July 22, 2009: September’s Book of the Month Club Pick = Heroes Die, by Matthew Woodring Stover! A Sharon Taylor Update! And the SGU Practical Puddle!

Back in January when Stargate: Universe consultant and best-selling SF author John Scalzi was in town, I took him to – where else? – Fuel where, over the course of our dinner conversation, the subject of my humble little book club came up.  I asked John if he could recommend a possible future selection. He responded without hesitation: “Heroes Die by Matthew Woodring Stover.”

Fast-forward six months and I’m sitting in my home office, thinking about a selection for September’s book of the month club discussion, when my eyes fall on a copy of…Heroes Die, by Matthew Woodring Stover. Loved the title and the premise intrigued, so I hopped online, tracked the author down, and sent him a message telling him about the blog, John’s recommendation, and asking whether he might be interested in participating in a fan/reader Q&A. The next day, I received his response in an email titled, appropriately enough “John Scalzi is clearly a superior human being.” As it turns out, he’d be thrilled to take part. So…

September’s Book of the Month selection is:

Heroes Die, by Matthew Woodring Stover.

Heroes Die

“Renowned throughout the land of Ankhana as the Blade of Tyshalle, Caine has killed his share of monarchs and commoners, villains and heroes. He is relentless, unstoppable, simply the best there is at what he does.

At home on Earth, Caine is Hari Michaelson, a superstar whose adventures in Ankhana command an audience of billions. Yet he is shackled by a rigid caste society, bound to ignore the grim fact that he kills men on a far-off world for the entertainment of his own planet–and bound to keep his rage in check.

But now Michaelson has crossed the line. His estranged wife, Pallas Rill, has mysteriously disappeared in the slums of Ankhana. To save her, he must confront the greatest challenge of his life: a lethal game of cat and mouse with the most treacherous rulers of two worlds . . . “

Discussion begins the week of September 7th when we’ll be joined by author Matthew Woodring Stover.

I heard from actress Sharon Taylor today (Stargate: Atlantis’s Amelia Banks) who has been keeping busy since Enemy at the Gate, having recently landed a recurring guest star role on Smallville. Sharon also tells me that has been cast the evil Empress Amara in an SF web series called Riese. She’ll be in good company, working alongside a bunch of Stargate alumni including Ben “Kavanagh” Cotton and SGU’s very own Patrick Gilmore (aka Dale Volker). Production on the series kicks off in August and, if you’re interested in learning more, you can check it out here http://www.riesetheseries.com/ and here http://www.thesectishere.com/.

Well, some progress on the script for the season finale today. On the positive side, I hit the 22 page mark and I do like what I have. On the negative side, Act I is 17 ½ pages long. I’ll look to trim where I can but, in all honesty, it’s action-filled and should move pretty damn quickly. Paul is apparently into the second act on his script. No idea how Carl and Martin are faring on theirs but, knowing them, they’re probably already finished and coming up with story ideas for season two. The show-offs. Rob, meanwhile, put out his pass on Lucid (he’s renamed it Human and the change is a point of some debate) and it’s a terrific script – engaging, poignant, and, yes, mighty surprising.  Rob will be assuming directing duties on the episode. 

Today, I leave you with another couple of SGU gate videos, these taken on the day we got our first look at new and improved practical puddle.

 

May 11, 2009: Just Between Us, It’s Really Better to Receive Than to Give

Enjoying two of my gifts simultaneously!
Multi-tasking: enjoying two of my gifts simultaneously!

Loving my new shoes.  Note my new hairdo.
Loving my new shoes. Note my new hairdo.
Guess who else is doing something new with their hair?  And redirecting packages meant for me to her office?
Guess who else is doing something new with their hair? And redirecting packages meant for me to her office?
The gals from Accounting celebrate a birthday!  Then dock everyone a half hour's pay for the time wasted eating cake.
The gals from Accounting celebrate a birthday! Then dock everyone a half hour’s pay for the time wasted eating cake.

