Islington author Paul McAuley talks robots and aliens

Paul McAuley

Paul McAuley - Credit: Archant

Novelist swapped microscope for typewriter

Daleks on Westminster Bridge

Daleks on Westminster Bridge - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Images

Biologist Paul McAuley used to spend his days studying microscopic pond life.

But now, as an award-winning science fiction author, the 59-year-old Barnsbury resident is putting the human race under the microscope.

Paul’s most recent novel is about friendly aliens who turn up on Earth to offer humans a fresh start on other planets. Other projects have featured nanotechnology, biotechnology and artificial intelligence.

But it’s human behaviour that’s of real interest to the author, who is writing his 21st novel.

“The thing about science fiction is that it can be about anything in the world with just a twist to look at it from another angle,” said Paul, who lives in Offord Road with his partner Georgina.

“One of the things I find most interesting is how technology changes and affects our lives.

Most Read

“I’m more interested in how individuals would get on with their lives under these new circumstances and how we would behave.

“For example, one of the first things people do when they get to the new worlds in my latest book is look for what new drugs are out there.”

Growing up in the ’60s, Paul was influenced by the huge technological advancements taking place with the moon landing and assumptions that this would lead to the rapid discovery of new planets and alien life.

This fuelled a massive boom in science fiction with films and television shows like Doctor Who.

While he trained as a biologist and spent most of his 20s working in a lab, he wrote from a young age, buying his first typewriter when he was 15.

“Science fiction was what I was into when I was a kid,” said Paul.

“I was reading HG Wells when I was seven or eight years old and I wanted more of it.

“When I was about 12 there was the first Doctor Who and I was really into that. It’s changed a lot but it still has an appeal to me today.

“When I was growing up you were just getting nuclear power stations and the Americans going to the moon. It seemed obvious the next thing was Mars.

“I always loved writing at school, if the teacher ever let us do our own creative writing I would always write short stories.”

But while he admits his thirst for science fiction was inspired by real life advancements, Paul insists his own work is not a speculation on what’s to come.

“I don’t think ‘well let’s try and predict the future’, because where you’re standing in the present.

“I’m still very suspicious about this idea, for example, that robots will go AWOL and rebel against humans. I don’t think we’re going to create replicas of ourselves.

“But there are a few things I’ve written about that could happen...”

Paul’s latest novel, Some-thing Coming Through came out last month and is available at Waterstones in Islington.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter