On Being the Stargate Universe Creative Consultant: Answers!

Having given you most of a day to ask questions about my gig as the Stargate: Universe Creative Consultant, I will now start answering them. Prepare yourselves!

Roger E: I’d like to hear a bit of the story of how you came to get the actual gig. (Are the producers fans of OMW?, etc.)

Well, the short version of the story is that a couple of years ago I got an e-mail from Joe Mallozzi, who was a producer on Stargate: Atlantis, letting me know how much he enjoyed Old Man’s War. We started up a friendly correspondence after that, and at some point he asked if I might be interested in doing something for Atlantis, or possibly for another Stargate series they were thinking of for the future. I demurred on Atlantis, because I hadn’t watched enough of it to feel qualified to do anything for it, but I said when or if they got the new series off the ground I might be interested in doing something.

And that was that for about a year. Then about a year ago Joe pinged me again, told me they were getting the new series off the ground, and wanted to know if I was still interested. I was, and in our discussions we decided the best fit for me might be as the creative consultant. Last January I flew out to Vancouver to meet the producers and writers to make sure it was indeed a good fit, and when we decided it was, I got the gig.

Justatech: As a creative consultant, do you stand back and keep an eye on the “big picture”, making sure that if the writers/crew wander off on a tangent they don’t end up down a dead-end, or are you a fixer who saves the day when they have painted themselves into a corner? Or is it something else entirely? Also, will you get your very own SG:U uniform?

No SG:U uniform, although I suppose if I asked for one I could get one.

But yes, I do two main things as the creative consultant:

1. I advise on technical, scientific and character issues as they present themselves in the scripts;

2. I keep an eye on the overall arc of the series and help to make sure the show stays consistent over the course of the season.

What this means is that I’ll get early versions of the scripts, and I’ll go through them and give notes, pointing out where I think the science could be tightened up, or where I think a character is doing something inconsistent, or where I think there might be a real world repercussion for something that’s been put into the script. While I’m doing that I’m also looking at where the script and the events fit into the larger picture, and calling attention to things I think are significant, which the producers and writers will have to deal with later. This latter bit is particularly important in the case of SG:U because the nature of the series — a bunch of people thrown to the ass-end of space with very limited resources — means that they have to pay attention to things other series can take for granted.

To give you a very small example: bullets. The characters come into the ship with a certain number of bullets. It is very difficult for them to get any more of them. So I count the scenes where bullets are used and I send notes that say “now, you know you have that many fewer bullets now, right?”  The point is not just to be OCD anal (although there is value in that in this case), but to remind everyone that realism is something we’re looking for, and the choices we make now will have an influence later. So what the producers and writers have to do is to decide whether they want to spend their bullets now, or find some other, non-bullet-related way to solve a particular problem. Sometimes you need a bullet, sometimes you don’t.

As to being a “fixer” — no, not really. Part of this is because the writers and producers are smart people who know their own universe, but the other part is because when a script comes to me, it’s an early draft, and scripts are understood to change over time. I’m not a last-minute part of the process; I’m somewhere in the middle of it.

Rabid Android: How much input/control do you have over the plot/storylines? Do they come to you for ideas or do they simply bring ideas your way for feedback? When is your cameo?

I do have a cameo of sorts at one point in the series; I won’t tell you what it is but you’ll know it when you see it.

As for input: At this point as noted I offer suggestions on the scripts as they come in, and some of the suggestions will have have an effect on the plots and storylines, although those effects are usually minor (in terms of a specific episode) and cumulative (in that some changes make a difference for future scripts). A lot of what I do isn’t changing plot, it’s making sure that the mechanics of an episode support the plot in a way that resembles realism. And in a very real sense, the way a TV show works is collaborative; I might suggest something, but one of the writers or producers might take that suggestion and turn it into something workable, and also a bit different from my original suggestion. It’s not proper for me to take credit for that; I’m part of the process.

That said, one of the effects of looking at all the scripts and seeing the overall arc of the first season is that I have some definite ideas about where things could go in the second season, so presuming that I’m asked to stay on for season two (assuming that you all watch the show enough to justify season two, HINT HINT), I’ll have some stuff to share before the scripts start getting written, which the producers/writers will be free to use or not.

