(Part of the Interview conducted by Jim Newberger on February 20th, 1997. The entire interview appears in The Grunt Gazette #3) This month, the Grunt Gazette is very happy to bring you an original interview with Peter Telep. Most SPACE fans will immediately recognize him as the author of the paperback version of the original series pilot episode. In this interview, he touches on a wide spectrum of issues including his new book. It's titled DEMOLITION WINTER (out now on Harper/Prism books).
GRUNT GAZETTE: How did you get involved with Space: Above and Beyond, and what is your relationship with Glen Morgan and James Wong?
PETER TELEP: "It happened this way, I was working with Christopher Shelling and had just finished my three Squire series books. He had found out that this new science fiction television series was coming out and that it was military science fiction. He needed someone to do a paperback version of the pilot. He knew i was really into military science fiction, so he gave me the job. Harper books was owned by FOX, so that's why they were chosen. I knew Glen Morgan and James Wong because I had done some work with them earlier on 21 Jump Street. Anyway, they gave me the job in April of '95 and I only had six weeks to do it. I was under a lot of pressure to get it done, but I knew I could do it. I was between classes at school so I was able to sit down and work on it. There is a simple formula to writing, and it's just this: writing equals butt in chair. So, that's what I did."
GG:Where does the book come from and what did you do to prepare for it?
PT: "Ever since I was a kid I had an interest in war stories. Also, my dad and stepdad are vets. I've spent alot of time talking to them about the military. They've been a big help. To prepare for the book, I researched mountain climing and cold weather survival techniques, so i'd know what i was writing about. I always try to know as much as I can about Years ago, I wrote some stories about soldiers in Vietnam. I would really study as much as I could about Vietnam. When people read my stories, they thought I was a Vietnam Vet because they were so realistic. You gotta know what you're writing about.
In Demolition Winter, I wanted to do everything that could never be done in the studio. Anthing hazardous and really expensive. You see, when you write, you can say that a character is doing something really dangerous and he does. In the studio it doesn't work that way. People can really get hurt if you try to do things that are really extreme. This is the same for money. I wanted the 58th to go to an ice planet, climb huge mountains, and blow up something. Then they'd resque a whole bunch of prisoners. You'd have hundreds of people fighting like in a real war. Then they'd steal this huge enemy tanker and make this spectacular get-away with all these prisoners. This would have been impossible in the series."
GG: What's the story behind Demolition Winter, and how long did it take to write?
PT: "Well, there were rumors going around that the show might be cancelled. I wasn't sure if there going to be another season. There was some talk of doing an Alien Nation type of thing with a few new episodes a year. So when i wrote the book proposal for Demolition Winter, I kept it bare bones. I think it was only ten pages long. I really didn't think they'd go for another book since the series would possibly be cancelled.
GG: Where in the episode timeline would you place Demolition Winter?
PT:"It would be after the episode "R and R", and obviously before the final episode."
GG:Were there other story ideas you were, or are, exploring besides this one?
PT: "Yes, there were some others. I had written a few proposals for some stories. The biggest thing for me was that I didn't want to second guess the producers of the show. I'd love to do a series on the A.I. wars. It takes place before the war with the Chigs, so I wouldn't really have to worry about stepping on Mr. Wong's or Mr. Morgan's original work. You could use characters like Butts, Ross and McQueen.
GG: Are there going to be any SPACE books in the future?
PT: "That all depends on how well they sell. The pilot version did really good, especiall overseas. It was even put into a hardcover edition in Germany. I got a copy of the German edition. It's really nice."
GG: What was your favorite television episode of SPACE?
PT: "That would have to be Never No More and The Angriest Angel. The characterization was really well done in the two-part story. The whole relationship with Shane and her ex-boyfriend was exellent. It wasn't overdone and the whole transition into the whole Chiggy Von Richtoffen was very, very well done. The whole sense of forboding, the cool special effects, and the way the story carried itself was extremely well done. Besides James Morrison's performance was unstoppable. Who could forget "We'll talk about your mother when I get back." or the dialogue about his maker."
GG: What science fiction sources were your biggest influences?
PT: "The Star Wars trilogy, Lost In Space, Battlestar Galactica, and the original Star Trek were really big influences for me. So was Planst of the Apes, the series and the film. The Aliens series, without a doubt. I'm also a big fan of Babylon 5. I really like Joe Straczynski's work. Alan Dean Foster is like my mentor, his work has been a big influence for me."
GG: Ok, I gotta ask this one, Kirk, Picard, Janeway, Sisko, and McQueen were thrown into the ring for a cage match. What happens?
PT: "(laughs) Well, I suppose Picard would launch into one of his one man plays. Sisko and Janeway would sit down and light up a smoke as they watched Kirk and McQueen kill each other."
GG: What are you working on right now?
PT: "Right now, I'm working on a project for Avon books based on a popular video game. I can't tell you more than that. But it'll be really cool when I'm finished."
That's all, folks. I hope you enjoyed this issue's interview with author Peter Telep. I want to take a moment to thank him for his time. So, here it is: HEY PETER THANKS A BILLION!!!!! I also need express a major THANK YOU to Katherine Songster who really made this interview possible. She really worked hard to line this up. I am beginning to notice that everyone involved with SPACE: ABOVE AND BEYOND are really nice people. Really, they are. Glen Morgan, James Wong, Clear Hadden, Katherine Songster, and now Peter Telep have been more than kind and willing to take time to talk about SPACE. In an industry where average people are ignored, these individuals stand out as the kind of examples fans need to have.