by Olga Werby
Almost a century after Keres Triplets asteroid impact and subsequent nuclear exchange almost ended all human life on Earth, a strange artifact is discovered on one of the moons of Saturn. Who should be sent to the outer reaches of the solar system to initiate the first contact with an alien culture? Dr. Varsaad Volhard, an evolutionary-socio-historian, is chosen to help the world understand the alien civilization that left an artifact some thirty thousand years ago, before humans even learned to farm, at the time when other human species still walked the earth. While Vars prepares for the mission, her father, Dr. Matteo Volhard, discovers nanobots among the microplastics he studies. The bots are everywhere and seem to have been created to bond with human cyber implants. Why? Matteo is made to keep his discovery a secret…as well as his and his daughter\’s true origins. Both were donated to a Human DNA Vault as babies. Matteo was raised as a Seed before leaving with his young daughter to study ecology around the world. Who knows what? Who is in control? How does one communicate with non-human intelligence? People seem to die in gruesome ways as their cyberhumatics go haywire on Earth and on Luna and Mars colonies. Is Earth under attack or is it all just a cosmic misunderstanding? Vars needs to use all she knows to solve the mystery of the ancient civilization on Mimas, as her dad battles the alien nanobots at home.
“The exton controls are not responding!” Marc shouted into his exoskeleton spacesuit helmet.
His exoskeleton was the heavy-duty dirt-and-boulder-mover type. Move a ton with exton. Right now, Marc was really just an intelligent bulldozer with life support. But the suit had disconnected from his D-tats, the personal computing device tattoos embedded in his lower arms and jaw, and his directional controls were busted. Now his exoskeleton acted with a mind of its own, moving him away from the construction site and out into the open Martian landscape. He needed to get back to the Malfy–an affectionate acronym for Martians Live Free, a city-sized habitat being built for the next wave of planetary immigrants.
“Marc?” his SB responded from the inside Malfy’s operational center. “What’s on the fritz this time?” Every contractor working outside was in constant communication with a personally assigned safety buddy. “I can’t seem to toss the controls over to my side.” In an emergency, Marc’s SB could take over the controls of his exton and bring him in, even if he was unconscious.
“I’ve got nothing!” Marc was more irritated than scared. This was his second equipment failure in as many months, and their group of union builders had reported three more to the management since the start of the project about two hundred days ago. It was always the same MO: at the end of a shift, the movement controls failed to respond to their operators’ commands, taking the builders out into the desert; and yet, after the rescue when the equipment was checked out, the engineers found nothing wrong with the extons. The first time it happened to Marc, he was even accused of faking the failure to get extra time off for hazardous conditions. As if construction work on Mars wasn’t dangerous in and of itself. Fortunately, Marc’s supervisor made everyone carry extra oxygen and a spare battery pack after the first few incidents. Just in case. Inconvenient for sure, but it was better than being stuck out of breath without a heater among the Martian dunes in minus 125 degrees Celsius.
“Send someone out to get me,” Marc said. “It’s an official request.”
“Are you sure, Marc? You know if they don’t find anything again—”
“I’m telling you, I’ve got nothing. Everything is dead on my side.”
“Yeah, mine too,” Marc’s SB agreed. “I’ll get Greg out there. But he won’t be happy. He just got his exton off and you’ll be cutting into his three days off period.”
“Tell him that I’d go if it was him out here. And tell him to hurry up about it.” The earliest he could expect Greg to arrive would be at least an hour, probably more–it took time get these darn things on.
~Buy HARVEST on Amazon
AN INTERVIEW WITH OLGA
-What inspired you to become a writer?
I wrote my first full-sized fiction book in 2009, “Suddenly, Paris.” I wanted to write about a strong, smart girl who was up to the task of saving the world by herself, if necessary. In some way, it was a rebellion to “Twilight.” As a teacher, I saw lots of middle school girls reading that book. When asked, they tended to reply that what attracted them the most to “Twilight” was the idea of someone loving a girl like that and providing for her and protecting her. From the psychological standpoint, the relationship described in “Twilight” is not a healthy one. No girl/woman should feel like she is going to do die if her current romance doesn’t work out. I wanted to write a character that showed another example. In “Suddenly, Paris,” the heroine was very much in love, but she was willing to fight and to save the world. She was willing to do what’s right. She didn’t sulk…well, not much.
So that was my first book. Since then, I’ve focused on developing strong characters, interesting plots, and ideas that are heavily influenced by real science and current events. Humans learn best when information is wrapped in a compelling story. I also wanted to write about people that are not the usual heroes of books—homeless kids, misfits, grandmothers, mobility-impaired, autistic, the underclass of our society, the forgotten. Fiction is great at developing empathy. I wanted to turn the full power of fiction into empathy engine! Sounds a bit preachy, I know, but I think my stories are good and fun to read in addition to being meaningful.
