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Interview: Richard Hardy, Author of ‘The Infinity Program’

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HardyRichardRichard Hardy was born at home in Glasgow, Scotland during a week of relentless bombing raids just before the close of World War II. His family later moved to England, and then America. He learned quickly what it was like to be a stranger in a strange land. Like so many immigrants, he developed the reflexive habit of stepping back and watching, looking at the world through the wrong end of a telescope—a great beginning for someone who would become a writer.

After college and a series of temporary jobs, during which time he produced dozens of short stories and a half-dozen botched attempts at novels, he married, moved to New Hampshire, and got an entry level job at a software company. He was soon promoted to the technical writing department and ended up writing more than 500,000 words of online documentation. After a few years in technical writing, he was promoted to the programming department and ended up as the Senior EDI Programmer, creating EDI maps, writing UNIX scripts, and troubleshooting on AIX systems throughout the U.S. and Canada.

He started writing again after retirement and decided to write the kind of book he would enjoy reading—one that was entertaining and had a strong story, clear writing, interesting characters, and unexpected twists. The result is The Infinity Program.

Welcome, Richard. It sounds like you had quite a roundabout way to becoming a published author, but I trust all those years of technical writing and programming inspired your first book’s subject and characters. To start, will you tell us a little about your two main characters and their situations when The Infinity Program begins?

The two main characters in The Infinity Program are Jon Graeme and Harry Sale. Jon is a young man starting over. He has recently made the decision that a quality personal life is more important than a high-pressure career. His mother is deceased, his father is cold and distant and he is on his own—a man looking for a new beginning.

Harry Sale couldn’t be more different. He is obsessed with programming and coding to the exclusion of everything else. It is his reason for being and consumes him completely. It is his retreat and his refuge.

I understand Harry isn’t well-liked by his coworkers. What makes him unlikeable and why does Jon like him regardless?

Harry has had a very painful life. His father, also a brilliant programmer, died at a young age and his mother descended into alcoholism. A shy, sensitive individual, Harry has adopted a gruff, prickly demeanor as a defense mechanism to make people keep their distance. He is hard on everyone, but most especially himself. But Jon sees past all of Harry’s defenses. He sees the kindness and sensitivity beneath the prickly shell. Harry impresses him as the most honest and authentic person he has ever known.

Harry soon has an adventure. Will you tell us how that comes about?

Jon mentions to Harry that he is planning a hiking expedition in the mountains of West Virginia. When Harry seems interested, Jon invites him along. This is an important step in their friendship and puts the two men on a collision course with destiny.

What exactly is this alien quantum computer that Harry finds?

I provide a hint in Chapter Five that an entity or intelligence has been interceding at certain critical points in human evolution. This is, in fact, the quantum computer, placed on Earth sixty million years ago by aliens to shepherd the development of the human race. Revelations about this machine play a key part at the end of the story.

The book cover has the tagline, “If a computer told you it could save the world, would you believe it?” What can you tell us about how it can save the world?

The computer has awoken from a long sleep because, once again, mankind is at a critical juncture. Global warming is accelerating, natural habitats are being destroyed, and entire species are being driven toward extinction. The computer has technological solutions to all these problems. And Harry is the perfect agent to set things in motion.

What makes Harry believe this computer, and what does he plan to do with the information he receives?

When he deals with computers, Harry is accustomed to being the master. He gradually learns, however, that his relationship to the quantum computer is symbiotic. At first he uses its advanced technologies to address his environmental concerns. But he soon realizes that the computer has its own agenda, quite apart from his. Harry’s goals are only minor pieces in a much larger plan.

Are you saying Harry and the computer don’t get along? Is the computer like a robot with a mind of its own? Will there be destructive results?

Though it’s a machine, the quantum computer in The Infinity Program is a life form in its own right. It is self-aware and conscious. But it needs Harry’s spark of creativity and his fierce initiative. When the machine tests Harry, it pushes him beyond his limits and almost destroys him. Harry is saved by his own intense determination and his remarkable problem-solving skills.

TheInfinityProgramOur reviewer, Jennifer Hass said she appreciated that the book did not become overwhelming with high tech jargon. Did you intentionally make it that way and what advice would you have for people writing science fiction in terms of finding the right balance of being technical in terminology?

This was one of the hardest parts of writing The Infinity Program. I needed a certain amount of technical language to give an honest account of a High-Tech environment. I often used Jon, my technical writer, to explain the technical terms in everyday language. When technical language is used in a novel, it should always be subservient to the story and never used to “snow” the reader. It only has a place if it advances the storyline.

