The Tales from the Juggernaut is an original science fiction adventure series, but it draws inspiration from works going back almost a century.
This movie is here for two reasons:
1) It’s a brilliant development from the first movie, taking the same basic concept but flipping it around and still making it horrifying.
2) Vasquez. One of the most badass female characters ever to grace the screen. Where do you think Tila got her surname from?
It’s also a great example of how having bigger guns doesn’t mean you will win, that determination and creativity can go a long way to defeating your enemy, and that there is nothing in the universe that will stop you trying to save someone you love.
This is the first direct inspiration for The Juggernaut.
The long-form story arc, and the twists and turns and revelations were amazing enough. B5 also had great examples of characters using technology that was known and understood in new ways. (Open a jump point inside a jump point, or in an atmosphere? What?)
The space station Babylon 5 was supposed operate a bit like the UN in space, where aliens could come to settle differences in neutral territory. But it was a big place (it could be a dangerous place, says one of the opening monologues), and not all parts of the station were ideal. The detritus had to gather somewhere, and on B5 that was called Down Below.
Somewhere in my boxes exists a piece of paper that says something like ‘what if there was an entire space station like Down Below.’ That’s the line. That’s the seed that planted the series Tales from the Juggernaut. One day I’ll find it!
B5’s jump points are also why I used fixed jump beacons to navigate the Commonwealth. (See also The Lost Fleet)
Along with Buck Rogers, this TV series was one of many shows which jumped on the Star Wars bandwagon, but it told it’s own story and had it’s own rich mythology.
The special effects are dated now but the ship models still hold up really well.
Fun fact, the Colonial Viper Mk IV is one of my favourite space ships of all time, and it is a direct influence on the third book in the series, The Dead Fleet.
Bob Shaw is one of my favourite science fiction writers, and he has amazed me with horrific ideas (Dark Night in Toyland), huge scope (Orbitsville) and low tech science fiction stories (The Wooden Spaceships).
Looking back through my own work I can’t find a direct line to any particular story or idea of his, (at least not in Tales from the Juggernaut) but he showed me how good concepts, well-executed, can make great stories.
Brandon Sanderson has an entry here not because his work has inspired me, but because his Skyward novels hit that same spot I am aiming for in my race and flight scenes.
I only discovered his YA SF adventure recently, after I had published three books and drafted a fourth. I wish I had found them sooner. Go and read them now!
This is the other science fiction TV show produced by Glen A. Larson in the late 1970s, but based on a character which first debuted in 1928 (yes, science fiction adventure has a pedigree almost 100 years old). The cost of visual effects was very high at the time, which is why all the fighter manoeuvres look exactly the same as the shots in Battlestar Galactica.
Telling the story of a man frozen in time for 500 years, Buck showed me how the idea of lost knowledge (as seen in Tales from the Juggernaut through what was lost in the civil war, and what this could mean for the future…) could be a great story hook.
Buffy the vampire slayer
Joss Whedon’s first TV show, based on the idea that the least likely foe a vampire could face would be a cheerleader.
Buffy only grew to overcome her foes by relying on her friends – it’s even a major plot point as to why she survives when other slayers have died. I wanted to bring that need, that interdependence to Tila Vasquez in her story. She thinks she doesn’t need anyone else, but she only makes progress when they help.
Plus Buffy is a badass when it comes to a fistfight, so Tila has that to look up to as well.
Sure, there’s not much in the way of genre overlap with Dan Brown, but the man can write a story.
Have you read The Da Vinci Code? It’s like the trope codifier for a page-turning thriller. Information is drip fed so well, and the cliff-hangers are so well placed that your only option is to keep reading.
There’s no religious thriller in Tales from the Juggernaut, but I hope the cliff-hanger scenes keep you turning pages.
The first Joss Whedon creation on this list, Firefly was a TV show from the early 2000s which told the story of the crew of a trading ship trying to make a living on the edge of civilised space.
The big lesson from this show was that the ship, a Firefly-class vessel named Serenity had no weapons or shields. It meant that escape from danger involved clever thinking, quick reflexes, skilled crew and an understanding of how the enemy worked.
