The middle volume of this series, The Pet Plague, is the first novel I completed. I wrote it soon after purchasing my first computer, a Radio Shack Tandy 1000, a laughably inadequate computer now, but I was so awesomely impressed at the time, that it revived my lifelong interest in writing. The big drawback before had been my typing skills. As a self-taught typist, I never learned to look away from the keyboard and made many errors. Now I found that my mishaps with the keyboard were so easily corrected with the word processing program, that it seemed almost like magic to me. I got busy.
I?m an inveterate science fan and try to follow developments in both the physical and biological sciences as best I can. Even back when I first wrote The Pet Plague in 1990, there was lots of research going on in genetics. That subject has fascinated me ever since my first science course many years ago?and still does, for that matter. There’s just so much potential in it, for both good and ill, that it becomes increasingly hard not to think about it these days. The developments in genetics which I wrote about back then were considered science fiction of the wildest sort. Now, many of them appear to be just over the horizon.
The Pet Plague began one fine day after learning the ins and outs of my superduper computer, which came with an amazing 64KB of RAM (That’s KB, not MB or Gig). I transferred a few thoughts on genetics into digital ones and zeros. Upon re-reading it, I thought, You know, that sounds almost like the beginning of a science fiction novel. And with that, I was off.
I wrote The Pet Plague in just a couple of months, with no clear idea of plotting, character development, writing techniques and only a hazy notion of grammar beyond knowing that subject and verb had to look like they belonged together, and that sentences generally started with a capital letter and ended with a period. In looking back over the original manuscript, I?m amazed that it turned out as well as it did.
With all the writing and books I?ve had published since then, and with a following in the ebook readers? world so loyal that I usually outsell nationally known and award-winning authors? ebooks, I suspect my readers have the impression that I?m very worldly and sophisticated. Not so. I entered the world of publishing with as little knowledge as a first grader trying to start college and the naivety of a jungle savage suddenly being plunked down in the modern world. Naturally, I got taken for a ride. Besides being na?ve, trusting and very unsophisticated, I?m honest. At the time, I expected people and businesses associated with publishing to be honest, too. And just to complicate matters, I blindly selected an agent from a list in a book and sent them my manuscript without knowing the first thing about how to gauge the worthiness of a literary agent. I was ripe for the plucking, but just to compound the situation, I had the incredibly bad luck to pick one of the biggest crooks in the business.
Just to make a long story short, I got scammed out of a lot of cash in "agent’s fees", "reading fees", "co-op publishing" and various other schemes designed to separate me from my money in hopes of getting my books published. Yes, books, because during the years I dealt with that crooked agency, I wrote several more novels and with unbelievable naivety, sent them to the same place. The whole pile of cards collapsed several years later and I was left with half a dozen manuscripts unsold, my finances depleted and trust in my fellow humans sorely abused. As a sidebar, I did gain a bit of understanding of how scam artists work and put the knowledge to use in a novel about a con man, Hotline To Heaven, which is available in print and as an ebook.
The next chapter in the story of The Pet Plague concerns ebooks. These are books published in digital format, designed to be read on desktops, laptops, PPCs, PDAs and lately, even phones. I had about given up on my chances of ever becoming a published author when I ran across a place on the net where you could post manuscripts for viewing by readers and prospective publishers. I posted a collection of humorous stories I had been writing for family and friends there and soon afterward, received an offer to publish the collection as an ebook, Life On Santa Claus Lane. That began my journey into the world of ebooks and electronic publishing.
E-publishing was just getting off the ground then. Over the next few years, all the books I had written were accepted by various E-book publishers, including The Pet Plague. Alas, one of the companies was run by another crook?the very one who had the rights to The Pet Plague. I didn?t lose any money this time, and the book was published briefly, with sales of only a few dozen copies. When the company’s owner quit sending royalties (such as they were), I withdrew The Pet Plague for cause, and looked around some more. I even sent it to a few legitimate print publishers, now that I more or less knew what I was doing?finally. Both Avon and DAW were complimentary and wrote me nice letters, but neither bought it. Back to the ebooks. I found another publisher, Double Dragon, just about the same time that fictionwise.com and ereader.com, distributors of ebooks, were getting a good start. And the rest, as the old saying goes, is history. Again, The Pet Plague went out to readers?and even though it hadn?t been edited well (hardly any ebooks were at first), it did gain me a following. Eventually, Double Dragon even brought it out as a trade paperback, where it has sold rather slowly but has never gone out of print. It even got a review in The Science Fiction Chronicle.
