An Interview with William Latham on Space:1999 Omega
conducted by Simon Morris
Q: You kept a running blog of sorts during the writing of Omega. Any particular reason?
A: I thought it might be interesting to some people how complex a project this was, and how we went about putting this one together. Normally, you sit down and plot out a novel with a beginning and a middle and an end. This time, we first had to plot out an entire mythology and then figure out how to tell a story that would best explain that mythology but still work as a story. The mythology part literally took years. The plot had to wait until the mythology was fairly concrete. Or, should I say, synthecrete. This is Space:1999 after all.
Q: What can you tell us about the mythology?
A: Only that the pieces of the mythology all come from the episodes, primarily Year One. I’ve corresponded with some folks who are adamant that there’s a mythology in Year Two as well. The mythology we focused on was the Year One mythology. The Year One mythology is very mystical, very kind of Arthur C. Clarke. Which is all well and good. I think that’s what attracted people to Space:1999 in the first place. This is not a mystical book. This is where the mythology starts hitting home and you finally start getting some answers, which is the antithesis of mysticism.
Q: But it’s a Year Three book, correct?
A: Yes, Year Three. It takes place well before “Message From Moonbase Alpha” and at least a couple of years after “Born for Adversity.” That means Maya and Tony Verdeschi and the rest of the folks have had plenty of time to absorb what happened in “Born for Adversity.”
Q: How would you compare “Omega” to your earlier novel, “Resurrection”?
A: “Resurrection” was gothic and creepy and largely about the characters interacting. “Omega” is a lot of action. You’re going to see battles in “Omega” like nothing you’ve ever seen in the Space: 1999 universe before. Everybody’s going to be in danger in “Omega”, bar none. What was a challenge with “Omega” was the sheer amount of detail we had to convey about the mythology without bogging the book down. “Resurrection” was more of a horror thriller than “Omega” is, and “Omega” is on a much bigger canvas. So there’s a lot of time spent outside of Moonbase Alpha.
Q: What’s the significance of the title?
A: Well, the obvious thing is the position of the letter in the Greek alphabet. This book series is rapidly approaching its ending. All the threads we’ve been trailing through the other books are coming together in this story. The Space:1999 universe will never be the same after this book.
Q: You saying that is bound to get people concerned.
A: Whenever you demystify anything, you run the risk of alienating people who preferred their mystical perspective. That comes with the territory. It was never our intent to just trash this franchise. Nor are we taking unnecessary risks. We kicked this mythology until it was solid. We’re just dealing with what we inherited from Byrne and Penfold and the others. Based on what they gave us, this is our unified field theory of Space:1999. And when you put the bits together, like anything else that gets demystified, things don’t always end up being what you projected onto them. At the same time, this story, the scale of it, is going to be the movie the Space:1999 fans never got. I can promise people it’s not going to be a boring story. We’re gonna twist you all over the place, but you’re going to be rewarded for your patience.
Q: I guess it’s safe to say you’re finished after this book?
A: I don’t know that Omega will be the last word from Powys. I’ll say this, though. When I agreed to do “Resurrection” way back when, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I still wouldn’t call myself an expert on Space:1999 – I’m not Martin Willey! But I can tell you I’ve been into the DNA of this show, both seasons, and I’ve gotten to know these characters like members of my family. I can see their flaws. I’ve been a Star Trek fan for decades, but I don’t really have the same grasp of the characters in Star Trek because I’ve never had to be them in my head! I’m gonna miss these folks. For fans of this series, I’m not going to say I’ve delivered what you wanted, which is probably just another run around the block with these folks you know so well. I tried to deliver what you needed. Fresh air, a change from the regular format of how you tell a Space:1999 story. I aimed for the fences with this story. If people don’t like it, that’s fine, that comes with writing for an established franchise. You’re never going to please everyone. But for some folks out there, I can’t wait to hear your reactions. If this were one of my favorite shows from childhood, or even early adulthood, this is what I would want, something that makes it all vibrant again.
Q: In your Omega Diary, you talked a little about the process you and Mateo went through in coming up with the mythology. What did that entail?
A: There are some things I can’t really talk about, not until the book’s out, because it will spoil some things. But I guess the simplest way to describe it is we first had to identify the footsteps of the gods. We mapped out everything from the show that looked like it could have been some sort of MUF-related event. We strung those events out and started analyzing it for the answer to the most important question – what would motivate a god? What was the intent of the MUF? That doesn’t give you a story, really. It gives you a sequence of a larger story. Then you have to go back and come up with events that happened prior to the episodes of the show and somehow tie it all together into one overriding chronology. And considering the fact that Mateo and I are never in the same room, not even on the same coast, we’re talking about emails and phone calls and some lightbulb moments where suddenly something new falls into place. Once that’s in place, coming up with a story that will use that mythology is the hard part. This is where making a comparison to Tolkien is handy. Tolkien’s mythology, if you’ve ever read “The Silmarillion”, was barely scratched in “Lord of the Rings”. I’ll give you a perfect example. Shelob, the big spider that Frodo and Sam end up fighting. Shelob is an offshoot of the mythology that goes back well before the events of “Lord of the Rings”. So was the Balrog. Sauron isn’t the first nasty spirit in Middle Earth, he’s a former lieutenant of Morgoth, who was really the first nasty spirit, or god if you want to use that word. What you end up with in “Lord of the Rings” is a big spider, a big fire monster, some mentioning of Morgoth, some action scenes, end of story. The mythology isn’t revealed in “Lord of the Rings” – it just gets tapped into from time to time. With “Omega”, we don’t tell you everything we could have. We could write “The Silmarillion” for “Space:1999” at this point. But if you’ve ever read “The Silmarillion”, you realize it’s kind of interesting but it isn’t nearly as compelling as “Lord of the Rings”. The mythology is the part of the iceberg that’s under the surface of the water. It holds up the point you see above the surface, where all the action is.
Q: What do you think readers will be most surprised by?
A: That’s a tough one. We know this is going to be a controversial book. We know there are people who will hate us for doing this book. It’s a very respectful sort of heresy we’re committing with “Omega”. I’ll tell you, I remember the first time I saw “The Shawshank Redemption” and you can never see that movie again the way you saw it the first time. The first time it’s a bleak and even difficult film to watch, that is until the last half hour or so. Every time you watch it after that, it’s hopeful right from the get go. After working on this book, there are episodes of the show that you won’t be able to watch anymore without seeing things in a different light. It’ll almost make you want to go watch some of the episodes again just for that experience. One of our test readers told me something fascinating. There’s a particular performance in one episode that to him didn’t seem to make sense. After reading “Omega” he said that performance suddenly made sense, because now you understood what was really going on for that character. I mean, how cool is that?
Q: What do you hope readers will experience?
A: It’s a book that’s designed to be read more than once. For the first read, I’m hoping people will kind of hunker down and get concerned because they won’t be able to anticipate what’s going to happen next. Nobody’s safe now, folks, it’s Year Three. I can guarantee you this, though. We’re gonna leave you wanting more.