Arthur D: Do you get to consult on each script, as part of the overall writing process, or are your services mostly on demand?

I’ve consulted on every script of the first season, and I’m generally available for the producers and writers if they want/need a consult on any particular thing, even if it’s not related to a specific script.

Nisleib: How does it feel to be in the same position as Harlan Ellison? Do you like or hate that comparison?

I’m assuming you’re talking about Harlan Ellison being a creative consultant on Babylon 5. I neither like nor dislike the comparison; being a creative consultant is a nice gig, and I’m happy for anyone who gets to do it. I don’t know how much his own experience as a CC is like mine; frankly, I haven’t talked to any other CCs about how they do their job. If I ever meet Harlan, maybe I’ll ask him.

Robert Cruze, Jr.: How does being a Creative Consultant stack up with being a writer in terms of workload, fun factor, and sheer coolness?

Well, I like the gig, to be sure, and I think it’s a pretty cool job. But as to workload, it’s hard to answer directly in comparison to writing, simply because it’s a different kind of work. I mean, it takes me more time to do this  than to write my AMC movie column but less time than to write a novel, which is the sort of comparison that’s not very helpful.

As for fun factor, it is fun, although I don’t know that “fun” is the right word. One of the things I like about the job is that it allows me to do something different than writing; I lot of what I do is problem-solving, for lack of a better phrase to describe it, and the dynamics of the gig are closer to that of being an editor than a writer. When a script is sent to me, I don’t ask how do I make this better, because by and large the writers are pretty damn good, and “better” isn’t the right word. What I ask is, how do I help the writer do what he or she wants to do here, and then I go through and make those suggestions. A lot of what I do is to come in from an informed perspective on science and technology and otherwise offer another perspective on character on story — which is where my writing experience comes into play, in a distaff way.

I don’t have the final word on a script — that would make me a producer — but I will say it’s cool when a suggestion I’ve offered gets incorporated or is a launching point for something else new in the script. I derive a lot of satisfaction from the process, basically.

Johan Larson: Do you have more or less influence than you expected?

I didn’t know what to expect when I started, to be honest. When they asked me to come on as a consultant one thing I did say to them is that while I understood that it would be unrealistic for them to take every suggestion I offered (which was of course absolutely correct), at the same time I didn’t want to be a consultant in name only — if they weren’t going to use me, they might as well save the money in hiring me. What makes me happy is that I do feel the producers listen to me and rely on me to help them do the show, and that the advice I offer gets into the show in a practical and relevant way.

So, I think I have influence on the show, and I’m happy with the amount of influence I have. I do recognize (prepare yourselves) that in many ways I’m an outsider to the television process, so the producers would have to filter my suggestions and advice through the practical, real-world considerations of getting out a television show that costs millions, employs dozens (if not hundreds) and has deadlines to meet. I don’t get bitchy if they pass up a suggestion I make. I do think what suggestions they have taken so far have been to the benefit of the show.

The Other Keith: Do you encounter- and if so how do you handle- the “Never let facts get in the way of a good story” school of thought?

Heh. Well, let me say two things here:

1. One reason they hired me was to have someone who could help make the “science” part of their science fiction more realistic.

2. In this scenario “more realistic” does not mean “totally realistic.” It means “realistic enough to get through the episode while at the same time letting us do the cool stuff we want to do.”

I take both of these points seriously. At the end of the day, what Stargate: Universe is, is entertainment; we have people in an impossible situation, trying to get through the best they can, and our job is to package it into one-hour bits with sufficient drama and action and special effects to get you all the way through it. That’s the deal; that’s the gig. And I get that, because in my job as a novelist, my gig is to do the same thing, just over 100,000 words instead of one hour at a time.

That said, whenever possible — and it’s often possible — it’s nice to get your facts right, or at the very least not get them so wrong that it throws your audience out of the moment. So what I do is go into the script, look at the science bits, and write up notes that say “just so you know…” and drop a few hundred words of geek on them, explaining how what it is they’re trying to do works in the real world, and then offering suggestions to get what they’re trying to do closer to the way it might work in the real word — or, equally usefully (from the point of view of the story) offering a suggestion that, if it’s not exactly how it works in the real world, at least hasn’t been disallowed by our current understanding of science. Hey, the other word in the phrase “science fiction” is fiction. I’m a big believer that both words in the phrase carry equal freight.

