Mar 19, 2012

Future Hybrids

Welcome to my guest, Catherine Stine, today. I didn't realize it, but it seems 2012 is the year of bioengineering for me. Pretty much all of my stories this year have to do with this branch of science. So, I was happy to get Catherine to come over and write this post.

Flyfish Hybrid, Illustration, copyright 2011 Catherine Stine

M Pax, thanks for inviting me to guest post. I’m thrilled to close out the Fireseed One tour on Wistful Nebulae. Today, I’m talking about hybrids.

In Fireseed One, my illustrated YA thriller I had fun inventing plants of the future. For instance, Flyfish was a transgenic pairing of Northern Perch and rust-free grapes. Given the premise that the ocean in 2089 would likely be full of acidic toxins (from melted underwater peat bogs) and invasive plants that drifted north after Arctic ice had melted, I figured that if farmers wanted fresh fish, they might grow them up on vines in floating warehouses! This is the fun of speculative fiction—speculating on a future world that hasn’t quite happened, but is well on its way.

I had Varik’s father, Professor Teitur, a marine biologist, devise a concept plant called Fireseed that could withstand the punishing 160-degree heat and lack of water in the Hotzone, south of Ocean Dominion in what’s now the USA. What genome might Professor Teitur combine to create an almost magical plant like this? Skin like cactus only tougher. Add a gene that allowed it to breed like a nympho to factor in how many plants would perish, and install a specific gene so the plant could generate its own water. Impossible? Perhaps. After Varik’s father drowned under mysterious circumstances, not even his own son knew if Fireseed, or Fireseed One, as the concept certification form denoted, had ever existed off the drawing board.

In doing research for this project, I was blown away by the transgenic plants that are already in existence! There is rice with DNA from human saliva, created to feed infants in Third World countries. The hope is to strengthen infant immune systems against fatal diarrhea. There are strains of tomatoes with fish DNA to create veggies that don’t blight with excess rain. What happens to the soil in which these GM crops are grown? Pharming, as it’s called, can get worrisome. One can keep proposing “What Ifs” until things get quite freaky.

I won’t reveal the strange twist at the end of Fireseed One. You’ll just have to read it. But it does have to do with extreme DNA mixing. 

Now, let’s play a game. Get creative and think up some wild transgenic future mash-ups! The most creative, judged by M. Pax and myself, will be featured (with a link back to your blog with a suggestion to follow you) on my Idea City blog, in another rant about hybrids. You can make it funny (Sponge Bob, Square Pants with P Diddy for some hybrid Sponge Bob street cred), or out-there (bananas with batwing genomes for flying yellow fruit) or get more serious (rats with neon genes so you can spot them in the dark).
It’s all good!

Liking the Fireseed One Facebook page, following Idea City and following Wistful Nebulae (if you don’t already) will get you extra Brownie points. Have some pharming fun!

What if Only Your Worst Enemy Could Help You Save the World? Fireseed One, a YA  thriller, is set in a near-future world with soaring heat, toxic waters, tricked-out amphibious vehicles, ice-themed dance clubs and fish that grow up on vines. Varik Teitur inherits a vast sea farm after the mysterious drowning of his marine biologist father. When Marisa Baron, a beautiful and shrewd terrorist, who knows way too much about Varik's father's work, tries to steal seed disks from the world's food bank, Varik is forced to put his dreams of becoming a doctor on hold and venture with her, into a hot zone teeming with treacherous nomads and a Fireseed cult who worships his dead father, in order to search for a seemingly magical plant that may not even exist. 

Fans of Divergent and Feed will likely enjoy this novel, as well as those who like a dash of romance with their reads. With nine illustrations by the author. 

Fireseed One is available as an eBook for $2.99 on NookKindleiTunes, and Sony ReaderThe paperback is available on Amazon for $7.99.