Viral Times

A viral novel to inject hearts with hope and health

Humans wait at the end of the virus growth chain

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Flu has been with humans for thousands of years, but the rise of arboviruses sparks an era of desperate disease, a battle we are losing. These arboviruses—named after the arthropod mosquitoes, fleas and ticks bearing them—have skipped the virus trademark of preserving a human host. The arboviruses prefer reservoir hosts, birds which don’t catch the virus and only carry it. They enter the bird, whose blood kicks up the virulence a notch. The bird then offers up a more deadly virus to the bug’s next vector, the mosquito. Once a human is infected, the virulence is turned up beyond our natural immunity. This is one spark that heats up the world of 2018, when the trouble begins in Viral Times.

Written by Ron Seybold

December 27, 2011 at 2:12 pm

Posted in Virus behavior

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Israeli pharma promises immunity boost drug

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Cancers are caused by viruses. (So many diseases start with a virus.) A new drug might be able to treat people who already have a cancer, by employing the body’s natural immunity T-cells to attack cancer cells. No mention in this link about availability of the drug, but since it’s developed outside the US, approval can be much swifter. You’d still need traditional chemo/surgery for advanced cancers. But this is a novel way to get a pharma solution to ally with natural immunity. If you can afford the booster shots.

This is the kind of medicine that the PharmAlliance wants to create in Viral Times. There is the US government in the way of approving that drug, in my future of 2021. But for now, here’s the early report on ImMucin.

A traditional vaccine helps the body’s immune system fend off foreign invaders such as bacteria or viruses, and is administered to people who have not yet had the ailment. Therapeutic vaccines, like the one Vaxil has developed, are given to sick people, and work more like a drug.

Vaxil’s lead product, ImMucin, activates the immune system by “training” T-cells –– the immune cells that protect the body by searching out and destroying cells that display a specific molecule (or marker) called MUC1. MUC1 is typically found only on cancer cells and not on healthy cells. The T-cells don’t attack any cells without MUC1, meaning there are no side effects unlike traditional cancer treatments. More than 90% of different cancers have MUC1 on their cells, which indicates the potential for this vaccine.

ImMucin is foreseen as a long-term strategy — a shot every few months, with no side effects — to stop the cancer from reoccurring after initial treatments, by ensuring that the patient’s own immune system keeps it under control.

Written by Ron Seybold

November 11, 2011 at 11:21 am

Posted in Public health, Vaccines, Virus protection

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The future of naturopathic medicine

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Tabitha Parker

Utne Reader has posted an article about medicine that plays a major role in defense of viruses in my novel Viral Times. Dr. Tabatha Parker’s skill set is similar to Delta’s, as well as my co-protagonist Angie Consoli. They are naturopaths, 10 years into the future.

The global health care system is in crisis, says Dr. Tabatha Parker, founder of Natural Doctors International (NDI). It relies on the exportation of a Western model—one that doesn’t even work in the countries it’s coming from—to developing countries that can’t afford it.

Parker, a naturopathic doctor, sees NDI as a bridge between exported conventional medicine and centuries-old indigenous healing techniques, such as the use of herbal medicine, which in some places in the world is the dominant type of health care. “That has to be a part of the system if you’re going to actually reach people,” Parker says. Naturopathic doctors “are trained in a way that no one else in the world is trained: to be [that] bridge.”

Read more:

Written by Ron Seybold

November 11, 2011 at 10:22 am

A drug can kill viruses, in 10 years

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Todd Rider

26, and with 4 MIT degrees

Todd Rider, a scientist at defense-funded Lincoln Laboratories, has moved on from detecting viruses to destroying them. It will be 10 years, by some estimates, before a human version is ready to sell. But a viral pandemic might accelerate that process. Right now he’s testing it on mice. From BusinessWeek:

He describes in the recent journal article a new drug, still under development, which he has successfully used to destroy 15 viral strains, including dengue fever, a stomach virus, and a polio virus. To create it, Rider combined two proteins commonly found in the human body. One binds to viral double-stranded ribonucleic acid, a type of molecule found in all viruses. The other induces apoptosis, which is essentially programmed cell suicide. The drug acts like a homing missile that seeks out and kills cells infected by a virus. It appears to have few negative consequences and works against all diseases, even as they mutate. “Most viruses kill the host cells anyway. They are like aliens in a movie,” says Rider.

