Wednesday 29 November 2017

ARIA: Left Luggage by Geoff Nelder

Today I have the pleasure of featuring an intriguing piece of speculative fiction with elements of sci-fi and fantasy.
About the Author
Geoff Nelder has a wife, two grown-up kids, and lives in rural England within an easy cycle ride of the Welsh mountains.
Publications include several non-fiction books on climate reflecting his other persona as a Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society; over 50 published short stories in various magazines and anthologies; thriller, humour, science fiction, and fantasy novels. He’s been a fiction judge on several occasions, and has co-written a guide on winning short story competitions. A former teacher for 30 years, Geoff is now a freelance editor.
Amazon author page, ARIA Facebook page, Xaghra's Revenge Facebook page
Follow @geoffnelder
About the Book
Today, Jack caught a bug at work. He catches a bus home. By the time he disembarks in Rosamond, all the other passengers and the driver have fuzzy heads. Jack had caught an amnesia bug, and it’s infectious. Imagine the ramifications: The passengers arrive home infecting family; some shop en route infecting everyone they meet. The bus driver receives more passengers giving them change for last week’s prices and today’s amnesia.  Some passengers work at the power plant, the hospital, fire station.  All to shut in weeks. Can Ryder and friends hide from the amnesia bug, and seek revenge?

ARIA: Left Luggage is a medical mystery, apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic, a thriller, a horror and a bit science fiction. It’s on special offer on Kindle at £0.99 here and on Kindle Unlimited. Also available as paperback.
Before we get down to business (i.e. talking about your book) I would like to ask a set of questions I call 'Breaking the Ice.' (readers love to get to know all about their favourite and new authors)

The last book you read? (Inquisitive bookworms would like to know)
The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain. There, that surprised you, didn’t it? Even scifi authors enjoy books across many genres. It’s a dark literary work, yet compelling and clever. Beautifully written and yes, sonatas are in there along with human relationship issues and as aspect of the second world war of which you might not have been aware.

Books or authors who have inspired you to put pen to paper?
I have been writing since a child, my first published story—all right it was a joke—was published way back in 1965. However, I read Tibor Fischer’s The Thought Gang and his ironic humour and cunning plotting spurred me to write more earnestly.

The last book you read, which you felt left a mark (in your heart, soul, name it)
The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North both intrigued me permanently and annoyed me. Not Claire’s fault: her teen protagonist develops a trait whereby everyone more-or-less instantly forgets her. Her folks forget to lay a place at table for her and teachers don’t know her. Perfect for a criminal, but with serious upsetting side effects. Fascinating. Troubling because I’d just written a short scifi story, Locked Out, published by Perihelion SF, in which a character isn’t noticed by people until they bump into him. So similar. How Claire and I laughed at it on twitter.

Are you more of a movie night or series-binger kind of guy?
These days I prefer one-off movies eg Arrival then I read the original: Story of your Life by Ted Chiang and it was quite different! I often enjoy the start of series eg Lost but it seems the writers run out of ideas and don’t know how to finish them.

Which famous person (dead, alive, barely kicking) would you most like to meet?
Omar Khayyam—12th Century Persian mathematician, astronomer and persecuted poet. He would bring his own wine and chat about everything that fascinated us both. From his Rubaiyat:
“A book of verses beneath the bough,
A jug of wine, a loaf of bread and Thou
Beside me singing in the wildnerness—
And wilderness is paradise enow.”
You’re the Thou, of course.

All of the above questions are actually a pretty elaborate pysch evaluation disguised as random questions. Have no fear here come the real ones. Let's talk about ARIA: Left Luggage!

This luggage scenario really begs the question whether humans should just sometimes leave things untouched and not try to go beyond their borders, and not try to solve every single enigma. What do you think?
Are you kidding? We would be strange humans if we lost the intrigue and sometimes curse of curiosity. Part of the curse is that the more we know the more we realise how little we know. We’ve only a vague idea about gravity after Newton and slightly less vague after Einstein. Most of the universe (68%) is made of dark matter and we’ve absolutely no idea what it is. I want to know.

