Mike Meginnis on Worldbuilding in a Worldending Novel
In Conversation with Alex Higley and Lindsay Hunter on I'm a Writer But
Welcome to I’m a Writer But, where two writers-and talk to other writers-and about their work, their lives, their other work, the stuff that takes up any free time they have, all the stuff they’re not able to get to, and the ways in which any of us get anything done. Plus: book recommendations, bad jokes, okay jokes, despair, joy, and anything else we’ve got going on that week. Hosted by Lindsay Hunter and Alex Higley.
In this episode, Alex and Lindsay talk with Mike Meginnis (Drowning Practice) about writing apocalyptic fiction without including the whole world, choosing the dumbest ideas, YMCA memories, writing about what scares you, writing from the perspectives of a 13-year-old girl and her mother, elf names, his great author photo holy shit did Alex and Lindsay start hitting on him??, his imaginary-gift-giving podcast he runs with his partner, Tracy Rae Bowling, and more!
From the episode:
I was writing this book in a lot of ways more in response to the apocalyptic fiction genre as it exists in film and TV and video games. There’s more variety in books, but with the big pop culture depictions, there’s some pretty stable elements. And one of the things that you’ll find if you watch those movies—think of Children of Men—you’re gonna have your montage where Anderson Cooper just sort of explains what’s going on, right? And you see riots in China, you see people starving in, you know, Ukraine or whatever, right? You see all these bad things happening, and then it just kind of resettles on the main characters. It’s a very cinematic approach, and it is one that wants to barge in on a book like this, partly because it’s in response to that popular cultural depiction, but also because that’s where the money is, right, is for me to write this book in a way that feels like it could be a movie.
It’s not that I’m against those techniques exactly, but they’re not super book friendly, and I’m also not trying to put the world in this book about the world ending, right? I’m trying to hint at it, but I don’t want to try and put it in there because I don’t have the time or the space, and it’s really a pretty idiosyncratic, visual apocalypse that is really meant to foreground what is interesting about a small number of characters. So it was, “How can we really quickly establish these facts and this mood with as little information as possible?”
Mike Meginnis is the author of Drowning Practice (2022, Ecco) and Fat Man and Little Boy (2014, Black Balloon). His short fiction and essays have appeared in Hobart, PANK, The Lifted Brow, Recommended Reading, Booth, The Pinch, The Collagist, The Sycamore Review, Fanzine, American Book Review, and Writer’s Digest. His story “Navigators” appeared in Best American Short Stories 2012. He lives and works in Iowa City. Mike also cohosts the podcast Gift Horse with his partner, Tracy Rae Bowling.