September 5th, 2010

IAMTW

Labor Day Tie-In Writer Guest Blog #5: Steven Savile

I've had the pleasure of working with Steven Savile twice—once as a writer he hired as an editor, and once as the editor who hired him as a writer. In both cases it was for a Doctor Who: Short Trips anthology. He edited my "Life from Lifelessness" in Destination Prague, and I edited his "Peacable Kingdom" in The Quality of Leadership. He's also written novels based on Torchwood, Warhammer, Primeval, and, as he discusses below, Stargate SG1. (Also do check out his original novel Silver...)


Polarisation, or, There's No Such Thing as Love or Hate, Only a Subtle Balancing Act Between
by Steven Savile


So, the new book is written, delivered, it goes through the various stages of editing and proofreading, then goes off to the license holder (in the case of the majority of my work, it's media tie-in fiction, and Keith's asked us to discuss our stuff in relation to media franchises this weekend), they love it, or suggest tweaks or changes that'll help make them love it just a little bit more, then it is back to edits, another round of proofing, then typesetting, then another round of proofing against the finished print-ready galleys, then wooosh, it's off and the book becomes reality. Easy as that. You can't really hope to influence the world at large, or the fans, when it hits, all you can really hope to do is polarise opinion.... What? You mean you expect everyone to love it? Everyone to hate it?

It's out of your hands, obviously, but when you are way back at the writing stage you can certainly shape the future—you can either conform, not challenging yourself and your reader, or you can ask difficult questions of yourself and them... me, I am rather fond of the latter.

Why?

Here's the thing, at least in my head—if you aren't polarising opinion, if say 30% don't outright want to burn you alive and 30% bestow sainthood you probably aren't doing your job properly as a writer... you want to be putting out challenging material to a wide audience and the wider your audience the more unreasonable it is for you to expect everyone to like what you have done with the characters they love so much and the world they've come to think of as a second home. It isn't easy, and as a writer you really should back away from Google when a new book comes out, at least until it has had time to divide opinion. The thing is if people love a book invariably they put it down and pick up another one, it is only when people feel compelled (usually because you've forced some sort of extreme of reaction, an anger, or a love) to put pen to paper do they hit Amazon and chose the dreaded 1-5 star review. As a reader I'm deeply suspicious of a book that lacks that polarisation, so why, as a writer would I expect anything other?

If I'm not making the reader react I'm not doing my job.

So, when the new Stargate SG1 novel, The Power Behind the Throne was released on Friday I found myself oddly content that within a couple of minutes two absolutely polarising reviews appeared. One reader loved it, one detested it. My job is done.

And it shouldn't a surprise that it would generate such differing opinions—the subject is difficult, it's about genocide and racial oppression, it's about the risk of giving dangerous people exactly what they want, their heart's true desire, and it's about the potential we all have in terms of letting loose the monster within us... in certain situations what would you do? Would you always take the noble path? I know I wouldn't, sometimes I'd take the easy one, sometimes I'd take the stupid one, sometimes I'd just plain old take the wrong one... but scale that up by multiples of thousands and you get the kind of "monster within" facing Jack and Sam, Daniel and Teal'c. When it comes right down to it, it's all about the what if?

Stargate SG1: The Power Behind the Throne by Steven Savile is on sale now from Fandemonium.
Check out Steve's web site.


Next up: Paul Kupperberg.
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IAMTW

Labor Day Tie-In Writer Guest Blog #6: Paul Kupperberg

I've known Paul Kupperberg for many years—we even worked together once (he wrote a wonderful Star Trek: S.C.E. novella for me a ways back)—and he's been in the business almost as long as I've been alive. His career started when I was six. Now that I've completely depressed him, let me also say that he's one of the best and funniest people I've ever known in this here bidness. Here's Paul to talk about his latest project...

Everything's Archie!
by Paul Kupperberg


It's funny the path my life and career have taken me. Well, okay, the "life" part's more sad than funny (and its relevance to this guest blog nonexistent, and, hey, thanks for the slot, Keith!) so I'll move on. It all boils down to finding myself in places I never expected to be, doing things I hadn't really thought I'd ever do. I mean this mostly in a good way, and mostly in the career part of my life. (I kid; life may be weird, but it's mostly fun.)

I got into comics in 1975 writing mostly superhero stories. Aquaman, the Atom, and the Doom Patrol to start, Superman and Batman, later on; I also did some horror stories, a bit of war, even a romance story or two, but costumed and superheroes were my bread and butter. I wrote probably 400 to 500 of them between 1975 and 1995 when my writing career hit a brick wall (cushioned, fortunately, by the airbag of a day job as editor at DC Comics) that took a number of years to recover.

