T. C. McCarthy is an award-winning and critically acclaimed southern author whose short fiction has appeared in Per Contra: The International Journal of the Arts, Literature and Ideas, Story Quarterly and Nature. Baen Books released his latest novel, Tyger Burning, in July 2019. His earlier debut military science fiction trilogy (Germline, Exogene and Chimera) was released in 2012 and is available worldwide. In addition to being an author, T. C. is a PhD scientist, a Fulbright Fellow, and a Howard Hughes Biomedical Research Scholar.
His story, “Zip Ghost”, appears in the Weird World War III anthology.
Tell me about yourself. Where are you from? What’s your background?
Originally I’m from Leesburg, Virginia, and I’m a scientist who would rather work full time as a writer. All I want is an unlimited amount of money, absolute power over my own destination, and complete and total creative freedom; that should be easy to obtain, shouldn’t it? In all seriousness, I think that the most fortunate people in the world are those that have the luck or the means to do exactly what they love for a career.
What kinds of stories do you write? Why?
I write stories that have literary merit – that at least try to push the boundary of language just a tiny bit. I do it to show that I can. I see a lot of Tor and Orbit authors claiming the mantle of writing “literary SF” but they don’t; they think that by having the most gay characters in a book, or by having alien races that have no gender is edgy or weird – and therefore literary. But it isn’t. Literary is about bending language almost to the point where it breaks but doesn’t; it works.
What author has had the greatest influence on your writing? Why?
Two authors: Michael Herr and Guy Sajer/Guy Mouminoux. Michael Herr’s dispatches was the first book to electrify me because of the way it used language to describe war. Herr was an embed in multiple units during the Vietnam War and he brought almost a sense of beatnik descriptive powers that made the war leap from pages of his book, Dispatches. I like Guy Sajer for kind of the same reason, but less so for language. Sajer recounts his experience of trying to survive in one of the most horrific situations one could find himself in: fighting for the Germans on the Eastern Front of WWII. Sajer takes a matter of fact approach that’s like a constant string of gut punches.
Tell me about a time you almost died.
I almost died of thirst in Death Valley; there’s a reason they call it that, in case you didn’t know. I was an undergraduate geologist doing field work and we decided to take a look at the “Race Track” – a dried lake bed where the boulders move on their own and leave tracks. It’s 30 miles off road, in the middle of nowhere. We were in rental sedans and decided to take an off road trail that went over the nearest mountain range, which was fine until we got stuck and realized that the road had washed out and that we couldn’t get back the way we came; on one side was a cliff, on the other was a mountain and one of the professors started crying because they both were convinced we were dead. It was a hundred and fifteen degrees and there was no shade anywhere. As the youngest one in the party, I grabbed the shovel and rebuilt the washed out sections of the road so we eventually got to civilization, which only took us fifteen hours. I was majorly dehydrated.
If you could live in any time period, when would it be? Why?
The 1990s. If I had my way it would be the 1990s all the time. The music was amazing, cell phones weren’t a big thing so you had to interact with people face to face instead of texting, and I was in my 20s. Now that I’m over 50 everything hurts and the world is on fire.
Each of the stories in this volume evoked certain themes and emotions that can sometimes be approximated with music. The below video is the editor’s best interpretation of the feelings and themes that this author’s story evoked. Please note that this is only the editor’s interpretation. The author did not know this portion of the blog post existed until the editor published it.
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