out of my mind – until I ran into a Krista in January who, it turned out, was none of the above; only inordinately busy. Well finally, last night, I received her completed Q&A. And I presented here, without delay, for you rabid playback fans.
Now for those of you wondering “Exactly what is playback?”. Well, you know when the team is in the jumper and they bring up the heads-up display containing all that information? That’s playback. Or when they access some wraith tech and McKay starts reading all those weird green onscreen scrolling wraith symbols? That’s playback. Or we see the timer on the bomb count down to detonation? That’s playback. And the Ancient text on the various systems throughout the city, and the in-progress love letter on Zelenka’s laptop, and the display on the handheld wraith-detector. Etc., etc., etc. Oh, and Krista has, for as long as my time with the franchise, either been directly involved in/overseen the various incredible matte shots and establishers Stargate has made use of over the years. “And what,”you’re undoubtedly asking, “are matte shots and establishers?”. Well, you know when the team creeps over the ridge and, you stay with them and see them in their tiny selves in the foreground peering down at a fleet of enemy ships below? That’s a matte shot. Or when the team wanders through the wraith facility and suddenly come upon hundreds upon hundreds of stasis chambers? That’s a matte shot. Or when our heroes decide to head off world and, off a wormhole transition, we go to a three second shot of the vilage exterior? That’s an establisher. Or, once they’ve saved the day and plan to head back home, we go to a shot of the cit of Atlantis surrounded by water? That’s an establisher.
Anyway, it gives me great pleasure to turn today’s blog over to Krista who is not only an enormously talented part of Team Stargate, but a friend I can always count on for a good book discussion, anime recommendation, and emergency cash loan whenever I’m running low on funds.
Oh, and today’s entry is dedicated to upcoming birthday gal AMZ.
Enzo Aquarius writes: “Oooh, I have a very curious question for Krista. As it is known, some of the screens have hidden things in them, such as jokes in Ancient text. What are some memorable things you have placed in Atlantis displays, perhaps some we don’t know of?”
KM: The one that sticks out for me is the “oh where oh where has your little dog gone” which remains to this day in the Ancient text that appears on our Atlantian holo screens. The funny thing was, it wasn’t really intentional, just something that was running through my head as I put the graphics together. I had totally forgotten about it until the fans translated the language and it showed up on the internet. Honestly, we have been much more careful what goes into them in the last couple years, as we know people can actually read them! For the most part, we try to keep direct english translation out of them. Not to say it doesn’t sneak in from time to time
Ytimyona writes: “First off, thanks so much for your awesome work on SG-1 and Atlantis!!!
KM: You’re welcome! But truthfully, they’ve been great shows to work on.
“How did you get into special effects?”
KM: I got into visual effects somewhat by accident. I was actually working at a video game company in Munich, Germany and met someone who was, at that time, working on SG-1. In a round-about way he hired me, and well, the rest is history.
“What was your major and where did you go to school?”
KM: I actually did an Honours Visual Arts degree at the University of Victoria here in Canada. I didn’t really touch a computer for any kind of artistic purpose until after I had finished school.
“Are you fluent in wraith and replicator?”
KM: Unfortunately, probably not.
“Do you get to choose what images/words/codes go on the playback screens?”
KM: Often, yes. Though the directors and producers will sometimes have something specific in mind.
“What is your favorite part of your job?”
KM: Um, lunch? No, I love the fact that it is so creative – We have been lucky at SG-1 and Atlantis to have people who trust us to use our own imaginations. I really love matte painting though, that’s what I enjoy most.
“Thanks for answering our questions”
KM: No problem!
Fsmn36 writes: “1) What brought you into this specialization?”
KM: I sort of answered this already, but really I was and am an artist in the more traditional sense – taking those skills and combining them with the technology just sort made sense. But as I said before, I worked in gaming before visual effects.
“2) Is sci-fi something you always wanted to try? Just good at it? Totally fell into it by accident?”
KM: I admit, it was an accident.
“3) What kind of schooling/training does one get for such a job?”
KM: There are so many different ways you can go. There are schools out there that teach vfx or design. I have hired playback artists that come from a web design background. Some people, like me, have a more traditional art background – then pick up the computer as just another tool and teach themselves.
Hayloh writes: “How do you create the amazing playback that we see? Do you use a program like After Effects? (That’s prolly a bit of a silly question but until this year I thought it was a power point thing).”
KM: We do use After Effects, but also Photoshop, Illustrator and sometimes a 3D package like Lightwave or Maya. Once the graphics are designed and animated we actually use Director to script them so that they can be used on set.
“Do you ever have to work with the scenics if one of your matte’s need to be translated to the set or is it all done digitally?”
KM: More often than not I am matching something that has been built or shot, or making things that we will never see outside of the vfx world – but there were parts of the inside of the Ori ship in Flesh and Blood that were done as mattes first. I have to say, there is nothing more strange than finding yourself in a set that for all the world looks like something you built digitally. I suppose that is how the art department must feel every day.
“Do you find that SF allows for more creativity and allows you to stretch your imagination more than run of the mill television/film?”
KM: Probably, though every kind of matte has its own challanges.
“How do you apply the playback? Do you load it into the computer meant to be showing? Does it have to be edited into the footage in post?”
KM: The playback works live on set 95% of the time. The graphics are programmed so that the playback operator on set can make them work with the action and dialogue. Sometimes the actors have to hit the right buttons, but it is usually better if someone else does it – we try to avoid being in the middle of a big emergency in the control room, someone hits the wrong key and all of a sudden all the monitors turn orange.. you get the idea. Sometimes video must be added in post production if we haven’t shot it yet.
Kelvin Heine writes: “When can we get a decent-official screensaver that looks like the ancient displaces in Atlantis? I have been asking for one since SGA started and nobody can find one or make one that looks good enough.”
KM: Unfortunately, as a general rule, we can’t release our files and such out into the world. I’ve seen some pretty good stuff on the internet though…
ZeroPointBatteries writes: “When characters like McKay and Carter are working on a program that requires ‘interaction’ to perform an on-screen function, does the pressing of a key actually effect the screen or is it timed?”
KM: I think I’ve answered that a couple of questions up. As a general rule, don’t make the actors hit buttons.
“P.S. Any chance you would like to share a file of some of the Atlantis ’screensaver’ with us?”
KM: I think I’ve answered that one too.
Green writes: “Matte, to me, seems to be a sort of establishing shot. It feels like a landscape painting whenever I see one of these on screen. Do you paint at all? Do you sketch what you want to be seen beforehand? Are you given what needs to be established by the director or do you read the script and decide for yourself?”
KM: What I love about matte painting is that often you do get to make a lot of creative decisions yourself. Usually you are given general direction by the producers and vfx supervisors, but you generally have a fair amount of freedom. Matte paintings in both TV and film are often a combination of many different kinds of elements. Digital painting, 2D compositing, as well as 3D work comes into play. Every shot is different. Sketching out ideas is always a great place to start.
“The playbacks seem like a lot of fun. You get to invent a whole language (I think)! I know that there have been reports of some pretty interesting things being spelled out on some of the screens in either ancient or whatever other language is being used. Are you responsible for any of the folly on the playbacks? Anything else that you tend to flash on the screen that might be humorous or interesting in the background?”
KM: Some of this I answered earlier – but sometimes there are photographs of crew and others that make it into the playback as well. Actually there is a funny picture of Paul Mullie on our pinboard in the office that was used in playback some time ago. He’s dressed up as some sort of military man.
“How many maps and radars do you have saved? And how often are the same images used again on playbacks?”
KM: The maps are reused – as well as the generic radar screens, but most of the playback of that sort is built in layers and is often changed for each episode. I think we probably have a couple terabytes of playback from the last few years.
“Are you more isolated from the cast and crew or are you on set when the playbacks are used? How often do you and the special effects team get to discuss what you’d like to see for one of the mattes?”
KM: We are isolated in the sense that the artists don’t work on set most of the time, though are often there to show graphics, talk to the directors, or just to see how the playback is being used. There are people (playback operators) who control the graphics on set. That’s their full time job and they are on set every time there is any kind of playback graphic being used. As for the mattes – sometimes I like to be on set to see what is being shot, especially if it is a set extention. It’s great to be able to talk with the director about how they are planning on shooting something like that. We also talk about this stuff in meetings before we ever shoot anything. If we are out on a location it’s great to be able to go and get reference photos too.
“Are you a fan of lists and/or numbered questions? Does it make it easier to answer things if they’re concisely numbered? I’m usually pretty good about that.”
KM: I love lists of numbers
Patricia Lee writes: “Ms. McLean,
You been with the SG franchise for many a year, did you start out as a playback supervisor or did you work your way to the top? During that time, what was the most difficult matte painting you’ve ever done and why?”
KM: I have been with the franchise for a very long time. I started as a playback artist in season 5 of SG-1. I started doing matte work in season 7 and supervising playback in season 8 I think. Hmm, the most difficult matte – that’s actually kind of a hard question. Some are more technically challenging – “The Shrine” shots were tricky because they had the waterfall in them, and close to camera water is hard to pull off on the TV vfx timeline. “Vegas” had its challanges because it had to be geographically accurate. That’s what sticks out for me recently. Sometimes you fight with the composition of a shot – really each one proves a challange in its own way.
“What payback proved to be hardest to translate on screen and do you find yourself having to tweak play back on the very day it is being used? Can you give us an example of this kind of nightmare and what you did to save the day?”
KM: We’ve had to tweak playback at the last minute many times. sometimes because it was made for the wrong shaped screen, or the beats don’t quite work out the way we planned. These are the times you find yourself sitting on a crate with your laptop on set hoping that whatever scene they are shooting doesn’t go quickly. The very first episode of SG-1 I ever worked on I had to make a gate dialing screen – The art department provided the address, and I was convinced all was well – until I had a frantic call from set from the playback operator saying that the earth symbol was upsidedown. I had to fix it in a big hurry – and needless to say I didn’t make that mistake twice. I suppose I almost ruined the day, and then saved it at the same time. oops!
“I really enjoined Continuum and loved the matte paintings,, they were seamless and well done! Thanks for all your hard work! It has paid off in a big way!”
KM: Thanks! Though there were a lot of artists who worked on the movie, and I agree – everyone did a great job.
“Will you be continuing on with the SGU?”
IMForeman writes: “I have a couple question for Krista.
1.) What software packages are used to create the playbacks needed for Stargate?”
KM: I think I answered this up with the After Effects question.
“2.) Where would be the best place to learn to use them?”
KM: Also sort of this one too – but I’ll say again, there’s no right way to learn the software – some folks buy it and learn it, others go to school – some of our artists were familiar with some and learned the rest on the job.
“3.) How does one get into making playback for TV or film?”
KM: That is also a question with a million answers. People tend to be designers, or GUI designers as well. Honestly, I think it is something most people fall into by accident. There aren’t a huge number of playback specific artists out there – there are a few companies who specialize in it. If you get good at it, then you will probably get work.
