I had a chat with Michael McGinty about his recent sci-fi book Entropy – which I was involved with assessment and editing. Entropy can be found here.
A few questions… with Michael McGinty
1. Entropy sits firmly in the science fiction genre. Who have been some of your favourite authors and inspirations in science fiction over the years?
My love of science fiction started when I read Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 as a teenager. Back in the 1970s it was mind-boggling futuristic and I was amazed by its daring premise.
I’m not a profuse reader, but I do read widely. Over the years, I tended to enjoy authors like Arthur C Clarke, Bradbury, Asimov, Frank Herbert, Hugh Howey, Liu Cixin and Tolkien. The ideas in their stories fascinate me. The story of Entropy is greatly influenced by the imagination of Philip K Dick along with Neuromancer by William Gibson, Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, and my favourite novel The Road by Cormac McCarthy.
Stephen King says, ‘If you want to write, you need to read.’ I think he’s right. Other people’s stories provide the inspiration and road map that a new writer requires. For example, the scene where Mr Symons goes on a rant to Bill Bartles was inspired by Beatty’s rant to Montag in Fahrenheit 451. There’s much in Entropy where I thought: How would Blake Crouch write this? Or can I out-neuromance William Gibson? Or how would PKD leave nuance here?
2. Are there any particular themes that you like to explore in your writing?
I love stories that deal with the resilience of the human spirit against unimaginable odds. When all is lost, will the characters we’re rooting for survive? The Walking Dead TV series is a great example of that. It was a challenge for me to write a story about the end of humanity, where everyone dies, yet try to leave a glimmer of hope.
Entropy is primarily about the massive amounts of data we’re creating every second of every day. The 1s and 0s that are filling the storage devices. Collectively, it represents the entire knowledge of humankind. Although considering social media and disinformation campaigns, can it be trusted? Would it represent a reliable account of our time here if it were discovered by some archaeologist 1000 years from now?
I also love prose. It probably comes from writing sci-fi poems when I was younger. In Entropy I’ve tried to immerse the reader in the broken world Bill Bartles finds himself in by describing it. In the ‘Can you hear loneliness?’ scene, I tried to describe nothing by describing what wasn’t there. Some people don’t like exposition; however, one reviewer of Entropy says ‘McGinty’s stoked imagination provides many powerful and beautiful scenes’ which I take as a huge compliment to the way I wanted to tell the story.
3. Does your engineering background and knowledge feature in your stories?
Definitely. I like hard science fiction. It ties in well with my profession as a hardware/software engineer. Write about what you know. So I try to incorporate hardware and software into my writing. Entropy even has a few pages of defragmented sentences (to replicate the way data is actually stored on a hard disk) as well as some C software programming syntax, which I included as a bit of fun.
The AI known as Aleph-1 and the Cantor Infinity Drive were also conceived based on engineering, scientific and mathematical concepts. I can still remember the day our mathematics lecturer told us students about imaginary numbers. ‘You’re kidding,’ we all protested. But, yes, there are imaginary numbers, so they warrant a mention in the story as well.
4. What inspired you to write Entropy?
I’ve always enjoyed writing short sci-fi poems. I like the way the words come together to evoke emotion in the reader. One day I decided to write a novel. What could be easier? Eight years later, after joining writers’ groups, trawling the internet for advice on how to write, meeting many like-minded people and editing and re-editing, I finally had a finished story.
Hard sci-fi is difficult to write. It has to be precise, propose scientific theories, discuss physics and mathematical concepts, yet be entertaining. I could have picked an easier genre, but I wanted to write something that I would enjoy as a reader.
During a recent visit to my hometown high school in Kalgoorlie, one of the students asked me if I ever felt like giving up?
I said, ‘No, I never give up.’ Whether Entropy is successful or not, I’m happy because I never gave up.
5. What have you learned through self-publishing Entropy?
Self-publishing has been an enjoyable experience. I tried to go the traditional route. However, when COVID-19 hit, it upset everybody’s publishing plans. I figured with the technology readily available it’s easy to self-publish, but I had to have a quality product, inside and out. If I learned anything, a book must have a well-designed cover and be professionally copyedited.
The copyediting process was my biggest learning curve. It’s daunting for any debut author. First, you need to find an editor you’re comfortable with, then you need to trust them. Scott Vandervalk did a fantastic manuscript assessment first up, which gave me the confidence to have him continue with the copyediting. And I’m very happy with the result.
And marketing is hard for a debut author. How do you get your name out there as a serious writer? Never give up.
I’ve met many wonderful people who gave me support and advice along the way. I think everyone who contributed to Entropy (whether beta reader, advice giver, cover designer, editor, a tireless marketeer) has some ownership of the end result. I hope everyone involved feels the same satisfaction as I do.
6. And, finally, describe your ideal writing space!
I’ve written Entropy almost everywhere. At a desk in my study. Out on the patio with my mate (dog), Louie. Sitting in my car in a park or by the seaside. In libraries, including the local library and the State Library Victoria in Melbourne. Many ideas come to me while I’m out walking. These are the hardest because I have to keep repeating them in my head until I get back to my laptop.
Mike was born and raised in Kalgoorlie, in the goldfields of Western Australia. He moved to Perth in the late 1970s to study a Bachelor of Engineering (Electronics) at Curtin University (or WAIT in the olden ☹ days).
With a good science fiction novel in hand and a life-long passion for technology and innovation, he always imagined a future for humanity built around technologies that might seem impossible today, yet possible when we think about tomorrow. When not writing, Mike runs a software development company (www.cyinnovations.com), loves 1970s heavy rock music and cheers on his beloved West Coast Eagles AFL team. He often goes fishing in the Australian never-never.
Mike lives in an empty nest in Perth with his wife and their sidekick, Louie, their black labrador.