Transscript vom Chat mit Jeanne Cavelos
*** Topic for #auditorium: Jeanne Cavelos author of Babylon 5: Casting Shadows 9PM ET
Moderator Let me start with an easy question...:) What led you to write a novel, and why B5?
Jeanne That's easy? :) I've been writing since I was little, but it took me a while to accept that writing was a worthy thing to do . . .
Jeanne It seemed like too much fun, and I kind of thought I ought to help make the world a better place.
Jeanne Finally I just decided to do what I enjoyed. I wrote two novels before my first B5 novel, The Shadow Within.
Jeanne The first was an 800-page psychic Western set during the Civil War. It was awful.
Jeanne The second was science fiction/adventure, and it almost got published, but not quite.
Jeanne I was working on my third novel when I became obsessed with the idea of what happened to Anna Sheridan and the crew of the Icarus
Jeanne when they went to Z'ha'dum. That's when I put my 3rd novel aside and wrote THE SHADOW WITHIN.
Jeanne Since then, publisher's have asked me to write one book after the next . . .
Jeanne and they've come to me with such great topics that I couldn't say no.
Jeanne When Del Rey and Joe asked me if I wanted to write a trilogy about the techno-mages, I was very excited.
Jeanne I love Galen and Elric, and I love the whole concept of the mages. So that's the long story of how it happened. GA
Moderator I actually like the idea of a psychic civil war era western. We're you working on your non-fiction books on X-Files and Star Wars at the same time?
Jeanne No, the Civil War book was a long time ago--around 1985, I think...
Jeanne THE SCIENCE OF THE X-FILES I wrote in 1996, I think, and THE SCIENCE OF STAR WARS after that.
Jeanne I'm still waiting for a category to appear in the bookstores: "Psychic Westerns." Then I can sell that baby! GA
Moderator <Starkiller> to <Moderator>: Hi Jeanne, thank you for coming. Shadow Within was great. What period of time does the 1st Casting shadows novel covers?
Jeanne Hi. Casting Shadows runs from November 2258 to January 2259. You probably know from SHADOW WITHIN that I love
Jeanne having the change to a new year in these B5 books--Joe did so much with that, I love the idea of it.
Moderator <spacey> to <Moderator>: what type of work did you do for NASA? And what advise would you give to a young person who wants to work for NASA?
Jeanne I worked in the Astronaut Training Division at Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Jeanne We created different methods of training the astronauts for different conditions they might encounter in space.
Jeanne For example, I created a course to teach the astronauts star positions, so that if their navigational system went out . . .
Jeanne they could manually align their equipment to the stars and still find their way home.
Jeanne I'm just waiting to hear that they got lost one day. It will all be my fault.
Jeanne My advice would be to get their current listing of openings, send your resume, and follow up in a professional way.
Jeanne It all depends on their funding. When they have a lot of funding, they hire a lot. When they don't, it's very difficult to get in.
Moderator <DireRed> to <Moderator>: Jeanne, "The Shadow Within" is out of print. Will it be reprinted? (and hi from Deirdre Saoirse, former student!)
Jeanne Deirdre, hi! Del Rey said they were considering reprinting it, but since they never got back to me with a decision ...
Jeanne my tendency is to believe they aren't going to.
Jeanne I know some rare/used bookdealers still have it available--I think it's on Amazon too. I also have a few copies left ...
Jeanne if someone is desperate. GA
Moderator <Sandy> to <Moderator>: What was it like working with Harlan Ellison at your Odyssey workshop?
Jeanne Just jumping back to the previous question for a second--sorry--The Shadow Within serves as a sort of loose "prequel" to the trilogy . . .
Jeanne You don't need to have read it to enjoy the trilogy, but it does give you some information that will add to your enjoyment, I think.
Jeanne Okay, working with Harlan was wonderful, challenging, maddening, enlightening--pretty much every emotion on the spectrum came into it.
Jeanne He's a brilliant writer, and it was great that he shared some of what he knows with the students at the Odyssey Writing Workshop that I run . . .