Nika writes: “I have a question for Krista regarding First Contact/Lost Tribe –
I was wondering if you tried anything new or different to represent languages or database contents of Janus lab or the Asgard screens?”
KM: It’s late in the day, and this question confuses us.
“Also – where do you get your inspiration for the movement or flow of the wraith screens? Artistically they’re very ‘musical’ looking.”
KM: I am passing this question off to the marvelous Mr. Robert William Fitzsimmons, who is standing behind me and apparently has nothing to say.. He makes jazz hands at work and is prone to bouts of interpretive dance. He is rambling about little tribal things – and recalls trying to make the graphics not look like frogger. He was really into Rage Against the Machine when he was designing them initially. (I actually really like those screens, and thought they turned out well)
Linda Gagne writes: “I have always wondered when the hud comes up, and all that small writing scrolls, what it really says, can you share?”
KM: GTF and all of Rob’s family’s birthdays and initials – all verified by our space consultant at the Canadian Space Club.
“Also, on the screens for the heart monitors when used, are those vitals etc the actors or just something you put there yourself? And what does all the writing say on those screens that is supposed to be ancient? I always try to imagine what kind of information it is giving the med team, there is just so much of it.”
KM: The heart monitors are created by us and timed by the operators on set. We have a medical consultant to make sure the data is as realistic as possible. The “Ancient” medical eqipment would be much more complex than what we would have on Earth – often what we see in Ancient is the raw untranslated data – the computer systems, in theory, translate that data into something we understand. Also it is likely that the machines would spit out real-time analysis of the data they are collecting – at least in theory.
Chevron7 writes: “Thanks for all of your hard work on Stargate. I always notice the playback and mattes. My favourites include Dakara, wraith databases and anything on Rodney’s tablet.”
1. How much detail do the writers give with regards to playback and mattes or do they leave it up to you and your team?”
KM: I think I’ve mostly answered this one in above questions – but yes, generally we are given a lot of creative freedom.
“2. Do you also do the designs for the menus on the DVDs? If so, the Atlantis ones are fabulous.”
KM: We don’t actually make those menus, but we are often asked to send assets to those who do.
“3. Do you use certain colours for the playback because they work best for television or convey a certain emotion?”
KM: A bit of both – also aesthetically we consider the sets and look that the art department has come up with for each new location/ship/people. Some colours don’t work well on TV – so we would avoid those – a lot of bright reds can be problematic.
“4. Artistically, what or who inspires you?”
KM: I am inspired by all sorts of visual art – painting, sculpture, photography – I like old movies – and anime. Really I’m inspired by a lot of things…
“5. What piece of technology could you not live without in everyday life?”
KM: My PVR (DVR) and my wacom tablet.. I know, that’s 2 things..
Sector 24 writes: “Hi Krista,greetings from Bulgaria. I really enjoy all playbacks and mattes. Since I work in the area of graphic design and digital painting, I’m interested in the playbacks. Can you describe the process of how a playback is created. For example a screen of a Jumper, what kind of software is used to create the graphics and so on. Thanks a lot.”
KM: I think I’ve pretty much covered it in the after effects question. Maybe also I should add flash, as that’s often used on the smaller handheld devices.
Valexie writes: “For Krista, it’s hard coming up with an original question, so many good ones have been posted already but: Most interesting and most taxing project? Any favorite episodes?”
KM: Hmm, I enjoy the big 3D builds, and the big architectual builds. “Search and Rescue” this last season was a big organic 3D build – which I enjoyed.. plus then I got to blow it up. “Whispers”, hands down, favorite episode – oh wait, whose blog is this again..?
“What’s next? Will you be involved in the SGA movies or is that too far off to commit?”
KM: I’m working on Universe now.
“What type of educational background is required to do what you do? I find all the behind scenes stuff fascinating. I’m the geek that always listens to commentaries. Doesn’t matter who’s giving it. Love the perspectives. Thank you for all your hard work.”
KM: I am also a geek who likes commentaries. I think I’ve answered most of that in previous questions though…
Thornyrose writes: “Questions for Ms. McLean: When being given a playback or matte to do, how much information are you given about what is wanted, and how much of it is your creative imput? How long does it take to do the “average” playback? Which mattes do you consider your best/favorite, and which one or ones were you disappointed in after viewing the completed project? Is the SGA franchise work a full time job, or do you work on other projects as well? Thank you for the many small touches you make on my favorite episode, that help it rise above mediocrity and into somethng that will be enjoyed for decades to come by present and future fans.”
KM: A playback graphic that would be considered “hero” – so one that is interactive and tells a fairly involved story might be worked on for a couple of days. The more simple graphics get finished in a 1/2 day or so. We usually have about 7 days to finish a full episode – and in season 5 of atlantis there were 3 full time playback artists. I try not to get hung up on the shots I am disappointed in when they are done. Tv has tight deadlines, so there’s always more I’d like to do with a shot.. It would be rare for me to really think there was nothing I could do to it to make it better. I actually hope that is always the case, as I think it keeps me striving to keep learning and to keep pushing myself. I do work on other projects here and there when we’re not shooting, but SG is definately a full time job.
SparrowHawk writes: “Questions for Krista McLean? I think everyone else has covered it already, so I’ll just say thanks! I’ve always paid attention to the matte paintings in TV shows and movies and enjoy them as an art form. I like the other-worldly – alien, ethereal – effect of the SGA mattes.”
“I had no idea that the person who does the matte work also does all those “playback” computer images. I didn’t even know they were called playbacks! This blog is very educational.”
KM: Honestly, I don’t actually “make” all those graphics anymore – there’s a 3 person team of artists, as well as 2 playback operators who get all the playback graphics to set.
Sulien writes: “For Ms Krista McLean, I don’t have any questions but I do want to convey my thanks for all of the hard work she and her team put into Stargate. All of the playback and matte shots have been beautifully done, but my favorites are always the establishing shots of the city of Atlantis and shots with the city in the background. I wish MGM would sell some prints of some of those shots, because I would love to have a couple hanging on my walls. Thank you so much for all of the beautiful shots of Atlantis that you’ve given us! You make me believe the city is real.”
KM: Thanks so much. There’s a great team of artists, both in-house and external who have been responsible for all the great vfx over the years. I feel lucky to have worked along side them.
So during SG-1’s final season, I came up with an outline for a time travel episode. And not your typical time-travel episode either. Building on a notion Paul once pitched out, I built a story on the idea of the team triggering an accident with the time-traveling puddle jumper (last scene in Good To Be King) which ends up landing them in three separate timelines: past, present, and future. As the story progresses, past events influence the present, shaping the future but both the present and future inevitably shape what has come before as well. Anyway, I had a lot of fun ideas of how the different timelines could affect each other and, rather than pitch it out verbally and risk confusing everyone, I decided to spell it all out in a color-coded outline…that ended up confusing everyone. Hell, re-reading the thing today, there are elements that leave me confused. But, trust me – at the time, it all made perfect sense.
And so, today, I present to you a story idea that didn’t make the cut, in all of its detailed, multi-colored glory. If nothing else, consider it a fine example of a working outline. Or, better yet, consider it a fine example of a headache-inducing outline that, in the end, failed to win anyone over. Complex, yes. Confusing, you bet. But colorful like nobody’s business!
YESTERDAY, TODAY, AND TOMORROW
First timeline Second timeline Third timeline
INT. CARTER’S LAB – SGC – DAY
The team drops in on Carter who is overseeing the analysis of the time device retrieved from the puddle jumper in Good to Be King. She makes some adjustments for a final calibration when, suddenly, the device reacts and the team undergoes a weird morphing effect as –
The device sparks and dies. The laptop hooked up to it reads no data. For all intents and purposes, the device is dead. Landry walks in, alerted by the noise. What happened? Carter isn’t sure. But it looks like she won’t be joining the team for lunch after all.
INT. CARTER’S LAB – SGC – DAY
The team undergoes a weird morphing effect, that quickly wanes as –
The device sparks and dies. The laptop hooked up to it reads no data. For all intents and purposes, the device is dead. Dr. Lee hurries in, alerted by the noise. What happened? Then, on seeing the team, asks them when they got back. Got back? Well, so far as he knew, Teal’c had left the Stargate program and gone to Dakara, Daniel was being reassigned, and Carter was doing R&D at Area 51. As for Mitchell and Vala – he doesn’t know who they are. Carter covers. Lee leaves. The team realizes – they’ve traveled approximately one year into the past.
INT. CARTER’S LAB – SGC – DAY
The team undergoes a weird morphing effect, that quickly wanes as –
The device sparks and dies. The laptop hooked up to it reads no data. For all intents and purposes, the device is dead. Suddenly – armed guards rush into the lab and get the drop on them, demanding to know who they are. The team tells them. But the guards aren’t buying it. They can’t be SG-1. SG-1 was killed over ten years ago.
NOTE: A chyron will clearly delineate the time period of each scene: PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE.
INT. CARTER’S LAB – SGC- DAY
After lunch. The rest of the team drops in with take-out for Carter who has been working on the now dead device. How’s it coming along? Well, if her findings are correct, the accident theoretically initiated a “quantum tripling effect”, potentially generating three identical versions of themselves. One version was sent 14 months into the past, another version 10 years into the future, while another version remained in their present seemingly unaffected.
INT. CARTER’S LAB – SGC – DAY
By accessing the base files, Carter figures out that they have actually traveled fourteen months into the past. She has to get the device working so they can jump back to the present before they affect the timeline.
INT. OBSERVATION ROOM – SGC – DAY
The team is interrogated by a military officer who is reluctant to believe their story. Although he refuses to answer their questions, it is clear that things have changed around Stargate Command in the ten years they’ve missed.
INT. CORRIDOR – SGC – DAY
Mitchell is headed down the corridor when Harriman catches up, hands him a letter addressed to him. A stamp on the front of the letter reads: “HOLD FOR DELIVERY”. Mitchell opens it up and, as he reads, gets a quizzical look.
INT. CARTER’S LAB – SGC – DAY
As Carter gets to work on the device, Mitchell has to ask: Why NOT screw with history? If they can avoid alerting the Ori to their presence, then wouldn’t that be a good enough argument for doing it? The team debates. If there was ever a good reason to change the timeline, this would be it.
INT. OBSERVATION ROOM – SGC – DAY
The team is paid a visit by the leader of the future new world order. None other than Baal.
INT. LANDRY’S OFFICE – SGC – DAY
Carter fills Landry in on her bizarre findings. She has discovered that the reason the time device “shorted out” was because it had been sabotaged. And given the means by which it was sabotaged, a virus, it had to have been an inside job.
INT. DANIEL’S LAB – SGC – DAY
RE-USE of a scene from Avalon I: Daniel and Vala discuss the tablet she brought –
EXT. CORRIDOR – SGC – DAY
Mitchell and Vala wait until the coast is clear and then duck into –
INT. DANIEL’S LAB – SGC – DAY
Sneak in and steal the tablet. While they are there, Vala spots a familiar jeweled coin. She is amazed by the find. She misplaced this coin over a year ago when she first came to Stargate Command. Mitchell remembers it well as Vala spent weeks accusing everyone, from the cleaning staff to the guards on duty, of having pilfered it. To avoid it inevitably falling into the wrong hands, she furtively pockets the coin.
