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Posts Tagged ‘Michael A. Burstein’

I fear my house has become a massive cold spot for bizarre, inexplicable occurrences clearly supernatural in nature.  It began a few days ago in the form of random manifestations in the various bathrooms that, like crop circles, seemed to contain some sort of otherworldly messages in their design.  I provide photo documentation of the initial phenomen –

Note the way the toilet paper tapers, clearly suggestive of intelligent design.

The next incident was even more  of a shock.  I opened up the linen closet to retrieve a bath towel and discovered its once disorganized contents had been transformed into THIS ordered state –

!!!

Equally mystifying developments have followed.  The dishwasher runs without my loading it or turning it on.  The washer and dryer also seem to operate of their own volition.  And my dog Maximus has started answering to Makka-chan.  What the hell is going on?

I’m frightened.

Erring on the side of caution, I hired an exorcist to come in and rid my home of the underwear-folding spirit while Akemi and I headed out to what is purported by many to be one the city’s top dining destination: Lumiere.  The last time I visited was over a year ago, shortly after then-owner Rob Feenie had left/been forced out (?) of his own  kitchen.  On the night I dined there with Bob Picardo, the place was almost empty – but the quality of the dishes was excellent.  We enjoyed a multi-course meal (I believe we were served seven or eight plates) with nary a misstep in the bunch (with the exception of the venison with chocolate sauce).

Well, last night, I was back to a transformed dining room and menu.  Gone were the elaborate multi-course menu’s that offered anywhere from seven to twelve dishes.  We had a choice of a three or five courses.  Despite Akemi’s protests, I decided to go with the latter.  In addition to a couple of glasses of Riesling (Akemi) and a few cocktails (me), we enjoyed a silky sweet and smooth pumpkin soup with parmesan foam as an amuse-bouche and our first course: Beet & Vodka-Cured Hamachi with sturgeon caviar, baby beets, and horseradish cream. Delightfully delicate and delicious. Akemi was very impressed with the quality of the fish.

Akemi was less impressed with the quality of the butter served with dinner, however, a whipped run-of-the-mill Fraser Valley offering that paled in comparison to what we were served at Bishop’s only night’s earlier.  A minor quibble, especially considering I don’t usually partake, but it’s the small things that make a difference – especially when you’re dining at a place with the fine-dining cachet of a Lumiere.  Next up…

Cornemal-Crusted Qualicum Bay Scallops with apple-truffle coleslaw, brisket, parsnip puree, and scallop just. The scallops were divine, marrying nicely with the tender brisket and sweet parsnip puree. The sour green apple crisps topping the scallops were a bizarre little addition that detracted from the whole. The coleslaw was fine.

For an additional charge, we were able to include an extra course - risotto with shaved black truffles. As much as I love the truffle, I found this dish underwhelming.

Slow Baked Arctic Char with Potato Lyonnaise, Leek Royale, and Beurre Rouge. Three for three on the fish and seafood. The char was perfectly prepared, the accompaniments terrific.

Duo of AAA Dry Aged Beef - red wine braised short rib with potato fondant & rosemary soubise, seared rib eye. I preferred the marbling of the short rib but the rib eye was well-seasoned and tasty. Nowhere near in the same league as Japanese beef but fine nevertheless. That rosemary soubise on the other hand was ghastly. Akemi and I both took a bite and set 'em aside. "Mazui!"as the Japanese would say.

To be honest, I was a little disappointed in the menu offerings – and even more disappointed when I witnessed the table beside us being served items that hadn’t been made available to us including a fantastic looking pork duo that I would have much preferred over my beef.  At one point, our neighbors were served foie gras.  “It’s like eating a piece of fat,”sniffed one woman at the table and, with that, all four set their forks aside and waited for their dishes to be cleared.  What a waste.

Chocolate fondant with homemade ice cream. A luxurious duo.

The dessert was followed by a little surprise in the form some lovely warm madeleines and passable petits fours.

Then, THAT dessert was followed by a second little surprise in the form of a 20% service charge added to our bill.  Not a reasonable 10% or even 15%.  20%!  Okay, while I understand that the concept of tipping is foreign to many tourists and that restaurants may feel the need to protect their staff (although of the seven restaurants I’ve taken Akemi to since her arrival, only one – Lumiere – has taken this step), I still bristle at being slammed with a 20% service charge – and this from a guy who tends to tip between 20-25%.  It really left a bad taste in my mouth.  But, in all fairness, it could have been that rosemary soubise.

Well, the Nebula nominations have been announced and some familiar names made the list.  Congratulations go out to blog regular Michael A. Burstein whose “I Remember the Future” (one of several wonderful tales collected in his I Remember the Future anthology, a former Book of the Month Club pick) gets the nod in the Short Story category.  Well done, Michael!  Congrats also go out to the immensely talented, always entertaining – and, oh by the way, SGU Creative Consultant – John Scalzi whose The God Engines received a nomination in the Novella category.  John has also been nominated for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy  for Zoe’s Tale, alongside two other Book of the Month Club guest authors: the late great Kage Baker for Hotel Under the Sun, and Catherynne M. Valente for The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (which you can check out here: http://www.catherynnemvalente.com/fairyland/).  Kage Baker’s The Women of Nell Gwynne’s is also in the running for Best Novella as is “Act One” by SF veteran – and yet another Book of the Month Club guest author – Nancy Kress.  Another past guest author, the weird and wonderful Jeff Vandermeer, gets the nod in the Best Novel category for Finch, while a future guest author – Cherie Priest – receives the nod in the same category for Boneshaker, March’s Book of the Month Club pick.  Hope you’re all making your way through your copies and will be ready for the upcoming discussion!

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Nomi and Michael A. Burstein (photo by Ari Baronofsky)

Nomi and Michael A. Burstein (photo by Ari Baronofsky)

 
When it comes to making a selection for our Book of the Month Club discussions, I like to take several things into consideration: recommendations, reviews, an intriguing premise, and, of course, whether or not the author is a Stargate fan. Well, when I learned that author Michael A. Burstein was an avid follower of the Stargate franchise, I was delighted to pick his book, I Remember the Future, for a May discussion. Michael is not only an established SF writer and fan of the show, but a blog regular as well and so it gives me great pleasure to turn today’s entry over to him.
 
 Before I get into the questions, I just want to thank Joseph Mallozzi for inviting me to participate in the book club, and thank everyone who took the time to read the book and comment on it.  If you’re interested in learning more about me and my work, I maintain a website at http://www.mabfan.com and a blog at http://mabfan.livejournal.com.  (I also have a website devoted to the book I Remember the Future at http://www.bursteinbooks.com.)

I do plan on sticking around here as well, at least until the new season of television starts, when I’ll be too busy watching Stargate Universe. 🙂

Finally, I know a lot of you had fascinating comments to make that I would love to respond to, if I had the time.  But then I’d never get around to writing something new.  So I’ll just stick with the direct questions that our host has sent my way.

Your questions, my answers:

Sylvia writes: “I don’t have a question but wondering if you would be able to share more thoughts on the story, I remember the future. The statement, “I remember the future and the future remembered me” resonated with me – and I am not able to really describe why I found that statement moving.

Thank you Mr. Burstein for a great read and joining Mr. M’s blog. It is delightful to see you posting from time to time.”

Michael: “I Remember the Future” was one of those stories that took me a long time to figure out, but once I had an idea of what the story had to be about, I knew exactly where to go with it.  There isn’t much more I can say about it that I didn’t already cover in the afterword. I am glad that the final statement resonated with you.  And I could hazard a guess as to why you found it moving.  I think it’s because it reminds us that we have roots not just in the past but in the future as well, a concept I first learned from the books of Spider Robinson.

As for my posting in Joseph Mallozzi’s blog, I actually browsed this blog before, but tended mostly to lurk.  But as I noted above, I plan to stick around for a while. I came for the Stargate, but I’m staying for the snark.

StellarGate writes: “Thanks for a great recommendation. I have some questions for the author –

1. You’ve been compared to some might celebrated scifi authors. Which of these authors influenced you as a writer? Judging from the afterword to Cosmic Corkscrew, I’m guessing Asimov was one?

2. What made you decide to pursue writing? How long did it take you to make your first sale and was there any point a which you thought of giving up or were you determined to make that sale?

3. So far, you have a good amount of short stories under your belt. Have you given any thought to maybe some day writing a novel.

4. Finally, what part does your wife play in the writing process? Throughout the book, you mention the fact that your wife reads your stuff and offers her opinions. Does she function as your editor or is she more an unbiased sounding board more representative of the general reading public?

Thanks for taking my questions.

Michael: 1. Isaac Asimov was beyond a doubt the writer who influenced me the most.  I actually was lucky enough to meet him a few times and to have something of a personal relationship with him; if you want more details, you can read the article I wrote published by the fanzine Mimosa called “Asimov and Me” (http://www.jophan.org/mimosa/m21/burstein.htm).

Oddly enough, I’ve never been as into the writing of Arthur C. Clarke as I was into the writing of Isaac Asimov.  Asimov himself used to say that people who liked his writing tended to like Clarke’s and vice-versa.  In my case, though, while I found some of Clarke’s stories to be quite powerful (such as “The Star”), I never collected his books the way I did Asimov’s.