-If you could visit your book’s world for a day, what one thing would you do?
Hide? Cower in the corner somewhere, hoping that you will extract me in time and without too much damage? The person who thought up my world was pretty twisted, if I do say so myself.
-It’s two in the morning. What does your protagonist reveal in confidence? (Don’t worry, we won’t tell.)
My dad is also my brother…
-Which of your characters would you go out for drinks with?
“Harvest” is what one would classify as “hard science fiction.” “Hard” doesn’t mean it is hard to read or understand, just that it has a lot of fun (and accurate) science in addition to a great story. “Harvest” starts with a discovery on a very old alien artifact buried in ice on one of the moons of Saturn. Scientists and the military have to quickly make an assessment: what do these aliens want? Are they dangerous? If so, how could humans protect themselves? But how can we tell when something wants us harm? Some of the biggest cultural mistakes on Earth came about from simple failure to communicate, to understand the alien other. When the other side is overwhelming in power and knowledge, making a diplomatic mistake can end human civilization. It’s a fun premise and a good story.
Here’s a link to the first few chapters of “Harvest”: https://interfaces.com/blog/my-books/harvest/
One of the main characters in the book is Vars, a professor of socio-biology who studies human origins and civilizations. She has some very strange origins of her own, even as she is completely unaware of them at the start of the book. Vars is plucked form her everyday life and placed at the head of the team of scientists who have to understand how to approach aliens during first contact mission. For when the time comes, it won’t be the physicists and mathematicians who will be on the forefront of interfacing with aliens. It will be diplomats, sociologists, linguists, and lawyers! (perhaps teachers…) Vars is a “fish out of water”…but what fish? What waters!
If I had to go pick someone to go and have a drink, it would be Vars. Perhaps it’s a conventional choice—Vars is one of the main characters in the story—but I get Vars. She is smart and not very socially astute. She wants to do what’s right; and that’s a very hard thing in this story. I would like to tell her that she did okay. She did the best she could, and that’s really all any of us can do. “You did good, girl!”
-You’re in a tavern, and a dwarf challenges you to a duel. What do you do?
How big is the dwarf? When I was a kid, I had to commute to school that was very far from home. Part of the way, I had to walk through a large park, all the way across. In the winter it was dark… My dad told me that if anyone were to bother me, I should lower my head and ram ’em! Only years later, did I figure out which body part my dad wanted me to attack—I was a short kid. So I ask again, how big is the dwarf?
-Is there a genre you could never write? Which and why?
Never is such a long time…but then human life is pretty short. I have written textbooks and scientific papers, science fiction and magical realism. I’ve opined on all kinds of topics, technical and political, and created children’s fairytales. Some of my books have more than a touch of horror to them. Others are funny (in a dark way). All are optimistic and full of love. I’ve also written regular fiction stories. I’d guess I would avoid biographies of important men. It’s really not my genre.
Olga Werby, Ed.D., has a Doctorate from U.C. Berkeley with a focus on designing online learning experiences. She has a Master\’s degree from U.C. Berkeley in Education of Math, Science, and Technology. She has been creating computer-based projects since 1981 with organizations such as NASA (where she worked on the Pioneer Venus project), Addison-Wesley, and the Princeton Review. Olga has a B.A. degree in Mathematics and Astrophysics from Columbia University. She became an accidental science fiction indie writer about a decade ago, with her first book, \”Suddenly Paris,\” which was based on then fairly novel idea of virtual universes. Her next story, \”The FATOFF Conspiracy,\” was a horror story about fat, government bureaucracy, and body image. She writes about characters that rarely get represented in science fiction stories — homeless kids, refugees, handicapped, autistic individuals — the social underdogs of our world. Her stories are based in real science, which is admittedly stretched to the very limit of possible. She has published almost a dozen fiction books to date and has won many awards for her writings. Her short fiction has been featured in several issues of \”Alien Dimensions Magazine,\” \”600 second saga,\” \”Graveyard Girls,\” \”Kyanite Press\’ Fables and Fairy Tales,\” \”The Carmen Online Theater Group\’s Chronicles of Terror,\” with many more stories freely available on her blog, Interfaces.com.
Find her online:
Other works on Amazon
Olga Werby will be awarding 2 books to a randomly drawn commenter (LIZARD GIRL AND GHOST and SUDDENLY, PARIS) via rafflecopter during the tour.a Rafflecopter giveaway