Features & News
Interview: B. K. Evenson (Dead Space: Martyr)
March 14, 2011, Author: Andy Corrigan
As is the way with games these days, while the majority of players focus on possible movies based on our favourite gaming fiction, many fail to realise that there are already many books available to expand upon and flesh out the back-stories of some of our favourite franchises. With the release of Dead Space: Martyr (released around the same time as Dead Space 2), EA and Visceral Game’s Sci-Fi horror is the latest franchise to make such a move.
The book sees popular Sci-Fi specialist, B. K. Evenson, put pen to paper to give an insight into the Dead Space mythology and tackle the shady beginnings of the fictitious religion of Unitology. After reading the novel, I was eager to know more about Evenson’s involvement, and I was lucky enough to ask him a few questions about the book, his process, and how his past beliefs helped him tackle Visceral’s series.
Q. How did the chance to be involved with the Dead Space book come about?
“My editor of Tor books thought I might be a good fit for Dead Space and suggested me to EA. They were interested in some of my other work and I loved the game, so it seemed like a great fit.”
Q. So you’ve had experience with the Dead Space series as a franchise?
“I had played, and loved, the first Dead Space game before I was asked to do the novel. I’ve kept playing the games, read the first graphic novel, read the second graphic novel, saw both movies. I think it’s a great franchise.”
Q. What was it exactly that attracted you to penning the book?
“I loved the mood of the first Dead Space game and immediately felt like it was a world I wanted to be part of. I liked the demented grittiness of it, which seemed like it meshed well with the kinds of things that I do in my other fiction. I felt like I could write the book and still be true to my own larger aesthetic vision.”
Q. How closely did you work with the teams at EA and Visceral Games?
“Very closely. They approved the initial idea and made suggestions, then a very long (20 pages) outline, then read the novel once it was finished and commented on it. Neither of us wanted a book that didn’t fit in nicely with the Dead Space world. I also felt that they really were willing to trust me, that they liked my writing enough that they were really interested in seeing what I, specifically, would bring to the project.”
Q. You have a bit of a history with Religion in your private life thanks to your former position with the LDS, is that something that helped you when approaching Dead Space’s fictional religion of Unitology?
“Yes, I’m an excommunicated Mormon who left the Mormon Church because of conflicts between the Church and I over my writing. I think my own very vexed history with Mormonism definitely helped me to understand the complicated relationship that people can have with religion, and also helped me understand both the negative and positive aspects of religion. I don’t think Unitology is connected to Mormonism, or to any other real religion, but yes, I think my background gave me a way to see it and think about it.”
Q. You’ve previously had involvement with the book Halo: Evolutions (another gaming series) and wrote a book set in the Aliens universe, you clearly like your Sci-Fi. What is it that has drawn you to Sci-Fi so often?
“I like the world-building aspects of SF, the imaginative richness of it. I also like, with the Aliens universe and the Dead Space universe, the bleakness and harshness of the world. With both the Halo story I wrote and Dead Space: Martyr, I was really interested in trying to think about aspects of the game that raised questions for me. For the Halo story, the question was, “What happens to the Spartans that don’t make it through training?” For Dead Space, I was really interested in knowing more about the black marker, something only hinted at in the game, and in finding out who the mysterious founder of unitology Michael Altman was.”
Q. Do you play games regularly?
“Yes, I play a lot of video games. I think great things are being done in the medium. Besides Dead Space, I’d mention Limbo and Red Dead Redemption as two completely opposite ways of dealing very effectively with narration in a video game, and doing it in a way that still lets the game be massively fun.”
Q. How important do you view gaming as an entertainment and storytelling media? Do you believe that games can tell as story as powerful as that in books and movies?
“Yes, I do. I think games have the same ability as a movie or a book to tell a powerful story, and to move a viewer/player, and to do so in a complex way.”
Q. Having done a few books related on existing IP, how do you set about researching the creators ideas to help flesh out the world they’ve invented?
“I replay the games or re-watch the movies to start with. With Dead Space, they also gave me scripts and story notes for some of the upcoming projects, so I had a pretty good idea about Dead Space 2 months before it came out and what sorts of things I needed to watch out for. I think you have to go into it with a real love of the movie or game if you’re going to write a successful book. Alien was the first movie that genuinely freaked me out, back when I was just a kid, so I had an intense, visceral relationship to the franchise that made me want to do something that would live up to it. Dead Space was a game I loved, and that made me want to be true to the experience I had while playing it.”
Q. Which setting found in one of your non-gaming books do you feel would make a great universe to explore in a game?
“I’ve got a novel called Last Days which is exceptionally weird, about a religious group that practices self-mutilation. That’d probably make the best game or graphic novel.”
Q. Finally, which of your past works do you think that gamers would enjoy the most?
“Probably Last Days. It’s disturbing in a way that I think Dead Space fans would like, but also strangely, darkly absurd…”
Q. Thank you for your time.