|An interview with Karen Miller|
Selmak recently scored an interview with Karen Miller, an author who recently wrote a Stargate book featuring our favorite characters, Jacob and Selmak. Karen was kind enough to answer a few questions for Selmak.
Q1. Tell us about yourself. How did you become a writer of Stargate books?
Well, I've been a fan of the show since its first season. A friend (the person I saw the original movie with, way back when!) showed me the pilot, and I thought it was fantastic. One of the best pilots ever, and certainly the best segue from film to tv series done to date, I think. Then a lovely friend in the US got me the entire 1st season on tape and I just tumbled head over heels for the show.
At that time I had my own business -- an sf/fantasy/mystery bookshop -- and I was working on my first mainstream fantasy novel. Around the edges I was writing Stargate fanfic -- the Medical Considerations series -- and doing some freelance journalism, which involved interviews with the Stargate cast and producers. That led to me visiting the set, which was fantastic, and really confirmed my affection for the show.
Time rolled on, the bookshop closed, and I focused on my writing. I sold my first two fantasy books, and around that time started thinking about the reboot of the Stargate novels, which was long overdue. I did chat with the wonderful Sally and Tom from Fandemonium then, about doing one, but my agent at the time was very anti-media tie-in work, so I pulled back. Subsequently I changed agents, and thought -- you know, I really want to do this! I love the show, I love the characters, this could be a heap of fun. So I submitted a proposal, and it was accepted.
Q2. I see you've written other books including Kingmaker, Kingbreaker and Godspeaker. Can you give us a brief overview of the various series?
Well, the Kingmaker, Kingbreaker duology was my first fantasy sale.
It's a 2-book story (at the moment, but that could well change!) and it's character-driven heroic fantasy. It's the story of an ambitious young man, Asher, who wants out from under his domineering brothers' thumbs. He leaves his home and the family fishing business for his kingdom's capital city, where he intends earning enough money so he can buy his own fishing boat and set up shop for himself, with just his father by his side. Unfortunately, fate and destiny have other plans for Asher. He gets caught up with the kingdom's royal family -- members of the magical ruling elite -- and a group of people who -- against the most stringent laws -- practice a different kind of magic and wait in secret for the arrival of The Innocent Mage, who will save them all from a terrible future. It's all about friendship and betrayal and sacrifice and redemption.
Currently both books are available in Australia, as The Innocent Mage and Innocence Lost. In the UK, the Innocent Mage is out now, and the sequel -- retitled The Awakened Mage -- comes out in October. In the US, with the same titles as in the UK, they're being released back to back in September/October.
The Godspeaker trilogy is my current work. Book 1, Empress of Mijak, has just been released in Australia. With a slight title change to Empress, it'll be out in the US and UK next year. It's the story of an unwanted girl-child who's sold into slavery ... and what happens to the world when she discovers she has a special connection to her people's nameless, brutal and bloodthirsty god. Empress tells the tale of Hekat's rise to power, the people she loves and uses and loses in her quest to fulfil what she believes is her sacred duty. Bk 2, The Riven Kingdom, which is due out in Australia in December, moves the action to a different location -- but the underlying threat from Hekat is never far away .. and an important character from Bk 1 turns up in Bk 2 -- much to the consternation of young Princess Rhian, who has to fight for her right to rule a kingdom on the brink of falling apart. Bk 3, out in Australia next June, recounts the massive clash of cultures between Hekat and her people and the rest of the civilised world ... and the terrible personal costs of ambition and ideology.
Q3. Please tell us a little bit about your book, Alliances. I noticed that you feature our favorite characters Jacob/Selmak, and not many authors do so. Why did you decided to include Jacob and Selmak in this story?
Hands-down, Jacob is my favourite non-SGC recurring character. (YAY! ~ Selmak)
From the moment he walked on screen in "Secrets", he just dominated the action. He explains so much about Sam, and he's a great foil for Jack. He's one of the few people who will stand up to Jack and call him on his nonsense, and I really like that about him.
Selmak we see less of, since most often we're interacting with Jacob, but the glimpses we get of the symbiote reveal someone with enormous intelligence, compassion and a sly sense of humour, which is always appealing. The Jacob/Selmak team is hard to go past for engaging and thought-provoking drama. I also really like the way Jacob opens up Sam as a character. It gives her a chance to be something more than the supergeek. Many of my favourite episodes feature Jacob -- it broke my heart when he died!
As for Alliances ... well, it takes place immediately after the events of the season 4 episode 'The Other Side'. I love this ep, if for no other reason than it's by Brad Wright, who is probably my favourite writer on the show. I wish he'd done more! 'The Other Side' raises some very interesting questions about looking gift horses in the mouth, and political expediencies, and tricky ethical dilemmas. It also ends on a really ambiguous note. Due to the nature of episodic tv drama we never got to see the ramifications of Jack's decision to close the iris on Alar -- and in doing so, effectively execute him. So I wanted to explore that, and I wanted to play a bit with Jacob, and the story I came up with allowed me to do both.
Basically, because the SGC didn't get hold of the promised Eurondan technology, Kinsey's on the warpath. He and Jack have an explosive confrontation -- and it looks like Jack's career is over. Then Jacob turns up at the SGC requesting Sam's help with a Tok'ra plan to find more hosts for Tok'ra symbiotes. Hammond sees the request as a way to protect Jack and cement the alliance with the Tok'ra ... but of course things go pear-shaped and it's up to Jacob and Sam to save the day ... and Jack and Daniel. Threaded through the action is the emotional undercurrent of what happened to Alar, how that's affecting Jack, and his relationship with his team. There are lot of fireworks and I hope some interesting insights. I'm a big fan of the team dynamics, their friendships and their sometimes fractious affections.