They say it is better to give than to receive, and this is true provided they’re talking about criticism or roundhouse kicks. In most cases, however, it is actually better to receive than give. Take today for instance, a day in which I received not one, not two, not three, not four, but FIVE unexpected gifts. The first was sitting in my mailbox when I got in this morning. Compliments of blog regular and wraith-worshiper DasNDanger (Thanks, Das!), it was a beautiful pewter and leather book I can use to write down my own daily affirmations (ie. Nothing can surpass the loyalty of a true friend. Except for a really well-trained baboons.). Then, on my way down the corridor, I popped into Ashleigh’s office to welcome her back – and noticed a package sitting on her shelf with a familiar PYR Books label. She noticed me noticing and quickly informed me: “Oh, yeah. That’s for you.” Right. I returned to my office and opened it up to discover the latest book in Mark Chadbourn’s Age of Misrule trilogy (Thanks Lou and the gang!). After lunch, I received another package, this one from the gang at SyFy. Qu’est ce que c’est?, I wondered. I opened it up and discovered a brand spanking new camera inside – perfect for taking non-blurry on-set behind-the-scene blog pics (Thanks, gang at SyFy!). As I settled in to review my last pass on Space, Ashleigh walked in with yet another little something – a bottle of New Zealand Pinot Noir compliments of two visitors from the land of the hobbits (Thanks! I forgot your card at the office but will check it tomorrow so that I can actually mention your names!). Paul was positively jealous. And then, to cap off the day, Exec. Producer Rob Cooper gifted me a pair of Cole Haan dress shoes that he picked up but can’t wear on account of their being cursed (or something). Thanks, Rob!

Well, in addition to the gift-getting, I did manage to squeeze in some Stargate-related work. Read Paul’s first draft of Divided (loved the Eli-Rush head-to-head) and Brad’s pass on Justice (He dedicated the opening scene to me since, as Paul pointed out, it’s something would do. I’m touched.), then went over the Atlantis movie script with Paul. He wants to make a few dialogue tweaks but is otherwise very happy with what we’ve got. “It aint cheap!”he said, stating the obvious. No, it certainly isn’t. Paul also pointed out that we still need to come up with a title, something better than Stargate Atlantis: The Movie. Working on it.

I swung by Stage 4 and said hi to Robert Carlyle who is happy to be back in cooler climate, then warned David Blue that my dogs were hot on his twitter heels. Last time I checked, 212 followers and counting! If you haven’t already signed up, head on over and bring your friends (http://twitter.com/JellMaxBubLu). My dogs want to reach 1000 followers before month’s end.  Help make their dream a reality.

Hey, got a call from actor David Nykl today. He just got back from L.A. and is checking in. It’s always nice to hear from him. A hardworking guy with a terrific attitude, he’s a real pleasure to work with. We talked SGA movie and I warned him that Zelenka could look forward to a fairly busy outing. He seemed pleased to hear it.

Also heard from actress Sharon Taylor. I let her know that Amelia would be making an appearance in the movie as well. Another Atlantis alum I look forward to working with again.

Finally, Kirsten asked me to mention the little Star Trek convention – Khan Con – happening here in Vancouver Saturday, May 18th.

Mailbag:

Karen MT writes: “I find it quite hilarious that your dogs are on twitter when you are so against it.”

Answer: So long as they’re happy, I respect their life choices.

PG15 writes: “Now that the production is back at Bridge Studios, what episode is going under the cameras next?”

Answer: Next up is Time.

Jedi43 writes: “Question for you, since Ronon was on the run for 7 years how did he keep his gun charged for so long?”

Answer: He made sure to plug it in every night before bedtime.

MyNameIsNada writes: “I’m slowly piling together books for summer reading, and wanted to know if you have any suggestions for apocalyptic lit?”

Answer: Check out Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of Sower and Parable of the Talents. Also, Walter M. Miler Jr.’s A Canticle for Leibowitz, and Paul Auster’s In the Country of Last Things.

Michael A. Burstein writes: “Sounds more like novelette length, but it depends on what definition you’re using. In the SF world, the usual definitions are the ones given for the Hugo and Nebula awards, in which Short Story is anything up to 7500 words, Novelette goes from there to 17,500 words, and Novella goes from there to 40,000 words. Above that, it’s a Novel.”

Answer: Egads! It’s longer than I thought. That’s 42 pages single-spaced. At about 500 words a page, that’s more Novella length. Not my intention when I first started writing it but, as I told my editor – It‘s somewhat longer than I‘d originally envisioned but, fro the get-go, I knew where I wanted to end up and these were all the steps I had to take to get me there.

Eve28 writes: “Mayby Kanaan could die of an strange illness or from a broken heart?”

Answer: Don’t think so. He seemed pretty happy last time we saw him and he just passed his annual physical with flying colors.