INT. OBSERVATION ROOM – SGC – DAY
Baal explains how, following the events of Quest I and II, he redirected his focus to Earth. Even he was surprised by how quickly the planet fell to him. Carter asks him how he managed it. Baal is vague but does make mention of a company called Byzantium Tech that was instrumental in helping him secure power. The team wants to know what happened to the Ori? But Baal informs them that he has a dinner party to attend. As for them – well, so long as SG-1 is alive, they’ll always be a threat. He bids them a fond farewell as armed guards enter the room…
INT. DANIEL’S LAB – SGC – DAY
Teal’c finds Mitchell on Daniel’s computer, doing a little research. Mitchell tells him about the mysterious letter he received, a cryptic tip-off from an unknown source directing him to a company called Byzantium Tech. He has discovered that they are a government sub-contractor that specializes in military software…
INT. CARTER’S LAB – SGC- DAY
Vala checks in on Carter who is working on the first step toward repairing the time device: a counter-program that will hopefully rid it of the virus.
INT. CARTER’S LAB – SGC – DAY
Mitchell and Vala return with the tablet. They hesitate and ultimately decide, there’s no turning back. They destroy the tablet, hopefully avoiding the Ori threat, changing the timeline and causing…
INT. CORRIDOR – SGC – DAY
The present to morph. One second Carter is walking down the corridor with Vala and, the next, its Carter and Mitchell (in different outfits) suddenly alerted by the base alarm. What the hell? They hurry into –
INT. CONTROL ROOM – SGC- DAY
Where Landry informs them: several enemy ships have been detected entering Earth’s orbit.
INT. CORRIDOR – SGC – DAY
The team is escorted out of the observation room and down the corridor to their presumed deaths. Suddenly, everything morphs. The soldiers disappear and the corridors empty except for our team who is aware of the change. What the hell just happened? Carter realizes: someone is fucking with the timeline.
INT. CONTROL ROOM – SGC – DAY
Landry enters with the bad news. The President has refused to surrender. Earth will go down fighting.
EXT. SOME TROPICAL ISLAND – DAY (MATTE)
INT. MITCHELL’S ISLAND DIGS – DAY
The rest of the team has regrouped after having gone their separate ways. It’s been months since they screwed with the timeline and things haven’t gone exactly as they’d hoped. In fact, one could argue they’re worse off. Mysterious biological attacks have wiped out most of Asia and it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the planet is destroyed as well. Mitchell: So, what do you suggest? Carter: We try again. How? Mitchell points out that the time device was fried.
But Carter has spent these past months working on it. She discovered that it was sabotaged by a virus that caused the accident and a “quantum tripling effect” which generated three identical versions of themselves. One version was sent 14 months into the past, another version 10 years into the future, while another version remained in their present seemingly unaffected. She managed to create a counter-program that de-bugged the time device of the virus. Unfortunately, the device itself is still damaged and will not allow them to time jump at will, only capable of operating within two narrow parameters: the two points in time already jumped to. In other words, they have a shot at a do-over.
INT. VARIOUS CORRIDORS – SGC – DAY
The place is dead, deserted. The team discovers it’s not just the SGC. All life on Earth has been wiped out. Who or what could have done this?
INT. SGC – DAY
Carter and Mitchell stand by Landry as they receive a message from the Aschen. This is payback for the events of 2001. North America is targeted by the Aschen’s biological payloads.
INT. CONTROL ROOM – SGC – DAY
The SGC is wiped out.
INT. CORRIDOR – SGC – DAY
The team sneak back onto the base and –
INT. CARTER’S LAB – DAY
Where Carter initiates the device. Morph. Discover – they are back in the same time. Dr. Lee comes in. What happened? Carter covers. Lee leaves. Okay, they’re good.
INT. CORRIDOR – SGC – DAY
They sneak toward the control room. Along the way, Vala passes Daniel’s lab and spots her jeweled coin sitting there. She pockets it and hurries to catch up with the rest of the team.
INT. CONTROL ROOM – DAY
Carter sneaks in and deletes the address to an Aschen-controlled planet from the database, ensuring a future SG team not visit the unexplored world and reawaken the sleeping giant, changing the timeline and causing –
INT. VARIOUS CORRIDORS – DAY
Morphs. The dead SGC personnel disappear to be replaced by our team headed to a meeting. Again – what the hell? They walk into –
INT. BRIEFING ROOM – DAY
A Prior is there to accept Earth’s unconditional surrender.
INT. CARTER’S LAB – SGC – DAY
Their surroundings morph yet again. Hidden from view, they watch the new-look SGC personnel pass in the halls. The base has been transformed into a command center for the new Ori army. And Carter realizes – someone has fucked with the timeline yet again.
INT. CARTER’S LAB – SGC – DAY
Carter realizes that the only way to stop the team from the past from screwing with history is to travel back to the past themselves and stop it from happening. She has discovered some research that the Carter from this timeline completed long ago – a counter-program that will de-bug the time device of the virus. It will not fix the device completely but, at the very least, will allow them to make a jump back in time. In other words, they have a shot at a do-over.
Carter initiates the device and they return to –
INT. CARTER’S LAB – SGC – DAY
Lee comes in. Carter covers. Lee leaves. Again, the timeline is changed, causing –
INT. CORRIDOR – SGC – DAY
Morph. One second, Mitchell, Teal’c and Vala are walking down the corridor discussing the fact that Earth has fallen to the Ori and, the next, they’re walking down the corridor, locking and loading. What the hell? They learn that they are headed out to check Byzantium Tech, the government sub-contractor, producer of military software. Things are back on track – and they are completely unaware of the change.
INT. CARTER’S LAB – SGC – DAY
Okay, now what? Well, now nothing. They simply won’t change anything and allow history to unfold as it should. Only problem is – what about them? Are they to remain stuck in this timeline? Mitchell: “Hey, it could be worse. It’s not like we’re stuck in caveman times or Ancient Egypt.”. But Carter has a solution. They can solve their problem, keep any of this time-jumping from happening, by sabotaging the time device and ensuring it never works in the first place. But in order to do that, they are going to have to get into Area 51…
INT. CORRIDOR – AREA 51 – DAY
The team slips into Area 51 and into –
INT. HANGAR – AREA 51 – DAY (MATTE)
Where the puddle jumper from Good to Be King is being stored.
INT. PUDDLE-JUMPER – DAY
Carter hooks her laptop up to the time device. She has created a virus that will effectively sabotage the time device ensuring it won’t work the next time (14 months in the future) they try to use it. She uploads the virus. Beat. The team exchanges looks. They’re still there. Uh, shouldn’t something have happened? And if not, why not? Carter realizes…Oh, no.
INT. SGC – DAY
Carter realizes the person who sabotaged the device was her!
EXT. BYZANTIUM TECH CORPORATE OFFICES – DAY
Mitchell, Teal’c, and Vala lead an NID raid on the corporate headquarters of Byzatium Tech. A firefight ensues. They take down the bad guys.
INT. CORRIDOR – SGC – DAY
The team sneaks back into the SGC. Hey, where’s Vala? Vala slips back out of Daniel’s lab, pocketing her jeweled coin, and quickly rejoins the team.
INT. BRIEFING ROOM – SGC – DAY
Carter gets everyone up to speed on what she learned from the still-ruined time device and the changes to their reality – which seem to have been undone. Vala is only half-listening to it all, still amazed as she is by the discovery of her long lost coin. Mitchell briefs everyone on Byzantium Tech which, it turns out, had connections to the Baal-controlled trust. It’s too early to tell what they were up to, but they put a stop to things before they could get their operation off the ground. It’s a good thing they caught them in time. As for who tipped them off, he guesses they’ll never know…
INT. CARTER’S LAB – SGC – DAY
The team is ready for their next jump. Hey, where’s Mitchell?
INT. CORRIDOR – SGC – DAY
Mitchell hands Harriman a letter and a note with specific instructions for the postal service to hold it for delivery. Reveal it is the letter that Mitchell received from that anonymous source. As Mitchell hurries back and –
INT. CARTER’S LAB – SGC – DAY
Joins the team. Hopefully, things will work themselves out. Carter: “Well, who know what the future holds?” Mitchell: “We will in about twelve seconds”. Carter initiates the device and the team heads off the to the future, to find out how things worked out.
Okie dokie. I am hereby DONE with The Tudors. Understand, it has nothing to do with the quality of the show. In fact, Fondy and I enjoyed the first season immensely. And we WERE enjoying the second season – until the second disc in our DVD box set started skipping, jumping, pausing and, eventually, freezing up. Assuming it was a problem with my machine, I brought it upstairs and we settled down to watch it on the plasma. Alas, more skipping, jumping, pausing, and freezing. Clearly, the disc was defective. Alas, it had been months since I’d purchased it. I had no receipt nor any recollection of where I’d picked it up. Ah, the hell with it. I headed down to HMV and bought another box set. So, the following day, we settled down in the theater room and started watching. A couple of minutes in, the scene skipped. Then jumped. Then, paused. Aw, bloody hell! I brought it upstairs and tested it on my second DVD player. Sure enough, the same problem.
Well, this time I had a receipt. I went back to HMV and informed them of my issues. “Maybe it’s your DVD player,”offered one helpful employee. No, I told her, that wasn’t the case as I’d tested the disc on two DVD players in addition to my laptop. Well, she assured me that this was the first she’d heard of any complaints regarding The Tudors second season box set. It was, no doubt, an isolated incident. An isolated incident, I couldn’t help but point out, that happened twice. With the exact same disc on the exact same box set. To me. In any case, I picked out my replacement box set and headed home. Again, Fondy and I settled in to pick up where we’d left off. And, once again – skip, jump, pause, and freeze.
When I returned to HMV the following day, I was dealing with another employee who informed me “This is the first time I’ve heard of anyone having a problem with this box set.” Really? I can only assume: a) the last employee I spoke to was guarding our previous conversation like a closely guarded secret and b) I had defied all odds and picked up three successive Tudors season two box sets with defective disc #2’s! He pulled the disc and held it up to the light, showed me what looked like a faint watermark on the disc. Obviously, a problem in the manufacturing process. I was free to pick out a replacement. I did but, before I left and just for laughs, I opened the packaging, plucked out disc #2, and held it up to the light. Sure enough, there was the same faint watermark. Hell, I should be playing the lottery! The employee suggested I give it a try anyway because some DVD players will react differently. If I experience yet another problem, I can bring it back for a refund.
So I returned home and, this time, I didn’t even bother settling in. I popped the disc into my machine and hit “play”. With predictable results. Skip, jump, pause, freeze.
Tomorrow, I head back to HMV to get my money back and say goodbye to The Tudors. Alas, even if I wasn’t left embittered by the whole experience, Fondy has lost interest in the series and wants to move on. Season 3 of Lost, here we come.
