Special Interview with John Kenneth Muir on the Release of The Whispering Sea
Interview conducted by Gordon Moriguchi
On March 1st, 2014, Powys Media will publish John Kenneth Muir’s newest novel in the Space: 1999 series: The Whispering Sea. This novel will also feature a foreword by Space: 1999 luminary, David Hirsch. The publisher, Mateo Latosa, suggested that I should interview the author to coincide with the book’s release. This seemed to be just the challenge I was looking for. So I contacted John and he was more than gracious to participate. After setting the time and date, I called him via Skype and had the most wonderful conversation. Held within this interview are some revealing responses to questions about his The Whispering Sea and some of his interests he continuously blogs about. So without further ado, here goes nothing:
G: I hope you are doing well and staying warm. I know you living in North Carolina have been suffering from the cold like us here in Virginia.
J: So you know all about it. (Laughs)
G: Oh yeah. I want to tell you that I am a bit nervous to be interviewing an individual that I admire. I read your Exploring Space 1999 book and I thought it was fantastic. There were a lot of references that had identified what ideas the writers of the Next Generation of Star Trek had used.
J: Yes, it’s been about 20 years since I wrote that book. I wrote it at a time when I thought that Space: 1999 was almost in danger of disappearing from the public consciousness. I wrote my book as almost a legal defense of it. At the time I thought that was the way to go, but with DVDs out on the market now there are so many science fiction TV shows available to watch that Star Trek isn’t the galvanizing thing that it was back in the 90’s. Now, some people who read that book says “you made too many references to Star Trek and it’s just too argumentative.” It was my first book and maybe I should have done it differently, so it’s nice to hear that the book has some value still, and it means a lot to me that you liked it.
G: After re-energizing the Powys Media page, Mateo suggested that I contact you to conduct an interview for the first in the latest lineup of books: The Whispering Sea. So this novel is basically telling the story between the Metamorph and the Exiles and Maya settling in Alpha.
J: Well, back when the show was televised, there were no big story arcs and so there really wasn’t too much continuity between one story and the next. That made sense since these shows were syndicated, and not shown in any kind of order. It just wasn’t how TV was done back then. But it seems kind of odd at the end of “The Metamorph” when you see Maya crying after losing her home, and then you have the next episode where she’s already the science officer. You know something had to happen there between those stories. Space: 1999 has real characters struggling with real crisis and there must have been a story with Maya going from being in mourning to being the fully-assimilated science officer. That’s the thing that is so much fun for me about writing a Space: 1999 story: to get in there and play around with a “what if” story. What did happen in between the episodes? And what if some of the people didn’t accept Maya, or what if she didn’t immediately accept them? What if she and Tony hated each other at first sight, or loved each other at first sight? There’s just so much to play around with in there. I love these gaps. You know what the Space: 1999 history is, but it is fun to fill some of those gaps with a great story. The challenge to filling those gaps is to make certain that the story connects to the next story. Metamorph ended at one point and the Exiles started at another, and being able to weave a story that connects at both ends is a real neat thing to do.
G: Well, I look forward to reading how you connected those stories.
J: Well, I was pretty excited to do this book. Normally I gravitate to Year 1 stories, but this was an awesome opportunity to write a Year 2 story with the look and feel of that season. Since it is a Year 2 story, I wanted to go all the way with the feel of this paradigm for better or worse. I haven’t written in the Year 2 mode before, so this was a lot of fun.
G: After writing this Year 2 story in the Powysverse, do you plan on or having any ideas in your head on new Year 2 stories?
J: I do. Since I see that Powys is doing better now, I would love to write another book about Maya. I love the Maya character. I think Catherine Schell’s portrayal of her character holds up remarkably well, even across the weaker moments of the show. She is just a very charming character.
G: I believe that she was perfectly cast for that character.
J: I’m glad that she got to portray the character with a sense of humor and emotion unlike the emotionless characters like Spock from Trek or Twilight Zone. It was nice that her character is three dimensional.
G: What other ideas are you coming up with?
J: For Year 2 a story I really wanted to write involved some aliens that I called engineers – before Prometheus (2012), anyway — and they ask Maya to be inducted into their mysterious organization. These engineers are the aliens that tend to the Space Brain from Season 1. That was the subject of my last novel: The Forsaken. I guess some fans don’t like that particular episode, but I think it’s genius. Soap suds and all, I love it (laughing). It was intended to be a pretty big story and I would still love to do it, but I opted for The Whispering Sea first. I also still want to do another Year 1 story as well. Mateo sometimes refers to the Year 1 episodes as “The Koenig and Bergman Detective Show.” You know, both of them come across this odd circumstance, and put together clues to solve whatever mystery is going on around the Moonbase. As they put things together, they also have these philosophical discussions about wonderful things like God, or ghosts, or evolution. Although I have already written a “bridge” novel for Year 1, I really want to write a stand-alone story from that year.
