- Homage to the Space: 1999 science fiction series.
> Turn off print friendly version.

Learn more about Space: 1999...Learn more about the new Thunderbirds movie...



  About this Site
  Open Content Model
  Site Index
  Contact Us (E-mail)

  See also: FAB (Other Gerry Anderson-inspired works)

  Choose the style:

  Classic Theme
  Moonrise Theme
  Black Sun Theme
  Printer Friendly

Features: Articles & Interviews

Interview with John Kenneth Muir

By Michael A. Faries (24 September 2003).

Pictured: John Kenneth Muir talked with award-winning author John Kenneth Muir about "Space: 1999 - The Forsaken", published in 2003. "The Foresaken" is the second in a series of original books which honors -- and intelligently expands upon -- the adventures of the 1970s Space: 1999 television series. More information about Powys Media can be found at their web site. Fans of Space: 1999 may be particularly excited to know this: "The Forsaken" tells some of the untold stories of what happened between the first and second seasons of the Space: 1999 show! ALSO welcomes you to participate in a lively Q&A session with the author! See our "Ask John Kenneth Muir" page for details!

Note: The full contents of this interview may be republished per our Open Content Model for non-commercial use. The text must be reprinted in full, unedited, and with credit is given back to and the interviewer.

Before discussing your latest book, "The Forsaken", let's talk about your first foray into Space: 1999 literature: "Exploring Space: 1999 - An Episode Guide and Complete History of the Mid-1970s Science Fiction Television Series." This was your first published work and the first in a series of analytical books on television shows and cinematic figures.

What made Space: 1999 your first topic of choice? How did the show originally touch you? How challenging was the book to author? Would you ever consider a new edition with additional interviews, observations and facts?

I was barely two years out of college when I wrote "Exploring Space: 1999", and it arose out of two impulses. The first was my admiration for the series and re-discovery of it on laserdisc in the early 1990s.

The second was my love for books about science fiction TV series, such as David Gerrold's "The World of Star Trek", Marc Scott Zicree's "The Twilight Zone Companion", and David Schow's "Outer Limits" book. I had always been a fan of TV (and cinema) non-fiction, and felt shocked nothing substantive had been written on Space: 1999. Basically, it was a book I wanted to read!

I own all three books you mentioned and can relate! You definitely filled a much-needed niche with your Space: 1999 reference book. How did the initial research go?

I researched the book like crazy, which was fun since I was devoted to the subject. I remember how my wife (then-girlfriend) Kathryn took me out to used book stores all across the East Coast to find novelizations and the Charlton Comics, and I was able to locate several 1999 fanzines from the late '70s and early '80s. I read everything I could about the series in newspapers and periodicals, and discovered the official take on it was hostile and negative, and not always honest, either.

And then I began to look at the authors' names associated with these negative articles - and almost without fail they were writers for Star Trek, or Star Trek fans, and it struck me that the criticism was invalid if you considered the source. So the impetus for the book was my desire to set the record straight, or at least offer an alternate viewpoint; to inform people that Space: 1999 was an interesting and valuable contribution to the genre - which most fans already knew, of course.

I wrote that book before the Internet really took hold, before the Columbia House video releases, before DVDs - and after the laserdiscs had not done so well. So I was facing a context that I feared might be the end of the series, especially since new Babylon 5, SeaQuest DSV and Deep Space Nine were gaining fans. Based on my film education, I felt Space: 1999 offered something that few TV shows did: a genuine use of cinematic technique to express storylines. I felt that most journalists didn't take this into account, so that was my pet "theory" on Space: 1999.

I turned in the book to McFarland in early 1995 and it took just about forever to come out; till April 1997. By then, all kinds of things were happening in the 1999 community, and I think the timing was right for my book.

I originally viewed Space: 1999 as a very young child in 1975, so my initial memories of the series were mainly sort of "shock and awe." I remember being frightened by "Dragon's Domain," "End of Eternity" and "Force of Life," and the excitement of Year Two stories like "The Metamorph," "The Exiles" and "Bringers of Wonder."

Writing the book was a chance to re-visit the program and look at it from the perspective of adulthood. To my delight, the series was not only smart and cinematic, but mysterious, thought-provoking, and innovative. That was the message I tried to get across: that Space: 1999 was its own thing; and that in relation to Star Trek, which was the yardstick by which to measure science fiction series in the mid-1990s, it succeeded admirably. My original title was "Attention All Sections Alpha," but McFarland, who had contracted me to write a "small" book, felt it was too insular and wanted something more scholarly, which I understood.

