Author Interview: Robert G. Williscroft

  1. Robert G. Williscroft—author of Slingshot, the book under consideration. (See the summary below.)

1. We’ll skip the “tell us about yourself” because coming up with something on the spot is, truly, the bane of an author’s existence. So, let’s start with something a little easier! Tell me what you’re working on at the moment.

I am halfway through the Second Oort Chronicle: Federation—To the Stars. This is the second of three planned novels in The Oort Chronicles. The first, Icicle—A Tensor Matrix, was published in 2020. Here is a blurb for Icicle:

Braxton Thorpe has discovered a threat to the entire Solar System, but he has a problem: he’s dead.

Frozen at death, he awakens to find himself uploaded into an electronic matrix. Exploring beyond the matrix and the larger GlobalNet, he discovers the Oort, a distributed electronic entity older than humanity, with an unnerving secret: aliens wiped out nearly all life on Earth once, and are coming back to do it again.

The mathematical entity that is Thorpe has to find a way to convince humans of the threat, and in time to do something about it. But how, and what?

If you’ve read Niven’s A World Out of Time or Taylor’s We Are Legion, the opening of Icicle will only seem familiar. Buckle up for a wild ride; you ain’t seen nothing. 

Here is a blurb for Federation (to be released later this year):

The Oort Federation has consolidated its governance throughout the Solar System. Phoenix, under Braxton Thorpe (the Icicle), is a Solar System powerhouse controlling portals and non-portal travel everywhere. Ogden Enterprises, under Daphne O’Bryan and Kimberly Deveraux, controls human upload activity. Udachny, under Isidor Orlov, controls Solar System criminal activities while independently developing FTL, portal system, and human upload technology. Masin Arcah and Adrhun Gloalorn, survivors from the Asterian attack on the Solar System, choose sides—Arcah with Phoenix and Gloalorn with Udachny.

Thorpe and Orlov race to complete the first true FTL starship; their immediate goal is the Aster star system, the origin of the attack on the Solar System described in Icicle. Thorpe intends to establish cooperation between humans and Asterians. Orlov seeks to exploit the Asterians.

When the expeditions arrive in the Aster star system, Phoenix establishes a relationship with Arcah’s homeworld, Rogan, a planet operating as a wide-open, virtually no-government society. Orlov commences exploiting Gloalorn’s homeworld, Frohlic, ruled by the Boss, heading a many-thousand-year-old, planet-wide bureaucracy. Over time, bureaucratic Frohlic overwhelms Orlov, whereas Thorpe and the Roganians advance Phoenix stardrive technology and construct a large-scale starship for a planned expedition to explore the Galaxy and beyond.

2. In as much detail as you would like, tell me about your book(s) that are already out/on the way.

NOTE: All my books are featured on my book website: https://RobertWilliscroft.com

The Mac McDowell Missions:

Operation Ivy Bells (2019): A super-secret, off-the-books spy organization; a security-clearance starting at Top Secret and going up from there; an attack by giant squid during a thousand-foot dive while breathing an exotic gas; a cat’s whisker escape from death during a three-day decompression – and that’s just the first two chapters of Operation Ivy Bells, before the action really gets underway. 
    In a fast-paced, personal narrative, J.R. “Mac” MacDowell details a breathtaking series of events during a super-secret intelligence gathering operation at the height of the Cold War. Riding the nuclear submarine Halibut, Mac and his saturation diving team surreptitiously enter the Soviet-controlled Sea of Okhotsk on a proof-of-concept mission. They install a tap on an underwater communications cable at 400 feet, and narrowly escape death when a storm snaps Halibut’s anchor cables. They retrieve missile parts from a Soviet missile-test splash-zone, getting caught in a sonar-web set by the crafty skipper of an old Soviet diesel submarine. Mac’s divers temporarily disable the sub, and Halibut escapes to Guam, dogged by the sub Skipper.
​     Having proved the concept, they return in a Halibut outfitted with skids so she can sit on the bottom to attach a 12-thousand-pound pod to the cable for future retrieval. In the missile splash-zone, they lock in deadly underwater combat with Soviet divers. With the free world at stake, they capture one and kill the rest. Halibut’s submariners and saturation divers finally return home without ever publicly revealing their crucial contribution to winning the Cold War, receiving an unpublicized Presidential Unit Citation.

