In McKinney’s Midnight, Water City (Soho Crime, July.), an unnamed investigator sets out to solve a murder in an undersea city in the year 2142.
What inspired this book?
In 2015, I was working on a pilot about the first international drug smugglers. One of the characters was colorblind, and when he dropped acid, he was able to see green and red for the first time in his life. The pilot went nowhere, but I couldn’t shake the idea of this colorblind person who can see these colors in unique circumstances. I began reading a lot about brain disorders and synesthesia, and came up with the idea of a colorblind detective who can see murder in greens and death in reds. That year, there also was a controversy here in Hawaii about the construction of a 30-meter telescope on Mauna Kea. I asked myself, if a culture is stripped of its most sacred place, will that culture survive? No telescope is worth risking a culture. This book imagines a future where the mountain is blanketed with the largest telescope in the world, and a place is irrevocably changed because of it.
How did the book deviate from your original idea?
It didn’t really. I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted to do from the start. The three centerpieces of technological advancement remained consistent: the iE (the floating, neurally linked smart phone), AMP chambers (the use of hibernation to extend life expectancy and work efficiency), and underwater cities. What changed were the details.
Why leave your protagonist unnamed?
I left him unnamed because I’m imagining a future where race doesn’t really matter. A globalized, mixed-race future. I felt like giving him a name would force the reader to imagine something specifically ethnic, and I didn’t want that. Hopefully, the effect is that the reader doesn’t try to pinpoint a racial identity and just goes with it. Also, I can’t remember the last time I thought of myself as “Chris” or someone called me “Chris” in person. I’m “babe,” “dad,” “braddah,” “dude,” and sadly, as of late, “uncle.” I’m sure I’m “Chris” or “McKinney” when I’m referred to outside my presence, but this is a first-person narrative, right? As for things going on currently, like BLM and racist attacks against Asians, nothing dies quietly in America. But I’m hoping that we are seeing the last, desperate death throes of racism in this country. By 2142, maybe it’s finally gone.