Alan Dean Foster Interview!

We spoke with the king of media tie-in novelizations and adaptations himself, Alan Dean Foster! We asked him about Shadowkeep and a whole slew of other stuff, so you don’t want to miss it!

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Kevin

Yeah. Yeah. Uh, you know what else is a sensible chuckle?

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Phil

What's that? After everybody said it's a satirical chuckle. Yep.

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Kevin

My name is Kevin. With me is. Oh, he's still alive today. We got a very special episode for you. We do a very special episode. We are talking to the king, the master of the media tie in novelization, Alan Dean Foster.

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Phil

Absolutely.

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Kevin

And it was a tremendous conversation and I came away from it thoroughly inspired. Mhm. How do you feel about that film.

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Phil

I, I am also deeply inspired. That was, that was such an amazing conversation we had. That was so.

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Kevin

Great. So, um, yeah, we're, we're just going to go, we're going to roll right into it. So, ladies and gentlemen, ladies and gentlemen. Kings, queens and the emperors. Without much food inspired the inspired Anthony Foster.

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Alan

Writing the novelization of the video game was something I'd never done before, obviously, because he'd done it before and I was presented immediately with a real serious problem. How do you write the novelization of a Game without turning it into a game book or George the Blacksmith? This puts a horseshoe on the anvil and hits it, and then you have a secret thing that turns it into a sword.

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Alan

How do you write that without giving away the fact that if you put it on the anvil, it turns it into a sword? And so the entire book had to be written with that, with that in mind. And then later the dig was the same problem, which I wasn't going to do. And I only did it because Spielberg was involved.

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Alan

And I figure I class act a little more work than usual. I'll give it my best shot. And it turned out pretty well too. But you guys seem primarily interested in Shadow King or whatever. You can ask what we had for dinner for sure. I don't care.

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Phil

Okay, that was the fourth question.

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Alan

So yeah.

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Kevin

So let's just get right into shadow. Keep so what was the so let me let me back up a little bit. The reason we got turned on to Shadow keep reading about it was we were talking to Seth Godin, who did the Worlds of Power books for Nintendo, and he was like, Oh, well, that wasn't my first time doing something like that.

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Kevin

I was working for Spinnaker Software and he had an adaptation of Shadow Key and we were like, We just Phil and I kind of looked at each other like, Wait a minute, what? So we we dug it up. Phil sent me a copy that he found on on eBay. It lasted just long enough for me to read it.

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Kevin

It ended up falling apart into two pieces, but we were wondering, how did you it's a way of getting a book. It's a well-loved book. How did you get involved with it?

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Alan

I had done some novelizations or and this seemed like a new challenge. And I was also intrigued by the fact that it appeared to be the first time anybody was asked to do a novelization of an original computer game. Now, there were four games that came out simultaneously, or more or less simultaneously from Spinnaker way back in the Jurassic.

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Alan

Besides Shadow Keep, there was one based on Michael Crichton's sphere, if I remember correctly, and two others based on very well-known science fiction books. So the other three games were all based on existing books. Shadow Keep was the only original one, and I thought, Well, that's very good company. I don't remember the titles of the other two, which you guys probably haven't or will look them up, but it was all big stuff.

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Alan

I mean, besides Crichton, it was in kind of that league and I thought as a young writer I thought, Well, that would be very nice company to be in. In, in a simultaneous release. And that was another reason I did it. But the request went directly to my agency, the Virginia Kid Agency, which was then passed on to me, I presume, because I had been doing some novelizations and nobody really knew who to go to at that time for that sort of thing.

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Alan

Asimov did Fantastic Voyage, but he wasn't going to do this. No real biology involved fantasy. And so I took the job on not realizing what I was getting myself into. That's one reason why it was so fun. Listening, so much fun listening to you guys reprise the first part of it. A couple of days ago, all this stuff came back and I'm thinking to myself, Well, yeah, that wasn't in the game.

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Alan

But I did that. That wasn't in the game that I did that. And in fact, a great deal of what's in there as far as characterization and story and action was stuff that I had to come up with not only to make a little game story into a full length novel, but also to do it without giving the game away.

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Alan

Every time I sat down due to a scene, I had to think, okay, this is what happens in this scene. How can I write it without having that happen? And my mental state at the time was just a little bit on edge because of all of that.

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Phil

Sure. So that actually brings up one of the questions, because we you know, everything we do in this show is about adaptation and that sort of thing. So I imagine when you're adapting from a film, for example, you're working with a shooting script, something like that. How much flexibility do you do you have in a video game, a novelization versus a film, for example?

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Phil

It sounds like you had a lot more.

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Alan

You have to have a lot more. If you're adapting, say, a full length film, say of, I don't know, Chronicles of Riddick. There's an enormous amount of material in the story. Plus, there was actually kind of an addendum to the whole screenplay in which the screenwriter director David to it laid out a whole background for this universe of the necromancers, a lot of which material I was able to use in the book and which was so good that I included that in the end of the book.

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Alan

So there's a lot to work with there and that's typical of any any novelization adapting the thing. John Carpenter's version of the thing. Oh, it's the best, you see. Yes, indeed. Using the shooting script. In fact, BuzzFeed just had something come out today, something like ten films that were dissed when they came out, but considered great now and vice versa.

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Alan

And one of the wins, one of the ones that was this when it came out and is now considered great is Carpenter's version thing, which I completely agree with. But it was a different script from the final shoot because there's many reasons and time consuming time reasons. So I had a lot of flexibility there to expand stuff that didn't end up in the final film, but was already there as far as the game goes, and particularly with these very early video games, there isn't anything there.

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Alan

Mm hmm. As you guys discussed a couple of days ago, I think you're moving from point A to point B opens. Pick one treasure chest kills, Troll two gets horse moves on. There's a story wise, there's not a lot there to work with. So I had a tremendous amount of flexibility because nobody knew what to do with it, I guess.

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Alan

And so.

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Phil

What choice do they have.

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Alan

There? Well, that that's what I like this. We well, don't want to know what's going on here, so we better let that what do you call them, the writer. Yeah. Do something with it. And that's wonderful when I get that kind of freedom, albeit it was very difficult in that particular case because there was so much to fill in.

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Alan

So I had a lot of it.

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Phil

It makes a lot of sense too, and that actually carries over into the novel is actions that we've been reading that are, you know, more recent. Because the thing that we seem to agree on for the most part, the one consistency with them is when it all, when it's altered from the game itself and the writer's allowed to play with it and have fun.

