Tag: Big Brother

Author Interview: Steve McCardell

Posted October 19, 2015

  • Darwood and SmittyWhen did you first discover your love for writing?

I’ve loved writing since early elementary school. By first or second grade, I knew I wanted to grow up to be a writer or a baseball player. Turned out to be a writer, which I do professionally for clients and do for fun when writing books.

  • Do you have a favourite place to write?

It’s pretty cliche, but I love to work at coffee shops. Gets me away from the things at home that take my attention and lets me slip into my own little world.

  • Do you have a writing routine or process that you adhere to?

No, because my work and family schedules are always changing. Besides a full-time job in writing and digital marketing, I almost always have one or more clients that I work with on a freelance basis, and I have to take good care of them.

But after caring for family and clients, I have such a passion for writing that I will always try finding at least an hour a day for writing. More than that on weekends. Besides my books, I have several business ventures that need writing. So I let the energy take me where it will. I don’t push a project that doesn’t want to be pushed. I believe this is what keeps me passionate about it, because there’s always something that fits my immediate interests. And since I’m not just writing books, but also writing blogs and articles and so on, I get to enjoy a finished product on a regular basis.

This wouldn’t work for writers with publishing contracts of course. But it works for me, as I self-publish my books.

  • Are there any authors or specific books you aspire to?

Probably like most science fiction authors, I have this warm fuzzy for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and while my first science fiction book — Darwood & Smitty and the Multi-World Agenda — doesn’t try to be anything like “The Guide,” it’s similar in the sense that it’s a humorous science fiction adventure that doubles as a social commentary.

  • What inspired you to write Darwood & Smitty?

I was on a plane in the early 2000s and just sat to start writing whatever came to me, as I often did. And I started writing about a metallic, magnetic road system that looked like a bunch of cheese graters butted end to end. It looks that way because there are holes in the metal to allow water drainage, but these holes also caused arguments between those who bought that story and those who felt they were really for releasing gas when the government wanted to take over. And the first side wanted to know — and rightly so — how the government could take over any more than it already had.

This scene later became part of the second chapter in Darwood & Smitty, a book in which you often have mainstream thought arguing with conspiracy theories; and a book whose two main characters somewhat have these differing views, even though they’re best friends.

  • Can you tell us a little about your book?

The story is set in 2045, though it gives a brief history of our current time — our passage through the economic crisis (underway when the book was published in 2010), the drop of gas prices in the mid-2010s (now), the emergence of the solar system life (aliens) in 2020, how the government goes global and why Earth’s capital ends up in New York City. It also touches on a number of products, their names, a few laughs at marketing, and tidbits like why we’re still using today’s style of fingernail clippers 30 years from now. (It’s not pretty.)

Like any good future vision of the world, surveillance is everywhere, and it talks about how we’ve adapted to it … for better and for worse. And corporations have reached new heights of power, which is something the latest president has promised to address with his special interest legislation.

Oh, and did I mention that we have a global police force made up of Jovians that tower above us and look like trolls?

The story revolves around Darwood and Smitty, who are deliverymen asked to hand deliver a package to Earth’s president. From a man in solitary confinement. And things are suspicious to ever-cautious Smitty because he’s wondering why several teams before them have failed. In the end, they’ll have to figure out why and help address some problems that are bigger than this world.

  • Do you have a favourite amongst all your characters?

I really love a lot of my characters. There’s one guy whose name I don’t even know who just about brings me to tears with his bravery. There’s an overlord who reminds me of Plankton from Spongebob Squarepants. And the president — boy, if politicians could take note. But after spending so much time with them learning about their story, Darwood and Smitty are my favorites for their humor, philosophy, and bravery.

  • Does your book contain a message for readers to consider?

From my perspective, anyway, a lot of my writing is more about looking at things in order to ask questions, not to give answers. I’d rather make readers ponder a question rather than sort of push my own point of view. The book, however, hovers around a couple of themes that are important to me, which are freedom and unity.

  • Would you be interested in sharing a teaser? 

When the global government took form in 2020, life from the rest of the system made itself known. Considering the technology of Earth’s planetary neighbors, you’d think the smog problem wouldn’t last. But there were precisely two problems standing in the way: the Martians, who had fits of laughter about humans using oil, were mercenaries. All they liked to do was trade. And they had plenty of oil they wanted to get rid of. With our supplies starting to trickle, they were happy to feed the addiction.

But a little more grievously, the Venusians had tried presenting a magnetic grid solution for powering our vehicles. And they presented to the wrong politicians, who were in the wrong pockets and saw to it that such a thing wouldn’t happen on their watch. It took a while for the Venusians to finally understand, but when they did, it was an easy answer: give the politicians more power than oil was giving them. Let New York raise funds from every car tapping into the magnetic grid. Then the oil cats couldn’t pull their strings and — with so many funds available — New York could cut back on taxes, providing relief to the people, and still fund extra programs.

It was a nice idea. In fact, it was a great idea, and put in place by 2030. But of course the taxes weren’t lowered. The government just reached its arms out further for a kind and smothering embrace.

It’s a long way of saying that the roads were metal now and, looked at from above, appeared to be so many cheese graters jammed end-to-end; this, because of the myriad holes across each section of road. The holes, it was said, were for drainage, and there was no question they worked in that way. But there were those who swore that they’d be used to release gas “when the government wants to take over.”

“But they’ve already taken over. They control everything!” said the opposition.

