Softmachine.Net interviews Nathan McGrath on his latest novel, Lightning Seed, a sci-fi thriller. In this section he discusses the convergence of Nanotechnology and Steampunk.
SM: Nathan, Lightning Seed is a non-stop action novel fuelled by some pretty radical ideas. It’s a real thriller and I loved reading it. Was it a difficult story to put together?
Nathan: Not really. I’d already created my version of the Future in the first novel Nanopunk. The nanotechnology is already there.
SM: But not the steampunk, well, your version of steampunk, or all the other things going on. But let’s start with the nano steampunk thing. That wasn’t around at all in Nanopunk.
Nathan: True. But Nanopunk is based mostly in the UK and Europe whereas Lightning Seed takes place in the USA where things are very different. For instance, there are airships used for local flights in America because the fuel is being reserved for security and military purposes.
SM: But there are nano fuelled, steampunk –
SM: Right, so Nano-steam fuelled vehicles. The PI, Peoples Infantry, jeep and other vehicles are all powered by the same kind of nano steam energy. And this is one of the radical ideas I wanted to ask you about. Can you explain your thinking behind this? Why didn’t you just stick with regular weapons and fuel?
Nathan: I’ve always been a fan of steampunk. I just love the elegance and creativity of the designs. In the early days of writing Lightning Seed, I began to think of how nanotechnology might actually be one possible way of creating a real steam-powered future; a nano-steam powered future.
SM: Do you really think it’s possible?
Nathan: It may sound strange but I kind of make myself believe in what I’m writing. When I sit at my laptop, I enter into that Nanopunk world. And I used elements from the real world to help me create and anchor it. With all the kinds of things happening with nanotechnology and bio-engineering, it wasn’t difficult to think of an energy source that worked by manipulating the flow of two different types of nano steams.
SM: What about the weapons?
Nathan: Fusion rifles seemed to be the most logical choice. After all, it is the fusion of two types of nanosteam that creates the projectile-propulsion shot. Plus I liked the look of a steampunk assault rifle made of clear, brass and steel tubes with different coloured steams running through them.
SM: Were you ever worried that the focus on nano steampunk technology would detract the story?
Nathan: Yes, there were entire sections of description and explanation as well as chapters that I deleted because they were more tech than story.
SM: the Softmachine.net website has lots of articles and links to do with Nanotechnology.
Nathan: It got to a point where my research switched from looking at what’s already out there to looking to see if any of my ideas were already out there. It’s surprising how much of the rudimentary elements of my story are already being developed, some with significant progress.
Nanopunk and Lightning Seed are available for your eReader now