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Phil

Those tend to be our favorite parts in the book.

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Alan

Well, you're getting more stuff if you're playing a game you like, even if it's something like, say, red dead redemption, you get to do. If you're writing an adaptation of it, you get to do all the characters. Now, admittedly, there's a lot more character development in modern videogames than there was in the days of Shadow King. But you still, as the writer, it's the only way you can get inside the character's heads.

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Alan

Really. It won't work in a game. At least I don't think it works in a game. If you suddenly stop the game, the character freezes, sits down on a bench like, say, outside a saloon and does 5 minutes on his early childhood, explaining why he why he became a bandit and his parents were terrible and abandoned him and all that.

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Alan

You have to show that stuff in a game, but in a book you don't have to do that. You can have the characters sit down and you can show the character's thoughts. And that's true of any adaptation or TV show game anything.

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Phil

What was what was the start of your writing career like? What were who were your guys? Who we were influences. Where did where did you get started? Where did it begin?

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Alan

I wasn't going to be a writer. I was going to be a lawyer, but I got saved. Good for you and lawyers in the family. Nobody knows where I came from in my family. Everybody in my family was either a lawyer, a business person, and then here comes somebody wants to write about aliens instead of going to law school.

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Alan

And I wasn't shown, but I got sideways looks at birthday parties and things like that. Sure. Anyway, I didn't read much science fiction until I was a senior in high junior in high school. Senior in high school was reading classics. And when I really encountered adult science fiction for the first time, I just devoured everything I could read my favorite writers were and still are a British writer named Derek Frank.

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Alan

Russell was the only one who could make people laugh and cry. Mary not necessarily in the same story. Mary lines her real name was Will F Jenkins did a lot of writing for Collier's and Saturday Evening Post, from which he made a lot more money, for example. But I loved science fiction. And Robert Shepley, who I think was the greatest short story writer, the field has ever produced, those were my main influences in as far as books were concerned.

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Alan

My other main influence was Karl Marx created. Well, yeah, all the great Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck comic books.

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Phil

It's like test.

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Alan

Farts, kind of like a secret handshake in the in the creative community. You talk to people. So which comics did you read and read get? I read Sergeant Rock and I read Green Lantern and I read Wonder Woman and I read this that you read you read Uncle Scrooge all you read Uncle Scrooge. And he influenced Spielberg and George Lucas and a whole host of other people.

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Alan

But because he wrote comics, especially back in the forties, fifties, sixties, before comics became something regarded for its literary value, which it is now read. Neil Gaiman Let's say right Barks was a huge influence on people. So those three writers and Barks my principal influences. When I got to UCLA, when I was studying political sciences as the equivalent of pre-law my senior year, I just needed so many credits to get my degree that didn't have to be in anything particular.

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Alan

And I discovered the film department and I found out, Hey, they'll get me four units. I go in, Professor talks for 15 minutes, and then I watch Buster Keaton for three and a half hours. You and what a racket. This is great. Same as for units of physics. So I took a lot of history courses and I try to write.

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Alan

I took one writing course just for the credits because I'd always been a facile writer. They've always been easy for me. Probably the only in my high school who look forward to essay test. Sure. And did well in the class and was lucky enough to encounter a wonderful man named Larry Thor, who became kind of my mentor in absentia.

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Alan

He c after the first assignment I turned in, in that first class, he looked at me, he said, You can write. I said, This is the assignment for this semester. Go home and write something. And that was great. That was wonderful. So I took some more writing classes and I did well and I thought, Why don't you try some prose instead of screenplays and teleplays?

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Alan

I wrote a dozen short stories, none of which sold and I had just discovered H.P. Lovecraft.

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Phil

That'll do it.

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Alan

Reading a lot of Lovecraft, I thought, Well, August perilous because I started collecting books. You could buy really good books, cheap. On Hollywood Boulevard, there were a dozen really good used bookstores, and so I bought a bunch of Lovecraft and I found out about all this journalist who edited Arkham House, published a lot of similar material, and I wrote this long letter in Lovecraftian style, sent it off to Daryl, hoping he would write me something back and saying, I found this very amusing.

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Alan

This was very nice of you, heard nothing, forgot about it once. Go by, I got a letter from Oystermouth saying, Dear Mr. Foster, I liked your story. Like to publish it. The next issue, the art collector, which was a semiannual magazine he put out. And I'm looking around frantically in my one file trying to find the story that I saw in August.

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Alan

Let's realize he was the hottest and he published it as a story. Taught me a good lesson. Write what you love. Don't try to write to the market. That was my first sale. My first published story was actually in analog. John W Campbell bought it because Analog came out monthly and the Arkham Collector came out Semiannually. So that story actually beat the first sale.

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Alan

That's how I got started.

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Phil

Wow, that's fantastic.

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Kevin

I was doing a little research about about Splinter of the Mind's Eye. Were you? You've heard of.

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Alan

It?

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Phil

Familiar.

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Kevin

Familiar? Were you at all disappointed when it didn't get picked up to be the actual sequel to Star Wars? Or were you were you. Well aware that this wasn't going to happen by the time it came out.

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Alan

By the time empire came out or by the time.

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Kevin

Oh, well, by the time well.

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Phil

By the time it was shipped.

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Kevin

No, no. By the time Splinter of the Mind's Eye was published, I mean.

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Alan

No, of course I was disappointed. I wouldn't be disappointed with Star Wars when it came out. Yeah, I recognized it as science, fantasy and science fiction, but I didn't care. It was it was the film that everyone was looking for. If you grew up reading science fiction and little minor things like how Cessnas up sized spacecraft go halfway across the galaxy in 2 minutes and why lightsabers are a terribly impractical weapon and all of that stuff nobody cared about.

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Alan

It was a great film. Everybody loved it. It had the right spirit, right respected genre, if not the science. And it was wonderful. And of course I was disappointed Splinter didn't get made, but I completely understood why. First of all, it's not my universe. Sure. Second of all, the reason Splinter came about, as I'm sure you probably know, is because George was looking to have backup material in addition to having a book come out.

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Alan

Backup material to keep fan interest. George was looking for something that he could fall back on if Star Wars was neither a great success nor a terrible failure, something that he could film on a low budget, utilizing as many props and costumes and backgrounds and effects as possible. From the first film, he had that plan in the back of his mind.

