Interview with Willliam Latham on Space: 1999 The Final Revolution
Conducted by Simon Morris
SM: This is Space: 1999 novel number six for you.
BL: Yeah, so much for my one book and on my way strategy. I’m hitting multiple genres as I do these books. Resurrection was horror, Eternity Unbound was horror, too, I guess, then Omega and Alpha were fantasy, Children of the Gods was pretty much science fiction, and this book, this is an adventure novel. But also has some science fictiony stuff in it.
SM: Any special reason why you go from genre to genre?
BL; To some degree, even though these are media tie-in books, I try to come up with some sort of challenge to myself as a writer, and playing with a new genre lets me do that. It makes it fresh for me, I guess, so the franchise doesn’t get stale. This will probably sound pretty nutty but I have all these characters in my head – I don’t need to think about what they say much anymore – it’s like I can just talk to them and they answer. Plotting is a little more challenging. I’m typically doing what I’ll call the chronological milestones in our timeline so I need to show the characters evolving from book to book. There’s a big jump in chronology from the end of Children of the Gods to when the Final Revolution begins. I can’t write these according to a formula or my eyes just glaze over. I have to come up with something where I don’t know how they’re going to get out of their predicament.
SM: Where does it take place, then. In Space:1999 chronology?
BL: Where we’ve talked about Year One and Year Two and Year Three, this isn’t Year Three anymore. This is like Year Twelve.
SM: Where in terms of Message from Moonbase Alpha?
BL: Not quite there. But getting close.
SM: What would you say the tone of this book is?
BL: This book has very, very high stakes for the Alphans. But it’s meant to be a fun book, an adventure. It’s probably not as dark as some of the other books. But it’s showing Moonbase Alpha as mature. If they were hit with this plot line in Year One, they’d have had a much tougher time. I think that may surprise people. But I think you could see some of that in Children of the Gods. I wouldn’t want to mess with these Alphans. They’ve had time to basically let all the stuff that’s happened to them settle in. They’re not reacting so much. They’ve thought things through and it’s changed them. But they’re also not young anymore. Their collective optimism is tempered by reality to some degree. I think they know their lives have been what they’ve been. That wears on you, I suppose. They still have hope, but I think what they hope for has evolved. Maybe it’s shrunk, the way it shrinks for all of us. And that may be a good thing and that may be a bad thing. I think some of this book is looking at that very question. You know, do you settle down or should you settle up?
SM: When you call this an adventure, what’s making this story an adventure?
BL: Well, people throw the term space opera around in both positive and negative ways. This one you could call a space opera, in the positive sense. This one’s a little more sprawling than Children of the Gods. If we’re ever going to skirt what you might see in a Star Trek movie with Space:1999, this would be it. They’re going places they haven’t gone before. They’ll feel defeated. And they’ll have to remoralize themselves, if that makes any sense. The opposite of being demoralized. That’s a little harder when you’re older. But I think we can all identify with that. We get fat and comfortable when we get older. And sometimes, you need to muster up the spirit you had when you were younger to get yourself out of a rut. I think the Alphans are having to deal with that a little bit.
SM: Do the characters ever surprise you?
BL: Sure. In this book, it’s Helena who’s surprising me. We’ve been slowly dismantling her façade all these years. You’ll see a different Helena in this book. No giggling, don’t worry about that. But she’s a mom, now. It’s changed her. I think in Alpha we finally got some glimpses into who she really is. Which makes it fun for me to read a certain compendium because I can’t slip anything by Pat Sokol. She’s got x-ray specs. And she saw a lot of where I was going with Helena. But I think in this book, you’ll also see Victor Bergman interacting with Maya and they don’t interact the way I would have expected them to. I know I miss Bob Mathias. I could always show what’s really going on with Helena by having her talk to Bob Mathias and he’s not around anymore.
SM: We haven’t asked you this in a while but what music has played a part in developing The Final Revolution?
BL: Music from all over the place, I think. Some of Star Trek II by James Horner. Some of Star Trek the Motion Picture by Jerry Goldsmith. Zodiac by David Shire. Gravity by Steven Price. Krull by James Horner. I think Zodiac has been the big one. The middle act of this story is just weird and that music fit it perfectly, what I was trying to do.
SM: What did you find challenging about this book in particular?
BL: I had pretty much carte blanche on this book. I didn’t have to build a mythology, or prove we could do a good Space:1999 book, or make sure we weren’t trashing an idea by Johnny Byrne. I knew where this needed to end up. But the rest of it was pretty much open. That was actually kind of scary. I felt like I didn’t have any net below me. You’d think after all these books it wouldn’t matter but it does. For Chasing the Cyclops readers, Omega and Alpha may have seemed crazy and all over the place but it was like brick building, it was a very, very tightly organized story. Final Revolution was like being set adrift in space and just seeing where the gravity was going to pull you. There are also just so many character things that need to happen. I need to show the evolution of the major characters and that now includes a bunch of children. Major plot points sometimes just need to sit and germinate in my head for days or weeks. I’m not used to that. That’s what it’s like writing books when you’re first getting started, when you’re a teenager. The tyranny of total freedom, I like to call it. Sometimes I just have to go in and write something and that tells me where the plot’s going rather than knowing where the plot’s going and then writing it.
SM: Resurrection is still my favorite of your books. Do you have a favorite at this point?
BL: Well I’m glad you like it, first of all. I like aspects of all of them I guess. I think Omega was the most fun to write, just because it was a relief to finally get it out of my system. I suspect I may end up liking Children of the Gods best sometime down the road but all I can remember right now is how hard it was to write. I’ll tell you a secret. If I’m good at anything in writing, it’s knowing what’s missing from a story and being able to fill in that gap. Children of the Gods wasn’t long enough and it was just staring back at me and I wasn’t finding any gaps. That’s hard. I wanted to find the gaps and they just wouldn’t reveal themselves, so I had to start coming up with other ways to expand it. I liked writing Spider’s Web a lot just because it was so different from what writing a Space: 1999 story is usually like. I think Eternity Unleashed, I like that one a lot. Even though that story’s about Balor, it’s really about his friend Talian. Talian is just kind of timid and he tends to follow Balor around and circumstances demand that he actually rise to the occasion to be something he doesn’t want to be, which is bold. Talian’s the hero of that story. He just doesn’t know it. Well, maybe it’s his sister, too. They defeat him together. So at the end of the day, was it actually their dad who saves Progron? Milsa’s only alive because their dad defied convention. I don’t know. I also enjoyed the climax of Alpha. I had to play with the timings so much to get it to meet the right rhythm of all those points coming together.
SM: Any closing thoughts for readers?
BL: Expect to see a mature Moonbase Alpha, one that’s evolved, and it’s being pushed to its absolute limits. They’re in trouble this time. Big trouble. But they’re not ready to quit just yet. Don’t mess with Moonbase Alpha.