How Do You Wind Up a Series, Anyway?

Space:1999 was around long before I got here, and presumably, it’ll still be around when I’m not.  If there’s a mysterious unknown force involved here, one has to wonder why yours truly is left carrying the mantle for this series and now finds himself needing to wrap up the series in a final novel, Odysseus Wept.

Winding up the series is infinitely more complicated than starting it.  To clarify that point, no, I didn’t start Space:1999, but my novel Resurrection did start this book series.  Mateo Latosa and I spent a lot of phone time talking through the pitfalls of this book series, how to make sure it had room to grow, how we could honor the past but build a framework for new stories, and ultimately, how to really close in on what Johnny Byrne had expressed to Mateo as his hopes for something like a new beginning — not a reboot, mind you, a new series, sort of Space:1999 the Next Generation.

For anybody reading these novels, we’ve been planting seeds all along to make that happen.  The Alphan adventure isn’t ending with Odysseus Wept — but the Powys Space:1999 adventure certainly is.  If I had one wish for the future, I would love it if some fan fiction writer (or maybe more than one) picks up the mantle from where we leave it off.

That’s the easy part — we’ve been building pieces of that foundation for quite a long time.  Now it’s just time to gather the threads into a whole.

What’s hard?  Well, Odysseus Wept is a novel, and novels need character arcs, and plots with beginnings, middles, and ends, and to some degree, a changing of the guard will be happening in this book — it takes place over a long period of time, and just like in real life, your parents were the stars of the show when you were a kid and then at some point in your forties or fifties, you suddenly realize that they’re now sort of supporting characters, and you’re running the show, and your kids are watching the calendar pages pass until one day, they’ll be the stars of the show.

See what I mean?

I have to put aside the “novel architect” on this project and focus more on multiple smaller stories, with smaller arcs, but with different central characters as the “stars” of those arcs.  Every novel has sub-plots — this is really different. This book has sub-novels.  I don’t think I realized that coming in — from an architectural perspective, this is something like six mini-novels — but the “design” portion of each one is just as challenging as a regular sized novel.

For anybody interested, who’s been following the book series (and if you haven’t, man will this sound nerdy/fanboywonkish), here are some, but not all, of those mini novels (oh, by the way, spoiler alert!!!!):

  • Space Brains: Who/What/Where/Why?
  • The Life and Times of Paul Morrow
  • The Life and Times of Ariana Carter
  • The Life and Times of the Koenig-Russell Family
  • Hey, Look, It’s the Moon!
  • Goodnight, Moon (catchy)

And part of me really, really, really wants to be done — there’s other stuff I really want to be working on.  But I look myself in the mirror and say:  “Don’t phone it in, pal, you’ll never respect yourself afterwards.”

So, there’s pulling together the loose threads, there’s laying down all of the separate stories that need to be told, and then there’s wondering — well, what do people want?

That last one is a question that historically WE DO NOT ASK.

That’ll sound pretty arrogant — lemme explain.  The best way to produce something bland and palatable but not great is to try to please everyone.  You end up with something…fine.  That’s just an awful word to me.  I’d much rather have you walk away from one of my books angry than ready to forget you read it.

This book isn’t going to try to be controversial.  It’ll try to be entertaining.  It’ll try to be true to everything that’s come before, particularly our book series.  But I’ll be honest — if I’m gonna pull punches a little, it might be in this book, just because it’s the end of the series, folks — if I have a choice to have a character’s fate be memorable vs. satisfying, this time around, I’m probably gonna go with satisfying.  Much to the horror of my writing instincts.

But in this case, my paternal feelings have to win out.  For at least a little while longer, I’m the step-dad of this series that has dominated much of the last fifteen years or so of my life.  I have only written one non-Space 1999 novel in this millennium, and it’s one you probably won’t ever get to see (there’s pumpkins and butcher knives and we don’t have the rights, many of you will know which book I mean).  I have started other books, and I really want to get to them!  But the only books I’ve finished are on Moonbase Alpha.  I haven’t forgotten how Captain James T. Kirk’s death in “Star Trek: Generations” felt — and I’m determined to really not have that happen here (hey, did I just split an infinitive, how bold!).

