Will McIntosh’s third novel, Love Minus Eighty, was published by Orbit books in June. It is based on “Bridesicle”, which won the 2010 Hugo Award for Best Short Story. His debut novel, Soft Apocalypse, was a finalist for both a Locus award and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. Upcoming from Orbit in May 2014 is Defenders, which has been optioned by Warner Brothers for a feature film. Will recently moved to Williamsburg, Virginia with his wife Alison and twins Hannah and Miles. He left his position as a psychology professor in Southeast Georgia to write full time, and still teaches as an adjunct professor at the College of William and Mary.
[Alvaro Zinos-Amaro] Besides the “brideiscle” cryogenic dating program, there’s a wealth of fascinating social, economic and technological ideas in Love Minus Eighty. Can you describe how some of these extrapolations came about?
[Will McIntosh] I was striving for the most part to create a future that sprung directly out of trends we see today. Having social media follow people around live, 24-7, seemed about right to me. So did the extremes of wealth and poverty, the walking advertisements that follow you around if you don’t have the proper filters on your technology, and so on. I wanted readers to see this future and nod, and think, “Yes, I can see that happening.”
I probably stretched things a bit with a second level of Manhattan built on top of the existing one, and the maglev tubes that shot people and products around the city and suburbs. There are likely more efficient solutions to local transport and overpopulation, but those were more esthetic decisions–I liked the visual impact of colored tubes of all sizes winding around the city, and the shadowy darkness cast on Lowtown by that second story.
[AZA] Veronika seems to be popular with readers. Which character in Love Minus Eighty was most challenging to write, and why?
[WM] Probably Winter. For me, at least, the characters who are supposed to be the strongest, most admirable, are the most challenging, because it’s difficult to depict someone who is comfortable in their own skin and relatively free of neuroses in a manner that doesn’t feel clichéd. It’s easier to write neurotic, tortured souls.
[AZA] Do you believe software will ever be sophisticated enough to be used as a trustworthy predictor of relationship success, given sufficiently detailed inputs? Or is romance forever outside the reach of predictive technology?
[WM] I doubt it will ever be perfect, but it’s going to get much, much better. I didn’t delve too deeply into biotechnology in LME, but that’s where I think the action will be. Brain imaging technology may be especially useful in measuring how people are reacting to each other as they interact, and identifying “optimal” patterns based on comparisons to happy couples. I tell my psychology class that I think the big advances over the next century are going to be made in biotech, and that they’re likely to be staggering.
[WM] I had a plan when I began writing, but by the end most of that plan had gone by the wayside. Once I start writing, things never turn out quite as I expect, so I ended up working out most of the interconnections of characters as they’re depicted in the novel as I wrote.
[AZA] Was there any research involved in making Rob a lute player? Do you have any favorite lute pieces?
[WM] Very little, to be honest. I read a Wikipedia entry. I wanted Rob to be somewhat out of step with his culture–a romantic, a throwback to an earlier time. Having him play an ancient instrument seemed like an effective way to express that. The only lute pieces I’m familiar with were recorded by Jethro Tull. I’m a huge Tull fan, and developed an affinity for the sound of lutes, mandolins, and other ancient instruments through their music.
[AZA] Several reviewers have suggested that Love Minus Eighty is a science fiction romantic comedy. Thoughts?
[WM] It certainly has some elements of a romantic comedy. It also addresses serious social and political issues, and at times is exceedingly dark, so in that sense it doesn’t conform to the traditional rom-com format. I honestly love reading people’s impressions of how my novels are best categorized, because it’s not always what I was anticipating or intending. I’d be the first to admit that what I intended a novel to be isn’t always necessarily what it is.
[AZA] If cryogenic resuscitation became available in your lifetime, do you think you’d sign up?
[WM] If I felt confident there would be no ugly surprises, such as what Mira and Winter have to deal with, hell yes. I’d love to see what the world is like at a point in the distant future. It’s disappointing to know that there will be all of these remarkable changes that I’m going to miss!
[AZA] Near the novel’s conclusion, Nathan asks: “It’s sad, but still a happy ending, no?” Without giving away the ending, agree or disagree? What kind of feedback are you getting from readers about the ending?
[WM] Some people who read “Bridesicle” were surprised that the ending had changed so drastically. I wrote a guest blog post for Stefan Raets’ website Far Beyond Reality about why I changed it. I see it as a happy ending. Given the world the characters live in, no ending is going to be too happy, but I wanted to leave readers with a sense of hope, rather than despair.
[AZA] Can you see yourself writing a sequel to Love Minus Eighty?
[WM] Not a direct sequel, no. I’m not sure what else I would want to say about cryogenic dating centers and the future of love and dating. I could imagine writing another book set in this future, exploring a different aspect of the culture, probably with different characters.
Alvaro Zinos-Amaro is the co-author, with Robert Silverberg, of When the Blue Shift Comes, a new novel in the Stellar Guild series of author team-ups, edited by Mike Resnick and published by Phoenix Pick (forthcoming Nov 2012). Alvaro grew up in Europe and has a BS in Theoretical Physics from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (UAM). Alvaro is a Finalist of the Writers of the Future contest and his short fiction has appeared in various online venues. Alvaro has also published numerous reviews and critical essays in The New York Review of Science Fiction, Strange Horizons, The Internet Review of Science Fiction, Foundation, and elsewhere.