Jeanne On the other hand, he didn't always convey that information in a way that was user-friendly. It was always a challenge, but one well worth taking. GA
Moderator As a fiction writer what are some of the pluses and minuses of playing in someone else's backyard as it were? Writing a story using established characters in a known fictional space?
Jeanne He's a very kind and generous man, with a very tough exterior.
Jeanne Sorry--I always have belated thoughts. Going on to your next question now . . .
Jeanne I guess the cons are that you are limited in certain ways. You have to make everything you write consistent with what's been established earlier . . .
Moderator That's okay :)
Jeanne On the other hand, having those limitations can force you to be more creative, and to come up with more interesting solutions . . .
Jeanne When I was working on THE PASSING OF THE TECHNO-MAGES, I'd sometimes have a great idea...
Jeanne only to realize it wasn't going to work because it wasn't consistent with something in B5.
Jeanne But when I thought about it, I'd come up with another way to do what I needed to do, and often that second way . . .
Jeanne which was much harder to think of, was also a lot more creative. It wasn't just the first thought that popped into my head . . .
Jeanne So I actually think working within the box can sometimes make you a better writer than working outside it.
Jeanne That said, I think a lot of media tie-ins suffer from many rules imposed by the franchise holders.
Jeanne Characters can't do this or that. For example, in Star Trek novels, none of the main characters can change significantly.
Jeanne Well, novels are all about the main character changing, so I think it must be very hard to write a good novel that
Jeanne conforms to those rules. Luckily, B5 has no rules, except that you must be consistent with what's been shown, and Joe has to approve what you've done.
Jeanne I like that. :) GA
Moderator One well know sf writer was asked to write a Conan novel early in his career. It was a pretty good read, but it was ultimately rejected because Conan did too much thinking. They were afraid they'd have to call it Conan The Intellectual
Moderator <Sandy> to <Moderator>: How did you build your characters? What sort of research did you do? And how do you find names for your characters? or alien?
Jeanne When I was first putting characters together, I thought about the whole idea of the mages. What sort of people
Jeanne would have advanced technology implanted into their bodies so that they could perform acts that seemed magical?
Jeanne I considered the various motives people might have, and the various themes I might explore in writing about these people . . .
Jeanne Then I kind of made a character out of each motivation, so a wide variety of mages were created . . .
Jeanne I also did a lot of research on magicians. What type of people are magicians, what's the history of magic, and
Jeanne how do magicians perform various tricks? What techniques do they use?
Jeanne Learning about the types of personalities that are drawn to magic also helped in creating mage characters.
Jeanne Many of the mages are named after actual historical magicians (like Djadjamonkh--one of my favorites!)
Jeanne I like coming up with names--some of them I take from every day life, or from history books--
Jeanne I keep a list in a notebook. Tzakizak, another mage, was actually adapted from the name of a contestant on Who Wants to Be A Millionaire
Moderator <ranger49> to <Moderator>: In talking to others who have worked with Mr. Straczynski that he has a vision of the B5 universe which is much "larger" then what we have seen. Is this your impression also?
Jeanne Yes, I think he knows many things we'll never know. For example, in writing THE SHADOW WITHIN, (and there are spoilers here if you haven't read it)
Jeanne I wanted Morden's wife and daughter to be killed in the nuking of San Diego.
Jeanne But Joe told me the nuking of San Diego happened at a much different time than the time that I wanted Morden's family to be killed . .
Jeanne So I had to kill them another way. I still don't know the story around the nuking of San Diego . .. GA
Moderator This one is connected in a sense to the previous question...
Moderator <KVacit> to <Moderator>: I just want to compliment you on CASTING SHADOWS. I thought your writing style was superb and the story was filled with wonderful imagery. The book was a very satisfying length, and managed to avoid any cookie-cutter feel that would give one the impression you had written it from someone else's outline. I got to wondering, just how detailed was Joe's outline? Were some of the characters your own creation?
Jeanne Thanks, I really appreciate that. Joe's outline for the trilogy was about 20 pages long. He established the overall plot arc for the mages . . .
Jeanne and the general plot of each novel. But he didn't go into a lot of detail about events. Instead, he talked about various motivations the mages might be feeling . . .