But what always nags me is this series — especially given its real life drama, only two seasons, and drastically different seasons at that — this lady deserves an elegant resolution.  And I’m gonna do what I can to make sure she gets one.

How do you wind up a series?

You try for a soft landing, and just keeping going till you see the runway get closer, closer, and then you touch down.

Behind the Scenes: Space 1999 The Final Revolution

About The Final Revolution

Fair warning — SPOILERS ahead.

Space: 1999 The Final Revolution represents the next to last chronological book in the Powys Space:1999 canon, to be followed by Odysseys Wept.  Here are some things you may or may not know about the book.

Birth of The Final Revolution

The Final Revolution’s earliest roots are in the first page of Space: 1999 Resurrection.  A reference is made to the final revolution or the last time the Moon revolved around the Earth before it began its odyssey.  The title was essentially born there.

The concept of someone intentionally using technology meant to deflect asteroids to actually change an asteroid’s course to intentionally hit something was discussed by Carl Sagan in “Pale Blue Dot” (Carl was against developing the technology for that very reason).

At its heart, however, the reference was first connected to this novel due to the idea of a celestial body revolving around some other object as basically passive — in this novel, the Alphans steer the Moon, so it is no longer in its passive revolving state.  You can make an argument that the Alphans take hold of their destiny in this book — and then they’re not sure what to do with it.

The Final Revolution as a Counterpoint to Star Trek

Star Trek and Space: 1999 are often compared — that just happens.  They are, however, very different franchises.  The Final Revolution essentially gives Space: 1999 some of the key technological advances of Star Trek and shows how they work in the Space: 1999 universe (or, to be more precise, slightly outside of the Space: 1999 universe).

Some key abilities — the ability to navigate, the ability to transport matter across distances quickly, mind-melding, and lastly, boldly going where no one has gone before.  Unlike Star Trek, things seem to get worse every time the Alphans use any of these advances.  The ability to steer or navigate essentially tears open the fabric of space for the Alphans, and their “transporter” ability aggravates that tear, essentially hastening the Alphans’ fate.  Taking hold of their ability to move proactively puts the Alphans increasingly in danger throughout this story.  More problematic, however, is the Alphans (for varying reasons, some outside their control) are living in a passive universe.  While they often act, most of their journey all these years has been outside their control, and they adapt to the “current” they follow.  Star Trek is much more active — Starfleet has rules like the Prime Directive specifically to ensure they act passively — it’s not in the nature of the Star Trek universe to sit around and wait.  One could argue that the classic Kirk vs. Picard argument is really about an active versus a passive approach to command –but is it passive or reactive?  They are not the same thing, after all.

The Alphans and Using Technology They Don’t Understand

Much of the Year Three saga in the Powys Space: 1999 canon has involved advanced technology that the Alphans can use, but often don’t understand.  The Psyche/David Kano intelligence spawned out of Born for Adversity for example — it has become god-like and no one really has a sense of how god-like it really is.  The technology Victor Bergman uses on New Leiram in Omega, Alpha, and ultimately, The Final Revolution, is technology he assumes was his own creation but clearly he doesn’t have a full grasp of all of its capabilities.  Bergman is confident that he controls it, however — which turns out to be something of a mistake.

Johnny Byrne’s Children of the Gods explored a race of beings who don’t act with particularly strong ethics, and that race doesn’t always know why it does what it does — it follows routines, essentially, much the same way we do when we keep doing things the same way when there may be improved methods for doing the same things (yes, VCR owners, I’m talking to you).

A few hundred years ago, as long as you could understand fire, you were probably up on technology.  Gunpowder started to change that.  Now, in an age of space travel, nuclear power, cloud-based computing, microwave ovens, etc. — how many of us really understand everything that we use every day?  Lack of understanding and fear go hand in hand.  Believe what you want about GMOs for example — much of the debate about GMOs is more about fear than about science.  We live in an age where paranoia on any side of an argument begins to alter the argument itself.

Space: 1999 is no different.  They do use technology now that they don’t quite have a handle on — in this book, it saved their lives, while nearly killing them — and if they’d had all the facts, they’d have been safe and the bad things on Rua would have happened just the way they were planned to happen, with no harm to the Alphans — had they been passive, they’d have been fine.  So what if evil would have been allowed to prosper?

No easy answers here.  I think that was the whole point, however.