Interview on The Powysverse Compendium with author Patricia T. Sokol
Conducted by Simon Morris
Q. What is the Powysverse for you?
A. As a reader or as a something else? As a reader, it’s hard to say, because there are so many answers. I’m not familiar with other media tie-in books, novels, whatever, because nothing ever grabbed my imagination like Space:1999 did or does, so I’ve never followed anything else. But, for the fan side of my brain, the Powysverse was constructed by people who have a great affection for the show and understand that it never flourished as it might have. It was 30 years ahead of its time. Now, there is richness in the storylines and a reason for so many apparently disparate things to have happened, and belief doesn’t need to be suspended as much. It feels like the things we wanted, but
never got. Maybe we didn’t realize we wanted it, because a lot of us were kids in the mid-70s. But, now that we call ourselves grown-ups, and we realize how our own experiences have shaped us, we can empathize with suddenly being a step-dad to a teenager, or having a parent pass away, or having a good friend just up and go. The Powysverse takes what was great fun, and makes it grown-up, but at the same time, it’s still a whole lot of fun.
Q. When did you realize that there was a metastory behind the individual novels? How do you feel about this development and how did it affect your approach to writing this book?
A. Soon after Victor showed up in Omega, with BadMike shortly thereafter. I right away went back and reread “Spider’s Web.” Reading “Spider’s Web” the first time, you say, OK, the dragon things are here too, and they’re nasty. Poor Leira. Poor Yendys. Gee, it’s nice Victor was happy and it’s too bad she had to die, and jeepers there’s more of that confusing dialog in italics and how come Yendys is in a story by Bill when Brian Ball wrote Survival and wait a minute what’s been traveling with Victor and why did it say “It was good to have known you,” and how did Ryan get there and then POW! Well then, you start rereading all these dialogs between characters that have no corporeal form and you can’t figure out who is saying what and all of a sudden you go “Holy (noun of your choice)!” and what was that voice Koenig heard in Resurrection and who shot the moon at the Space Brain and oh, wait… I’m giving too much of this publication away.
Now, how do I feel about it…?
Q. Was it something you expected…?
A. Never ever expected, because there was no reason to. Resurrection is a good stand-alone, and it had its own little mini-arc. But that bit in the middle with Koenig on the surface, I didn’t know what to make of it. Of course, neither did Balor. Then, The Forsaken was good, because it answered a basic question in a reasonable way, but the Prelude? Well, it didn’t make sense except for the obvious. I mean, why the emphasis on malfunctions? And why the big long discussion about external influences? And the dialog between Susurra and something at the end of Survival? That was just confusing and it annoyed me. But it is so obviously Bill Latham’s style, again in Brian Ball’s book. Then, I realized there must be a thread running through and that made me go back and study the most innocuous conversations. I think that’s how the metastory development affected my approach to this book. The realization made me look deeper and understand things I had glossed over because they didn’t seem relevant. After that, it was like a treasure hunt, with lots of little “Eurekas!” And I’m anxious for the stories to play out, because we know where they’re headed, but not how they’ll get there. That affected the writing, for sure, because there are many, many avenues the metastory can take, so putting together the book entailed a lot of “What if?” and “Hey, maybe…” and even more of “Now that makes sense.” So, I guess realizing there is the metastory has made everything more exciting. Intriguing. Being wrong is fine, too. Theorize, experiment, revise theory, test revised theory. That’s what it’s about. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Q: How did this book come about?
A: Apparently the Powys folks were thinking that the Powysverse had expanded sufficiently that some stellar cartography was needed. And Mateo thought I would be the right person to do it. There are so many things sprinkled through-out. A line here, a few words there. After a while, patterns emerge, and, well, at the risk of making another bad astronomy reference, the panoply of constellations in the over-all arc is really taking shape. They figured it was time to get it in writing, partly for people to read and have a “D’oh” moment, and also as a reference guide for future authors. I mean, when you need to know Sandra’s cousin’s name, or the name of the music school Paul was accepted at, do you want to go flipping through the books to find it, or would you like it conveniently at your fingertips?
Q: And your involvement?
A: I opened an email with the subject line: “So, we were thinking…” After recovering from convulsive laughter, I thought about it, though for not as long as I led the email sender to believe, and thought it might be interesting to take on. I get a real kick out of putting things together, and even letting my imagination run a bit to see connections where there may or may not be any. The guys have been most gracious in saying I’ve made some observations they never thought about, but fit. I think they are underestimating their own intuition.
Q: How did you decide what to put in and what to leave out?
A: Just a few criteria. For the major characters, I did my best to combine everything that has been available in writers’ guides, broadcast episodes, early draft scripts, early novelizations, which were often based on early scripts, cut scenes, and so forth, to flesh out their backgrounds – with special attention to what has appeared in Powys’ original novels and stories. That’s how the term Powysverse was coined. Events and characterizations that Powys has published and are canon as far as their incarnation of the Space:1999 universe is concerned. With that as a base, you can build, to say, “Oh, yes. Koenig might have referred to Sam Burke as a scoundrel and sneaky Romeo because of XYZ.” It might be complete bunk, but it might also be something somebody wants to run with at some point, if only as a launching point for their ideas. Or to make a character more real, which is good for story development.
For secondary characters, they got a nod if they showed up once on-screen, but did something or were added in a Powys edit or a Powys publication. Sally Martin, for example. She’s killed within 5 minutes in “The Lambda Factor”, but has something to add to the fabric earlier on. Completely new characters and species have as much as I could glean about them, just in case they pop up again in the future. Or past.
Q: But this is Powys authorized? How can you make things up the authors didn’t intend?
A: I’ll paraphrase a wise man. Fiction writers get paid to lie. I’ve been told this will be “Powys authorized”, but not “Powys approved”, so I have a little free rein. I’ve been careful not to make anything up, like, Carter hasn’t had a steady girl until Eroca because his first wife was eaten by rabid wallabies. I guess we could consider some parts speculative non-fact, as opposed to speculative fiction.
Personally, some of the dots that were most fun to connect were the ones I had to really stretch, because there is no reason to believe it other than it’s something that just popped into my head, but it makes sense. I’ve made a case about Psyche that, when I first mentioned it to Mateo, he wrote back, “No, no, no…It’s (blah blah blah).” That made me more resolute, and I went back and found more supporting evidence for my “theory.”
Q: Will there be updated future editions as new books come out?
A: As long as Powys keeps publishing, there will need to be updates.
Q. How does it feel to know you’re going to be a published Space: 1999 author?
A. Really, really weird. Like on your birthday, that indefinable good feeling. A few days ago, my son, who is the same age now as I was when Space:1999 first aired, was bugging me with questions trying to figure out what his Christmas present is. I told him that when I was his age, I asked for books for Christmas. What I had actually put on my “wish list” was “any more books in the Space:1999 series.” I remember that quite clearly. Is that geeky? Anyway, I got Android Planet and Phoenix of Megaron that year. Now, I hear Powys is aiming for announcing this book on Christmas. So, this year, I got a new Space:1999 book, too. It’s sort of karmic. Or MUFlike.