Written by Ron Seybold

November 9, 2011 at 3:28 pm

Posted in Vaccines, Virus behavior

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Novelist’s workbench: Viral Times revision, Chapter 6

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Welcome to the next installment in my novel Viral Times. I’m sharing the “behind the scenes” notes about revising in this Ultimate Version of my long-crafted book. The storytelling has been built and rebuilt over many years.

As I said last time, this revision process is guided by taking the storytelling that was in first person and shifting it to “close third,” the kind that lets a writer deliver the POV character’s feelings and sometimes internal dialogue. All to serve the Man vs. Self conflict. Jennifer Nation, the evangelistic neuro-scientist, is the story’s main antagonist, taking her role as the person who stands in the way of my hero Dayton’s wish — to live in a world safe from the viruses that make biological touch-sex deadly. He strives to find love again after losing his wife to the pandemic.

But in a way, Dayton is also does antagonist work in the story. He helps Angie (introduced in Chapter 3) to erase the threat of the new man-made virus Jennifer desires to build.

These pages were a pleasure to revise because I liked the tension that was already there. I do wonder about how seamless they appear, since the scenes happen in different locales but the same time-frame. They felt heavy with scene, but the sequel was in there, embedded and concise.

In our entry this time, we learn more about , who’s Jennifer, who earned a Nobel for her work in brain mapping — the evolution of fMRI brain scan sciences of our current day. She’s left her post at PharmAlliance (see the First Four chapters for details). Now she’s on a road trip to recover her faith.

Chapter 6
Pilgrim’s Progress

October 2021, Outer Banks, North Carolina

She missed her parents most on Sundays. It was the day they would picnic together, take photos and read aloud to each other. Sunday was also the only day of the week they prayed.  Ten years later they were both gone, taken by God’s plan on that fiery day. He left her prayers for their survival of that crash in the woods unanswered.

In return, Jennifer believed God owed her an answered prayer. She prayed for resources to keep building drugs, this time the kind no company could hijack: biological pharmaceuticals. God could find her an HP Gross-spectral Epigenome Navigator. They didn’t look down her bra at that final PharmAlliance exit search when she was starting her sabbatical, so she snuck out her code for the GEN interface. That was a sign. The security team was usually anything but chaste. In exchange for her parents, the Almighty would have to get her a heads-up display for a GEN. She brushed her hair and felt the inputs for her brain’s neuron backplane. God didn’t build any of that, but it was like divine intuition to gene combinations and RNA derivatives. She played the GEN like Paderewsky on a Steinway. An investor angel, yes. She had faith she could find one to deliver such an instrument again.

So she started her pilgrimage on a Sunday with a road trip to search out fresh promise. She filled her heart with hunger and her passenger seat with her assistant Frieda. Jennifer was surprised that the woman felt a calling to follow her. She didn’t know if an acolyte or a friend was sitting in the Cooper beside her. When they arrived in the morning sun of the vacation town of Duck, the Pentacostal Wave Evangelical church was starting to fill. It stood alongside the steady surf of the Outer Banks, a windswept wooden building no larger than a nave and only a dozen pews deep. But when Jennifer walked in, it felt as big as the eager pounding in her chest.

From the pulpit, Thurungian Brother Ignacio spoke the words that galvanized her desire. The man with sandy hair and a well-freckled tan shouted a sermon to inspire hope. He spelled out the challenges to fidelity, but he had few answers.

“Sex is everywhere, spread across anonymous networks.” He paused to stare upward and wave his hand. “In game shows hosted by fornicating film stars. In the promises of lust that drain all the way down to web ads for Dry-Day Senior Diapers and Retro Flush antiviral toilet cleansers.” He called out most pernicious sin, lurid pornography, a word now out of vogue in favor of “passion.” Men and women who taught lessons over these nets about how to go down on each other, techniques to practice while inside the virtual sex networks.
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ron Seybold

November 8, 2011 at 12:22 pm

A novelist’s workbench: Viral Times work, exposed

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The object of the writing over the next three weeks is to show how the work of revision challenges me as I finish the final draft of Viral Times. This log will show how I’ve tried to respond. I believe it’s a novel about important topics. Public health and alternatives to quell viral pandemics, a part of our lives for generations to come. Plus, how it feels when the worst happens in any medical crisis — the damage to a heart from losing a soulmate to untimely death, through any disease. And how you might repair that damage to your life.