Jeanne He left a lot of space for me to come in and make the story my own, within the parameters of B5 and CRUSADE.
Jeanne That made the trilogy a joy to work on. I would hate to be in the position of just filling in the blanks of someone else's story . . .
Jeanne Here, it was more like Joe gave me a direction, and I went with it. Or, he gave me a skeleton, and I added the
Jeanne circulatory system, nervous system, digestion, organs, flesh, and so on. In some places I added things not in the outline. . .
Jeanne and in others I changed things in the outline, to better tell the overall story Joe envisioned.
Jeanne I think, as a writer, he understands that writers need some freedom to create something really worthwhile. . .
Jeanne he's been very supportive.
Jeanne As for the characters, except for those from the two TV series, I made up all the rest.
Moderator <KVacit> to <Moderator>: Could you tell us more about the Odyssey workshop? I'd love to attend.
Jeanne I just felt very lucky to be given such a great topic, and a great story, to work with.
Jeanne Odyssey is a workshop for writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror held for 6 weeks each summer at New Hampshire College in Manchester.
Jeanne I started it 6 years ago, and it's been a wonderful experience. We have about 17 students (ranging from 17-65) come from all over the U.S. and Canada
Jeanne to study, and we have famous writers come in as guests. As someone mentioned, Harlan Ellison was a guest in 1998 . . .
Jeanne this year Terry Brooks is our writer-in-residence.
Jeanne You can find more information at http://www.sff.net/odyssey/
Jeanne If you're interested in attending, you need to send an application and writing sample by April 15.
Moderator So it's similar to Clarion and Clarion West? Did you attend a lengthy workshop early in your own writing career?
Jeanne It has some similarities to Clarion and Clarion West (which are also 6 weeks), but it's organized differently, with a kind of different approach.
Jeanne I got a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing, when I decided to shift from science to fiction . . .
Jeanne As I studied for that degree, I took many writing workshops, and what I found was that none of my professors
Jeanne and none of the other students in the program knew much of anything about writing sf/f/h.
Jeanne I learned a lot about how to write a good sentence, and general information about writing fiction. . .
Jeanne but they couldn't tell me the special requirements of writing f/sf/h, or how my work compared to others in the field
Jeanne That was kind of frustrating, and that was one of the reasons I decided to create Odyssey.
Jeanne It also allows me to work closely with writers, as I did when I was a senior editor at Dell, and I love that process.
Moderator Several audience members have asked if you have a favorite B5 character?
Jeanne Ah, that's so hard!
Jeanne I'll give my top three favorites out of the main characters, and that's not easy either, ...
Jeanne but they would have to be Londo, John Sheridan, and Morden. :)
Moderator <BigFatSwug> to <Moderator>: Does the Shadows trilogy contain any new revelations about the B5 universe?
Jeanne You actually learn the meaning of the universe!
Jeanne In addition to that, I think there are a couple things in the trilogy that you'll find surprising.
Jeanne My favorite thing was putting events from a couple episodes into the trilogy, and revealing that what you
Jeanne thought happened in the episodes isn't what happened at all.
Jeanne Mages, like magicians, are all about manipulation and misdirection--they can be very tricky!
Moderator Another NASA question...
Moderator What do you think about the Alpha space station? And do you think we will go back to the moon?
Jeanne I'm glad we have some sort of space station, though it's certainly a far cry from what Arthur C. Clarke envisioned in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Jeanne Hopefully we'll make some valuable discoveries from experiments there, so people will be more willing to put money into the space program.
Jeanne I don't think we'll be back to the moon until we figure out some way to make money from it.
Jeanne Unfortunately. GA
Moderator <Engelstod> to <Moderator>: Hi, Jeanne! :) Is there any kind of music which inspires you during writing? btw: greetings from Germany! :)
Jeanne Hi! Great to hear from you so far away. I've got a big stack of CDs on my desk that I listened to while writing the trilogy.
Jeanne I'll give you a couple examples--Christopher Franke's B5 Vol. 2 was one of my faves, of course. Peter Gabriel's Passion, The Insider, Gladiator, Eminem, Limp Bizkit, and for all Kosh scenes, VISION.
