Sabine C. Bauer has been writing fan fiction for some time. When publisher Fandemonium was looking to launch its new Stargate novel series they approached her to kick off the first story. Now with three books released, Sabine couldn’t be happier with her growth as a writer.
GateWorld caught up with the author at this year’s Gatecon convention in Vancouver, British Columbia. In our video interview, we discuss Bauer’s latest Atlantis work, Mirror, Mirror. We explore her style of writing, the challenge of moving from SG-1 to Atlantis, and realizing her dream of writing professionally.
Our video interview runs approximately 18 minutes, and is also available in audio format. The full interview is also transcribed below. And don’t forget: you can talk with Sabine and other Fandemonium authors directly at GateWorld Forum!
GateWorld: For GateWorld.net I’m David Read. [Laughter] My name is hilarious, you know it really is — actually we just cut something off earlier. I’m David Read and I’m talking with Miss Sabine Bauer, author of several Stargate books published by Fandemonium. Thank you for being with us today.
Sabine Bauer: It’s a pleasure.
GW: We’re at Gatecon 2008, it has just wrapped … thoughts?
SB: I had a blast, in a nutshell! It was fabulous because it was so relaxed, and it’s always fun. Talking to people who love the same thing you do, and obviously I love Stargate, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing. It also was, in certain instances, absolutely amazing, because more than one person [is] coming up to me saying “We are here because you are,” and I’m like, “Guys, did you look around the room and see who else is here!” [Laughter] What’s going on?! It’s amazing, it’s wonderful to know that the books are appreciated the way they are.
GW: Now, how many titles have you written for Stargate so far?
GW: Mirror, Mirror, which I was joking with Darren in a podcast the other day, it’s “The Atlantis Variations,” instead of “The Daedalus Variations!”
SB: I guess so, yes! [Laughter] It came out of, oh God, an idea I had years back about space odyssey, if you will, really taking the structure, or not necessarily the structure, but elements of Homers Odyssey, and transplanting it. Which is not an altogether bizarre choice given the gate system, given what can happen if it malfunctions, and OK, the end product is a lot less close to Homer than I thought it might be, because writing aptitude aside, my stories usually start with word one, and then they go wherever the hell they please to go … I shouldn’t say “hell” should I? Heck! [laughter]
GW: No, that’s cool. You don’t design a framework?
SB: No, no.
GW: Really? They’re completely free?
SB: They are completely free, because basically, I’ve got the attention span of a gnat, and I know that if I’d start at point A, and have to travel through B, C, D and E to get to F, or however far down the alphabet you want to go, I’d bore myself to tears! And I’d never finish a book, and I know that.
And the most fun in writing, for me, is the fact that if I want to know how the story turns and twists and ends up eventually, I will have to sit down and write it, and let it choose its own way. Because if I don’t do that I’ll never know. So I suppose that’s using my own curiosity.
GW: But you have a general idea of where you want to go right? Where you want the book to end, I would imagine?
SB: I may have a general idea at the onset, but it very rarely coincides with what will be there, in the finished product. My first love, if you will, was directing, and I always refused to be one of those despots, who walks into the rehearsal room with a completely worked out marching plan and then you go and shove the actors around as you think they should be shoved around.
I always worked sort of [with a] group endeavor. I let them throw ideas at me, and “Let’s see where we can take this.” And in my writing, to a very large extent, literally the characters have taken the place of the actors, and more often than not the characters will suddenly do very strange things, and I go, “Oh gee, thank you Rodney, that was interesting, let’s follow this.”
GW: But that comes out of you, nevertheless. You let a little facet of you take over for a minute, and go down a trench, I guess, a sidebar?
SB: Yes! Yes. Obviously, it can be one heck of a dead end and I will have to retrace my steps, and cut huge chunks.
GW: So you’ve had to rewrite before?
SB: Oh yeah. It doesn’t always work, and there will be wrong turns, evidently. But it’s also a very, very exciting way of writing. In Mirror, Mirror a lot of things happened I didn’t expect to happen when I set out writing. That caused certain problems in the process, and God knows sometimes I was frustrated as hell with it, but also it was fascinating where it ended up.
Even the challenge of then, right at the end, having all these strands that needed to be put together again organically was great. It’s more or less the same with anything I’ve ever written. Be it the Fandemonium books, be it fan fiction, I let it run.
What made Mirror, Mirror slightly more difficult was the fact that I didn’t know the characters as well as I know the Stargate SG-1 gang.
OK, talk about getting what you want, and I’d asked for it quite literally, because when I’d finished Survival after what, five years, six years of writing fan fiction and another three of writing Trial and Survival, it was like, “OK guys, I love you dearly but I do need a break now, go off, have a nice holiday, somewhere in Madagascar or whatever, but I need to do something new.” I spoke to Sally who’s the Managing Editor of Fandemonium and said, “Look, for the next one, if it’s OK, I’d like to try my hand at Atlantis,” and she says “OK, cool, go ahead, do it”, and yes, then I suddenly realized “Oops! This is a whole new ballgame.”
