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Features: Articles & Interviews

Interview with William Latham and Mateo Latosa about "Resurrection"

By Michael A. Faries (6 October 2002)

Space1999.org talked with Powys Media, specifically William (Bill) Latham (author) and Mateo Latosa (publisher) about "Space: 1999 - Resurrection", published in 2002. "Resurrection" is the first in a series of original books which honors -- and intelligently expands upon -- the adventures of the 1970s Space: 1999 television series. More information about Powys Media can be found at their web site.

Note: The full contents of this interview may be republished per our Open Content Model for non-commercial use. The text must be reprinted in full, unedited, and with credit is given back to Space1999.org and the interviewer.

"Space: 1999 - Resurrection" has been lauded amongst Space: 1999 fans for capturing the true essence of the original television series. What feedback about the novel has touched you both the most? (Ranging from new fans to non-fans to long-time fans.)

BL: For me, pretty much all of it. I had no idea if people would love it or hate it, and didn't really have enough of a sense of the series to tell if I was doing right or wrong by it. I suspected we were onto something from the feedback we got from our test readers, but you can never really tell. The first real feedback outside of our test readers we got was the editorial up on Space1999.org I was sitting at work first thing in the morning and just happened to check OnlineAlpha and boom, all the sudden, the waiting was over, and over the subsequent weeks, we kept getting more and more e-mails and postings and it was almost exclusively positive. Naturally, that's what you hope for, but you prepare for the worst, of course. I think for a couple of days, I was waiting for a safe to fall on my head.

The most surprising thing has been gratitude, people thanking us for doing the book. Plus, people expressing the hope that I would write another book in the series. We had one reader complain that an earthquake interrupted his reading. Another reader let her son watch too much TV on a nice sunny day just so she could read. I spent a fair amount of time wondering what it would be like for people when they first sat down to read the book, and it was wonderful how many people wrote in to tell us what their experiences were, things like where they started reading it. That's very cool, and it's something an author rarely gets to hear.

When Powys Media introduced the news of "Resurrection," an interview with Bill by Simon Morris was published. There were some concerns amongst fandom when they saw the question, "You said you're pretty new to Space: 1999. How new is new?" (with the response, "I saw my first episode of the show this year, in 2001.") Which episodes were the most influential in writing this book? How and why?

BL: Certainly, "End of Eternity" of course. But "Black Sun" would be the most important of the dozen episodes I saw. It really showed what was possible with the format and with the characters, and most importantly, it paused in the story to show the human side of what was happening in the episode. I generally try to do that in all of my fiction, but thanks to "Black Sun" I could do it with confidence, because it had precedent in the series. "Dragon's Domain" gave me a good sense of what level of horror or intensity I could get away with in a story. But I guess all twelve are ultimately important, because they established a rhythm for me that I could then carry over into the book. They also represented a particular focus of the show, which I guess you can call Mateo's ultimate act of editorial power. He opened a particular window for me and basically said: Here's the universe you're playing in. Now go play.

When we did the interview, I wanted to be very upfront about the fact that I was not a Space: 1999 fan or certainly an expert by any stretch of the imagination. I thought if anything, I could offer a fresh approach. That's the ultimate message from that interview. I think I was trying to acknowledge to the fans that I knew very well I had a lot to prove. And it's been very gratifying to hear readers tell me that the big gamble worked. If I accidentally lowered expectations, well, so much the better, in hindsight.

Book cover for Space: 1999 - Resurrection from Powys Media.

Book cover for "Resurrection."

The book is a sequel to the Space: 1999 episode, "End of Eternity." Why this particular episode? Were other episodes under consideration?

BL: From my perspective, Balor is kind of a brother to the Frankenstein Monster in "Mary's Monster" which is, what I suppose, got Mateo and I talking about Balor in the first place. Also, Mateo told me that lots of fans had speculated that the episode really left itself open for a sequel, and that's always a good place to start. I also felt comfortable working with a story that was primarily confined to Alpha just because of my learning curve with the series. There are nuances to working with Eagles that I'm just not versed in at this point. I argued that a sequel was a good way to get the book series launched because it could prove to the readers that we could catch the particular magic of the classic show as a precursor to going out into uncharted territory, and "End of Eternity" really fit the bill it lent itself well to a sequel, there was room to grow the characters, and the overall mood of that episode lent itself nicely to the kind of books that I generally write.

During the development process, what ideas were conceived for "Resurrection" which didn't go into the book? Had you considered using another antagonist? Were there different plots or plot threads which weren't included? (Essentially, what was exorcised from the book, what changed -- and how did the book evolve over time?)

BL: Mateo's initial take on a sequel to "End of Eternity" focused on the influence of Balor over the Alphans, but Balor wasn't going to appear. I disagreed with the approach, thinking that you'd end up with a story without a villain, in some sense, with only a general threat facing the Alphans. The biggest thing about "Resurrection" is it's a very organic novel. There were three primary passes at the story. The first pass was a very basic structure of how to get Balor back on the base, how to get him in control, and then how to take control back. That's the basic premise of "End of Eternity" in its way. We spent some time talking about Balor's back-story, and I started imagining a more sympathetic portrayal of him, all based on the door on his asteroid. I argued that any race of beings that would value life enough to banish Balor and not kill him would certainly put some big loud warning on that door, the one that exploded in the episode. That made me wonder who'd set the explosives, thinking that maybe Balor might have done it himself, out of guilt or something. But a sympathetic Balor wasn't horribly interesting. The reason I say the book is organic is that I kind of grew certain plot strands as I was writing it, particularly the lengthy conversations between Balor and Koenig. Mateo initially didn't quite see what I was trying to do with those conversations.

