Today we have Bill McCormick here to chat with us about his series The Brittle Riders
What was the most surprising thing you found out while researching/writing your latest book?
Finding out that some of my more unusual ideas were actually being studied by real scientists. Because of that I was able to have conversation with people who have alphabet soup after their names and discuss some very uncommon concepts.
Why did you choose this setting?
Go-Chi is a bastardization of Chicago, which is where I live.
What’s unique about your world?
Well, to start with, all the humans are killed in the preamble. Second is the diversity of the mutations. The beings who have replaced humans were all designed to provide specific functions. They were everything from base labor to sex slaves to office help. There were also a lot of military uses. The latter would be the ones who led the revolution, but they were far from the only participants. All of the genetically modified podular beings, a/k/a gen-O-pods™, helped accelerate the Armageddon in any way they could. So, with a clean slate, I was able to create varied societies. Some avoided progress and maintained agrarian lifestyles. Others kept old tech and built on it. Some became a form of futuristic bankers, selling goods, services, and financing, all under one banner. The interaction between them fuels the underpinnings of the story.
How real do you think the science is in your book?
Pretty fucking real. I spent a night with a group of experimental geneticists at a restaurant, which set me back more money than I care to admit after signing a nine page non-disclosure agreement, to figure out how many chromosomes would be needed to do what I was positing. The answer we agreed on was fifty-four. The majority of human DNA has the basic info for mutations stored, but inactive. We have a reptilian core in our brains, for example, but nothing related to flight since that evolutionary trunk split before we began to evolve. Also, while there is current research on T-cells and their ability to repair damaged cells, I took that to a whole new level thanks to that expensive evening.
The scary part about that evening was realizing that the stuff of my nightmares was clearly well contemplated by them. The phrase GMO took on a whole new meaning to me after that night.
Additionally, the difference between anti-energy and anti-matter became the basis of my favorite story I get to tell in bars. Like all lazy writers nearing a deadline, I used a pop culture trope to create a spaceship near the end of the trilogy. A buddy, who works for JPL, informed me that, not only had I fucked up the trope itself, I’d created something that, if used in real life, would wipe out approximately four or five parsecs worth of our solar system. Think everything from Mercury to Mars would be vaporized and you see the problem. So, after plowing through around one hundred pages of theoretical essays on quantum physics, which he was kind enough to forward, I dumped the whole matter / anti-matter engine motif and used anti-energy, which is hypothetically cleaner and easier to control. The former currently only exists for nano-seconds and the latter is solely extrapolated from Paul Dryac’s early theories, so neither are available at Walmart now. But there you go. Science and stuff.
What did you include that you wish was real today?
Anti-energy would solve all the world’s energy problems if we could figure out how to harness it safely. And create it. The latter needing to come before the former in this case.
Anything else you would like to share?
As bleak as everything above sounds the books are pretty funny. The tag line used by the publisher is “Apocalypses are funny that way.” My strength isn’t science, which is why I picked the brains of lots of experts, but characters. I like fleshing them out. In fact that habit led to a problem all its own. When I first created the story arc I figured, if I was lucky, I’d get a novella out of it. But, as I wrote the characters started talking to me, any writer knows what I mean and any shrink is figuring out how to use me to pay for their vacation in the Bahamas, and I started talking back. One character, a toss off comedic prop, became integral to the story. Others had their own stories to tell. To get things in order I added a scene in Book I wherein they are all in a hotel together, but alone in their rooms, contemplating all that had come before and what was about to happen. Once that scene was written I knew I could toss the novella in the trash and just keep writing until I’d come to a logical end.
And, to be clear, Book III is the logical end for those characters. Book I is their beginning, II is their development, and III is their end.
Another thing I wrestled with was the sex aspects. After all, these are creatures who exist a thousand years after all humans are gone. They’re not that old so they had to have parents or something similar. Also, the titular characters figure they’re all going to die soon anyway, so why not have a little apocalypse nookie before the end? One of my pre-readers was terrified to find out her husband wanted to try some of the stuff in the book. She, while not exactly saying no, did ask, forcefully, for me to give her a head’s up in the future if there were any other scenes like that she should excise before he read them.
I have no idea why, but that made me happy.