The Big Idea: William C. Tracy
Don’t judge a book by its cover. Or in this case, don’t judge a monster by its mushrooms. Author William C. Tracy’s Big Idea brings us back into The Biomass Conflux series with his newest novel, To A Fungus Unknown.
WILLIAM C. TRACY:
Forty years after landing on Lida, the colony still isn’t finished.
Agetha has survived many more battles than she anticipated when she first landed on her new home planet. She’s older and wiser, has gained family and lost loved ones. And yet her reward for four decades of service is to be pushed to the colony’s outer edges with the other aging Generationals.
But that was only the beginning of her adventure.
The biomass has spent years studying the intruders who landed on its surface, carving a new home from its very essence. Never satisfied in its attempt to communicate with this new and invasive species, finally it has found a way to express its intentions. The colonists may never be the same.
Discover the fate of the colony in the second book of The Biomass Conflux trilogy.
Life on a fungus planet, or “Oops, I accidently wrote body horror.”
This is the second book in my eventual trilogy about colonists landing on a planet covered by sentient fungus. Now that I’d gotten all the preliminary introductions and worldbuilding out of the way (which you can read about in my previous Big Idea post here), I was planning to have a lot of fun with this one!
I started writing it, and immediately introduced a new character—one who was already influenced by the sentient biomass. Thinking and writing about a loss of control is one of the scariest things for me, partially because my mother suffered with early-onset Alzheimer’s, and I’m potentially at risk for it as well.
Exploring this loss of control turned out to be cathartic in some sense, as I could write characters who either didn’t remember what they had done or didn’t understand why they were doing what they did, or in the worst case, could see their body doing one thing when they were desperately trying to do another.
To make it better (or perhaps worse?), the biomass doesn’t think like we do. It doesn’t understand human individuality. So, it simply suppresses the parts of the people who are screaming about the loss of control and makes them unconcerned about what’s happening to them. Everyone wins, right? People are mind-controlled, but don’t feel bad about it.
The whole book took on a creepy overtone as I started to flesh out this concept, but this horror aspect gave me a chance to lean into another aspect I like to write about: finding out the monster is not who you think it is. Humans, being human, will strive to their last breath to get out of any sort of confinement, even a mental one.
Once that happens in this story, the human colonists can be in direct contact with an alien being who thinks completely differently than them. I wrote three different avenues of contact at the same time. One unconscious, one very intentional and scientific, and another through rational realization and putting together pieces of a puzzle. Once we understand how to communicate with a monster, then those parts that are horrific start to become more reasonable, or at least understood, if still not desirable.
What does an intelligence that spans a planet think like? Does it have a concept of language or math when a gestalt mind can comprehend everything at once? When it drills down to specifics, is the whole intelligence concentrating on that one thing, or can such an intelligence even lose focus at all?
These questions are not answered yet, but I’m very interested to find out more about them in the third book. However, there’s another side to consider: the humans. There are a bunch of different ways to react to finding out the thing completely surrounding the colony is not only alive, but conscious of what the people are doing there. And that point will lead into the third book of the series, where people choose what side to take, and in return, which side the biomass chooses to take!
For now, I hope you enjoy the first two books of The Biomass Conflux, with the conclusion to come in early 2024. If you haven’t read the first book yet, you can find Of Mycelium and Men here and an intermediate short story, Down Among the Mushrooms, here.
To A Fungus Unknown: Amazon