Interview: Angus McKinnon – investment manager and science fiction writer
In February this year, Angus McKinnon (Tokyo Representative for The L.T. Funds and ex-Trident Pacific Capital and Prospect Asset Management) published his debut science fiction novel “Hayabusa-san”. Stefan Nilsson had a chat with Angus to find out more about it.
Angus McKinnon grew up in Australia, studied in China in the early 1980s and worked throughout Asia in oil exploration before doing an MBA in Hawaii to shift into the finance industry in Japan. Angus has spent most of his career in finance working in research and investment in Asian securities with a particular focus on Japanese markets. Best known for his time managing the Trident Pacific Capital hedge fund in Tokyo and, prior to that, as Research Director at Prospect Asset Management, Angus is currently the Tokyo Representative at The L.T. Funds.
You recently published a science fiction book, “Hayabusa-san”. What made a fund manager and analyst like you to write a fiction novel?
Astronomy and science fiction have always been of interest to me. When the first Hayabusa mission successfully landed in Australia, it inspired the story idea, an idea that I couldn’t get out of my head unless I put it down on paper. Financial analysis was not a cause for the book at all, yet it was of great benefit, because, as an analyst, one looks at an enormous number and variety of businesses. In that process, an analyst is asking why, why, why. This kind of training benefited in the research and in asking; “Does this make sense? Does this work?” all through the story.
As a busy finance professional, how did you find time to write a book and how long did it take you to write it?
This was the hard part. Simply, it was sticking to the 15 minutes a day discipline. Most of the work is doing the research, coming up with different scenarios, discarding those that don’t make sense or don’t work for the storyline. A simple example is doing research on the types of asteroids, their locations and orbits. To keep the story within the realm of the possible, if somewhat stretching the limits of the probable, it was necessary to calculate reasonable travel times, and how that affected the flow of the story and the lives of the main characters. From getting the idea to publication took about 10 years. Much of that time I just let the idea niggle at me until I ended up writing scenarios, doing the background research on weekends and evenings. While I had most laid out by last year, the first lockdown helped as I was able to sit down and collate all the pieces into a coherent story. After that, I had it professionally edited and the editor was quite blunt in which parts needed rewrites or should be either dropped or rewritten as a sub-plot. In that way, it is kind of hard to say how long it took to write, as I had written various sections before doing a first entire draft, then there were the endless rewrites.
What can you tell us a bit about the story of “Hayabusa-san”?
It’s difficult to tell a bit about the story without putting in “spoilers” for those who wish to read it. I’ll try. The title is a pun on the Japanese word “san” as it makes the title mean either “Mr Hayabusa” or “Hayabusa-Three”. As you may know, there have been two Hayabusa missions, so this is a fictional third mission. So, it is speculative science fiction, which means, you simply ask a question of what if this happened? In this case, I speculate the third mission discovers something totally unexpected, on the asteroid, which leads to international competition and, potentially, conflict over what they have found. That results in bringing back the asteroid and the problems that accompany that effort. At the same time, I use the story to show the hollowness of certain social issues. Whether I was successful in that, I may never know. If people enjoy it, that is great. And for those who want to, it is available on Amazon in paperback or ebook (Kindle) and free if you are a Kindle Unlimited member.
Have you drawn any inspiration from your finance career for the book or was this project an escape away from the world of finance?
My finance career wasn’t an inspiration for the book though it was a big help in thinking about it. I think we all need a change of scenery from our work lives from time to time, no matter how much or how passionate we may be about it. Someone I know escapes into heavy metal rock music for example, as much as he enjoys his finance career.
Are you already working on your next book?
As for my next book, yes, I started thinking about it quite a while ago and jotted down an outline but that is as far as I’ve got so far. While I have jotted down many story ideas, this one is the one that is nagging me, so I know it is going to be next. It is very different, not even the same genre, and I think it will be quite difficult. The one after that will be much easier, be more of a fun story to write and will even draw on my finance career!
Angus McKinnon’s book “Hayabusa-san” can be bought here:
Amazon.com: Hayabusa-san: A shock discovery creates a race for survival, but whose? eBook: McKinnon, Angus: Kindle Store