By Stewart Ross, author of The Soterion Mission
Where does this book come from?
Why, I wondered, do we write a book for ‘young adults’ – and then not call the readers adults or treat them as such? Strange. And why do we keep stretching out the thing we call ‘childhood’ longer and longer? What were ‘teenagers’ before the word was invented? Did they exist? Have we in the West invented them, and could they be de-invented?
The more I thought, the more the questions came. Why is it that Year 6 kids at primary school are given and can accept considerable responsibility, but the same people a year later – now Year 7 – are all too often regarded as incapable of tying up their own shoes? It’s odd, too, that in some societies, even today, one passes from childhood into adulthood in a single day or so with a coming-of-age ceremony.
In other words, have we really thought through what we mean by ‘adult’ and ‘child’? Perhaps we keep people young and immature by treating them as such. In doing this we do them, and ourselves a disservice.
These are some of the thoughts I have tried to explore in the Soterion Mission.
How was the plot conceived?
If you’ve read the above, you’ll know that I needed to create a situation in which people had to grow up quickly. Very quickly. That meant getting rid of adults. I thought of war and famine and plague, but all of those involved killing off young people as well as wrinklies. Some other sort of disaster, a totally new one, was needed.
Our DNA programme dictates that the species lives for a certain length of time. How might that programme be altered? The answer was the seemingly harmless 2017 pandemic of Mini Flu. Consequence: by the end of 2019 everyone over the age of 19 had gone. Dead.
What happened next was nasty, bloody and extremely painful and so I leaped a century to 2106. By this time, the world of Constants and Zeds had settled down … and the story could begin.
How did the plot develop?
The Soterion Mission was originally published online by Fiction Express. I wrote a chapter in a week and each one ended with a three-way choice as to what should happen next. When writing the next chapter I had to follow the result of the popular vote. So there you have it – a book with a plot devised by the readers and myself working hand in hand. Unique.
So what happens in this adult-free world of 2106?
You’ll have to read the book! And in case you’re a bit worried that it’s all blood and guts, don’t worry – I have a strong sense of humour and even Timur the Terrible, the foulest of foul Zeds, is presented with what I hope is a delicious mix of fear, hatred, tears and smiles.
Don’t believe me? Well, there’s only one way to find out.
You can buy The Soterion Mission on Hive and support your local independent bookshop by clicking here