Michael Stackpole is best known as the writer of dozens of novels including "A Secret Atlas," "Cartomancy," and the BattleTech books. Additionally, Stackpole has authored a number of Star Wars novels like "I, Jedi" and the "X-Wing" books, and has also written a number of comics, most prominently the "X-Wing: Rogue Squadron" series for Dark Horse.
Stackpole’s latest project is "Raising Thaumopolis," part of GameTap’s "Tomb Raider Re/Visioned" animated series, and he took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to talk to CBR News about the project.
I was approached for the project because I’d worked with [Lady Death creator] Brian Pulido. Brian had been approached [by GameTap] and I guess in talking with the producer Elliott Blake, Brian said, "Have you ever thought about Mike Stackpole?" I guess the response was that they had, but they had also heard I was really booked. Brian, who was working with me on a weekly basis, said, "you might want to give him a call." So they gave me a call and it sounded like a great idea.
As for the reasons of wanting to do this: One, [animation] was a venue I hadn’t done anything in before. Two, when you’re dealing with a character like [Lara Croft] why would you say no? It just sounded like a really cool project and I’m really glad that I did say yes.
You’ve designed game projects in the past. Are you a gamer?
My first published projects were game projects–paper and pencil game projects. I’ve worked in the paper and pencil industry for 30 years now. As well as computer games like "Wasteland," "Neuromancer," a couple of the Interplay "Star Trek" games.
In terms of gaming, I do game. Not as much on the console. I don’t have a TV, which makes playing console games kind of difficult.
You said that the character of Lara was one of the appeals of the project for you, how easy to find voice of character?
There are some characters that just get into your head, so it was not really difficult for me. When the idea for "Raising Thaumopolis" occurred to me, it was maybe it was the result of having fought hard about all these other ones, this one just jumped right out there and said hey here we are. [Producer] Elliot [Blake] made one suggestion of a line that Lara Croft would use and that really set the sarcastic tone. Once I was able to pick up on that and run with that, that set her and then it was just a question of having the other characters play it by contrast and work towards their own stories.
|Image from "Raising Thaumopolis"|
Brian Pulido had a great line when we spoke with him about "Re/Visioned," describing Lara as "the most recent in a long line of British adventuring bastards."
[Laughs] That is some of the fun of it. Having the arrogance of the British Empire and yet the steel that allows them to build that empire and she is certainly right in there, like the granddaughter of the original Richard Burton.
You’ve worked on a number of licensed projects in the past, how does this compare?
The experience here was pretty painless from my point of view. The guys at GameTap went to bat for me and were very patient in working with me. The "Return of Thaumopolis" story was actually the fourth or fifth story idea that I had submitted. They were very good at explaining why each of the different ones wouldn’t work. Then we finally got one that would work and then I understand that they went to bat for me with the property holder to make sure that we can say some of the things that got said.
The ideas that were rejected, was it a question of the tone or…
The stories that didn’t work, to a certain extent, were my mistaking the interpretation when they said "Lara Croft Re/Visioned." I was thinking of, what if Lara Croft was a hard-boiled detective and telling a story in that noir kind of thing. The other thing, it was outside the parameters of the project. With Thaumopolis what ended up happening was that Thaumopolis had that very personal connection. That personal connection that all of a sudden gave a different angle and more depth on the story and I think it was that spark that really intrigued us and became the heart and soul of the story, which is why I think everybody said yeah this is one we can do.
One of the difficult things when you’re working in someone else’s universe and you’re doing stuff and trying to find stories and you don’t want the stories to be exactly the same stories that everybody’s seen before is that you have sometimes give the characters challenges they’re not likely to get.
|Image from "Raising Thaumopolis"|
For Lara Croft in the Thaumopolis story, she’s not somebody who really wants to be dealing with people who are destroying the world. She tends to be largely apolitical. But she runs into a group of people who are doing political stuff and she’s kind of in a position where she’s got to do something about it. Pretty much against her will.
I was going to bring up politically charged nature of episode. Was there something in particular that inspired it?
Well there are couple things that inspired that. To a certain extent what inspired the political nature was the fact that I have a brother who’s in the U.S. Army and currently serving in Kirkuk, so I am not personally a fan of the current administration. My degree was in history, so I understand a lot of politics and things that go on and know that people will do a lot for power that they probably ought not to do.
What was your experience like working with the designer? Did you have much give and take about the look of the episode?
I actually didn’t have any give and take on it. The guy on one of the design teams didn’t work out and then they went to another design team. What struck me as really interesting, when I actually saw the material that had been done for it, prior to seeing the finished product, I was struck by how the designer had just reached into my brain and pulled out the images.
What was your inspiration for the tone or feel you wanted to capture in the story?
The idea of everything from Captain Nemo and the art deco style of stuff that you see back from that era. A sort of elegant era, and an ancient era certainly, were part of what I looking for in that sense. As well as, it’s difficult to quantify, but that sense of antiquity. I thought that they did it really, really well. It was a lot of fun.
You mentioned that you and Brian Pulido are working together. He mentioned you’re making a movie?
We’ve done a couple movie scripts. One is being shown around Hollywood, and the other one we’re raising the funding for to make ourselves next year.
What else do you have going on right now?
I have got a novel to my agent. I’m a freelancer so Brian and I right now are working on some pitches for some television scripts and pretty much working on any project that pops up. It’s one of those things where you never know who’s going to give you a call and say, are you free? Because everyone figures you’re booked. And then you get these opportunities where somebody calls up and says hey would you like to do this? That’s the life of a freelancer.
My 40th novel, "The New World," came out in August. It’s not bad for 20 years of novel writing to have 40 out.
Not bad at all. Thanks again for taking the time to talk to us, Michael.
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