Operation Ice Breaker (2020): A super-secret, off-the-books submarine operation during the Cold War. In a fast-paced, personal narrative, J.R. “Mac” MacDowell details a breathtaking series of events during a super-secret acoustic array laying operation under the Arctic ice pack at the height of the Cold War. Riding the nuclear submarine USS Teuthis, Mac and his saturation diving team surreptitiously enter the frozen Arctic waters to place two Top Secret SOSUS arrays on the seafloor under the ice pack. They face a giant Camaneroceras (thought to be long extinct), polar bears, Greenland sharks, Orcas, and other hungry marine critters. They are dogged by a high-performance new Soviet nuclear submarine that is determined to prevent Teuthis from laying the arrays.
​     Mac and his team find themselves in an under-ice, hand-to-hand battle with Soviet divers that results in the surreptitious capture of one of the Soviet subs inside U.S. territorial waters.

Operation Arctic Sting (to be released in Jun 2021): While Mac McDowell is with his sweetheart, Kate, in Kodiak, Alaska, they are attacked by a Soviet sleeper cell and nearly killed because of Mac’s involvement in the take-over of the stranded Soviet Alfa sub off Pt. Barrow, Alaska. Mac and his team return to the stricken Alfa on the nuclear sub USS Teuthis. Using the DSRV Mystic, they board and assume control of the Soviet sub. For the next 31 days, they drive the nearly automated sub through the Arctic ice pack, harassed by Soviet subs whose mission is to retake or sink the Alfa. With a non-functional reactor, they are forced to recharge the Alfa’s batteries daily while submerged under the ice pack, using divers from Teuthis. They confront determined Soviet sub skippers, Soviet Spetsnaz divers, hostile marine life—Orcas, Polar Bears, Greenland Sharks, and a harsh Arctic winter under the ice pack.

Their survival depends on overcoming all these obstacles, and making it out alive is not guaranteed.

Operation White Out (2021): Background info: In the mid-to-late-1980s, Taiwan, the ROC (Republic of China), was transitioning from a strong-man government to representative democracy. Taiwan was also building up its military, and in particular, was looking to build a small fleet of submarines. Japan, India, Holland, and even South Korea got into the act. It’s only recently that we, the US, paved the way for Taiwan building its own small sub fleet. Who is to say, however, whether a lot has been going on behind the scenes. Furthermore, because the PRC (People’s Republic of China—the Chicoms) became such an international threat (and bully), Taiwan has lost a lot of international support, including ours (officially). Taiwan has had nuclear reactors since 1953. The Taiwanese are fully capable of building a nuclear sub. In fact, they have been so since the late 1970s. Taiwan’s greatest liability is a shortage of oil. It gets its oil from the Middle East and some from Africa, but oil in Taiwan is in short supply.

Preliminary plot summary: Mac and USS Teuthis are assigned to lay SOSUS arrays off the coast of Antarctica, looking into the Atlantic and Pacific. Part of this task requires installation of a mountain-top relay tower. Mac and his team accomplish this and experience a full, Antarctic white-out (hence, the title). During one array’s emplacement, they discover a Taiwanese underwater facility on the ocean bottom at accessible depth under the permanent ice shelf. The automated facility is pumping subsurface oil into a temporary underwater storage facility. Large fully automated underwater (submarine) tankers receive oil from the storage facility for underwater transport back to Taiwan. Mac and his team explore the facility, discovering its Taiwan connection. While they are there, a PDRK sub (or Chicom or Soviet) appears with the intent of usurping the facility for their own use. Mac and Teuthis prevent this and then are directed to accompany the tanker back to Taiwan, surreptitiously. During the transit, they are dogged by a couple of Soviet subs as Chicom allies, DPRK submarine activity, and even Chicom subs.

Political complications of the claimed overlapping Antarctic territorial “wedges,” the Antarctic Treaty, the US South Pole Base, and the Soviet bases in each of the claimed territories paint a canvas where much can happen. I would want to keep things within known historical parameters, but who really knows what has happened behind the scenes and under the ice?

The Starchild Trilogy:

Slingshot (2018): Slingshot is a love story – about a man, a woman, another man, another woman, some gender bending…and a machine, the largest ever built.

