Breadcrumbs

Interview With John Kenneth Muir on The Whispering Sea

Interview with John Kenneth Muir, author of Space: 1999 The Whispering Sea

Conducted by Simon Morris

Q: How did The Whispering Sea come about?

A: The Forsaken (2003) was well-received by readers and reviewers, and because of my long-standing affection for Space: 1999, I very much wanted to write another series novel for Powys.  So the discussion quickly came around to what kind of story to tell for a second novel.  This was also after I had written “Futility” and “A Touch of Venus” for Shepherd Moon.  At some point, I developed a lengthy outline for a follow-up novel to Forsaken – a kind of indirect sequel – called Ordination, but then we shifted gears to go with The Whispering Sea…which, if I remember correctly, is a title that Mateo gave me. Ordination was more in line with Alpha and Omega, this kind of epic, galaxy-spanning tale about Maya being inducted into the “priesthood” of the Space Brains, and it just got too big.  Mateo pointed me in another direction, and we did something more contained, more stand-alone with The Whispering Sea.

Q: The Forsaken is a “bridge” novel spanning the differences between Space: 1999 Years One and Years Two.  Is that distinction also true of The Whispering Sea?

A: Actually The Whispering Sea is a bridge novel too.  If you think about it, there’s a pretty wide gap between the end of “The Metamorph” and the beginning of “The Exiles.”  Maya is already Alpha’s science officer in “The Exiles,” and she seems to already have an established relationship with Tony Verdeschi.  So in The Whispering Sea, I’m bridging the gulf between those two episodes and dramatizing the story of Maya’s arrival on Moonbase Alpha.  How did she get there?  How did she come to fit in?  How and why was it decided that she would become Alpha’s science officer?  Those are the questions the novel covers.

Q: Why did you want to tell that particular story?

A: As a writer, I enjoy filling in “historical” gaps like that, and also it was irresistible to write about Maya’s first steps on Moonbase Alpha, and her first meeting with Tony.  As a fan of the series, I think it’s a moment we’ve all imagined, and sort of longed to see played out.  So I had fun exploring those moments, and playing with expectations…including my own.  Also, I really wanted to write a straight-up Year 2 story, because the Powys line hasn’t had one set in that span yet.  The Whispering Sea afforded me the opportunity to live inside the milieu of Year Two – the milieu of Command Center and brightly-colored jackets -- and that was both a gift and a challenge. I’ve always felt that I wanted to write for the Maya character, so this is my Maya novel.  I loved writing for that character.

Q: Maya is the main character?

A: Maya’s heavily involved in the action, as are John Koenig, Helena Russell, Alan Carter and Tony Verdeschi.  Some Year One characters also make guest appearances in unconventional and unexpected ways.

Q: The Forsaken was largely a planet story.  Is The Whispering Sea?

A: Well, The Forsaken began as a planetary adventure and then resolved on Alpha. The Whispering Sea takes the opposite approach.  It starts out on Alpha, and then becomes a planetary adventure.  Ironically, I’m not a huge fan of “planet-bound” stories.  My favorite episodes are ones such as “Force of Life,” and “Dragon’s Domain,” or “End of Eternity.”  I prefer the tight, claustrophobic shows, just by way of personal preference.  And yet I keep writing these adventures set on alien worlds in alien cultures, and doing all this “civilization” building.  If I am fortunate enough to do another novel, I want to do something more in the spirit of “Futility,” a base-bound mystery. 

Q: Was it difficult returning to Space: 1999 after several years away from writing about it?

A: Heck no.  I never stop writing about Space: 1999.  In addition to my books, Exploring Space: 1999 and The Forsaken, I’ve also written those short stories I mentioned earlier, and several series-related articles for Filmfax.   I also write regularly about the series on my blog (http://reflectionsonfilmandtelevision.blogspot.com).  One of my favorite posts over the last few years is called “The Horror Mythology of Space: 1999,” which contextualizes much of the series in terms of the horror tropes it updates to a technological age. You have the premature burial in “Earthbound,” the sirens in “Guardian of Piri,” the Dragon in “Dragon’s Domain,” and so forth.

Q: Is The Whispering Sea a horror story then?

A: Well, it sort of is, actually.  It involves strange life forms that appear to be supernatural, and possess powers we would consider extra-sensory.  So, yes, I did try to fit this novel in with the “horror” aspects of the series I mentioned in that post I wrote.

Q: What’s the theme of The Whispering Sea?

A: I’m tempted to say “you can’t go home, again,” but that’s only half the equation, really. You can’t go home again, I guess, but you can always seek to connect meaningfully with the people in your lives, regardless of the place you consider your physical home.  This applies to Maya in a couple regards – particularly her feelings about Mentor and Psychon, but it also applies to the Alphans in general, who have come to accept the runaway Moon as home.