GW: A whole different team, the Stargate is the only thing the same.
SB: Exactly, and even that is different.
GW: Yeah, it’s just the principle of it really.
SB: Exactly! It then took a lot of work, and quite a few missteps as well, to get to the characters, because obviously there is a difference, whether you have three seasons of Atlantis which is what I had then because the DVD’s were out. I had kind of two and a half, Season Three came out when I was half way through. Or if you’ve actually been following SG-1 for what, nine plus years, and can recite entire pages of dialogue. [Laughter] It’s as simple as that.
That was a huge step outside my comfort zone which probably did me a hell of a lot of good as a writer, because I had to get through that. No, this wasn’t fan fiction, and no, this wasn’t writing with impunity, apart from the odd email saying “What the heck are you doing,” with Weir or with Rodney, or whomever. It had to be right, there and then, and it was interesting.
GW: Well, you’re learning these characters just as the rest of us are, but you have to basically play finger puppets with them, you have to know who they are as well.
SB: Absolutely. It isn’t that easy when you don’t have this huge, huge background of knowing the show that well. It’s kind of fascinating, the coinciding there. I was at Worldcon two weeks back and met Ashley McConnell, who wrote the first four Stargate books for Penguin Rock. Ashley, of course, was at the time confronted with the exact same problem, only more so. I can see exactly what the difficulty was for her, and it’s kind of upsetting if you hear people saying, “Well, your books are so much better, and the first four were crap.” It’s not fair! It’s not fair. She never had the chance.
GW: She didn’t have nine years of knowledge, or however many it was.
SB: Exactly, exactly.
GW: She did what she could.
SB: In that respect doing Mirror, Mirror, it wasn’t quite the same thing, obviously, but it suddenly made me sit up and think, “Yeah girl, you had a tough time there.”
GW: When you work with nothing, you make your own story, and you pave your own way, and those characters are going to go in a slightly different direction.
SB: As characters do, they have a sometimes annoying habit of doing that. [Laughter]
GW: Yeah. As our lives do, you know? So, kind of a similar thread there. So, you’ve written three books for Fandemonium in the Stargate genre. Which has been the most satisfying to you? Is it Mirror, Mirror? Is it the latest one?
SB: It may turn out to be. I don’t know yet, because I’m still too close. The process was difficult, and when I finished the first draft I was just, “Thank God this is over!”
GW: Thank god it’s over. That’s not a great feeling.
SB: Yeah, but it was certainly that.
GW: It’s sincere – “Thank God!” [Laughter]
SB: Then I got the galleys, and was going over it, obviously reading it very carefully, because you want to root out anything that’s wrong, and there’s probably still many, many, many typos I missed because one always does! But it was also, actually, discovering what I’d written.
GW: “Where did I go? I didn’t plan it, so what happened?”
SB: “What happened?” “Oh, actually, this isn’t altogether bad! This passage here I quite like, as a matter of fact.” That was interesting, and there may be more of that. What absolutely floored me was the response of Karen Miller, who had the first draft, and she got back to me — and I have to say, Karen is someone I hugely respect, not just for the Stargate books, but especially for her own work. She’s got three fantasy novels out now which are exceptional. [For] somebody like that to come back to you and say “Do you know what you’ve written there?”
GW: “Well, no, I’m still trying to figure out when it’s over, but you like it?”
SB: [Laughter] Yes, exactly that! “You like it?!”
GW: “Well, we paid you to make it good” [Laughter]
SB: It was interesting. It’s an interesting process. In a way I like the insecurities, because it probably enables me to walk through a door without my head hitting the frame either side, and that’s a good thing. You don’t want to be cocky as a writer. Yeah, we’ll see. We’ll see!
GW: You were a fan fiction writer long before you were writing the novels.
SB: Yes, yes.
GW: Who approached whom? How did you get this far? To those who are great fan fiction writers who would like to follow the same path. Do tell! Do tell.
SB: I will tell, because it’s one of those stories, and people have heard me say this before, it’s certainly something that does not ever, ever, happen in real life. Fandemonium approached me. They were familiar with my fan fiction, and one fine day I get this email, and they were asking ‘would I be prepared to write for them?’ And this is what they’re doing. And I was like “Candid Camera … Who’s gonna jump out from where?!” Then very quickly it all turned out that it was all perfectly true.
GW: “This is not a gag!” [Laughter]
SB: Of course, funnily enough I said “Yeah, of course I will!” And I suppose the rest is history. I think it’s wonderful. I feel extremely privileged to be able to do something I love, and be paid for it! Woah!
GW: Yeah. What a concept! That’s extraordinary.
SB: Yes, and I definitely wasn’t familiar with that. You’re working as a director on the London fringe you generally have to pay for the privilege to work in your chosen profession. [Laughter] So it was rather a different concept, and a bit startling, but yeah, wonderful — wonderful!