The goal is not to get the science 100% verifiably right; it’s to get you all the way through the entire episode and to the credits before you say “hey, now, wait a minute…” Because if we get you to that point, that means you’ve suspended disbelief long enough to enjoy yourself for an hour with what we’ve done. And then maybe you’ll come back next week for more of the same.

David Carrington, Jr: Like others, I wonder if you will do any writing for the show. Which I guess means: do you WANT to, and would they want you to?

For the first season, I and the producers felt my job should be to focus on the entire series rather than to drill down and write a single script, and I think that was the smart thing to do. Does that mean I won’t ever write a script? Nope; presuming the series is renewed and the Stargate folks were interested in me doing it, I might try my hand at one. But, you know. I do like the gig I have, too, and they already have lots of good writers.

So, the short form: Maybe, maybe not. We’ll see.

Rob: If I’ve seen the movie, and a few episodes of the original series, will SG:U make any sense to me, or is there too much to catch up on?

Inasmuch as my experience with Stargate more or less mirrors yours, Rob, you can believe me when I say that someone who doesn’t have a huge amount of Stargate experience will still get a lot out of this show. I also showed it to Krissy and my in-laws, none of whom followed the earlier shows, and they had no problems enjoying it. So you’re good.

Thanks everyone for the questions! Given the number of questions remaining, I might do a follow-on piece on Friday, so if there’s still something you’d like to know, go ahead and ask.

73 Comments on “On Being the Stargate Universe Creative Consultant: Answers!”

  1. Interesting note about keeping track of the bullets. The producers of LOST have a guy whose job it is to keep track of the guns from episode to episode… not merely as the property master, but for story continuity sake, as well. If someone uses a S&W 9mm on one side of the island this week, another character had better have a damn good reason for using it on the other side of the island four episodes from now.

  2. “…our job is to package it into one-hour bits….”

    Closer to 42 or 44 minute bits, with the script broken for beats into teaser, breaks, and possibly a tag, innit?

    It strikes me as a safe bet that the producers wish they had a full hour.

  3. Hi!
    since this is my first post i feel entitled to point out, although i’m sure this is not the first time you hear this, that i really like your blog and i’m grateful that you take the time to write this stuff for us!

    So my question is, without wanting to sound rude, what is it exactly that qualifies you to be considered an expert on scientific and technological related topics? i’ve enjoyed your novels and the science was generally above par for science fiction and as such i think you are the right man for the CC job on a sci/fi show but i don’t know if science and technology expert would be the most appropriate job description… being a scientist myself i know many people who have spent years studying a small aspect of science or technology and might be called experienced but true expertise is a rare beast.

    hope you are not offended and wish you and SG:U a great run!

  4. Hee, ‘Bullets’ comment made me smile, pity you weren’t around to keep track of Voyagers shuttle craft…

  5. Sounds like a quickie summary of the job is: engineering the cables on the suspension of disbelief so that they’re strong enough to keep the entertainment off the ground or, if they fail, it’s not a long enough drop that anybody breaks their neck.

    Cool gig indeed!

  6. Thanks for taking the time to explain what a CC does by answering those excellent questions. Very interesting.

  7. I do have a cameo of sorts at one point in the series; I won’t tell you what it is but you’ll know it when you see it.

    Will one of the characters be reading one of your novels?

  8. Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. I was very curious about how much you were involved. I LOVE the Stargate movie, watched the show for a while, and everything I’ve seen about SG:U looks like it’s right up my alley. I’ve even gone to rennaisance festivals in full tactical gear, claiming to represent SG-1.

    Basically, it looks like you’re the first line of defense against Fridge Logic. That sounds like a cool job.

  9. Thanks much for taking the time to write back about the CC gig. Its interesting stuff. Congrats on making the most of it.

  10. Thanks for answering the questions, John, it’s always fun to get glimpses backstage, so to speak.
    I like the way you explained the entertainment/science balance. I’ve never understood movies that change historical FACTS for no discernible reason, and as long as the science doesn’t provoke an immediate “wait a minute”, I’ll be enjoying the show.

  11. “distaff way”? Meaning, “Work and concerns traditionally considered important to women”?

    Is there something you’re not telling us, “Mr” Scalzi?

