The Longevity Thesis Book Video

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

An Interview with Nina Munteanu

First it was Bobby next door. Then it was Gwen Gades. This time, it's the alien known as Nina Munteanu. See her cross-interview of me at

I stayed late at the lab the other day, missed my supper and had a long drive home in the dark. As I stepped out of the Medical Research Building and blearily stumbled to my car, I had a notion that the night was eerily silent, yet I was too tired to discern its portent. At the time, it didn't trouble me that almost every street lamp was out and the traffic signals were constantly flashing yellow in slow, long intervals.

I was about halfway home, out of the city and into the rural areas, when the lights on my dashboard blinked once, then the engine cut out, and my car slowly drifted to a halt, the headlights still reaching feebly for a few metres ahead. Perhaps it was my imagination, but I thought a saw a beam of light flash down from the sky. Damn, I thought, it was only one more week until my next service appointment, and this had to happen now. I was reaching for the glove compartment to see if I had some sort of contact information for the AMA, when the radio snapped on of its own accord. At first it emitted nothing more than a static hiss, then a jumble of sound, like a modem connecting, danced through the speakers. As abruptly as it started, it stopped. Something dark and fast bounced across the hood of my car and disappeared into an empty field at the left side of the road.

My heart pounding, I ripped open the glove compartment, grabbed a flashlight and my insurance policy. Yep, I was covered for collision with aquatic vehicles, falling aircraft or parts thereof, meteoric impact, and damages to the vehicle and/or my person resulting from alien abductions provided I was within 50 metres of the vehicle for which I was the primary driver when the incident first initiated. 51 metres constituted fraud. I got out of the car and entered the field.

Once I crossed the ditch, I was in a corn field, with the leafy plants reaching up past my shoulders. I scythed through the darkness in front of me with the flashlight, looking for something with a too-large head, too-white skin, too-skinny frame, and large, black bug-eyes. I was getting a little twitchy, jerking my beam suddenly to the left or right with each imagined sound, which I could barely hear over my own panicked breathing.

Finally I did hear something, a high-pitched squeaking sound. Straining my ears to catch the direction of the noise, I finally realized it was coming from my feet. I turned the beam downwards. There, was a two-inch-high, green bug-thing waving a ray gun at me. I hunkered down for a closer look, and felt an evil grin stretch across my face as I recognized the wee mite. It was The Alien Sometimes Known as Nina Munteanu. I pulled an empty CD spindle from my satchel, scooped her up in it, and twisted on the base. She was my prisoner.

Before you judge me too harshly, dear reader, you should know that my abduction of the little, oh, let's just call her Nina, was not my first encounter with this entity. Shortly before this, she had assumed a human guise, lured me aboard her mothership with false promises of anime on large-screen, and instead had me brutally interrogated. It was payback time.

I ran back to my car, chuckling with malicious intent as I mercilessly tossed the CD spindle into the back seat and raced home. Once there, I twisted the key in the lock and dropped it down the drain before finally twisting open the spindle and letting Nina tumble into my kitchen sink. The clear plastic was dotted with burn marks where she had tried to blast her way through.

She gasped a few times, having nearly run out of air inside the plastic prison, then tried futilely to scale the stainless steel walls, and finally tried to ray-gun me to death. It was of no use. She had completely wasted the charge trying to escape the spindle.

"Jen, we don't have time for this!" she squeaked.

"Oh?" I countered. "What's so important? Or are you just trying to distract me from turning on the taps?" I grinned maliciously.

Nina suddenly straightened up as tall as she could make herself (she is pretty short, even in her human form). “Without a doubt I’d say ignorance and its cousin, apathy.” To my puzzled look, she added, “I think that most environmental problems currently faced by this planet are largely due to our own lack of knowledge: of how we relate to our environment, what we are doing to it (and to ourselves) and how we are really affecting it. Without knowledge of consequence, we’re incapable of feeling the compassion needed to drive us to altruistic acts. If I were to point to a single environmental issue that reflects this the best I’d have to say ‘Global Warming’. And the price of wine.”

