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Perpetual Outsider

Olga Werby Author Interview

Olga Werby Author Interview

What I like most about Harvest is the ability to throw around technical terms but still keep things grounded and understandable. How did you find that balance in your story?

I love books that not only captivate me with their narrative and make me fall for their characters, but also those from which I walk away feeling that I have learned something new. Science, especially science discussed in this book, is difficult. Most people don’t advance too far in their science education. Not because they don’t want to, but because the incentives in life tend not to align with getting PhDs in physics and astrophysics and chemistry and anthropology… That doesn’t mean that most readers are not interested in those topics. I believe just the opposite is true—readers of science fiction read this genre because they love all the science. So when I find some fascinating bit of research that I get excited about, I want to share my excitement with my readers. I embed enough real science (might as learn something that is true, right?) into my stories, that people hopefully walk away learning something new in a painless and entertaining way. That’s the goal, anyway. To do that, I can’t simply write an info dump, I have to make sure that each thing I ask my readers to learn is motivated by the story. Humans learn by telling each other stories. Science could be taught this way too.

Harvest” is the story of first contact. So by its nature, it has a lot of chemistry and physics and astrophysics nuggets in it. But I wanted to expand the story so that the reader is given tools to think about evolution in general. What would life be like on some other planet? How can we use what we know about our own human evolution to make educated guesses about alien one? We can use logic and deduction to make educated leaps into the unknown. I think the best of science fiction does this. And those are the books I love most. So I write what I love to read. That’s the balance.

I enjoyed the well drawn characters in your novel. Who was your favorite character to write for?

This is always such a difficult question—I’m the author, I gave birth to these people. How could I choose a favorite? But I do have one: Alice. Alice is so smart, both emotionally and intellectually. She has an ancestry of an African Pygmy. She will always be an outsider, even as the society described in my book works hard not to notice her being different. It would be impolite, right? So this perspective of perpetual outsider gives Alice a unique point of view that changes the course of human history…evolution. Being different gives her power. That is something I try to incorporate in all of my stories. We are all different, all unique. We all have weakness, but we also all have powers. I write hard science fiction, but my characters are people who tend to be rejected by their society—crippled, orphaned, cognitively different, emotionally damaged, homeless, broken in some way or another. I want my readers to feel empathy for individuals that are very different from them or to recognize themselves in my characters.

What readers reactions to your story have surprised you the most?

The most surprising reactions to “Harvest” had to do with its being illustrated. Most modern adult books don’t have illustrations. But I grew up with books that did. I fell in love with Captain Blood not only from the narrative of the story but also from his pen & ink portrait in the book! I love the additional dimension images add to a story. Not every illustration is as I imagine it in my mind’s eye, of course, but each is always a thrill. So I wanted to give my readers the same experience that made/makes me happy while reading books. Quite a few of my adult novels are illustrated. I feel like those who don’t like them are free to disregard them, and for those who like that kind of thing you’re welcome!

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Harvest by [Werby, Olga]Almost a century after Keres Triplets asteroid impact and subsequent nuclear exchange almost ended all human life on Earth, a strange artifact is discovered on one of the moons of Saturn. Who should be sent to the outer reaches of the solar system to initiate the first contact with an alien culture? Dr. Varsaad Volhard, an evolutionary-socio-historian, is chosen to help the world understand the alien civilization that left an artifact some thirty thousand years ago, before humans even learned to farm, at the time when other human species still walked the earth. While Vars prepares for the mission, her father, Dr. Matteo Volhard, discovers nanobots among the microplastics he studies. The bots are everywhere and seem to have been created to bond with human cyber implants. Why? Matteo is made to keep his discovery a secret…as well as his and his daughter’s true origins. Both were donated to a Human DNA Vault as babies. Matteo was raised as a Seed before leaving with his young daughter to study ecology around the world. Who knows what? Who is in control? How does one communicate with non-human intelligence? People seem to die in gruesome ways as their cyberhumatics go haywire on Earth and on Luna and Mars colonies. Is Earth under attack or is it all just a cosmic misunderstanding? Vars needs to use all she knows to solve the mystery of the ancient civilization on Mimas, as her dad battles the alien nanobots at home.

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Harvest

Harvest by [Werby, Olga]

Harvest by Olga Werby is an imaginative and disturbing intergalactic science fiction novel. It is about Dr. Varsaad Volhard, a socio-historian who is given the responsibility of initiating contact and trying to understand the artifact found on a strange new planet. This task is handed to her by the Earth Planetary Space Agency which she has always considered in high regard. She understands the burden of this task and charges on undaunted. However, at the same time, her father, Dr. Matteo Volhard makes an unnerving discovery which could have an impact on her work and possibly the whole planet. There appears to be an uncanny connection between the work of both father and daughter. It’s a race against time and threatening mysteries as they try to figure out how to save humanity before it is too late.

