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What a World, What a World, What a Scary, Scary World: Inside the Mind of David Macinnis Gill

Posted by inkpopbecki on August 4, 2010

Dystopian fiction, with such big hits as The Hunger Games and the Uglies, Pretties, Specials series you may have noticed that stories set in a dystopian future are becoming quite popular. So where does one start when creating a dystopia novel? Well David Macinnis Gill, author of the new dystopian novel Black Hole Sun, is here to tell you about his experience writing dystopia. If you want to hear more, come to our live chat today at 5 p.m. EST on the inkpop forum.

How did you come up with the new world on Mars for Black Hole Sun?

Many of my ideas come from articles I read. The idea for terraforming Mars by intentionally polluting it came from an article in a science magazine. Theorists postulated a variety of ways to create a breathable atmosphere on the planet, including solar sails, nuclear weapons, and burning the iron-rich Martian soil to both release the water in the dirt and to release carbon gases to replicate the greenhouse effect that pollution has caused on Earth. Considering that humans are very good at polluting, I thought a greenhoused Mars was the most viable option. From there, I did a little postulating of my own as I thought about what kind of people who settle another planet, what kind of governments they would create, how those would rise and fall, and how individuals would react to all of it. Also, a few years ago, I participated in one of Orson Scott Card’s writer bootcamps, and we were tasked with writing an original speculative fiction story.  My piece featured a species of insects similar to chiggers—except on a huge scale. They made their way into Black Hole Sun because I wanted to have Martians that weren’t little green men. World creation is an incredibly difficult thing to accomplish for most young writers. Yet with the growing popularity of dystopia novels and paranormal novels, many young writers are facing the challenge of having to create these alternative worlds.
What key points should writers keep in mind when trying to create these alternate universes?

Word building is probably the most difficult thing about writing any speculative fiction. My advice would be to use the current world as a starting place, and then make small changes that would become huge changes over time. For example, in our world, what would happen if oil had never turned into the primary energy source on the planet?  What would replace it? How would it change the balance of power in the world?  Clearly, oil wealthy nations would not be wealthy at all.  Also, it’s important to remember that humans act like humans, no matter what setting they’re placed in. While you can create an exotic locale in both time and place, the humans who populate the world have to behave in ways that are familiar and make sense to your reader. And finally, remember that every world has rules. Once you establish the rules of the world you create, you have to stick to them, or else your reader will lose faith in you.
Many authors have advised our writers to really write what they know. How does this advice translate to books like Black Hole Sun where you are writing about entire universes that don’t really exist?

The Mars I created doesn’t exist per se, but components of it do exist, and it was important that I use my own experiences and research to flesh out the elements of the story.  While I’ve never lived on Mars and I’m not a soldier, I have been a son and a father, a friend and confidant. I know what it’s like to take up a lost cause, to face failure, to feel unrequited love, and to have to stand up for what I believe. So I actually was writing what I know. I just moved it to another planet.


Are there key elements that every good story must have regardless of genre to be successful? If so what are those elements?

Absolutely! Regardless of genre, every good story must have interesting and sympathetic characters, an engaging plot that allows those characters to act, a suitable setting, and a carking good conclusion. Everything else is gravy!

If you want to hear more from David Macinnis Gill, join our live chat at 5 p.m. EST on the inkpop forums.

One Response to “What a World, What a World, What a Scary, Scary World: Inside the Mind of David Macinnis Gill”

  1. Nella said

    xP too bad Utopias aren’t becoming popular…

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