Meet the author: Wil McCarthy, a Best Novel finalist for Rich Man’s Sky

Wil McCarthy has developed a reputation as one of today’s most imaginative, zestful, pro-science and realistic science-fiction writers.

His 11 novels and additional stories blend a Heinlein-esque flair for action and adventure with hard-science extrapolations, plausible futuristic scenarios and interesting characters.

Novelist Wil McCarthy (Photo courtesy of Baen Books)

And yet, McCarthy has never been recognized or nominated for a Prometheus Award – until this year.

McCarthy was nominated for the first time for Rich Man’s Sky, recently named by Libertarian Futurist Society judges one of five Best Novel finalists. The fast-paced 2021 novel dramatizes a near-future space race led by a group of four quite different billionaires.


The positive Publisher’s Weekly review hailed the novel as a thought-provoking and convincing view of space exploration with “nuanced ruminations on the merits of government vs. privately controlled enterprises.”

One factor that informs his fiction is his strong background in engineering, science, rockets and robotics.

McCarthy, 55, is president and co-founder of RavenBrick, a solar technology company; a science columnist for the SyFy channel and chief technology officer for Galileo Shipyards, an aerospace research company. He previously worked as a flight controller for Lockheed Martin Space Launch Systems and later an engineering manager for Omnitech Robotics.

Based in Dallas, McCarthy writes patents for a top law firm in Dallas and holds patents of his own in seven countries, including 31 issued U.S. patents in the field of nanostructure optical materials.

Wil McCarthy manning a “space ship,” whereabouts unknown. Photo courtesy of Baen Books

A RETURN TO WRITING FICTION
With so many real-world scientific and commercial interests competing for his attention, McCarthy a few years ago took a “long hiatus,” from writing fiction to run a tech start-up, “among other things,” he said in a recent email.

When he returned to writing fiction, McCarthy wrote two novellas (the second of which won the AnLab award) and then wrote two novels: Antediluvian and Rich Man’s Sky.

“It’s nice to see people actually taking notice,” he said, referring to LFS recognition of Rich Man’s Sky as a 2022 Prometheus Best Novel finalist.

“It’s a nice way to ease back in,” he said.

OTHER RECOGNITION
A former contributing editor to Wired magazine and a lifetime member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, McCarthy has been nominated for the Nebula, Locus, Seiun, Theodore Sturgeon and Philip K. Dick awards, and contributed to projects that won a Webbie, an Eppie, a Game Developers’ Choice Award and a General Excellence National Magazine Award. His imaginary world of “P2/Sorrw” was named one of the 10 best science-fiction planets of all time by Discover magazine.

Intriguingly, if you visit McCarthy’s own home page at wilmccarthy.com, and check out his page of “links” to areas and subjects he finds relevant, you’ll find one described with these words: “An introduction to Libertarianism, because it’s good for you.”

In short, this up-and-coming sf author seems to operate and brainstorm on that exciting frontier where science and fiction meet – with a laudable openness to new ideas and positive visions of the future.

OTHER MCCARTHY NOVELS
McCarthy’s first novels Aggressor Six and its sequel The Fall of Sirius encompass The Waisters series, in which he imagines truly alien aliens whose behavior seems incomprehensible until their very different biological and social drives are understood.

His Queendom of Sol series encompasses the Nebula-Award-nominee The Collapsium and its sequels The Wellstone, Lost in Transition and To Crush the Moon. (One of his niftiest sf ideasis developed in Wellstone, which popularized the concept of wellstone or “programmable matter.”)

Among McCarthy’s other novels: Bloom, Flies From the Amber, and Murder in the Solid State.

He’s also published a short-story anthology Once Upon a Galaxy and a non-fiction book Hacking Matter.

McCarthy has also written several stories for Analog and Aboriginal Science Fiction, among other magazines.

Rich Man’s Sky, set in an exciting space-faring and somewhat capitalistic (albeit government-threatened) future, offers a far-flung story with multiple locales and many diverse characters on Earth, the Moon, Mars, and on space stations orbiting Earth and close to the Sun.

Here’s a capsule-review LFS description of this 2022 Best Novel finalist:

• Rich Man’s Sky, by Wil McCarthy (Baen Books) – This imaginative sf adventure explores human expansion throughout the solar system, propelled by four billionaires.

McCarthy weaves a suspenseful mosaic of epic conflicts and maneuvers between governments and markets as a team of elite military women infiltrate and aim to violently undercut the billionaires’ visionary space projects before they change the world for good or ill.

Some of the “Four Horseman” are revealed to be admirable, and some decidedly not, but McCarthy but McCarthy makes all four real and human as they spearhead game-changing private-enterprise projects that governments aren’t capable or willing to do.

Today, many vilify the super-rich while State aggression, assassination, spying, sabotage and other abuses “throwing muscle around” are often excused, minimized, hidden or ignored.

Overall, this Heinlein-esque tale of State-threatened market innovations persuasively counters stereotypes from what free-market economist Ludwig von Mises dubbed “the anti-capitalist mentality.”

Note: This Prometheus Blog post is part of a series of Meet the Author postings about this year’s slate of Best Novel finalists.

An upcoming post will focus on Best Novel finalist Lionel Shriver, author of Should We Stay Or Should We Go.

Previous Meet the Author posts introduced Kazuo Ishiguro, a Nobel Prize-winner for literature whose novel Klara and the Sun also has been selected as a 2022 Prometheus Best Novel finalist; and Karl K. Gallagher, a two-time finalist for Between Home and Ruin and Seize What’s Held Dear, both part of his Fall of the Censor series.

For more information, see the LFS press release announcing the five 2022 Best Novel finalists.


* Prometheus winners: For a full list of winners – for the annual Best Novel and Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame) categories and occasional Special Awards – visit the enhanced Prometheus Awards page on the LFS website, which now includes convenient links to the full set of published appreciation-reviews of past winners.

* Read “The Libertarian History of Science Fiction,” an essay in the international magazine Quillette that favorably highlights the Prometheus Awards, the Libertarian Futurist Society and the significant element of libertarian sf/fantasy in the evolution of the modern genre.

* Read the introductory essay of the LFS’ 40th anniversary retrospective series of Appreciations of past Prometheus Awards winners, with an overview of the awards’ four-decade-plus history, that was launched in 2019 on the 40thanniversary of the awards and continues today.

Join us! To help sustain the Prometheus Awards, join the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), a non-profit all-volunteer association of freedom-loving sf/fantasy fans.

Libertarian futurists believe that culture matters! We understand that the arts and literature can be vital, and in some ways even more powerful than politics in the long run, by sparking innovation, better ideas, positive social change, and mutual respect for each other’s rights and differences.

Through recognizing the literature of liberty and the many different visions of a free future via the Prometheus Awards, the LFS hopes to help spread better visions of the future that help humanity achieve universal liberty and human rights and a better world (perhaps eventually, worlds) for all.

Published by

Michael Grossberg

Michael Grossberg, who founded the LFS in 1982 to help sustain the Prometheus Awards, has been an arts critic, speaker and award-winning journalist for five decades. Michael has won Ohio SPJ awards for Best Critic in Ohio and Best Arts Reporting (seven times). He's written for Reason, Libertarian Review and Backstage weekly; helped lead the American Theatre Critics Association for two decades; and has contributed to six books, including critical essays for the annual Best Plays Theatre Yearbook and an afterword for J. Neil Schulman's novel The Rainbow Cadenza. Among books he recommends from a libertarian-futurist perspective: Matt Ridley's The Rational Optimist & How Innovation Works, David Boaz's The Libertarian Mind and Steven Pinker's Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress.

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