JoanieC writes: “Do the dogs watch T.V?”

Answer: Bubba does.

August 30, 2008: Actress Sharon Taylor Answers Your Questions and We Complete Our Tour of Stage 5.

Sharon Taylor and David Nykl or, if you prefer, Amelia Banks and Radek Zelenka
Sharon Taylor and David Nykl or, if you prefer, Amelia Banks and Radek Zelenka

With the end of production on Stargate Atlantis less than a month away, I’m going to do my best to introduce you all to some of the amazing unsung heroes who have worked very hard behind the scenes these many years. They may not get the all-expenses-paid invites to the overseas conventions but that doesn’t mean that their contribution to the success of the show was no less important than the likes of the series regulars, writers, or producers. Over the past couple of months, you got to know the likes of VFX Supervisor Mark Savela, Director of Photography Jim Menard. In the coming days, it’ll be Props Master Evil Kenny Gibbs and Director Andy Mikita. Among the many others on my “to pester” list: Composer Joel Goldsmith, Stunt Coordinator James Bam Bam Bamford, Director Will Waring, Playback Supervisor Krista McLean, SPFX Supervisor Wray Douglas, Costume Designer Valerie Halverson, Production Designer James Robbins, and many others. Can’t promise they’ll all have the time to drop by, but it doesn’t hurt to ask – or apply extreme pressure if they prove reluctant (Yes, I’m talking about you, Will.).

As for today, I’m happy to turn this blog over to actress Sharon Taylor who went from a “blink and you’ll miss her” appearance as a replicator in Progeny to a recurring role as gate technician Amelia Banks…

 

2cats writes: “Is this the ONLY show you’ve worked on with such a zealous (i.e. fanatical/passionate) fan base?”

– Yes!
“What is your quirkiest experience on set so far?”

– Having a conversation with Christopher Heyerdahl in his Todd makeup was surreal. He’s smiling and chatting like a regular man, and meanwhile I’m completely mesmerized by his creepy appearance.

Wraithfodder writes: “1) How did you get into acting? Was it a lifelong goal or is something you sort of fell into? (as some actors do) And how did you get the role of Amelia Banks?”

– I knew I wanted to be an actor ever since high school. I was in all the school plays and then I went on to get my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Theatre from Simon Fraser University. In season 4, I auditioned for the role of the Replicator Technician in Lifeline, and I got the part. A few months later, they offered me the part of a female gate technician in Quarantine, who was later given the name Amelia Banks in season 5. I was pretty darn happy to be on the good guys side!

“2) You’ve worked on several Stagate Atlantis episodes. Do you have a favorite episode, and if so, why?”

– My favorite episode is The Prodigal. When you watch it you’ll know why.

3) Can you tell us an anecdotes from the set? What was your first day like?”

– My first day on set was when I was playing the Replicator Technician, so I was working with David Ogden Stiers who is very funny. He would ad lib silly lines during our rehearsal. I never actually met any of the lead cast members until the Quarantine episode.

AV Eddy writes: “Hi! I’m glad you’re getting a story arc this season. I had noticed your “technician” character last season, and liked her. I was wondering…since you work with computers and other Ancient-tech computer equipment, whether the buttons or switches have specific “functions?” What I mean is, when your character does a specific task, is there a rule or guide to “push these three buttons in this order?”

– I watched how Chuck operated the ancient controls and I followed his lead. So, yes, some of them do have specific functions. (At least they do in my imagination!)

Montrealer writes: “Did your character get to beat up someone on the show?”

– You’ll have to stay tuned to find out the answer.

Dalene writes: “What other work have you done in television/been working on in television? Do you have any plans now that SGA has been canceled? Any particular hopes you had for your character to go into?”

– I did a TV movie with Justine Bateman called “To Have and to Hold” which often airs on the Lifetime channel, and I worked on Eureka last year as well. Now that SGA is cancelled, I will continue auditioning for other projects.

Smiley_face06 writes: “1. When you first got on the show, did you think it would just be a one time thing?”

– I had my fingers crossed that my replicator character would recur, so I was thrilled to appear on the show again and even more thrilled to play a member of the Atlantis expedition.

2. Joe is consuming some weird things for us blog-readers. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve eaten?”

– I’m not nearly as brave or adventurous as Joe is when it comes to trying new foods. Sashimi is the most daring I get.

Neb writes: “Sharon, is that you in Ghost in the Machine?! It sure looks like you’ve reprise your role as a replicator. I’m honestly surprised that you reprised that role after you were so firmly established as the Atlantis tech in Quarantine. But in any case, it was great to see you play two different roles! I think it’s kinda funny that you play two very similar roles, an Atlantis Technician and a Replicator Technician. Are you actually playing the same character? a replicator pretending to be human? haha!

I absolutely loved seeing you in Quarantine. It’s nice to see the nerd girls, we don’t get to see them very often (Nerd-Girls meaning females in technical/scientific roles and aren’t superhuman like Sam).”

– That wasn’t me in “Ghost in the Machine”. I’ve only played the character of Amelia Banks this season. Nerd Girls Rule!

“So what did you think of playing the techy role? do you get to do a lot of tech-no-babble? Not sure if anyone has asked this yet, but have you watched a lot of stargate? are you a fan of scifi? do you think you’re likely to do more scifi work?”

– I love playing technician Amelia Banks. Since being cast as Banks I’ve caught up on most of the Atlantis episodes in previous seasons, as I like to do my research. Also, I had watched a lot of SG-1 episodes in the past because many of my Vancouver actor friends have had guest roles, and I like to watch and support my friends’ work. I enjoy sci-fi and I loved watching Star Trek The Next Generation with my Dad when I was a kid. I would happily work in sci-fi over and over again.

Christin writes: “And a ridiculous question for Miss Taylor…I hear that catering on the set is good. What’s your favorite thing to eat while at work?”

– The catering on set is soooo good. I have a weakness for pasta salad.

Airelle writes: “Sharon Taylor question–?? Is working on the show as much fun as it looks? What kind of hours are required to do the character? thanks for taking the time here.”

– It is as much fun as it looks. People are always cracking jokes here and there, so there are lots of laughs. If Amelia Banks is in an episode, then it’s usually one or two full days of work for me.

MELorne-Super-Fan writes: To Mrs. Taylor – Looking at IMDB it seems she hasn’t done a lot of work. My question is… are these small acting Roles just something for fun/money/hobby or are we going to see her more often in the coming Years as she works more as an Actress.”

– You will see a lot more of me in the years to come. In the last 2 years I’ve made a real push to have a career in TV and Film. In the past, I focused my career in professional theatre, and spent time traveling after university.

J. Williams writes: “How has it been working on Atlantis for your brief time? Any memoriable scenes that have stuck with you?”

– There is a scene in The Prodigal that is definitely the most memorable for me so far.

Karen WI wites: “Sharon: Sometimes do you wish the gate would work??”

– Sure! However, since there is often unknown danger lurking on the other side, I wouldn’t go through it unless I had Dr. McKay and Ronon Dex with me. Between Ronon’s braun and Rodney’s brains, we’d be safe….at least temporarily. Then we’d wait for Sheppard and Teyla to show up.

August 22, 2008: Firstlies through Eightlies…

Prepping for surgery on the mystery patient
Prepping for surgery on the mystery patient
Emergency surgery
Emergency surgery
In the O.R.
In the O.R.

First, let me start off today’s entry by saying if you have any questions about the new spin-off, Stargate: Universe, I’m not the person to ask. Hell, I didn’t even know the ship was named Destiny until I read it in the press release this morning. What I do know, however, is that with Brad and Rob at the helm (you may know them from such works as Stargate: SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis) it’s sure to be a quality show.

Secondly, to all those of you seeking clarification, let me emphasize what I wrote in yesterday‘s entry. Team Atlantis – Paul, Carl, Martin, Alan, and myself – was hopeful that, when all was said and done, the show would get that elusive sixth year pick-up. I can assure you that had we received the go-ahead, we would have been both thrilled and thankful to be producing a season six. Yes, we’re disappointed. And, yes, had the order come in for both shows, you can be damn sure we would have found a way to make it work. In the end, even though it didn‘t pan out, there is still plenty of Stargate to look forward to in the near future.

Thirdly, thanks for the all-around well-wishes. I was surprised to discover that quite a few members of the cast and crew read this blog and they’ll surely appreciate your kind words.

Fourthly, what does the future hold for Paul and I? Well, an Atlantis movie for one. It’s still in the very early planning stages but it will be big and chock full of great character moments. Beyond that – it’s too early to tell.