  12. The characters come into the ship with a certain number of bullets. It is very difficult for them to get any more of them.

    A four man fireteam today might have a belt fed saw, with a thousand or two thousand rounds of ammo, an m203 grenade launcher with 40 or so grenades, two dozen hand grenades, a couple of claymores, maybe some C4, maybe 200 rounds of ammo for each rifle, and a backup weapon like a pistol with maybe 30 rounds a piece.

    We seem to be moving towards smaller caliber, lighter bullets, so I wouldn’t be surprised if those numbers go up in the future.

    Unless they’re doing Saving Private Ryan beach landing type scenes, they should have plenty of ammo to last a season or two.

  13. I might rephrase my question. Previously:

    Do you feel you improved the quality of the series?


    Do you feel you improved the scientific plausibility of the series? In what non-spoiler way?

    Do you feel you improved the scientific awesomeness of the series? In what way?

    Given that there has been some reasonable concern that the plots of previous Stargate series struggled in execution (despite their often awe-inspiring premise), did you improve the plot arc of the series?

  14. I haven’t watched any Stargate since the original movie. In the theater. I tried watching Atlantis since I am a Robert Picardo fan, but it wasn’t my thang.

    This one looks good and yes, Scalzi being involved in the show is a selling point for me.

  15. “Unless they’re doing Saving Private Ryan beach landing type scenes, they should have plenty of ammo to last a season or two.”

    In the first two series, they could easily run though that in four episodes. Not any and all sets of four episodes, but a great many. Much with the shooting and the explosions and the battles. (As a side-note, in SG-1, there was also a lot of use of the Goa’uld staff weapons, which were powered by, oh, yes “liquid naqahdah,” i.e. plotonium, and if they ever ran out of charge, I blinked and missed that.)

    But in the first series, they could always go home to resupply, and the SG teams were Air Force teams, mostly using P90s, along with a lot of C4, the occasional claymore and occasionally some heavier weapons. (And, sure, Daniel Jackson started out as a weapons-clueless archeologist, but picked up weapons skilz plausibly as the years passed.)

    In Stargate Atlantis, they spent a long time cut off from Earth — the original premise — but had brought a very large amount of supplies with them. And, again, they were as much a military expedition as a scientific one, and a reasonably large-sized one. And eventually they were back in regular contact with Earth again.

    In SGU, obviously they’re completely cut off, and many characters are not military, and they’ll be much fewer, I take it, then in SG Atlantis, as well as having engaged in a completely emergency, improvised, transit; clearly the writers/producers will have to exercise discipline — fire discipline, even — in how often they give in to the temptation to spice up the action with lots of Exciting Firefights.

    Meanwhile, also obviously, that’s for John, and the producers, story editor(s), and writers, to know, and us to find out.

  16. Thanks! Yes, keeping track of bullets makes a ton of sense. Now, what is the situation on SGU with, *cough*, toilet paper??? ;)

  17. Thank you for answering the questions – very informative.
    I sure wish they would have had you or another creative consultant for SGA!

  18. Yeah, that’s pretty much not what they come to the ship with, however.

    Aw, man, I can see the scene now:

    Gorman: Apone! Look… we can’t have any firing in there. I, uh… I want you to collect magazines from everybody.

    Hudson: Is he fuckin’ crazy?

    Frost: What the hell are we supposed to use man? Harsh language?

  19. Just pondering Elyse’s comment, but can anyone think of a SF TV show that has *ever* even vaguely referred to a character having to visit the little space cadets’ room?

  20. Gary, I’m not sure where you got the idea that naqadah is plutonium, but it doesn’t make sense to me. Plutonium is pretty toxic, and a number of humans had it in their blood (permanently!) after temporarily being host to Goa’uld symbiotes. It would have killed them. Not to mention the radiation poisoning.

    Now you may think that’s a smaller scientific blooper than inventing a new element that can’t possibly exist (hello, periodic table!), which is what I’m saying they did. But plutonium doesn’t behave like naqadah either, nor vice versa. Also, from a purely linguistic viewpoint, the Earth-native members of SG-1 would have called it plutonium if it had been plutonium, don’t you think? They didn’t call the stargate the chappa’ai except when talking to people who speak Goa’uldic languages. Which are all English with a few funny words except when the Jaffa are shouting at each other. So maybe not.