The book was fun to author. I contacted The New York Times and secured the rights to re-print the Isaac Asimov Review - which I paid for out-of pocket. I commissioned and also paid for the artwork and collectible photographs to go in the book, since I was allowed to use only 5 illustrations from the series. I had the pleasure of interviewing Catherine Schell. It was a great learning experience putting a book together for the first time.

I've always wanted to return to the book, especially since I've interviewed Johnny Byrne, Martin Landau, Brian Johnson and other people. But the climate has changed today. Now Carlton is actively managing the rights to the series - it didn't own the rights when I wrote the book! Mateo Latosa at Powys is currently licensed to publish Space: 1999 books, so I don't think anyone could or would proceed with an update of my book, unless it was through the auspices of Powys.

But I've always felt that I had more to say about Space: 1999. One thing that didn't get into the text - and which I still have in my attic, is an A-Z guide of every alien, planet, character, reference in the series. I was contracted to do only a small book, and so some things got cut, and the "concordance" was one of the victims. It was like, fifty pages long...

Who are your literary heroes?

In the world of non-fiction, I admire many authors who delve into TV and cinema. One of my favorite books is Paul Gagne's "The Zombies That Ate Pittsburgh", a book about director George Romero. I also admire John Stanley, who wrote "The Creature Features Movie Guide." I read that in high school and the breadth of his knowledge floored me. As far as critics, I read Stanley Kauffmann, the late Pauline Kael and Roger Ebert.

In the world of fiction, I enjoy Michael Crichton. I like Stephen King and Dean Koontz.. In terms of classical literature, I'm a Hawthorne fan.

Let's discuss your latest work, the Space: 1999 novel "The Forsaken."

You had a daunting task. To author one of the unseen, untold stories between the television show's first and second seasons. The show lacked closure for various characters and proper introductions for others, since producer Fred Freiberger had been brought aboard to make sweeping changes between seasons.

How did you get involved on this book? What objectives did you and Mateo Latosa (publisher at Powys Media) lay out? What story subjects were focused on, and what was verbotten (off-limits?) How were contributions made by others? Was it aimed primarily at established fans, or do you feel its accessible to non-Space: 1999 fans?

I met Mateo at the Breakaway Convention in 1999, and he was working to acquire the rights to publish Space: 1999 novels. We talked about the possibility of me doing a novel, and our discussions continued through 2000, when we met at the Main Mission Convention in Manhattan. We kept in touch, and Mateo worked really hard to acquire that license: he put together a great package and really did his homework. Once he got the license, we began intense discussions about what kind of story we wanted to do.

My first proposal was for a novel entitled "Futility" which concerned a psychic web enshrouding Moonbase Alpha as it unknowingly hurtled towards destruction - a nova in a solar system it had yet to traverse. The story concerned premonitions of death and disaster that the Alphans were experiencing. And worse, the Computer was experiencing them too - with log entries mysteriously appearing from the future, warning about imminent disaster. It was a heavily metaphysical story, based on paranormal research I did for my "One Step Beyond" book, about the sinking of the Titanic, and the strange premonitions that people had about that disaster.

Anyway, it was a good idea but didn't quite work as a novel, so I began thinking about other stories. I went back to a teleplay I wrote for a Space: 1999episode entitled "Fortune's Fools." It was about these aliens who came to the moon and offered the Alphans a gift - a device that would transform the Moon into a paradise. The only catch was that it would only work for fifty years, and then the device would destroy the Alphans. It was an environmental story concerning short-sightedness. Would the Alphans give up their children's futures just so they could live in paradise for the rest of their lives? Mateo liked that story, and we began to ask the question: what price survival? Would you settle on a planet even if you knew your presence was hurting the people already living there? That moral/environmental idea became the core conceit of "The Forsaken."

I don't recall that much was off-limits. I couldn't tell a Balor story... for obvious reasons. And I knew I had to tell a planet story since Bill Latham's excellent "Resurrection" was an Alpha-centric one. I had total freedom to kill or send off characters, assuming the "departures" were earned from the standpoint of story. We decided that I could explain the departures of only certain characters, to leave room for future novels to handle others, which was more than fair as far as I was concerned. Mateo has an exceptional grasp of story and characterization and is also a really fine editor, I must say. He's the right person for this job.

Let's see - what contributions were made by others? Mateo read a first draft early on and helped me clear up some elements and discard things that weren't working. The interlude, a section that goes into detail about Sandra and Paul's love life, was one of the last things I wrote, and that came out of concerns from Mateo and Prentis Hancock - who both felt that this particular scene had to be there for the climax to work adequately, and I think they were right. Kathryn and Bill Latham proofread the text when it was finished. Martin Willey read an early draft too, and offered something like sixty insights that honed the story and made it better. And, of course, "Space Brain" came from the mind of Christopher Penfold, so he was an important influence.