G: I haven’t had much of an opportunity to read up on the Powysverse novels since their beginning. Is there or has there been a story told on what the bigger picture is for the Alphans are about touching on things like going through the black sun, dealing with the Triton probe, meeting the Sidons, running into Aura and the “Collision Course” planet and ultimately ending their encounter with Arkadia?
J: Mateo suggested from the very beginning that we need to understand what the Mysterious Unknown Force (a term coined by David Hirsh) wants to do. We have to know what it wants. Since it is going to be an influence on all of these stories, let’s all agree on what it wants. My little implication of the MUF was the moon acting like a bullet executing the Space Brain, since someone didn’t want it there anymore…without giving too much away of the story of The Forsaken. Bill (Latham) wrote a two part epic titledOmega and Alpha which goes into the MUF, what’s going on there, and how it all fits together. But of course I won’t tell you anymore, because it will spoil it for you (laughs). There is another story I would love to write about in Year Two. The thought started in the episode “New Adam New Eve” when Maya said that the Psychons found their God and then learned that their God also had a God. I originally thought that idea was kind of silly but revisiting some of these stories brings out new information that you didn’t think of before. In particular, I read a story about our universe being a simulation or “test tube” for more advanced beings. And then I thought: what if their universe is the same thing? What if their universe is being observed by more advanced beings? That’s a big reason why I love Space: 1999: you can revisit some of the episodes many years later and get something different out of the story that you didn’t think of before.
G: I totally agree. Do you think that the army of Powys authors should come up with extravagant stories that are more like the comics, or stay the course
J: I love those Charlton comics, but I also believe that we should put out stories that are true to the series. And although there is splendor and excitement in those stories, we need to keep it down to earth for the reader’s sense of believability. I think we would lose the reader if we got way too far-fetched, and it is our responsibility to kind of “gauge” how far “too far” is. Like some of the aliens that I wrote about in The Forsaken were sort of turtle people and I would ask myself: “did I go too far with that idea?” As the author, I believe we have a responsibility to stay within that fine line. I love the Charlton comics, but I think we would lose readers if we did stories that didn’t stay within the “believability” boundaries. It’s bad enough that folks complain about the premise of the moon being blown out of the Earth’s orbit, so you have to keep the stories within a range of believability if you can.
G: Well, I look forward to reading this story. It sounds very exciting. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk about your upcoming book. It has been an absolute pleasure!.
J: It was great. I want to thank you for what you are doing with the company and promoting the book.
I want to thank Mateo Latosa for the idea and opportunity to interview John Kenneth Muir, and I also wish Powys Media and the author the best of luck with the upcoming novel. The Whispering Sea will be available on March 1st through lulu.com with purchasing links on the Powys Media website.
Discover other exciting Powys Media Space: 1999 titles! Follow the links here on the official website and via lulu.com.
JOHN KENNETH MUIR began his full-time writing career in 1996, penning several books for the North Carolina-based publisher of scholarly reference books, McFarland & Company, including Exploring Space: 1999 (1997), An Analytical Guide to Battlestar Galactica (1998), A Critical History of Dr. Who on TV (1999), A History and Critical Analysis of Blake’s 7 (1999) and An Analytical Guide to TV’s One Step Beyond (2001).
Exploring Space: 1999 was the first English language attempt to analyze the television series Space: 1999 in a wider cultural context. Muir is also the author of Space: 1999 The Forsaken, the second novel in Powys Media’s ongoing series of Space: 1999 novels. In addition, two of his short stories were included in the anthology, Shepherd Moon.
John Kenneth Muir now has over twenty published books of fiction and non-fiction. John’s latest book is Horror Films FAQ (2013).
GORDON MORIGUCHI is a US Air Force retired Network Manager for the Department of Defense, lives in Virginia, a family man with three wonderful children and avid Space: 1999 fan/collector. He runs the Space: 1999 Merchandise Facebook group page promoting fans’ collections, current and upcoming merchandise and cataloging past and present 1999 merchandise. He is also one of the committee members for the Alpha: 2014 upcoming Space: 1999 convention.