Greetings, Stargate fans!
My name is Geonn Cannon (pronounced “Jon”). I’m the author of over 40 books, and the creator of the Tello Films web series Riley Parra.
I’ve been fortunate enough to write five Stargate stories (two novels and three anthology contributions) and my second Fandemonium novel “Female of the Species” just debuted Thanksgiving Day. Given this special occasion, GateWorld has invited me contribute to their “My Stargate Story” column, and reflect on how Stargate has influenced my creative career.
Indeed, the shows we watch can be more than just simple entertainment. Sometimes — like in the case of Stargate — they can completely change your life.
My very first exposure to the Stargate franchise was the original 1994 movie. While it was a fine science-fiction adventure (and looking back, possibly one of the best and most original sci-fi movies ever made) nothing grabbed me on first watch.
A few years later I managed to stumble upon Stargate SG-1‘s pilot episode, “Children of the Gods,” thanks to a Showtime free preview weekend. The preview meant that I could only watch for one night — but hey, Richard Dean Anderson hadn’t let me down yet, so I was going to tune in regardless.
It quickly became apparent that Anderson had brought a fresh and lighthearted approach to the character of Jack O’Neill (which I loved). I’d grown up with MacGyver, and I was a really big fan of the humanity and ingenuity of that role. It looked like Anderson was doing the same thing with O’Neill (two Ls!), and I was actually sad when the episode came to a close.
Now with no means to watch the show, I shifted my focus to other series.
But fate once again intervened. A few years later, SG-1 hit syndication and became available on basic network TV. One night I was in the mood for some background noise to keep me company while I wrote my embarrassingly mediocre stories, and SG-1 popped up as an option. The pilot was good enough to give the show a second try, so I switched to the appropriate channel and began writing.
The episode I discovered that night was Season Two’s “1969” — and it was so much fun that I actually got distracted from my own project and started paying attention to the plot. (I think the oddball “war with Canada” line ultimately made me shift focus.)
“1969” was energetic, funny, and clever in how it used the Stargate as a plot device. I started to understand how the series could expand beyond the premise of the movie in a way that would cultivate endless story potential. So I decided to give Stargate a third chance (I know, I know) and tune in the following week for the episode “Out of Mind.”
Strangely enough, I actually credit “Out of Mind” and not “1969” for stoking my fascination with the Stargate franchise — for a couple reasons:
- It was a clip show, so it served as a perfect primer for SG-1‘s mythology and previous adventures.
- It ended on a cliffhanger, leaving me hungry for the story’s conclusion, and how the character’s lives would be changed as a result.
I had no real way of knowing when the conclusion would air (remember, no DVDs or streaming at the time!). So I had to blindly keep watching until “Into the Fire” eventually showed up in syndication.
The week after was “Window of Opportunity,” which again found the show using the Stargate in a narratively innovative fashion. The time-loop concept was hilarious, zany, and in the end — just plain heartbreaking. The way Jack saved the day by sympathizing with the “villain” really opened my eyes to what this show was doing, and where it had the potential to go.
By now, I realized I had to prioritize SG-1 on my viewing list.
About this time, I found myself becoming more interested in the art of storytelling. I knew I wanted to become a writer, but I didn’t know what I wanted to write — or how to get there. I tried my hand at a few Stargate fanfics, but nothing yielded the desired results.
In retrospect I was too focused on the lofty storytelling devices and overdone sci-fi tropes — not the emotionally grounded character storytelling that made Stargate SG-1 so powerful. I was using the characters’ names, but they weren’t the people I tuned in to watch every week.
Then, on a whim, I decided to shift focus to the character of Samantha Carter and use her as a springboard for inspiration. I’d always been drawn to individuals like her: strong, thrifty, and resolute female characters who could hold their own against a variety of threats. As soon as she became the central character, I was able to get some traction in my writings.
The female characters of SG-1 also helped me realize that I wanted to see more women in leading roles, telling their own stories rather than just supporting someone else’s. Characters like Colonel Carter and Dr. Janet Fraiser (my personal favorite) were far more believable than the pervasive, one-dimensional clichés of sci-fi television.
I wanted to see more of them, and I found a way to authentically channel their strong voices into my own creative works.
Inspired by this success, I also used Amanda Tapping and Teryl Rothery as templates for characters in my non-Stargate novels. When I would “cast” a character as Amanda or Teryl, and hear their voices saying the lines I was writing — I knew I was onto something.
GOING FULL FANDOM
So let’s flash forward to 2004. Now I’m really a die-hard Stargate fan.
Thanks to a new Showtime subscription (and DVDs, which had finally become a thing) I’d caught up on all the past SG-1 episodes. I started posting on Stargate bulletin boards across the Internet, and I was making an effort to become more active in the franchise’s fandom.
