You asked, and here are the answers to the questions I have had directed my way. Have a question about Gliese 581 that you want answered? Contact me at shuckchristine(@)gmail(dot)com.
Q: Could this virus really happen?
A: Well, yes, technically, it could. Pseudorabies is a real virus that affects pigs. The herpes virus is a very real virus as well, and one most folks have heard of. During the writing of the book, I wanted to create as realistic a virus as possible, so I contacted a virologist.
Michael Lagunoff is a professor at the University of Washington and he was kind enough to give me some great viruses to work with. I asked him for something that would have a rather long incubation rate (35 days), low to nearly non-existent fever, and something that would affect the survivors’ ability to reproduce.
I made a couple of stretches, the biggest was tying survival of the virus to AB negative blood.
Q: Was tying the virus to the blood type a racial statement? What type of blood do you have?
A: Oh my God, no, it was not a racial statement. I’m a writer of dystopian fiction, I was just looking for a high body count!
On a side note, my research into blood types was quite fascinating. AB negative blood is the rarest blood type in the world! Only 1% of Caucasians have it, .3% of African Americans have it, followed by .2% Latinos, and .1% of Asians.
I happen to have A+ blood, so I’d be dead as a doornail too.
Q: Why this fascination in dystopian fiction?
A: I don’t know if it was growing up under the shadow of the Cold War, my father’s libertarian beliefs, or the vast amount of sci-fi I read as a child, but it just stuck. I have always found it fascinating.
Q: What kind of books influenced you as a child?
A: I read a lot of antique books – as in I purposely sought them out and bought them with my own money. This has got to be why I’m so long-winded, their sentences tended to be what we now consider paragraphs.
I read the usual children’s fiction – Anne of Green Gables, the various fables and fairy tales. But I also teethed on sci-fi – Heinlein mostly (he wrote a number of juvenile sci-fi), and a wide variety of books from Jack London and others. One book in particular stayed with me through the years, The Girl Who Owned a City. I recently re-purchased it so I could keep it in my library. Very dystopian, very much a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” kind of story.
Lately, I like to read thrillers. Can’t seem to get enough of them.
Q: Is Gliese 581g a.k.a. Zarmina’s World real?
A: That depends on who you ask and the limits of our current research capabilities. Back in 2010, Steve Vogt announced he had discovered Gliese 581g and he named it after his wife, Zarmina.
I was excited and sent him an email asking him if he minded me writing a book and calling it Zarmina’s World. He sent me a gracious email back giving me the thumbs up.
A few months after the announcement, his findings were called into question. I thought that was the last of it, and honestly stopped working on the book for a year or two until I realized, “I’m a fiction writer, I can make it real if I want!”
Later, shortly after releasing the book, I contacted Dr. Vogt and expressed my sadness that the planet’s existence had been disproven and that I had created a scenario where it had been re-discovered. Heck, I even included the actual headlines in the manuscript.
A few days later I receive a lengthy email from him describing the situation, including the disputing team’s faulty work that couldn’t be replicated. Basically, the planet still could theoretically exist. Someday we will have better technology and telescopes and we will be able to answer that question definitively, one way or the other.
Q: Talk to me about warp technology.
A: Umm, it doesn’t exist yet. But a girl can dream. In my research, I found the Alcubierre warp drive, along with cool design ideas for a warp ship. In my mind, I think of it like the tesseract described in a Wrinkle in Time in which space is contracted or folded, allowing the ant (or a spaceship) to cross vast distances in a short time.
This is how the Calypso makes a journey of 21 light years in just six Earth years.
And if that isn’t correct, well, chalk it up to a brainiac wordsmith who flunked science and math doing her best to explain what she herself doesn’t truly understand.