The Big Idea: Alma Alexander

You know about werewolves, but if that’s all you know about, you don’t know the half of it… or in the case of the Were Chronicles, you don’t know the third of it. Here’s author Alma Alexander to provide the rest.


This be one of those things that are a mystery rolled into a puzzle folded into an enigma.

It all started with somebody putting out a call for short stories to go into a new anthology which would deal with the concept of Were-creatures – “but not your usual Werewolves”, the instructions said. “We want something different.”

Well, all right, I had a Big Idea, something that I don’t remember seeing anywhere else before, ever. A Random were. How this works, see, is that a Were creature has its Were form, into which it Turns like clockwork every month at the full moon. The Randoms can nail down their primary form, to be sure, and the creature will Turn into this form at the proper time… all other things being equal, that is. The thing about the Randoms is their gift, or curse, of Turning into the last warm blooded creature they see at the moment of Turn – and they will Turn into that shape for the duration of that Turn, primary form or no primary form. As you can imagine, this opens up a Pandora’s box. And it very quickly became clear to me that this was way too big a concept to stuff into a single short story. It needed a novel.

The second Big Idea took me full circle to my educational roots – I own a MSc graduate degree in Molecular Biology. I had my hands dirty with real DNA, working with real genetics, with real cloning. I wrote a Master’s thesis on the subject. And I took all of that… and applied it to the topic at hand. Ladies and gentlemen, I posit a genetic basis of the ways and means in which a functional Were creature is literally possible. And when these books were read (when they first appeared) by my old professor, the much-laurelled academic who supervised my graduate degree, he wrote to me and said “The science is as good as it gets.” (When the Omnibus edition was first mooted, I wrote back to him and asked if he wanted to write me a foreword. He did. This is a work of fiction given a real academic Seal of Approval. This is rare enough for the book to be picked up and read just because that is there…)

As you can see, I suddenly had a lot of material to cover.

That original novel became THREE novels – the original Random, then Wolf, then Shifter.

Final Big Idea, and perhaps the biggest of all: this isn’t a trilogy. It’s a triptych, and the three stories are three lenses through which an emergent history is viewed and shaped. This story not only became bigger than originally anticipated… it grew into dimensions. A thing on paper grew up and down and sideways. We have a fully three-dimensional story in a fully three dimensional world – a story with the weight of a truth in it, not only because it really did grow to fit the space it saw around it and then some but because it colonized the interstices of its world. There is a deep-cutting reality in this admittedly fantasy milieu. What we have here… is recognizable. We come face to face with uncomfortable things – with bigotry and discrimination and bullying and hatred, and the reasons underlying those things. This is an omnibus edition of three novels about Were-creatures… and it turns out that what the story is really about… is what it means to be human.

I have seldom been prouder of anything I have written. This book has roots of good science, a pure heart, and a true soul. The three protagonists who carry the three individual books are very real people, with fears, with dreams, with flaws, with troubles of their own and the valor and strength to face and defeat them. Their story is a mirror held up to humanity. Some may recognize what they see here; some may be made uncomfortable by it; others might find a glimmer of deliverance, or understanding, or salvation. The gateway to all this is a very very big idea indeed – that the things that make us different are also sometimes the very things that draw us together, and that often it is we who make the choice about which of those things is going to come true.

The Were Chronicles: Amazon

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12 Comments on “The Big Idea: Alma Alexander”

  1. Back when I was in middle school and voraciously read Animorphs, I sat down and pulled everything 11 year old me I thought I knew about genetics into a description of how the morphing technology worked. The short of it (that I can remember) was that that cube thing they used injected their blood with nano-bot RNA that could zip and unzip genes and some storage device that would retain the compressed genes of any animal they touched but also their own selves.

    Anyway now I HAVE to read your series because I wanna know how an actual geneticist handles a similar situation. Especially with only vision instead of touch.

  2. It was only four bucks for the trilogy pre-order, so now it’s pre-ordered. (Always open to suggestions on trying to be, or pose as, human.)

  3. “Seal of approval”? Given the subject matter, I presume we’re talking about a genuine pinniped?

  4. I have seen the concept of a pure were, without a base form once before, in Jack Chalker’s River of the Dancing Gods series – though it doesn’t appear until book 2 (or possibly 3, it’s been a while), and is definitely a notable side-note, rather than a main feature of the plot. Also the were so afflicted becomes whatever animal is closest physically at the time of transformation, rather than seen or touched.

    It always did seem to me that it was an intriguing side-note, and worthy of a more promininent part of the plot than it got.

  5. I remember a short story — possibly by Spider Robinson? — involving a talsman that turned its holder into a were-entity. It only worked once for each holder, so the holder had to pass it on. The story mostly focused on one holder complaining to the guy who’d given him the talisman that it had turned into a rabbit, which had been terrifying. The last two holders had become a wild horse and a jungle cat.

    The story ended just as they realized that the newest holder of the talisman drove a Nova. This destroyed all life on earth.

  6. Thank you for spotlighting these today. She had contacted me a little while ago, asking me to reread them and write a new review as I had reviewed them years ago when they first came out. I felt bad saying no, that I didn’t have the bandwidth. She’s a good writer and these are good books. They need a little love (public exposure) and are well worth the price.

  7. The one Were twist that really caught me by surprise involved a natural wolf who was… I guess a Were-Human.

    I’m not saying where this showed up because, you know, spoilers.

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