Communion Of Dreams

Promising developments.

It’s been seven and a half years since my mother-in-law passed away from Alzheimer’s. A couple years later, we published Her Final Year. Since then I have kept an eye on ongoing research concerning the disease, and have mentioned it here when I thought appropriate. This week, there are several new promising developments to come out of the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Washington, D.C.

First is a saliva test for metabolites which indicate brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s. From this CNN article:

Researchers from the University of Alberta in Canada analyzed saliva samples of fewer than 100 people, divided into three groups based on cognitive ability: 35 with normal aging cognition, 25 with mild cognitive impairment and 22 with Alzheimer’s disease.

Using protein analysis technology, researchers examined the saliva of each individual, analyzing nearly 6,000 metabolites, which are small molecules that are byproducts of chemical reactions in the brain.

The team then discovered specific biomarkers (or patterns of metabolites) in the groups with known Alzheimer’s or mild cognitive impairment, in comparison with the natural aging group, and tested the biomarkers as predictors of cognitive performance.

It’s a very small study, but if additional research into this area bares out the results, this could be a quick and inexpensive screening tool to help determine who may be at risk for Alzheimer’s. Because, as discussed in a very good segment on the Diane Rehm show this morning, early detection helps even though there are limited treatment options for Alzheimer’s (and other age-related dementias). That’s because there are things you can do to prepare for managing the disease: establish necessary legal protections (things like family trusts and durable power of attorney), educate family members and caregivers, investigate daycare and assisted living options, participate in drug and treatment trials, and similar.

Speaking of drug and treatment trials, the Alzheimer’s Association has a very useful online tool for Alzheimer’s patients, care-providers, and family members:

About Alzheimer’s Association TrialMatch®

Alzheimer’s Association TrialMatch is a free, easy-to-use clinical studies matching service that connects individuals with Alzheimer’s, caregivers, healthy volunteers and physicians with current studies. Our continuously updated database of Alzheimer’s clinical trials includes more than 225 promising clinical studies being conducted at nearly 700 trials sites across the country.

This is just one of the new tools which have been made available since we cared for Martha Sr. Because in the last 7+ years, there has been a lot of research and a growing awareness that Alzheimer’s will touch nearly every family at some time.

One of the other pieces of information to come out of this week’s is that women seem to be more susceptible to the disease, and experience a faster decline in their mental abilities than men:

Study: Women with mild memory problem worsen faster than men

Older women with mild memory impairment worsened about twice as fast as men, researchers reported Tuesday, part of an effort to unravel why women are especially hard-hit by Alzheimer’s.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women.

At age 65, seemingly healthy women have about a 1 in 6 chance of developing Alzheimer’s during the rest of their lives, compared with a 1 in 11 chance for men. Scientists once thought the disparity was just because women tend to live longer — but there’s increasing agreement that something else makes women more vulnerable.


There are a number of other factors which can have an impact on those numbers, of course. But even accounting for differences due to education, lifestyle, and social status, the discrepancy between men and women could not be accounted for. And having close family who had Alzheimer’s is a substantial risk factor, about doubling your chances of developing the disease. As is having any kind of major health crises requiring either hospitalization or surgery under general anesthesia.  In each and every case, men seem to fare better than women.

That may not seem to be a “promising development”, particularly if you are a woman in the high-risk category/categories. But it is, in the sense that scientists are now coming to understand the disease much, much better than they did just a decade ago. When we cared for Martha Sr, there really wasn’t a good diagnostic tool to determine whether or not someone had Alzheimer’s — it was a diagnosis confirmed postmortem. Now there are very good imaging tools available for amyloid plaque and tau protein, as detailed at the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative.

As I noted above, there are still very limited treatment and drug options, though even there some hopeful results have been reported at the Conference. But real progress has been made. Alzheimer’s no longer needs to be a devastating diagnosis, something to be feared and hidden. If you, or someone you love, is showing any signs of memory or cognitive impairment, seek help. It’s even possible that through participation in some of the clinical trials you can be part of the solution.


Jim Downey

PS: As noted previously, the Kindle edition of Her Final Year is available as a free download on the first of each month.

Ride a painted pony*

“Could you take care of this for me?” I said. “I find myself surprisingly … attached.”

* * * * * * *

Just a couple pages into Communion of Dreams, there’s this passage:

He picked up a meal at the airport and ate in the car on the way over to his office, relaxing and watching the city roll by around him.

