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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH ALAN DEAN FOSTER

A GAME INTO WORDS
By Santiago Mendez

Alan Dean Foster (A New York Times bestselling author) is a science fiction and fantasy writer . He did several movie adaptation, including Alien, The Last Starfighter and Star Wars (as a ghostwriter for George Lucas).
The Commonwealth series, with over 15 titles published, is one of his best known original stories.
What matters to us is that he did the novelization of The Dig, something that is not very usual with games (and less for books).

Did you always knew that you wanted to be a writer?

No...I had planned to be a lawyer. My senior year at university, I took some writing courses, did well, and decided to pursue it further. Sometimes in life, things work out.

Do you remember what was the first thing you wrote (not necessarily published)?

Yes. It was a story about an aluminum Christmas tree that was thrown out with the trash...and took root, and grew. Nice idea, not enough story.

What writers do you admire?

In science-fiction: Eric Frank Russell, Murray Leinster, Robert Sheckley, Robert Silverberg, Arthur Clarke, R.A. Lafferty. Non SF: Herman Melville, Carl Barks, Jorge Amado.

Ok. Now let's talk about The Dig. How did the path of an adventure game crossed with your own path?

I was asked by the U.S. publisher if I would adapt the game.

Was the game on development while you were writing the novel?Pip & Flinx, one of Foster's original  stories

Yes. While writing the book, I had to make changes to match the changes in the game.

Did you meet or talked with Sean Clark or any other at the LucasArts team?

I talked with Sean Clark a couple of times.

What interested you about the story of The Dig?

It was basically about science, specifically archeology, and required players to think about that as opposed to just game-playing.

Was any of the characters more difficult to develop than the others?

The aliens were not especially well drawn (no pun intended). I worked hard to preserve their "mystery" while still trying to make them real personalities.

Do you feel identified with any of the characters?

I identify with almost any scientist in a story (except the "mad" ones).

Have you seen images from the game before starting writing the novel or did you just imagined your own version of the characters and Cocytus?The cover of the audio book, with four spacemen on the cover.

I started writing without having game images to work from.

Do you speak German? Because a few The Dig fans who speak German and others who are Germans spotted a couple of errors on Ludger Brink's vocabulary in your novel.*

Actually, I do speak German (although not very well). I didn't pay much attention to Brink's vocabulary because I didn't want to mess with that aspect of the game.

Why did you choose to give away the identity of the ghosts early in the book, even though we learn it quite late in the game?

It seemed to fit the story better.

Was there any part of the book you had to re-write over and over?

I honestly can't recall (this was more than a week ago, remember).


How long did it take to write the book?
*

3-4 months.

Have you played the game? What do you think about it?

I haven't played it. I love what has been done with videogames, but I simply have no time for them.

Ok, let's talk a little bit about writing now. Do you have a favorite place for writing?Alan signing a big book at his study

I have a study, which is a separate building on our property. I was able to have it built more or less to my specifications, and furnished accordingly. If you want to know what a writer is, visit his or her study.

What is your favorite book?

In modern SF, that would be Eric Frank Russell's NEXT OF KIN. Funniest piece of SF ever written. I'm also partial to his MEN, MARTIANS, AND MACHINES. Outside the genre, MOBY DICK. But my all-time, all-around favorite is Arthur Conan Doyle's THE LOST WORLD.

And of all the books you wrote what is your favorite?

Never ask an artist to appraise their own work...they invariably do a bad job of it. I would have to list the MIDWORLD books, MAORI, PRIMAL SHADOWS, GLORY LANE, and the SPELLSINGER series among my favorites.

What advice would you give to wanna be writers?

Read everything in the field in which you intend to write. Write a little bit (even a paragraph) every single day.

The following questions where suggested by:
* VampireNaomi

(Thanks)

March 7, 2005
Copyright © 2005 Santiago Mendez

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