Please welcome Stephen P. Kiernan to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. The Curiosity, Stephen's fiction debut, will be published on July 9th.
Imagine an October day, 32,000 years ago. In the tundra of Siberia, a squirrel buried a seed he intended to eat during the long winter ahead. But the animal never came back, and the seed sat dormant for all of those millennia. Then, in 1995, researchers discovered a maze of petrified burrows, and unearthed thousands of seeds. After long experimentation, scientists caused one of them to flower last year.
Is this fiction? Actually, no. Biology has made astonishing progress in cell science, especially since DNA sequencing became a laboratory norm. It’s known by many names – retrobreeding, de-extinction, regenesis. And it is changing the definition of death and extinction in much the same way that cloning twenty years ago modified our understanding of identity.
Advances like these always raise interesting questions: If two sheep have the same DNA, does the original possess some kind of higher standing than the copy? Or are they equal beings? If a species considered extinct can be revived, should its habitat be preserved? Should its prey be cultivated to sustain the returned predator? Should the species that replaced the extinct one on the food chain be eradicated?
While answers remain elusive and debatable, the redefinition of mortality is real, and happening in our lifetime. Did you know that there are elephants in Russia and Korea, right now, which are impregnated with embryos containing the DNA of wooly mammoths?
Did you know that there are doves whose eggs are being spliced with DNA recovered from dead passenger pigeons (once the most populous bird on Earth, and a species considered extinct since 1914 )? Researchers on that project insist that within a few years, the world will have passenger pigeons once again.
Perhaps you saw the National Geographic magazine from April of this year. The cover painting showed a mammoth, sabre tooth tiger and other extinct species emerging from a giant test tube, under the headline: “Reviving Extinct Species: We Can, But Should We?”
A question like this is more than enough to propel a novel. It requires characters who are smart and open minded and driven. It risks empowering personalities that are obsessive and uncompromising. It raises ethical dilemmas over which people will protest, take political action, and perhaps commit acts of violence. It potentially enthralls a rabid and superficial media. And it pays close attention to every entity in the situation except the creature restored to life.
That is the premise of my novel The Curiosity. The only difference between my fiction and the genuine science is one of species. Instead of a mammoth, or feline, or harmless Siberian flower, my regenesis involves a human being.
About The Curiosity
Publisher: William Morrow, July 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover and eBook, 432 pages
Price: $25.99 (print)
ISBN: 978-0-06-222106-3 (print)
A powerful debut novel in which a man, frozen in the Arctic ice for more than a century, awakens in the present day and finds the greatest discovery is love . . .
Dr. Kate Philo and her scientific exploration team make a breathtaking discovery in the Arctic: the body of a man buried deep in the ice. As a scientist in a groundbreaking project run by the egocentric and paranoid Erastus Carthage, Kate has brought small creatures—plankton, krill, shrimp—back to life for short periods of time. But the team's methods have never been attempted on larger life-forms.
Heedless of the potential consequences, Carthage orders that the frozen man be brought back to the lab in Boston and reanimated. The endeavor is named "The Lazarus Project." As the man begins to regain his memories, the team learns that he was—is—a judge, Jeremiah Rice, and the last thing he remembers is falling overboard into the Arctic Ocean in 1906. When news of the project and Jeremiah Rice breaks, it ignites a media firestorm and protests by religious fundamentalists.
Thrown together by fate, Kate and Jeremiah grow closer. But the clock is ticking and Jeremiah's new life is slipping away. With Carthage planning to exploit Jeremiah while he can, Kate must decide how far she is willing to go to protect the man she has come to love.
A gripping, poignant, and thoroughly original thriller, Stephen P. Kiernan's provocative debut novel raises disturbing questions about the very nature of life and humanity—man as a scientific subject, as a tabloid novelty, as a living being: a curiosity.
THE CURIOSITY won an Indie Next award for July, 2013, and has been named a top summer read by the Los Angeles Times, Good Housekeeping and Philadelphia Magazine.
Stephen taught at Middlebury College and the New England Young Writers Conference, and worked on the staff of the Breadloaf School of English and the Breadloaf Writers Conference. He chairs the board of the Young Writers Project, and sat on the advisory committee of the New Hampshire Palliative Care Initiative and the Vermont Legislature's Pain and Palliative Care Study Committee.
As a result of his 2007 book LAST RIGHTS, Stephen travels the country speaking to a wide variety of audiences about health care, hospice and palliative care, and advance directives. Following his 2010 book AUTHENTIC PATRIOTISM, he also speaks on civic engagement, service learning, volunteerism and philanthropy.
Stephen has also performed on the guitar since he was ten years old. In addition to recording 3 CDs of solo instrumentals, he has composed music for dance, the stage, documentaries and TV specials.
He lives in Vermont with his two amazing sons.
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