Early in the second chapter there’s this one:

The car he was in threaded through the old suburban streets, past still vacant houses and the occasional empty lot. Following the great death of the fire-flu, many homes had simply been abandoned.

The opening paragraph of Chapter 3:

‘What was it?’ he wondered as the car wound through the streets, stopping before the USSA building. He got out, standing there in the plaza, looking up at the golden plasteel supports and the draping glass fabric.

As a writer, particularly of science fiction, you have to know what to explain and what to just assume. By this I mean you have to explain certain things to the reader, enough to give them a grasp on important story elements, but that you can assume they will fill in the background with other less important elements on their own.

Nowhere in Communion of Dreams do I state that cars are largely self-driving. There’s really no need to. Most readers are used enough to the tropes of science fiction that they can read the above passages, and fill in that detail on their own. It’s a little trick which helps anchor the reality of the book in the mind of the reader quickly.

* * * * * * *

And, honestly, the notion of a self-driving car is only barely science fiction at this point. I mean, one of the primary issues right now is having our legal system play catch-up with the technological changes in this field. From a discussion on the Diane Rehm Show yesterday:

GJELTEN: So the — I guess what — driverless cars have been in development for many years. But the big news this week is this law that passed in California allowing some driving of self-driving cars. Tell us what’s in this law exactly.

LEVANDOWSKI: Well, this law is called SB 1298, and it sets forth the framework for the DMV to set up the guidelines that vehicles will need to adhere to in order to, in the future, be able to drive themselves with or without people inside them. It outlines the type of technical standards, the types of insurance requirements. Everything that you would expect a person to go through when they get their driver’s license, you would expect a vehicle that doesn’t have a driver in it to be able to have.

* * * * * * *

“I do feel that I’m a very lucky, lucky person, in all sorts of ways. And one of the ways in which I’m fortunate is Harry Potter set me free to write whatever I want to write. I don’t — you know, we’re not living hand-to-mouth — I, clearly I can afford to pay all of my bills and now my writing life is a great experience. I can really do whatever I want to do. So I’m a fortunate person — I’m a fortunate writer.”

From JK Rowling’s interview on “Morning Edition” today.

* * * * * * *

“Could you take care of this for me?” I said. “I find myself surprisingly … attached.”

“Sure,” said my wife.


Yeah, to my car.

Which is a surprise. Because I don’t usually become attached to things. Oh, I keep some things for sentimental value, because they are somehow connected to an important person or event in my life.  But otherwise I tend to be very pragmatic about material things.

I got the car new 20 years ago. A Subaru wagon, which served me well. The last five or six years when it needed work I would weigh the pros and cons of getting the work done — was it worth it? Could I afford it? Could I afford not to?

See, I don’t *really* need a car. I work at home. For a while now when I needed to drive any distance, I took my wife’s car anyway, since it is a few years newer and in substantially better shape.

This past spring it developed some exhaust problems. The work it needed was more than the car was worth. I decided the time had come to just sell it and be done. Consolidating down to one car for the household would be a minor annoyance, but made the most sense.

Well, I made the intellectual decision. The emotional one, I found, wasn’t quite as easy.


I owned, and drove, that car for more than half the time I’ve had a driver’s license. There was simple ‘time in harness’ associated with it.

But there was more. Specifically, status.

I don’t worry a lot about status. As in, conventional measures of “success” in our society. When you don’t make a lot of money, you learn to not put so much store in such things, or it’ll drive you completely nuts. And as I noted earlier this year, I don’t make a lot of money.

But confronting the hard truth that I can not afford to buy a new car was a bit more than I really wanted to face. And selling my car meant exactly that. Because in our society, if you sell your car, you’re supposed to get another one. Preferably a new one. At the very least, a newer one. To not do so means you’re not successful.

And you should never, ever, under no circumstances, admit that you’re not successful.

So, yeah, the emotional truth was harder to come to terms with. Which would mean that I would be piss-poor at selling my car — at advertising it, at negotiating a sale, all that stuff.

But I’ve come to realize that there are other approaches to defining success, other strategies which can change how you accomplish things. My Kickstarter project is one such, stepping in to crowd-fund what a conventional publishing contract would previously do.

So I asked my wife to take care of it. She didn’t have the same emotional baggage to contend with. And she took care of it in her usual competent & efficient manner: last night the car drove away from our driveway for the last time.