The MUF portions of the book came about based on conversations I had with series story editor Johnny Byrne during 2001. He mentioned these brilliant notions about the MUF - and for what reasons it might abandon the Alphans, and I incorporated those notions. I was blessed to have such a web of support throughout the process, and I thank everybody who helped me.

Mateo really wants the Space: 1999 books to be good literature; good writing. He also wants them to be absolutely superb examples of the series' ethos. So the books have to pass muster with the fans, and be accessible to non-fans. I hope "The Forsaken" is accessible. The hardest thing for a non-fan to get is why the moon is careening across the universe. But once they accept that, I think that the characters are pretty clearly delineated and defined; easy to get ahold of for non-fans.

Your book is truly extraordinary. Like Bill Latham's "Resurrection" (the Powys Media Space: 1999 book which preceded this one) it perfectly depicts the chemistry between different characters, plus the quintessential mood of the original Space: 1999 show - all while encountering new adventures, expanding the readers' minds to new possibilities, and continuing to explore various familiar friendships and relationships. The amalgam of dialogue and plot elements you've written about is near flawless.

Within the first ten pages, I felt the "Peter David" touch (referring to the use of homage to the original source materials). You place the reader directly into events affected by the television series' first season. We witness the death of one character; we learn of events which will affect the next season. And we learn new developments about some characters and their current state of affairs?

The Forsaken - cover variant #1

John Kenneth Muir's
"The Forsaken" novel,
from Powys Media.
(Cover art variant #1.)

[MAJOR SPOILER WARNING] As mentioned, within the first pages Jackie Crawford (from the episode "Alpha Child") has died. The nature of his passing is unexplained. Was there a reason for the lack of specifics? Creative license on your part? Is it left to the readers' imaginations?

I'm glad you enjoyed the book and felt it was a faithful representation of the series. That means a great deal to me. As regards to Peter David, he is a writer I admire precisely because of the approach he adopts. He doesn't assume an episode of a series is "bad" and try to undo it. Instead, he accepts the universe, remembers the details, and forges a new adventure based on those details and characterizations. Also, he takes the stance that the events of Star Trek or whatever are "real." That is, those events actually happened to the characters.

I wanted that approach in "The Forsaken." I wanted the characters to remember the events of previous episodes; to have learned from them; to have reflected upon them. That makes the characters more realistic as far as I'm concerned. Events change people, help them grow, and so the events of "Space Brain" or "Testament of Arkadia" or "Collision Course" would have changed the characters in ways that we didn't necessarily see on the TV show because of time-constraints.

Mateo and I talked about "The Forsaken" being a "bridge" novel, meaning that it would connect Years One and Year Two. I thought that made sense, unless we want to believe that the two seasons took place in alternate universes. Characters disappeared, the base changed, and most importantly, attitudes changed. My job was to forge a connection that - without being obvious and pat - would explain how those changes came to be.

Of course, so many of those changes were huge, so the story had to be epic, but not so epic that people would have to refer to it all over Year Two episodes, which of course, they didn't! It was a bit of a tightrope, but I'm happy with the balance we struck. The feedback I've received has been very positive.[MAJOR SPOILER WARNING] The Jackie Crawford thing came about for a number of reasons. For certain Alphans to make a particular decision in the book, there had to be a fear about remaining on Alpha and giving birth there. Mateo really understood that it was the right thing to do. From a continuity standpoint it made sense. Jackie Crawford never re-appeared on the show after "Alpha Child." If there were a kid around the base, we would have seen him...

My best contribution to his death, I think, was that I didn't want to explain it. I didn't want that to become the subject of the book. I wanted it to be a mystery that was left unanswered, because so many of the mysteries of Space: 1999were unanswered. I wanted the reader to be left wondering how it happened, to be in that frame of mind to understand that there are some questions that just won't get answered in this book.

At some point, I believe there will be a novel that explains precisely what happened to Jackie Crawford, but I felt that it shouldn't overshadow the main story of "The Forsaken", and that it was best for me to leave that story to another writer. I didn't want to hog all the good stories, you know?

Within the book, you showcase a wholly unique alien society - and explore the extrinsic role of the Alphans when their two destinies collide. (That's a bad pun if you've read the book, i.e. the space brain). How did you develop the aliens (known as the Cryptodira). How were they envisioned. What research did you conduct? How did you want them to be different from known Space: 1999 aliens?

