You’ve written about viruses, parasites, and fungi—what is it about these pathogens that fascinates you?
Everything! I figure I have two choices, with as much as I know: I can either be extremely fascinated and excited and enthralled, or I can be terrified and never leave my home again. The former seems healthier, oddly. And all these things are amazing! Everything’s amazing, when you look at it the right way. This is life in a format and on a scale that we so rarely stop to see.
What do you enjoy more: researching or writing? Has a new story idea ever sprung from your research, or does it always happen the other way around?
I enjoy them both in their own ways. It’s sort of like asking which I enjoy more, Disneyland or Disney World. Both of them have their unique appeals. Writing is a bigger playground, but research is my home. New stories come out of research all the time, whether it’s research for an existing project or research for funsies.
And, I’m curious, after all of your research, what do you see as the biggest potential threat to the survival of humanity?
Honestly, right now, the two-pronged fork of “humanity itself” and “the flu.” The fact that we have an anti-vaccination movement, like people saying “nope, I don’t like that science” is somehow as valid as the centuries-old experiment wherein we do not die of smallpox, measles, or other preventable childhood diseases, terrifies me. I think we’re going to get a lovely new flu strain, something with some teeth, and the fact that many people will choose not to get their flu shots because “oh it’s poison it’s a scam it’s whatever the blogs say this week” will mean that we can’t slow the speed of spread. I’m banking on something in the H13s, but there are a lot of candidates.
On your website you indicate that Stephen King is your overall favorite author. What do you like or admire about his work? What makes for a good horror story, in your opinion?
I started reading Stephen King when I was nine years old. At this point, the way he uses words is incredibly soothing to me, like a literary security blanket. I don’t need anything else from him. I do adore his use of character, the way he puts things together so slowly and precisely, like he’s building a house. A man owns what he builds. I learned that from him. I learned a lot of things from him.
A good horror story should show you something you don’t really want to see, and it shouldn’t be cheap. I speak out a lot against rape in horror, because it’s cheap. It’s lazy and it’s cheap, and there’s no reason to do it when there are so many more interesting, more terrible things that can be done.
As of January 15, 2014 you became a full-time writer—congratulations! How’s that going and what does the year ahead look like for you?
It’s going pretty well, although I’m still catching up on sleep from the last couple of years! I have a bunch more conventions, and several books coming up in the second half of 2014: you can find details at seananmcguire.com.
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