|Melaleucas by the lake|
My mind wandered from the conversation, and I looked out into the darkness of the lake.
Host behavioural modification. Some parasites do far more than merely take residence in their hosts to obtain food, lodging and transportation. Some insinuate themselves into the brains of their hosts, hijacking their bodies, their movements. Hijacking their will. I knew of this occurring with Toxoplasmosis gondii-infected rodents, losing their fear of predators – cats – so that they virtually invite themselves to be consumed, allowing the parasite to relocate into new hosts, to reproduce within the cat and continue their life-cycle. And I knew that an accidental host of Toxoplasmosis is humans, a dead end for the parasite, but whose behaviour, nevertheless, is altered in curious ways.
What if the parasite mutated?
What if humans became the primary host, and the changes in human brain function became so extreme as to start to change society itself?
What if, what if. The mantra of the fiction writer. The mantra on steroids for the speculative fiction writer.
And now, it’s written. ‘The Second Cure’. After multiple drafts (and multiple titles, some of which I will never reveal out of pure embarrassment) I typed the words that uncharacteristic superstition had stopped me writing before: “The end”. It’s beginning to go out into the world as I start to approach agents and publishers. Weirdly, I have been so engrossed and loving the process of the writing that the idea of the novel actually existing independently of me is almost startling. The concept of publication, while obviously my conscious intent throughout, seems almost foreign to the place my mind has been for so long. The words, the story, the characters, the rhythms. They have been my internal life.
Now I am a bleary animal emerging from a cave, blinking in the sunlight. Well, look at that. Out here in the world, people take these manuscripts they write, and turn them into books.
Yesterday, I attended the Speculative Fiction Festival at the New South Wales Writers’ Centre, run by Cat Sparks. On one of the panels, John Birmingham spoke of having attended a science fiction writers’ festival early in his career as a novelist. As he found himself surrounded by speculative fiction writers, he realised he’d found his tribe. As I listened to the speakers yesterday, talking about nanotechnology, AI, androids, sex-bots, neural lace, digitising minds and other futures rushing towards us, I felt exactly the same as John had described.
These were my people, endlessly curious, endlessly asking, “What if?” And more importantly, writing "What if".
I always look forward to speculative fiction by people who actually know something about biology and ecology. I've been following your Facebook posts as you were writing this book, and I'm *so* looking forward to reading it when it's published.ReplyDelete
I can't wait to read your book Margaret! Looking forward to seeing it published.ReplyDelete
Thanks for sharing Margaret. Looking forward to "The Second Cure".ReplyDelete
I know what you mean about sending it out into the world. I felt like that about my PhD thesis - I'd almost forgotten I was writing it for examination and for people to read, I was so lost in the ideas and their development. And it's been downloaded nearly 3000 times in four years, so I can feel as if did a good thing. I hope your books can feel the warmth of thousands of readers soon. And I'll be one of them!ReplyDelete
Where can we see an extract of the novel?ReplyDelete
Love the depth you are capably exploring. So happy that we can go with you as readers into the "What if" outlands with you as the knower of possibilities.ReplyDelete
Good idea! I'll give some thought to what might be good to post.ReplyDelete
Somehow amidst all the marvellous Facebook chatter (what a wonderful tribe you've attracted there!) I missed that this was the specific theme of your novel. Now I'm even more eager to read! *dances with impatience*ReplyDelete
You never get over that blinking in the sharp light. It takes so long to write a book and it takes over your consciousness, becoming your world, so that when you do have to step out in the world, the creature under your arm, it's a wonder your legs don't buckle. The world outside, of agents and platforms and pitches and publishers and reviewers can seem daunting, but never lose sight of the real world, the one inside that screams to find a place on a page. A metaphorical break a leg!ReplyDelete
and you undertake a metamorphosis yourself in giving birth to these ideas. Looking forward to reading your novelReplyDelete
So looking forward to reading it!ReplyDelete
So excited by this, it's a fascinating concept! Can't wait to read the book and I can think of so many others who would also enjoy it.ReplyDelete
Great idea for a novel - and a great way to use your knowledge as well your imagination - I look forward to it!ReplyDelete
As a parasitologist and an avid reader I am obviously very keen to get my hands on a copy of 'The Second Cure'. The concept is both fascinating, and scarily a very real possibility. I am so glad that Facebook has once again proven itself to be a wonderful platform for more than trivial chatter and led me to this fabulous story. I just can't wait!!!ReplyDelete
Interesting inspiration source. Looking forward to the end product. :)ReplyDelete
