Spoilers Shepherd Moon Interview
SPOILERS!!! Shepherd Moon Interview with Albert León, Lindsey Scott-Ipsen, Ken Scott and Raja Thiagarajan, authors of “Fallen Star”
Conducted by Simon Morris
This interview potentially contains some mild spoilers, so stop here if you don’t want to hear anything more!
Note: This interview was originally conducted in 2007 and has been reviewed and in some cases updated by the participants.
How surprised were you to hear from Powys after such a long period of time that they still wanted you to work on this story?
Lindsey: It was an extremely pleasant surprise. I have to admit, I had forgotten about the project, but since I have always dreamt of contributing to the canon of Space:1999 I leapt at the opportunity.
Raja: I was completely surprised. As they used to say, “You could knock me over with a feather.” I was a little concerned whether I’d have enough time to participate, since we had a two-and-a-half-year-old-toddler at the time, but our editor Bill said he also had one of those, and kid delays wouldn’t get in the way.
Albert: Since our initial meeting, after some time had passed and not hearing anything more about it, I thought the project was abandoned. By the time I received Bill’s email about working on this, I had forgotten about it. I was very glad that Powys still wanted to include this story and have us work on it.
Ken: I was pretty shocked. I was really excited when the project was suggested at the convention in Portland, and disappointed when it seemed to have been forgotten. So when I received an email from Bill, I was thrilled to find out it was back on track.
What was it like collaborating on this story without ever speaking to each other?
Lindsey: Well I have met all of the other writers at various conventions, and believe that made the process much easier. I also knew we all shared a love for the show. One exciting aspect of our group is that we seemed perfectly matched with one another. Raja is our resident scientist, so he helped shape the concepts portrayed in the story. Albert has a gift for action and brevity, which we needed, and Ken had some wonderful insights into capturing the tone and pathos of the series in a narrative form. Everyone seemed to bring a necessary aspect to the table that propelled the story forward.
Raja: We had spoken to each other, and met in person, years ago. Though my memories of that meeting are far from perfect, it did help a lot to recall my impressions (all positive!) of my collaborators. Also Ken Scott has a very nice website about Space: 1999 that’s full of fun and chatty tidbits (http://www.space1999.net/moonbase99/). I remember seeing Ken in person more recently, and chatting with him about the website.
Albert: It was very tough working individually on our sections without being able to brainstorm with everyone and bounce ideas off of each other, where we could get immediate feedback. As I worked on my own sections, I was worried that our separate sections wouldn’t come together nicely as one cohesive story.
Ken: As I had mentioned, we had all met at the Portland convention, and some of us have met on more than one occasion. We were lucky to have Raja set up a forum for us to be able to communicate with each other, and develop the story. Bill was tremendously helpful in guiding us on this journey. It was amazing to see what everyone brought to the table. It was like what I imagine communication on deep space flight would be like. You could transmit, but had to wait in the void for the signal to reach its destination, and then for the response to traverse the distance back.
What parts of the process did you find most fun? Most difficult? Most surprising?
Lindsey: Writing a Space:1999 story! Most of the process was fun. It was hard work, but fun work. I think capturing the voices of some of my favorite characters was both a joy and a challenge – sort of like method acting for a writer. I know our audience is terribly familiar with these characters and love them, so I felt a great responsibility to remain true to their natures. Writing from Jackie Crawford’s point of view was especially taxing, because he is a child. I tried to imagine how odd his life has been – being the only child living on a Moonbase with adults in the strangest of circumstances – and how this impacted his personality. Still, it’s easy to forget how a child sees the world. Hopefully we captured this experience in the story. The most surprising aspect was the way the story changed and evolved with time, and all of the changes were for the better. I was also pleasantly surprised by the insight of the team and how we were able to incorporate every person’s vision to create a coherent story.
Raja: The most fun part was seeing new ideas and new story sections show up on our collaboration website. Some of these ideas were also the most surprising; my collaborators, and fans in general, have some fascinating perspectives on Space: 1999, and on life in general. Concerning challenges: As anyone who’s used email probably knows, it can be hard to gauge people’s feelings from their messages. You have to be careful not to misinterpret things. One thing that helped me with this was that I knew we all love Space: 1999 (otherwise we would not have involved ourselves in this process, starting with that first meeting all those years ago) and wanted to tell the best story we could. I tried to think my replies out very carefully, so it sometimes took longer than I expected to respond. I think others probably were doing this too-so I had to learn to wait patiently for responses to my contributions.
Albert: The most fun was simply writing about Space:1999. I enjoyed revisiting Moonbase Alpha and the characters, while working very hard to try to accurately capture the show and ultimately produce writing that could be taken seriously. I especially enjoyed writing and reading about areas of Moonbase Alpha that we’ve only previously seen glimpses of on the show or only briefly heard mentioned elsewhere. It was difficult to write a middle section without knowing the details of what was in the previous sections as well as not knowing what details were in the following sections that I could have mentioned or introduced in my previous sections. I kept worrying that what I wrote wasn’t “right” or “good enough”. Personally, it was also tough for me in that I had little time to write during the day, so I’d often be up until 1 or 2 am writing my sections of the story. Even though it cost me some sleep, I didn’t mind because it was well worth it! It surprised me how well some of the different sections lead into each other, as if the different authors were actually writing together.
Ken: Space: 1999 has always been my favorite show, and the opportunity to be able to work on a story that would become part of the Space: 1999 universe was definitely the best part! The most difficult part was getting past my insecurities about writing something that others will read. That and the idea of constructing the story out of sequence. I guess I think in a very linear way. That part really threw me. The most surprising thing was how well our visions melded once we shaped the general story, and how really creative everyone was, and the depth they brought to whatever they were writing about. Most fun? Reading what everyone else was coming up with.