If you want to see how this worked in Tales from the Juggernaut, then you’ll want to read how Ellie overcomes challenges from her cockpit.
This one is simple, Jackie Chan makes entertaining, fun, action filled movies with the most inventive fight scenes you have ever seen. If your experience of movie fight choreography does not include watching Jackie’s 1980s movies you are missing out.
His timing, gags, stunts and use of props set the standard for fight scenes. Without Jackie Chan we would not have The Matrix, or John Wick today. There are very few Hollywood movies that even begin to approach what Jackie Chan and his team were doing forty years ago.
Their lineage is found in the Juggernaut novels when Tila fights. I can’t do on the page what Jackie does on the screen, but I can guarantee I sit down and take notes from his movies.
The Lost Fleet
The Lost Fleet is a military sf series about a fleet of ships trying to get home through enemy territory.
It’s a brilliant series and hooks into my own writing in three ways.
The Lost Fleet is the direct inspiration for the third Juggernaut novel; The Dead Fleet. (I just thought it sounded cool – I had to come up with the story later. This is mostly the secret to how I write btw…)
Like Babylon 5, The Lost Fleet novels had fixed jump points within each star system (see Technology for more on how the Juggernaut’s beacons work, and how they are different to these examples.)
It’s also another good example of characters being forced to adapt and think in order to overcome the enemy. No one wins because they have a bigger gun.
Melanie Rawn is one of my favourite writers. I found her books because one day I went to the library in the mood to read about dragons (as you do), and there I found her first novel, the first in a trilogy: Dragon Prince.
Next I read her second trilogy before finding the second and third books of her first trilogy. Spoilers? You bet 🙁
Anyway, the stories were amazing, the characters heroic and flawed, and the scope epic. The books slowly wove new developments (such as the introduction of lace) and clever use of history and genealogy to keep building up the world.
The writing is also beautiful, and there are some lines that now live forever in my head.
Stargate the movie was a great SF concept building on the ancient aliens theories of the 20th century. Stargate the TV show took this idea and ran with it, developing it so well it ran for ten years, and produced another seven years of spinoffs.
This show worked so well for me for a couple of reasons. The first is how each season would escalate the threat to the heroes. The second is how the team (mostly Samantha Carter, a massively underrated sf character) would overcome these challenges by working on the science. The Stargate as a concept is brilliant. How this technology was developed and exploited over the course of the show is fantastic.
Stargate SG1 showed me that you can have a lot of fun with science fiction technology by understanding its limits and thinking outside the box and not making it suddenly seem like magic.
Where does this fit in to the story? Keep reading book four and beyond.
Star Trek: The Next Generation
I watched some of the original series in reruns in the 1980s (Thank you BBC 2, Thursdays at 6pm for all the scifi you gave me), but my trek is The Next Generation.
Star Trek is a show where the science is basically magic (transporters, replicators, FTL communications), but even so, the crew were regularly stumped by a scientific problem they had to think their way out of.
Some of these ideas are hardly new, but they were new to me, and showed (as with Stargate SG1) how clever use of technology and some creative thinking could create and solve problems.
Where does this fit in to the story? Keep reading book four and beyond.
Star Wars is the grand-daddy of science fiction adventure and with good reason. It told a great story, introduced the world to new wonders and showed us things we had never seen, and we needed more.
Five-year-old me discovered it for the first time on TV on Christmas Day, and I fell in love with the space ships, explosions, gunfights, lasers, lightsabres visual effects and the music.
Obviously I’m not alone in this. The franchise is still going strong today and still turns out amazing movies like Rogue One.
What can I say about Terry Pratchett and his Discworld novels? If you know, you know.
If you don’t, you’re missing out on one of the finest, cleverest, warmest writers to ever work.
The Discworld novels were (along with Douglas Adams Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and Blackadder) huge influences in my sense of humour. There’s not much of that in Tila Vasquez, and the series is about adventure, not comedy, but there are characters and situations and conversations which draw their soul from the work of Terry Pratchett.
If you don’t know his work, go and buy his books right now.