Pink Girl in a Cruel World
Modest is not normal.
In my novel, Virus Thirteen, you will meet a young woman named Modest. She is a frail, albino-white girl, with pink hair, and the vertical pupils of a feline. Her hair is not dyed and her eyes are not contact lenses. Her troubles are more than skin deep, however; much deeper - on the molecular level. She is the end result of genetic tampering that is rampant in the futuristic setting of this book.
Mankind has long had this problem. Since poor Prometheus gave us fire, perhaps misguidedly judging by our track record, we have been systematically using new technology, untested, with the utmost vigor, blinded to potential complications. Someone invents radiography? We take x-rays of each other until we're full of cancer and growing extra limbs. Atomic energy? We put it in convenient packages and drop it on cities. Genetic engineering? We engineer Modest.
Modest is one of the many freaks living in the post-genetic modification era. Thanks to government regulations, no longer are genetic engineers allowed to modify the human genome for purely aesthetic purposes. They are limited to genetic manipulations that are medically indicated, like the insertion of cancer-proof genes and the removal of genetic defects. Tormented by her body, her bizarre eyes, and hair, Modest is reminded daily of the choices she did not and could not make. I’m referring to multi-generational consent, a novel idea, only necessary in a universe of altered genomes, where a parent’s choice infringes on their child’s. Altered genes would pass down through the generations like drunken tattoos, each generation cursing their predecessors, “Why do I have this hideous tattoo of a frog on a lily pad beneath my right breast? Gee…thanks a lot great-grandma!”
To call this "playing God" is cliché, but a suitable one. There is only one thing certain: once the technology exists, the unscrupulous among us will use it. Then and only then, will the negative consequences be apparent. It’s not entirely science fiction either. We can already select which embryo we would like to carry to conception based on its genetic material. You can even choose the sex of your baby. If these options were available, would you pick your child's gender? What about their eye, hair, or skin color? Do you have the right to? If I picked a specific trait, then my child could certainly be unhappy about it; but if my child received such trait by random chance, only the dice of probability is to blame. I wonder if selecting certain traits would lead to an inevitable dissatisfaction with the child? When I pick green eyes and black hair, will I regret not sticking with the classic Aryan formula of blue eyes and blonde hair? I know, at this point, asking these questions is similar to asking which type of flying car will best suit my personality. They are silly questions today, but perhaps these things are not as far off as we think. In that case, I’ll take a black, flying convertible with extra rocket boosters and I think I’ll leave my children’s genetic future to fate.
About Virus Thirteen
Tor Books, March 26, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 320 pages
An irreverent and contagious thriller from debut author Joshua Alan Parry
Scientists James Logan and his wife, Linda, have their dream careers at the world’s leading biotech company, GeneFirm, Inc. But their happiness is interrupted by a devastating bioterrorist attack: a deadly superflu that quickly becomes a global pandemic. The GeneFirm complex goes into lockdown and Linda’s research team is sent to high-security underground labs to develop a vaccine.
Above ground, James learns that GeneFirm security has been breached and Linda is in danger. To save her he must confront a desperate terrorist, armed government agents, and an invisible killer: Virus Thirteen.
JOSHUA ALAN PARRY is a medical resident at the Mayo Clinic. He received his medical degree from the University of Texas Medical School at Houston and holds a B.S. in molecular and cellular biology from the University of Texas at Austin, where he was also captain of the ice hockey team. Over the years, he has worked as a guide for at-risk youth in the Utah wilderness, a metal worker in Montreal, a salmon canner in Alaska, and a molecular genetics intern. He was raised in Keller, Texas.