The Superbug Sequence

I saw a PBS Frontline report, called ‘Hunting the Nightmare Bacteria,’ about two years ago, and while I could sleep at night, I could not stop thinking about the stories and images compressed within those 54 minutes. I watched it again and again over the next few days. I was addicted to the chilling horror of the reality. I couldn’t believe such a thing was happening. In America. After a week or two watching the show ten or fifteen times, I decided I could do something about my feelings, I was a writer. Right? Yes. So what do writers do? We write. We dramatize. We ramble on . . . Well, let’s forget that last writerly point. I am a writer and I wanted to dramatize this issue. Antibiotic resistance. MRSA. C-Diff. Knowing something about these issues — my wife had died from cancer and she had been colonized by MRSA during a hospital visit (one of the many times she had been in the hospital for one to two weeks). So I knew what MRSA was, little small purple balls that decided her lungs were the place hang out for the rest of her life. But I knew nothing about NDM-1 until I saw the Frontline show, and it scared me. And I’m not scared easily. So I plunged in. Pushed aside a novel I was in the midst of writing about baseball and watched ‘Hunting the Nightmare Bacteria’ one more time. Six weeks later I had written the first draft of a novel. Rough. But, it was a beginning. A year and a half later the story is now a book. I can’t tell you how many sources I have read in that time. Books, novels and nonfiction, magazine pieces on science and technology, the Science and Technology pages of the NY Times and the Washington Post (even a peek sometimes at what the NY Post calls science, most of which is otherworldly and the kind of stuff that keeps me up at nights, but we won’t go into that anymore). And I haven’t even mentioned the CDC Weekly and other .edu and .gov pages that offered up more information than I could handle. I think what struck me most was that there was no one source that took the material, blended it together, and published analytical content. This is what it all means. Eventually that’s what my novel became, for me, a chance to take so much information and boil it down to what it really meant. And in 271 pages, that’s what I’ve done. It’s called The Superbug Sequence.