The Cryptodira were a contrast to humans. I wanted them to be peaceful and advanced and wise and interesting, but lacking some of the characteristics that make human beings special creations. Creating the Cryptodira was difficult, and did take painstaking research, because Mateo and I felt that the aliens had to be more than the "alien of the week." I did a great deal of research on Aztec culture: their poetry, music and so forth, and then mixed that with other data I had.

For me, the turning point was when I decided to include the funeral scene. I turned in the first draft without it, and then I hurriedly telephoned Mateo and said to him, 'We have to include a funeral scene - a rite of the Cryptodira culture that shows who they really are.' He got on board with that idea instantly. It's one of my favorite sequences in the book and it ended up being much more than I envisioned.

Physically, the Cryptodira are sort of advanced turtles. That idea came about because I read all of these environmental and history books about the Earth's early days and how, had events been just a little different, reptiles may have been a dominant life-form. I wanted the Cryptodira to be deliberate, graceful and a bit slow, so turtles seemed the obvious selection.

All the Cryptodira names actually relate to turtle breeds. One of the names means "Black Chest," another means "Ring Nose," that kind of thing, and I liked the metaphor, because the story dealt with the notion that the Alphans were like the European settlers on this continent, threatening the Native American culture. Names like "Black Chest," "Ring Nose" reminded me of names like "Dances with Wolves" or "Sitting Bull." It all fit together really well. But if you were to go out and research turtles, you'd find the names Annulata, Gibbus, and Cullinostris have distinct connotations both for their characters in the book, and for real-life turtles.

I like the aliens on Space: 1999 - they are always cool, and often very surprising. I wanted to carry over that tradition, yet as Mateo would remind me, the book wasn't just an episode. It had to go into more detail, and I had to come up with everything about the culture from architecture, to education, to funerary rites, to government, to attitudes about medicine and science, to religion, to military, etc. It was painstaking, but I really enjoyed it.

My deepest fear was that fans would read the book and feel that the aliens played too much a part. I hate it when I read a Star Trek novel and the author just goes off on some imaginary race he or she created and forgets the series' characters. You know, if I wanted to read about the M'Cha-Pa'na or some other alien name with too many apostrophes, I would have bought a book about them! This is supposed to be Star Trek! Or in this case, Space: 1999!

So Mateo, the editor, and myself, the writer, policed each other very carefully. I always tried to take out material about the Cryptodira, and he would always encourage me to put in detail that made the characters richer. Again, it was a balance that had to be struck, and I feel we got it right. For me, the Cryptodira were interesting mainly in the ways the Alphans related to them and the differences in the cultures.

Music has a strong role within the book, from the chapter names, to the usage amongst the aliens. Do you have a musical background? Did it factor into this story aspect?

I have a general background in music. Very general. I grew up playing piano and tenor sax. So I understand music; I am fascinated by it because it is - in a very real sense, a language. I had a great music teacher in my middle school named Stan Jackson, and he always told his classes that music "is the universal language." He loved Close Encounters of the Third Kind and was always sure that if mankind met aliens, we would communicate with them via music. I always remembered Mr. Jackson and that belief.

I wanted the Cryptodira to be musical because I felt music fostered the impression of beauty and wisdom. I also wanted to structure the book with many parts and counterpoint, and so along came this notion of dividing it up like a symphony. The book had a clear overture (the space brain sequence) and a clear coda (with Victor and Koenig reflecting on the adventure and looking ahead) so the rest was just natural.

I'm ever-curious: Authors sometimes use names of friends, family members, even pets within their works. Did you name anyone within the book this way? Any reasons for the names you chose?

Absolutely. There's a flashback to Paul's youth and he lives on Clinton Road. That was the street where I lived for the first eighteen years of my life. One of the Alphans is named Stallard. That happens to be the maiden name of my wife's mother. Other Alphans, John and Mindy Salmon, are named after good friends of my family, John and Mindy. Salmon is Mindy's maiden name.

One of the Alphans is named Chris Gentry - and that's a character from a 1970s Saturday morning TV show, Space Academy. Doug Austin is named after 1999 director Ray Austin. Christopher Morrow is named for Christopher Penfold. I think that's about all of the crazy references. Originally I had more in-jokes (like Alphans named Freddie, Gerry and Sylvia), but we decided to cut them out.

Continued >

Copyright 1999-2003 All Rights Reserved. Legal notice.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License, in conjunction with our Open Source Content Model. This site uses XHTML and CSS and looks best with a standards compliant browser.

Back to the Top

Moonbase Alpha's Eagle One
Alan Carter
Dr. Helena Russell
Dr. Bob Mathias
Tanya Alexander
Controller Paul Morrow