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Alan

Once Star Wars came out and made two or $3, no longer. He no longer had that problem and he could do whatever he wanted. Share. I thought as all this was going on, I thought that splinter with some adjustments to take into account changes that George made in relation to things like sibling relationships and so on. Could have been it could have been fixed.

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Alan

I thought it would have made a lovely film for TV, which they were doing a lot of back then, set between episodes four and five as they call them now. Right. But didn't happen. Yeah. Okay. There's now a drink at Disney World in the Star Wars area called the Kyber Crystal. Yeah. Have you not heard about that yet?

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Alan

It's five grand.

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Kevin

I did, actually. I did see a story about that reason.

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Alan

If I if five grand and it's not just one drink, it's a whole little grouping of drinks in a special container. There's some Pappy Van Winkle, there's some expensive cognac, there's some other stuff. And I don't drink.

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Phil

Right. Well, there you go.

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Alan

But it would be fun to show up there and say, Hey, guys, you're using something. I created name wise for this drink. How about a cup? And then I would pass everything out to friends and family and sure, yeah, around the house.

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Kevin

But I mean, just, you know, Disney owes you.

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Alan

I'd say so. Yeah, Disney paid me off. People need to understand everybody, you know, takes things not out of context, but they get blown all over the place. My little disagreement, which people may be familiar with, was with Disney accounting and to a lesser extent with Disney legal. I love Disney stuff. I have no problem with Disney creative chercheurs or even Disney administration.

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Alan

If somebody high up in Disney had heard about this, it would all have been settled in 60 seconds instead of becoming a whole thing through. Yeah, I just thought it was funny to see Archive and Crystal is the name of it. Yeah. Oh, absolutely. Even the spelling is right. So yeah.

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Phil

One thing you can say for for people who work in that universe, they, they, they generally have an attention to detail, at least nowadays, because they'll hear about it for a million years on the Internet if they don't.

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Alan

Oh, sure. And that's one thing you have to be careful with as a writer, whether it's a novelization of something or an original. And many years ago, I wrote a book and I mentioned something about fungi and I got this was pre-Internet, and I got a two page letter from some dermatologist in upstate New York, berated me for how I had gotten this mushroom entirely wrong.

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Alan

And you have to be careful because especially nowadays, anybody will call you on a mistake. Sure, that's why I keep a lot of notes in the event that I'm going to do a sequel, or particularly if I'm doing a novelization, I want to make sure everything is as accurate as possible in the novelization, let's say as true as possible to the finished film as I can make it, because that's the way I am as a writer.

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Alan

That's the way I am as a fan. And I don't want people sending me angry letters or angry emails or angry texts because I got the color of somebody's pants wrong. Sure.

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Kevin

Yep, I understand that.

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Phil

Well, then, actually, you are pretty much indisputably recognized as the king of the media. Type in authors the right for higher men. You know, like what? Where did that start? What was the what was the first novelization you did and how did that come about?

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Alan

I had done three original novels for what is now Del Rey books. What then was Ballantine Books still Del Rey Books and Digital in Del Rey, very remarkable woman, have come in and taken over editorship of the science fiction. Lana Del Rey at Ballantine and her husband Lester did fantasy duties and took care of the science fiction. Someone prior to Julian's arrival had bought the book rights to a really awful Italian movie called The One.

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Alan

This movie was so bad that if you're invited to a free showing, don't go. It'll cost you money. So Julie Leonard knew that I had a an MFA in screenwriting. She thought, Well, this guy Young is hungry, knows his way around a screenplay, so throw this at him. I don't know what else to do with it. So if he can make something out of it and that's essentially what she asked me, I think you can turn the screenplay of this film into a book.

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Alan

And I said, sure. And I said, Just send me the script. She said, Well, there is no script, but we'll, we'll set up a private showing. Yeah, we'll set up a private showing for you in Hollywood. I was not married yet. I was still living in Santa monica, California, part of L.A. So they set up a private showing.

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Alan

And I got to the address and it was like a second or third floor walkup, at which point I'm deciding this is not an MGM or a Warner production. Got there, met the younger than I was, director of PR and advertising for the film and said, Come on in here, we've got the showing all set up for you.

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Alan

It's like a classroom. It was long tables and hard chairs. There's a guy up there actually has a little projection booth and they start showing the film. I've got paper and pencil, no computers. Then to make as many notes as I can, as fast as I can. What do you think? The film's an Italian with no subtitles. I'm sitting here watching this really bad film, having only the slightest idea what's going on.

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Alan

Because I spoke no Italian, and eventually the guy comes out and I said, Can't you get me a script? He said, We don't have any copies of the script. These are the people who are releasing the film. They bought the rights to release the film in the United States. The original producers are in Italy somewhere, but this young guy was a guy in his mid-twenties, was a fan, and he said, I can show you the pre-production material we have and so forth.

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Alan

And he brings out the pre-production material in a program book and on the cover is a Frank Frazetta painting. Nice, nice of the lead character. Really, really good. So you're using this or Ballantine is using this as the cover for the proposed book. And on the back cover is a rough color, rough that Frazetta did that wasn't used for.

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Alan

So there's to present is going to be used the one on the front, one on the back and I go home. What am I going to do? And I thought about it and I couldn't get the Frazetta painting out of my mind because the main character in Luana, which is basically a female Tarzan story in which the main character Luana appears for maybe 15 minutes, the rest of it is just bad Italian actors wandering around fake Africa.

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Alan

But here is cover. It's a present, a painting, and the Frazetta girl does not look like a little Vietnamese actress in the movie. Who's playing the lead character. She's got a lion on one side and a black leopard on the other side. And in the middle is a4z, a woman. That's all I can say, because you don't know Frank Rosetta, you're missing a lot more.

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Alan

So I ended up novelized in the cover page.

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Phil

That was probably the best thing you could have done.

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Alan

Honestly dedicated to Frazetta. That's why I use that as my inspiration. And I went and wrote my own female Tarzan Tarzan story using the outline of the film as best I could remember it, because I didn't copy the film. And the kicker to this is, after the book came out, somebody from Disney called Random House got ahold of Judy Lin and wanted to know if the film rights to the book were available.

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Alan

So Judy Lynne and I had both a good laugh and a good cry over that, and that was make sure that was my first novelization of Valentine was happy. Del Rey was happy with it. I made something out of nothing. I can boast for a minute. The next one they threw at me was some started was this whole Star Trek log series.