“Well … they want to control us more,” murmured the first side. Even Smitty, who was suspicious of everything, doubted this position. There really wasn’t much more power to take.

  • What would say has been your biggest challenge and achievement in writing Darwood & Smitty?

The biggest achievement, for me, was finishing a novel that was intended for the public. I had written several books for clients in the past, but this was the first with my name on it. But once it was published, I never treated it as a business, so the challenge has been giving it exposure and attracting readers. Obviously we’re in an age when there are more books published than ever, and they’re competing with YouTube and apps and social media and streaming TV shows and so on.

But I continue sharing its message in a casual way, when opportunities are present and by continuing to build my own website. And I do this not only because I love the idea of being able to share it with others, but because it seems like it gets more and more relevant to our political and corporate world as time goes by.

  • What have you learned about yourself as a writer through writing Darwood & Smitty?

While I also do some fantasy writing, I learned that I really like science fiction. I love pondering “what if,” and thinking about crazy possibilities in how the world works, and science fiction allows you to explore so much of this. I didn’t consider myself a science fiction writer before this, even though when I look back, I remember loving a science fiction project I worked on for a client in the early 2000s.

  • Do you have any advice for other aspiring authors?

There’s a lot of information out there from writers to other writers. I would add something in for younger people, especially those in school. When you can, read good books slowly. Even read out loud. Hear the words and the rhythm in your head or in your ears. Understand how the best writers have used language. And do this in a variety of genres. If you really want to write, learn from those who have succeeded. I think it’s sad that supposedly advanced English classes these days demand that students speed read — I think they lose so much from books when they have to devour huge amounts quickly.

So go slowly when you can, devouring quality time with books instead. And like with any sport, where you keep repeating until something is in muscle memory, read and write to the point where the words flow in your mind and onto paper any time you need them. If you haven’t consciously digested writing, if you’ve read for speed rather than deep comprehension, I believe you’ll have a much harder time becoming a great writer.

  • Anything else you would like to say?

Only to mention a thank you for this chance to talk about my book. As with so many writers, this is my art. How I express myself. And it’s nice to have a chance to share it with others.

  • And finally, do you have any future works planned?

Maybe too many, but yes. I expect a sequel of Darwood & Smitty at some point. It’s been taking form in my head. I’ve also begun work on another science fiction book that frankly cracks me up and I expect to be the funniest thing I’ve written. I’m almost done with the second book of my youth fantasy series, and two more planned that might be sort of a spiritual science fiction. And I have others in different genres that are and will be written under pen names. So I have a lot to get done, but again, love that there’s always something waiting for me to work on!


My personal site can be found at www.stevemccardell.com. This includes my blog, pages on Darwood & Smitty, many pieces of short fiction or poetry, and some of my music as well. I’m on Twitter at https://twitter.com/stevemccardell and my Amazonauthor page is http://amzn.to/1LdrQjJ


Blogging A-Z: D is for… Dystopia

Posted April 4, 2015

Dystopia

Dystopia is yet another theme of science fiction that intrigues me (and if you’ve been following along with the posts so far, you may have guessed – and quite rightly guessed – that there aren’t many themes I don’t like).

According to the Oxford dictionary, a dystopia is ‘An imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one. The opposite of utopia’  (Oxford Dictionary – online)

In terms of science fiction, a dystopia has got to be the ‘perfect’ society for characters to rebel against. The Hunger Games and Divergent are two of the most recent books to use this theme, but in literature, it goes much further back;

1984

1984

Published by George Orwell in 1959, this novel paints a grim presentation of 1984. An atomic war has  resulted in the world being divided into three states: Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia.

Winston Smith is a bureaucrat, living in London (Oceania). He works for the Ministry of Truth and is responsible for rewriting history, as and when the ruling party require it.

As the novel opens, Winston feels frustrated by the oppression and rigid control of the Party, which prohibits free thought, sex, and any expression of individuality. Winston dislikes the party and has illegally purchased a diary in which to write his criminal thoughts. He has also become fixated on a powerful Party member named O’Brien, whom Winston believes is a secret member of the Brotherhood—the mysterious, legendary group that works to overthrow the Party‘ (Sparknotes)

bbIt introduces the theme of ‘Big Brother,’ the faceless leader of Oceania. Everywhere Winston goes there are posters announcing that ‘Big Brother is watching you.’ While the citizens have been told he is their leader, Winston isn’t sure if he is a real person or just the face of the totalitarian party. Some find his face a comfort, as no matter where they are, he is watching, but to some – such as Winston – he is a threat.

As if that isn’t enough to contend with, Winston makes the mistake of falling in love. Public displays of affection (and free will) are not permitted. He and Julie live in fear of being caught and punished by the Big Brother…


My thoughts on Dystopia

Control seems to be the key to having a dystopian environment – whether through fear, medication or psychology. By keeping low ranking individuals where the leaders want them, by weeding out anyone who might be deemed as troublesome, or incompatible with their chosen method of control, the members at the top of the food chain should be able to enjoy a worry-free life.

Except… an inciting incident is nearly always enough to get a downtrodden character to open their eyes. To move beyond accepting their position in life and see the world for what it is. Discovery of the truth can fuel a character with passion, with the desire to live, as opposed to merely surviving, and they will fight for that freedom.

Sometimes these lowly characters can make it – avenues of escape materialise through a series of discoveries and they exit the book victorious. Other times they do not. The dystopian environment is all there is, but by the time they’ve realised that it’s too late to go back to how things were…