Close Encounters…in 60 Seconds

Multi-genre author Katherine Allred told Tor.com that the road to writing her new SF novel, Close Encounters, was a long one that began at the age of four when she first discovered Superman comics.

“Those comics fostered my love of science fiction and led me to delve even deeper into the genre,” Allred said in an interview. “So even though I began my writing career with romance novels, my goals were always aimed toward science fiction. The idea for Close Encounters erupted when I watched a news program on TV about genetic engineering and the moderator had a moral objection to what he termed ‘designer babies.’ Naturally, my imagination went wild. The Alien Affairs series is the result, with Close Encounters being book one.”

The book follows Kiera Smith, a genetically-engineered person (GEP) who works as agent for the Bureau of Alien Affairs, and has special empathic abilities to work with alien races. “But thanks to a geneticist with a God complex, the Bureau got a lot more than they bargained for—Kiera is stronger, faster, smarter and more impervious to harm than the average GEP,” Allred said. “When Dynatec, an independent trade company, files a chapter twenty on the planet Orpheus Two that will give them sole ownership after the indigenous race dies out, Kiera is assigned the mission of discovering what they are after and, if possible, to save the dying Buri from extinction. The secrets the Buri hide have the potential to change the Galactic Federation forever, if not destroy it completely. To save both the Buri and the Federation, Kiera must not only accept her differences, but embrace them fully for the first time in her life.”

In spite of her near-superhero status, Kiera is a bit naive about natural humans. “She was raised in a crèche by other GEPs and has spent the intervening years onboard her sentient ship, Max, or with alien races,” Allred said. “As a result, she became addicted to old vids from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, which gives her a slightly skewed sense of humor. Add her sharp mind and her bombshell looks in with her other talents, and Kiera is a force to be reckoned with.”

In the world of the Galactic Federation, the population of Earth is no more, having died out from a deadly strain of avian virus. “The only human survivors were the colonists to Alpha Centauri,” Allred said. “In desperate need of manpower, the colonists used the science they’d brought with them to create GEPs. The GEP’s creation is strictly controlled by the government, who only allows them to be created to fill specific job needs. Once created, the GEPs are mature and educated by the age of thirteen, and then must work to repay the cost of their creation. In theory, GEPs have the same rights as Natural humans, but bigotry is never far from the surface.”

Close Encounters is the first book in a series of three, with the second Alien Affairs book due out in 2010. “Each book will have a new GEP heroine,” Allred said. “The third and final book will be a springboard to a new series that continues to explore the GEP’s place in the universe and how society views them.”

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