BENGALURU: For Ian McDonald, his flair for writing came about during his early 20s. At the Bangalore Literature Festival on Nov 9, he described himself as the kid who was never content with what he was offered. “I always wanted more, and as a child, I was curious about the next horizon. I wrote fan fiction on Star Trek, Dr Who and developed my own ideas after a while and followed those,” he said, adding that he went on to write his first story at 22 and published his first novel at 28.
McDonald (59) addressed the crowd in a panel discussion alongside Sri Lankan science-fiction author, Yudhanjaya Wijeratne. Speaking to CE, McDonald emphasised how a significant part of his life was spent in Northern Ireland during the ‘troubles’, which influenced his writing. “I was nine when the civic unrest started and it ended when I was 39 years old. Over 3,500 people died and it touched everybody’s life in every single way. What I came to realise is that the whole conflict is Britain’s last colonial fling. I’ve written about northern Ireland but nobody wants to hear about us because we’re not fashionable anymore,” said McDonald.
He expresses his unconditional love for his first novel Desolation Road (1988), in which the plot revolves around the far future on the planet of Mars, and dislikes his second novel, Out On Blue Six, which was published in 1989. “I was happy with River of Gods (2004) and less happy with Brasyl (2007), which is a hard place to write about. I like the Luna New Moon (2015), which was the first edition because it was basic dirty fun but then I realised the story was too big for two books so I made it into three books. Luna Moon Rising (2019) just about gets the ball over the line,” he added.
River of Gods had also been nominated for the Hugo Awards and won the BSFA award the following year. The book depicts India in a futuristic setup in 2047, after its independence from Britain, and is characterised both by ancient traditions and advanced technologies. “I spent five years researching it and I chose India because when I watched Star Trek as a kid, I realised there was never a character from India. It’s supposed to be diverse but they never think of South Asia. So I took up the challenge and wrote a big science fiction novel set in India,” said McDonald
McDonald’s current focus is directed towards Hopeland, which he pitched over 20 years ago and is finally scheduled for 2021. “It speaks about love, climate change, time, tesla coils and volcanoes, it’s got everything in it. I am just terrified that I can’t quite do justice to the idea but I am happy doing this.”