I write science-fiction type novels, many of which could also be described as thrillers, and they tend to reflect my unusual background. I am a semi-retired professional scientist (a chemist), and I am concerned that many people seem to think we must flee from science. We cannot. Society now would collapse but for the advances of science, and there are a large number of issues coming in the future, such as climate change, energy, materials shortages, and so on. We can deal with these, but only if we do so properly. Some of my novels include some of these problems, and while some may think I exaggerate them (I do) it does not hurt in fiction to have a really bad problem, and it does not hurt for it to be sufficiently bad to wake people up.
The science in my science fiction novels is designed to show how science works, in the hope that it will help people evaluate “science” spoken by influential people. Professional scientists should get things right, but many do not, as we see in the climate change debates. Both sides cannot be right. Yes, in my writing I introduce things that do not exist, and perhaps cannot, such as artificial gravity, and while I give no clue as to how these work (I don’t know and there is no need to bore my readers!) I try to show how science would work if it did. As an example of what I mean, I start Troubles with a description of the start-up of a fusion plant. There is a very brief discussion of how it works (Whether this would is another question.) but later I show how, if it did work that way, a scientist could work on a space-craft motor and a device for getting metals from rocks on planets like Mars or asteroids, where there is no coal, nor significant air. The purpose is not to claim knowledge of fusion technology, but rather to show how, if something works, much else can follow. My novels are also linked in that they make a future history. Red Gold is set 20 years after Troubles, and the space ship uses the fusion motor and the metal smelting as described in Troubles.
My other background involves operating a private research company. During this time, I have met “important” people, including very senior politicians and business people. For a few years I was a Director on the Board of two ICI companies. This has given me an insight on how things get done, and the sort of people who do them. Most novels are based around “the ordinary person”. I have focused more on people in important positions. I have also exaggerated problems. Thus in Red Gold I have shown a massive fraud. True, nothing quite like that is likely to happen, but I have tried to include a very large number of problems, so that readers might better recognize symptoms when they are far less obvious.
I grew up in rural parts of New Zealand, and because those who lived there were strongly self-reliant, this has given me an independent look at life. I studied chemistry at the University of Canterbury, and in my first year I got into a challenge with some female arts students. My case was, they only study and criticize; scientists do stuff. This ended up with their saying I could not write a novel, so I went away, and over the summer vacation, I did. After three rejections (!) I gave up. (Little did I know three rejections were hardly getting started.) My career progressed as a research chemist, and in 1986, I set up my own research company, based on a joint venture with ICINZ to make the first cheaply available dianhydride from a hydrocarbon that came from a synthetic fuels plant built at Motunui through the government. During this period I was infrequent contact with business people and senior politicians, and for a few years I was on the Board of two ICI subsidiary companies. However, the supply contract from the government was not honoured after the late 1980s financial crash, and I found myself with time on my hands. It was then that I wrote the first version of Miranda’s Demons, which will finally be available over 25 years later. This is a futuristic story of Earth having to deal with the remains of an alien battle fleet that lands on Miranda, the innermost moon of Uranus, the end of a political-economic system that replaces democracy/free markets, together with greed that leads to an attempt to overthrow Earth’s government. Three rejections later I had to withdraw it as the background had predicted the end of the Soviet Union in 2018. It fell during the third rejection.
The novel as it was then appeared to have too much back-story, so I decided to write novels based on this back-story. I wrote Red Gold, about fraud during the colonization of Mars, and I needed something to expose the fraud. My discovery that exposed the fraud was as scientifically realistic as I could make it. Red Gold was taken up by an agent, it made it to an editor’s desk who was reasonably enthusiastic, but he died and the agent also had health problems. The editor’s replacement rejected the novel as too unrealistic. This annoyed me because fraud and the colonization of Mars are hardly too unrealistic for sci-fi novels, so it had to be my “discovery”. So, after some thought, I decided to chase that from a scientific point of view because as far as I could see it explained so much, including the various river systems on Mars, despite the fact that Mars was always too cold for water to flow for any length of time. This ended up with the theory I published in Planetary Formation and Biogenesis.
Through the 1990s, my day job returned to life, but I still found time to write the prequel to Miranda’s Demons, the Gaius Claudius Scaevola trilogy, although for a time work stopped on that when I heard that NASA, through Global Surveyor, was going to settle the question of the “face on Mars”. Unfortunately my chance to capitalize by having a book ready failed, because the two-year survey of Mars accidentally hit the rock in the very early stages. Writing about a rock is something of a challenge, nevertheless I finished A Face on Cydonia , and this expanded to my First Contact trilogy, which, although it has the same characters in sequence, is really almost about three different things.
Around about 2000, I became discouraged, and reverted to science, after all, I still had to earn money. By 2007, I decided I should make an effort to find an agent, but this was less than successful, in part because I did not realize that Red Gold was too long for an agent to handle. Around 2008 I decided to try a thriller, and wrote Puppeteer, followed by Troubles, but by 2009 it became increasingly difficult to find an agent. It was about 2010 that Amazon opened up the self-publishing option through ebooks to New Zealanders. (At first, to publish on Amazon you needed an American bank account and a US tax number. The first was forbidden to New Zealanders, presumably because of the potential for money laundering.) Accordingly, once this became available, I began self-publishing, including some scientific ebooks, one of which, Planetary Formation and Biogenesis strictly speaking would never have been written but for Red Gold, which spurred me to take an interest in the subject. The very first thoughts that led to this theory are included as an appendix in Red Gold. The main reason I took to self-publishing is my age: I could not see this backlog ever getting published while I am still alive.
I now live in Lower Hutt, New Zealand. I live alone with my cat Horatio, my wife of 42 years having died recently, and I am semi-retired from science, and while I have largely worked in the private sector, I have still published 100 peer reviewed scientific papers, many of them single author papers. I have two projects continuing. One is the conversion of biomass to carbon for a company called Carbonscape, the other involves seaweed-based cosmetic skin gels under the brand name Nemidon. Each of these is in the development stage, and the Nemidon gels are already being sold as special skin moisturizing gels. My attitude to politics is also affected by the fact that I entered Czechoslovakia from Poland just behind the Soviet-led invasion, and I had a close encounter with protests, and how the Czechs responded initially. It is this experience with politicians, military power, senior business people, science, entrepreneurial activity, and running my own company that has given me a background that is different from most authors. Accordingly, I think my novels are a little different from many, and I hope readers will find things of interest from them.