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Alan

And in the midst of that came. No, just before that excuse me, came John Carpenter's Dark Star, which was just as hard to mobilize as Shadow King, because Dark Star, if you haven't seen the film, is basically about four guys. Three guys really sitting around in space talking about how bored they are. And again, selling as an 80,000 word novel out of that was a real, real job.

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Alan

It really was. But I like I love the film, the history a little bit guy that one guy did some of the special effects for that film. A guy named Bob Greenburg had the best Hollywood business card I've ever seen. It, said Bob Greenberg, special Effects Barbecued Ribs.

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Phil

Probably accurate, too.

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Alan

And of course, great Gene who built the little ship? Jane put the the little ship in Dark Star went on to build the mother ship in Close Encounters. And Rod Cobb, who did some of the designs, went on to do CONAN and have a whole long Hollywood career. That film, if you look at the credits of that film, it's pretty amazing for what was originally a student film.

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Phil

It really was kind of an incubator for some great that came out of it. It's fantastic.

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Alan

And of course, John Carpenter and Dan O'Bannon. O'Bannon played the character Ken back in there also of the script. After I had it, they had me go to a showing of Dark Star in Hollywood and John was there and we were like closer than some of the people he was trying to hit up for money and stuff. After it was all over, John and I went to the Hamburger Hamlet Restaurant, which was a very nice chain that used to be in L.A., went across from Grauman's Chinese and had Chocolate Shakes, and he talked about how he wanted to be a director.

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Alan

And I talked about how I want to be a writer.

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Kevin

Oh, that's.

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Alan

Great. That's all I can remember from that conversation that worked out.

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Kevin

Yeah. No, I'd say that's a I'd say it worked out for both of you.

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Phil

Yeah. I'd argue that.

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Alan

Yeah.

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Kevin

Yeah. Are you still in touch with John Carpenter?

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Alan

No, I've seen John a couple of times in the last millennium. We move in different circles. I live in Arizona. I like the Summit Comic-Con, actually. Yeah. And was kind of like, you know, there are certain people you cannot see for a very long time and then you see him. It's like, no time has passed. Now you can talk.

00;28;25;19 - 00;28;43;00

Alan

But he was very busy signing stuff. Yeah. And I didn't want as much as I would have liked to have had a long chat. I didn't want to interrupt. So no, we don't, we don't keep in touch. But you know, he can come over tomorrow. I go to his place and we could sit down, talk movies and stuff for hours.

00;28;43;00 - 00;28;49;14

Alan

Right. I was so delighted when I had a chance to do the novelization of his version of the thing.

00;28;50;28 - 00;28;52;05

Phil

Oh, absolutely.

00;28;52;05 - 00;28;56;04

Alan

Renews that kind of creative contact after all those years.

00;28;56;20 - 00;29;07;05

Kevin

Right? Yeah. Yeah. And so which, which novelization would you say you're most proud of? And of course, across your storied career.

00;29;08;09 - 00;29;11;03

Alan

Creative people are usually not the best ones to ask for.

00;29;11;06 - 00;29;11;26

Kevin

No, no.

00;29;12;04 - 00;29;17;25

Alan

Absolutely not. Accurate appraisal of their work. Czajkowski thought actors ballet was the worst thing he'd ever written.

00;29;18;04 - 00;29;19;09

Kevin

Everything's terrible.

00;29;20;04 - 00;29;33;27

Alan

Right? Well, there's the old Theodore Sturgeon line, too, of course, which I'm not going to repeat here, but, well, still kind of. Look, you look querulous, so I will repeat it. Sturgeon Sturgeon's losses that 90% of everything is shit.

00;29;35;04 - 00;29;38;01

Phil

Yeah, that sounds about right. Yeah.

00;29;38;21 - 00;29;59;05

Alan

You asked the question. I would have to say Alien for various reasons. The main reason was that they gave me six weeks to do the book and I was in a very strange state of mind at that time and I thought, I'm going to show these people, I'm going to do it in three weeks, which I did it.

00;29;59;05 - 00;30;28;16

Alan

I think the other thing was when I got my packet of materials from 20th Century Fox, which for some reason did not arrive under armed guard. That's how studios treat this stuff. Understandably, it sure still shots from the set, from the sets. It had the script, screenplay, the lead, the most recent one up to that point anyway. And that was pretty much it.

00;30;28;16 - 00;30;47;15

Alan

So I'm going through this pile of stuff and I'm looking for pictures of the alien. There's no pictures of the alien. So I called somebody, got ahold of somebody at Fox and I said, Look, I kind of like when I write the book to be able to describe what the main character in the book looks like. And they said, I'm sorry, sorry.

00;30;47;15 - 00;31;13;06

Alan

We're not sending out any pictures of the alien. Fox What's the secret? I understand that, but I'm writing the book and I need to be able to describe what the alien looks like because it's in more than one or two scenes and. Sure. All right. Sorry. Nobody gets to see the alien. So the film comes out. So it's impossible for a bullet to travel through a phone line.

00;31;13;06 - 00;31;44;13

Alan

So I couldn't do that. But I you know, I'm given this this short period of time in which to write the motion. I've set myself a much faster task. So the book Alien, if you read the book, there is no description of the alien in the book. Alien. And that was that was really tough. I think it came off very well, considering I would much rather have described the alien.

00;31;44;24 - 00;32;04;23

Alan

But on the other hand, there are people who say, well, you know, I couldn't imagine what it look like. And your descriptions of nothing basically were much faster, much more terrifying than if it had been an actual linear, linear description of the alien. So there are two reasons that are why I'm particularly proud of that novelization.

00;32;04;23 - 00;32;16;01

Phil

That's fantastic. Do do you find that you do that a lot when you're adapting? You set those kind of weird bars for you to jump over just to keep things interesting or not. Was that was that just a moment?

00;32;16;14 - 00;32;53;25

Alan

Not so much time wise, because even though they don't give you a lot of time, I've done this enough to where I know I'm going to get it done in time. Sure. If it's a bad screenplay, it takes longer. Sure, it goes just like you're looking at the film really fast. So as far as setting myself in any bars, as you say, I just try as I explain to people when I'm writing a novelization, it's a combination of an experienced pro writer and a 14 year old kid.