     Slingshot is a mystery – about a missing aviatrix, a conspiracy, a true-believer. Slingshot is an adventure – about following a dream, the ocean-deep, outer space.
    Slingshot is about constructing the first space launch-loop stretching 2,600 km between Baker and Jarvis Islands in the Equatorial Pacific. It’s about high finance, intrigue, unlimited ambition, heroism, fanaticism, betrayal…and about opening space to the common person.
    With a cast of 69, Slingshot takes you from Seattle’s world financial district, to the ocean bottom at 5,000 feet off Baker Island, to the edge of space 80 km above. You play with dolphins and battle sharks. You fly and sail and dive, you work and play and love across the vast panorama of an Equatorial Pacific being put to leash to serve humanity’s surge into outer space.
    While its accurate science and precise engineering will appeal to hard science-fiction buffs, Slingshot’s major focus is the grand journey, the opening of outer space to the common person by men and women who loom larger than life as they work, play, and love.

The Starchild Compact (2018): The Starchild Compact is an adventure of heroic proportions, commencing on a planet 500 lightyears distant, arriving here just a few years from now, and ending up in the far distant expanses of the Universe.

    Is Saturn’s moon Iapetus an artifact? To find out, Jon Stock takes his international exploration team on a 1.4 billion km journey to Saturn, but will Jihadist stowaway Saeed Ismail succeed in sabotaging the mission? On Iapetus, Jon Stock and his team meet the Founders. Where are they from? How did they get here? How will they impact Earth and the Solar System? 

    Will the Founder’s presence signal the end of humanity, or will it pave the way for a joint push to the distant reaches of the Galaxy?

    The Starchild Compact is hard SciFi reminiscent of Arthur C. Clarke or James P. Hogan, with a geopolitical twist worthy of Tom Clancy or Clive Cussler.

The Iapetus Federation (2018): Following the dramatic events in The Starchild Compact, the starship Starchild departs on a 185-year interstellar journey. Meanwhile, the Iapetus Federation in cooperation with the Founders, descendants of the people who originally constructed Iapetus, expands to include the Mirs Complex at L-4, the Lunar Complex, a new habitat being constructed at L-5, the growing Mars settlements, and several asteroids including Daphne and Ceres.
    On Earth, America turns away from its world leadership position to focus on internal matters and the idea of an all-inclusive, multicultural society. Saeed Esmail, the stowaway Jihadist who played a significant role in The Starchild Compact, becomes the guiding prophet of a new form of Islam that quickly dominates the vanquished Persian Caliphate territories, and threatens the rest of the planet. Aided by Founder Asshur, the besieged Israelis reluctantly forge a new homeland on Mars, while the United States balkanizes into a half-dozen smaller units dominated by the Lone Star Conservancy under the leadership of Texan Sam Houston, who had earlier established the Lone Star Settlement on Mars.
    Science does not stand still. Founder researchers develop a longevity treatment that has the potential to extend human life indefinitely. The Starchild Institute, headed by former U.S. President Marc Bowles, develops advanced spacecraft, and a new form of transportation based on artificial wormholes. As the global Jihad on Earth heats up, most of the planet falls under the domination of Saeed Esmail, with only the Lone Star Conservancy, Columbia Freehold, Australia, and New Zealand left as independent territories. The Institute opens evacuation portals between Earth and Iapetus to rescue as many people as possible.
    While Earth sinks into medieval barbarism, the focus of human activity shifts from Earth to the Iapetus Federation as humans settle virtually every potentially habitable spot in the Solar System and begin planning for expansion into the rest of the Galaxy.

The Daedalus Files (Takes place in the Starchild Trilogy universe, but is otherwise stand-alone)

The Daedalus Files (2020): Can you drop from Low Earth Orbit (LEO) with just a hardshell wingsuit? Navy SEAL Derek “Tiger” Baily and his SEALS Winged Insertion Command (SWIC) develop an experimental Gryphon hardshell wingsuit that can do just that. Eventually, when the presidential front-runner is seized by pirates for ransom, Baily’s 6-man SWIC team must hurtle around the world, staging critical re-entry for a rescue, challenged to solve life-or-death problems with only seconds to spare. Can they survive? Will they effect the rescue? Join Tiger Baily through all four adventures in sci-fi master Robert G. Williscroft’s Daedalus series, now collected for the first time as The Daedalus Files: SEALS Winged Insertion Command (SWIC).

