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Mutant X Articles: 2/19/02 Chaykin on Mutant X

Excerpt from SciFi Weekly 2/19/02

Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy Television: A look inside the writing minds of TV's most popular genre shows provides valuable lessons for beginners
By Matthew McGowan

Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy Television
By Joe Nazzaro
Titan Books
Paperback, Jan. 2002
253 pages
MSRP: £11.99
ISBN: 1840233834

A collection of interviews conducted over the past several years, genre journalist Joe Nazzaro's Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy Television explores the careers of no fewer than 16 writers who have come to pen some of science fiction and fantasy TV's most popular (as well as some not-so-popular) shows. With informed and informative questioning, Nazzaro gets at the gruesome beauty that is television storymaking.

Fans of all things Roddenberry will find a good deal to keep them interested in this volume, such as hearing from the likes of D.C. Fontana, Michael Piller and Robert Hewitt Wolfe. And Buffy/Angel enthusiasts might learn a thing or two from the interviews with both David Greenwalt and Joss Whedon. Readers can also experience frank discussions with writers such as Howard Chaykin (talking about Mutant X), Neil Gaiman (Neverwhere), J. Michael Straczynski and Robert Tapert on the ups and downs of making a successful TV series.

As Rob Grant—of Red Dwarf fame—notes in his interview with Nazzaro: "It's very hard to get SF right. It's hard to get television right the first season. We were constantly rewriting all the time, saying, 'That doesn't work!'" And Rockne S. O'Bannon (perhaps best known for his work on seaQuest DSV and Farscape) would seem to agree with this general sentiment, claiming that "SF shows are so incredibly difficult to mount, to get people to understand. If you're doing a doctor show or a lawyer show, everybody understands that world. In SF shows, at least the ones I've created, you're inventing a whole new world."

Which is not to say that all the writers interviewed in this book agree on what makes good and/or successful television—far from it. But what they all do seem to agree on is the fact that, believe it or not, the lowest of the low on any television show is the position of "staff writer."

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