00;32;53;25 - 00;33;21;13

Alan

The 14 year old kid is sitting in the back of the theater with his friends, just got out of the ninth grade classes and we're all complaining about the lousy special effects. So if that person and the writer working together, I think that's one reason why people like to do like my novelizations as much as they do. It's because that enthusiasm and Spanish energy is honest.

00;33;23;00 - 00;33;42;09

Alan

When I go to see the film or I won't read the screenplay, I want it to be as best as possible. The fan in me wants it to be as good as possible. Not because I'm writing the book, not because I've got another title come out or I might make some more money, but because I, as a fan of the film, want to see the best film possible.

00;33;42;25 - 00;34;12;25

Alan

That's why I get angry when I'm writing a book, when I'm writing a novelization and it doesn't live up to what I think it should live up to. Not because I have nothing, nothing to do with it financially at that point. Give you an example. Terminator Salvation. They made 463,000 changes in that film while it was shooting before they finally put it in the can, so to speak, and sent it at theaters.

00;34;13;19 - 00;34;36;12

Alan

And I kept getting new updates as I'm writing the book. Oh God, I didn't. Page 233 And here would be something that they changed completely that referred to page 136. I don't have to do anything at this point, really, I could argue, but I go back and I change it because it's got my name on the front of the book and I'm a fan.

00;34;37;06 - 00;35;03;24

Alan

So I turn it finished manuscript and it's accepted. I get my or my agency gets the acceptance check and a whole bunch more changes apparently come down the line in the editing room while they're still shooting and the editor asks you, they've made a couple of changes here. Do you think there's any way this is like a week before they have to go print the book?

00;35;03;24 - 00;35;30;26

Alan

I think there's any way you could incorporate this a little bit into the finished books. I read the changes and it's a complete change in practically half. The major things that happened in the story. I went back and over a weekend I did nothing but work on that manuscript. Mm hmm. I went through from page one because it had to be from page one, given the extreme changes they had made.

00;35;31;11 - 00;35;55;13

Alan

And I changed stuff throughout the entire manuscript before I turned it back and did not have to do that. I've been paid already. Book had been accepted. Ah is as a fan and knowing that other people would read this and then see the movie. I wanted the book to accord as much as possible with the film they were going to see as could be some time.

00;35;55;13 - 00;36;07;00

Alan

I've done it to that degree, but I wasn't going to leave. You know, the reader is going, Where the hell did this come from? And What the hell happened to that character? I just couldn't do it. Yeah.

00;36;07;16 - 00;36;19;04

Phil

That's were there any are there any moments that that stick out in your mind of surprises, of changes that you didn't you didn't know about until you watched it in the theater?

00;36;20;27 - 00;36;49;15

Alan

Well, the thing the screenplay that they gave me, the script that they gave me was not the final script. And they did have to make a number of changes, was a difficult shoot under difficult conditions, and they were forced to make some changes. So there were a fair number of changes in the finished film from the screenplay that I work from, some character changes, some things that happened to some of the characters and most particularly the ending.

00;36;50;25 - 00;37;10;10

Alan

And that's the one where I really stood up and took notice. And I found out later that the original ending that had been written by Bill Lancaster, which I thought was terrific, had to be changed for reasons of budget. It would have been too expensive to film. Not that there's anything wrong with the way the film ends now.

00;37;10;10 - 00;37;34;15

Alan

It ends just fine. But the original ending was much more dramatic, lots more action. And I thought it would have been just a killer weight in the film. But you read it would have been basically a fight on the ice with our last surviving character in a bulldozer. And the thing and it would have been great, but you can see why it would have been really expensive to film so that really surprised.

00;37;34;15 - 00;37;57;24

Alan

I wish that had been in the finished film. I don't know. You'd have to ask John. Maybe he does. Yeah, yeah, maybe. You know, when you're writing a novelization, you have an unlimited budget, you know, writing. I put I want to if I'm writing a space opera and I want to throw a thousand starships in there, it's just a few taps of the keyboard, but it is a whole other matter.

00;37;58;18 - 00;38;07;03

Alan

So when people say, well, like, why isn't this in the finished film? That's one of the reasons why it's usually too expensive to film.

00;38;07;20 - 00;38;33;10

Kevin

Yeah. Yeah. And I think that actually makes it kind of makes sense as to why for there have been so many efforts to adapt something like Dune into a film and it didn't really seem totally plausible until recently. I feel like I mean, not to, not to. I mean, David Lynch gave it his best weird, weird shot.

00;38;34;13 - 00;38;38;02

Alan

You know? Well.

00;38;38;23 - 00;38;39;27

Kevin

Sometimes that's tough.

00;38;40;19 - 00;39;12;28

Alan

Dense problems. I think the problem with adapting Dune is not was not so much special effects and budget although they certainly was there as a consideration is the fact that it's an extremely complicated book. Yeah oil again story wise that was tough. Yes. The special effects now are infinitely better than they were when Lynch did his and add so much to the story and most importantly, because the need to live love science fiction, the best science fiction film the last ten, 20 years is Arrival.

00;39;13;17 - 00;39;37;00

Alan

Yeah, which is an adaption of a science fiction story, actual science fiction writer. Right. But other stories that haven't been made yet, and Skylark of the Lensman series, Doc Smith, which is very old, and this is the first series that really took science fiction out of the solar system and into the galaxy at large. Very expensive to film.

00;39;37;00 - 00;40;02;04

Alan

Would be. That would be very expensive. Sure. All right. Lovecraft, I know that for a sorry you trying to do at the mountains of madness for years which is Lovecraft's best book Lovecraft didn't do many full length novels and apparently the budget was just too much. Now, if Guillermo del Toro can't get budget for a film, nobody can.

00;40;02;23 - 00;40;09;13

Alan

And incidentally, nobody has done a really good adaptation of any of Lovecraft's work yet. There's been a lot of it's.

00;40;10;10 - 00;40;24;10

Phil

It's kind of impossible. It's it doesn't make it doesn't always I think that budget or no del Toro is probably one of the only people who'd be able to pull it off. And even then it's iffy.

00;40;24;10 - 00;40;54;09

Alan

Yeah, it's it's a tough call because so much of Lovecraft's impact results from his use of language where he writes the Polish and the visual. But yeah, if anybody could do it, Doctorow could. In fact, I was at a screening of Alien at a major book convention in Los Angeles, and they had a screening for teachers. And I left I walked out in the hall.