I have to back up here for a bit. Soon after I wrote The Pet Plague, and while I was still enamored with how easy writing was with a word processing program, I did a sequel called Space Pets. Years later, after my name got to be fairly well-known among ebook readers, I pulled the dusty floppy disk of this novel out and it, too, went to Double Dragon, largely unedited. I didn?t think it was as good as the first book, but reader response was very favorable, and it was also issued as a trade paperback.
Now skip ahead three years. By 2004, my name had become very well-known among ebook readers and I was selling books as fast as I could write them. In fact, I pulled out some old manuscripts I had never finished for one reason or another. One of these was written about the same time I first did The Pet Plague and had a similar theme. I revised it a bit and completed it as a prequel to The Pet Plague. It was published as an ebook, but has never been issued in print. For those of you who read books only in print, this will be your first look at Altered Humans.
And that brings us up to the present time, where I?m sitting at my computer desk writing this introduction. If you?ve stayed with me, and bought this book in print, you get one novel you haven?t read before. For ebook readers who have bought all three novels in this series, only this introduction will be new, but all the books have been re-edited and updated. I?ve also made a few revisions here and there.
I would like to say a few words about genetics and other subjects before leaving you to your reading. The Pet Plague is entirely fiction, of course, but several trends I noted when I first wrote the book continue to occupy public attention. Global warming continues. I just recently read a report about the Siberian permafrost beginning to melt for the first time since the last ice age, and that will only accelerate the warming as so much methane previously locked up in the permafrost enters the atmosphere. Genetic science continues on its fast path. Dogs and cats have been cloned. The human genome has been deciphered. Chimeras are being created. Ethical, legal and religious objections to aspects of genetics, which have already become possible, such as human cloning, are being voiced. Some of the outcry is logical, but a lot of it is largely based on emotional or religious objections. A good example is genetically modified food. It has become so common, there’s a movement against its consumption. They luddite call it "Frankenfood" in an effort to scare people off, even though it is perfectly safe. With all that going on at the present time, who’s to say that fifty years from now we won?t be cloning humans, selecting genes for our progeny and routinely acquiring pets almost as intelligent as we are? I sure wouldn?t bet against it. Once the genie is out of the bottle, it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to stuff it back in.
Space travel has developed rather slower than I (and most other people) thought it would after the first moon landing by humans way back in 1969, but I believe with private enterprise entering the field, progress will become more and more rapid. There’s nothing like money and competition to spur development. If I ever have a million copy best seller, it’s possible that I could realize my lifelong dream of traveling in space before I die, simply by plunking down the money. My wife Betty has told friends that if I could go up in the space shuttle, I would, even if I knew it would blow up two minutes after blast off. She’s not far from wrong. At my age, that wouldn?t be a bad way to go. It would beat laying around in a nursing home all to hell.
Sexual mores have been changing since the sixties. The sexual environment I portrayed in The Pet Plague has largely arrived. With the advent of the internet, sexual practices continue to evolve very rapidly. A lot of the sexual content in the book seems almost tame compared to our everyday headlines now. One amusing development is the explosion of sexually explicit ebooks, driven almost entirely by female readers and writers.
Well, I suppose I could ramble on, but I won?t. Let me just say thanks to all you good readers who have delved into The Pet Plague Universe and have helped me along the writing and publishing road by purchasing and reading my books. I sincerely hope you?ve enjoyed those tales as much as I enjoyed the writing of them, and I hope you have a good time reading (or re-reading) these three novels. Most of the subject matter revolves around events and developments I?m interested in. It’s been said over and over again: write about what you know. I don?t claim to be an expert on many aspects of the possible future I wrote about here, but I do try to keep at least marginally well-versed in most of the science involved. I stretched the envelope quite a bit sometimes, as science fiction writers are wont to do, but it was all in fun.
For those of you who wrote me about The Pet Plague, thank you. Letters are always welcome. For those interested in what I?m doing now and what my life is like, you can examine my monthly newsletter at www.darrellbain.com. You can also write to me at the email address there. I talk about books, as well as lots of other stuff not related to writing or publishing in my monthly newsletter and comments about it are also welcomed.
But now I?ve talked, or written rather, enough. Time to go. Those mirror neurons I?m involved with writing about now are calling.
Whoops! One more note. I?ve been asked if I?ll ever write another book in this series, and carry on the tale. Honestly, I don?t know. I really wanted to do at least another short story or novella to go with this trilogy, but I have so many other projects underway at the present time that I just couldn?t get to it. So many stories to write, so little time?