The Virgin Birth of Sharks

“A Great science fiction detective story”

Ian Watson, author of The Universal Machine

Luck and Death at the Edge of the World

NOW AVAILABLE for instant download! Click to find out more.

Last post I promised a few details regarding a new standalone ebook — something that’s not part of The Gat Burroughs Series — so here we go!

My previous standalone publication is Siren Songs in Deep Time, a short story that was originally published under the title Siren in Albedo One, an award-winning journal of science fiction, fantasy, and horror based in Ireland.  Albedo One is a print-only publication, so the story – which was retitled to distinguish it from other books on Amazon — has not been available on the web before.

Coming later this month (July 2012) is my second standalone publication, a novelette called The Virgin Birth of Sharks, which I’m polishing now.

But before we get to the meat of the story, what the heck is a novelette?

Brief aside: what the heck is a novelette? New readers may be wondering what’s up with all this talk of novels, novellas, novelettes, and short stories. The explanation is very practical.

Unlike with a paper book, when you buy an ebook you don’t pick it up and hold it in your hand — you have no sense of its heft, how much stuff there is in it.

Obviously you don’t judge literary merit by bulk, but it might well factor into your decision as to whether or not a book is worth the cover price. And ripoff pseudo-authors on Amazon have sold ebooks that contain virtually no text, understandably pissing off the poor sods who made the mistake of buying their books for inflated prices.

I want to make sure people know what they’re getting, which is why you can always click the “Look Inside” button on my books to see the quality of the writing.  It’s also why I use a set of categories established by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (even for writing that isn’t science fiction) that is based on word count, which can’t be faked.  It goes like this:

Novel: 40,000 words or more (160+ pages)
Novella: 17,500-39,999 words (70-159 pages)
Novelette: 7,500-17,499 words (30-69 pages)
Short story: under 7,500 words (up to 29 pages)

The page counts are approximate, using the standard editing page length of 250 words — the actual number of ebook pages is determined by your ebook reader.

Okay, back to the main post.

What is The Virgin Birth of Sharks?

I started writing the story quite a while ago. Later the framing device jumped out at me from a news story about a shark in a zoo that had given birth even though she had been held in captivity — without any contact with male sharks — since before the time she was sexually mature.

The shark had become pregnant by a process called parthenogenesis — essentially fertilization without a mate — which is common in some species but was unknown in sharks until quite recently.

Here’s a synopsis. More after the jump.

Synopsis:

Rani Perreira has been a street kid since she was thirteen years old. And she’s adapted, becoming as brutal as the world around her.

All she knows about her own origins is that she was born in the infamous Prison for Women — long ago shut down amidst scandal — to a woman named Shaila Perreira, a seeming impossibility since her mother had been isolated from any male contact for years.

Now a chance encounter brings her an unexpected glimpse into her family history, reveals a score she must settle, and inspires her with a disorienting desire to start a new and very different life.

The Virgin Birth of Sharks, available in July 2012

The Virgin Birth of Sharks, available in July 2012

I’m not going to give a long excerpt because the story gets going pretty early and I don’t want to spoil my own book, but here’s the very short opening installment.

Toronto Newscrawl.com, May 5

MYSTERIOUS ZOO BIRTHS

Scientists were puzzled this week when a great white shark named Maddie gave birth to two healthy baby sharks, both female. The births are a mystery since Maddie has lived alone in an enclosure in the South Africa Pavilion of the Toronto Zoo for four years and has had no contact with male sharks during that time.

There have been only two similar occurrences recorded. A spotted bamboo shark gave birth to two offspring at the Belle Isle Aquarium in Detroit in 2002, despite the fact that the mother had not been near a male in six years. A bonnethead shark at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska gave birth in 2001 under similar conditions.

Parthenogenesis, a process by which an animal may give birth without mating, is not uncommon amongst some species, but was unknown amongst sharks until 2001.

Officially the baby sharks have been named Carmen and Miranda. Unofficially, however, zoo staff have jokingly taken to calling them Lust and Pride, after two of the seven deadly sins.

“It was a bit of black humor, because of the great white’s deadly reputation,” a member of the staff who did not wish to be identified told Toronto Newscrawl.com “but the names just kind of stuck. The paperwork says Carmen and Miranda, but they’ll always be Lust and Pride to us.”

Check back here — or better yet subscribe to this blog — I’ll be announcing publication soon!

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