Who knows? Maybe next year, after St. Cybi’s Well is done and available, it’ll be enough of a hit that I’ll be able to afford a new car. One which can partially drive itself. Stranger things have happened. Just ask JK Rowling.


Jim Downey

*Well, it seemed appropriate.

“An abnormally excitable way.”

I woke about 1:00 this morning, rolled over and looked at the clock. My side hurt, the way it usually does. But it was the nasty bit of headache which had the bulk of my semi-conscious attention. I reached over to the nightstand, picked up the pain pill I had left there. I sat up enough to pop it into my mouth, then picked up the water glass, took a drink to wash the pill down.

About 4:30 I repeated the task.

I still had the headache when I finally woke at about 6:00, just before the radio came on.

* * * * * * *

Our house is about 130 years old. It has a narrow central staircase off the kitchen which leads to the second floor, making three 90-degree turns in the process. As far as I know, these stairs are largely original, though there were some minor modifications made at the bottom back in the 1950s.

Between the first and second turns there’s an exposed nail where someone made a mistake in construction. It came through the riser, but didn’t enter the tread properly. Part of the wood popped loose, and at some point broke away. But it doesn’t really hurt anything, and is out of the way, so no one has ever bothered to fix it.

I notice things like this.

* * * * * * *

The energy dynamic has changed again.

Well, to be honest, it is always changing. But while I had been riding fairly high in my bipolar cycle, now I can feel the old doubts, the old fears starting to creep back in.

Doubts? Fears?

Of failure, of course.

As I contemplate putting together the Kickstarter for St. Cybi’s Well, I start to worry. Will it be successful? How the hell am I going to reach the audience for Communion of Dreams to let them know about it? For that matter — can I even write the damned book, and if I do, will everyone just hate the thing?

* * * * * * *

Yesterday the Diane Rehm Show had a segment about migraines. From the transcript, this is Dr. David Dodick, neurologist at the Mayo Clinic and chair of the American Migraine Foundation speaking:

Well, Diane, when one does a functional scan, like Dr. Richardson just talked about, whether it’s a PET or a functional MRI, we see activation of certain regions in the brain and certain networks in the brain, particularly those networks that process sensory information, like light and noise and pain and emotion. So we see activation of all of these networks during migraine. And indeed what we’ve come to recognize now is that not just during a migraine attack.

But even in between attacks the brain is processing all of that sensory information in an abnormally excitable way. So, migraine was thought to be just a disorder that comes and goes and you’re perfectly normal in between. But we now recognize the fact that it’s an abnormal processing — abnormal network processing in the brain that continues even between attacks.

* * *

And that’s one of the reasons why we, as a medical community, absolutely must take this to sort of more seriously. Migraine sufferers are three times more likely to have psychiatric disorder such as depression, anxiety, bipolar illness. They’re twice as likely to have epilepsy. They’re twice as likely to suffer an ischemic stroke. They’re six to 15 times more likely to develop brain lesions.


* * * * * * *

I woke about 1:00 this morning, rolled over and looked at the clock. My side hurt, the way it usually does. But it was the nasty bit of headache which had the bulk of my semi-conscious attention. I reached over to the nightstand, picked up the pain pill I had left there. I sat up enough to pop it into my mouth, then picked up the water glass, took a drink to wash the pill down.

About 4:30 I repeated the task.

I still had the headache when I finally woke at about 6:00, just before the radio came on.

I’ve had this headache off and on for the better part of a week. Maybe longer.

The codeine I take each evening/overnight to deal with the torn intercostal muscle pain is also effective at disrupting the development of a full migraine. But the cycle still tries to complete. It’s annoying.

But some things you learn to live with. Like imperfections in old homes. Yes, I’ll see the Kickstarter through, as well as writing the book whether or not the Kickstarter is completely successful.

Some things you learn to live with.

Jim Downey


But Wait! There’s More!

“Now, you would normally expect to pay $16.95 for a book of this size and quality! Just look at it! 420 pages full of the touching story of caring for a loved one! And those aren’t little trade paperback pages, either, but memoir-sized pages, each one charged with honest emotion and providing insight into one of the most challenging — and rewarding — experiences in life!”

“That’s right – you would expect to pay $16.95 for such a book – and it would be a fair deal. A modest price in exchange for access to the innermost thoughts and feelings of four people, each on a personal journey of love and self-discovery.”