Today’s blog entry is dedicated to our friends in Australia.
Ytimyona writes: “You have pictures and video from the Destiny set, but can’t show us?”
Answer: Plenty of pics of the in-progress set construction – Destiny and shuttle. Alas, MGM has asked me to keep things under wraps for now.
Tim Gaffney writes: “Also, Joe, didn’t you say if we asked you that you would give us some of the colored page info on the proposed episode for the sixth season we are not getting(can’t remember the name) where our intrepid heroes use the time traveling jumper.”
Answer: Thanks for reminding me. I’ll post as part of tomorrow’s entry.
Snakey writes: “So will we get to see or read your short story sometime in the near future?”
Answer: Probably not until 2010.
Paloosa writes: “I’ve been wondering if you have always had a longing to write a short story? How many words or pages does a short story usually run? What do you find more or less difficult in writing it as opposed to a script? Are you on a deadline?”
Answer: I’ve always wanted to write a novel. A short story is the next best thing. As for how long a short story is – that depends. I was given a guideline of 4 000 – 7 000 words and a deadline of June 2009. As for the most difficult part about writing a short story: everything.
Jon K. writes: “Hey Joe, can we get a hint on any of the women cast members? Will any of them be familiar to someone like myself who watches almost every show on tv?”
AMZ writes: “Oh, are you serious about adding a Graphic Novel category to the BOTM club?!”
Answer: Very. I had a preliminary discussion with an author and, hopefully, if the timing works out, he’ll be dropping by for a Q&A to discuss his work in April.
Luis writes: “I dont know if anyone has asked but have you watched Sanctuary???”
Answer: Haven’t seen it.
Jo writes: “I saw ‘the Eyre Affair’ by Jasper Fforde in Baron Destructo’s book montage. I still haven’t met a single other live person that is not one of my siblings that has read it… so seeing it on your list, I’m curious. What did you think of the book?”
Answer: I liked it a lot. I’d recommend you pick up The Big Over Easy.
Arctic Goddess writes: “Did you get the lavender?”
Answer: Yes, thanks. Fondy’s putting it to get use.
Caitlyanna writes: “I just noticed (both on here and on Goodreads) that you’re reading Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler. I just finished Fledgling by her and it was great except for the fact that the ending felt a little rushed. I still have told people in the last few weeks that if they like vampires mixed with a little sci fi and a murder mystery it’s a great story. I love her style of writing. It only took about 50 pages to get into. Have you read anything else by her or is this the first?”
Answer: I’ve read The Parable of the Talents and The Parable of the Sower, both great books.
Tina writes: “Stupid question but is it still ok to send stuff to Bridge Studios?”
Today, I shifted gears to focus on my super, secret project (Okay, yeah, it’s a short story), spending the greater part of the morning going over what I’ve already written, then most of the afternoon finishing up the hotel room scene. Call me crazy but, so far, I’m liking what I’ve got. Of course, it’s more than likely I AM crazy and the general opinion will range from Blergh! to WTF?!! Hmmm, now that I think about it, WTF?!! will probably be a fairly common reaction whether you enjoy the story or not. In my mind, I have four more scenes to write and I’m done. By the end of February, I hope to have a first draft that I’ll be able to write, rewrite, and re-rewrite for the entire month of March. And then – its fate will rest in the hands of my editor who will, hopefully, respond with a resoundingly positive WTF?!!
Last week, the actors were in gun school. This week, they’ll all be taking part in a relaxed rehearsal. Oh, and if you’re wondering, we’ve finished casting. Interesting news on the ladies coming your way next week – Chloe, Tamara, and Wray.
So I was on the Destiny set Thursday and had to walk up the spiral staircase in order to get some video and snaps of the rotating gate. Holy Crap! We weren’t even that high up and I was clutching the handrail, my knees turned to jelly. All I could think was “There’s no way I could ever compete in The Amazing Race.” Climb down the side of a building? Hell, why not just ask me to French kiss a komodo dragon?
It’s the American Dream. Despite the seemingly insurmountable obstacles others may throw in your path, if you’re determined enough, you can succeed. Don’t listen to those who say you’ll never finish high school. If you study and stick it out, you’ll get that high school diploma. Don’t listen to those who say you won’t get that promotion. Have confidence in yourself and your abilities and, some day, you’ll be running that division. Pay no heed to those who tell you there’s a cap on the amount of silicone you can put in your body. Go to Brazil for the operation and, one day, maybe you’ll hold a World Record of your own: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/02/04/worlds-biggest-breasts-sh_n_163992.html
Lcshepp writes: “Joe, has there been any word on the ratings for ‘Vegas’ and ‘EATG’?”
Answer: Early numbers had Vegas doing a 1.3, Enemy at the Gate a 1.54
Van fan writes: “1. you list American and other ethnic/nationalities of food. why no Canadian? is there such a thing as Canadian food, distinct from America and the UK and France?
2. what’s your take on White Spot?”
Answers: 1. I’d consider any of the restaurants in the Pacific Northwestern Cuisine section Canadian in that they use build their menu using fresh, seasonal, local ingredients.
2. For the first two years I was in Vancouver, I always assumed they were a dry cleaning chain. I really like their triple-o’, their chicken burgers and, surprisingly, consider think their veggie burger is pretty damn good too.
Georgia writes: “I have had an heart dropping, gut wrenching week and your daily blog, insight and humor has made me smile.”
Answer: I hope things pick up for you next week.
DasNdanger writes: “Are you familiar with Brian Michael Bendis’ comic Powers?? “
Answer: Very. Now wouldn’t this make a terrific pick for our very first Book of the Month Club Graphic Novel selection?
Shawna writes: “For example, if you’ve got a character who’s supposed to be 20-25, would you look at actors in their 30’s if they had other qualities you were looking for?”
Answer: Sure. Of course adjustments would need to be made.
Ponytail writes: “ Joe you anwered their questions twice. You don’t answer my questions at all. Whats with that?”
Answer: Depends on your question. If it’s already been answered in a previous mailbag, I’ll skip it. If it’s a question about the broadcast schedule, I defer to the network that actually makes those decisions.
Jim Stiles writes: “Do we have a schedule of directors for Season 1 of Universe yet?”
Answer: It’s coming together. Look for the return of a familiar face.
Thornyrose writes: “Any ideas on what to do with a dog that snores louder than I do?”
Answer: My advice to you is: get used to it.
Rose writes: “By the way, is there any good poutine to be had in Vancouver?”
Answer: Hmmm. Not sure.
Davidd writes: “I was just wondering if, as a writer of the show, are you allowed to browse forums, fanfic, etc?”
Answer: Sorry. We don’t read fanfic.
AMZ writes: “So, when a casting call is first put out what kind of things do you list? Does height, build, age, previous work come into it, or other things?”
Answer: It really depends on the character we are casting. In the case of the Kiryk character (Tracker) for instance, we needed a young, rugged actor. An elderly woman, no matter how terrific an actress, just wouldn’t have cut it. As for agent recommendations – alas, I’m not the guy to ask. We deal with our casting director who, in turn, deals with the agents.
Suziesbluefeather writes: “Hey Joe I just finished looking at the VA Lottery page and it looks like I won $150. That’s almost a whole weeks worth of pay. If Fondy wants half though I can send it to her.”
Answer: No, she’d only blow it all on strawberry ice cream. Thanks for offering.
Kraut writes: “What, there is no decent German restaurant in Vancouver? “
Sessy writes: “So is there any dining place in Vancouver you haven’t visited yet?”
Answer: Oh, yeah. Plenty. You’d be amazed the number of restaurants in the city, with more popping up every week.
Vvv0472 writes: “Do you watch, or have you watched The Flight of The Conchords?”
Answer: At present, Flight of the Conchords is my favorite show on HBO. For the past two days, I’ve had the song Hurt Feelings in my head. Some of my favorite lyrics: “I feel like a prize asshole. No one even mentions by casserole.” and “They were all lined up to watch that movie. Maid in Manhattan.”
So you’re in Vancouver and wondering where the heck to go for dinner. Well, if you’re an actor guesting on our show, all you have to do is swing by my office and I’ll provide you with a rundown of my favorite local restaurants. From the Japanese hotdog stand serving up Oroshi hotdogs to the latest celebrity chef venture in the heart of downtown, I’ve got you covered. Don’t bother with that list you received from the production office and, for Godsake, don’t ask your hotel for suggestions. When I first came to Vancouver, I made the mistake of asking the concierge at The Sutton Place Hotel to recommend a really good sushi restaurant. He directed to me to one of those places where the sushi selections float by on little boats, endlessly circling the bar like weary Bangkok prostitutes working the floor.
What’s that? You say you’re NOT a visiting actor but nevertheless plan on eating while in Vancouver? And you’d rather not do conveyer belt sushi? Oooh, look at you, all hoity-toity! Well, okay. Here’s a peek at my list of favorites. Just do me a favor. If you check out any of them, report back. Oh, and while you’re in town, DO ask your concierge for a good recommendation and report back on that too. I’d love to hear what they come up with.
Check out the list, then check out the mini mailbag. Today’s entry is dedicated to a hopefully-on-the-mend-soon Sessy.
Japa Dog: A hot dog stand with a Japanese twist. Located on the corner of Burrard and Haro, steps away from The Sutton Place Hotel, it offers – in addition to the more typical Bavarian smokies and bratwurst – turkey smokies with miso sauce, Kaiware, and Japanese mayo, and okonomiyaki-flavor kurobuta dogs.
Memphis Blues Barbecue House: 1465 West Broadway (604-738-6806)
For a taste of almost everything on the menu, try the Memphis Feast. Finish with the pecan pie a la mode.
Long’s Noodle House: 4853 Main Street (604-879-7879)
Tiny, hole-in-the-wall, family-run restaurant. Try the wine chicken (best in the city) steamed dumplings, pig pot (pork shank served on a bed of spinach), or the house meatballs (with egg-yolk centers). *Cash only. They don’t take credit cards.
Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant: 3711 No. 3 Road, Richmond, Vancouver (604-232-0816)
A little out of the way and pricey, but you won’t find a better top quality Chinese restaurant. The house chicken is to die for.
Sha-lin Noodle House: 548 West Broadway (604-873-1816)
Casual and inexpensive handmade noodles (you can actually watch them being made). Try: the curried dragging noodles with barbecue pork, and the spicy cumin lamb.
Sun Sui Wah: 3888 Main (604-872-8822)
Great dim sum. Excellent: Lobster with Ginger and Green Onions, Peking Duck, Braised Abalone.
Rekados Grill: 4063 Main Street, Tel: 604-873-3133
Filipino food at its rib-sticking best. Check out the crispy pata (pork hocks) or the sizzling sisig (crispy pig ear). And, for dessert, the cheddar corn ice cream that tastes a lot better than it sounds.