I have no doubt whatsoever that someone with Margret's background, intelligence, imagination and humour would write something worth reading.ReplyDelete
The distance between what is and what might be seems minute most of the time, yet we so easily presume that when we wake up tomorrow, all will be the same. I like the idea of exploring alternative possibilities. This book sounds like just the vehicle for such a journey.ReplyDelete
Brave, intelligent and warm writing Margaret. I look forward to reading your novel in the expectation of being questioned, surprised and entertained.ReplyDelete
For impact the parasite would have to infect to epidemic proportions and have along lead up where it was unnoticed at first but takes time to manifest to its full blown symptoms similar to AIDS they think that has been arounbd for decades before it was detected. Infection by the parasite would have to be hard to detect at first. The story would also have to have would have to have a tireless heroine who works day and night and is driven to the brink of despair but finally finds a cure. It has vague precedents with Wyndams "The Midwich Cuckoos" Also there was a novel by Frank Herbert about a virus that only affected females and brought humanity to the edge of extinction. To be really horrid the parasite would have to make its hosts very attractive in some way so that others willingly become infected or think there is no cause for alarm. l also suggest that you make your setting a little more exotic like Siberia where thawing permafrost yields the hither to unknown parasite that has literally comes back from the dead. You probably would know more than myself on this but I suggest you read some epidemiology and you cannot go better than "Readings in Global Health by Harvard X as a primer on disease and disease transmission. I will message you.ReplyDelete
Colin, my book is written, but it sounds like you've one to write yourself there. :)ReplyDelete
John, that was one of the issues being discussed yesterday in the session I mentioned above. We overestimate what is coming tomorrow, but underestimate what is coming in a decade's time. The changes that we are on the verge of experiencing will be like nothing we've ever experienced. It is happening exponentially.ReplyDelete
I also liked an observation that James Bradley made in another session, on climate change and speculative fiction, quoting Ken Wark: all contemporary novels are about the anthropocene, but some don't realise it yet.
Squeeeee!! A must read - why aren't I reading it now??ReplyDelete
I'm a-pitchin' as hard as I can! :)ReplyDelete
OH.. um yes I am not a writer of fiction but thank you for the encouragement.ReplyDelete
Can't wait for your book, Margaret!ReplyDelete
It's a tribe which will never fail you, Margaret!ReplyDelete
I'm so excited your book is finished, Margaret and about to find its place in the world. I've so enjoyed following your posts on facebook about your writing process, not to mention all the other topics you're interested in, from plant ecology to politics. Can't wait to read all that knowledge, wisdom and humour in your novel. Bring it on!ReplyDelete
I can't wait to sink my teeth into this one. There's nothing like a good bit of science fiction!ReplyDelete
I was staying near Smith's Lake only last month, took a drive to find a sunny reading spot and ended up by the lakeside. I can very well envisage how your mind went imagining there, so peaceful and a wee bit spooky. Biological-sociological SF is one of my favourite sub-genres, looking forward to reading this!ReplyDelete
So interesting to hear where the idea for 'The Second Cure' came from. Looking forward to seeing it published. Also reminds me of 2nd year ecology field trips...ReplyDelete
The premise of your book is immediately enthralling. I can only imagine where your mind has taken it and really look forward to reading it. I hope it's taken up immediately!ReplyDelete
Looking forward to this to this immensely, as well as to the "The Second Cure and Philosophy" volume which will surely follow. :-)ReplyDelete
Ooh, Margaret, you always fascinate me with your Science! brain and while I suspect my beloved kittehs won't come out well, I am nevertheless dying to read this. Keep us posted!ReplyDelete
How do we make sense of the present let alone the future? There is such a cacophony of ideas at the present that we can only comprehend if someone grabs them, nails them down and makes a story with them. Brain chemistry, climate change, morality (is there morality or just chemistry?), politics and gender. Margaret you are unique combination of science nerd who is compelled to write and speculate in with as many people as you can. Can't wait for the book and I can't wait to talk to you about it.ReplyDelete
Can't wait to read this one Margaret Morgan! It will go straight to the top of the pile.ReplyDelete
I'd buy one!ReplyDelete
Looking forward to "The Second Cure" - what a great idea! Awww, go on, tell us some of those multiple titles!ReplyDelete
Hmm, okay. The first was "After Felidae", because of, well, what happens to the cats. What happens to the people takes place after that.ReplyDelete
Then it was "The Pharmacon of Charlie Zinn". Love the word, "pharmacon"! But it really does sound like a YA novel, and that this isn't.
