Claire McCague is a writer, scientist, and musician who fabricates nanostructured materials by day and spins words into scripts and books as the stars rise. She works for the Laboratory for Alternative Energy Conversion and performs with the Sybaritic String Band. Her plays have been featured in festivals across Canada.
The Rosetta Man is her first novel.
According to your bio you know something about focused electron beams, ion beams, femtosecond laser beams, neutron beams and plain, old X-rays. Wow! You and Doctor Sage would have a lot to talk about. Where does writing fit in to the schemata of your life?
I prepared a schematic representation of how writing fits into my life (see attached). It fits somewhere between the pink, the green and the blue, just before everything twists into the tight spot.
Plays, music, cutting edge science and now a novel – which is your favorite method of expression and why?
I miss the joyful madness of directing theatre. Playwriting has its own lightening. Novel writing combines the glisten of new ideas with the grinding of keys. The laboratory requires much preparation and patience, before nature shows you something new. My favorite method of expression is music, because I play for dances. Dancers don’t watch the musicians, they feel the music. And it’s fun to take a simple tune, wind it up, and blow the doors off the back of the hall.
Having read the excerpt of Rosetta Man we are intrigued. Why did you choose to have the communication arrive on waves of color?
Words are useful, but they are a barrier to understanding other species. The Rosetta Man features a pair of aliens that are most interested in climbing the nearest tree. Their approach to communication is very visual/experiential. I suppose there is a “why” that serves the storyteller and the story, but as far as I recall that’s just the way they were when they stepped onto the page.
Like many Science Fiction authors before you, your story stresses the pivotal role for linguists in any first encounter situation. If you were tasked with assembling a crack team for first contact who, or what type of specialists, would be on it?
I would gather 42 experts with varied skills, including a linguist, mathematician, anthropologist, ethologist, philologist, experts in neurolinguistics and psycholinguistics, dancer, choreographer, experimental physicist, sensory analyst, anatomist, mycologist, virologist, entomologist, musician, composer, singer, storyteller, biophysicist, astrophysicist, organic chemist, materials scientist, visual artist, philosopher, cryptographer, communications engineer, archaeologist, ecologist, percussionist, topologist, science fiction author, astronaut, chef, plumber, mechanic, game theorist, computational modeler, political scientist, historian, deep sea biologist and a bee keeper.
If you were a mad scientist what type of research would you be most obsessed with?
I like the tiny 3D graphic of Tinkerbell drawn in the air with laser-induced plasma voxels produced by a femtosecond laser by the “fairy light” team. I also like the world’s smallest reproduction of the printed book, Teeny Ted from Turnip Town, carved on crystalline silicon with a focused gallium ion beam. However, if I had all the wealth and time required for mad science, I would work on novel solar energy devices that capture photons as surface plasmons on nanostructured metal/metal oxide junctions, so that I could have vast quantities of clean power. (You asked.) I’d also consider building a gossamer membrane space telescope as a side project.
What is your favorite (read) book and why?
My favorite books include Doorways in the Sand by Roger Zelanzy and An Unexpected Light: Travels in Afghanistan by Jason Elliot…because I like to travel.
What is the book you dream of writing and haven’t yet?
The Rosetta Mind (aka the sequel)
Find out more about Claire McCague
Author web pages: http://clairemccague.weebly.com