Tue
Mar 3 2009 1:50pm

The Comet’s Curse...in 60 Seconds

Young adult SF author Dom Testa told Tor.com that his new novel, The Comet’s Curse, was born primarily out of frustration.

“I’ve hosted writing workshops for young adults for many years, and I began to find that too many novels written for that age group were top-heavy with ‘messages’ and yet pretty light on fun and adventure,” Testa said in an interview. “For a day or two I mapped out a rough idea, imagined a cast of characters (which ended up changing considerably over time), and tried to lay out a tale that I would have enjoyed at that age. Within a week I was convinced that I wanted the story to feature a group of teenagers, on their own, with no adults around.”

In the book, the Earth has passed through the tail of a comet, and deadly particles in the comet’s tail have contaminated the planet’s atmosphere. “Within weeks a disease has spread around the globe, devastating the adult population; kids appear to be immune until their late teens,” Testa said. “Scrambling against time, a plan is hatched to build a remarkable spacecraft called Galahad and launch a crew of teenagers toward a new world, in a desperate attempt to save the human race. Once underway, however, the crew finds that an intruder has snuck aboard Galahad and is threatening to destroy them.”

Testa was raised a military brat, and moved quite often as a kid. “There are elements of The Comet’s Curse where I drew upon some of the loneliness that I remember from those days, from often being the new kid in school, and leaving friends behind,” he said. “Yet I also developed a strong sense of self over time, and learned to rely on myself at an early age. That’s exactly what the characters in the book must do when a crisis is forced upon them. I would add, however, that I also developed a great sense of humor and loved to laugh. One of the primary characters in The Comet’s Curse is a talking, thinking computer named Roc, who is pretty irreverent and sarcastic. A lot of my own sense of fun leaks out through him.”

Testa said it was fun gathering as much information about space flight and the solar system as he could, because he naturally loves that stuff anyway. “I’m the kid who not only had rock star posters on my bedroom wall, but posters of Saturn V rockets and the Viking Mars lander,” he said. “I had an honest-to-God rocket scientist friend of mine work out some details for the book series. It was hilarious when he came to my house for a party and we excused ourselves, went to my office, and poured over calculations involving planetary orbits and velocities.”

In this first book of the series, the focus is on the spacecraft itself, as well as imagining what it’s like in the outer reaches of the solar system and onward into deep space. “The best is yet to come, I believe, if and when the characters reach their destination in the Eos star system, where there are not one, but two Earth-like planets,” Testa said. “I can’t wait.”

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