When researching a subject, sometimes I struggle for ground to cover in the course of the interview. In the case of writer Jack McDevitt I struggled to narrow down what to discuss, given the rich diversity of his life. The man is the definition of experiencing life to its fullest. Consider his bio (which can be found here), in which one learns McDevitt “is a former English teacher, naval officer, Philadelphia taxi driver, customs officer, and motivational trainer. With the nominations of Infinity Beach, Ancient Shores, Time Travelers Never Die, Moonfall, Good Intentions (cowritten with Stanley Schmidt), Nothing Ever Happens in Rock City, Chindi, Omega, Polaris, Henry James, This One’s for You, and Seeker, Odyssey, and Cauldron, his work has been on the final Nebula ballot twelve of the last thirteen years. His first novel, The Hercules Text, was published in the celebrated Ace Specials series, and won the Philip K. Dick Special Award. In 1991, he won the first $10,000 UPC International Prize for his novella Ships in the Night. The Engines of God was a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and his novella Time Travelers Never Die was nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula. Omega received the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best SF novel, 2003. McDevitt lives in Georgia with his wife Maureen, where he plays chess, reads mysteries, and eats lunch regularly with his cronies.” My thanks to McDevitt for an enriching email interview, and to Kevin J. Anderson for his advice making this interview partially possible.
Tim O’Shea: Back in 2005, in excerpts from a Locus Online interview of you, you admitted: “I’m worried about what’s happening in the United States now with the right wing.” How much would you say the political climate of the world inspires some of your fiction (if at all)? Are you more or less worried about the United States these days?
Jack McDevitt: It’s four years ago. I suspect I was thinking about the tendency of the right to substitute flag-waving for thought. The primary responsibility of a citizen in a democracy is to keep informed, and to recognize that authority figures of whatever political stripe need to be watched. And controled. An extreme example came when the President took us to war without presenting any evidence. I will never forget JFK going on TV when he was getting ready to impose the Cuban missile blockade. Here are the photos. There are the missile sites. These are the capabilities that these missiles will have. Etc. We never saw any of that from Bush. Trust me. Let’s go get Saddam. The Republicans, who are now so concerned about waste, got in line. And the Democrats, with few exceptions, put political expediency before the nation’s welfare, and also climbed on board. Then, after we’d killed God knows how many innocent Arabs –Remember Shock and Awe?–, we re-elected the administration. Before the world, the American people showed their approval of what we’d done.