Q4. I understand that you're currently working on a book featuring Janet Fraiser. Can you tell us anything about this book?
Do No Harm does indeed feature Janet, another recurring character for whom I have a great deal of affection. It's set at the end of season 3, right before the finale with the Replicators, and in part is my look at the fallout from the season 2 episode "A Matter of Time" (yes, Brad Wright again!) --which is in my top 5 favourite eps of the whole series. In Do No Harm, SG-1 find themselves fighting crises on a couple of fronts. Due to a run of really bad luck the base is suffering a severe personnel shortage -- and someone who's brought in from the outside to assist has a connection to Colonel Frank Cromwell, Jack's former friend who left him for dead in Iraq. While Jack's dealing with those memories, SG-1 finds itself caught up in a massive offworld medical crisis, which results in Janet Fraiser crossing some important lines to do what's best for her patients.
Q5. Outside of watching the show(s), what other research have you done to prepare for writing this book?
The main extra research has been into Operation Desert Storm, and the disaster that overtook one British SAS team, as well as some general reading up on US special forces and interrogation issues.
Q6. Have you met Carmen A. in person? Does he know about "Alliances?" What is his opinion on it?
Sadly, I haven't. Living in Australia has some drawbacks! I don't know if he knows about the book, but if he ever does get round to reading it I just hope he feels I've done justice to the character he portrayed so fantastically for eight years.
Q6. Did you elaborate on any of Jake's history in the book? Did you have to worry about breaking 'canon' in your book or were you free to create Jake's past to suit yourself?
There wasn't the scope to do that in this book, bar a reference to him being, like Jack, one of the Air Forces' mavericks. I feel he and Jack are quite alike in many ways. I don't think this broke canon -- which is a huge issue for me, since I'm fanatical about maintaining continuity with the series. To the best of my ability, if I've interpreted or embroidered it's been within the guidelines/facts laid out on screen.
Q7. How would you describe Jacob to someone that doesn't know him? How would you attempt to explain Selmak to the same person?
Jacob is a tough man. He's focused, dedicated, and committed to the welfare of his country, his people -- and the planet. He's got a highly defined moral/ethical code, has zero tolerance for fools, deceit and time-wasting. He's not easy -- he can be impatient, intolerant and bloody high-handed. He's blunt and brusque and rarely bothers with diplomatic niceties when he can just call a spade a bloody shovel. He's incredibly proud, and can't bear to admit any kind of weakness, either physical or emotional. He's also insanely brave. When he thinks something's right nothing will stop him from pursuing his goal. He loves Sam fiercely, and even more importantly he really respects her, and her job, and her courage.
Selmak has a sly sense of humour, and enormous patience. I think Selmak and Jacob have a lot in common, which is why they get on so well and why, in the end, they end up alienated from the rest of the High Council. Selmak takes the long view on things, and isn't afraid to challenge the prevailing wisdom.
Q8. How do you best sum up Jacob and Selmak's relationship? (You know, a boy and his headsnake... :))
A close and comfortable friendship. I mean, Jacob gave up coffee for Selmak.
That's huge. *g*
And Selmak doesn't let Jacob get away with any bullshit -- I love the fact that it's Selmak who pushes him to mend fences with his son. I suppose, if you want to think that Selmak's female, they're like an instant old married couple. Or, like Jack and Daniel, friends who support and challenge each other to be bigger and better than they can be on their own. They seem to me like shout and echo -- in real harmony on the big issues, and prepared to niggle each other on smaller things.
Q9. What are your future plans for Jacob and Selmak?
Well, I plan to bring them back when I write the sequel to Alliances, which will be next year. At the end of Alliances we have some unfinished business with the Goa'uld baddie ... and I can't leave that hanging! I also want to explore some of the Jack and Sam issues that were raised in season 4, and look at how Jacob might feel about them. I realise that the 'ship stuff can be a contentious issue for some fans but it's there, it's canon, and I'd like to have a realistic, non-sentimental look at that. Can I say that again??? Non-sentimental. I'm not much for the gushy hearts-and-flowers take on that situation -- or any situation, really. My stories tend to have high body counts. *g*
I also want to play more with the whole Tok'ra question, because so much of great interest happens in the show as a result of the SGC getting mixed up with them, and Jacob is the way in to that.
Q10. Canon-wise, Selmak takes on the Gender of its host, but in your fic is Selmak Female or Male?
(This is a trick question. Feel free to be snarky :) If you've seen my site, some of us believe that Selmak is a rather strong female voice who refuses to pretend to be male :) ).
Well, since I live and die by canon *g* I have to accept that Selmak is referred to as 'he'. But I'm not even sure that questions of gender can arise because, hello, Selmak's a symbiote. I think of Selmak first and foremost as a personality, a character.
Q11. Since this is SCIFI, and no one ever really dies in SCIFI, if you had a chance, how would you bring Jacob/Selmak back to the series?
Well, at the risk of appearing tragically derivative and uncreative, within the context of the show's science, I'd have to say I'd go the AU route for sure. I don't believe you can go the resurrection route, not plausibly. Now, how we get access to the AU is possibly up for grabs. There are many ways to do it. And it would be fun ... *g*