The Meg author Steve Alten recalls ‘killing off’ critic and how he really feels about loyal Megheads
The fact that The Meg has spawned a sequel will be no surprise to those long-dedicated fans of the franchise, as the map for sequels has already been set out in the source material; a series of deep-diving adventure novels by Steve Alten, who spoke with Metro.co.uk about the past and future of the franchise on both the screen and page.
Alten, 63, first kicked off The Meg franchise back in 1997 with the publication of the first novel Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror. From there, began a long road to the big screen that saw the likes of Guillermo del Toro and Eli Roth come and go – but you can’t keep a good shark project down.
From Jaws to Deep Blue Sea, there’s always been a fascination with those black-eyed fish with a sharp set of teeth, something that began for Alten at a very young age.
‘When I was younger. I used to love to read, you know, picture books with dinosaurs and marine reptiles, and I know that the marine reptiles were always the ones that were much cooler to me because they had these sharp teeth, and that’s before I even learned about the big shark that came around the Miocene period over 30 million years ago.’
Similar to most of us with a love of sharks, that fascination only grew with the publication of Peter Benchley’s Jaws novel and Steven Spielberg’s 1975 film adaptation.
‘I read Jaws when I was 15 and then decided I wanted to read as much as I could about real shark attacks and real great whites.
There was always a little blurb with a black and white photo of scientists sitting in a big jaw on the Smithsonian and that led me to the Megalodon.’
That startling image of a giant set of gnashers may have caught the imagination of the young Alten, leading him to discover more about the Megalodon, but finding there was little else to read at the time, the Meg receded to the depths of his imagination, only to be reawakened some 20 years later.
After pursuing a career in sports administration and coaching, Alten was struck by a Time Magazine article featuring a deep water creature on the cover, an Anglerfish, with the article going even further into the secret world beneath the depths, and chiefly the Mariana trench.
‘Here was this 1,500-mile long, 40-mile wide, seven-mile deep gorge that was unexplored,’ Alten explains.
‘And if there were hydrothermal events in it which I was pretty sure there was, it just made sense to me that if you got all this mineralized hot water it’s rising out at the bottom at some point. It’s going to coagulate and form a ceiling of soot above it. Which would seal in the warmth and so that’s what I wrote about,’ – an ideal concept for envisioning a world where long-thought-extinct species could survive.
While a work of fiction Alten makes sure to do his research, and the idea of life forms that deep in the ocean has become less and less of a hypothetical fantasy since his original novel was published back in 1997 – although it’s doubtful a giant prehistoric beast is roaming around down there.
At the time, some critics were quick to point out the seemingly ridiculous notions of life deep in the ocean in Alten’s novels, with Alten saying one LA Times writer in particular ‘ripped it apart, everything from the name Meg to claiming that there were hydrothermal events at the bottom of the Mariana Trench.’
‘I didn’t know it was real, but I wrote it as it was, and then it turned out to be true. So I wrote that critic into the sequel novel [The Trench] and had him killed off – anyone that wrote a bad review of The Meg got killed in The Trench,’ he recalled.