But no matter how that work succeeds, there are lessons for me, and for my workshop writers, about how to break the ice of revisions.

So here goes: My work on Chapter 5, Love’s Hurts. The first four chapters’ story are available in the sidebar link, a revision that benefits from my editor Jill Dearman’s pen on a wooly 350 pages of a book. That entire earlier draft was in five first-person points of view. A real challenge, Jill said.

You gave yourself a very tricky challenge by putting all your protagonists in first person. Early on Jennifer’s voice and Dayton’s don’t sound so different. You could still change back to 3d person if you want. But if you are committed to all 1st person, your job is to make everyone’s voice as distinct as say Crawford’s or Zeke’s. Or their point of view as incredibly vivid and unmistakable as Angie’s. Dayton and Jennifer –because they both take themselves so seriously!—are sometimes hard to tell apart voice-wise.

I revised Love’s Hurts back into third person this morning — and I found myself crying while I slid back into the moments of Delta’s finale. I’ve never been at a bedside while someone I loved died, so this is all imagining my own loved one’s final days to come somewhere in the future, or the memory of tending to her after illness.

But the important thing is that I was crying, so it felt real enough to me. And maybe it might to someone else, too. I also did the revision after reading a chapter of Donna’s Johnson’s “Holy Ghost Girl” — so the prayer aspect of Delta’s healing rose up. I can see how Donna’s book is going to seep into this final version of mine.

Chapter 5
Love’s Hurts

Angie Consoli
Assateague Island, Spring 2021

She couldn’t recall a time she slept so much. When she opened her eyes, the mornings were already lit up. That dog — what a name, Sherlock — once he heard her stir in the deep-down comforter, he’d pad over from the doorway where he slept. He’d put his snout on the edge of the rough oaken sleigh bed and wag his tail. Angie knew dogs that barked at people in the morning. Sherlock was as quiet as Delta, who would bring Angie herbal teas and massage her meridians. Then she’d shuffle back to the kitchen, or hum to herself on the porch at her workbench, reclaiming whatever junk the surf threw up onto what she called her beach.

The sounds from her house felt different to Angie, noises distinct from Philly or the Hamptons, the places where the music never stopped and somebody was always wheedling or snorting or uncapping a moan in closed room. Angie was starting to think of those sounds as the soundtrack of a former life. In the mornings she drifted in and out of sleep while the sound of the waves boomed loudest, the hours when Delta said the sea was at high tide.

     Delta was none of the things that Aurora or Tiffany or Alexandra had been on Angie’s sex video sets: no swagger or panache, no buffed skin or enhanced parts or perfect painted smiles. Delta had looks to drive away anyone but devoted nieces, parents or siblings. No one would ever start a family with a woman so coarse. But something made Angie drink in the sight of her caretaker. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ron Seybold

October 27, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Enough of the vaccine, already

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Ah, the heady drama of last fall. H1N1 was a steady source of worry, creating the Worried Well and sparking a fevered drive to stock up on vaccine. In October CBS interviewed Dr. Troyen Brennan, the Chief Medical Officer of CVS, the drug store chain.

Asked if there will be enough H1N1 vaccine to go around, Brennan said, “We do believe there will be enough. The government’s been very careful in terms of the amount of H1N1 it’s ordered and that’s coming online right now.”

And so millions of Americans queued up for a Swine Flu shot, some at CVS, along with a seasonal flu shot. Boy, was there ever enough of the H1N1 vaccine. Too much for Europe, where some claim that Swine Flu was a fake epidemic. From NPR, “Governments all across Europe are canceling orders of swine flu vaccine as frantically as they were clamoring for it a few month ago.” Alas, we’re more determined to be protected in the US.

The government is thinking about how much more swine flu vaccine to order up and pay for. But Health and Human Services spokesman Bill Hall says any decision to scale back vaccine orders is “weeks away.” Let’s take stock. Last spring the US government signed contracts for $1.5 billion worth of vaccine against the novel H1N1 virus–251 million doses. So far, 55 percent of that amount has been shipped, and something like 60 million Americans have been vaccinated. That leaves 45 percent of the contracted-for vaccine yet to be delivered. That’s 115 million doses, worth about $675 million.

Okay, it’s under a billion dollars, so it won’t even show up in the US budget.

