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Writing in tune with the times with Water City Trilogy author Chris McKinney.

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The Water City Trilogy embodies several genres over the course of the series, including sci-fi, police procedural, neo-noir mystery, adventure, dystopian, and more. How did these genres emerge as you were planning and writing the series? Do you have a favorite genre to write or read?


CM: I knew going in that a central motif of the series was going to be fusion. I planned on weaving it into setting and character background, and thematically, I fused science to religion and the mind to technology. By the time I started writing book one, it began to feel natural to include fusion in genre choice as well, so I blended speculative with procedural/mystery. By book two, I found myself seamlessly transitioning to techno-thriller and horror (at least it felt seamless). By book three, dystopian adventure with a splash of fantasy just felt right. I wanted to play with it all. I think that this reflects my literary tastes, which are all over the place. Just recently, I finished reading Chain Gang All-stars, Every Drop Is a Man’s Nightmare, True Grit, Ozark Dogs, and the Mistborn trilogy. Speculative, literary short story collection, Western, crime, fantasy—I loved every one of these books. I find it an interesting challenge to mash a bunch of different things that I like together. That’s kind of what we do in Hawaii. Go to someone’s first birthday or graduation party here, look at the food, and you’ll see what I mean.

Which authors have influenced you the most in writing this series?


Old school: George Orwell and Philip K. Dick. New school: maybe N.K. Jemisin and Fonda Lee. At the very least, I find these writers aspirational. This series was also about paying homage to movies and TV shows I loved as a kid: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Blade Runner, Robotech, and The Road Warrior. My experiences (embarrassingly intensive) playing MMORPGs like Everquest and World of Warcraft influenced me as well.

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The Water City Trilogy is full of imaginative technologies that don’t yet exist, but often their use reflects patterns (and problems) that exist in our contemporary world. What social issues do your technologies allow you to explore, and why are they important to you?


These times are so loud that it feels impossible to not write in tune with them. Technological advancement is driven by the hope to conveniently satisfy our innate desires. In the case of these books, I specifically targeted two wants: connectiveness and longevity. Unfortunately, another aspect of our nature is that satisfaction is a temporary state.

Collectively, we are Icarus. What happens when there is too much connectivity, and one entity is the provider, server, and moderator? What happens when the vast majority cannot even begin to understand how these systems work? We are experiencing some of this now. It’s important to me because it seems that the closer we get to continually satisfying our human desires via technology, the less human we become. Like any parent, I worry that this is the fate of my children.

Which piece of tech from the series do you most wish existed today?


I just turned 50. I could use another HuSC, an enhanced one grown on the moon.

Fatherhood and the parent-child relationship feature prominently and evolve in this trilogy. What is compelling to you about exploring this essential relationship in the futuristic world youve created?


Parenthood is so central to my existence that I don’t know if I’m able to not write about it. It’s weird, though. I’m certainly not a perfect parent, but I instinctively create parents in my fiction who are worse at it than me. Maybe I’m subconsciously patting myself on the back, or I’m creating parenting mistakes that I’d like to avoid in the future. It’s difficult for me to keep “future” and “children” separate. I also often think about my relationship with my own fathers. I was raised by a stepfather who was a LRRP (Long Range Recon Patrol) in Vietnam and a father who was a bookworm hippie. He recently passed, so some of the fatherhood themes found their way into these books.

Now that youve finished the Water City Trilogy, is there anything from the series you would like to explore further?


I’d like to explore fantasy, perhaps a spinoff that takes place far into the future. Maybe YA? Book three gave me a taste of fantasy that’s enlivened my palette and makes me crave more. I also want to write something with my older daughter while she’s on the East Coast for college. She’s very talented. We’ve been playing with ideas. It’s been a lot of fun.

What do you hope readers will take away from reading the Water City Trilogy?


I hope they are entertained by the story. I hope they find the books thought-provoking and occasionally funny. I’d love for readers to experience the feeling that I do after reading a book I really liked, the kind of experience that leaves an almost electric residue. 

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