“But you don’t have to pay $16.95. No you don’t. Why you can get the whole book — containing every single word, every single lesson learned — in Kindle format for the low, low price of JUST $8.99. That’s right — a huge savings, including no shipping or handling fees!”

“But Wait! There’s More!”

* * * * * * *

Shawn Colvin has a new book out, and has been doing the promotional circuit. I had the pleasure of hearing most of an hour-long interview with her this morning on the Diane Rehm show.

Colvin is just a couple of years older than I am. I can’t say that I have been a huge fan of hers, but I have been aware of her for a long time, and have always appreciated her talents. And Diane Rehm is one of the best in the business. As noted, I’d love to have a chance to have her interview me. The interview was engaging, and touching.

Because Colvin’s book is a memoir. No, not of care-giving. Not care-giving for someone else, anyway. Rather, it was about her own path to deal with her own demons. Depression. Substance abuse. Bad relationships. Anorexia. Toss in the usual professional stresses and failures, and it makes for a compelling story.

* * * * * * *

“That’s right, friend, there’s more: a *LOT* more.”

“Because not only can you get Her Final Year for the low, low price of just $8.99, but you can ALSO get this incredible companion volume: Communion of Dreams! That’s right — James Downey, one of the co-authors of Her Final Year, has also written a novel. And not just any novel — a work of speculative fiction which has fired the imagination of thousands, and prompted dozens of 5-star reviews on Amazon!”

“For such a work you would expect to pay at least $11.95 for the 350 page paperback! But it is available in the Kindle edition for just $4.95. That’s fight, LESS THAN one thin five-dollar bill. Such A Deal!!”

“But Wait! There’s More!”

* * * * * * *

Fascinating story this morning about efforts to stop the spread of Dengue Fever on NPR. The basic idea was to use a known effect where mosquitoes infected with a naturally-occurring bacteria are unable to transmit the virus which causes Dengue Fever. The science in the story was good, but what really caught my attention was how the effort to get this idea to work had been a *very* long and frustrating quest for the scientist behind it.

See, Scott O’Neill had been working on this project for some 20 years. The biggest problem was technical — it is phenomenally difficult to infect living mosquitoes with the bacteria. It takes thousands and thousands of attempts, working at a microscopic level, to inject the necessary bacteria into a mosquito egg, and then having said egg develop to adulthood and actually *have* the disease. Failure is a constant companion.

And so this is what caught my ear when I heard it:

Take the day in 2006, when one of Scott’s graduate students told him he thought he’d finally succeed in infecting a dengue mosquito with Wolbachia.

I figured this must have been a red-letter day for Scott, a day of sheer elation. Scott told me looking back on it, it was. But at the time it didn’t seem that way.

“Because you’re so used to failure that you don’t believe anything when you see it,” he says. “And so you can think back to when there was a Eureka moment, but at the time, you’re probably, ‘this looks good but I’ve been burnt thousands of times before. Let’s go and do it again, and the do it another time, and check and check and make sure it’s actually real.’ “

* * * * * * *

“That’s right, friend, there’s more: a *LOT* more.”

“Because while you would think that just $8.99 for Her Final Year or only $4.95 for Communion of Dreams would be a STEAL — and you would be correct to think that! — you can get *BOTH* of these books for FREE this Saturday!”

“That’s right, I said FREE, friend. As in beer! The Kindle edition of each book will be completely and totally FREE all day Saturday! All you have to do is just go and download it. Why, you do not even need to own a Kindle in order to take advantage of this phenomenal offer! That’s right, you can get a FREE Kindle app for almost every computer, tablet, or mobile device known to man!”

“But Wait! There’s More!”

* * * * * * *

I sometimes wonder whether I shouldn’t play up my own “demons” more.

Now, I haven’t been shy about talking about them. Anyone who has read my stuff for any length of time knows this. I’m honest about my background (orphaned at 13), my failures (both recent and older ones), and my own struggles with mild bipolar disorder and health problems. Talking about these aspects of my life helps to provide some context for the things I think and do — it is all part of who I am and why I see the world as I do.

But I try not to dwell on such things. I have never considered myself a tragic figure or particularly burdened. Whether or not it was Plato who actually said “be kind, everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” that aphorism is still very true, and my own battle hasn’t been especially more difficult than the one many people fight. In very many ways I have been extremely fortunate, and I know that. And I’m thankful for it.

But still, there is no denying that tragedy sells.