Bistrot Bistro: 1961 West 4th Avenue, Tel: 604-732-0004
Rustic French country fare. If it’s on the menu, try the duck confit mac and cheese.
DB Bistro: 2551 West Broadway (604) 739-7115
The Bistro is Daniel Boulud’s recent entry into the Vancouver restaurant scene. Nice, warm atmosphere. Try the handmade orechiette pasta. http://www.dbbistro.ca/
La Regalade: West Van (604-921-2228)
Rustic French cuisine served in earthenware pots. Huge portions. Excellent. Try the pear/goat cheese tart appetizer.
Le Crocodile: 100 – 909 Burrard (604) 669-4298
This restaurant has been serving upscale traditional French cuisine for over 20 years. If you’re feeling adventurous, try the oven-roasted beef bone marrow or the pan-seared sweetbreads with porcini mushrooms. http://www.lecrocodilerestaurant.com/
Lumiere: 2551 West Broadway (604) 739-7115
Boulud’s team now runs the kitchen in Vancouver’s celebrated high-end Lumiere. I haven’t been since the changeover but I’ve heard the food is excellent. Choose from three set menus: prix fixe, chef’s, or vegetarian. http://www.lumiere.ca/
Rangoli: 1488 W. 11th Ave. (604-736-5711)
Vij’s more casual sister restaurant. Try the Savory Chaat and the mutton kebabs.
Vij’s: 1480 W. 11th Ave. (604-736-6664)
Inventive Indian cuisine and one of the city‘s best. Try the lamb Popsicles, short ribs, and the mutton kebabs. Get there early though as the restaurant doesn’t take reservations. Last time Harrison Ford was in town, even he had to wait.
Don Francesco Ristorante: 860 Burrard Street(604 685-7770)
Right across from the Sutton Hotel. In addition to great standard Italian dishes, they have an excellent wild game selection that includes terrific grilled quail, venison, pheasant, and partridge. THE dish to get, however, is the Squash Agnolotti with black truffle butter. It’s listed as a main but you can ask them to serve it as an appetizer. In fact, should you have any requests (ie. mixing and matching pasta and sauces) just ask them. They’ll be happy to oblige. http://www.donfrancesco.ca/
Quattro: 2611 W. 4th (604-734-4444)
Great beef carpaccio and an excellent antipasto platter. Galetto (Cornish game hen), Spaghetti Quattro (black bean, garlic, and oil), and the House Tiramisu are excellent.
Villa del Lupo: 869 Hamilton St (604) 688-7436
Grand Italian. If you want privacy, call ahead and book the wine cellar. http://www.villadellupo.com/
Aki: 745 Thurlow (604-682-4032)
Mix of modern and traditional. Best Dynamite Rolls in town. Also check out the Katsu Curry, Butter Beef, and Live Uni
Tojo’s Restaurant: 1133 W Broadway (604-872-8050)
Upscale sushi and Japanese dishes. The place is expensive but offers the best sushi in town. Excellent bluefin tuna and live uni in season. Get: the dynamite hand cone, spider roll, tuna tataki nigiri, and Tojo’ tuna, and Canadian sablefish. http://www.tojos.com/
Yuji’s Japanese Tapas: 2059 W. Fourth Ave (604-734-4990)
More casual than Tojo’s and the emphasis here is less on the sushi and more on the creative small plates: meguro avocado crepes, isobe, spicy curry calamari, deep-fried spicy tuna rolls, and the green tea creme brulee.
Zakkushi: 1833 W. 4th (604-730-9844)
Don’t go expecting sushi. This place serves some of the best robata in the city. Tiny, but very authentic fare. In addition to the great grill items, check out the homemade tofu.
The Seoul House: 36 East Broadway (604-874-4131)
Barbecue your own meal on tabletop grills. Try: the premium cut short ribs.
Cobre: 52 Powell Street604-669-2396
Actually, Nuevo Latino Cuisine. Among the offerings: Patagonia battered Baja rockfish with chipotle ajo aioli, and Indian candied salmon tamale with green apple jalapeno jelly and platan.
Banana Leaf: 820 W. Broadway (604-731-6333)
Great seafood. Try the Black Pepper/Garlic Cracked Crab.
Boneta: 1 West Cordova (604) 684-1844
French-Italian fusion. Located in the city’s Gastown area, it’s very popular. http://www.boneta.ca/
Fuel Restaurant: 1944 West 4th Ave., 604-288 7905
Focuses on fresh seasonal ingredients. Pacific Northwestern. Rather than ordering from the menu, leave it up to the chef and go with a multi-course menu. Request that they include the crispy duck (the restaurant’s specialty). They’ll happily accommodate anyone with specific dietary restrictions. They’ll take very good care of you. http://fuelrestaurant.ca/
2881 Granville (604-738-8939)
Very inventive, upscale regional cuisine. Named one of the top ten restaurants in the world by the UK Sunday Independent.
Au Petite Café: 4861 Main St. (604-873-3328)
Inexpensive Vietnamese. Closed Wednesdays and evenings after 7:00 p.m. Try: the pho, and the Vietnamese sandwiches. *Cash only. They don’t take credit cards.
Thai Son Vietnamese: 373 E. Broadway, Tel: 604-875-6436
It don’t get much more hole-the-wall than this place. Serves up great pho, grilled lemongrass chicken, and, evenings, a seafood crepe that’s worth checking out.
Ytimyona writes: “Haha I was gonna say I was surprised that Window of Opportunity and Ripple Effect aren’t your favorites, but I see I’ve already been beaten to the punch!”Answer: They’re certainly in my top 5, along with Morpheus (loved Vala’s psychiatric evaluation).
FatherCrow writes: “Why do all these writer guys seem to have an absence of hair? Is that a prerequisite of being a writer Joe?”
AMZ writes: “In response to your response to Michelle about why you pick actors, I have to ask: by picking “the best actor” do you mean their abilities, presence etc? And do looks have a lot, or not-so-much to do with the decision?”
Answer: Again, it really comes down to the performance. You can have to equally skilled actors but one may offer a different take on the character that a producer may more readily respond to. Also, as writers, we tend to have an image of what the character looks like in our heads so, yes, appearance does enter into it as well.
Toomi writes: “When there’s various writers creating characters how difficult is it to get a balance between what everyone wants? How much fun is it to come up with each characters quirks and idiosyncrasies? Not asking for specifics but has there been a disagreement over a character in SGA, SG-1 or SGU where two opinions from both ends of the spectrum and no one would budge?”
Answer: My approach is to roll the dice. Take chances with the characters (which is what I’m doing in my first SGU script). But don’t fall in love with anything. At the end of the day, Brad and Rob, the show’s creators, will have the final say.
Hey, zombie-lovers. Check out today’s Q&A with none other than J.J. Adams, editor of the goulishly great The Living Dead zombie anthology. Enjoy. And, once you’re done, stick around for the mailbag…
KellyK writes: “1. How did this collection come about? What made you decide on a zombie anthology?”
JJ: Night Shade Books actually pitched zombies to me. That’s not the way it usually works, but they were so happy with how my first anthology, Wastelands, turned out, that they wanted to do another book with me. And they also wanted to do a zombie anthology, so they called me up and said, “Hey, what do you think of zombies?”
I actually probably would have never thought to pitch a zombie anthology on my own—my background is in SF/fantasy, not horror per se—so it’s not something that I was likely to have pursued on my own. I’m glad it worked out this way—editing the book was a lot of fun, and I think it turned out pretty well.
“2. Since these stories were previously published, how did your duties as editor differ from any previous anthology?”
JJ: A reprint anthology is actually a lot more work, if you cast as wide a net as I’ve been doing with my reprint projects, because you’re searching for and reading hundreds and hundreds of stories, whereas with an original anthology you’re working with a much smaller number of stories. Of course, with an original anthology there’s some revising back and forth with the writers, as needed, because not every story comes in perfect.
Also, with a reprint anthology, a lot of the work is sort of administrative—you’ve got to hunt down the rights owners (usually the author) and sell them on the idea of being included in the book. In many cases, that’s easy. For others, it’s more of a challenge. It helps to have a lot of contacts in the industry, and after working in the field for about eight years now, I’ve made quite a few, so if I need to get in touch with someone, or someone’s agent, chances are I know them, or know someone who does, or someone who can find out.
“3. What criteria did you use to pick the stories for this anthology?”
JJ:With a reprint anthology, I think it’s important to balance well-known stories with harder-to-find gems. In The Living Dead, I’d say about half of the book is stuff most hardcore zombie lovers probably have already read, while the other half is stuff that may have escaped their notice until now.
And then, of course, there’s trying to find variety within the context of a restrictive theme—how do you fill a book with zombie stories and keep each one feeling fresh (so to speak)? That’s one of the challenges, to find the necessary diversity while staying true to the theme. I know some readers have felt I included too much diversity, but for others that’s what they loved about the book.
Other than that, I basically picked the stories I liked the best of all the stories I read, keeping the variety and well-known parameters in mind. Also, my focus was on the zombie story as seen through the lens of speculative fiction—my preference was for stories that examined some aspect of what the world would actually be like after a zombie uprising, as opposed to the splatterpunk-type of zombie story which is rather more prevalent, though there are a few in the book that would qualify as splatterpunk.
Galactick writes: “Great selection for the zombie literati. A few questions, if you please –
1) How did you end up in the editor’s chair? Admit it! Are you a closet writer biding your time?”
JJ: If you want the long version, I wrote about this as one of the first posts I made on my blog a couple years ago. You can find that here. But here’s the short version:
I grew up as a SF/fantasy reader/viewer. Played D&D and some other roleplaying games. Tried DMing, but it didn’t suit me, so because I still felt some desire to create, I turned to writing. First thing I wrote turned out to be a novel. Finished it and everything. Thankfully I never sent it out anywhere. It was pretty bad, though I later turned it into a screenplay, which was later optioned by a studio (nothing came of that, though). I was about 18 or 19 at the time, I guess. Never thought I’d go to college, was just working retail at a bookstore at the time. Once I got fed up with working retail, I decided to try out the community college; initially, I was going to get a 2-year degree in business, so that I could get a loan to open up my own SF/fantasy specialty shop with a friend of mine. So we both enrolled, but at some point he decided to switch to computer science (without telling me!), so I said screw it, and decided to focus on English and creative writing.
In college, I discovered workshopping, and it was there that I discovered that I was pretty good at editing other people’s writing. Writing was still my primary focus, though. I actually ended up in editing because I thought it would be an interesting career to have while I wrote on the side, and that I would learn a lot along the way. Turns out both of those things are true, but my writing has just kind of been put on hold. At first, I found it paralyzing to try to write while working as an editor—perhaps because my first drafts are rough, and I couldn’t help but see them as terrible, terrible slush pile stories, on par (or below) with the stuff I spent all day rejecting at work. (Besides being an anthology editor, I work at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction as an assistant editor.)
So, I wouldn’t say I’m a closet writer biding my time, but it’s not inconceivable that I’ll write fiction again someday.
“2) In putting together this anthology, were there any stories that you wished you could have included but didn’t?”
JJ: I don’t remember anything like that for this one. There were a few stories that I feared I wouldn’t be able to use because of contractual issues, but I think everything worked out in the end. It’s possible I’m forgetting something.
For Wastelands, there was one story I couldn’t get rights to. Which is odd, because you probably haven’t heard of the author. I couldn’t use it because his publisher owned rights to the story and they were rather unreasonable.
“3) What’s the fascination with zombies?”
JJ: I’m not sure, but they are fascinating, right? I think at least part of it must be that, more than pretty much any other monster, we see ourselves in them…because they are us, but dead, rotting, mindless versions of us that are trying to eat us. So that simultaneously instills us with the revulsion of seeing our friends and family and neighbors not only dying, but then rising and trying to kill us, and forces us to confront our own mortality, because there’s our inevitable fate, staring back at us right in the face.
Narelle from Aus writes: “When creating a collection such as this do you find yourself with too many options and have to make some tough choices as to which to take out or have a few in mind and go hunting for the rest?”
JJ: There are definitely too many options. I had a long, long list of stuff that I seriously considered when I was making my final selections. Actually, the choices were so tough that I convinced Night Shade to let me make the book bigger to include more stories. Originally it was going to be around 180,000 words; it ended up 230,000, so we expanded it significantly from our original plans.
I’m actually going to be editing a sequel—The Living Dead 2—so you’ll get to see some of those other stories that didn’t make it into the first one. But The Living Dead 2 will also have some all-new, original fiction. It’s still very early in the process, so I can’t say which authors just yet. We’re looking at a 2010 publication date for that, probably Fall.
TimC writes: “If you’re still taking questions for JJ, I’d like to ask him about his background (educational and recreational reading interest) and how he ended up as an editor at Nightshade.
JJ: I answered some of this above, but I’ll expand a bit.
My first job out of college was at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. I started off reading slush, then slowly took on other editorial responsibilities as well. I’ve been there eight years now. (If you don’t know what “slush” is, check out my FAQ page; short answer: slush is what you call unsolicited story submissions.)
So, I’ve been at F&SF for eight years, and for most of that time I’ve also been doing some related freelance work in SF/fantasy. For instance, doing interviews with authors, or book reviews. I’ve reviewed for both Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, and currently my interviews with authors appear daily on SCI FI Wire.
All that kind of sets up my background. As for actually working with Night Shade, I should clarify that my relationship as an anthologist to Night Shade is like the relationship of any author to his publishing house—it’s freelance, so I’m not technically an editor “at” Night Shade. Typically, referring to someone that way would imply that she edits novels for the house, or otherwise acquires books for the house. I don’t do any of that; I edit anthologies for Night Shade on a case-by-case basis. We sign contracts, as you would for a novel, get an advance (which I use to pay the authors), get royalties, etc.
However, my relationship with Night Shade does go a bit further—once we started working together on these anthologies, they hired me to be their publicist. So I’m doing that now, in addition to everything else I do. But that’s kind of what a freelancer is all about—multiple revenue streams.
“I’d also like to know what he’s got in the works.”
JJ: I mentioned above that I’m working on The Living Dead 2. But the next thing to come out will be an SF anthology called Federations, from Prime Books, in May, which focuses on stories set in interstellar societies. It’s a mix of reprints and originals. Just finished putting that one together. It’s got stories by Orson Scott Card, George R. R. Martin, Anne McCaffrey, and about 20 others. You can see the full table of contents over on my blog.
After that, the next thing on the docket is By Blood We Live, a reprint anthology of vampire stories I’m working on. That’s due out in August. I’m also working on a reprint anthology of Sherlock Holmes stories—stories by contemporary writers, not the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories—which will mix straight mystery stories with the SF/fantasy ones. We don’t have a final title for that one yet, but it’s scheduled for September. Both of these are from Night Shade. By Blood We Live will be a big giant book like The Living Dead; the Sherlock Holmes volume might be too, but I’m not sure yet.
“And, lastly, I want to ask him “What scares YOU?”
JJ: I once saw Stephen King doing a live reading in New York (with J. K. Rowling and John Updike—it was a charity fundraiser for Doctors Without Borders, I think), and someone from the audience, during the Q&A period, asked him this same question. At the time, I groaned to myself, and thought: Wow, I bet no one’s ever asked him that before. And I believe his answer indicated that I was right.
I, however, have not been asked that before. But still, I find the question amusing.
To answer: I don’t know…death? When it comes down to it, I don’t find a lot of things scary. In fiction or film in particular, I very rarely find things frightening. Which is not to say I’m not startled by horror movies when crazy shit happens, but that’s not the same thing as being afraid. Really, it seems to me, it all comes down to death. That’s what almost everyone is really, truly afraid of, when they say they’re afraid of things. Like spiders—you’re afraid of them, because you have this irrational thought that they might kill you (or rational, depending on the kind of spider). I think that’s part of what’s cool about zombies, that death is made even more horrible.
To me, though, what I find scariest in fiction is the sort of thing that’s all-too-plausible. When you introduce SF/fantasy elements into a work, that makes it inherently less scary to me. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, unless being scared is your number one goal from entertainment.
Pilota writes: “Great compilation! So fun to read. I must admit that I see you as a Zombie expert now. I’d love to hear your thoughts on slow moving vs fast moving zombies. Which is scarier to you? Which is most likely to be true in the event that the dead did become reanimated? Lastly, were you a fan of Shaun of the Dead?”
JJ: Loved Shaun of the Dead. Definitely one of my favorite zombie films.
I think fast-moving zombies are scarier, but that’s just because they’re much more dangerous, as least on the surface. There’s something about the slow, relentlessness of the slow-moving zombie that’s almost equally horrifying, even if they’re pretty easy to outrun. I guess I prefer the traditional slow-moving zombie, both in entertainment and in the case of zombie apocalypse. Simon Pegg and I agree on that, I think.
If corpses were suddenly to reanimate and start walking around in a brain-dead shamble around town, I’d say that the slow-moving kind seems much more plausible to me, though ultimately, I think it would depend on just how dead the person was when he or she was reanimated. A fresh corpse would probably be able to move around a little better, I would think, than one that’s been rotting for a while. I’m not sure about the preservation techniques funeral homes use, though; that could throw off my calculations. Of course, in Night of the Living Dead, it’s specifically mentioned that it’s the unburied dead that are returning to life, so Romero danced around that topic. I guess it also depends on what force is reanimating the corpses. Vampires always seem to be able to move pretty fast, so it stands to reason that zombie could too (again, depending on the condition of the bodies).
duneknight writes: “i gotta disagree with you on that one, Bale had a right to express his anger and i think he expressed it professionally…how? well after he was done he didnt take a 2 hour break or anything, but he said lets go again right after, that tells me that hes in control of the situation even at a moment of outburst.”
Answer: Yes, and he didn’t punch, kick, or set the DP on fire, so I suppose we should give him credit for that too. I can’t imagine how much worse it could have gone if he had been unprofessional.
duneknight also writes: “Bale told the guy repeatadly what he shouldnt do, but clearly the DP total disregarded the actor’s feelings.”
Answer: Uh, no. The guy walked by his line of sight and distracted him. That was it.
Angel writes: “So the 4th of February is now officialy over, Have you guys started principal photography on Universe yet, Or will you be starting next week?”
Answer: Next week.
Angel also writes: “Is there anything cool we can expect to see on your blog once Universe starts shooting or are we going to have to wait till Summer 2009 for some behind the scenes pictures or anything like that?”
Answer: We’ll see as things progress. For the moment, they want to keep the set under wraps.
Sheryl writes: “I found the crew and most of the cast were very nice, wonderful people who would answer ALL of my THOUSANDS of questions as this was new to me! And let me tell you – they worked HARD !!!! Sometimes 12,14, and even 16 hr. days! The most important thing that I learned- HURRY UP AND WAIT!!!! But I did enjoy it and learned alot, I think I appricate (spelling?) T.V. and movies much more. Your thoughts, Joe? Sheryl”
Answer: Well, I think many of you already know my thoughts. The people who make up the crew are hardworking, talented, and incredibly committed – always the first ones in, and the last ones out. Check out this entry for a peek at the unsung heroes of Stargate: Atlantis (http://josephmallozzi.wordpress.com/2008/05/03/may-3-2008/)
Jade writes: “which producers the type to kick a craft service guy in the nuts for serving them a lukewarm latte.”
Are you describing yourself?
Answer: Absolutely not! I’m more of an earlobe twister.
Michelle writes: “Joe, I noticed several of the actors cast for SGU have theater training (Brian Smith, David Blue). Was that a conscious choice and if so why is it something you’d look for?”
Answer: Nope. The final casting decisions came down to the same thing (as always): we cast the best actor for the role.
Ava writes: “Will we see Chuck the technician in the SGA film?”
Answer: Don’t see why not.
JK Carter writes: “What sparks an idea? And do you start in the middle, beginning, or end?”
Answer: My ideas come to me during those quiet moments when it’s just me and my thoughts – in bed, in the shower, while I’m driving. As for what sparks and idea – hard to say. Be it an idea, a plot twist, or a dialogue gem, it’ll pop into my head usually out of the blue. Which, quite frankly, is kind of scary since it’s very possible that’ll be the last idea, plot twist, or dialogue gem to magically appear.
Barbara durbin writes: “ im in kentucky and the ice storm has left us with out power and they are saying another 2 to 3 weeks with over 2,000 down poles. looks like a war zone… im at my collage using their computors…”
Answer: Take care of yourself. Wishing you and the entire state of Kentucky warm days ahead.
AV eddy writes: “ So…Joe, all-knowing and cool blogging guy, while I’m waiting for my ice cream, please enlighten us as to why nothing is private anymore?”
Answer: It’s the downside of the internet age. On the upside, information as at your fingertips 24/7. I was thinking about this tonight as I was driving home from work. I caught the tail-end of a news report about a company that was fined for some ethics violation. Thanks to the internet, getting the whole story is as simple as a google search.
Wm writes: “ I head from a friend that at the convention in the UK they were told the SG1 movie filming was pushed back to summer as well. Can you confirm that?”
Answer: Pushed back from when? There was never an official date for the start of production on either movie. That said, we were always aiming for a Summer shoot. The possibility of shooting earlier was never considered.
EH-T writes: “Did you ever try the haggis?”
Answer: Alas, I did not.
Major Davis writes: “ 1. Could you at least give Major davis a small role or at least a cameo in project twilight?
2. What is your favorite episode you wrote?
3. Do you eat out fancy every day?
4. Did the Military have a positive or negative response to the scripts you sent them?”
Answers: 1. Too early to tell but, at this point, we have no plans to include the character in the Atlantis movie.
2. The one I enjoy re-watching most? I’d say it’s a toss up between The Ties That Bind and Family Ties.
3. Nope. Tonight, I had a salad for dinner. And ice cream.
4. I don’t know if we’ve heard back from them yet but the military’s response has always been positive in the past.
Angel writes: “Just want to know if any new high-tech todays world gadgets will be used on the show.”