Robert A. Heinlein was also a major influence, though I came to his work later than many.  And Spider Robinson’s books, especially the ones about Callahan’s saloon, made a deep impression on me.

But you know what else influenced me?  Star Trek. Star Wars. Superman.  I grew up watching Star Trek in reruns, and Star Wars came out when I was a kid.  Furthermore, as far back as I can remember, I read the DC Comics superhero stories; in fact, I still have my childhood comic book collection in storage, because I have a very understanding wife.

2. I’m not quite sure what made me choose to pursue writing, but I know I was interested in writing from a very young age.  I remember creating my own scroll of mythological stories at the age of five or six, so obviously I enjoyed writing even then.  (Or maybe I just enjoyed taping pieces of paper together to make scrolls.)

As for the rest of the question; see my response below to SciFi Reader, who asked a similar question.

3. In truth, I’ve written two science fiction novels that have made the rounds of the publishers, but no editor has yet chosen to buy them.  Perhaps I still need to improve my novel writing skills, as I’ve always naturally been drawn to the short form.

4. With rare exceptions, every piece of my writing that goes out the door is reviewed by Nomi first.  I’m very fortunate to be married to a fellow writer and editor, and as an editor myself I know that it is difficult to be a good judge of one’s own work.

In the beginning, Nomi did look at my stories but I didn’t always listen to her advice.  Then, as I relate in the afterword to “Broken Symmetry,” Stanley Schmidt, the editor of Analog, advised me to listen to Nomi after he found out from us that her suggestions had vastly improved the original draft of the story.  So Nomi now cheerfully (well, most of the time) serves as a sounding board and as a first editor for all my fiction and much of my non-fiction.  In fact, I ran this blog post past her before sending it to Joseph Mallozzi for posting.

Thornyrose writes: “With Spaceships, we’re given a slightly melencholy view of immortality. ( Can one say Ascension?). It seems even in the far future, eccentricity is frowned upon, and Kel is victimized by those who are not actually harmed by his peculiar obsession. I did have a minor quibble here; how did Kel get possession of the actual originals? Surely most had long since been destroyed before he reached his near-omnipotent level of development.”

Michael: “Ascension, eh?  I think the theme of human beings transcending themselves has been around in SF a while before Stargate used that term; in fact, didn’t Star Trek do it first?  (That’s for Joe; I’m sure he appreciates hearing it.)  The main reason eccentricity is frowned upon in the future of “Spaceships” is because in a way, humanity has become one overall hive mind.  Anyone who doesn’t want to be a part of that would seem odd to the mainstream.

As to how Kel got possession of the original spaceships, the way I see it, many spaceships had been destroyed over the millennia, but many others had been left behind.  Humanity didn’t have a need to destroy them at first; it’s only much later on, closer to the time of the story, that humanity became actively interested in removing these last vestiges of their mortality.

Think of it this way. The first ascended beings had other concerns than destroying the spaceships.  They were simply irrelevant, like the shed skin left behind by a snake.  So there was no compelling reason to destroy them, until they discovered Kel’s eccentricity.

Lt. Dominick writes: “Another reason to draw comparisons between this book and the novels of greats like Clarke and Asimov is the thought-provoking nature of all these works. A lot of contemporary science fiction shows off intellect but lacks heart, and I think that’s what Burstein has in spades. His stories challenge the reader on a moral AND intellectual level, something many modern science fiction readers fail to do, but which authors like Clarke and Asimov did on a regular basis. Which brings me to my questions for Mr. Burstein: You obviously have great admiration for classic science fiction, but which contemporary genre writers do you enjoy reading?”

Michael: I’m always wary of making a list like this, because I know I’ll forget someone, but…

Contemporary science-fiction writers I enjoy reading today include Robert J. Sawyer, Paul Levinson, Jack McDevitt, Catherine Asaro, and Jennifer Pelland.

I try not to miss the newer writers as well, so I subscribe to the big three magazines (Analog, Asimov’s, F&SF) and try to keep up with the other short fiction being published.

I’m also interested in other types of fiction; I’m a fan of the mystery novels of Lawrence Block and William G. Tapply, to name two.

And I would be remiss if I failed to mention Robert Masello, an underrated writer who has worked in magazines, television, and prose.  He just had a new novel come out, Blood and Ice, that I highly recommend if you like thrillers.

Sparrow_hawk writes: “My one question for Michael Burstein is from Spaceships: Was Ria named for your favorite classic sci-fi authors: (R)obert Heinlein, (I)saac Asimov and (A)rthur Clarke? If so, who is Kel named for?”

Michael: Wow!  That’s not something I did deliberately. If I recall correctly, Ria came from wanting to use the name Rita.  As for Kel, I know I wanted the name, but for the life of me I can’t recall where it came from.  I think there was something in the phrase “Kel-Ria” that resonated for me.  Anyone reading this have any clue?  Let me know.

Thornyrose writes: “A couple of questions to Mr. Burnstein, if it’s not too late. First, have you considered doing a sequel to Empty Spaces? I’d love to see the long term consequences to the “solution” used to stabalize the gate. What do you find most challenging, and/or most enjoyable to write? Short story, novella, novels? And have you considered stepping out of the sci fi genre to write? I recall Isaac Asimov was a member of the Baker Street Irregulars. Have you followed in his footsteps there? And I’d like to thank you for participating in Mr. M’s blog, as well as having the outstanding taste of being an Asimov fan.”

Michael: My files actually include notes on how I would continue the “Broken Symmetry” sequence beyond “Empty Spaces.”  Years ago, I attempted to turn “Broken Symmetry” into a novel, and so I took the three stories that I had written, outlined the rest of the book, and tried to sell the novel.  Eventually, I retired it, but when it came time to publish the book “I Remember the Future” I decided to turn part four of the novel into “Empty Spaces.”  At this stage in my life, I’d probably only actually write the fifth story if I knew in advance that some market would pay for it.

That may sound sad, or overly mercenary, but the fact is that any writer’s time is limited, and all writers have to prioritize their projects.  I remember reading in Piers Anthony’s autobiography his claim that some of his best novels had never been written.  You see, once a writer gets to be an established novelist, he or she can sell a book to a publisher based solely on a proposal or outline for a novel.  After Anthony became a bestselling novelist, that’s how he would work.  So he would send his publisher outlines for three or four possible novels, and the publisher would send him a contract for the one that sounded best to them.  Consequently, Anthony has some outlines for novels that he’s never written.

I think all writers have files of ideas we’ve never turned into final stories.  In my own case, as much as I still love the “Broken Symmetry” stories, I’ve moved onto other challenges.  So I doubt a sequel to “Empty Spaces” will ever be published at this point.  Sorry about that.

I find novels the most challenging to write, but this is not to say that short stories are easy.  I think all writing, good writing, takes a lot of effort on the part of the writer.  At the moment, the length I think I’m enjoying most are the novelette and novella.  They give you more room to develop your world than a short story, but they’re not as daunting as a novel.

I’m considering writing some straight mysteries; in fact, I just made a point of joining MWA so I could have more contact with established mystery writers.  I have not joined the Baker Street Irregulars, but not for lack of interest; I’ve just never gotten around to it.  I’ve re-read the Sherlock Holmes stories dozens of times.

And you’re welcome for my participation in Joe’s blog; here, I’m just a fan like the rest of us.  (And may I complement you on being an Asimov fan as well.)

SciFiReader writes: “Hello to Michael A. Burstein. I really enjoyed I Remember the Future for what has already been discussed, the intelligent and thought-provoking ideas and the class science fiction concepts that you have placed in a theoretical “science fact” frame. Congratulations on all of the nominations and like Joe says I am sure it is only a matter of time before you win the big awards.

Now some questions if I may. I would like to know about how yout got started. What made you decide to take up writing. How did you go about trying to get published? How many rejections did you get and why did you keep on going despite them?”

Michael: How I got started… I’m going to paraphrase from an interview I gave a few years ago to the Reflection’s Edge webzine.

When I was a kid, I was interested in writing, but I was also interested in science.  And beginning around the age of nine, I made science my focus.

Which is not to say that I didn’t try writing.  At the age of twelve, I wrote a bunch of stories and submitted them to the science fiction magazines.  The stories, unfortunately, were rather bad.  As I noted before, I was more comfortable writing in the short form, and so I tended to come up with a clever idea but have no idea how to develop it.  So my stories were mostly short-shorts with surprise endings, kind of like the Probability Zero stories that Analog publishes.

I did try writing longer works; in ninth grade I formed a school club called Bookwriters. Our goal was to work together as a group to write a novel by the end of the school year. We never managed it, but we did learn a bit about writing.  (One of the other members of that group was Charles Ardai, my best friend in high school and now the publisher of Hard Case Crime.)

In college, I was too busy to pursue writing, as I was earning a degree in Physics and hoping to become a working scientist. I did submit a crime story to both Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, but neither magazine took it.  Anyway, once I graduated college I figured that I would focus on science and forget about writing.