Well said, Richard. Readers of novels want to be entertained more than educated, although a little education doesn’t hurt. What do you think your readers will find to be entertaining about The Infinity Program and do you think they also will come away more educated about anything as an added bonus?

When I enjoy a novel, I love sudden twists and unexpected turns. I love it when I feel a novel is building to some big, explosive event, but I can’t quite guess what it will be. I aimed for these kinds of things when I wrote The Infinity Program. How well I succeeded, I leave to the reader to judge. I wasn’t really trying to educate, though I do hope the reader will come away with a sense of what it’s like to work in a high-tech environment.

I love the book cover. Can you tell us a little about the cover image and how it reflects the book’s message? Did your publisher, Camel Press, give you any say in the cover?

I love the cover too! I wish I could take credit for it, but I can’t. The concept was developed by the editors at Camel Press. The color green and the tree-shape represent the environmental themes of the book. If you look closely, the tree-shape is actually a circuit board, representing the technological themes. The infinity loop with the tagline was an inspired touch. Kudos to the Camel Press for such an imaginative and creative cover design!

Richard, I understand you’re a longtime fan of science fiction. What about it do you find so appealing and why do you think it’s important as a genre?

I go back a long way with Science Fiction. The first SF story I ever read was called “Gallie’s House.” I read it in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1953 when I was about nine years old. It was about a young girl who could pass through a dimensional rift into Gallie’s world. Gallie is a young girl who soon becomes the protagonist’s best friend. At the end of the story, the protagonist returns to her own world in a state of hysteria. Gallie and her entire world have been destroyed in a nuclear holocaust. I have been a fan of Science Fiction ever since reading that. It’s the “sense of wonder” that pulls me in. But I should also mention that I love to read, period. In particular, I love American and European literature. I also have a special affinity for the British writers such as H.G. Wells, George Orwell, Aldous Huxley and J.G Ballard.

I know you’ve been writing for a long time, but this is your first published novel. Will you tell us a little about how you came up with the idea for the book and your writing process?

The germ idea for The Infinity Program was the concept of an alien nanotechnology left behind by aliens. I thought my story would be about technology transforming the world. But I couldn’t get anywhere with the idea until I finally realized the programming/computer side of the story. Once I had that, the characters in the book started to fall into place. I often find that this is the case with my story ideas. I first get a germ of an idea, then down the road I find another critical piece linking into it.

Do you have any advice for other aspiring science fiction authors?

In science fiction, fads and trends seem to run in cycles. Rather than follow the pack, a writer needs to tell a story that’s individual and unique, a story from the immediacy of personal experience.

Do you have plans to write any future books, and if so, can you tell us about them and when we might get to read them?

Richard: I am currently at work on a new novel. The working title is “The Omega Rapture.” Once again it is technologically oriented, this time taking place in the world of particle physics. And for those who think that particle physics is too dry or uninteresting, just remember the events in Japan in August of 1945. I should mention too, the book will be about how our world and the world of science are portrayed in the 24/7 News cycle. I hope to finish the book by the end of the year.

Thank you again for the opportunity to interview you today, Richard. Before we go, will you tell us about your website and what additional information readers can find there about The Infinity Program?

While my website has been around for a while, I’ve only recently started posting. The site includes a brief summary of The Infinity Program, a short biography, and my latest blog. I’m happy to say, I am finally picking up a few followers. All in all it’s been a lot of fun!

Thanks again, Richard. I wish you much success with The Infinity Program and all your future science-fiction and other works.

Thanks so much, Tyler. I thought you had some great questions. It was a lot of fun trying to answer them!

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About Tyler R. Tichelaar

Tyler R. Tichelaar, 7th generation Marquette resident, spent thousands of hours researching and writing The Marquette Trilogy: Iron Pioneers, The Queen City, and Superior Heritage. Tyler has a Ph.D. in Literature from Western Michigan University, and Bachelor and Master’s Degrees from Northern Michigan University. He has lectured on writing and literature at Clemson University, the University of Wisconsin, and the University of London. Tyler is the regular guest host of Authors Access Internet Radio and the President of the Upper Peninsula Publishers and Authors Association. He is the owner of Marquette Fiction and Superior Book Productions, a professional book review, editing, and proofreading service. Tyler lives in Marquette, Michigan where the roar of Lake Superior, mountains of snow, and sandstone architecture inspire his writing.