Fifthly, I have no intention of packing things up here at wordpress. This blog will continue to be a daily source for those seeking information related to my outrageous culinary exploits, my dogs, Baron Destructo and Cookie Monster’s film critiques, and assorted things Stargate. How assorted remains to be scene. See “Fourthly” above.

Sixthly, I had two fillings replaced this morning. My dentist strongly urged me to avoid chewing my numbened tongue and cheek at lunch (Alan felt this was sound advice I could apply to most any meal). To avoid any possible sesame beef and peanut butter dumpling mishaps, I asked Lawren to chew my food for me. “Do you prefer three-bite or a twenty chew mincing?”he wanted to know. But, in the end, I was so hungry I couldn’t wait and decided to fend for myself. Big mistake. I ended up chewing my lower lip. Not exactly a Weird Food Purchase of the Day entry but definitely tastier than that Chinese medicine I tried the other day.

Seventhly, lost in all the recent discussion is actress Sharon Taylor’s impending visit. Feel free to include questions for Sharon (a.k.a. Gate Technician Amelia Banks) amid the understandable venting.

Eighthly, I empathize with the fans. I realize that many, MANY, MANY of you are upset and as long as you have something to say, I’m willing to listen. So if you’re taking the time to post your thoughts on recent developments, then know that the least I can do is take the time to read them and hit the “Approve” button.

I took some great shots on set today that I’ll be posting in tomorrow’s entry. Hopefully, they’ll put a smile on some of your faces. In the meantime, enjoy tonight’s episode, The Shrine, as well as a few snaps from a couple of the episodes we happen to be shooting…

August 20, 2008: Production Update, More Guest Announcements, and The Weird Food/Medicinal Purchase of the Day!

Who is this toasty warm Mystery Man?
Who is this toasty warm Mystery Man?
Sychronize your gadgets...
Sychronize your gadgets...
Marty G., man of action
Marty G., man of action
Vince and Terry bundled up
Vince and Terry bundled up
Martin Gero in... "Where the Hell's My Driver?"
Martin Gero in... "Where the Hell's My Driver?"

The other day, Fondy was sick. Today, it was my turn. It’s, of course, easy to point the finger at some of the items I’ve sampled for my Weird Food Purchase of the Day segment but I prefer to point the finger at all of you for encouraging my outrageous behavior by watching these videos. That said, one of the nice things about having eaten something that has made me sick (just one among the many, many nice things) is the fact that it allows me to mix up the format a bit. Today, for instance, the Weird Food Purchase of the Day is actually a Weird Medicinal Purchase of the Day -specifically, the Chinese Medicine my wife swears by whenever her stomach is upset. I took a drive down to Crystal Mall today and picked some up, then had my cameraman, Carl Binder, videotape the segment for your viewing pleasure (I hope you’re happy. You should all be ashamed of yourselves!).

Incidentally, my writing partner warned me that I’m dangerously close to becoming the Johnny Knoxville of Stargate.

Marty G. was directing within the deep-freeze confines of the reefer truck today. He cut quite the dashing figure in his galoshes and parka. The rest of the crew was similarly decked out for the chilly conditions – except Jewel, of course, who looked good – and cold – in her party dress and McKay’s jacket. Office and Control Room scenes shooting on Stage 6 today. Tomorrow, we move on to Beckett’s return, “eyes staring straight ahead”, and the stabbing (Hoo boy. The fans are going to freak. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone).

Alright. As promised – today, I start gathering questions for actress Sharon Taylor who plays technician Ameila Banks on Stargate Atlantis. We have interesting plans in store for the character in season 5 and if you’d like to find out about some of her on-set experiences and get the dirt on Amelia’s growing role on the show, then start posting your questions for Sharon. Get them in because, this weekend, I start collecting questions for our next two special guests: Director Andy Mikita and Atlantis Props Master “Evil” Kenny Gibbs, both of whom will be dropping by to answer your questions next week. Other confirmed future guests will include Stunt Coordinator James “Bam Bam” Bamford, Playback Supervisor Krista McLean, and, because you demanded it, Executive Producer Brad Wright who will field your questions about Stargate Continuum (and possibly offer up a some tidbits on the third movie if he’s feeling generous). But, for now, let’s see those questions for Sharon.

Today’s entry is dedicated to Emma and 2cats’ 18 year old calico. 

Today’s video: The Weird Food Purchase of the Day Medicinal Version = Chinese Medicine.