But in graduate school, I discovered that that day-to-day life of a scientist wasn’t really for me. So I rediscovered a love of writing, and of science fiction. Nomi, who was my girlfriend at the time and is now my wife, brought me to my first science fiction convention, Arisia ’92.  As I sat in on panels, where people discussed topics from the science of time travel to preparing yourself for a career in space, I decided that I wanted to become a part of it as a writer of science fiction.

So at the same time as I was working on my Master’s in Physics and becoming a teacher, I also studied the craft of fiction. I bought every book on fiction writing that seemed remotely useful; all of them still sit on a bookcase in my office, for quick reference. I wrote story after story after story, and sent them off to all the major markets, earning a whole stack of form rejection letters.

And then finally, Stanley Schmidt, the editor of Analog, sent me a personal rejection note. I knew that if an editor showed any interest at all in your work, you should try that editor again, so Analog became my primary market. One day Stan sent a note about my story “TeleAbsence,” which implied that he’d like to see it again if I rewrote it.  I rewrote, but it still wasn’t at a point where Stan felt it was publishable.  However, by then I had been accepted to the 1994 Clarion Workshop. I brought the story with me and got feedback from my teachers and fellow students. Based on that feedback, I rewrote the story again, and it was this third version that appeared in the July 1995 Analog as my first published fiction.

What kept me going through all those rejections was a fierce, intense desire to tell the stories that I wanted to tell.  And I’m very glad I persevered.

Alan5 writes: “Hi, I hope I”m not to late for questions for Michael Burstein.

1. Please tell us about your writing process. Do you come up with an idea and plan it out in detail or do you just start writing and see where it takes you?

2. Do you have any writing secrets? For instance, Stephen King says he likes to listen to rock music when he writes. Other writes like to work in the morning. Others like to work late at night. Do you have a routine or is it just when the inspiration hits you?

3. Do you have any advice for writers just starting out?”

Michael: 1. Usually, I come up with some idea that obsesses me, and that leads me to write the story.  Or I steal someone else’s obsession; for example, “Time Ablaze” came about because of my wife’s interest in the General Slocum disaster, which soon became my own.

When I first started out as a teenager, I tended to go directly to my electric typewriter, write the story once, and decide that was it.  Today, I tend to outline every story I write, even the very short ones.  So the answer to your question is that I plan every story out in meticulous detail, and sometimes that planning includes writing dialogue or description that find their way verbatim into the stories.

2. In my ideal world, I’d sleep in the morning until I naturally woke up, then write in the morning, and leave my afternoon open for other tasks.   In fact, due to the generosity of my wife, I actually spent a year like that.  In reality, since I have a day job, I write as I can.  I try to write during my lunch break and in the evenings.  As for music, I can’t write well if I’m listening to music accompanied by lyrics, so rock music, as much as I enjoy it, would be right out.  (As would Gilbert & Sullivan, although I love their work too.)  The music that helps me most is Mozart.

3. Most of the advice I’d offer is rather prosaic; how many times have aspiring writers been told to read and write as much as they can?  On a meta level, I’d say to seek out all the writing resources you possibly can.  Two I think are useful are the writing resources at SFWA website (http://www.sfwa.org/writing) and the Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy online course created by writer Jeffrey Carver and available for free at http://www.writesf.com. Jeff also has a nice page of writing advice at http://www.starrigger.net/advice.htm.  Truly, any advice I’d give you can be found there.

And come to think of it, if you’re involved with a workshop, I’d highly recommend using the Turkey City Lexicon primer as a starting point; it’s filled with many of the classic errors found in beginners’ stories.  A copy of the lexicon can be found at http://www.sfwa.org/writing/turkeycity.html.

Iamza writes: “Question for Mr Burstein (am I too late? He’s a reader of the blog, right?): When is the novel coming out?”

Michael: See above; I’m not the only one who gets to decide when the novel comes out, alas.

I’ll end this with a piece of trivia for my Canadian readers: the protagonist of the first novel I wrote was named Robert Bondar Garneau.  If you’re Canadian, you’ll understand.

That seems to be it. Thanks to everyone for reading the book, and for your questions, and I’ll continue to see you around Joe’s blog.

Today’s mailbag:
DasNdanger writes: “Anyhoo…thanks much for the Wraithy answer. So…if these masked soldiers aren’t the brightest chevrons on the stargate, could they be an acceptable alternative food source, since Wraith have been known to feed on their own kind anyway??”
Answer: A fellow wraith would certainly do in a pinch (see The Defiant One) but humans are much easier to harvest and, frankly, much tastier.
Dovil writes: “If the movie doesn’t end up them all getting married (don’t forget Ronon/Amelia, John/Sockpuppet on Right Hand), while Hive ships blow up in the distance showering them with fireworks, I’ll be bitterly disappointed. Caldwell can preceed over the ceremony, Radek can be the caterer, and Lorne can trundle up the aisle bearing the rings. Then the Replicators can beam down and lead the drunken robot dancing at the reception.”

Answer: Great! You will, of course, receive ¼ the story fee in addition to fully half the blame if 100% of the audience doesn’t love it (which, quite frankly, rarely every happens so no need to worry).

Luis writes: “Mr. M I see you are still baby sitting Brie…does he harrass the other dogs???”
Answer: Brie is a she. And she only harasses Lulu – who harrasses her back.

Cat4444 writes: “Also, can we expect more spoilers from the pups on the SGA movie?”

Answer: Probably.

Nadine writes: “Not sure if I missed it, but have you seen Star Trek yet? If so, did you like it? If not, any plans to see it?”

Answer: I don’t go to see movies anymore. I’ll probably pick up the dvd.

SebiMeyer writes: “Will the SGA and SG1 movie look like the SG we know, or more like the SGU we will come to love?”

Answer: The SGA movie will remain visually and narratively true to the series.

SebiMeyer writes: “How is the writing staff liking the more character based approach? Personally I’d venture the guess that it is “easier” to have stories inspire other stories based on character developments rather than having to come up with a “alien X is totally going to kick our ass untill we turn it around last minute” stories of the week. Am I right in assuming that this kind of fatigue was reason why the writers (yourself included) wanted to shake it up up a bit?”

Answer: I don’t think there was any fatigue involved. After all, Brad and Robert stepped away from the day-to-day production of Atlantis. They were well-rested, creatively buzzing, and eager to spin the franchise off in a new direction. As for the more character-based approach – love it.

Miz writes: “ Why does there need to be romance in the SGA movie at all? Isn’t this a sci-fi adventure series? You know, action, drama, tension, hijinks, all awesome – but kissing and cooing?”

Answer: Who said anything about kissing and cooing? The movie will be action-driven.

Shannon writes: “The previous question about Weir left me wondering – do you think the robot Weir is awake while floating through space or did she shut down?”

Answer: Her system – and the systems of her fellow replictors – have shut down. However, if anyone is foolish enough to mount a recovery and then attempt to awake them, they’d be asking for trouble.

Venya writes: “Does Sheppard’s infatuation with Teyla have anything to do with his ex-wife?”

Answer: Sheppard is infatuated with Teyla?

Nadine writes: “Did you check out any of the other pics?”

Answer: Adorable. If we lived on a farm, we’d not doubt have an English bulldog as well.

 

Quade1 writes: “Joe you always talk about how great the actors/crew are to work with. Would you say working on the show made the people so great, or that the people working on the show made it great?”

Answer: The people were great to begin with and that made working with them something to look forward to. Trust me, there’s no worse feeling than waking up in the morning knowing you’ll be putting up with some jerk blowhard for the greater part of the day.

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Well, we were all back at work today following the Victoria Day long weekend – Victoria Day, of course, being a recently adopted Canadian holiday commemorating one of history’s most remarkable pioneering female Brits. Yes, I refer to none other than Ms. Victoria Beckham. Looking back, I suspect the vote to bestow the honor on the former Posh Spice may have had more to do with a desire to have an extra holiday in May than anything else. All the same, this is the third year the country has marked the occasion with songs, dance, and goat kebobs in a vast nation-wide celebration that brings together peoples of all races and religions. Except, of course, for the Irish who are prohibited from participating and have to go to work instead. It was a great three-day break and now, Canadians have to wait a whole month for their next big holiday when the Emeril Legasse Day long weekend rolls around in late June.

Today, the SGA movie script, Stargate: Extinction, went out to the writing department. No one has gotten around to reading it yet but I imagine it’s just a matter of time before the accolades start rolling in. Carl, however, did read my short story over the weekend and, to my delight, enjoyed it. So 3 down and 2 356 689 to go!

Before lunch, Carl, Paul, and I headed down to Stage 1 where work is ongoing on the jungle set for Time. It’s looking mighty damn impressive. I took plenty of snaps, including a couple of shots of Carl posing beside a giant alien fern. From there, we headed over to the Destiny set where Peter DeLuise was directing Bobby, Louis, and David in scenes for Darkness and Light.

After lunch, we sat down to watch the director’s cut of Life. I can’t say enough good things about this episode, from Carl Binder’s script to the individual performances to Alex Chapple’s direction. Some incredibly poignant moments delivered by Brian J. Smith, Ming Na, and a couple of wonderful guest stars. I LOVED this episode.