The story begins with a ‘ProLog’ where we find that a man’s exoskeleton equipment is failing, Iron Man style. It’s an intense and frantic description of a man vs technology conflict. Add to this a Martian landscape; it was definitely an exciting if jarring start.

The story continues in the adrenaline-fueled manner of the beginning, expecting the reader to keep up with all the sudden twists and turns, and the totally new technology. Although a lot of technical terminology is thrown around, it is rarely confusing. This is because the author has a way of cutting straight to the point- lending to a perfectly paced narrative. All this is done without compromising the humanity of the story. The story is interspersed with gorgeous and detailed sketches of the characters and technology. It complements the narrative perfectly and makes it an engaging read. The characters are well-rounded. Both Matteo and Varsaad are far from perfect people. They deal with their surroundings and situation to the best of their ability and often experience very human flaws and emotions.

I was also surprised by the level of knowledge and detail displayed in the story. Everything from planetary positions to ship design- it was clear that the author knew what she was talking about. It felt almost educational at points, but in the best way possible. It is a creepy tale without being dystopian- as it manages to strike the right balance between realistic fears and imaginative crises.

It’s a great read, so much so that it transcends the nature of its genre. All the elements of a well-told story are present and make for an enthralling adventure.

Pages: 420 | ASIN:  B07R8HGKWN

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Big Bang to Now

Olga Werby Author Interview

Olga Werby Author Interview

Harvest follows Dr. Varsaad who is tasked with exploring an alien artifact which set off a life changing series of events. What was your inspiration for the setup to this thrilling novel?

The first thoughts about writing “Harvest” came from reading an article on the evolution of man several years ago in the Scientific American Magazine. Why did Neanderthals go extinct after 140,000 years of success? Modern humans have been around only a small fraction of the time Neanderthals (and other human species) walked the Earth. Yet, we are here, they are all gone. And I’ve also come across articles on micro pollution. A million years from now, there will still be bits of plastic left incorporated into every ecosystem on our planet even if we cease to be. Very few tangible artifacts are left from other human species that went extinct.

Dr. Varsaad (Vars) Volhard is a scientist who studies why cultures survive. She is an evolutionary-socio-historian. Vars was my way of learning about our own past and exploring the possibilities for the future with my readers. I am a “seat of my pants” kind of writer — this means that after all of the research, I just sit down and write the story that jelled somewhere in my subconsciousness. I have no idea how my novel will turn out, who will live and who will die. I learn the ending just a few months before my readers do. I feel like we are on this journey together. That said, I really like Vars. She is completely out her element, trying to prove her own worth and working so hard to save everyone and everything. And through it all, Vas is still able to love and care for her family, her father. She never loses her humanity even as she stops being human. I admire her… but I am very happy never to be in her situation or having to make her decisions.

There is a subplot to “Harvest” — Vars and her dad are Seeds. I wanted to set my story in world which just barely survived total annihilation after being hit by an asteroid. Just like we have a Seed Vault in the far north to store genetic material of plants, as a precaution against extinction, in my novel, there are Human Vaults that were set up to preserve human genetic diversity after a near extinction event. This combination of an old threat and a new made for more interesting story dynamics. I’ve even written a little prequel to “Harvest” — a story of how Vars met her dad: Fresh Seed. Given the complexities of the setting, I think I might write more in this world. I’m considering writing a novella about how the Human Vaults were set up.

I enjoyed the science and backstory to the aliens and the artifact. What were some themes you wanted to capture when creating this part of the story?

I’m a scientist by training (I have degrees in astrophysics, mathematics, and cognitive science). I’ve always been interested in human history and the history of science — why did certain human populations pursued science while others didn’t? Why did some civilizations thrived while others failed? Why is human progress so unevenly distributed across history and geography? I’ve spent several years doing research and gathering information for this book. And to my surprise, many times the answers to these questions came down to simple luck. In our day and age, if you are born American, you are probably getting enough food to eat everyday and have sufficient schooling to be literate. To someone born into poverty and political unrest of Yemen, for example, you might be considered born lucky. Luck played a critical roll in success in many-a-civilization. Those with the most and easiest ways to extract natural resources always win the life lottery. I wanted to find out how this principle would scale to galactic proportions — what does it take to develop life and a thriving civilization some place outside of Earth, beyond our Solar System? To my surprise, luck was still the guiding principle to success. My book “Harvest” explores this theme to its fullest, taking in account the limited time since our universe came to be — Big Bang to now. What would it mean to be the first sentient advanced civilization in our galaxy? And what if that is not us?

