Mira Grant, author of the Newsflesh trilogy, offers readers another sci-fi thriller withParasite. Grant discusses the new novel and her obsession with sickness and science.
us a bit about Parasite, which kicks off the Parasitology series. Like with Newsflesh, here you are touching on medicine and science—and the potentially
adverse effects any advances can bring. My protagonist is a lot less sure of herself than Georgia so
I’m dealing less with black and whites and more with shades of gray. This is
entirely about shades of gray and questions of mortality and identity and
business. Where does the need for profit collide with the genuine need of an
industry to stay true to itself?... I
loved Georgia. She’s one of the few
protagonists I would spend an afternoon with. She’d probably hate me, but I
would be enthralled to spend time with her. But with her there are no shades of
gray. That is frequently not how humanity works.
The Parasite world
is [about] another medical advance. I love big medical advances because you see
it in the news--someone has a rumor of a cure for cancer and people are beating
down their door five minutes later. We don’t care about the long-term effects,
we care about the panacea, we care about the cure--now, now, now. It’s
another, “We can make everything better for you with one pill! Don’t worry
about five years now!”
Why aren't long-term effects more of a consideration? You can’t really know the long term of anything. You can’t
today look at a single domino dropping over and know what’s going to fall 30
years from now. This is a lot of what I was playing with in Parasite. Everyone has a finger in the pie;
everyone has an economy to think about... The greater picture is very difficult
to see from inside.
curious about your medical and scientific background. You obviously are quite
versed in these fields. I became really fascinated with diseases when I a kid. I had pneumonia and very
nearly died, and my choices were become phobic of diseases or become enthralled
with them. So I’ve been reading about them ever since. I read a lot, I know a
lot of doctors, I talk to a lot of people. I do not claim to be a medical expert--that’s
part of the reason why I do stuff like parasites and the future, rather than
the common cold mutates today. I could do the research but I don’t want people
ever using me in place of their doctor.
So what kind of research do you do? The level of detail in your books really
stands out. For Parasite, I read every pop-sci
book I could: Parasite Rex, Monsters Inside Me--all of the things
written for the layman. And then I looked at their bibliographies and read all
of those. Then I contacted the World Health Organization and got their annual parasitism
reports for infections around the world. Then I started contacting parasitologists
and visiting parasite museums (we have six of them nationally). So I talked to
a lot--a lot--of people.
you feel a responsibility to present your stories factually even though they are fiction? As factually as possible and to make the changes that I make consistent. That
is always the thing that has mattered to me: commitment and consistency. If you
set up the rules of a universe and say the world works like this, you don’t then
get to change those rules later.
Your books take place in the very near
future—Newsflesh starts in 2014, Parasite a little over a decade from now. What do you
really think is in store for society in the coming years? From a virological standpoint, we are way overdue for a bad pandemic. We are
way overdue on something we can’t break. Especially with anti-vaccination
movements, and the fact that with any vaccine, you have a small percentage
of people who will have a bad response. Historically the choice has been to risk
the bad response or die. Now if you get a bad response, you sue the pants
of that pharmaceutical company, so no one wants to make vaccines anymore... We
have left no room for, yes, three percent of people are going to have a problem
but that saves the other 97 percent. I do think something nasty is going to
come out of one of the jungles we are tearing down or one of the caves we are
diving into, and we are not going to be prepared.