We're very pleased to present this interview with TimeGate 2010 guest Diana Dru Botsford, author of the upcoming Stargate SG-1 novel The Four Dragons, as well as film producer and script writer. Take this opportunity to get to know Diana a bit prior to her visit to Atlanta! Interview by Kris Harter.
TIMEGATE: Diana, thank you for taking time to answer some questions for the TimeGate website. We are looking forward to seeing you in May.
DIANA DRU BOTSFORD: I’m excited. This will be my first time at a Stargate convention and I grew up on Doctor Who.
TG: That is really cool! How were you introduced to Doctor Who and, of course, who’s “your” Doctor?
DDB: I was introduced to Doctor Who as an undergraduate at Boston University. Tom Baker was my Doctor and let me tell you, it was all about the scarf! With the new incarnations...I loved Christopher Eccleston. I liked the darker subtext that he brought to the role. His characterization of the Doctor revealed the weight of being the last of the Timelords and the results of the Time Wars. David Tennant had a lot of the same whimsical charms as Baker, so he was fun, too.
TG: Tell me a little about yourself.
Well, I’m a native New Yorker (Go Mets!), went to Boston University for my undergraduate degree, and Seton Hill University for my Masters. I’m now an Assistant Professor of Screenwriting at Missouri State University by day and a novelist at night. I love screenwriting, but novel writing allows me to be anywhere in the world and write whereas for screenwriting, to be really successful at it, you need to be in Los Angeles or New York. Before I moved to Missouri, I was a screenwriter, producer, and visual effects director/supervisor in Los Angeles for 12 years. I then worked with Microsoft Network back in the early days of social media and streaming video as a writer/producer. I’ve also written and directed for the stage—which is an entirely different sort of experience! Now, I live on an organic cattle ranch in southwest Missouri with my husband and have a 20 year old daughter in college in NYC. My husband is from Kentucky, but he’d owned farmland in Missouri pretty much since he got out of the Air Force a few decades back. Don’t laugh, but we met in a Compu-Serve chat forum. Six months later we got to meet in real life when he was working over in England and I happened to be in Europe to supervise a film remix. Eighteen months later we married, and I opted out of the Hollywood scene. We lived in Argentina for a while when my husband was there on business, and then we came here (to Missouri).
TG: Does your daughter love science fiction?
DDB: She did when she was little, but I kinda blame myself and Star Trek: The Next Generation [The “Phantasms” episode] for her not liking it now. We were watching the episode when suddenly, Data’s head was ripped off. My kid—all of five at the time—screamed bloody murder. I shut the television off, and that was the end of science fiction for my kid! It was pretty ironic, since I’d collaborated with my father, Ward Botsford, for the Rascals episode of Star Trek:The Next Generation.
TG: What was it like working with your father?
DDB: The best. He was a huge science fiction aficionado and indoctrinated me into the genre as soon as I was old enough to crawl. I grew up watching the original Star Trek series with him. I can remember being all of 6 and using his old typewriter to write Star Trek stories before there was such a thing as media tie-in novels or fan fiction. Dad was the executive producer at Caedmon Records and I helped him write adaptations and excerpts for recordings in the early 80’s—including quite a few with science fiction authors such as Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert, Robert Heinlein and others. Lots of these folks were friends with the family so I grew up reading their works, breaking bread with some of them, and generally just being inspired on a daily basis. One of my favorite memories as a kid was having lunches with my dad and Isaac Asimov at this great Chinese restaurant in NYC.
TG: You have written several novels and been a screenwriter for many years. Who or what has influenced you during your time as a writer? Have your influences changed over the years?
DDB: One of my biggest influences was Isaac Asimov. I read Foundation when I was seven—yeah, I was a precocious little brat. Anyway, what struck me about the book was how someone could build an entire civilization with new societal conventions, new money, new religion, everything about it. There was an entire mythology wrapped up in that series...just like what Brad Wright [known as the creator or co-creator of the television series Stargate SG-1 (with Jonathan Glassner), Stargate Atlantis (with Robert C. Cooper) and Stargate Universe (also with Cooper)] did with the Stargate franchise. The collective series make for such a rich tapestry of possibilities, in large part because no episode of SG-1, SGA, or even the new SGU, is self-contained. Every action has consequences and can come back and bite our teams in the proverbial ass. Fandemonium could issue a new Stargate novel every month and each one would be new and exciting… and connect in such a way that brings even more meaning to the overall franchise.
TG: At TimeGate we will be screening Apollo, a short feature for which you were the executive producer. What was the process of creating that short film?