Moderator Having written extensively about a world that many of your readers originally knew from television, are you tempted to write for television or film yourself?
Jeanne I once was. I wrote a screenplay for Star Trek: The Next Generation a long time ago, when that first came on.
Jeanne I felt the show lacked something, and I was trying to show them the way to finding it.
Jeanne They considered the script but ultimately didn't do anything with it.
Jeanne Since then, I've realized what a control freak I am. With books, you need to get your work past an editor (and perhaps a franchise-holder like JMS)
Jeanne but that's it. You are the writer, director, you act all the parts, you make the scenery, the costumes, lighting, special effects, everything. . .
Jeanne In movies or TV, the script is usually rewritten by many people, and then you have to collaborate with all those other folks . . .
Jeanne I think I'm more of a book person.
Moderator Dare I ask what you felt STTNG was lacking, and whether they ever "found" it :)
Jeanne Well . . . me and my big mouth . . . I felt they were lacking any passion in their characters. I loved the way, in the original ST,
Jeanne that the characters would argue passionately about things. McCoy would take one position, and Spock the other, and Kirk would have to figure out the best answer.
Jeanne That really dramatized the philosophical issues they faced at various planets.
Jeanne It also showed how close the characters were to each other, because you only argue that freely with people you love . . .
Jeanne In ST:TNG, I felt the characters acted like they were co-workers in an office. They were civil and pleasant to each other . . .
Jeanne and didn't seem to care deeply about each other or anything. . .
Jeanne I stopped watching after the first two years or so, so I can't really say whether they ever found it . . . GA
Moderator <KVacit> to <Moderator>: Who are your favorite science fiction authors or the ones who influenced you the most?
Jeanne In science fiction, I guess H.G. Wells, Philip K. Dick, H.P. Lovecraft (if you can accept he's partly SF), Isaac Asimov,
Jeanne Ray Bradbury . . . I better stop there. GA
Moderator <spacey> to <Moderator>: JMS has said he hears the characters from the B5 universe in his head . Do you hear the characters you write about?
Jeanne Absolutely. Those characters that are taken from the show, I study a lot, watching episodes and taking notes
Jeanne on how they move, how they talk, their gestures, expressions, appearance, etc. I hear their voices saying the lines when I write them.
Jeanne The characters that I create from scratch I also hear. It's weird--there's this character Elizar in CASTING SHADOWS whose
Jeanne voice I hear so incredibly clearly. I was telling this to the editor when he wanted to change some of the dialogue ...
Jeanne he wanted this mage to speak with more contractions, more informally. And I said, but I hear his voice in my head,
Jeanne and that's not what he's saying. The editor didn't think much of that answer.
Moderator <Sandy> to <Moderator>: "Casting Shadows" was a little longer than most novels. Were you free to write a longer novel? Was there a page limitation of any kind?
Jeanne I can't remember exactly what it said on the contract with Del Rey, but I believe it called for 3 books, each of about 80,000 or 85,000 words each.
Jeanne The shortest book of the trilogy, #2, is 108,000 words.
Jeanne I went way over. The people at Del Rey were concerned about this ...a longer book takes more paper
Jeanne to print, and so costs more. They like to keep the cover price down so they don't lose sales.
Jeanne I understand that. But it just happened that I had a big story to tell, and I needed this much room to tell it.
Jeanne It was sure a lot more work than I'd planned on. But I loved doing it, and I wanted to make these books the best I possibly could.
Jeanne A lot of authors and readers look down on tie-in novels like second-class citizens, and think they're not real books.
Moderator Okay. A final question. Our hour is about up and we're under attack
Moderator Jeanne, our time is about up, so let's close with another question about writing. When you were an editor what did you find lacking in many new writers who sent you books, and what separated the new writers that excited you from those that did not?
*** Mode change "+v Cavelos" on channel #auditorium by Moderator
Moderator Yes, go ahead Jeanne
Cavelos I got kicked out, but now I'm back.
Cavelos Anyway, I think tie-ins can be real books, and can be great. I don't know if I achieved, that, but I tried. GA
Moderator Sorry. We're under attack by a kid usin g a random name generator
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