Answer: Oh, yeah. The kino for one.
DasNdanger writes: “In your mind (or if it was ever discussed amongst the writers), do Wraith need to drink water, or do they get all the fluids they require through the feeding process?”
Answer: In my mind, a human being would more than meet a wraith’s fluid requirements.
By now, most of you have probably heard Christian Bale’s expletive-ridden tirade from the set of Terminator: Salvation, a four minute+ outburst triggered by the Director of Photography stepping into Bale’s line of sight during filming. A lot of you are expressing outrage at the actor’s behavior. Others, seeking to defend him, are quick to point out that the audio clip was taken out of context and that we’re not privy to the circumstances surrounding the incident. Maybe it was very late in the day, everyone was exhausted, and they were struggling to wrap a crucial yet emotionally-charged scene! Yeah, and maybe the DP in question was a notorious puppy-killer and slumlord directly responsible for the shutting down of three separate orphanages. But I doubt it.
Let’s get one thing straight. Production can be very stressful and the occasional outbursts do happen. It’s to be expected and, frankly, in most cases, excusable. But not when it goes on for over FOUR FREAKING MINUTES! And to do it in front of the entire crew?! THAT is the height of unprofessional behavior. I mean, seriously. At some point, you cross the line between justifiably upset and thoroughly unhinged. By my estimation, it’s the one minute and twenty-three second mark.
So how does something like this affect an actor’s prospect for future employment? Well, quite honestly, it depends on the actor. If it’s someone like Bale who has proven himself highly bankable in the past, it probably won’t. If it’s some schmo who just landed his first big acting gig, it probably will. No one likes dealing with unpleasant people but, at the end of the day, it’s a reality of any workplace. Happily, however, there are occasions when the squeaky wheel gets the shaft – and don’t discount the sweet surprise of karmic retribution.
And what has this incident taught us, if anything? Well, how about the fact that despite the good vibes you may get off your t.v. screen, a magazine interview or, say, a daily blog, people can surprise you. Sometimes, in the worst way possible. The seemingly reliable combo of public persona and your own gut instincts may prove fallible and fail to provide an accurate read. So what’s an interested fan to do? Well, they can read interviews from fellow actors, directors, or producers but, let’s face it – at the end of the day, anything they say should be taken with a grain of salt because they’re always going to be very politick. But crew members, on the other hand, don’t have to be politick, only discreet. So here’s my secret advice to the congenitally curious: If you want to get the real story and truly separate the princes from the pricks and the beauties from the bitches, then get to know the men and women who spend the greater part of their days on set with these people: the grips, the gaffers, the sound mixers, and, oh yeah, the directors of photography. After a few drinks I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to dish on which actors are the self-centered knobs, which directors the temperamental control freaks, and which producers the type to kick a craft service guy in the nuts for serving them a lukewarm latte.
In conclusion – don’t trust your instincts. Just because someone plasters pictures of their pooches all of their blog doesn’t necessarily mean they’re generous, good-natured souls. Remember, Leona Helmsley was a dog-lover!
A gentle reminder to those of you looking to take part in next month’s book of the month club discussions that you can find the titles and discussion dates on the right sidebar. And for those you not looking to take part – a not so gentle nudge. PICK UP AND READ THE DAMN BOOKS! Weigh in with your questions and comments and win some swag (Check out BOTMC regular Sparrowhawk’s recent haul – pictured above).
INFOQUAKE, David Louis Edelman
“Infoquakeis a stunning debut novel by a lucid, precise, and talented new voice in the genre.” (Rob H. Bedford, SFFWorld).
“A high-speed, high-spirited tale of capitalist skullduggery.” (Norman Spinrad, Asimovs).
“The book deserves all the praise it has garnered, and then some! Only rarely will a debut author produce the sort of work which habitually comes from celebrated veterans.” (Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist).
Discussion the week of February 23rd with author David Louis Edelman
THE BOOK OF JOBY, Mark J. Ferrari
“A decidedly unorthodox twist on the personalities of God and the devil that offers much to ponder as well as enjoy.” (Booklist).
“…one of the more surprising and delightful fantasies that I’ve had the pleasure of reading in years …could be the fantasy debut of the year.” (Robert Thompson, FantasyBookCritic.blogspot.com).
“The Book of Joby is a rare gem, the kind that is only seen once every generation or so–a novel that sparkles with wit and charm, humor and wisdom, courage and compassion.” (David Farland, author of Sons of the Oak).
Discussion the week of March 2nd with author Mark J. Ferrari.
DOGS, Nancy Kress
“… Dogs is the kind of thriller that continually makes you want to turn the pages faster than you can read them.” (Greg L. Johnson, SF Site).
“The suspense ratchets up in this perfect vacation read.” (Booklist).
“A spine-chilling, suspense-laden story of pets turned unwitting killers. Kress brings her thorough knowledge of genetics and biology to bear in this nicely creepy thriller.” (Publisher’s Weekly).
Discussion the week of March 9th with author Nancy Kress.
By the way, I’m truly loving all of the childhood misconceptions you’ve been posting! Keep ’em coming! Your entries reminded me of one more: There were snakes in the sewer that could slither up out of your toilet at the most, uh, inopportune moments.
Jon K. writes: “ Any news on when we will hear the rest of the SGU cast announcements?”
Answer: Hopefully by early next week at the latest.
Alexandria writes: “I’ve been pondering what was first mentioned about SGU and how it will be written differently than SGA and SG1. Will it have a similar style to Supernatural?”
Answer: Sorry, I can’t answer that. I’ve never watched the show.
Patricia Lee writes: “What ever happen to your special Weird Food Purchase of the Day: Liquored Up edition in which you sample a shot from each bottle in your Liquor cabinet?”
Answer: I lost my guest host with the departure of Marty G. Happily, several other candidates have been kind enough to volunteer for the position. We’re thinking maybe next weekend.
Kups writes: “I have a bit of a favor to ask. Could you post your Vancouver Resto Recommendation List now?”
Answer: I’ll post it tomorrow. Remind me!
Anais33 a ecrit: “ 1)Savez vous bien skier?
2)Dans le premier épisode de SGU allons nous voir des personnages de stargate SG1?”
Reponses: 1) Non. 2) C’est possible.!
Translation: 1) I don’t ski. 2) Will we any SG-1 characters make an appearance in the SGU season premiere? It’s possible.
AvatarIII writes: “talking of your BOTM, i was wondering if i will ever see, or have ever missed, any of my 3 favourite authors featured? (being Peter F Hamilton, Alastair Reynolds, and Dan Simmons)”
Answer: Not yet.
GateFanSamJack writes: “How many script pages should a series like SGU come in at? What’s the count at the act breaks?”
Answer: The length the different acts vary. As for the scripts – aim for longer when you’re writing dialogue-heavy stories, shorter for action-heavy adventures. So far, it’s looking like the SGU scripts will average about 54 pages.
Banderas writes: “What kind of uniforms the Destiny’s crew will have?”
Answer: Depends on the individual.
Shadow Step writes: “Do you plan to do an episode of Universe in 3D?”
Huzzah! I finally have a preliminary draft of the first part of the Stargate: Universe mid-season two-parter. However, it comes in at a robust 57 pages! I’ll spend the next few days trimming it down to a far more manageable 54, then put it out to the rest of the writing department – after which I will no doubt receive notes requesting that I put all the stuff I took out back in. Anyway, I’m quite happy with what I have. This episode promises excitement, angst, and surprises big AND small. Loving some of the show’s dark horse players: Wray, James, and, if mom will let me keep him, Boone.
Well, the cast is slowly starting to trickle in. Yesterday, I had the pleasure to meet self-styled t.v. junkie, Guitar Hero aficionado, and fellow gourmand David Blue who is thrilled to be part of the franchise and raring to go. I also met the equally affable Jamil Walker Smith who confided to me that the last time he’d been in Vancouver, he was a thirteen year old guesting on a little show called The X-Files.
On meeting the new cast, I informed everyone that if they had any production concerns or questions about the scripts, then Brad or Robert would be the guys to talk to. If, on the other hand, they were looking or a good restaurant, then I was the guy. Today, I put the finishing touches on my Vancouver Resto Recommendation List and sent it David’s way. Remind me prior to the next con and I’ll post it for all of you out-of-towners.
So this afternoon I was talking to a friend and the topic of conversation turned to childhood misconceptions – you know, those innocent assumptions you make as a kid that you eventually discover are far removed from reality. He told me that, when he was a kid, he assumed his parents grew up in black and white – as evidenced by the movies of that era.
Every time my mother made Pillsbury turnovers, I would insist she smack the package against the table (like in the commercial!) to make Poppin’ Fresh appear. She’d humor me by tapping it against the tabletop and, of course, I’d get all worked up because she wasn’t hitting it hard enough! Eventually, she stopped buying Pillsbury products.
Whenever I watched the old Match Game show, I was convinced regulars Brett Somers and Charles Nelson Reilly were secretly dating.
I thought Phantasm was the scariest movie. EVER!!!
I thought they were called flea markets because the merchandise was so old and filthy that the place attracted fleas.
After my very first visit to my aunt and uncle’s new high-rise apartment, I was convinced I’d actually seen stars BELOW the balcony.
Whenever I used to watch television, I simply assumed the actors made up their dialogue as they went along (note: Sadly, some fans still do.).
I believed sea monkeys actually looked like the pictures in the back of comic books. I sent away for one and was deeply disappointed when it arrived. It looked like a miniscule floating shrimp. I brought it to school and it sat in a fishbowl at the back of the class for the better part of a week, ignored by all. Until one afternoon when I happened to be walking by and bore witness to an amazing sight. “It’s having a baby!”I cried. As my classmates jostled around me, we all watched, wide-eyed, as something floated free of the sea monkey and dropped to the bottom of the bowl. In retrospect, I’m pretty sure it had taken a dump.
I lived in fear of sewer openings because my grandmother would tell me stories about entire families that had fallen inside and disappeared, never to be heard from again.
Those are the few I could remember off the top of my head. Anyone out there have any truly memorable ones?
Luis: “Your dogs are so Kool….they seem happy and content when you walk in the door do they all run right up to you and start yelping??”
Answer: They’re not picky. They’ll pretty much greet anyone who steps through the door – unless they just spent the day at daycare in which case they’ll throw you a “Hey, how ya doin;?“ look from where they’re lying before going right back to sleep.
Apk51 writes: “ I have The Dark Beyond the Stars, The Empire of Ice Cream, and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress all sitting on my nightstand waiting to be read. Any suggestions on which one I should dig into first?”
Answer: I’d go The Empire of Ice Cream, The Dark Beyond the Stars, and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.
Caitlyanna writes: “It sounds like my boss will be losing his job because so many of the baristas are upset, but it makes me wonder if I should stick around to see if he gets fired but also at the same time, how much more can I handle before I break down.”
