Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our Friday spotlight on Science Fiction author Wil McCarthy. As we usually do in our Author Spotlights, we ask our authors to tell us a little bit about themselves and their writing. Wil’s had some incredible experiences, as he mentions below:
My name is Wil McCarthy. I’m a former tech company founder and CTO, and I hold patents in 7 countries, including 31 issued U.S. patents. I’ve written 13 books, and I used to be a contributing editor for Wired magazine and the science and technology correspondent for the SyFy channel.
Where can people find your work? (Besides Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester–though they should totally check here first!)
I sometimes publish in magazines like Analog and Asimov’s, and some of my backlist is available from ReAnimus Press. But I’ve got four books out from Baen (ANTEDILUVIAN, THE COLLAPSIUM, THE WELLSTONE, and LOST IN TRANSMISSION), with another two on the way (TO CRUSH THE MOON and RICH MAN’S SKY), and I’m presently working on a seventh (POOR MAN’S SKY). So Baen is mostly where you can find me.
How can we follow your work and share your awesomeness?
You can friend me on Facebook, or “like” my author page there.
For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you write? What can readers expect from Lost in Transmission?
My work is generally classified as hard science fiction, because I try to write about things I believe are possible, but given all the unknowns in science, that leaves a lot of space to play around in. The important thing is telling a good story that makes sense, and captures the reader’s imagination.
LOST IN TRANSMISSION is a book about the lives of immorbid people – that is, people who can die by misadventure, but can’t grow old or get sick. They live extremely long lives, sprawling out over thousands of years, and if you think about real history in that context, that’s more than enough time for civilizations to rise and fall. When people live that long, the consequences of their actions can’t simply be pushed off to future generations. On the other hand, those time spans let people – even supposedly average or mediocre people – accumulate vast troves of experience. So there’s a lot of room for personal growth, even where the world is falling apart.
Also there are starships and robots and programmable matter and miniature black holes. This is a Queendom of Sol novel, with a lot of big science lurking in the background. That’s not what the book is about, but it’s woven into the environment.
What character did you love or hate the most while writing? And why?
The nominal villain of the story is someone who correctly foresees a total economic collapse. If you know that’s coming, way ahead of time, you can make hard choices about what to save and what to throw overboard. It makes sense, and it may even be necessary, but that’s cold comfort if you’re one of the things being sacrificed.
The nominal hero is someone who’s determined to defy his leaders and save what he can, at great personal cost. But it’s hard to succeed at such a monumental task, so is that really better? Is the overwhelmed hero actually doing more good than the patient schemer? That ambiguity kind of sets the tone for the book. But the hero is easier to like.
What draws you to the particular genre or style that you write? What do you think draws readers to these kinds of books?
The Queendom of Sol books are structured like fairy tales, with Big Science taking the place of magic. All kinds of things that would be miraculous to us are no big deal in the Queendom. Also, Queendom society is Utopian in a lot of ways. It’s based on people’s deepest needs, which can actually be quite different than what they think they want. So it’s not a democracy, for example. But neither is a fairy tale, right? I think a lot of readers are drawn in by that. I am, too.
What is your favorite part of being a writer? Of the whole writing and publishing process? What do you think has been your greatest lesson in the journey thus far?
My favorite part, hands down, is being illustrated. Cover art is my drug of choice, because it’s the only way to see the images that my words produce in someone else’s mind. The writing process is a lot of hard, solitary work, and the publishing process consists largely of reading your own prose over and over again until you can’t really even see it anymore. Also, as most writers will tell you, going back and reading your old work is disappointing, because you’ve moved on. It seems immature, or irrelevant. But the cover art is still exciting!
I also wrote a screenplay for a movie once, and it was weird to see my writing in that very visual format. Not necessarily rewarding, because the movie that got made was pretty different than the script I turned in. But there were flashes of me in there, and it was kind of eerie to watch those for the first time.
As for greatest lessons, wow. Hmm. I took a long break from writing when I started my company, and that ended up eating nearly fifteen years of my life. But when I started writing again, my whole self just kind of relaxed into it. I didn’t forget how to do it, but I did forget how good it felt. So I think the lesson is, if you love something, don’t stop doing it for fifteen years. Really don’t.
What question do you wish interviewers would ask you, and what would the answer be?
I wish people would ask me what accomplishments I’m most proud of. But it’s a funny thing, because I’m not actually sure what the answer is. I’ve raised two children. I’ve found my perfect mate. I’ve published books, and I’ve started a company from scratch, from nothing but the ideas in my head. But at any given moment, I may not be thinking about any of that. Maybe my proudest accomplishment is just existing at all, and that’s not something I can take credit for. But it sure is amazing.
What else can we expect from you in the near future?
Coming up this spring, back to back, are TO CRUSH THE MOON, which is another Queendom of Sol novel, and RICH MAN’S SKY, which is the start of a new series set in the near future, where the space program is controlled by a handful of high-net-worth individuals. I’m indescribably excited about both of these books, and I think everyone reading this should pre-order them from Annie’s Book Stop. COVID has wrecked a lot of things, but we can still settle down with a good book.
(Like one of these? – SL)
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer so many of our questions, Wil! Perhaps we’ll learn more about you in the Spring in a Zoom interview!