VS Note: I’m moving this older archive post up after editing it a bit to reflect the current goings-on with the Wuhan coronavirus making a break out into the world. The numbers of infected keep rising, although as we’re aware to date, the mortality rate is pretty low. (Or someone is hiding a lot, says the suspicious scifi author in my head.) I’m not sure yet if we’re now living within the early stages of a scifi apocalyptic situation but I will say I’m keeping an eye on social media (because you learn a lot there even if you do have to sift carefully through misinformation), official channels and the local situation.
Hopefully this will be another “not this time thank goodness” situation for the world, where we all breathe a collective sigh of relief and move on to other worries until the next virus makes a move on us as a host.
But since I had written a scifi novel about an outbreak on an interstellar passenger liner and there is now at least one Earthly cruise liner under total quarantine, waiting to see if their passengers have the Wuhan bug or not, I figured I’d re-publish this post on my reasons why I wrote my novel.
My sympathies and good wishes to everyone on the ship and in the world who is dealing with the virus right now, or who may already have lost loved ones. And my deepest admiration and appreciation for the medical personnel who step up and do their best to save lives, while risking their own at times.
To the rest of us – Stay safe and healthy!
I’ve always been fascinated by epidemics and the measures that the medical profession must take in order to deal with an outbreak. My Dad had cholera as a kid and I believe was the only person in the entire state of New York that year to have it, and eventually the epidemiologist tracked the source to an apple he’d eaten, from a tree near an infected water source. Hearing my father talk about this incident inspired me to read a book on epidemiology, with fascinating stories of doctors locating Patient Zero, or the first person to come down with the disease in question, and trying to figure out where that person acquired the illness, among other things.
I love movies like “Outbreak” and “Contagion.” There’s a 1992 TV movie entitled “Black Death” with Kate Jackson, about the plague breaking out in New York City that I particularly enjoy. Of course these fictional tales have a happy ending, and the cure is found. Very reassuring.
Since I write romances with Happy Ever After endings, I took an ultimately more cheerful route in my own story.
So long story short, I always wanted to write a plague story because the subject fascinates me. There’s that whole aspect of what would I or the reader do if we were caught in the situation. Would we figure out what was happening soon enough? Could we save ourselves and our loved ones?
At the same time, I also wanted to write more novels about interstellar cruise liners. I created a wonderful starship for Wreck of the Nebula Dream and then of course had to destroy her, but as time went on, I kept thinking of intriguing stories I could tell on a cruise ship sailing the stars. I loved the idea of using the ship as my “village”, with a recurring cast of characters. The two ideas came together, in Star Cruise: Outbreak, partially inspired by a run of news stories at the time about noroviruses on ocean-going cruise ships. I pondered what would happen if a seemingly benign-but-unpleasant bug hit an interstellar cruise ship and was really the start of a much more serious outbreak, harbinger of something never seen before.
I’m still tempted to write a book (or two) about a mysterious epidemic hitting a colony in the far future so we’ll see if that happens or not.
I’ve used the design and details I developed for the Nebula Dream to create a newer, upgraded liner named the Nebula Zephyr, and staffed her with a crew and passengers who have to deal with this outbreak. After a lot of research into various earthly diseases, I came up with an alien ailment that combines deadly aspects of several real viruses and conditions. I decided my main characters would be Emily the ship’s new doctor and Jake, the head of security. Both are military veterans and suffering from varying degrees of PTSD, so that’s an added complication for them to work through on their way to romance, as they handle the outbreak.
I also brought back Meg and Red from Star Cruise: Marooned as secondary characters in this novel. Many of the characters (and pets) in Outbreak appear in the other Star Cruise stories but this can definitely be read as a standalone.
I’ve since utilized the Nebula Zephyr as a setting for other novels and novellas and each year try to write at least one story happening on board the ship. The story for 2019 was STAR CRUISE: IDOL’S CURSE in the Pets In Space® 5 anthology.
Here’s the story for Star Cruise: Outbreak:
She saved countless soldiers in the wars … but does she have the weapons to fight an outbreak?
Dr. Emily Shane, veteran of the Sector Wars, is known as “The Angel of Fantalar” for her bravery under fire as a medic. However, the doctor has her own war wounds–severe PTSD and guilt over those she failed to save.
Persuaded to fill a seemingly frivolous berth as ship’s doctor on the huge and luxurious interstellar cruise liner Nebula Zephyr, she finds the job brings unexpected perks–a luxe beach deck with water imported from Tahumaroa II, and Security Officer Jake Dilon, a fellow veteran who heats her up like a tropical sun.
However, Emily soon learns she and Jake didn’t leave all peril behind in the war. A mysterious ailment aboard the Zephyr begins to claim victim after victim … and they must race against time and space to find the cause and a cure! Trapped on a ship no spaceport will allow to dock, their efforts are complicated by a temperamental princess and a terrorist–one who won’t hesitate to take down any being in the way of his target. If anyone’s left when the disease is through with them…