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.
Vars slept on the plane…or tried to. She was too confused, too keyed up to really sleep. That coffee might have been a mistake. Ian said that he couldn’t tell her anything until they arrived at his EPSA office in Seattle, which was conveniently her own hometown where she lived with her dad. The man just smiled a lot and talked about how much he had enjoyed reading Vars’s new book.
There was a strange edge to their interaction. If Vars hadn’t believed Ian’s credentials, she would have bailed on him a long time ago. Even so, she felt like she was being kidnapped. And, in a way, she was. She’d had to cancel the last two lectures of her book tour and apologize to her agent over and over again. Ian had promised that EPSA would send an official excuse letter, but Vars still felt like she let her agent and publisher down.
They landed at a general aviation airport, and another black car whisked them to EPSA’s headquarters, just outside of Seattle’s city limits. She was taken to a conference room on the top floor of the EPSA science building, which Ian called the “tree house.” She immediately understood why–it was surrounded on all sides by a balcony planted with a row of trees and some shrubbery. It was quite nice, but Vars couldn’t enjoy it; she was simultaneously exhausted and adrenalized. It was just a matter of time before she crashed.
She must have looked it, too, because someone handed her a very big, very steamy cup of coffee. She sipped it gratefully, completely oblivious to how she came to be holding it. It was still very early in the morning, way before Vars even liked to get up, much less attend a meeting.
About a dozen EPSA people joined her and Ian around the conference table. Vars noticed that several paper copies of her book were laid out; some even looked read, with cracked spines and dog-eared pages.
“So,” she said to Ian. “Is now a good time and place for you to tell me what this is all about?”
“Now is perfect,” Ian said with a big smile. “We are very grateful to have you with us today, Dr. Volhard. This is my exobiology team.” He pointed one by one to the people on one side of the table. “Dr. Alice Bear. Dr. Greg Tungsten. Dr. Bob Shapiro. Dr. Saydi Obara. Dr. Evelyn Shar. And Dr. Izzy Rubka.”
Vars had heard of some of these people by reputation, of course, but never met any of them personally. EPSA people were a reclusive bunch, tending to mix with their own to the exclusion of others, even with the same research interests. It was one of the reasons Vars always wanted to join the organization–to get access to the best and the brightest minds and a chance to discuss the origins of life over coffee… But the introductions were happening so fast, there was no chance that she would remember how any of these names linked up with faces. Vars doubted she would even recognize these people walking down the street.
But Ian just continued. “And this group,” he gestured to two men and a woman, “is on loan from JPL–Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena. Trish Cars, Dr. Ron Silverman, and Dr. Benjamin Kouta.” Vars gave up on remembering who was who. “And these two,” Ian said, nodding to a pair of identical twins sitting next to him, “are Ibe and Ebi Zimov, our computer science wunderkinds from EISS, European Institute of Space Science.”
Can you tell us about your book?
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
How did you choose the genre you write in?
I write sci-fi and magical realism. My background is in astrophysics and psychology. Granted, it’s not a very likely combination for a career…a regular career. But it is perfect for a writer of science fiction!
I've always hoped to live long enough to see the day when humans fully dedicate themselves to space exploration…at least to exploring our Solar System. I've studied math and astrophysics in college...went on to get a doctorate... But I’ve realized that one of the best ways that I can "push" for space exploration in particular and science, in general, is by writing science fiction! So I write what-if scenarios and embed as much real science as I can into a story that is gripping enough to get the attention of just the right type of audience. My latest book, “Harvest,” deals with first contact. I use this setup to discuss conditions necessary not only for life to develop, but for advanced civilizations to rise and colonize space.
Do you work with an outline, or just write?
Do you work with an outline, or just write?
By the time I actually start writing a new novel, I’ve usually spent a year or so taking notes and doing research. I tend to have a general idea of what the book will be about. But that said, I’m the seat-of-my-pants kind of writer. I write to find out what happens next! Once I know my characters and understand their predicament, the story is written by them. They decide what they want to do and how to proceed and how to solve problems that I throw at them. I know this sounds crazy, but it works well for me. I’m always surprised by the end of the story—the finished book is nothing like I’ve imaged it…but it does contain all of the elements of my research for the story.
Can you tell us about your book?
“Harvest” was published in May, 2019, after almost two years of writing and editing and illustration. It got three 5-star reviews from ReadersFavorite and has been entered into a few completions.
“Harvest” is a story of first contact. 30,000-year-old alien artifact is found on one of the moon of Saturn, buried in the ancient ice. This means that back when humans didn’t even begin agriculture or domestication of animals or started using symbols to keep track of ideas or to send messages to each other; before the days of making clay pots and weaving baskets; back when we haven’t even discovered the Americas; in the deep time before the dawn of our civilization (night time, really), some aliens were already advanced enough to send a craft across the trillions and trillions of miles of space to our home star system. Why did they come? What do they want?
I became interested in the idea of galaxy’s first star-fairing civilization a few years back. I wanted to use all of the science I knew to extrapolate the implications of being the first intelligence and the first civilization and then the first space-fairing culture to arise in the Milky Way. There had to be the THE first. What if it is NOT us? How would we, humans, handle first contact with such people? Would it go well for us? Would it be like “Star Trek?” I had a feeling that it might not really play out that way…
The story of Vars, a professor of socio-biology who studies human origins and civilizations, came from my exploration on these ideas. I wanted her—a “soft” scientist—to try to solve the puzzle of communicating with someone very different from us, whose motivations we simply don’t understand. 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…)
I have posted the first three chapters of “Harvest” on my blog: https://interfaces.com/blog/my-books/harvest/
There, you can also find a large collection of my short stories, radio plays, other book excerpts, and lots of articles on writing, the universe, and life in general. I also regularly post book giveaways and, for those interested in subscribing to my rambling monthly newsletters, there is a free copy of my fist book, “Suddenly, Paris.” It’s a story of virtual worlds and love that overcomes all kinds of digital barriers.
I’ve made a little video introduction to “Harvest”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QfJnQhQkDCo
“Harvest” is fully-illustrated—why do only kids get to have pictures in their books? Below is a small collection of images from the book.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
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.
Selected Book Links on Amazon:
“Becoming Animals”: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B078P6BB6K/
“Suddenly, Paris”: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B014OM5158/
“The FATOFF Conspiracy”: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B014S0W4WO/
“Twin Time”: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01LZM578L/
“Lizard Girl & Ghost: The Chronicles of DaDA Immortals”: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07FBR7Q1T/
“Coding Peter”: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01LFP45WC/
“Fresh Seed”: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07FFDZNYB/
GIVEAWAY INFORMATION and RAFFLECOPTER:
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