Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Parasites and Powers: An interview with YA Sci-fi author Chrystalla Thoma about Rex Rising

Today, I'm talking with spec-fic author Chrystalla Thoma about her new YA science fiction adventure, Rex Rising.

1) Tell us about your book.

My novel, Rex Rising, is a YA science fiction adventure set in a post-apocalyptic world, ruled by a race of women called the Gultur. In this world where parasites create new human races, Elei leads a peaceful life as aircar driver — until a mysterious attack on his boss sends him fleeing with a bullet in his side and the fleet at his heels. Pursued for a secret he does not possess, he has but one thought: to stay alive. Yet his pursuers aren’t inclined to sit down and talk, and that’s not the end of Elei’s troubles. The two powerful parasites inhabiting his body, at a balance until now, choose this moment to bring him down, leaving Elei with no choice but to trust in people he barely knows in a mad race against time. It won’t be long before he realizes he must find out this deadly secret — a secret that might change the fate of his world and everything he has ever known — or die trying. 
2) Parasites aren't something that one normally associates with special abilities. Where did you get the inspiration for that aspect of your book?

To see the connection between parasites and special abilities, you need to think where special abilities are supposed to come from. Unless you are born special, something happens to you that changes you – usually a form of possession by a spirit, or a spell cast on you, or, in science fiction stories, some sort of virus. Viruses are parasites, although they are placed in a category of their own. But real life parasites can do more than just grant one special abilities: they can also change behavior. Let me give an example or two.

An example of new abilities: The parasitic wasp Hymenoepimecis. Its larvae invade a spider’s body and cause the spider to make a new type of web. Instead of weaving a fly-trapping web, the spider weaves a tight, strong web which the larva uses as its cocoon.

An example of induced behavior change involves Toxoplasma Gondii, a parasitic protozoan whose final host is the cat, also infects rats. Infected rats not only lose all fear of cats and cat smell, but are drawn to them. This makes them easy prey for cats.

3) Did any research on real-world parasites influence your presentation of your ability-granting parasites?

Yes. I read up a lot on the aforementioned parasite Toxoplasma Gondii. Recent discoveries have shown how it may also affect humans. This parasite causes subtle changes to its host’s behavior and may have shaped human society in many ways – dictating how macho and jealous a man can be of his wife, and how promiscuous and outgoing a woman can be – as well as more general changes like a general tendency to paranoia and hypochondria.

As for the special abilities, consider that unless the parasite disperses through the host’s death, the parasite will do as much as it can to keep its host (and source of food) alive. For instance, a parasite may fight off other infections and make the host stronger ( From there, making the leap to even impressive special abilities was easy.

4) You've not just generated an unusual background for your character abilities, you've created a whole world. What went into developing your setting?

The world of Rex Rising is a post-apocalyptic one. Nobody knows what is beyond the Seven Islands. A war, a few hundred years back, placed the Gultur, an all-woman race, in power and their dictatorial rule has brought on great social inequality, poverty and unrest. Parasites play a big role in shaping this world, too, since the Gultur gain their self-reproductive ability through a parasite called Regina, while the rest of the population, whom the Gultur refer to as “the mortals”, suffer from lots of parasitic diseases and plagues keep the population in control.

5) Do you have a favorite character in this book? 

This is always such a hard question to answer. I love all my characters, but I do have a certain weakness for the protagonist, Elei. It is after all his story, and he goes through a lot trying to survive and learning to trust. Still very young, he’s had a tough childhood. He’s shy and stubborn and would do anything for people he cares for.

6) Though your previous novel was also YA, it was more of an urban fantasy. Why the shift from urban fantasy to sci-fi?

I don’t see it as a shift. I have always written both fantasy and science fiction. To me the boundaries blur very often, magic explained as spiritual in fantasy and as a result of a virus or mutation in science fiction.

7) Have you planned any sequels?

Yes, I am in the process of writing the sequel to Rex Rising, and also a prequel from Kalaes’ point of view. Also, I have just completed a novelette from Hera’s perspective, set before the events in Rex Rising.

8) How can readers keep in contact with you?

You can read more about my stories, either published, in progress or planned, as well as samples and free stories, on my blog:

You can find Rex Rising at the following distributors:

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon DE


LisaAnn said...

Wow, great interview! Thanks so much for this, and best of luck to Chrystalla! :)

J.A. Beard said...

Thanks for stopping by, Lisa.