Then it became "A Carnival from Hell", which is the literal translation of a Dutch expression for "sunshower". To be honest, the only reason I chose this is because I just love the concept, but it really didn't have much to do with the novel. So, nah.
Then I hit upon "The Second Cure", and I do hope it keeps that name (not really my decision.. that's up to the publisher). Here's hoping!
I think, Andy, given the copies of various of your books that you've given me over the years, you deserve a freebie! And thanks for the permission to quote you.ReplyDelete
Thank you, Su! Can't wait for it to be on the shelves!ReplyDelete
Wow, Rob, it's almost as though you've read the book -- or maybe you've just got to know my passions. All those things are in my novel. Looking forward to talking with you about it too. Thanks!ReplyDelete
It's not *all* bad news for the cats. But then you don't trust me on the subject of uplifting and cheery, do you?! Thanks, Judy, and I will.ReplyDelete
I don't have to write that though, do I??ReplyDelete
I loved those field trips. Even the food!ReplyDelete
It is a magnificent spot, isn't it? I'd love to spend time there relaxing rather than working -- not that the work was too onerous. Collecting plant specimens by day and keying them out in the evening. Bliss, if you ask me.ReplyDelete
I completely understand why biological-sociological SF captivates you (as it obviously does me!). It really gets to the nub of what it is to be human.
I so hope you enjoy it, Ed!ReplyDelete
Thank you for your encouragement over the years, Willa. I remember ages ago, my toying with the possibility of a creative writing PhD in your department, and my realisation that the thought of writing the exegesis was filling me with horror! I wonder how things would have played out had I actually done it.ReplyDelete
Thank you, fellow tribe member! I owe you so much, Pamela, and am so grateful.ReplyDelete
Thank you, Robert!ReplyDelete
And I'm looking forward to your reading it!ReplyDelete
Thank you, Greg. I hope it fulfills your expectations!ReplyDelete
I love my FB friends... and my former fellow-students now in far flung places!ReplyDelete
Thanks, Philip! It's been huge fun to write.ReplyDelete
Yay! Christmas presents! ;)ReplyDelete
So true, Clare!ReplyDelete
"The creature under your arm." Love it, Sara. xReplyDelete
I'll join you in that dance!ReplyDelete
I hope you enjoy the trip, Kathy!ReplyDelete
That's a mighty impressive number of downloads, Mary-Helen!ReplyDelete
Thank you, Lydia. xReplyDelete
Jean, I hope it doesn't disappoint!ReplyDelete
It is.. I will say it's an unusually large number. I'm not sure why.ReplyDelete
I suspect you've made a lucky escape from the clutches of academia. :-)ReplyDelete
No, we do! You might need to write a forward explaining why we're all wrong, though.ReplyDelete
Titles bear a lot, that's for sure, and reveal a lot too. Your book is ever more interesting, Margaret.ReplyDelete