Interview on Johnny Byrne’s Children of the Gods with Author William Latham
Conducted by Simon Morris
Q: You posted on the Powys forum quite awhile back that you were intimidated by this project.
A: Yeah. This was a hard book to work on. There was Johnny’s story, then Johnny and Mateo’s story, and then I had to go into the DNA of those two stories and really come up with something that I thought would work, that hadn’t been done before. Elements of the original story have been done multiple times in science fiction. So it seemed like in whatever direction I turned, I found somebody else’s footsteps, and often not Johnny’s or Mateo’s. Whoever wrote this book was gonna take heat. So I said it might as well be me. If you’ve read Johnny’s interviews about Children of the Gods, this isn’t that story. It’s got the core components of that story. It’s got a couple of powerful children. They were kidnapped from Alpha at birth. They do return to Alpha and they’ve got superhuman powers. But that whole judgment of humanity thing, that’s gone in its entirety.
Q: How did you get the book written? How did you come up with a story using those elements?
A: Surprisingly, some of it was finding a science fiction hook to play with that was something different. I had a lot of nights where I’d spend a couple of hours and only get part of a page written. For anyone who’s read Chasing the Cyclops I had to map out a story and look for the physics, look for the vacuums, just like I do with anything else. And thankfully a way to approach this story revealed itself. I was also able to pick up a lot of threads left over from Alpha that thematically worked together. A powerful being versus Moonbase Alpha is basically every episode from Year Two, and a bunch of episodes from Year One. I had to simplify things to get something unique, pare down the plot and basically build up the characterization and make the characters work this story. I’m a plot junkie, or at least, I have been. As the years go by, characterization is getting more interesting to me. The Good MUF in Omega and Alpha, I think he was born from that. I think this time around, things were a little different. I found out that a friend of mine from high school had passed away. I hadn’t talked to him in about twenty years as we’d had a bit of a falling out, and partly this book let me talk to him again. To try to focus on what was positive about him. The character in this book is really nothing like him, but there’s an essence of their spirits that is similar.
Q: I’ve heard that parts of the book take place in Year Two and Year Three.
A: There’s a little bit that takes place in Year Two. It’s mostly Year Three, picking up about eight months after Alpha. So I got to show some of the things that were settling into place at the end of Alpha, how they panned out. Some things are changing on Alpha. Some things that might surprise you. People are making decisions that you wouldn’t expect. This was the first novel I’d written in something like five years. That’s a long time to go between novels. Chasing the Cyclops was easy. This was tough. I guess this book will seem like an episode from the show. It’s not bridging anything, it’s not wrapping up long-standing mysteries, it’s not a sequel to anything. It follows the kind of classic formula of a Space:1999 story. It all takes place in a day or so.
Q: How would you compare this book to the other Powys novels?
A: It’s self-contained, so obviously, at least for my books, it’s probably closest to Resurrection. But it’s not scary. Some folks out there who attended the PowysCon East got to read a chunk of the opening and if I read their responses right, they were surprised by the tone of the book. I didn’t have to tie any mysteries up in this book. So I managed to sneak one in anyway. Even though we’re a lot of years away from Message from Moonbase Alpha in series continuity, this book shows some of the building blocks put in place, I guess. When I say a lot of years, I mean in the timeline of the series.
Q: Do you think Johnny Byrne would approve of the book?
A: Johnny wasn’t just a writer, he was a story editor. When you’re a story editor, you’re frequently needing to go in and modify someone else’s writing to make it fit into the larger whole. I think Johnny would have at least nodded and recognized that it’s never easy. I had to mutate some of what he was doing with some of the characters, but I think he would have understood why. I think this is probably more science fiction than Omega and Alpha were, since those two were more fantasy, and Resurrection was more horror. The key elements from Johnny’s original story are in this book. Other than that, I doubt you’ll find what you expect in this book. I’ve tried to make this a good, solid book. One that will stand on its own with our other books. One that won’t discredit Johnny name. Time will tell. This book might surprise people.
Q: What’s next?
A: The Final Revolution. And for everybody worried about that title, read the first page of Resurrection. That’s where the line comes from. That’ll give you a hint of what the book’s gonna be about. Final Revolution will be adventure. Big villain. Big battles. But it will represent Moonbase Alpha at its peak, even though the base isn’t in its best shape.
Q: Things are taking a long time again. That’s getting people frustrated.
A: Well, nobody will be happier than Mateo and myself when all these books are done and out the door. Surprises are coming. Wallets will be emptied. And they will be emptied soon. And Prisoner fans? Your day will come. Probably. Try to be nice to us and we’ll try to be nice to you. As for me? I’ve edited two books this year, written one, will be formatting some more. When the gates open, they’ll open wide like they did in early 2010. Stuff’s coming, folks. This year.