Writing The Unity Contagion
B. David Spicer
I’d been wanting to write a story in which the monsters were inside of each one of us, and they would be literal monsters instead of the metaphorical monsters that are so often explored in stories. I wanted something along the lines of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but on the industrial scale of The Walking Dead. Dr. Jekyll used science to unleash his inner monster, and I strongly believed that science was the way to achieve the goals of the story, so I settled on genetic engineering as the science of my subject.
Like Jekyll, I wanted the characters to go through a self-inflicted metamorphosis, but unlike Jekyll, I wanted it to be the result of some mundane mistake as opposed to an exotic experiment. I struggled for a while trying to decide why my characters were having their DNA tinkered with, then it occurred to me that maybe everybody did it, maybe it was so commonplace that nobody thought much about it, perhaps it was even so ubiquitous that not having your DNA manipulated was what seemed strange.
I had the bones of the story then, a cohort of young adults on their way to a DNA resequencing facility to receive their first round of genetic alterations, when something goes horribly wrong. I started the story several times, but each time it seemed too broad, and I had to narrow the focus until finally the story was really just about two people, Charles and Lillian.
The early part of the story takes place on a train, and a character named Andrew is querying his classmates about which genetic alteration ‘packages’ each of them are planning to get, which was just a way to express to the reader that the level of DNA manipulation is virtually unlimited. Characteristics from other species can be grafted onto one’s genome. Want wings (like Andrew did)? No problem. Want to live on the seafloor? We can do that too. Charles is the oddball who doesn’t particularly want his helix rebuilt, so he opts for the ‘wellness package’ that doesn’t do anything except remove tendencies for inheritable diseases. Andrew taunts Charles for opting out of greater genetic resequencing, which specifically reinforced the notion that such procedures are seen as both normal and expected. Lillian had to be the opposite of Charles, so she and her boyfriend Albert both wanted a fairly extensive series of alterations that would make them into perfect specimens of humanity—glorious to behold, heartbreakingly beautiful. It wasn’t until I got to that section of the story that I realized that Charles was in love with Lillian, the literal girl next door. That revelation was the last piece of the puzzle, and the rest of the story just fell into place.
As for The Unity Contagion itself, being the catalyst of the story it had to be something unexpected but at the same time believable. What could ruin a proven series of medical technologies? I’ve worked in the health care field for the better part of two decades, and I can tell you from first-hand experience, it’s always the little things that get you in the end. When one is playing God with the building blocks of life itself, it’s vitally important to get it right! The Unity Contagion proves that enormously terrible things sometimes come in tiny packages.
I placed the NewGene clinic in a shopping mall to again press home the idea that within the story’s reality, genetic engineering is so commonplace that finding a place to alter one’s DNA is as easy as finding a place to get one’s ears pierced.
Ultimately The Unity Contagion surpassed every expectation I had for it, and it is my favorite of my own stories. I’d like to explore the setting further, and it’s possible that I might expand the story into a novel. If only I could get the ‘Novelist package’ installed…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR — David Spicer lives in Ohio, where he earned a BA in English from Ohio University. He has always been an avid reader and one day woke up and started writing fiction of his own. He writes crime fiction, science fiction and horror fiction and also writes scripts for independent comic book publishers. His short fiction has appeared in several anthologies and journals throughout the country and overseas. In his meagre spare time he enjoys reading, hiking and playing board games. His house is packed with more books than any one person should own.
Horror and science fiction blend seamlessly in the twelve stories contained within this anthology. Whether it’s mutation, creation, invention, machinery gone awry, or space/time travel, each of the authors included took on the challenge of weaving a tale that not only stood up against scientific possibilities, but will scare the proverbial pants off readers.
Imagine a world where the skies are protected from giant insects by men and women who climb into flying steel contraptions. Or perhaps you like the idea of nanobots quietly working in the background to effect positive change, only to find out that maybe those changes aren’t completely beneficial. How about genetic manipulation gone horribly wrong? Fiction that may not be too far from fact…
All of these terrifying, yet thought provoking scenarios are part of this collection of tales that definitely have some genuine kick!
Dead Serious: A Story of the Invaders — Paul M. Feeney
Hive Mind — Alex Woolf
The Unity Contagion — B. David Spicer
SkyDogs — Richard Farren Barber
Grey Sands — DJ Tyrer
Waiting Time — Rivka Jacobs
First Second — Jason D’Aprile
Idle Puppet — Dev Jarrett
Face Value — P.N. Roberts
The Forgotten Ones — J. D. Waye
What Really Happened on Green Moon 764… — Sergio Palumbo
Under The Twin Eyes — Matthew Smallwood
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