00;40;54;19 - 00;41;27;11

Alan

It's an old, big, old building in Los Angeles and walked out in the hall. After was about halfway through, I'd seen how it was going to happen. There's nobody in the hall. I see this little guy dressed all in black, kind of wandering around, looking a little bit lost. So walk over. It's Geiger. Oh, wow. And he was concerned about how this audience was still in the wide release of the film, yet sure to the point, concerned about how the audience was going to respond, that he was a little too nervous, apparently, to go inside and sit with the audience, private person.

00;41;27;11 - 00;41;50;07

Alan

Anyway, so I walked over and I speak a little German. He didn't speak hardly any English. We had a brief conversation in German and I mentioned Lovecraft and I'd love to do a Lovecraft film. Or I'm thinking I'm thinking to myself, if he did the art design for a Lovecraft film, it would be so scary. People would pay to get out of the theater.

00;41;50;24 - 00;41;55;22

Phil

It would be a nightmare in all the best ways. Oh, my gosh.

00;41;56;06 - 00;42;21;11

Alan

I didn't know how. So that was a no, I think horror was. But yeah, nowadays Guillermo could certainly do it. But if it had that Giger ish feel, that's what it needs. It needs to feel truly alien. And I was not asked the novel. Well, it's a book. It's a book that's had that happened with almost happened with Blade Runner.

00;42;22;20 - 00;42;23;07

Phil

Really.

00;42;23;16 - 00;42;23;24

Alan

Yes.

00;42;24;08 - 00;42;27;21

Phil

Yeah. Well, they just wanted to do a movie novelization of it as opposed to.

00;42;27;28 - 00;42;48;05

Alan

That's right. There was talk of that and fortunately it never got beyond that stage as far as I know, because I couldn't have done it because Gordon said, hey, this is filled textbook. Why do you want a different version of Phil Dick's book from me? And I would have had to turn it down anyway. But right now.

00;42;49;22 - 00;43;02;15

Phil

You talk about the pressure of being a fan and writing, you know, for a franchise you're a fan of. I can't even imagine someone having the audacity to ask me to rewrite something by one of the greats like that. That's just.

00;43;03;09 - 00;43;25;05

Alan

No, no. I'm the only time I ever did anything like that was I was down to the last Star Trek, Lone Star Trek World ten. These are novelizations of the animated Star Trek that ran on Saturday mornings. And I had saved what I thought were the four best episodes for the last four books, the whole story, how one episode became one book.

00;43;25;05 - 00;43;53;11

Alan

It didn't start out that way, and two of them were by people who wrote science fiction. David Jerald and Larry Niven. Well, the last one I used, Larry never had incorporated I'm remembering this correctly, some characters from his own universe into the Star Trek universe. So in adapting that screenplay, I was adapting a story by another science fiction writer without his input.

00;43;54;17 - 00;44;16;18

Alan

Oh, wow, there's real queasy about that. But having been around that business for a while, I knew that once you sell your story, if you don't have any, you know, any exceptions in the contract, then it's not your story anymore. It's whoever bought the rights to the story. And I was contracted to do this. So in the end I did it.

00;44;17;27 - 00;44;19;27

Alan

But I still felt a little funny about it.

00;44;20;08 - 00;44;28;25

Phil

Sure. Oh, wow. I enjoyed a bit more so. And that actually tells us a little bit. Sorry. Go ahead, Kevin.

00;44;28;25 - 00;44;48;12

Kevin

I was I was just going to ask about about balance and in writing projects, how do you balance your work for hire projects versus like your own projects? Like when, when do you decide to go the work for hire route versus creating something whole cloth of your own?

00;44;48;12 - 00;45;13;02

Alan

Well, I go to work for hire when I'm offered the work. That's fair enough. But from a creative standpoint, what I prefer to do is finish whatever major project I'm working on from writing an original novel. I really try to get to the point and get it in the contract timewise so that I can finish the original novel before I start the novelization and vice versa.

00;45;13;09 - 00;45;33;29

Alan

I'm doing a novelization. I won't start an original book until I finish the novelization. Now I can break while I'm doing either one of those and do short fiction or an article, but I can't do an entire book. I can't do two books at the same time. In other words, whether there are two originals or two novelizations or one of each, I just can't do that.

00;45;34;11 - 00;45;58;08

Alan

So I try to space those out as best I can. I try to space them out as best I can. If it's a real pressure situation, let's say I'm halfway through an original novel and we get offered a novelization and it has to be in in two or three months. Then I will sit down and I'll do the novelization, go back to the original novel later, because with the original novel I have really no pressure anymore.

00;45;58;24 - 00;46;24;24

Alan

It's like it's done. Everybody knows I'm going to get the book done by a certain time anyway, so that's not an issue. So I'll stop the original work and I'll do the novelization because I know not so much the studio, but publishers go crazy with this because the studio give you three weeks or six weeks or three months or whatever, and then they expect the book to come out the next week after you turn in the manuscript.

00;46;24;24 - 00;46;48;25

Alan

It's it's not all publishing even today. The publisher has to it has to be proved or has to go through several different readers, has to be sent, has to be printed, has to be found cover has to be a cover artist has to be engaged in on not ten months is a good timeline. And when you turn in an original novel to when it shows up for sale in a bookstore.

00;46;49;12 - 00;46;53;04

Alan

Sure.

00;46;53;04 - 00;47;13;05

Phil

Now with Shadow Keep, you briefly touched on this at the beginning when we were talking about how how did that adaptation go? Did you literally did you write it write the book side by side as the game was being developed? Do you know, how did that process go? Because that's totally different from getting a script in the mail.

00;47;13;26 - 00;47;20;23

Alan

Well, they sent me a copy of the game, which was kind of feudal since I didn't have a computer.

00;47;22;11 - 00;47;22;28

Phil

Fair enough.

00;47;23;10 - 00;47;40;14

Alan

These are the early days. Yeah, it was real smart guy. I don't need a computer. I can type really fast. And the first time I tried one and found out that I could change the character's name 146 times throughout the entire manuscript by pressing a couple of buttons that sold me on computers. Yeah, yeah.

00;47;41;00 - 00;47;41;18

Phil

I believe that.

