Please welcome Matthew Mather million-copy bestselling author of technothrillers Cyberstorm and Darknet, and hit series Nomad and Atopia Chronicles.
In just four years, Matthew Mather’s books have sold over a million copies, been translated into 18 languages, published in 23 countries, and optioned for multiple movie and television contracts. He began his career as a researcher at the McGill Center for Intelligent Machines before starting several high-tech ventures, everything from computational nanotechnology to weather prediction systems, to even designing an award-winning brain-training video game. He now works as a full-time author of speculative fiction.
*Name at least 3 things early in life that made you a writer today.
I only became a writer in the middle of my life, but I think the earliest spark for the idea came when I was quite young. I vividly remember reading and re-reading C.S Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, and then Lord of the Rings. The stories and worlds inspired me to dream about my own stories. My grandmother nicknamed me “Dreamboat” and not because I was a good-looking kid, but more because I was always daydreaming. Later on, in high school, I had a teacher who took a particular interest in me and helped me engage in all sorts of interesting projects that were “off curriculum”. Finally, my family was a great inspiration—caring and engaged, it made me feel like sharing more with the world.
*Who are your favorite Science fiction authors?
I’m definitely an old-school sci-fi guy—so Asimov, Philip K. Dick, Vernor Vinge. When I was a teenager I would hang around bookstores and stare at the covers—I would love anything with an amazing-looking spaceship on the front. Which, now thinking on it, I should start writing some good-old-fashioned space exploring type stuff next!
*What do you appreciate about the Science Fiction genre?
I view science fiction as a tool we can use as a mirror to hold up to view ourselves—but from fresh perspectives. What would happen if we were stranded alone on Mars? How would the human spirit hold up, and how would the rest of humanity respond? What if we could switch gender and identity fluidly? How would that change society? The list goes on and on—I find that the most compelling dimension to science fiction. Of course, there is the pure adventure side of it as well, creating compelling new worlds and possible realities, but in the end, what interests us is how the characters respond to these new situations and react with each other within them.
*What are your thoughts on the singularity?
I’ve actually written a whole series of books on the topic—check out my Atopia trilogy to get my take on what it would feel like to live through and singularity, and for one character to survive through to the other side. Regarding an actual “technological singularity” where technology keeps speeding up exponentially and thus eventually reaches a point of infinite rate of change…I think this is a nice construct, but, like Moore’s Law, will eventually break down. However, for individuals and small groups, I believe that we will witness small break-away groups that will undergo rapid and inexplicable—to outsiders—bursts of evolution. Whether these evolved organisms, biological or digital, react “nicely” with the rest of us—this is to be seen. All I can say is that it will be interesting. I already feel like I’m living in a science fiction novel, when news headlines talk about the fusion of artificial intelligence and industry and whose corporate AI will win out, and which private space launch company will dominate.
*How do you determine if an idea is good enough for an entire novel?
I usually get the seeds of ideas when I’m daydreaming, often when I’m traveling, and when I do, I just let the idea take shape and the narrative to take form. I scribble down all the ideas and the best ones I organize into electronic and physical folders. I usually have about 20+ book ideas on the go at any one point in time, and sometimes combine two or three ideas into one integrated whole. When it comes time to start a new book, I spread out all these 20+ ideas on a table and let my mind wander and see which idea gets me the most excited…whichever one seems to stimulate my imagination the most gets to be the next book.
*How do you research for your books?
I start by doing research on the web and reading books on the topics that might be connected. I often like to have exotic settings for my books—like doing the end of the world from the perspective of a family traveling in Tuscany in my Nomad series—so I like to travel to the places I write about. The final leg is doing primary research, for instance, when I include the Mohawk tribes in my Darknet book, I actually called the elders of the Mohawk tribe and interviewed them, and even went to their summer Pow-wow events to interact and spend time with the community.
*In another interview you mentioned, “I always recommend new authors to use the serialized approach…It seems to work.” This was in relation to writing the Atopia Chronicles. Do you still recommend this approach for new authors?
It’s been about five years since I propelled myself into the self-publishing world, and I’ve noticed that it’s become much more difficult to the point of being hyper-competitive—so I’m not sure that the strategies that I used back then are still applicable to getting into the market today. Back then, the established publishers wouldn’t price their books in the low echelons, so the self-published authors had the space all to themselves, but now it’s become a free for all with competition coming from all angles and with a much more sophisticated audience. All that being said, the “momentum” strategy seems to work the best, by which I mean, publish often, one after the other. If I was starting out, I would still aim to create a six-part series that I would write ahead of time, and then publish each new installment once a month and use the Kindle Select tools to boost…so yes, I’d still recommend the same strategy.
*What new technologies are you excited about?
I think that self-driving cars will radically alter human society in the 21st Century in ways that we can’t fully imagine yet, the same way that horseless carriages totally changed the urban and societal landscape of the 20th Century. Basically these are just robots that we get inside—in a few years I doubt they will look much like cars, but will take on all kinds of shapes and locomotion strategies including flying. Artificial intelligence is already making a massive impact, and will continue to evolve in surprising ways, including merging with human intelligence (a process that is already underway). One thing I’m really excited about is the prospect of room-temperature superconductors—added with other technologies (like AIs and advanced robotics) it will allow for super-powerful electric motors, tiny-but-massively-powerful batteries, lossless energy transmission and more. It would make possible a whole range of capabilities we can’t even imagine today, and may just be a tiny breakthrough away.
*If you had to pick one setting to survive in which one would you pick? Cyberstorm or Nomad?
Definitely CyberStorm! At the end of that books, the world basically goes back to normal—if a bit wiser. In Nomad, I literally destroy the entire solar system, and almost obliterate the Earth not just once, but twice!
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*What next for you?
I’m writing a near-future detective series called The Lacuna Cases. The first book, The Dreaming Tree, will be out in hardcover and e-book this summer!