  21. Mensley@31: Does Futurama count?

    (Although… I think I remember an episode of Firefly that at least suggested Jayne visiting the head, but it’s been a few years since I watched them.)

  22. Thanks JS; you inadvertently answered a question I had but didn’t post – do you see advance copies of any episodes?

    stoolpigeon @#5, SyFy might stream SG:U from their website after airing, but the time from airing to posting can vary.

    mensley @#31, Babylon 5 had scenes in the bathroom (at least the men’s restroom), and Defying Gravity had a lead character replacing a toilet.

  23. a SF TV show that has *ever* even vaguely referred to a character having to visit the little space cadets’ room?

    It seems to me that Kirk opened every episode of the old series having just dumped some lumber in the loo. Then he’d come out and brag to everyone how big it was.

    captain’s log, thirteen point five

  24. Jeff Hentosz@33:
    Hmmmm, dunno, Futerama‘s kinda meta-SF, so spoofing on the topic may not count. Thoughts, anyone?

    Haven’t watched Firefly since it was originally broadcast, and have been hankerin’ to do so, so thanks for giving me a good reason to do so. It’s research.

  25. @Elyse: Crap. Now I’m gonna watch the whole season wondering when the SGU crew will make landfall to open diplomatic negotiations for potty paper.

    “Wait, did we just start an interstellar war over this?”

    “Sergeant, can you imagine anything more worth fighting for?”

  26. mensley: I agree! It’s the 21st century, and the average SF television show (heck, the average non-SF TV show) has special effects that would have been almost impossible outside of a Jim Cameron flick a couple decades ago. Yet SF TV still hasn’t had its version of Archie Bunker in the bathroom. We’ve come so far, but there’s still a long way to go…

  27. ‘red matter’? Oh gawd, don’t get me started on that one. That movie had big enough technical holes and plot holes that you could drive a star destroyer through it.

    First one happens in the opening scene. Why is there a big ass cliff in Iowa? (with a car at the bottom of it?) There are no big ass cliffs in Iowa. If you stand on a bucket in DesMoines you can see Waterloo.

  28. They did show Adama shaving in his bathroom a bunch of times, and other Battlestar Galactica people in bathroom/locker rooms. Is that close enough? ;)

  29. Robert Cruze Jr.@42:

    All credit/blame where credit/blame is due, I was just riffing on Elyse’s @27 comment :)

  30. I wonder if the producers, John, and the readers of this blog are aware of an initiative that the National Academy of Sciences started late last year?


    LOS ANGELES — The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) announced today the creation of “The Science and Entertainment Exchange,” an initiative designed to connect entertainment industry professionals with top scientists and engineers to help the creators of television shows, films, video games, and other productions incorporate science into their work. The Exchange represents the Academy’s first formal effort to reach out to the entertainment community and provide the creative minds of Hollywood with a direct connection to the creative minds of science.

    The director of this is Jennifer Ouellette whom a few people might from know her blogs.


  31. I think it was supposed to be a quarry, not a cliff.

    A quarry? That means we’re using gravel roads and concrete in the Star Trek future? I thought everything was made out of unobtanium built from giant matter replicators in permanent orbit around the sun to tap into that fusion energy.

    Well, here’s the video showing the cliff, hole in teh ground, quarry, whatever it is. The sides seem rather rough for high tech mining operatins. At one point, (14 seconds) you can see the ground further down in the hole and off to the side. It doesn’t look like it’s undergone an industrial process like mining. It seems kind of random. When you look straight down, (21 seconds) you can’t actually see bottom. It’s black.

    Open pit mining just seems… wrong for Star Trek. But, I suppose, they did let the humpback whales die out, so maybe they’re still doing open pit mining.

  32. Greg London@48:

    That’s the genius of the scene! It was clearly a museum showing students the excesses of past generations.

  33. Lexx?

    Okay, given the Futerama question as well, let’s rephrase the question to ask about SF TV shows that aren’t in some sense parodies of SF TV shows.

    This is obviously a question that is pressing to the community, as at least two meta-SF shows have brought it up!

    It’s now up to you, John, to have SGU tackle this and in the process achieve immortality.

    The world is waiting.