00;47;42;03 - 00;48;12;23

Alan

But at that point, I don't remember if I was still working on an IBM Selectric. That's a typewriter. For those of you listeners who need to go to Wikipedia or I had my first computer, which was a Zenith laptop, black and white screen, which was hot stuff in the days of green screens and amber screens. Either way, I couldn't play the game, but they sent me a lot of stills and I had the game Cheat book.

00;48;13;26 - 00;48;14;04

Alan

Okay.

00;48;14;19 - 00;48;15;02

Kevin

There it is.

00;48;15;03 - 00;48;37;24

Alan

And that's primarily what I worked from. And that was very helpful because it told me what not to write to. Yeah. As we discussed earlier on. Okay, this is how you solve this mystery. Well, I can't say that directly. I have to work around it somehow. Still make it cut out. I can't give the actual key to that sequence along the way, so that's really what I had to work from.

00;48;38;09 - 00;48;41;13

Alan

So you begin to see how this was such a difficult job.

00;48;42;20 - 00;48;45;26

Phil

Absolutely. That's that's completely different.

00;48;46;02 - 00;49;03;29

Alan

That's mean today. If you're doing a novelization of something like a Halo story, some of the characters have detailed background biographies that are much more in-depth, and characters in novels would be much easier to do.

00;49;03;29 - 00;49;16;16

Phil

Of course, that actually leads pretty easily into the next question. Did, did did your experience with Shadow keep lead you into gaming at all? Do you game these days? You've got plenty of reference points, I've noticed.

00;49;17;29 - 00;49;19;29

Alan

I can't. I don't have enough time.

00;49;21;01 - 00;49;21;18

Phil

Fair enough.

00;49;22;13 - 00;49;50;25

Alan

Aside from domestic considerations of I still write fiction. I've been writing some nonfiction since another nonfiction book coming out later this year. And at the start of this pandemic, I decided to do something that I had had always wanted to do but hadn't had time for, and that was write orchestral music. Oh, wow. And I think you played some of it at the start of the start.

00;49;50;25 - 00;49;55;29

Alan

In the end of your review of the part first part of the Shadow Key should.

00;49;58;14 - 00;49;59;14

Phil

Is that what it sounds like?

00;50;00;14 - 00;50;03;28

Alan

I have to go back and check anyway. This is.

00;50;04;08 - 00;50;05;20

Phil

All we have to do that now though.

00;50;06;21 - 00;50;30;21

Alan

Complicated by the fact that I have no musical education and can't play an instrument. Sure, but amazing what software will let you do. I've had a lot of fun doing it, but it takes up more time. There's a possibility of an orchestral performance of one of my symphonies later this year, so it's been a very rewarding period of time.

00;50;30;29 - 00;50;57;13

Alan

So between taking care, of taking care of necessary household duties, writing books and writing music really don't have a lot of time for games, which I regret. I really enjoy everything that's happened in gaming. I mentioned Red Dead Redemption. I know enough about that. Even though I never played the game to mention it and Halo and others. I'd love to play a lot of these things.

00;50;58;00 - 00;51;22;11

Alan

The older gods, all of this stuff, but they just eat up time and I know myself. If I got into one of them, that would be the end of this book and that would be the end of this composition. And I would just sit there and play game. And at this point in time when people say, Well, now you should have lots of time, I have less time than I ever had.

00;51;22;11 - 00;51;22;17

Alan

Yeah.

00;51;23;03 - 00;51;38;26

Phil

Now you're a smart man. Stick to to the creation, if you ask me that, that that makes a lot more sense. I wish that I could say the same for myself, to be completely honest.

00;51;38;26 - 00;51;51;00

Kevin

So aside from the symphony, you mentioned that you're writing some nonfiction work as well. What else are you working on now? Do you have anything that you want to talk about?

00;51;51;19 - 00;52;16;27

Alan

Oh, sure. Well, as far as nonfiction go, I should mention a book that came out last year from Centipede Press called The Director Should Have Shot You. Okay. We promised that title as much as I could remember of everything I've done in relation to novelizations, starting with oh, starting with Luana, which I already mentioned. I mean, I did.

00;52;16;28 - 00;52;40;07

Alan

You keep notes. This was just my life. But as much as I could remember, I realized this is history for a certain number of people and I should get these things down so that people can at least read about them when I can no longer talk about them. So that book came out last year from Centipede Press and it goes from Luana up to the last novelization I did, which was Alien Covenant.

00;52;41;06 - 00;53;08;12

Alan

So want more information about some of these things that they can pick up, have a book or a novel, science fiction novel called Chronicles, which is a standalone, which will be out from Word Fire Press any day now that you can already preorder the audible, the audiobook version of it. I'm currently working on a fantasy novel. I'm about a third of the way through called Over There.

00;53;08;12 - 00;53;28;06

Alan

I can't. I'm just having a ball with this. I'm not trying to impress anybody with this. I'm just having fun. I'm sure it's pure fantasy, but the main character, just to give you a little preview example, even though the book's not near finished, there's the main character is a character named Hamner the Bear, and he's a big, strong black guy with a big beard.

00;53;28;17 - 00;53;50;03

Alan

And he gets into a confrontation with basically a sorcerer. And the sorcerer names all the terrible things that he can do. And hinder comes back. And this is not a real bright guy, but comes back and says, Well, I have a monkey and he does. So we go in and further into that corner. Okay, well.

00;53;50;03 - 00;53;52;19

Phil

We have to know what happens next. So yeah.

00;53;52;19 - 00;54;12;05

Alan

You've beat it. Of course, with that purpose we will finish. So I can't send you to buy it. I write a monthly I write a monthly column for a local paper called Centers on Art Science and whatever else irritates me at the time or places me. So that's where I am right now. And I'm working on a string quartet.

00;54;12;05 - 00;54;14;23

Alan

I'm halfway through. Oh, that's fantastic. About my home.

00;54;14;24 - 00;54;16;10

Phil

Where can we find your music?

00;54;17;04 - 00;54;36;16

Alan

There's no place YouTube will not let you post just an audio file as a video accompaniment. And I'm not going to go to Spotify or something like that in this around or something like that. So I really there really isn't any place there. If you go to my would you go to my Facebook page and go to a video?

00;54;36;25 - 00;54;53;22

Alan

There's an early symphonic suite I wrote which consists it's I think there's six movements each one of which is a little symphonic impression of one of the members of my favorite band, which is a Finnish symphonic metal band called Nightwish or Nightwish.

00;54;53;22 - 00;54;54;23

Phil

I don't know if you know.