I also got back to writing (much stronger) Stargate fan fiction, and I summoned the courage to post several of my stories online. Thanks to the exposure from those stories, I forged strong friendships with fellow Stargate fans (who ultimately convinced me that I needed to attend Gatecon in Vancouver, BC — the mecca for all things Stargate).
Up till then I had never been outside of Oklahoma — yet here I was being peer pressured into an international jaunt because of a TV show. To say I was reluctant would be an understatement. But eventually I caved — and looking back, it was one of the best decisions of my life.
I was one of the lucky few who won a tour of the SG-1 sets. I touched the Stargate. I sat behind General O’Neill’s desk. I climbed the same stairs my heroes had climbed. It was like visiting hallowed ground — bridging the gap between fiction and reality in a way that left my inner fan cosmically satisfied.
But Gatecon itself wasn’t the only noteworthy event that year. The entire convention trip ended up influencing the greater direction of my life.
FINDING SQUIRE’S ISLE
Instead of flying direct to Vancouver, I flew to Seattle to hang out with my Stargate friends before carpooling up to Canada.
But to me, Seattle was just the place where Frasier was set. I hailed from a small town in suburban Oklahoma, so I couldn’t even fathom all those lush trees, hills, and vast expanses of water — at least not until I was there and saw it all in person. My friends were adamant about taking a day trip to a nearby island to go whale-watching, and despite my resistance, I let them drag me to San Juan Island — where my life was forever changed.
I completely fell in love with the region, and it took over my writing. Suddenly, I wanted to set everything there.
I created a fictional island (inspired by San Juan Island) called “Squire’s Isle.” I staged my first novel there, and I still credit that setting for making the book special enough to catch the eye of my publishers.
I was born and raised in Oklahoma, but my heart belongs to Washington state. And none of this would have happened without Stargate and that fateful convention trip.
In 2013, my writing career came full circle. Fandemonium was looking for new authors, and Jo Graham (author of the Stargate Atlantis “Legacy” series) knew my work. She suggested I contact Fandemonium and express my interest in writing a Stargate novel. I followed through, and was invited to pitch an idea.
I was particularly intrigued by the concept of Vala Mal Doran crossing paths with SG-1 without anyone realizing it. I had this mental image of SG-1 on one side of a room, and Vala on the other — neither aware of each other’s presence. So I built that seed of an idea into a full, novel-ready pitch.
Fandemonium liked what they read, and I was immediately hired to write the real-life, official Stargate SG-1 novel, “Two Roads.”
Around the same time, I pitched one of my (non-Stargate) novels to a company called Tello Films. The property was called Riley Parra, and they acquired it with the intention of adapting it into a Web series. I was over the moon about this development — but nothing could prepare me to learn that Connor Trinneer (Michael himself) had been cast in the project.
Here I was turning my favorite TV show into a book. And at the same time, a Stargate actor was helping one of my original stories come to life onscreen. It was a strange coincidence made more surreal by the fact that both projects were happening simultaneously.
Even more bizarre: right after Connor finished work on Riley Parra, his next gig was playing a certain professor in — you guessed it — Stargate Origins! A Stargate alum came to play in my world, and then went back through the Stargate mere months later.
You seriously can’t write this stuff!
I later found myself working on a second Stargate novel, alongside a second installment of Riley Parra. Once again, the cast had Stargate connections.
Marina Sirtis (Svetlana Markov from “Watergate”) signed on to play the primary antagonist. We originally cast Tony Amendola in another role, but due to scheduling conflicts he was forced to bow out. Thankfully, I was still able to meet Tony at the Riley Parra premiere — and I had the unbelievable honor of sitting behind him in the theater.
Bra’tac was at the premiere of my Web series! I would never have imagined something so cool.
AN OPEN WORMHOLE
If not for my experience with the Stargate franchise, my novels would never have been set in Seattle, I would never have created Squire’s Isle, and I might never have found my passion for dynamic and inspiring female protagonists.
Stargate showed me that you can have high-stakes drama and a sense of humor at the same time. That heroes can be deeply flawed, yet still respectable. That you can still have a blast while telling powerful stories.
Stargate also gave me the creative confidence I needed to become a professional author. And it provided me with a built-in community that was gracious enough to support my work and give me a chance as a storyteller in my own right.
I started watching Stargate SG-1 because I was intrigued by the premise of a device that could take you places beyond your wildest dreams — but I had no idea just how much it would deliver on that promise (in more ways than one).
The Stargate franchise ended up being a wormhole to some of my most cherished adventures and career opportunities — and I look forward to many, many more adventures with the franchise and its fandom in the years to come!
Follow Geonn on Twitter: @GeonnCannon
“My Stargate Story” celebrates the impact that Stargate has made on the lives of everyday fans! Stay tuned for more, and let us know if you want to share your story here.