  34. Cool! When you’d said you’d be doing this earlier, I’d kinda wondered what it involved.
    If you ever need to know about (real world) spaceflight or similar such things, feel free to ask.

  35. I can hear the space toilet taglines now.

    Houston, we have a problem.

    In space, no one can hear you flush.

    Just when you thought it was safe to weewee in the microgravity water.

    The Poop is out there.

    A man went looking for a working toilet in space and couldn’t find it.

  36. @mensley et. al:

    Firefly did show Mal using a toilet, and did so in the pilot episode. (If anyone else has DVD’s handy, it’s at about 36 minutes in.) I’ve always thought that was a nice touch from a show which was trying to be the un-Star Trek.

    (Of course, Star Trek has lasted for five shows, eleven movies, and a reboot, while Firefly didn’t make it half a season. Maybe being the un-Star Trek wasn’t such a hot move after all.)

  37. Farscape had some toilet references, mostly involving Rygel. Mind you Farscape liked to bounce off the SF 4th wall a lot.

  38. “Gary, I’m not sure where you got the idea that naqadah is plutonium, but it doesn’t make sense to me.”

    Well, it wouldn’t, since that’s not what I wrote.

    #36 read what I wrote.

    And, yes, Firefly, BSG, and Babylon 5 all had scenes shot in bathrooms/toilets/heads more than once.

  39. Will you have any say when characters act stupidly given their circumstances and history?

    Most of the time Stargate was pure awesomeness, like that episode where the warning note from the future sails through the gate from a Hail Mary pass thrown from a bloody, dying hand, but sometimes Stargate was so stupid it was embarrassing, and the source of that stupidity was rarely “bad science” but “people acting stupidly”.

    The SG teams destroyed sarcophagi like they carried King Tut’s curse.
    The Sarcophagus, which cured all diseases and injuries in one pass, became addictive after a few hundred, and caused reversible brain damage after months of abuse which became permanent after years of abuse.
    If you can compare that to the ravages of chemotherapy and ask yourself which would be the preferred treatment for cancer, congratulations, you’re more intelligent than anyone who ever wrote for Stargate.
    Here’s a hint: if I could develop a cure for cancer 100% effective from 1 treatment that was less addictive than Vicodin with similar side effects to Prozac I’d win the Nobel prize.

    Then there’s the episode where the SG team decides, on the word of a political dissident (Parker Lewis can’t lose), to overthrow a democratically elected government in a violent coup because the dissident disagreed with his government’s version of the Manhattan Project and convinced the SG team to join his revolution.

    But in several episodes leading up to Parker Lewis’ tragic appearance the idea of interference in alien politics is shown to be fraught with the danger of unintended consequences. (The obligatory appearance of “Space Nazis” who the team naively helps in a previous episode.)

    Oh well, not this time. “Viva revolucion!” … Then the leader of the “revolution” turns out to be schitzo and the coup is called off. Deus ex Crapica.
    What a stinker.

    Then there’s the curious lack of curiosity about unusual things, like the talking dogs — y’know, sentient-level communication is awfully rare in canines, and in a universe full of brain-controlling parasites a talking dog should not only get your attention but have you in a complete panic.
    The “talking dogs” were holographically-disguised aliens, not Gould-infected dogs. How cool would the “HOLY SH*T TALKING DOGS! IT’S THE GOUALDS!” episode have been? We’ll never know.

    Why didn’t the government settle Tealc in an “atomic village” instead of foolishly trying to settle him in the general population? What a stupefyingly idiotic decision. The families of the Area 51 personnel had to be living somewhere — why wouldn’t Tealc have been settled there? He would’ve been neither a risk nor at risk by anyone not already enough of a threat to infiltrate Area 51’s civilian community in the first place.

    Why didn’t the U.S. government drop teams of scientists anywhere and everywhere something interesting might be discovered? Like the planet with the replicating computer: once you know how it works it isn’t dangerous, and our scientists and engineers would have a field day with that place, not to mention have a cheap way to manufacture really high-tech sh*t.

    Why didn’t anyone recognize the obvious bonanza a small moon made of pure naquada would be once they figured out how to stop it colliding with Earth? Not even James in the Giant Peach ever imagined so much free fuel. Except the writers of SG-1, that is … they forgot all about it.