DDB: Bryan Manning, the writer/director, was in a screenwriting class of mine when pursuing his degree in Electronic Arts at Missouri State. We spent a lot of time comparing his ideas to various science fiction tropes, especially the film Gattaca and its treatment of human relationships within a future setting. From those discussions, arose the idea of exploring the relationship of an estranged couple in a post-apocalyptic world. Bryan wrote such a strong screenplay, that it was easy for everyone in the local film community—both in the program and the Springfield area—to see how it could manifest as a film. The cast and crew were a very sincere group, the process was extremely professional—in part thanks to the on hands producer, Caleb Copeland (another former student) who recognized that the best leaders in filmmaking don’t force creativity, they nudge it and allow the process to unfold as it should. The experience was one of the most professional of my lifetime. Springfield is a remarkable area in regards to creativity—I’m pretty much convinced there’s something in the water. In the three years since I developed the screenwriting program at Missouri State, my students have gone on to win over 30 national awards. Major film productions have been shot here, the most recent being Winter’s Bone which just won the Sundance Grand Jury prize. And it’s not just my students!—the Media, Journalism & Film department has won awards all over the map. Again, I’m convinced it’s the water. I’m thinking of bottling it and selling it on eBay.
TG: Tell us about your novel to be released soon, Stargate SG-1: Four Dragons. Has a release date been set for the novel?
DDB: Shortly after Daniel Jackson returns from his time among the ascended Ancients, he volunteers to join an archaeological survey of Chinese ruins on P3Y-702. But after accidentally activating a Goa'uld transport ring, Daniel finds himself the prisoner of the Goa'uld Lord Yu. Blaming himself for Daniel's capture, Jack O'Neill vows to go to any lengths to get him back—even if it means taking matters into his own hands. The book is still set for release this summer.
TG: What SG-1 characters can we expect to learn more about in the novel?
DDB: Daniel Jackson and Jack O’Neill are the key characters in this story. The book takes place just after the seventh season episode of Orpheus. Daniel has his human memories back, but still only has a few flashes from his time in Ascension. That said, he wants to get back to his roots as an archaeologist and explorer of cultures. Of course, Jack isn’t completely convinced Daniel’s ready for the other pressures that are building out there in the galaxy—namely, Anubis. For Jack, Four Dragons is an exploration of what makes him tick under the surface, and of course, his sense of humor. I had fun playing with language for his quips. More importantly, I feel that Jack has a profound depth to him, a drive and passion that deserved more attention , and I delve into that in the book. We also learn more about Lord Yu and his personal guard, the Four Dragons—which includes his First Prime Oshu, of course.
Memories are a theme in the book—what they mean to us, getting back lost memories, exploring the past. A recurring memory throughout the book is Jack’s. I establish at the top that when Skaara died/ascended in the Season six episode “Full Circle,” Jack acted on impulse and retrieved his old Zippo. For what reason, he’s still not sure and an underlying subplot of the book is Jack trying to figure out why the heck he did that. He’s always been the first to admit he’s not a sentimental guy, yet here he’s holding on to an old, beat up Zippo like it’s a lifeline.
One of the other areas delved into in the book is what Lord Yu is doing with Daniel once he’s captured. The old System Lord forces Daniel to play an ancient Chinese game called Weiqi—we know the game today by its Japanese name: Go. In doing that I took a look back at ancient Chinese history, and Lord Yu’s place in it. While playing the game, Lord Yu interrogates Daniel about his memories gained after he ascended, trying to eke out information.
And of course, we also look at why Lord Yu has been so cooperative with SG-1, even though he’s a Goa’uld. I suspect the real reasons will surprise readers—or at least, I hope so!
As a bonus for those readers who are familiar with the game of black and white stones—or who want to learn it—we’re developing an iPhone app where you’ll be able to play just like Daniel and Lord Yu do in Four Dragons. The app should be available on my website (dianabotsford.com) sometime in late May to get folks excited for the book’s release.
TG: Were there any restrictions working with the SG-1 storyline?
DDB: Only that the story needs to fit in the SG-1 canon. A novel needs to “fit” as an episode. You need to stay true to the characters and really, as a fan of the series, it’s actually quite rewarding as a writer to focus on those truths and make sure you do them justice. Everyone makes an appearance in Four Dragons—SG-1, of course, but also General Hammond, Jacob Carter, Bra’tac, Dr. Frasier, SSgt’s Harriman and Siler, Colonel Dixon and SG-13...even Lieutenant Simmons.
TG: What projects are you working on currently that we might expect to see in the future?
DDB: I’m currently in talks with Fandemonium about a sequel to this book. It’s a pretty crazy idea and will require some even crazier travel on my part if it goes forward. Hopefully, I can make an official announcement about it at TimeGate and even share a wee bit of the premise.
TG: What do you think of Stargate Universe?
DDB: Honestly, I think SGU is striving to return a sense of wonder to the franchise, and I for one am excited to see it develop. I know some fans forget that the first years of SG-1 and Atlantis weren’t well received at first. Those series really didn’t hit their stride until the second season. I have great faith that Brad Wright and his cast & crew will more fully form this world throughout this season and bring his vision to life. I am giving him a lot of room for growth. For the franchise to thrive, it needs to grow.
TG: Diana, thank you for taking the time to speak with me.
DDB: I am very excited to come to Atlanta and am looking forward to sharing the enthusiasm of the fans for the Stargate franchise.