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Need virological help with work of fiction

RYBICKI, ED ED at molbiol.uct.ac.za
Wed Oct 5 05:06:38 EST 1994

> I am currently at work on a science fiction/disaster novel and am 

...and if you have no SCIENCE background, how come you are trying to 
write such a novel???

> major plot device is an unusual form of airborne virus.  I would 

The only kind of unusual form of airborne virus would be one that is 
totally unrealistic, given our current understanding of virus 
architecture - and while it is tempting fate to say that no major 
surprises are expected, no major surprises ARE expected, in terms of 
"airborne viruses", at any rate.  Perhaps a parachute brigade-borne 

> Thanks, in advance, for your assistance.

Read.  Read several books.  Start with Prescott et al.s 
Microbiology, 2nd Edn (Wm C Brown, 1993).  Move on to Luria et al.s 
General Virology (John Wiley and Sons, 1978).  Take in Jim Watson et 
al.s Molecular Biology of the Gene.  Do an undergraduate course in 
introductory virology.  Then, perhaps, you can do considerably 
better than Frank Herbert's "White Plague", which was almost TOTALLY 
unbelievable.  As well as Robin Cook's "Terminal", perhaps, which 
was APPALLINGLY characterised, but which had some almost-believable 
technical details on artificially-constructed viruses (and some 
risible science, like "he sequenced the protein, and then 
synthesised primers, and amplified"...all in a couple of days!).  
But PLEASE try to make it believable?  Run the draft past a 
virologist, at least?  Make use of the very excellent WWW Virology 
site (http://www.bocklabs.wisc.edu/Welcome.html)?

But, above all, READ some elementary virology!!  And thanks for 
bothering to ask advice; many would simply rush blithely in and 
create something dreadful, which makes no sense whatever 
scientifically, but frightens the bejesus out of the civilians...

 | Ed Rybicki, PhD          |         Well, I tip my hat           |
 | (ed at micro.uct.ac.za)     |      To the new constitution         |
 | Dept Microbiology        | Take a bow for the new revolution... |
 | University of Cape Town  |  Then I get on my knees and pray     |
 | Private Bag, Rondebosch  |   We don't get get fooled again...   |
 | 7700, South Africa       |                                      |
 | fax: xx27-21-650 4023    |      - Pete Townshend, 1972          |
 | tel: xx27-21-650 3265    |      (Won't get fooled again)        |

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