What is the next story that you are working on and when will it be available?

This Fall, I’ve also released another novel: “God of Small Affairs”. In many ways, it is a mirror image of “Harvest”. But while “Harvest” is a hard science fiction, “God of Small Affairs” is written in magical realism genre. It focuses on a few months around Christmas time of life of a First Nations man who is charged with bringing home a god after that god have fulfilled a task assigned to it by the tribe elders. It is a simple mission — put the god on the train and take her to Alaska — but everything goes wrong. If gods walked among us — the kind of gods that one could just have a conversation with across a dinner table — would we ever be able to grow up, to take responsibility for our own actions? Would one rely on himself to save a child in need when a god could probably do so much better? “God of Small Affairs” is a work of dark fantasy fiction centered on themes of culture, belief, community, and hope.

I’m currently working of two…three stories. One — “Mirror Shards” — is a story of loss and regret. When is the price of personal happiness too high? Another — “Good Girl” — explodes the themes of artificial intelligence. What happens when an AI goes mad? And finally — “Word Magic” — is a story about linguistics. In particular, it focuses on how language can be used as an ultimate weapon of manipulation. There is a short prequel to “Word Magic” that has been turned into a little audio play by 600 Second Saga. I’m in the early stages of writing this novel. “Good Girl” is a novella that is finished and is awaiting yet another round of edits prior to publication (I got it back from my editor a few months back but have been too busy to finalize it). “Mirror Shards” is about 1/3 done…I wonder what happens next…

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Harvest by [Werby, Olga]Almost a century after Keres Triplets asteroid impact and subsequent nuclear exchange almost ended all human life on Earth, a strange artifact is discovered on one of the moons of Saturn. Who should be sent to the outer reaches of the solar system to initiate the first contact with an alien culture? Dr. Varsaad Volhard, an evolutionary-socio-historian, is chosen to help the world understand the alien civilization that left an artifact some thirty thousand years ago, before humans even learned to farm, at the time when other human species still walked the earth. While Vars prepares for the mission, her father, Dr. Matteo Volhard, discovers nanobots among the microplastics he studies. The bots are everywhere and seem to have been created to bond with human cyber implants. Why? Matteo is made to keep his discovery a secret…as well as his and his daughter’s true origins. Both were donated to a Human DNA Vault as babies. Matteo was raised as a Seed before leaving with his young daughter to study ecology around the world. Who knows what? Who is in control? How does one communicate with non-human intelligence? People seem to die in gruesome ways as their cyberhumatics go haywire on Earth and on Luna and Mars colonies. Is Earth under attack or is it all just a cosmic misunderstanding? Vars needs to use all she knows to solve the mystery of the ancient civilization on Mimas, as her dad battles the alien nanobots at home.

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Harvest

Harvest by [Werby, Olga]

Harvest by Olga Werby is a fresh change in a genre that is littered with superheroes or with stories in a galaxy far away and distant future. These may be entertaining to our superficial senses; rarely these evoke deeper emotions in the way this book does.

Harvest takes place in the future, where colonies on other planets exist, necessitated in response to an asteroid impact 100 years ago. The story begins with anthropologist Dr Varsaad Volhard, brought on board an exploration expedition to explore an alien artifact. When Dr. Varsaad’s father starts making shocking discoveries back on earth regarding intelligent life forms, things start to go awry.

On the spaceship, things start going wrong soon after they lift off to Mimas, a site on Saturn’s moon where the alien artifact is located. Their voyage is wrought with tense emotion and thrilling suspense that kept me hooked. When the team starts exploring the artifact is when the story really got interesting for me. The character development and story progression were steady up to this point, but the intrigue is turned up to maximum when the team starts exploring.

This is a novel that shifts quickly. When things go wrong, the characters and the story shift and lead you in a new direction.

The author writes an amazing and engaging plot that kept me tethered to the story. The pace is excellent and the story never gets bogged down by the details. Characters are well defined and the origins of the lead characters are gradually explored as they uncover secrets that have huge ramifications for humanity. I particularly liked the realism integrated into the story combined with the technology from both humans and aliens, which gave the story a frightful combination that made me wonder if such a future would be possible.

The story is a delightful and enjoyable read that you can really immerse yourself in. It will prove to be a perfect novel for any sci-fi fan who really wants to dig their teeth into more than light saber rattling.

Pages: 420 | ASIN:  B07R8HGKWN

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