Later, I was sitting in my office when I heard a familiar voice ask: “Is Mallozzi here?” I glanced up and, sure enough, it was Michael Shanks – with his lovely wife Lexa. I was mortified. Had I known he’d be bringing her by, I’d have cleaned the place up. My desk is a drop-zone. They stopped in and we spent a good half hour talking about exorcists, chiropractors, and exorcist-chiropractors. On their own, they’re very funny people but together, these two are absolutely hilarious. A terrific couple – who, conveniently enough, had to rush off to buy some roast chicken after I suggested my office would be clean in no time if we all pitched in.

I Remember the Future discussion:

Michael A. Burstein writes: ““Like “I Remember the Future”, this one resonated with me on a personal level, reminding me of the day I came across the webpage of Thomas M. Disch only days after his passing.”

Wow. You probably had the same thoughts I had when I came across Charles Sheffield’s webpage after he died (which, as I noted in the afterword, was the genesis of the story).”

Answer: Camp Concentration is one of my favorite SF novels. In fact, just the other day Paul returned a whack of books I’d lent him over the past year and he singled CC out (alongside Frederik Pohl’s Gateway) as his favorites. I considered making the book a Book of the Month Club selection and inviting Disch to take part in a Q&A but, sadly, never got the chance. While surfing for news about his sudden passing, I came across his website and was surprised to see that he kept a fairly active online presence. Sadder still to learn that, late in life, he suffered depression for his failure to gain recognition for his work. Too late to post a comment and let him know his work was appreciated by this reader at least.

Sylvia writes: “Re the old ending and the new ending. I loved the new ending as it gave Sarah the choice and the rite of decision – to take action – to get the tattoo. She did not have to prove her love and devotion. She chose to take a stand to make progress in the struggle that we learn from the lessons of the past. I rather liked that posture of doing the right thing and because one wanted to do the right thing.”

Answer: Yes, it’s a tough call because both endings offer up two very different but very positive elements. In the end, I think Michael’s editor (and his wife) echoed your sentiments – which is why he decided to go with that particular ending.

Sylvia also writes: “Was a bit surprised but gladdened to discover that Miss Ellis also resorted to changing appearance.”

Answer: I kind of suspected the surprise but loved it nevertheless. It cemented her relationship with Tony and offered up the most touching beat in the ensuing story, TelePresence, in which we learn of her dedication and eventual passing.

Thornyrose writes: “TeleAbsence was the best of the stories in combining emotion and sci fi elements. “

Answer: I would agree. All of these elements were nicely balanced and despite the future setting, the depth of the characters grounded the story in the here and now.

Thornyrose also writes: “It’s all too easy to look at technology as the solution to all social ills, but Mr. Burnstein rightly points out that economics and human nature will prevent an even distribution of such technologies.”

Answer: Which is something the author goes on to discuss in the afterword, making reference to someone who predicted that everyone would have a computer by the years 2001 (I believe it was). Well, not quite. While the technology is there, the means to acquire said technology remains problematic for many.

Thornyrose also writes: “With Spaceships, we’re given a slightly melencholy view of immortality. ( Can one say Ascension?). It seems even in the far future, eccentricity is frowned upon, and Kel is victimized by those who are not actually harmed by his peculiar obsession. I did have a minor quibble here; how did Kel get possession of the actual originals?”

Answer: I assumed that, in time, as humanity shed their corporeal forms, they gave up on what they considered physical affectations – like spaceships. Kel collected the abandoned ships, amassing them into a personal collection.

Thornyrose also writes: “While I found it a bit suprising that the Church would rule aliens as soulless, and thus ineligable to become members, the device works well enough here.”

Answer: That was curious – but not altogether surprising. By the way, if you’re looking for a terrific novel that explores the issues of faith and alien visitation, I strongly urge you to pick up Michael Flynn’s Eifelheim. From Booklist: “In the fourteenth century, the Black Death ravaged Europe. Most towns decimated by it were eventually resettled, except for Eifelheim, despite its ideal location. Mathematical historian Tom discovers this anomaly and an unexpected connection to his domestic partner Sharon’s research in theoretical physics, which seems to be leading to a method of interdimensional travel. In fact, as Eifelheim’s priest back then, Father Dietrich, relates, before the plague’s arrival, an interstellar ship crashed nearby. The encounters between its passengers and the people of Oberhochwald, as Eifelheim was first called, reflect the panoply of attitudes of the time, from fear of the foreign to love and charity for one’s neighbors to the ideas of nascent natural philosophy (science), and the aliens’ reactions are equally fascinating.”

Thornyrose also writes: “ Decisions was a story that had me waiting for Rod Serling’s voice to speak out of the ether.”

Answer: It had a definite The Outer Limits feel for me.

Thornyrose also writes: “As soon as Reverend Haas mentioned a steamboat excursion, I recognised that the tale was centered on the tragedy of the General Slocum. […]. But the “instant romance” of Schmidt and Adele just didn’t ring true.”

Answer: Agreed. This was the one element in the story that felt awkward and forced. I could see Adele being smitten with Schmidt, but to have the two of them suddenly profess their love for one another, in spite of the circumstances, seemed all to quick.

Thornyrose also writes: “Of all the stories, Absent Friends is definitely my least least favorite. Levinson’s obsession over his dead friend goes beyond any sane level of grief. There is something more than a little creepy about his insistance at seeking out his friend’s alternate self.”

Answer: This is something I agree with as well. It seemed a single-minded obsession one would reserve for the love of one’s life rather than a friend, no matter how close.

Sparrow_hawk writes: “ Many of the stories just felt flat to me. When I tried to analyze what was missing (for me) in the stories I realized that although the premises of many of the stories were interesting, the settings were weak or non-existent. I’m a very visual person, and just couldn’t “see” where the story was taking place.”

Answer: Are you saying that you would have benefited from a more descriptive narrative?

Mailbag:

Morticae writes: “You know, there was an episode of SG-1 with a guy that used toothpicks and whatnot to booby trap his doors. Something like that!”

Answer: I know. Paul and I wrote it. Point of No Return.

DasNdanger writes: “1. We know that the Iratus bug that attacked Sheppard was in a sort of web, and in The Defiant One the Wraith webbed up his victim, suggesting that – perhaps – he produced the web/silk from his own body. So, in your mind (or had it ever been discussed), do Wraith have the ability to produce ’silk’ from their bodies, and if so…from where?

2. Since a Wraith – by definition – is a doppelganger, has this ever been taken into consideration in how Sheppard and Todd deal with each other? Todd, the ‘harbinger of bad luck’, ‘haunting’ his double – Sheppard – always present, reminding John of his darker side? Or am I just thinking too hard about this…lol.”

Answers: 1. In my mind, the webbing/cocoon is a byproduct of the ship, itself an organic construct.

2. While the wraith warrior class are clones, queens and the other males are not. They are unique.

O6untouchable writes: “1. In “Misbegotten”, Weir and Woolsey travelled to Atlantis on an Asgard ship, and got there nearly two weeks faster. That’s in roughly the same ballpark as the Daedalus’ 4-day trip from “The Siege”. Since the Asgard designed the Daedalus’ hyperdrive anyway, are their ships faster only because they’ve got a better power source?

2. If it is an issue of the power source, do the Daedalus, Apollo, et al now have better generators (to power the Asgard beam weapons and what-not)? Are they capable of making the trip to Atlantis faster?

3. After “The Return”, the ZPMs that the Asurans put in Atlantis were split up; one of them went to the Drone Chair. When the chair was moved to Area 51, was it still powered by that ZPM, or by some Asgard Core-inspired alternative? If the former, what happened to that ZPM?

4. The other ZPM from “The Return” went to the Odyssey. Between the Asgard Core and the fact that the Ori aren’t a threat anymore, did the ZPM get removed at some point? Was it depleted during “The Ark of Truth”, or is it still alive and kicking somewhere?”

Answers: 1. That’s a safe assumption to make.

2. No. Again, it comes down to the power source not the engine design.

3. Yes, the ZPM went with the chair.

4. More on exactly what is up with the Odyssey upcoming.

Scifan writes: “When it comes to guest actors, do you know who you want for the roles while your doing the script or do they have to ask? I remember someone told me that Goran Visnjic aka Dr. Luca Kovac from E.R. is a big fan of SGA. Do you look for those types of actors?”

Answer: We generally write the script and then look to cast. There have been occasions when we have sought out actors who have turned out to be fans of the show – Isaac Hayes for one, Wayne Brady for another. Goran Visnjic was a big fan of SG-1 and actually visited the set while in town working on Elektra. He and the cast really hit it off. We even offered him a guest spot but, unfortunately, he was unable to make it work schedule-wise.

Jim from WVa writes: “Will Stargate Universe employ shaky camera techniques like the movie Cloverfield?”

Answer: The camera work will certainly be more dynamic, but not to a jumpy, nausea-inducing extent.

T’loc writes: “I have a question, I am watching the Shrine from this past season, what would happen if the team had flown to that planet instead of walking could they have dialed a space-gate to escape? Would the water flown out into space? Would love to know the answer.”