00;54;55;02 - 00;55;20;09

Alan

Anybody who knows gaming should know Nightwish, not only because a lot of it is fantasy oriented, but because the front woman, the lead singer, a Dutch gal named Flor Jensen, actually looks like she stepped out of the elder jobs. She's you know, she's six feet tall. She works out and she has incredible voice. People call her the Swiss Army knife of singing because she can sing anything.

00;55;20;18 - 00;55;44;10

Alan

And when she's performing on stage or when she used to, she'd wear three, four inch heels. So she is a very impressive stage presence and she'll wear the sort of thing you might see in a fantasy contest when she's singing. Sure. If you're sure, if you love gaming, you should see you should look at some Nightwish videos on YouTube and in fact she does some singing some for one video game.

00;55;44;15 - 00;55;49;11

Alan

I forget which one, but if you were to Google Floor and some video game, you'd probably find that bit too.

00;55;50;23 - 00;56;13;09

Phil

No, no joke. I used to have a radio show in college and I did a graveyard shift, kind of middle of the night. No one's listening to me, so I can basically play whatever I want. And I was really big into their song Nemo and I was I played that one night. It must've been three in the morning.

00;56;13;25 - 00;56;34;26

Phil

And no one called in for requests? No. And called in for anything. And suddenly my phone starts ringing and I pick it up. And I was in I was in a little town called Indiana in western Pennsylvania. And I picked up the phone and this voice on the other end said, You have received a call from the Indiana County jail.

00;56;34;26 - 00;56;54;12

Phil

Do will you accept the phone call? And I went, You pick your ass, I'll accept the phone call. And I and I pick it up. And there's this dude on the other end who says, Hey, what was that song you just played with? The real heavy one with the woman singing? And I said, That was Nightwish. There's a song called The Members Do Play That Song Again.

00;56;54;12 - 00;56;57;15

Phil

And I went, Yeah, man, you got it. And I played it again.

00;56;58;22 - 00;57;01;11

Alan

Didn't even ask what he was in for. Good for you, Martin.

00;57;01;24 - 00;57;05;10

Phil

Not a thing. I don't think I did. Maybe I didn't need to know. You know.

00;57;06;17 - 00;57;24;00

Alan

I. I think they're the best band in the world and the other great lot of very fantasy oriented stuff, wonderful fantasy, where it's not just fantasy. I mean, they have a whole song, The Greatest Show on Earth, which is a 20 minute song about evolution and how many bands could bring that off?

00;57;25;24 - 00;57;26;13

Phil

Not many.

00;57;26;13 - 00;57;27;06

Kevin

Many at all.

00;57;27;18 - 00;57;30;26

Alan

So go listen to it and go look at some Nightwish videos on YouTube.

00;57;32;02 - 00;57;37;11

Phil

Nice. Oh, right. Well, I mean, is there anything else you want the people to know about or just we're going to end it on?

00;57;37;11 - 00;57;57;14

Alan

Nightwish Well just the product, I mean, I mean just the protocols is coming out in a very short period of time. I think people will like that. They're at least to in the book, but hopefully nobody will see coming. And you know, that's that's the newest thing. That's the next thing. There's some short stuff coming out in various places.

00;57;57;14 - 00;58;16;00

Alan

And I'm keeping keeping busy. People say you should take it easy, you should relax. And I'm unfortunately one of these people who wouldn't, you know, could sit on the most beautiful beach in the world, which I did for an hour and get totally bored and have to go do something.

00;58;16;00 - 00;58;27;06

Kevin

I know and I understand that. I understand that. Well, Alan, thanks so much for being on the show. And it was a it was a pleasure to talk to you. Well, that was a hell of a conversation.

00;58;27;15 - 00;58;29;26

Phil

Oh, my God. Yeah, like.

00;58;31;04 - 00;58;31;10

Alan

That.

00;58;31;10 - 00;58;55;12

Phil

Dude. And you guys don't even know the half of it because he might be the first person to very directly after the recording went off, he was like, All right, we're off the record. What else you guys want to know? It's amazing. But seriously, it's like, Yeah, you got any this things? He told us things that we will not remember.

00;58;55;15 - 00;59;03;03

Kevin

We will, we will. We will never we'll never let you know them because they are we take the record seriously.

00;59;03;09 - 00;59;05;21

Phil

Now here between us and Foster, sir.

00;59;06;02 - 00;59;11;22

Kevin

It was between us. Foster and Belial and Belial?

00;59;12;06 - 00;59;12;17

Alan

Yes.

00;59;13;01 - 00;59;14;21

Phil

My God, that was fun.

00;59;15;01 - 00;59;19;10

Alan

Hey, listen, Satan.

00;59;19;10 - 00;59;44;15

Kevin

But yeah, if you really enjoyed that, you know what you know, be really helpful is go ahead and give us a follow on Twitter and Instagram at Pixelate Pod. Go to our website pixel at PACOM. We got links to all the episodes where you can also read through the automated transcripts, which, you know, they're there for accessibility purposes, but because they're automated, they also have some fun, weird mistakes.

00;59;44;15 - 00;59;51;29

Kevin

So if you if you find any just have a have a nice sensible chuckle. See, I brought it all full circle.

00;59;53;04 - 00;59;59;01

Phil

Yeah, I like it. Yeah, yeah. Enjoy those and tell no one because nobody cares.

00;59;59;07 - 01;00;28;25

Kevin

Nobody cares. Also, you'll find links to our discord, our steam group. We have a steam curator page where we throw our. What are you playing stuff up there. But other than that, that was a fun conversation. And we will see you all next week for a brand new book. I believe it's going to be a one shot. So it should be it should be fun.

01;00;29;07 - 01;00;33;06

Kevin

It should be. It should be. Should be. We'll have anything.

01;00;33;25 - 01;00;45;17

Alan

That connect and.

Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/pixellitpod

Our website: https://www.pixellitpod.com

Our discord: https://discord.gg/NdwmVEwFbQ

Join our Steam Group: https://steamcommunity.com/groups/pixellitpod

PixelLit is the video game-literary nerd’s dream come true. It’s a podcast where we read and discuss video game novelizations, and the games they’re based on. This is a podcast for the former kid who read their instruction booklets cover to cover. For the gamer who listens to every audio log in Bioshock.

The PixelLit Podcast! Because the only thing better than playing a video game is reading about it.

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