Answer: Well, at the end of the day, you have to do what’s best for you. If you’re very sanity is at stake, then, really, you’re much worse off sticking around. If, on the other hand, there is light at the end of the tunnel – and some positive elements in the mix (ie. your co-workers) – then maybe consider sticking it out. Whatever decision you make, it’ll be the right one.
Shiningwit writes: “Any chance of Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban being a BOTM selection?”
Answer: Hmmm. If I were ever to write an entry entitled “The Top 10 Titles Critics Loved That I Couldn’t Get Through”, this would be one of them. While I admire what the author accomplished, I had a very tough time with this book.
Shirt ‘n Tie writes: “I have often thought of you as a “speed reader”. Is this an accurate description? Do you skim or read every word? And, are you a book-elf?”
Answer: I tend to carry a book around with me wherever I go (ie. vacations, meetings, accompanying my wife shopping, etc.). I’m a fairly careful reader – if I’m enjoying the book. If, after the hundred page mark, I find the narrative dragging, I do tend to start skimming passages.
Carl writes: “What news from Carl Binder? How goes the SG1 movie script? Is there a title yet?”
Answer: No title yet. Carl has finished work on his first SGU script, Water, and is moving on to an outline for his second script. Once that is done, he’ll finish his pass on the SG-1 movie and then send it Brad’s way at which point Brad will do his pass.
Lcshepp writes: “What route should a senior in high school take who wants to write and direct?”
Answer: Film school might be the way to go. Although I got my big break by watching a lot of television, writing a spec script, and getting my foot in the door that way. Also, seriously consider the wonderful world of animation.
Banderas writes: “1. You have mentioned before that “a re-imagined SG1 Gate Room, bearing the new stylistic elements of Universe” will be in SGU.
Can you tell us some information about this re-imagined Gate Room?
2. Will the base personnel wear BDUs(like at the SGC), or unique uniforms(like on Atlantis)?
Will we can see some other military uniforms like, ACU(US Army) or MARPAT(USMC, e.g.: on Sergeant Greer)?
3. How many major races will be in a galaxy?”
Answers: 1. Nope. At the moment, my lips are sealed.
2. Which base personnel?
duneknight writes: “–in the upcoming atlantis movie, will Rodney take Keller on ride on a jumper and go to San Fransisco to get married?”
Belouchi writes: “1. I was wondering if ZPMs will play a part in the Stargate Universe Story plot?
2. Also, I was wondering how much time will transpire in the Stargate timeline between Atlantis season Finale and the movie?”
I’ve been a big fan of Paulo Bacigalupi’s work for quite some time and have been sitting on this book for a while now, hoping a paperback edition would be released so that I could make it a Book of the Month Club selection. Well, I finally broke down and read it, and what a treat it was. Comprised of ten stories, Pump Six and Other Stories offers up a thought-provoking combination of powerful social commentary and provocative future visions that bleed through various genres: SF, fantasy, and horror. Many of the tales that make up the collection touch on a similar theme, the dehumanizing nature of social and technological progress, challenging the reader with unsettling ideas and images – the surgically altered human/musical instrument hybrids of “The Flute Girl”, the infant-eradicating authority of “Pop Squad”, the casually indifferent judgment passed on a living relic of the past in “The People of Sand and Slag”. Although at times it makes for admittedly difficult reading, Pump Six and Other Stories is engaging and intellectually satisfying.
The Illustrated Man, Ray Bradbury
I read this collection of short stories way back in high school. I enjoyed it then and, despite the fact that some of the elements feel a bit dated, I enjoyed it that much more when I read it earlier this year. One of the things I appreciate about Bradbury’s writing style is the economy of his language. We are spared the endless, meandering descriptions of local fauna and decrepit architecture in favor of a narrative that is concise yet no less informative or entertaining. The Illustrated Man is chock full of memorable tales, from the horrific response of two young children to their parents’ attempts to reign in their playtime (“The Veldt”) to the poignant efforts of an impoverished junkyard owner to treat his family to an outerspace adventure (“The Rocket”). Other stories that leave a lasting impression include “Kaleidoscope” (in which a group of astronauts, separated from their ship following a massive malfunction, converse over radios as they float and free fall to their inevitable deaths), “The Rocket Man” (in which an astronaut’s commitment to his job puts incredible pressure on his family life – with tragic results), and “Zero Hour” (in which aliens make use of a most unlikely ally in their bid to invade the planet). Granted, some of the stories feel somewhat forced by contemporary standards (“The Other Foot” and “The Man”), but the “hits” far outweigh the “misses” here.
In the Country of Last Things, Paul Auster
When done well, nothing resonates stronger with me than dystopian fiction. At its best, it elicits a dual emotional response, touching on the primal fears associated with mass extinction and the basic struggle for survival while, at the same time, stirring hope for us, as individuals, in the face of global catastrophe. And, in this book, author Paul Auster crafts a breathtaking tale that delivers on both. The narrative is delivered in the form of a letter written by a woman in search of her missing brother as she navigates a region decimated by some never-fully-explained calamity. Whereas once she enjoyed a comfortable existence, she now spends her days foraging the streets for tiny treasures, discarded items that will fetch a price no matter how meager. And yet, amidst the overwhelming tragedy there are triumphs as our heroine perseveres and, through her experience, impresses upon us the value of the many things we take for granted – a warm meal, a comfortable bed, the company of a loved one. In the Country of Last Things is bleak and haunting and frighteningly plausible, yet evokes an appreciation for life’s smaller gifts. And it resonates strongly.
Earth Abides, George R. Stewart
Even though this book was first published in 1949, it is hands-down the greatest work of dystopian fiction I’ve ever read. After a plague wipes out most of the human population, the few remaining survivors attempt to remake their lives in the face of unimaginable odds. Whereas many works in this post-apocalyptic sub-genre of SF tend to focus on the dark and tragic, Earth Abides is surprisingly positive. Stewart’s emphasis is less on the horrors of the disorder and more on the potential devolutionary aspects of the event – the fall of society, transformation of the natural order, and the gradual yet inevitable resurrection of both. We follow Ish, our protagonist, as he journeys through dead and decaying communities. At first, his sole concern is mere survival but, eventually, he begins to rebuild, seeking out companionship and community. Ish’s efforts to re-establish some semblance of societal order are dealt recurring setbacks in the form of unforeseen complications: an alarming rise in the city’s rat population, the loss of running water, the deterioration of basic education. And yet, time and again, Ish finds a way to, if not overcome these setbacks, then, at the very least, to readjust to them. And, throughout, Stewart intersperses the narrative with accounts of the disaster’s far-reaching effects: dogs become both hunter and hunted, cats fare far better, cattle seek out greener lands while horses take to dry open plains, sheep perish, boars survive, only the human louse – of half a million insect species – are threatened with extinction. A brilliant book.
A lot of interesting takes on this whole Blu-ray debate. To upgrade or not to upgrade? That is the question. Well, after reading some of your informed opinions regarding continuing technological developments and the likelihood that tomorrow’s hot, new gadget will be next week’s microfilm, tape deck, or Vin Diesel, I’ve decided to forego any future entertainment upgrades and wait for the that all-in-one neural chip they should get around to inventing any day now. When that time comes, a slightly invasive procedure that implants the hardware directly into your brain is all it will take to control everything from internet searches to grocery purchases.
And, hopefully, allow me to finish a script in a timely manner. Last night, I completed the fourth act of my work-in-progress and got well into the fifth act. Only five more beats to go and I’m done. Now if this was an SG-1 or Atlantis script, I’d probably already be finished but SGU is a different animal. In this series, character focus will prove as important as the prevailing storyline which means more of those quieter, reflective moments fans seem to cherish.
Today was Superbowl Sunday and, as is tradition, we all headed over to Robert Cooper’s house and ate ’til we were sick. The last time I visited, I was on the program and had to forego the eats. But I more than made up for it this time out, scoffing down a couple of dozen wings, cheese nachos, chopped liver, and a home made waffle topped with nutella and three different kinds of ice cream. My compliments to the chef! As for the game – meh. Often dull, somewhat frustrating, but given to occasional bursts of excitement. The Good: The last half of the second quarter and all of the fourth quarter except for the last 18 seconds. You know, there was a time I used to wake up early on Sundays to catch the pre-game show, then watch both games of the double-header, the 7:00 p.m. recap show, and the night game – capping off the weekend with Monday Night Football – but no more. The officiating has become so horrendous that I just can’t do it anymore. I’m done with the NFL and shifting my allegiance to college ball.
To those of you asking about the dogs – nothing much new with them although Lulu and Maximus have been roughhousing of late. Bubba continues to be the t.v.-watcher among them and Jelly is as lazy as ever. Enjoy the pics.
Brendan writes: “So will it air on Sci-fi first then DVD or DVD then Sci-fi?”
Answer: No idea at this point.
Shadow Step writes: “Btw, you look at twitter all wrong – the whole point of twitter is you can only write SHORT messages, much more productive not to have to write tons of words in a blog”
Answer: Which would kind of defeat the purpose my having a blog.
Judy in STAX writes: “Did you get the short story “Nigerian Scam” that I sent?”
Answer: Yep, thanks. And enjoy the books!
AMZ writes: “As a writer of (predominantly) television shows, do you watch other shows when they air or wait for them to come out on DVD?”
Answer: I’ll usually record a bunch of my favorite shows and then sit down to watch them – although, of late, the number of those fave shows has been dwindling. Occasionally, I will pick up TV on DVD – usually something Brit like M-I5 (Spooks) or HBO (Rome).
Ray writes: “Has a decision been made on whether Robert Carlyle is keeping his native accent or adopting a North American twang for Universe?
Answer: According to Rob Cooper, Mr. Carlyle will be keeping the accent.
D.W. writes: “1:Is the Sun-Tzu a Daedalus-class ship? We never saw it on screen.
2: What happened to the Jaffa after the defeat of the Ori?
3: Can we expect to see any Daedalus-class ships in Stargate Universe?”
Answers: 1. Yes. 2. They continue to rebuild and enjoy their freedom. 3. Probably not.
Vee writes: “Is there even a remote possibility that someone who loves SG1 so much (me…) outside of the States, will be allowed to write a script for… say, one of the future movies that might come?”
Answer: Unlikely since you’d have to fight Brad, Robert, Paul, Carl or myself for the honors – and we’ve been training.
Belouchi writes: “ Tell me buddy, when you graduated from Mcgill University, how long did it take you to find your first job within your field of study?”
Answer: Don’t recall. Maybe a year – although my job was in no way related to my Masters Degree in English Lit.
Majorsal writes: “ i’ve read and reread your post and then the article you linked. this has been on my mind, because i was wondering if this was your way of letting us know there might not be stargate movies coming up?”
Answer: No. My way of telling you whether or not there will or won’t be a Stargate movie would be to tell you whether or not there will or won’t be a Stargate movie. Sneaky, no?
Vv0472 writes: “Did you see RDA on SNL last night?”
Answer: Missed Rick’s appearance, but Lawren taped it.