Answer: The planet was only accessible via the planet gate. However, had they traveled their through a space gate, then escape would have been much easier – yes, them along with an enormous amount of water.

SebiMeyer writes: “what software is this? I either use Final Draft or Celtx for scripts, but this is new to me.”

Answer: Movie Magic Screenwriter.

O6untouchable also writes: “On a Movie-related note… you’ve already hinted that an Earth Battlecruiser might crop up in Universe somewhere, but what about the Atlantis and SG-1 movies? Are we going to find out what happened to the Sun Tzu, or see the Apollo and/or Daedalus again? (My girlfriend is particularly eager for more Caldwell!) And what about the Odyssey – will we ever find out what that secret mission was, or was that just an excuse to write her out so that she didn’t kick Hive Ship ass before Atlantis got there?”

Answer: Several of these ships will be making future appearances in the, uh, Stargate franchise.

Major D. Davis writes: “1. Would you like to edit my 5 page script (a script for the FBI files part 2?

2. Can I please send you a link to my best video I made(the script I was telling you about is part two of the FBI files. The link I want to send you is part for part 1)?

3. So there are a few stargate suprises for MGM’s 85th b-day. So what day is MGM’s 85th?

4. How is time going? Almost done?

5. Do you guys have a email address I can email(Instead of physically mailing something)?

6. How is the music and visual effects coming for Air?”

Answers: 1. Thanks but no.

2. Sure.

3. Not sure. Carl knows as he’s ordered the cake.

4. Stage 1 is looking awesome ahead of production. The episode is still in prep.

5. Trust me, you’re better off posting a comment here.

6. Great. Brad and Rob had a spotting session with Joel late last week.

Dovil writes: “I’m bitterly disappointed that Stargate Altantis: Glitter Ponies of Hope didn’t jump the last hurdle to be selected, though a two hour movie on SGA-1’s attempts to save the Spotted Owl from the brink of extinction does somewhat make up for it.”

Answer: Glitter Ponies of Hope was our first choice, but it was already taken for the SG-1 movie.

Georgia writes: “I came across ostrich eggs ($29.99 ea) and Vosges bacon chocolate. Ever try either?”

Answer: Haven’t tried ostrich eggs but have tried the Vosges applewood smoked bacon truffles (which, in my opinion, are better than the bars).

Chevron7 writes: “Joe, can you please give us a hint whether you’ve finished judging the Fans Choice bluray DVD cover contest?”

Answer: Sorry, I don’t even know what that is.

Davidd writes: “So, now that you have joined the Twitter masses, do you think you will ever get a Facebook account again?”

Answer: Correction. My dogs joined the twitter masses. They have no plans to get on Facebook however.

David Blue writes: “You know, in my defense:

I ran into Rob at work and told him about the party. He said he couldn’t go because he was having you over for dinner. So I decided not to tempt you to stand him up because you were so interested in coming to my tiny, small apartment instead.”

Answer: Well I feel doubly bad because I returned your apartment-warming gift on Sunday = a home theater system complete with reclining chairs and big screen. And before you complain that it wouldn’t have fit in your small apartment, you should know that it was the second part of your gift. The first part was an all-expenses paid rental of a mansion in Shaugnessy for the show’s entire run. Oh well.

Ytimyona writes: “Wow, Rob Cooper is truly a man of many talents… writer, director, cook! Is there anything RC can’t do?”

Answer: Brain surgery. At least not yet. We’ll find out for sure tomorrow when he removes Lawren’s basal ganglia.

Quade1 writes: “I heard that SGU Pilot was to air during summer followed by the rest of the season in the fall. Is this still the plan?”

Answer: Sorry, no. That was never the plan.

 

Recycled Funk writes: “I found this very enlightening blog post by Neil Gaiman, writer of the brilliant Sandman comics, where he discusses the relationship of blogging writers and their fans and the entitlement issues that sometimes develop (http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2009/05/entitlement-issues.html). I’m not sure if you had come across it as well but I was wondering what your thoughts were on the subject. Since you are so visible on the web, do you think that sometimes fans can feel a little too entitled to your time and the next project, especially when it’s Stargate related?”Answer: I don’t think any fan is going to be pestering me for a release date on that short story – or any non Stargate-related project – anytime soon. Realistically, most of my blog regulars come for the Stargate, but stay for the snark, dog pics, and videos of me sampling strange food products. That said, I certainly do notice a sense of entitlement from certain fans who feel that online interaction should translate into some sort of working relationship. They bitterly complain when their hopes or desires regarding character or story aren’t realized, or adopt the attitude of a petulant child (Hello, Gate world’s Falcon Horus and G.O.D.) sulkily hating on anything and everything because they feel they’ve been personally sleighted by some creative decision made. Maintaining an internet presence has its rewards (as evidenced by the many, many wonderful people who frequent this blog) but it also makes you a convenient target for those terminal grumps seeking an outlet for their pent up aggression. And what better place than the arena of anonymity offered by the worldwide web.

 

Rachael writes: “ With the changes in the writer’s room in the past few months, I was wondering a) which writers were in the room for spinning the story for the movie, and b) if there were writers there at the time who are no longer on the SG writing team, would their departure affect the storyline at all (eg can’t use their ideas any more)?”

Answer: Back in November, Paul and I spun a general idea of what we wanted the SGA movie to be with Brad and Robert. Then, Paul and I went off and worked on the outline, pitching it back and forth between us until we had a pretty solid template. Paul wrote the first sixty pages and I wrote the last forty, although we did tweak one another’s passes.

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I Remember the Future

Since winning the John W. Campbell for Best New Writer in 1997, Michael A. Burstein has received multiple nominations for some of SF’s most prestigious awards, but has yet to take home either a Hugo or Nebula. Sure, on the surface this may seem like an “always the bridesmaid never the bride” situation but, truth be told, the fact that he has amassed so many nominations is an achievement in itself. And, while it’s unlikely that bridesmaid will show up at her friend’s wedding and end up getting married herself, it’s more than likely that, given Michael’s track record, he will, in time, score those elusive Hugos and Nebulas. He’s a “big idea” guy with a solid Physics background to draw from and a writing style reminiscent of SF’s Golden Age (specifically, Asimov comes to mind). I Remember the Future collects his award-nominated stories in one handy volume.

When it comes to anthologies, you always want to start strong, and we do just that with “Kaddish for the Last Survivor”. As the last Holocaust survivor faces his final hours, media outlets and Holocaust deniers descend on his home to mark the event. The dying man’s grand-daughter, Sarah, visits him for the last time and, following a heart-rending farewell, takes it upon herself to keep the memories of her people’s struggles alive. A wonderful story made all the more intriguing by the afterword in which the author offers up his original ending. In this early version, rather than choose to have the 110290 tattooed on her forearm, the number “slowly appeared on her arm, in the exact same position as it had been on her grandfather’s”. The decision was made to go with the alternate ending because it was argued that the original made the protagonist too passive. Initially, I agreed, but the more I thought about it, the more I liked that original ending for just that – the suggestion that Sarah innately bears the memories and history of her predecessors. Above all else, she is a part of her people and her people are a part of her.

In the second story, TeleAbsence, a boy from the inner city discovers hope and happiness in a virtual school environment after stealing the identity of one of the students. Although, stylistically, it reads like YA, it posits some very tough questions about our educational system, the ever-present line between the haves and the have-nots, and whether advancements in the field of education may only further the divide. Memorable characters in our eager protagonist Tony and his well-intentioned teacher Miss Ellis in a well-told and touching tale.

The third story, TelePresence, picks up many years later when Tony, now an adult, must solve a murder that has taken place in the virtual reality school setting. Again, some difficult questions are posited about the role of education in our society but, after the emotional strengths of the story preceding it, this one actually felt comparatively lightweight despite the murder mystery elements.

The next four stories – “Broken Symmetry”, “Absent Friends”, “Reality Check”, and “Empty Spaces” – form a series about the creation of a breach between parallel worlds and the effects it has on several individuals. This is a great example of the “big ideas” I referred to earlier as the author roots the story’s strange happenings firmly in the world of theoretical physics. Fascinating stuff although, like TelePresence, this series lacks the emotional resonance that typified the first two stories. Even though we’re told that Jack has been impacted by the loss of his friend and takes steps to recapture echoes of that friendship by risking all to travel to the alternate Earth, I was never wholly convinced. I think the big bump for me came in the second story, “Absent Friends”, when Jack (visitor to this alternate reality) meets Paula, almost passes out, quickly glosses over the incident, and then is asked out for dinner. The two meat at a restaurant and only then do we learn that she is suspicious of him. My initial reaction was: If you’re suspicious of this guy (and I certainly would be), why go to dinner with him? I had a tough time accepting her motivation and, as a result, never really got onboard.

Next up was “Spaceships” and this was one of my favorites. In a future where humanity has evolved past physical form, an entity known as Kel lives an isolated existence among his collection of spaceships – until he’s paid a visit by Ria, a mysterious being with a hidden agenda. More than any other, this entry had the feel of those SF classics I used to read. Great stuff.

“Decisions” was another solid entry, focusing on the cautious response of an advanced alien civilization to humanity’s burgeoning galactic presence. Another story pleasantly reminiscent of the grandmasters.