What did you learn about writing from taking part in this effort?
Lindsey: I learned that I could be long winded! Loving the setting of the story made the work a breeze, but I sometimes found myself rambling on. I didn’t want to say goodbye to the characters. Luckily, Bill did a great job of reminding us to keep the story moving.
Raja: I have been a heavy reader for most of my life. I also do a fair bit of editing, and a little bit of writing, for my “day job”. All of this writing is non-fiction, and its highest priority is to explain things, especially step-by-step processes, as clearly as possible. There’s a strong bias towards being concise, and the person who does most of the writing gives me carte blanche to edit, without his ego being involved. I was surprised that a lot of these things didn’t carry over into fiction; concise and clear is good, but vivid and involving is better, at least some of the time. In retrospect, this should probably have been obvious. I was also surprised that my ego got involved. I did a scene that I was quite proud of, and our editor said it was well dramatized, but it wasn’t a good fit for the story. I was a bit surprised and taken aback, but after asking for clarification, I agreed that it should be cut for the sake of the story. If this had happened with my “day job” writings, I would have cut it without blinking. I now read everything, including my recreational reading, more analytically. Sometimes this can spoil my fun a little; I can be a bit more annoyed by a bad turn of phrase or a sloppily cut corner. On the other hand, I also have a greater appreciation for some of my old favorite authors and books. Since I’ve been reading some of these books for three-quarters of my life, I’m thrilled to find new ways to find pleasure in them.
Albert: Obviously, different writers have different styles, but it amazed me how each writer seemed to have his or her own ideas for different details to the certain story elements and it seemed as if each writer was steering the story in slightly different directions, while staying within the confines of the story outline. If I were to do this again, I’d have the first section be written first, then the next writer takes and reads the first section, and then writes the next section. So on and so forth in succession, allowing each writer to work off of what was written in the sections before.
Ken: I learned that because we all wanted this to be the best story we could make it, the collaboration that could have suffered from people trying to take the story in completely different directions benefited from fresh ideas that everyone brought to it. I learned that I still have a lot to learn!
Once the book is/was officially released, who’s the person you’re most excited about showing it to?
Lindsey: My husband, Joe Ipsen, who offered many helpful suggestions during the process, and my friends in fandom, Terry Lee, Anthony Wynn, Robert Wood and Chris Paulsen, to name only a few. I also have many friends who are fans of the show, but have forgotten it, so I hope they will read this story and others in the book and be inspired to become fans once again.
Raja: I think I’ll have to fight the temptation to show it to everyone I know, and to random passers-by. Slightly more seriously, I’ll be especially pleased to show it to my wife, my father, and my friend Gregory, all of whom I asked for advice during some of the challenges.
Albert: I wanted to keep my involvement in this project quiet until I knew it was definitely going to happen, and then surprise my family and friends with the news. My youngest son also enjoys writing fiction, and I knew he’d understand how excited I was about this project, so he was the first one I had told. Once the book was actually released, I first showed the book to my closest friends Ronn and Steve, but the first ones I gave actual copies of the book to are my parents and my sons. My friends and family know what a huge fan I am of Space:1999 so they were very happy to hear that I was a part in the making of this story.
Ken: Anyone who will sit still long enough. Seriously, besides my family, I think the people I would want most to share it with are the friends I’ve made at Space: 1999 conventions in the past, and sadly, most of them are too far away to show them in person. But I will certainly let them know by e-mail, or in online chat! And other friends who tolerate (and even support) my fanatical devotion to Space: 1999!
When you look back on this experience in ten years, what do you think will stick with you the most?
Lindsey: I think that I will see it as a milestone in my life. I was a huge fan of the series as a child, but after it went off the air, I thought everyone else had forgotten it. I didn’t discover that fandom was alive and well until about ten years ago and connecting with other fans has been a wonderful experience. I think that staying up until the wee hours visiting with Nick Tate and Johnny Byrne at the Breakaway was a dream come true. I remember thinking back to my ten-year-old self and thinking about how I could never have imagined such a thing could happen. My visits with Barry Morse were a joy, and writing this story will be a cornerstone of my experience as a fan. I imagine a worn copy of the book will remain on my shelf for many years to come.
Raja: I think I’ll either forget, or recall with embarrassment, some of my sillier worries (from “Will I have enough time?” to “Why hasn’t anybody replied to my note–it’s been a whole 20 minutes?!”). I’ll remember the thrill of seeing new sections from my co-authors. And again, I value my new perspective on the things I read; I hope that will be with me for the rest of my life. And at the risk of getting my ego in here again, I’m incredibly proud to have been involved in adding to the “canon” of my all-time favorite TV show.
Albert: Since I was 12, Space:1999 has been a significant part of my life, so 10 years from now I will continue to be so proud to be part of this project. It is truly a dream come true that I have worked on a published Space:1999 story.
Ken: I think I will look back in ten years and be glad that a series I had thought long forgotten by others was brought back from obscurity by its fans, and that I was able to participate in its ongoing legacy in some small fashion…and make some good friends in the process.
A Snippet From the Original Email
From: Bill Latham
To: The Team
Subject: Belated Greetings From Moonbase Alpha
Date: Sat, 28 Apr 2007 15:27:07 -0400
Okay, it’s only taken four years for this to happen, but remember a little Space:1999 convention you attended in Portland in 2003, and a little workshop you attended on writing a Space:1999 story – there was a homework assignment, and it’s finally coming due!
And the rest, as they say, is history…