Guest Blogger: Phoebe Wray

26 09 2012

This is unusual for two reasons: first, I don’t have many guest bloggers, but Phoebe is a feisty, fiery old Broad whom I admire a great deal. Second, I confess I don’t read a lot of fiction, because I find so much of it disappointing. Her Jemma7729 was an exception — good science, good story, great characters. I look forward to the sequel, J2, due out in October.

Phoebe Wray: The Science in Jemma/J2

In my two novels, Jemma7729 and the sequel J2, I create a dystopian North America two centuries hence. Imagining what ordinary “science/technology” looks like then is complicated by the plot condition that there has been a vicious and destructive war and subsequent oppressive government. Then, as now, military/governmental technology has been given priority over citizen comfort. Mostly I used common sense, but some things did require investigation.

The heroine in Jemma7729 is a saboteur. What would she use to blow up buildings? I did a net search, which was easy and really answered most technical questions, but got good information from the boss of a company building a road in my neighborhood. His crew was blasting away at granite and he was very helpful. I also talked to two different fireworks operators. Jemma wants everyone to know she is the person blowing things up. She needs a signature, what she calls her “green fire.” The fireworks pros assured me she’d get that if barium were added to the explosives. (All of these “experts” declined being “thanked” in my acknowledgements. Trade secrets or nasty bosses, take your pick.)

Jemma travels all over North America. Well, so have I, and I mainly set her journeys in places I’ve actually been, which I found useful even if it’s old information. I did research online about geological features, and contacted state tourist boards for info on historical sites, demographics and agriculture. Then I imagined the future.

J2, the heroine of the second novel, is Jemma’s clone. I dug around a lot about cloning. J2 has to look like her “mother,” but she has brain implants that make her much smarter. There is surprisingly little available information on cloning. It’s been marginally successful with mammals, but clones don’t live very long. J2 is aware of that but undaunted by it. Her “father,” the scientist who cloned her, is working on increasing longevity in clones. I guess what the novel says is that, even in 2214, cloning is not entirely successful.

There are many other, small things. I’ve always been familiar with guns. I was even a pretty good skeet shooter as a kid, so the weaponry in the novels is based on what’s around now, but up-graded. There are two vehicles, both of which are in prototype now: a “hovercar” which runs on the ground on an air pillow and a ground/air vehicle, generally styled a GAV in the books. I pronounce that Gee A Vee, but since the original novel didn’t establish G.A.V., maybe readers say it another way in their heads. The nasty government trick of “altering” rebellious or unwanted citizens is a simple lobotomy. It’s been around a long time.

I made a serious effort to make the science logical, possible and probable, even though it’s fiction. Human nature, however, doesn’t change very much. That makes sense to me. Thanks for asking!

[Phoebe Wray is a long-time nonfiction writer now writing in the specfic field. Her first novel, Jemma7729 is available in print from EDGE Science Fiction & Fantasy Publishing, and in ebook from Dark Quest Books. The sequel, J2, will be released in ebook and print from Dark Quest Books. A horror story is in Backless, Strapless and Slit to the Throat; military sci-fi story “Trashing” is in Dark Quest’s No Man’s Land anthology; “Eden, Early One Morning,” specfic, is in All About Eve anthology. A thriller novel, IN ADAM’S FALL, is forth-coming from WolfSinger Productions. She has stories in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Farthing, Fables.org, chizine, and The Garden. Her plays have been staged in New York, Boston, Los Angeles, and elsewhere, and she is a published poet. Phoebe is the past president of Broad Universe, lives in a small town outside of Boston, and teaches in the Theatre Division of The Boston Conservatory.]

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2 responses

29 09 2012
PubbyPab

Guest blogger! Very cool. Phoebe’s description helps me to appreciate your emphasis on the science in science fiction. I can take a certain amount of fiction encroaching on the science, but when writers get really sloppy with the facts their work invariably suffers.

30 09 2012
justinegraykin

Thank you for this and your other comments. The scientific method, as practiced by fallible humans with personal (perhaps unconscious) agendas is imperfect and often flawed. But it sure beats the alternative.

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