Clearly, Michael Burstein is a big fan of time-travel as evidenced by the next story, “Times Ablaze”, which focuses on one man’s journey back to turn of the century New York to make a record of a tragedy in which 1 021 victims perished aboard the steamship General Slocum. Of course, as is often the case when you dabble in time travel, the rules of non-interference become mere suggestions – especially when love comes into play. A solemn tale made all the more sobering by the fact that our protagonist journeys back in time to keep alive the memories of the victims of a tragedy all but forgotten today.

In “Seventy-five Year”, census information holds a surprising secret about one man’s past. Really. It turns out to be a subtle but effective critique of corporate copyright.

“Sanctuary” is a heavy-hitter, a story that tackles some huge contemporary hot-button issues by transplanting them to a near-future setting. In the story, an alien seeks sanctuary at a church to avoid giving up her unborn child. The priest caught in the center of a cultural dispute soon realizes that all is not as it seems and that he may well be a pawn in a much greater moral conflict.

In “I Remember the Future”, a dying writer discovers that there is an afterlife, one engendered by his own imagination, when characters from his fictions breach the wall between alternate realities to rescue him. Love the idea of creations brought to life, especially because, in the back of my mind, I’ve often imagined a similar scenario playing out (except instead of death it’s an extra-long notes session that Baron Destructo and the League of Aliens and Mutants for Evil are rescuing me from). Great story.

A return to theme of time travel in “Cosmic Corkscrew”, a tale in which our protagonist travels back to 1938 to meet his boyhood idol Isaac Asimov. Again, a wonderful premise, but the story hit a major bump for me halfway through and never really righted itself. Given everything our protagonist knows about the inherent dangers of time travel, he is incredibly sloppy in his conversation with the young Asimov, blundering into a critique of the Golden Age author’s theory of time travel that forces him to come clean about who he really is. This linchpin moment felt a little too narratively convenient and, thus, tough to dismiss.

Finally, the collection concludes with one of its strongest stories “Paying It Forward” in which a dying writer happens across the webpage of a deceased author and, on a lark, clicks on the email link and leaves a message. The next morning, he receives a response – seemingly from beyond the grave. Like “I Remember the Future”, this one resonated with me on a personal level, reminding me of the day I came across the webpage of Thomas M. Disch only days after his passing.

Overall, a solid collection with Michael A. Burstein’s story-telling skills and creativity on full display. That Nebula and/or Hugo is just around the corner.

So what did everyone else think? If you have questions or comments, I know that author Michael A. Burstein – who not only happens to be a big Stargate fan but a frequent visitor to this blog – would love to see them.  So start posting!

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She's up to something!  You can tell!
She’s up to something! You can tell!

 

"Seriously,"she says.  "I don't know how that hydrochloric acid got in there."
“Seriously,”she says. “I don’t know how that hydrochloric acid got in there.”
Hmmmm.  Movie title...movie title...
Hmmmm. Movie title…movie title…
Got it!  Stargate Atlantis...The Quickening!
Got it! Stargate Atlantis…The Quickening!

Ashleigh, our Exec. Producer’s Assistant, was incredibly cheerful today. Unnervingly so. “Good morning, Joe!”she greeted me as I rolled in this morning, a huge smile plastered across her face.

“What’s up?”I asked, instantly suspicious. “Why are you so happy?”

“No reason,”she replied with a shrug. “I’m just happy.”

Un huh. I headed down the corridor and approached my office, careful to check it for any hidden boobytraps – springloaded darts and the like – before unlocking the door and peeking inside. Hmmm. Nothing seemed amiss. But, of course, appearances can be deceiving. I set down my briefcase, swung around, and pulled out my chair. I nudged it, gently at first, then with a little more force, half-expecting it to fall apart at the slightest provocation. Nope. I exerted some pressure on the seat, first with one hand, then two, then sat down. Nothing. I checked my desk drawers for the hidden catfish or hunk of limburger. Still nothing. I checked the phone, my bookshelves, even my recycling box. All normal. Somewhat relieved, I settled in –

But not really, because “settling in” would imply a lowering of my guard, relaxing. There was none of that today. I was alert, like a rabbit being stalked, its senses heightened, its body rushing with adrenaline, prepared to bolt at the slightest hint of danger. No, scratch that. More ninja than rabbit, my body poised to launch into action. Who is that outside my office? What was that sound?! What’s that smell?!!

I kept one eye on the door throughout the morning as Paul and I tried to come up with a title for the Atlantis movie. We threw out ideas, narrowed down our choices, and eliminated those that had already been used by either Star Trek or SG-1 – which left us with approximately 0 to choose from. Carl popped in and rather unhelpfully suggested “Dark Gambit”, his way of letting us now that he can’t very well come up with a freakin’ title to a script he hasn’t even read yet! Paul assured him that he would get a copy soon, soon.

We had pizza for lunch and I made a point of selecting the unobvious slices (This is the piece she wants me to take!), then positioned myself in such a way that I could eat at a 45 degree angle to both entrances to the writers’ room. I was, of course, hyper-vigilant throughout the notes session on Carl’s outline and Paul’s first draft of Divided, then while we watched Brad’s cut of Water (Awesome episode with, again, some really wonderful character moments and performances. Young-Scott, Young-Rush, Greer-Tamara, Chloe-James, Eli in general), I cast quick glances at either door throughout. Just in case.

As it turned out, my vigilance paid off. I got through the day unscathed. And as I was heading out the door, I heard Ashleigh call after me: “Have a safe trip home!”

Safe trip! Aha! I knew it! Lull me into a false sense of security, then sneak outside and sever my brake lines. Well, ha ha! The jokes on her! Rather than drive home tonight, I took the bus instead! Who’s laughing now, huh?

Hey, the initial response to my short story has been very positive. Got some great input from Kellie who took the time to read it and provide notes. Then, heard from my editor who, I‘m thrilled to report, neither threw it across the room, vomited, nor immediately flagged my email address as spam after reading it. In fact, he gave it a much-appreciated thumbs up and had very nice things to say (and not just “You‘re a terrific speller!” or “I loved your font!”). Despite coming in at a whopping 18 000 words (I know, I know. Pretty damn presumptuous for my first professional sale.), it will make it into the anthology. To all those wanting to know what the anthology is about and when it’ll hit bookstores – well, I leave it to my illustrious editor to break the news over on his blog. And, when he does, I’ll provide a link that will include all the pertinent info including my highly-esteemed company on this literary venture.

A reminder to finish up Michael A. Burstein’s I Remember The Future. Discussion begins on Monday after which we will be joined by the author (and blog regular) for a Q&A.

Today’s entry is dedicated to belated birthday gal Sherwood Forest Maiden.

Today’s mailbag:

Narelle from Aus writes: “Where has Jedi Master been posting their observations/rants/batpoo crazy assumptions? I saw the first one earlier in May but haven’t seen any since. Or didn’t they make it through moderation?”

Answer: It’s over on the same thread/entry. The big head-scratcher for me is the intimation that I was part of some grand conspiracy to cancel a series I’d been co-show running for the past two years. Don’t see the logic.

Ponytail writes: “What did Jason say? (this is serious). How is he feeling? How is his eye? Did he get all healed up? Will his hair be short for the Atlantis movie?”

Answer: He’s doing great. Apparently, he’s been working out like crazy and is the fittest he’s ever been. He says that with a little make-up, you wouldn’t even know the scar was there. As for the length of his hair – didn’t ask him but whatever do he’s sporting when he finally comes up for the movie will be a-okay with us. Oh, if you remember many entries back my mentioning that the crew is a great barometer for judging what certain people are like “behind the scenes“? Well, you’d be hardpressed to find a bigger sweetheart than the big guy. The crew loved him!

PoorOldEdgarDerby writes: “Joe, did any cast or crew ever go back to do commentaries for seasons 1-3?”

Answer: Not that I know of.

Daniel Willis writes: “Quick question to anyone, what happened to Mckays girlfriend, the one from the plant lab?”

Answer: They broke up in the episode Quarantine.

Ascended Tauri writes: “Suppose two wormholes travelling through subspace at the same time intersect eachother while on rhoute to two different Stargates, what would you suppose the result would be once the two wormholes were re-integrated on the other side?”

Answer: Not sure. Possibly havoc. A similar scenario lead to all sorts of tomfoolery in a little episode called Ripple Effect back on SG-1.

Nadine writes: “I’m pretty sure you’ve mentioned this at some point, but have you watched Full Metal Alchemist? If so, what did you think? Where did it rate among your animes, and are there any you’d recommend?”

Answer: Yes, I watched it. And, while I did like it, it doesn’t place in my top 25 alongside the likes of: Cowboy Bebop, Berserk, Noir, Now and Then Here and There, Revolutionary Girl Utena, Kino’s Journey, Samurai Champloo, Infinite Ryvius, Azumanga Daioh, GTO, Excel Saga, Boogiepop Phantom, Trigun, Video Girl Ai, Last Exile, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Rurouni Kensin.

Narelle from Aus writes: “By the way, what Title is on your business cards?”