    Episode after episode the SG team almost dies because they aren’t aggressive enough. Why, the one time the SG team should’ve actually surrendered peacefully, did they instead take a bunch of innocent people hostage and behave like terrorist thugs? Why were we supposed to be unsympathetic to the security guard who, despite his incompetence, was at least trying to free his people from a bunch of crazy kidnappers? Kidnapping, WTF? I thought we were the good guys?

    Why wasn’t there some kind of civilian government representative / political official available to negotiate with alien governments? (Fixed with Woolsey in SG:A).

    Why did the military immediately adopt some technologies like the Zat while stupidly ignoring others like the K-suit and body shield? (Both were used once and forgotten IIRC.)

    Am I the only one who thinks of these things? I hope that you, a veteran science fiction author, might have powers of perception greater than your predecessors.

    How much input are you going to have into the issue of people and organizations behaving stupidly or unrealistically, and are you good at spotting that sort of thing?

    Old Man’s War kicked butt, by the way. And you had a “talking dog” story of your own — it wasn’t Old Man’s War, but if one silly story is all it takes to develop your talent to the level of writing Old Man’s War that’s pretty sweet.

  40. Thanks for taking the time to answer the questions. I always see the titles in the credits, but most of time I’m just making a guess at what they do.

  41. Mensley @ #31, #51:

    There was a “Sheridan and someone, probably Garibaldi, washing their hands in what looks like a bathroom scene” in one B5 episode, I think that qualifies.

    Can’t say I remember the exact episode, but my fallible memory tells me it was the opening scene.

  42. Myself @ #61:

    Seems it was Signs and portents and it was Sinclair and Garibaldi. See, fallible memory!

  43. At the great risk of sounding genuinely unappreciative (which I’m not) – the original SG offerings left much to be desired. Much.

    Here’s a toast to you helping them improve, perhaps in the same way that ABC’s relentless LOST machine has driven that network to hire real writing talent for its growing sci-fi canon.

  44. Its a good thing they take science seriously. Its that and the self-ridicule i enjoy about Stargate. Thanks for doing your job, also sounds like heaps ‘o fun doing it.

  45. Thanks for your time and this peak behind the scene.
    As a bilingual person on her way to being trilingual, I’ve always wondered why the Aliens in SGA always spoke English? The wraith have a specific writing but speak English, with no explanation being given.
    They are no linguist on SGA either, which seems kind of strange if you’re going to explore a new galaxy. It’s a definite “wait a minute” thing to me….
    Do you have any thoughts about this problem? Will it be the same thing in SG:U (ie all aliens speak English)?

  46. The producers have said they don’t want English-speaking aliens, and given what I know of the series, there’s not much reason to doubt them so far.

  47. yea how come our marines are not properly portrayed? a msgt at 20 sumthin? cmon thats impossible if you need a marine to give you advise…hell ill do it for free just so i can get the satisfaction that my marines are protrayed accurately. in pressure and battle!!

  48. The Sarcophagus, which cured all diseases and injuries in one pass, became addictive after a few hundred, and caused reversible brain damage after months of abuse which became permanent after years of abuse.

    Actually, it became addictive after a dozen or so uses, and the changes to the brain are irreversible after several months. Having a symbiote protects the user slightly, but a lot of the problems with the Go’auld came from their use of the technology. Eventually you can’t keep your body together without regular Sarcophagus use.

  49. You only need to use it once. That sounds like quite a bargain to me, especially compared to such unattractive modern medical treatments as chemotherapy and amputation of infected extremities.

    Even if the effects are cumulative, like radiation damage, it’s still better than chemo. Not even close.

    But this is moot — Scalzi’s SG is going to be way smarter, it’s on the air as we speak, and I haven’t seen it yet. (If you’ll excuse me …)

  50. I am glad to hear that there is somebody who is trying to keep things right by helping writers to avoid ridiculous situations :)

    Mr Scalzi, are you fan of SG series (have you seen each sg-1 / sg-a episode)? Or maybe your job forced you to familiarize yourself with previous SG eposides?

    Can you give away any example what was improved after your intervention in any of already aired episodes it it’s not a secret? :)

    Best regards.

    PS. I apologize for my lack of skills in english and hope i was clear enough with my post :)