GateWorld recently chatted with author Steven Savile about his new Stargate SG-1 novel, “The Power Behind the Throne.” (To learn more, visit our Books section!)
Savile is the author of the Von Carstein Vampire trilogy (“Inheritance,” “Dominion,” and “Retribution”), set in the popular Warhammer world. He has also written works in the Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Torchwood, and Primeval franchises. Most recently he has written “The Black Chalice,” Book One of The Knights of Albion, soon to be released by Abaddon — whilst “Silver,” his religious thriller, debuted in hardcover in the U.S. in January.
GateWorld: Steven, tell us how the opportunity to write a Stargate novel first came about.
Steven Saville: Essentially the Fandemonium editor put out a call for writers who were fans of the franchise on a media tie-in writers listserv. I’d just, and I mean just, finished working on the last Warhammer novel and had decided I really didn’t want to write about vampires any more. I contacted the editor and pitched an idea called “The Cold War Kings,” which probably gives away a lot about what the original idea for the trilogy was.
Like most people I had seen the movie and watched quite a lot of the episodes — not all of them, but that was something I remedied before writing the book.
GW: In “The Power Behind the Throne,” SG-1, at the behest of the Tok’ra, seek out an ancient creature called the Mujina, which in Japanese folklore is a shapeshifter and a deceiver. In this novel you do what the television show did so well: tying the story to earth mythology. Why do you decided to use Mujina?
SS: I’ve always loved the concept and wondered if anyone would catch on to the link with real-world mythology. I had been interested in writing about archetypes for quite some time — as in the Joseph Campbell Mentor, Shapeshifter, Trickster, Hero’s Journey template — and thought that a creature like the Mujina was a lovely fit for that. And it was only a short stretch to transforming it into a creature that didn’t merely shift shape, but promised to be all things to all people … and what a dangerous thing that could be in relation to the wrong people. Or sometimes even the right ones.
GW: Of course, finding Mujina is just the beginning of the tale, and SG-1 finds themselves in a very dark situation when the Stargate malfunctions and sends them to unknown world. I don’t want to give too many spoilers here, but there are some echoes, shall we say, of the Holocaust in this novel. What were your aims in exploring such territory?
SS: And there you hit straight upon the original concept for the Cold War Kings: When the wormhole is wrenched free of the Stargate it doesn’t merely lash out hopelessly in space looking for a place to fasten — it lashes out in time, too.
My original intention had been much more direct. I wanted to take the team back 50 years and have them confronting the “father of space travel,” Sigmund Rascher, the Nazi scientist whose experiments were influential in our race for space. And I had this vague idea about SG-1 completely changing our history by interfering in the one thing I was pretty sure they wouldn’t be able to resist meddling in — an escape from the concentration camp where Rascher was conducting his experiments.
It’s a dark area, for sure, but as a writer I’ve always been interested in the darker aspects of the human condition. As it was, MGM was very uncomfortable about touching Nazism as a subject (which disappointed me, I have to admit, especially given the current situation in Sweden, where I live — where we’ve just seen a political party founded in Nazism gain seats in the national elections). I don’t think as writers we should shy away from the difficult things or the dark places. We should confront them.
GW: Was it challenging to capture and mix in the various voices of the team? Each character has a very specific nuance and sensibility, and I image its challenging to keep the voices distinct and yet still represent them in the narrative.
SS: To an extent, yes it was. I mean everyone has their own interpretation of stuff and memories of how Jack talks, or how Daniel will react, or what Sam will do or Teal’c won’t say. The challenge is not to be faithful to the series, but the series at a given time. The characters change. Daniel in Season Seven is not the Daniel from Season Two, for instance.
So even though I sat and watched every episode in a two-week period, back-to-back, immersing in the Stargate mythology, I needed to make distinct notes about what happened when, why and what the implications of it were. And then, in every scene had to try and imagine it as an episode from the show, testing the dialogue out in the characters mouths before writing it down.
GW: Teal’c plays a very prominent role in the novel, which I very much enjoyed. I got the feeling he’s your favorite SG-1 character.
SS: I had this vision of Teal’c as a sort of Robin Hood of the ghetto, fighting from the shadows. He was the perfect guy for the role — strong, principled, faithful. Plus, there was the obvious parallel of an enslaved culture to explore, again making him a good focal point for the reader. I like the alien view of the familiar he offers.
GW: What did you most enjoy about writing a Stargate SG-1 novel?
SS: You wouldn’t write something like this if you weren’t a fan of the show. To imagine you’d sacrifice months of your life just for a small paycheck when you could be doing something else is ludicrous. By far and away the best part of the experience was getting to become a part of the show in some small way and offer a new adventure for beloved characters.
NEXT: The trilogy that may never be