Why we wrote 'A Vested Interest'
We on earth face a looming disaster and no one is doing anything about it. On average, every 100,000 years an asteroid or comet hits the earth causing a major extinction. One such extinction happened 65 million years ago and wiped out the dinosaurs. Since then we've been incredibly lucky. History records only small events. One in China in 1490 was reported to have killed 10,000. A remote forest in Siberia was flattened in 1908 and 1,500 were injured by an explosion above the city of Chelyabinsk in Russia. We asssume that because these events are rare that we are safe but that's not the case. Sooner or laterm there will be another impact event as big or even bigger than the one which destroyed the dinosaurs. When it happens we and many other lifeforms on earth face extinction.
So what can we do about this?
Until people face up to the danger, little will happen. People don't see a need. Perhaps that will change in 2029 when on April 13th the asteroid Apophis will pass near earth and pass even nearer in 2036. There's still a slight risk that Apophis could strike earth or even the moon. Aphophis is much smaller than the Everest sized rock which destroyed the dinosaurs so few people apart from some scientists will take notice.
Without a clear danger nothing will happen. The trouble is that we are unlikely to get any warning at all! Until an object strikes a populated area and kills thousands no one will care. An asteroid capable of doing this strikes the earth once a year on average! Most events pass unseen though since more than half of our planet is ocean and large areas of the land are uninhabited.
Things could be a LOT worse though. There are wandering planets, neutron stars and mini black holes which don't even have to strike the earth to kill us. Any of these would create a cosmic game of billiards which could bombard the earth, cause massive earthquakes, tidal waves and eruptions, or even move it out of orbit to where we couldn't survive. Life on earth is a basket of eggs. To ensure its survival we must split the basket andmove out into space. That's what our book series is about. The timescale involved is too long though and to get round that we need an immortality gene.
Shelia started the story, writing it while I was at work. Both of us have always followed science and the theme was one we have followed. I got involved helping her with the locations and the technology.
We originally planned just one book. Once we had got to 700 pages it was obvious we had to do some editing. We cut it extensively but still ended up with a 172,000 word book. Far too long for a first novel. We needed to get it down to 120,000 words or less. We decided to split the book and use some of the text we had edited out. The result was A Vested Interest and Dark Secrets which between them contain most of the text of our original book.
Of course by the time we had completed these two books we already had ideas for the rest of the series. Shelia commenced work on 'No Secrets' and I commenced work on 'Stones, Stars and Solutions.'
The main theme of the first book was the development of a ‘fix’ for the death gene. When we first had the idea for the book back in 2000 the human genome project was still underway. They estimated it would take 25 years for it to be completed. In practice it took just three. It was obvious to me at the time that once the project was completed it would be a matter of time before the ‘death gene’ was identified and little more before a fix could be established. I confidently predicted that within a further 25 years it would be possible to extend human life significantly. Of course we didn't allow for the rapid advance of genetic research. Time and time again during the course of the writing of these books we have seen our predictions become reality. In fact towards the end of our labours we became concerned that our fiction would become outdated by reality!
Let’s look at some of our fictional advances:
- The death gene – A gene was found in 2002, present in normal cells but non functional in cancerous cells. It appears that it's function was to destroy cells which are not 'normal'.
- Nanobugs - The US Department of Defence is spending millions on developing these. Our bugs added a little 'James Bond' invisibility - again not so far fetched today.
- Using HIV1 as a vector for genetic therapy - This was suggested in 2000. We didn't know about it.
- Biosphere use for space travel - Assuming that faster than light travel is not possible then it would take many years to travel between stars. A biosphere set up inside an asteroid would be a possible solution. In the book 'Tales of the Flying Mountains ' (1984) by Poul Anderson suggested traveling to other stars in an asteroid. You might also like to look at Cruising the Infinite.
Donna is based on Shelia herself. Like Shelia, she’s American and crossed the ‘pond’ to take up a new life in the UK with her English partner. I suppose that Richard was at first based on me but Richard has lots of things I just dream about (Money, younger, good looks, and a Mercedes). The early part of the story reflects the opposition Shelia had in coming to the UK and the culture gap between the UK and USA.