Answer: Consulting Producer/Know-It All

SebiMeyer writes: “Uh, oh. You took a photo of a person thinking about SGU. Sure SyFy allows that?”

Answer: Please don’t report me.

Littleravenhawk writes: “Did I miss you talking about The Last Unicorn??? Did you like it?”

Answer: I did like it.

Michael A. Burstein writes: “Joe, regarding the guy in the van: do you have some sort of neighborhood watch set up in your community?”

Answer: I’m it!

GateFanSamJack writes: “Will there be dune buggies or monster trucks in SGU?”

Answer: None of the above. Instead, when off-world, the gang will drive around in a purple van dubbed The Mystery Machine and solve crimes. Cool, huh?

Jenny Robin writes: “It’s official. You’re a nut.”

Answer: Where the hell have you been, stranger?

Mike writes: “I dropped you a line about a year ago about doing an interview for CinemaSpy.com (we’re big Stargate fans over here).”

Answer: I dropped you a line back. Check your email.

SiskoFreak writes: “ I’ve just started exploring the Stargate franchise (I’m about halfway through season 2 of SG-1) but I’m intrigued by the premise of Stargate Universe and the new direction it will take the franchise. I’m also an aspiring screenwriter looking for TV work…are you still looking for staff writers or freelancers? If so, who should I contact for consideration?”

Answer: Alas, we’re not currently looking for writers. All of season one’s story slots have been filled except one – and it’s being scripted in-house. Sorry, SF.

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After yesterday’s entry in which I expressed my, uh, concern about Ashleigh’s return to the production offices following her Mexico getaway (at the height of the pandemic hysteria no less), I found the following comment awaiting moderation:

“Hey Joe!

Am back safe and sound! Hope you had a good week. Listen, I was speaking to Lawren outside your office and had this strange coughing fit. I had to duck into your office so I wouldn’t spread it down the hallway, don’t worry though, I closed your door right away so none of the germs would be able to seep out.

While I was in there I thought what a great place to sit and relax while the guys are away, so I am now working out of your office.

Hope you don’t mind!

Boy, I hope this sore throat goes away soon….”

I called up the production offices and was transferred to Ashleigh who informed me that, for the time being, she’d be working out of my office. “Are you touching anything?”I asked, my voice edged with apprehension. She assured me that she was touching EVERYTHING.

A reminder to all you voracious readers, occasional readers, and those possessed of the ability TO read – this month’s book of the month club discussions fast approaches.

In the SF category, it’ll be:

I Remember the Future: The Award-Nominated Stories of Michael A. Burstein, by Michael A. Burstein

From the publisher: “You don’t need a collection of antique spaceships or a carefully calibrated time machine to share the memories of the final Holocaust survivor. You don’t have to jump through the gate between universes in search of a lost friend. All you have to do is open your eyes. You’ll remember the future. The future remembers you.”

For those interested, Jason Sizemore over at Apex (http://www.apexbookcompany.com/uncategorized/2008/11/choose-your-apex-store/) has kindly created a discount code our club members can use to get 20% off the HC or the PB versions of the book.  Just enter “MALLOZZITWENTY” on checkout and you’re done.  In fact, it’s active for anything in the Apex store except pre-orders.

Book club discussion the week of May 18th with author Michael A. Burstein.

In the Fantasy category, it’ll be:

The Land of Laughs, by Jonathan Carroll

From the publisher: “ Have you ever loved a magical book above all others? Have you ever wished the magic were real? Welcome to The Land of Laughs. A novel about how terrifying that would be.

Schoolteacher Thomas Abbey, unsure son of a film star, doesn’t know who he is or what he wants–in life, in love, or in his relationship with the strange and intense Saxony Gardner. What he knows is that in his whole life nothing has touched him so deeply as the novels of Marshall France, a reclusive author of fabulous children’s tales who died at forty-four.

Now Thomas and Saxony have come to France’s hometown, the dreamy Midwestern town of Galen, Missouri, to write France’s biography. Warned in advance that France’s family may oppose them, they’re surprised to find France’s daughter warmly welcoming instead. But slowly they begin to see that something fantastic and horrible is happening. The magic of Marshall France has extended far beyond the printed page…leaving them with a terrifying task to undertake.”

Book club discussion the week of May 25th with author Jonathan Carroll.

In the horror category, it’ll be:

The Unblemished, by Conrad Williams

From Publisher’s Weekly: “Playing on humanity’s deepest fears and taboos, Williams plunges the reader deep into a hellish near-future where creatures banished five centuries ago rise again to lay eggs in the few people they don’t consume alive, turning London into a cross between hive and abattoir. Caught up in the grisly madness are photographer Bo Mulvey, who goes looking for excitement and gets more than he bargained for; Sarah Hickman and her beautiful, disturbed daughter, Claire, on the run from a hit man with an amputation fetish; and Gyorsi Salavaria, a cannibalistic child killer determined to become the mate of the invaders’ new queen. Williams (Use Once, Then Destroy) is so good at what he does that he probably shouldn’t be allowed to do it anymore, for the sake of everyone’s sanity.”

Says Keithe Brooke, The Guardian: “The Unblemished, winner of the International Horror Guild’s Best Novel award, is cleverly constructed, building relentlessly from intense, intimate terror to something on another scale altogether.”

Says Peter Straub: “This is horror literature unabashed and entire, at full imaginative stretch, beautiful and blazing.”

Says Nick Ryan, Sunday Express: “- top-notch writing skills, poetic vision and beautiful prose raise this way above your Hammer House of Horror… an unusual – as well as highly accomplished – terror.”

Discussion begins the week of June 1st when we’ll be joined by author Conrad Williams.

Finally, thanks to everyone who took the time to post their condolences and well-wishes for the DeLuise family. Peter is understandably preoccupied right now but when he comes back to Vancouver, I’ll be sure to direct him to your kind thoughts. Although I never got to work with Dom (Urgo was before my time on the show), I had the pleasure to meet him at Peter’s wedding. He was an incredibly warm and gracious man. His hilarious impromptu speech that night had everyone on the floor and, as I told Peter, upstaged him at his own wedding! It’s nice to see he has so many fans.

Today’s mailbag:

Daniel Willis writes: “Will sgu have a long, catchy beginning like sg1 and atlantis?”

Answer: Joel Goldsmith is working on the theme as we speak. No word yet on actual length.

David writes: “ I was just wondering as official blog person for SGU why you did not get to go to new Mexico to get those behind the scenes photos for the blog or have you or MGM/scifi assigned someone else to that job.”

Answer: I’m “official” insofar as I’m the one person with extensive behind-the-scenes access and information who maintains a regular online presence. It isn’t a job – more a fun extra I do here and for the SciFi site.

David also writes: “ Why I am grateful for the behind scenes shots of the icarus set, loving it, but do you know when you be allow to post pictures of the destiny set or perhaps even some of the other random sets.”

Answer: MGM wants to hold off on the Destiny set pics because they have something special in the works. As for the other sets – I’ve already forwarded the network some more pics and am waiting for them to sign off on the shuttle.

David also writes: “ About this short story, do you know how widely it will be able for sale and can you tell us any of the other authors taking part in the anthology.”

Answer: It will be published in an anthology that will be widely available. I’ll be sharing the book with a lot of experienced and supremely talented writers in the field of prose fiction – as well as experienced and supremely talented writers working in a, uh, another field of writing.

David also writes: “Any chance of the new cast doing a question and answer session anytime soon on the blog.”

Answer: Why, yes. I’ve asked a bunch and they’re all eager to make a guest visit. But they’d like to settle into their characters first.

David writes: “A friend and I was just wondering what is the most expensive shoot stargate SG1/Atlantis has ever done and how far up the list does new mexico shooting come up the list.”

Answer: I’d say Vegas was probably our most expensive episode to date.

BlondieChemGirl writes: “Where do you get your Amarula? Do they sell it in the states?”

Answer: Not sure if they sell it in the U.S., but I can pick it up at my local liquor store.

PG15 writes: “1. Who does Brie belong to?”

Answer: Not me.

PG15 also writes: “2. Who is/will direct Justice?”

Answer: Off the top of my head – I don’t know.

PG15 also writes: “3. On February 17th, you wrote:

Today was “spin and break” day with one of the new writers. We bounced around a bunch of ideas, came up with an intriguing backstory for Wray (but not before some vehement disagreement on her first name), and, ultimately, fleshed out what promises to be yet another story chock full of wonderful little character moments. And we even managed to come up with an episode title. We are on fire!

So what episode was this about?”

Answer: Life.

 

PG15 also writes: “4. And while I’m at it, on March 16th, you wrote:

Brad then pytched out hys revysed notion for an ydea he’s been battyng around for a whyle now. A great premyse wyth an yntryguing mystery at yts core, a wonderful opportunyty for one of our characters, all wrapped up in a an ultymately touchyng theme.

What episode was this about?”

Answer: A still-untitled story in the back half.

PG15 also writes: “5. Finally, on March 24th, you wrote:

We talked Tekkonkinkreet, Takashi Miike, and Minister Faust before I was called into the writer’s room to help spin a new story on another freelance script, this one a wonderful exploration of the Rush character. By lunch, we had the story broken

What episode was this about?”

