Payback: London, Ont. author Timothy S. Johnston gives back to the genres that inspire him
Published Wednesday, November 11, 2020 4:57PM EST
Timothy S. Johnston's Tanner Sequence novels. (Source: timothysjohnston.com)
LONDON, ONT. -- From the blistering heat inside the orbit of Mercury to the endless cold of the outer planets, Timothy S. Johnston explores the universe with a nod to the world of science and space, and a wink toward the crime thriller genre.
Science fiction. Mystery. Police procedural. Thriller.
All four genres form portions of a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts in the hands of London writer Timothy S. Johnston.
“There’s a lot to unpack there,” writes Johnston, “but suffice it to say that I love the genres in which I write. I want to give back to them, and I want to provide fans immersive, visceral and page-turning experiences that keep them coming back for more.”
Asked what book he wishes he had written himself, Johnston points to Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy, a fundamental classic of the genre. Asimov authored hundreds of books and that inspires Johnston’s own writing.
His first series of three novels - The Furnace, The Freezer and The Void - are known collectively as The Tanner Sequence and detail the adventures of a murder investigator named Lucas Tanner who travels the solar system solving crimes for a murky world government known as the Confederacy.
It is a traditional science fiction trilogy which moves from inside the orbit of Mercury to the void between the outer planets. It is also a police procedural where you follow the investigator as he pieces together the clues to bring the killer to justice. And it is definitely a thriller as the hero battles the dangers of space, demented killers and threatening technologies.
Born and raised in London, Ont. Johnston still lives in the Forest City, and admits to exploiting the resources of Western University for the details that add reality as his imaginary tales unfold across the universe.
“I have interviewed forensic pathologists and visited Schulich’s anatomy lab to increase the realism in my writing.”
And his books do deal with the realities of life in space.
He indulges in two conventions of science fiction, positing the existence of artificial gravity and the ability to cross light years of space in human time, but other issues are handled with existing or predictable technologies. From the heat shields required in a space station inside the orbit of Mercury, to the insulation and chilling equipment needed to prevent a research station from sinking into the ice on the Jovian moon Europa.
But Johnston also explores inner space with a second series of novels called The Rise of Oceania.
Timothy S. Johnston's The Rise of Oceania novels. (Source: timothysjohnston.com)
These stories involve a foreseeable future in which environmental damage has led to the colonization of the ocean floor along the continental shelves of the globe. But the cities that have been built underwater begin to chafe under the control of the surface nations, leading to an independence movement. It is a new cold war beneath the waves.
There are no space aliens or deep sea monsters here. “My stories have to be grounded in reality or based on something which we can all relate to, like basic human emotions such as greed, jealousy, and revenge” says Johnston. These stories are in the tradition of true science fiction writers like Asimov and Fredrik Pohl whom Johnston cites as inspiration.
“I hope that I am at the beginning of a long, long writing career,” he says. “We will see. I can only work hard and hope.” And in the process, continuing paying back the techno-thriller genre that nurtured him as a youth.
Johnston also gives back to the community in which he was raised. He leads writing workshops through the Spectrum program run by the City of London, and sponsors a creative writing award through London South Collegiate Institute. He lives with his family in London's Byron neighbourhood.