But the cost of stress-induced concern about health, missed work time to vaccinate, isolation of the populace that didn’t want to risk being in this epidemic: much greater. There’s a payoff for coverage as breathless and shallow as the CBS Early Show stuff, thank goodness. We’re being innoculated from the sudden panic of virus outbreaks. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ron Seybold

January 14, 2010 at 5:31 pm

Many massage points in today’s haptics chair

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The Consumer Electronics Show for 2010 kicked off last night, and the expo illuminated a few technologies that could play a role in Viral Times. The Inada Doctor’s Choice Massage Chair offers a vast range of massage points for its $5,799 retail price tag.

It’s a chair that mimics human touch. Inada says it’s shaped for 106 different human body types. If the programming could be transferred to a suit, like those in Viral Times, this touch could be used for immunotherapy while people are isolated during a viral storm. The same SimSuit that offers Secure Sex could serve as a naturopath’s healing tool.

During pre-programmed massages, kneading speeds automatically vary between 10 and 32 strokes per minute while tapping varies between 180 to 500 taps per minute. Proprietary 3-D rollers thrust forward and relax backward up to 2.8 inches, creating highly desirable movements of the spine. All these actions and many others are carefully managed by the chair’s electronics.

Over at VentureBeat, the reporter there was calling it a “glove chair.” Just drop the first letter off of that name and you’ll get another sensual purpose for the technology of today. Give a society a roadblock to physical contact like the New Flu and you’ll create a market demand for a love chair, or suit, that can be sold for a lot less than $5,799.

Written by Ron Seybold

January 7, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Posted in Viral Times: Novel

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Haptics shows the steps to SafeSex

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One of the crucial concepts for Viral Times shows up early in the novel. In the first chapter of my novel the science of haptics, already well-developed today, has started to fill the gap that people create between themselves and communicable disease caused by viruses.

Given enough years and enough desire, haptics will offer the engine to drive the most serious home electronics device: The SimSuit. You only need to look at the Wikipedia definition of haptics to see how a well-built, broadband suit could help us reach out and touch.

Haptics is the study of touching as nonverbal communication. Touches that can be defined as communication include handshakes, holding hands, kissing (cheek, lips, hand), back slapping, high fives, a pat on the shoulder, and brushing an arm. Touching of oneself may include licking, picking, holding, and scratching. These behaviors are referred to as “adaptor” and may send messages that reveal the intentions or feelings of a communicator. The meaning conveyed from touch is highly dependent upon the context of the situation, the relationship between communicators, and the manner of touch.

In 1992 I worked as a computer tech journalist and followed an emerging video game experience that let players fight in role-play onscreen, their movements tracked by a sensory ring on the floor, surrounding them. Less than 17 years later we have the Nintendo Wii — so popular it was sold out for stretches of 2008 — and advanced enough to let us play sports with one another. Or Just Dance.

An article today in Fast Company tracks the fun quotient and sweat rating of Wii games. By 2019, an emerging crisis of viral times can create a very different, haptic kind of sweat.

Written by Ron Seybold

January 5, 2010 at 1:51 pm

H1N1 drives deep into the lungs to kill

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Even while a vaccine for H1N1 becomes far more available, doctors are discovering the virus creates infections far deeper in the lungs than seasonal flus.

The pattern of infection among the tiny percentage of people who have died from the virus mirrors the infection methods in the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, according to a report on CNN. The story also describes how someone dies from H1N1 infection. Their lungs cease to function well enough to give the victim sufficient air.

“Generally, flu stays in the upper airways,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “What this shows is clearly this virus has capability of infecting and causing inflammation and destruction of cells from the trachea, all the way down into smaller cells of the lungs. “The cells of the lung get directly attacked by the virus,” said Fauci.”

Nine out of every 10 people who have died from H1N1 have “underlying conditions” that are pushed into critical status by losing respiratory function. Like a profiler on a CSI episode, the medical community is trying to match conditions to deaths. 72 percent of those who have died had obesity in their profile.

Vanderbilt University researcher Dr. William Schaffner, professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the university’s School of Medicine, was surprised by the H1N1 fatality-obesity connection.

“That was a striking finding,” said Schaffner. “It contributes in a very material way to what we know about risks for a severe outcome with H1N1 infection. We are keeping an eye on obesity as a risk factor for H1N1 death.”

Written by Ron Seybold

December 9, 2009 at 11:56 am

Posted in Virus behavior