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Endosymbiont on the Air

Dearly Beloved You All:

As you might recall from this post, I’m very passionate about read-aloud fiction. For that reason, I’m especially proud to announce that the distinguished Escape Pod podcast has produced a performance of my novella, Endosymbiont. (If you’re a reader more than a listener you can read an online copy of the story here or pick up a hardback of the Seeds of Change anthology)

It’s the story of a very opinionated, sometimes foul-mouthed young woman who’s trying to cope with brain cancer when she discovers that she’s in a hospital for the dead. Things get stranger as the story goes one. It was inspired by two patients I encountered as a first year medical student (another post on that upcoming) and on my father’s struggle with cancer. It was also the first bit of fiction I ever published.

In a way, Endo never felt like my story; rather, it felt like the story of cancer survivors I encountered. I made up my mind then to donate any money I might make off of the story to cancer treatment and research. So the cash that Escape Pod paid to me has gone to the American Cancer Society. If you’d like to get involved, I’d encourage you to visit their website at www.cancer.org.


12 Responses to “Endosymbiont on the Air”

  • I really enjoyed the story. I read it about a year ago when it first popped up online. In some ways I like your SciFi voice better than your fantasy one. It was a little drier, more detached, more clinical. Having read it before Spellwright, I was a little surprised to note how different in tone the two works were.

    On another note, I just found out, oh, two hours ago that my dad has lung cancer. So your donating your proceeds to charity suddenly has a personal side for me. Thanks for doing that. I didn’t realize your dad had cancer. Right now I need to hear survivor stories. 🙂

    • phew. tyson, my sympathy with having to deal with that diagnosis. i’ll be thinking of you two. and, yeah, it was a bit crazy.

      i wonder if you’d be surprised to learn that i wrote Endo after Spellwright. my first draft of the book was completed when i was 23–and though the book went through many revisions it remained largely the book of early-20s-me. i’m curious to see what you think of Spellbound, which is in the same, lighter-hearted mode of Spellwright, but most def 30-year-old-me.

  • As I said on Twitter last night, I thought Endosymbiont was wonderful. What I was wondering though, was there a conscious symbolism with not just the doors in the last scene, but in the scene with Dr Mandala as well? I know Stephanie called it a Möbius strip, but it reminded me about the endless cycles that days at a hospital are.

    It took me back to when I had to stay in the hospital for three weeks. The way Stephanie can’t remember stuff, it turns out to be very sinister, but at one point I couldn’t remember what day it was either, because each day was almost the same. So was that intentional or is that just my personal association?

    And I wondered, have you done your peds rotation yet? Because that remark about female docs expecting to be doctors to the tiny pediatric patients and not knowing what to do with the older ones sure came across heartfelt!

    Would you consider writing more SF after finishing the Spellwright books? Or do you prefer writing fantasy?

    • Hi Mieneke! Thanks so much for the kind words, I’ll try to answer best I can. Yes, Dr. Mandala’s doors and the Mobius strip is an intentional symbol. A ‘mandala’ is an symbol for the endlessness of the world, like the Ouroboros (snake biting its own tale), or like a prokaryotic genome which is a perfect circle. The endlessness/sameness of the hospital is also intentional; the story is about how Stephanie’s identity is being slowly sterilized away, and that’s more or less what we do in the hospital–we take away your clothes, put you in a gown, put you in a room like every other room, take away your name and give you a wrist band with a barcode. etc etc. the snark about the pediatricians was stolen from one of the women that served as the inspiration for Stephanie’s character.

      • Your patients have barcodes on their wrist bands? That would be stripping away individuality. Mine just had my name. I love that even in answering me you keep to hospital/medicine-related language, sterilized instead of stripped.
        And I can see it’s been too long since I did serious text analysis, I caught Mandala and the Möbius strip, but I missed the snake and the prokaryotic genome. My brain’s gotten rusty since I took Lit classes at university!

        • there names are also on the id bracelets; but the bar codes help reduce medication errors (the bracelet is scanned and then the prescription label is scanned to make sure that the right drug is getting to the right patient at the right time). it’s a good thing, to be sure…but it’s not so personable!

          • Oh I see! Yes it’s a good thing then, that way accidents like the one with Helen you described in your strong women post can’t happen any more. Wonder how they double check that over here. Will have to ask dad about that!

  • Just listened to the story via Escape Pod. Loved the tech! I’ve had the same thoughts around mitochondria for a while and absolutely loved how the evolution of man was being stopped by the Anti-Singularity movement.

    The timing of the release was great, with the recent Jeopardy contest showing machines can decipher language.

    Can’t wait for your next ideas, -gs

    • Heh! Hadn’t thought about about the connection to Watson, maybe should have pushed that one. And thank you very kindly for the listen and the feedback. I’ve been itching to find the time to knock out a short story (don’t tell my editor 😉

  • I just listened to Endosymbiont on Escape Pod. I am, even more than a day after completing it, still realizing new impressive and creative twists and literary components to the story that I find very pleasing. This story has won a permanent place in my collection. That lead me reading your bio and other content on your page and I was shocked and impressed to find that you started from Dyslexia. I find that interesting because I ran nearly the exact same course of learning, though I took a different academic track, and my mother used the same solution on me with a very similar result. Yours will be the next books I buy.

    • hello sony! thanks so much for stopping by and for the kind words regarding endosymbiont. it’s always wonderful to bump into fellow dyslexics. would love to hear about your course through it all!

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