If put in the same position, would you open the luggage? Now for a more complicated version of that question. Knowing that humans have this uncontrollable urge to quench their thirst for knowledge, and because they think they know everything. If you knew what would happen (memory-eating virus) would you still open it? It's a bit like having a big red button in the room that says Do Not Push.
If I knew that opening the case would give everyone infectious amnesia then yes, I’d open it. BUT, not on Earth, not without containment and with virologists eager to study the contents. Maybe it was handled badly, contaminated and the aliens meant well, but it went wrong.

I have to admit I was fascinated by the moral quandary of the need to know instinct in humans and simultaneously knowing that if you get near the mysterious object you will be infected. Are we our own worst enemy?
We are not our own worst enemy, time is. The relentless marching doom-ridden enemy. Our lives are mere flecks in the universe’s timeline and it should be longer. Not timeless because some of us are unbearable already. We are our second worst enemy. As a race we are quite despicable in the way we treat the fellow crew members of Spaceship Earth and our arrogance give us delusions we find hard to shake off. On the other hand humans can be proud of many cultural and humane achievements, not the least being literature.

Viral Dementia-like virus, what a terrifying thought. What gave you the idea or rather what was your inspiration for this story?
I was cycling up Horseshoe Pass, a steep Welsh hill, when I thought of my mum (RIP) who had amnesia after a stroke. That thought spread to another brain cell: thank good amnesia isn’t infectious, just imagine the ramifications! By the time I reached the pass, the amnesia was not only infectious, but there was no cure, no one was immune and it was retrograde with people losing memory backwards at the rate of a year’s worth per week. People forgot their new jobs, new homes, recent divorces…

Of course I would love to know whether you think there are other lifeforms out there in the universe?
We know there are glycolaldehyde—a complex sugar molecule—exists in space, an essential for forming RNA, similar to DNA. We know there must be about 14 billion Earthlike planets in habitable zones in this galaxy alone and 4,000 of them have been found and named. Microorganisms must exist throughout the universe. You might be referring to sentient life. Creatures with intelligence. Yes, there are very likely to be many out there although whether humans can be considered intelligent is up for debate. Life out there might not be as we know it. They might be gaseous, electromagnetic, or bacteria, which individually are insignificant but en masse have incredible sentience. Imagination is a wonderful gift.

Will you be re-visiting ARIA or are you creating other literary adventures? 
I wrote a prequel short story to ARIA set on the alien’s planet. Een’s Revolt on Zadik was published in a Science Fiction Writers’ Sampler anthology in 2014.
Since ARIA I wrote a historical fantasy novel, Xaghra’s Revenge, based on a true, shocking event. In 1551 pirates abducted the entire population of 5,000 off the Mediterranean island of Gozo – one of the Maltese islands. Their spirits have been calling for revenge and I gave it to them.

Thank you for answering all my questions, even the odder ones!
A pleasure. Which one was odd?

I think the plot of Left Luggage is an intentional parallel scenario of one of the world's most worrying health concerns. The occurrence of dementia and the magnitude of the number of people who are forecast to be diagnosed and suffering from this hideous disorder of the brain by the year 2030 is alarming to say the least.

So, Nelder and his Left Luggage trilogy might appear to be a venture into an obscure sci-fi area of speculative fiction, however this scenario is actually closer to the predicted future than one might imagine.

ARIA stands for Alien Retrograde Infectious Amnesia virus. A virus that spreads without bias and quicker than fake news on social media. It infects quickly and the majority of infected people become unwitting carriers. Obviously this means the virus spreads at an extremely fast rate.

The virus isn't man-made, it is in fact alien sent. One of the conundrums of the story is 'the curiosity killed the cat' aspect of human nature. In a room with a big red button that says Do Not Press, we are highly likely to press the button, often despite knowing that it may have disastrous consequences if we do press it.

Nelder presents this element of human nature as a reminder of how fallible we are as a species. We are never content with what we have achieved, and strive to go beyond each seemingly impossible obstacle or unanswered question. Often this leads to achievement with detrimental results.

Ask yourself what you would do in the same situation, would you open the case or leave Pandora's box unopened? Would you make a different decision knowing that the case could be an important link to alien life? In fact I wonder how many of us could restrain ourselves from opening the case.

Buy ARIA: Left Luggage at Amazon Uk, Amazon com or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

The ARIA Trilogy

Buy Xaghra's Revenge

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