* * * * * * *

“More? How can there be More? The Kindle edition of both books are already FREE — what more could any reasonable person ask for???”

“Well, I’ll tell you what. How about a *signed* copy of the paperback edition of each book? For FREE!”

“That’s right. FREE!”

“All you gotta do is post a comment here. Or on our Facebook page. Or send a Tweet. Do any of these things between now and Sunday morning, and your name will be entered into a drawing for a FREE signed copy of the paperback! You can enter once for each book at each venue — a possibility of 6 chances in total! What more could you possible ask for?”

“So, don’t delay — enter your name, today! And remember to download your FREE copy of the Kindle edition of Her Final Year and Communion of Dreams this coming Saturday!”

Jim Downey

(Cross posted to the Her Final Year blog.)

A little help?
March 13, 2012, 10:16 am
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Diane Rehm, Hospice, Marketing, Promotion, Publishing

(Cross-posted from the Her Final Year blog, equally relevant here.)

* * * * * * *

So, as I mentioned the other day, we’re going to have a promotional day this coming Sunday, where anyone can download the Kindle edition of Her Final Year for free. And in that post I asked for your help to get the word out:

So please, help spread the word: tell people that Her Final Year will be free next Sunday, and the Sunday after that. Let’s make sure that everyone you can think of who would benefit from knowing what it was like for us to be care-givers gets a copy of the book. Tell your friends. Tell your family. Post it to any care-giving forums of discussion groups.

And that help would still be very much appreciated, but it isn’t what I am asking for today. Rather, I want to ask you to do me a favor and to contact a public-radio show. All the details are over on my Communion of Dreams blog, but basically I sent copies of Her Final Year and Communion of Dreams (my novel) to the Diane Rehm Show, trying to interest them in perhaps doing a show on the books. Here’s the relevant passage from the letter I sent along with the books:

I understand that Ms. Rehm, and likely the entire staff there, are probably overwhelmed with story suggestions and books to be considered. But I hope that you will find time to take a look at either or both of these books. The matter of care-giving for someone with dementia is extremely important to me, and I would like to see more people aware of the role that men play concerning this. And the novel which I wrote during my time as a care provider tells another story, one of how unexpected discoveries sometimes show us what really matters. I think it is easy to see how these two things may be connected.

They should have received the books yesterday. And here is where you can help: drop them an email, post something to their Facebook page, or send them a Tweet ( @drshow ), and ask them to consider doing a show about the book. That’s it. Just a brief note. If you send a Tweet, use the hashtag #HerFinalYear .

Coming from you – from a variety of sources (who are not the authors) – is much more likely to get their attention. Meaning that just a couple of words from you will make a huge difference. Please.

And thank you.

Jim Downey

Getting attention.

Marketing a self-published book is the single biggest hurdle any author faces. Well, perhaps other than all the other hurdles such as writing the book in the first place, competently editing it, getting it put into an attractive format with a nice cover, …

Anyway, marketing is a huge problem. That’s why I did the KDP Select program, with the ability to offer special promotions. It’s why I blog & tweet and generally blow my own horn. It’s why I bug my friends and fans and ask that they help to spread the word. It’s why I leverage any connections I might have into any press outlets. It’s marketing. And you’re never sure what works or what doesn’t.

And I thought I would share one more item I’m trying: direct communication with the Diane Rehm Show. Here’s the text from a letter I am sending them with copies of Communion of Dreams and Her Final Year:

Diane Rehm Show
WAMU 88.5 American University Radio
4400 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016-8082


I’ve long been a listener of the Diane Rehm show, and know that Ms. Rehm is a fan of intelligent, thoughtful science/speculative fiction. My recently published novel is generally considered to fall into that genre, and has been generating considerable interest. I am enclosing an article from this past weekend’s local newspaper supporting this claim, and a check of the reviews on Amazon will do likewise.

I am also enclosing a memoir published last year, which deals with another issue I know Ms. Rehm has covered and seems to care about: care-giving for a loved one. In this case it was Alzheimer’s, and the memoir is a joint effort of myself and another man, along with our spouses. We were each care providers for our respective mothers-in-law, a relatively unusual role in our society, but one which is going to become increasingly common (and necessary) in the coming years. The book is based on each of our writings as we went through the multi-year experience, and includes blog posts and email communications.

