Exclusive Interview: Catalyst Gate Author Megan E. O’Keefe
Like a lot of video games, the Mass Effect series wasn’t just influenced by other games, but by sci-fi space opera novels as well. But influence flows both ways, as evidenced by what writer Megan E. O’Keefe says in the following email interview about Catalyst Gate (paperback, Kindle), the third and final book in her Mass Effect (and other games) inspired The Protectorate Series trilogy.
Photo Credit: Joey Hewitt
For people who haven’t read any of them, what is The Protectorate Series about, and when and where does it take place?
The Protectorate is far-future science fiction, and primarily takes place on spaceships, stations, and the occasional domed city. It features cool spaceships, disaster siblings, and intergalactic politics. But mostly it’s about a gunnery sergeant finding herself stranded on an A.I.-controlled, enemy warship 230 years after the war she was fighting has been lost and the entire star system has been destroyed.
And without spoiling too much, what is Catalyst Gate about, and aside from being the final book of the trilogy, how does it connect, both narratively and chronologically, to the second book, Chaos Vector?
Catalyst Gate is a direct narrative continuation from Chaos Vector. The main cast has Gotten The Band Back Together, to use the trope name, and are preparing for their final confrontation with the universe’s Big Bad. Thematically it centers trauma more than the other two books, and how the characters cope with all that’s come before in the face of all they still have yet to face.
Chaos Vector and the first book in this series, Velocity Weapon, were sci-fi space operas. Is Catalyst Gate one as well?
Catalyst Gate is space opera in the same vein as the previous books, with a dash of cyberpunk thrown in. Though the truth is I’m atrocious at sticking within any singular genre, and ultimately all the books I write are a mishmash of things that I think are neat and serve the story.
Are there any writers, or specific stories, that had an influence on Catalyst Gate but not on Velocity Weapon and Chaos Vector?
As Catalyst Gate is the capstone to the trilogy, I definitely considered the endings of other books, shows, and games, and what elements I enjoyed or disliked about those endings in a way that wouldn’t apply to the previous books.
And you kind of just answered this, but how about non-literary influences; was Catalyst Gate influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games? Because in your Twitter bio it says, “#Mordin was the real hero,” which, I assume, is a reference to Mass Effect.
Hah! Yes, Mass Effect remains a large influence for the series. One of the earliest stories that made me sit up and pay attention to narrative and what it can achieve is the story of another video game, Final Fantasy VII. The unreliable narrator aspect of the game fascinated me in childhood, it was quite probably the first time I’d encountered the device, and my interest in such things has carried over to this day.
As we’ve been discussing, Catalyst Gate is the final book of the trilogy. But some people who write trilogies expand upon them with side stories or sequel trilogies. Are you planning to do that as well, or is this it for The Protectorate Series?
I intend to tie off The Protectorate Series with Catalyst Gate and leave it at that for the foreseeable future. There is room within the world to expand, naturally, but the stories of the main cast are brought to a close.
As you probably know, there are people who have been eagerly awaiting Catalyst Gate to come out so they can read this entire trilogy back-to-back. Do you think this is the best way to experience this story, or do you think people should take breaks between the books?
I believe people should read in whichever way is best for them. I write full time, so from a purely financial perspective I’d of course appreciate it if readers picked up the series as it came out. However, I also understand that readers have been burned by unfinished series in the past, and some may be hesitant to get invested in a new story without a guarantee that they’ll be provided a proper ending. Luckily for us all, I’m rather swift writer so the wait wasn’t too long.
Earlier I asked if Catalyst Gate had been influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games. But to flip the script, as the kids probably don’t say anymore, do you think Catalyst Gate and the rest of The Protectorate Series could work as a movie, TV show, or game?
My preferred adaptation for The Protectorate Series would be a TV show, as there’s a lot of plot that I suspect would be difficult to squeeze into a movie, but of course I’d love to see it made in any visual format. As a lifelong gamer I’d love to see it in video game format as well, but I suspect it’d be have to be done similarly to the NieR series. Of course I’m now imagining Bero with the Emil head and cackling.
So, if someone wanted to make The Protectorate Series into a TV show, who would you want them to cast as the main characters?
This is where I confess that I am absolutely the worst at remembering the names and faces of actors. That said, I always like to see fresh faces in a main cast on a new TV show. Not only does it allow the characters to develop without the connotation of all the characters the actor has played previously, it also gives new actors a chance to move up in the industry, so it’s a win all around.
And if you’re thinking my above answer is dodge of the question, well, I promise you that I really do feel that way. Also, my poor film agent once had to listen to me fumble for a full five minutes while I tried to recall the name of [Mank director] David Fincher. Really, it’s best for everyone involved if I don’t attempt to fan-cast.
Finally, if someone enjoys Catalyst Gate, what sci-fi space opera trilogy of someone else’s — in which all three books are out — would you suggest people read next?
The Indranan War trilogy by K.B. Wagers, starting with Behind The Throne would definitely scratch the same itch. They’re fun, snappy, and full of great action and memorable characters. There’s even a sequel trilogy, The Farian War, already completed.