Answer: Another story for the back half, this one is being scripted by a freelancer.

Trish writes: “Will ANY of the SGU epi titles be more than one word?”

Answer: For season one – unlikely. Come around season 10, you’re likely to get titles like “The Team Gets Stranded On A Planet With No Sun”.

F-fae-Glasgow writes: “You have probably answered this before however, has the SGA gate become the main gate for Earth?”

Answer: This question will be answered in the SGA movie.

Jenny R. writes: “Good on you for refusing to twitter. I think it’s slightly ridiculous myself. It’s sort of like the annoying parts of facebook on speed. I really don’t need to know what a person is doing all the time.”

Answer: Here are my twitter updates for the day. Enjoy –

– I like bananas.

– I’m looking at the thesaurus sitting on my bookshelf.

– How do you pronounce Totoro anyway?

– I went outside and accidentally swallowed a bug.

– I think I’ll throw out my old business cards.

– I need new socks.

– The dogs are hungry.

– The dogs are always hungry.

– Hey, I can hold my breath past sixty seconds!

– 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time is 7:00 p.m. Pacific.

– When I was a kid, I had a bike with a banana seat.

– My sister had a bike with a basket in the front.

– Hey, where’s my blackberry?

– Never mind. Found it!

Check in tomorrow for the latest fascinating updates.

Banderas writes: “1. What is this Homeworld Command you talked about on the blog yesterday. Is this the Headquarters of Homeworld Security?
2. So there won’t be any SGC in future movies and in SGU. Is there any chance that you will use the new sets as the SGC(at least the Gateroom) for a scene?
3.Is the uniform Col. Tellford wearing, a unique uniform for the Icarus base or it will be a new kind of SG uniform?
4. Is there any Alien+Alien ship concept art already behind the scenes or will you do that later? If yes, does the art department enjoy this “new-kind” of task(at least for SG)?
5. Will we can get some new information about the “Pre-Atlantis” Ancients in SGU?
6. Will there be any Ancient handheld-weaponry on the ship?”

Answers: 1. Yes.

2. I never said there wouldn’t be any SGC in future moives.

3. It’s an Icarus Base uniform.

4. Lots of alien and alien ship concept art that I’ll eventually showcase. And, yes, the Art Department loves this kind of stuff.

5. Some.

6. Remains to be seen.

Major D. Davis writes: “1. Do you like cats? Would your dogs like it if you got a cat? Would they get along? Do you even want to buy a cat?

2. Will the Odyssey be involved in the premier of SGU (Cause Caldwell said something about the Odyssey in Eatg)?

3. I was reading over the Brad Wright Q&A that was in January and he said the SG-1 movie would be made in the spring. Why would he say that, i mean, we already know Martin and Amanda would be busy with Sanctuary and you guys would be busy with SGU.:

Answers: 1. I like cats but have no plans to get one.

2. No comment.

3. He said that because, at the time, the plans were to shoot it in the spring. Regardless of who is busy when, we have to choose a time that is most convenient for the production. And, keep in mind, we were producing Atlantis when the first two SG-1 movies were being shot.

Hugh writes: “I was just wondering, do any of you spin an episode and begin to write it before realising half way through that it jsut won’t work?”

Answer: Off the top of my hand, I can’t remember a story we ever took the time to spin that wasn’t written.

MightyStarGazer writes: “So Joe, will we Wraith Fans *waves to Das* ever know more about them? Will we ever learn if they do have a homebase-planet, if the kiddie-wraiths are born or hatched or both (well, except for the drones, obviously they are hatched), and *blush* if the wraiths are… hrmm… compatible, with humans…?”

Answer: Hopefully this is something we could explore in a future Atlantis movie.

PoorOldEgarDerby writes: “ Please settle a bet. Which would receive an incoming wormhole: the Atlantis gate whilst in San Francisco Bay or a pre-existing Tauri gate connected to a DHD?”

Answer: If the Atlantis gate was properly calibrated and synced to the Milky Way network, then it would become the default gate.

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Director Peter DeLuise during a break in the action.

Director Peter DeLuise during a break in the action.

Peter kindly advises Director of Photography Jim Menard about his lighting preferences.

Peter kindly advises Director of Photography Jim Menard about his lighting preferences.

By now, the SGU promo has aired (on the east coast at least) and I’m sure fans everywhere are carefully dissecting it. I was on set earlier this week when Rob was viewing an early version of the trailer on his laptop. Amidst the quick cuts was an extremely brief cutaway to the gate without a finished puddle effect. It was such a brief flash, a fraction of a second blink and you’ll miss it shot, that someone asked whether the visual effects department really needed to finish the shot. Rob grinned knowingly and said: “Are you kidding? The second after it airs, the fans will have it up on the net, frame by frame.”

Yesterday, I was over on Stage 2, watching Peter DeLuise direct the shuttle sequences in Fire. Boy, that shuttle is a beauty. Someone referred to it as “a puddle jumper on steroids”. Anyway, enjoy some shots of Peter in action.

Did some work on the short story today and, I must admit, I’m none too happy with the last two scenes. I don’t know. Maybe I’m too close to it. Maybe I’m being too critical. Or, maybe, the scenes are shit and, after a strong start, this story is doing a fast fade. I have got to get a first draft done before the end of this month because next month is…

My annual chocolate party. It’s going to be tough to beat last year’s shingding (https://josephmallozzi.wordpress.com/2008/04/27/april-27-2008-the-best-chocolate-party-ever/). But, of course, I’m going to try.

Hey, for those of you looking ahead to the May book of the month club selections and Michael Burstein’s I Remember the Future in particular, check out Michael’s site for more information about the author and the book: http://www.mabfan.com/

Mailbag:

JJ writes: “After Syfy airs sneak peek of SGU, can you post some set pics?”

Answer: Nope, sorry. It’s the studio keeping the set under wraps fore the foreseeable future.

Suziesbluefeather writes: “Do no up dates on the pups how are Lulu and Jelly doing?”

Answer: All four dogs are doing great – although the pugs are looking a tad chunkified after all that home cooking.

Thornyrose writes: “We will mourn the passing of your manliness, and honor your memory. And don’t you fear some sort of backlash from your co-writers and producers for venturing down the veggie path, even temporarily?”

Answer: They were more interested in their barbecue chicken.

Patricia Lee writes: “Have you decided on a date and participants for the WFPoTD – Alcoholic’s anonymous!”

Answer: Looks like it’s going to be me, Ivon, Lawren, and Carl sampling the exotic offerings of my liquor cabinet. Root beer schnapps, here we come!

Shirt ‘n Tie writes: “How are the new cast settling into Vancouver life? Have they taken you up on your restaurant recommendations?”

Answer: From what I hear, they’ve settled in quite nicely. And those who’ve taken me up on my restaurant suggestions have enjoyed themselves.

Shirt ’n Tie writes: “ Oh, and by the by, when is the Joel Goldsmith Q and A??”

Answer: Soon, soon. Joel has been busy working on the SGU theme.

Jessica writes: “I haven’t been around for a while, kinda been lazy, but also I’ve started uni so yeah. Anyway thought I’d pop by and see how you’re going, by the way, did you know that the sequel to ‘The Name of the Wind’, ‘The Wise Man’s Fear’ is supposed to be available this April?”

Answer: Hmmm. I loved The Name of the Wind. Perhaps a potential June BOTMC selection?

Robotpo writes: “Would you able to tell us if we’ll be seeing alien races, one of the major draws of sci-fi, (not SyFy though), on the show? Or is every week going to be something going wrong on the Destiny, and the crew struggling to fix it before they run out of air/water/whatever? This isn’t going to be a remake of Battlestar Galactica through the prism of Stargate, is it?”

Answer: Given the premise of the series, it will be darker and more serialized than SG-1 or Atlantis. That said, there will still be plenty of opportunities for humor and the series will be firmly rooted in established Stargate mythology. Yes, the series will focus on survival, but it will also focus on exploration and adventure – and, by extension, the occasional alien encounter as well.

Deni B. writes: “Meanwhile, Flannery the Greyhound is sick and I have spent all morning at the vet.”

Answer: Hoping Flannery is on the mend!

Major D. Davis writes: “1. What is the budget for Air (all three parts)?

2. What will the budget for a normal one part Universe part be?

3. Will the Atlantis movie budget be 7 million dollars?

4. Will you help Paul write Project Twilight?”

Answers: 1. A significant amount.

2. A significant amount.

3. Theoretically, it could be anything.

4. Yes.

Juralas writes: “I can’t think of a better time to air the SGU promo than during the BSG series finale tonight. Have you ever seen the show and if so, what do you think of it?”

Answer: Haven’t seen it but have heard good things. When the box set comes out, I’ll no doubt pick it up and watch it with the wife.

Tim Gaffney writes: “The Syracuse Orange will win the NCAA Tournament!”

Answer: Syracuse? Really? I thought SYR stood for Syria.

Sherry writes: “Just saw the trailer…not impressed.”

Answer: Well, I guess that’s it, everybody! Strike the sets! We’re wrapping up production and going home.

 

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