But when it did, slowly but surely, I discovered I was no longer a bread-and-butter superhero comic book writer. I had, somehow, morphed into a humor comics writer. Known for my runs on Superman, Superboy, Supergirl, the Doom Patrol, Checkmate, and Vigilante (the last one particularly grim-and-gritty, ending with the title character's suicide), I was suddenly writing funny stories starring the Flintstones, the Jetsons, I.M. Weasel, Johnny Bravo, Ed, Edd & Eddy, and Scooby Doo for DC's Cartoon Network line of comics.

Post-DC Comics day-job, I also started writing for Bongo's Bart Simpson Comics, and, beginning this Wednesday, September 8, I proudly add Archie Andrews and the rest of the Riverdale gang to that roster. That's when my first issue of Life With Archie: The Married Life Magazine #2 hits the comic shops (and, a week or two later, the magazine racks at such outlets as Toys 'R Us and Wal-Mart)!

If you follow these things even a little, you probably heard about last year's "Archie Marries Betty" and "Archie Marries Veronica" imaginary stories that ran in Archie #600-605 (and has since been collected in handy dandy graphic novel format). The story, in which Archie ponders the "roads not taken" and imagines what being married, some six or seven years in the future, to both of the two women in his life (though not at the same time) would be like. The issues sold like hot cakes and received a lot of press, so the company wisely decided to continue the series, conceived and written by Michael Uslan (one-time DC Comics assistant editor and writer, now Hollywood producer of such films as the Batman franchise and The Spirit) as an ongoing series.

Michael's schedule being what it is, he wasn't able to commit to writing 48 pages a month of comic book scripts, so another would take over from Michael after he wrote the debut issue.

I can't tell you why, with only half a dozen Archie humor short stories under my belt (Archie has to get Mrs. Lodge's dog from the groomer to the dog show without getting dirty! Jughead tricks his friends into doing his work for him! Moose inadvertently rallies the town behind environmental issues with his "strong, silent-type" routine, when he's really just too shy to talk to reporters!), I was tapped for the assignment.

Maybe it was because I was the new kid on the block and had the least preconceived notions about the characters; I hadn't spent the last two or five or 30 years writing the gag strip and was able to see the characters with the type of objectivity needed to make this work. Because Life With Archie: The Married Life is, after all, a very different kind of thing for Archie Comics (and not just for the 64-page magazine format, either). It is, to my knowledge (and no one has contradicted me yet!), the first ever regular Archie title to feature ongoing continuity, versus the regular format of several short (or even book-length), unrelated stories per issue.

And the continuity is key to The Married Life! Though I never shy away from a good gag (or even several bad ones), The Married Life isn't about the gags. It's about the ongoing struggles of Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead, Reggie, and the rest of the gang as they face life beyond college, in the real world. This is no longer "Fast Times at Riverdale High"; it's "Archie" meets Melrose Place with all the drama and, yes, soap opera that might entail. (You say "soap opera" like it's a bad thing...and it is, but only if badly done!) Oh, we're still rated "PG," but these characters are being put through as many paces as the stars of any prime time drama you care to watch!

I'm currently finishing up the seventh issue. In these first issues, I've dealt with love, hate, betrayal, loyalty, death, and marriage. I've set up some of the most beloved characters in comics to do and have done to them stuff that I'll bet never crossed your mind as an 11-year old reading an issue of Archie's Pals and Gals. Some of it is even as startling and moving as anything I might have been able to do in a serious melodrama, like my run on Vigilante.

Life With Archie: The Married Life is being penciled by yet another superhero comics veteran, Norm Breyfogle, known for a long and prestigious run on DC's Batman, and inked by Joe Rubinstein and Andrew Pepoy, two more superhero vets.

But life, as I've already indicated, is funny that way. It's taken me from serious superhero comic book writer to funny comic book writer, and now, with Life With Archie: The Married Life, I seem to be drifting to a point somewhere in between the two. A little bit funny. A little bit sad. But too much fun to write...and the kind of thing that leads me to wonder just what's going to be coming for me next. And, I hope, leaving you wondering just what's going to happen next to Mr. Weatherbee and Svenson. (Seriously!)

Life With Archie: The Married Life by Paul Kupperberg, Norm Breyfogle, et al, is published monthly by Archie Comic Publications.
Read Paul's blog.
Follow Paul on Facebook.


Next up: Nancy Holder.
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