Starman Jones: A Relativity Birthday Present (2017): A Relativity Birthday Present is the first story in the captivating, educational and beautifully illustrated Starman Jones Series designed to give young readers an intuitive grasp of esoteric scientific concepts like Relativity. It teaches young readers about one of the amazing effects of Relativity.

Starman Jones and Spacepup are anxious to take Baby Billy on their adventurous trips from star to star in their starship, Willywinder. Billy, unfortunately, is too young, so Starman Jones devises a trip to the star Alpha Centauri. During the journey he and Spacepup will travel so fast that time slows down for them on Willywinder, while time progresses normally back on Earth for Baby Billy.

Ultimately, Starman Jones and Spacepup return to Earth nine years later on Billy’s ninth birthday, but they have hardly aged at all. Billy has caught up with them, and can now accompany them on future star trips. It is the best birthday present Billy has ever had  a relativity birthday present.

The Chicken Little Agenda: A scientist takes on the distortions and outright lies foisted on the public! Dr. Robert G. Williscroft firmly establishes that the sky is not falling. By using scientific research and solid reasoning, he explains some of the most disturbing problems facing our nation including global warming, the safety of nuclear power, the politics of education, and the oxymoron of government efficiency. With a clear message, he discerns what is true from what is merely Chicken Little gibberish.

3. As far as the writing process goes—including such things as conception of idea all the way through to money in the bank—what is the least favourite bit? (Everyone has one!)

The editing.

4. Conversely, what is the bit of the writing process that gets your writery brain grinning?

The research AND the writing itself.

5. If you could steal any author’s ability to improve your own work, who would you steal from and why? (e.g. Tolkien’s language skills, Douglas Adams’ humour, etc.)

Robert A. Heinlein for his story-telling ability and his wordsmithing

6. Now for some fun! The main character of the book you’re working on (or have recently finished) has kidnapped you for ruining their life. How will you explain that what you’re doing is for the best?

What do you mean, “ruined your life”? Because of my stories about you, you are famous and respected in every circle that matters to you and even some you don’t care about. You get free drinks in every O-Club, and admirals rise to their feet when you enter a room. So give me a break—“ruined your life”!

7. You, your main character(s), and the protagonist of the last book you read are playing poker. What are the stakes? Who will win and why?

Table stakes (traditional poker, not this Texas hold ’em stuff). I will win big because I understand how my characters think. As for the protagonist of the Matt Helm novel I read last week, Matt is too easily turned by a pretty face or a nice female superstructure. I would make sure a comely waitress serves drinks, and I would take him to the cleaners.

8. Let’s face it, writing is hard. What do you think are some traps to avoid in your particular area of expertise? (Whether that be your genre, your knowledge of plot, your character building, your world building, etc.)

We’re talking primarily about a series of novels. When writing the first, it is important to think ahead so you don’t cause difficulty later when you try to remain consistent, novel to novel in the series.

9. Anything else you’d like to add? Plots to take over the world, for example. Upcoming release dates, links and things, maybe even your favourite chocolate cake recipe.

My SciFi is hard science fiction.This means I must remain true to physics and modern science and engineering in general, even when I project into the future. Things like FTL and portals need to be justified so that they seem reasonable within the story context.

I write my Cold War thrillers about submarine and deep-diving espionage out of my own personal experience. Here, I must remain true to what actually happened, keeping the historical and political elements in mind. I am careful not to introduce technology that did not exist until several years after the story took place.

Book website:https://RoberftWilliscroft.com

Personal website: https://argee.net

Email: rgw@RobertWilliscroft.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robert.williscroft

Parler: https://parler.com/#/user/RGWilliscroft

Gab: https://gab.com/RWilliscroft

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RGWilliscroft

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/argee/

Blog: https://thrawnrickle.com/

Publisher: https://freshinkgroup.com/author/robertwilliscroft/

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Robert-G-Williscroft/e/B001JP52AS

Here is a short bio: Retired submarine officer, deep-sea and saturation diver, scientist, author, and lifelong adventurer. Spent 22 months underwater, a year in the equatorial Pacific, three years in the Arctic ice pack, and a year at the Geographic South Pole. Degrees in Marine Physics and Meteorology, and a doctorate for developing a system to protect SCUBA divers in contaminated water. A prolific author of non-fiction, Cold War thrillers, and hard science fiction. Lives in Centennial, Colorado, with his family.