I understand that Ms. Rehm, and likely the entire staff there, are probably overwhelmed with story suggestions and books to be considered. But I hope that you will find time to take a look at either or both of these books. The matter of care-giving for someone with dementia is extremely important to me, and I would like to see more people aware of the role that men play concerning this. And the novel which I wrote during my time as a care provider tells another story, one of how unexpected discoveries sometimes show us what really matters. I think it is easy to see how these two things may be connected.

Thank you for your time,

James Downey

Will it do *any* good? No idea. Maybe. If you would like to help get them to consider it, post a note on their Facebook page. Send ’em a tweet. Drop them an email through the ‘contact us’ form on their site. It might help.

It might not.

That’s marketing, at least as a small, self-published author.

If you have any other ideas or suggestions, or know other outlets/individuals which might be open to providing coverage, let me know.


Jim Downey

The Final Cut

Via BoingBoing, an extensive interview in Wired with Ridley Scott about the upcoming release of Blade Runner: The Final Cut. From the prologue:

At age 69, Ridley Scott is finally satisfied with his most challenging film. He’s still turning out movies at a furious pace — American Gangster, with Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe, is due in November — building on an extraordinary oeuvre that includes Alien, Thelma & Louise, Gladiator, and Black Hawk Down. But he seems ready to accept Blade Runner as his crowning achievement. In his northern English accent, he describes its genesis and lasting influence. And, inevitably, he returns to the darkness that pervades his view of the future — the shadows that shield Deckard from a reality that may be too disturbing to face.

It’s an excellent interview. But then, I’m biased – I consider Blade Runner to be one of the best movies ever made, and certainly one of top SF movies. (In this I am hardly alone, of course – even Diane Rehm of NPR considers it one of her favorite movies.) The 1992 ‘Director’s Cut’ was a huge improvement over the original release, even with the crappy quality of the DVD. I particularly enjoyed this bit from the interview itself:

Wired: Dream kitchens aside, it’s a rather bleak vision of the future.

Scott:I was always aware that this whole Earth is on overload. I’ve been that way for 30 years. People used to think I was — you know, not exactly depressive, but dark. And I’d say, “It’s not dark, mate, it’s a fact. It’s going to come and hit you on the head.”

Exactly. Yesterday I wrote about the tension between visions of the future and the reality of scientific achievement. Clearly, the world of 2019 depicted in Blade Runner is not going to be here, at least not on that schedule. But that’s OK. It is still a very valuable cautionary tale and damned fine alternative future history. And I think that is all that any author or artist or director can ever hope to accomplish.

Jim Downey

Picking and choosing.

There was a very interesting segment on the Diane Rehm show this morning about how reproductive science has advanced considerably in the last few decades, and the impact that is having on both individuals and society. In the course of the discussion, the participants touched on a number of issues both of interest to me personally, and pertaining to Communion of Dreams.

In this post in March, I discussed the genetic disease which runs in my family, and how that helped inform my decision not to have children. At the time I entered the normal child-rearing years, the appropriate testing wasn’t available. Now it is. And while I could still make the decision to have children, my wife and I are content without those additional responsibilities.

Anyway, in the course of the discussion on Diane Rehm’s show, there was mention of the fact that couples seeking IVF treatment have the option to perform genetic testing on the individual embryos produced by the procedure, and could then select which embryos to have implanted with the hope that they would quicken and grow. Huxley’s Brave New World is potentially here with this level of scrutiny and selection.

So, what about Communion? In it, I stipulate a history of a pandemic influenza, which kills hundreds of millions, and leaves most of the surviving population sterile. But here I left off from my usual attention to scientific detail, in not specifying exactly what the mechanism in effect was. Because, knowing full well the potential that modern medical science has to offer, I thought it might be a simple answer to just have non-sterile couples producing lots of viable embryos using current IVF tech, and then have those embryos implanted in host mothers, thereby circumventing the threat of human extinction. Like the parents who can now pick and choose which embryo has the greatest potential for survival, I made my own selection of what plot mechanisms were most viable. (Please note, I am not trying to equate the two!)

This is something that all writers have to do: make decisions on what to include, what to exclude. Science fiction writers have to do more of it, since in theory you can decided to invent just about any new technology or science to suit your purpose. But for me, I try to establish a given technological level, and see what makes sense within those constraints. According to most who have read the book and responded to me (either in person or in comments here), I did a pretty fair job in resolving most of the issues. But I know that in this particular case, I pulled a little sleight of hand, and my own sense of honesty pushes me to acknowledge it.

Jim Downey