It's all a big red herring in its way. There are some ideas in that conversation that were removed. Balor really focused on how the people on Progron thought life was meaningless, and I edited a lot of that out of the book, and Mateo actually wanted me to put some of it back. There's not a whole lot of stuff on the cutting room floor with this book, though. If anything, just due to its length, it was necessary to add some things just to get it long enough to call it a novel. Just about everything I can think of, with the exception of one kind of jokey line that Koenig says when he's on the surface of the moon, made it into the book. I had a lot of freedom to just take stabs at anything that was interesting, and it all seemed to work. The flashbacks didn't get in the book until the third draft, believe it or not. I saved it until the structure of the book was strong, and then could layer in the kind of deep flavors that those flashbacks hopefully give the reader.

What might surprise readers to know is kind of the collaborative process that went on with this book. Initially, we talked about Balor the character, trying to determine his motivations, trying to get some kind of handle on exactly how his physiology worked. What's good about Mateo as an editor is he'll throw ideas around here and there and it's up to the author on whether or not any of them get used. We discussed the nature of the Mysterious Unknown Force (MUF) both before I wrote the book and after, and we still talk about it sometimes. The one appearance, if you can even call it that, in "Resurrection" was something I just kind of threw in expecting it to get edited out of the book. There's actually a fair amount of stuff in the book like that I just threw it in thinking I didn't have anything to lose.

We did change the ending from the first draft. Originally, Balor ended up alone, near the reactor, and basically takes himself out of the equation, but it lacked the kind of wow factor that you really want in a thriller. "Resurrection" is a very short novel, and the main reason for that is it was really built in a series of layers, but at its heart, I always envisioned it as a thriller. Anything that slowed down the pace of the book as a thriller ultimately was never written. There are lulls in any thriller, and if you do it right, you're weaving in little ideas here and there during the lulls that make the exciting parts more exciting. My primary goal was to have the reader racing toward the end, which ultimately makes you miss things during the first reading, so we've already heard from several readers how the second reading is fun in a different way from the first reading. When I hear stuff like that, I feel I've succeeded in what I was trying to do.

Another thing readers might find interesting is what was missing from the first draft. I didn't know who Jackie Crawford was. I didn't know John and Helena were an item in the second season. Those ideas fell outside of the twelve episodes that I saw. I didn't know who Jean Koenig was. So Mateo basically briefed me on those concepts, and I went back in for the second draft and folded those things into the mix. So I guess my point is the more interesting stuff is what was left out, and then added later, rather than things that were never pursued.

Are there any comments/ideas from Johnny Byrne (writer of the "End of Eternity" episode and the forward for "Resurrection") for the book which you can share?

BL: Johnny's comments on "End of Eternity" were certainly a lot of help to me. Balor's really his baby. Although it seems like you learn a lot about Balor in "Resurrection" I don't know if that's necessarily true. Balor talks a lot, but he says things he wants Koenig to hear, not necessarily the truth. Johnny made Balor very alien. I tried not to humanize him too much, but it's inevitable, I suppose, the moment you start hanging more detail on anything, it becomes more concrete.

Johnny's support for the book series has always been strong, from what Mateo has told me. But in particular, hearing Johnny Byrne say in an e-mail that I'd captured the beat of the series, there's no denying that hearing that was very gratifying. I think Mateo and I were both very conscious of not wanting to let him down.

ML: I'd just like to add that Johnny Byrne's support was crucial in getting this book series off the ground. He and I had a few conversations by phone before the Breakaway Convention (September 1999). We discussed literature and compared Latin American and Irish literary traditions. I told him my take on the idea of a series of novels, and he was very supportive. He went out of his way to contact Carlton on our behalf. His support was matched by efforts by Fanderson on our behalf, as well. Nick Williams and Chris Bentley and others were very supportive and kept the Powys name on the table. Nearly a year later, the combined efforts on both sides of the Atlantic resulted in our license to publish new Space: 1999 novels!

Has Powys Media entertained the thought of a prequel book for Space: 1999? Something which goes into greater depth about the founding of Moonbase Alpha, the characters and their motivations?

ML: We wrote into our contract the possibility of publishing a pre-"Breakaway" novel (or novels). We thought that seeing the lives of the main characters pre-1999 would help us to create living, breathing characters with depth and history. There are two treatments I've been kicking around. We'll have to see what happens.

How is the second Powys Media Space: 1999 book, "The Forsaken" from John Kenneth Muir, coming along?

ML: "The Forsaken" is finished. We are just waiting for approvals. In the meantime, we are formatting the book to get it ready for the printer. [Breaking news: Brian Ball has signed on to write two new Space: 1999 novels for Powys Media. The first of these is entitled "Survival."]

The big question: Is it possible that Bill will write another Space: 1999 book?

BL: I've already committed to what we're currently calling "The Balor Saga" which will be a novella that shows Balor's rise and fall on Progron, then a new novelization of "End of Eternity" that should dovetail nicely with "Resurrection." Mateo and I have also been having some interesting discussions about another project that I won't go into at this point, which is for some time down the road, but if our conversations are any indication, it would be a much bigger story than "Resurrection" was. A lot of this involves me waiting for the Space: 1999 DVD Megaset to come out, so I can finally see all of the other episodes. If I write another one, it's going to be much more action-oriented than "Resurrection" was, hopefully, somewhat epic in scope. There is also a secret Powys project going on that I'm working on behind the scenes that falls outside of Space: 1999. Time will tell on that one, plus I'm writing another novel in-between all these other projects. Will I be back? I wouldn't bet against it.

To obtain "Resurrection" please visit Space1999.org's online store. "Resurrection", "Mary's Monster" and other books by the author can also be obtained from Powys Media's official web site.

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