"Wine?" I was momentarily derailed. “Don’t you mean oil?”

“What’s oil?” asked Nina.

"Oh, right. You drive on plutonium."

"I do not!" said Nina hotly. "I collect photons from the sun and run them through chloroplasts in the skin of my spaceship to produce biodiesel!"

"Even if that's true, no one will believe you," I said. "Not after you participated in that ridiculous event … tsk … oh, what was it again?"

“I think it’s this interview.”

Now she had me really worked up. I began digging through one of my kitchen drawers, looking for a spatula. “Where was it that you were born? Maybe you should return there!”

“Well, thanks to my older brother, I grew up for a long time thinking I was born in the city zoo or the garden field behind our house (his story kept changing; which should have alerted me to his sophistry) and my father—who is in the habit of rescuing strays—found me and took me home, like a puppy. I’ve since discovered irrevocable evidence that I’m an alien. I might return [to my homeworld] someday but I’m having too much fun right here…although,” she glanced with a sour frown at the sink walls, “not right this very minute…”

I had located my spatula and was now putting a frying pan on my stove. I turned on the burner and put some oil into the pan. Nina was waving a small book at me. I picked up a magnifying glass and peered through it into the sink. On the cover, I saw the title: Darwin's Paradox.

"Do you know what this is about?" she asked me. "Hope, cooperation and faith in oneself and in others. The main character begins as a somewhat controlling mother with a natural distrust of traditional entities of suspicion. By the end of the book, she is forced to think outside the box, trust herself—and her ‘worst enemy’—and give in to faith. Essentially, she must enact a paradox: surrender to be victorious. I think that’s a hard but valuable lesson we can all learn.”

“Are you trying to be David Suzuki, or something?”

“I think he is an amazing scientist and story teller. I think he is one of the most courageous scientists I’ve met and I respect his controversial decisions to help humanity. Essentially, Suzuki decided that it was worth being branded an environmentalist and radical by the scientific community in order to get an important message out. He survived the wrath and ridicule (much like Lynn Margulis, James Lovelock and many other scientists who walked out on a limb and persisted in their staunch beliefs) and has earned back that respect.”

"Yah," I said, trying to regain the upper hand, “But what does your Mum think of your writing?”

“While several of my short stories have been translated into Polish, Greek, Hebrew, and Romanian, nothing has gotten off the planet yet…that might be a good thing.” She grinned like an urchin with something to hide.

That passed right over my head. She wasn't giving away any secrets. I decided I had waited long enough. It was time to start frying. I raised the spatula.

"You can't do this, Jen!" shouted Nina. "How will you explain it to Gwen Gades? She's the publisher of my book!"

“What? How? Why did you end up with Dragon Moon Press? That's MY publisher!”

“Isn’t it obvious? For the cool Dragon Logo, of course! I am, however, extremely pleased that Dragon Moon Press is publishing my book because they are a very reputable Canadian publisher and Darwin’s Paradox is set in Canada. It’s actually a very Canadian story.”

Nina snapped open the little book she was holding and began to flip through the pages.

"Listen, you might like this bit:

“Her father’s hands were pale and smooth like her mother’s, with slender fingers. They were the hands of a scientist who wrote intelligent words. Secure in his firm grip, she was convinced that her father and his words would protect her against anything…”

Oh, wait, here’s another fav:

“Julie listened to the carillon of the birds and let her gaze stray to where the heath melted into sky. Five hundred kilometers beyond that shimmering horizon lay what used to be home.”

Then there’s this one:

“Don’t get your shorts into a knot,” the man growled in a basso voice. “I’m not here to torture you or anything. I think you did a fine job on yourself already, jumping on my gun.”

And this one:

“A universe in which a daughter and a mother, miles apart, could talk to one another through a virus. A world that fed into an eternal cycle of altering form…nano-soup…the cell of a beating heart…the suspended dust upon which bloomed the blushing sky. In her father’s universe you took it as far as you could, then let nature’s wisdom take care of the rest: stable chaos.”

Oh, and how about this one—”

I grew impatient. “Maybe you should be trying to find out what the heroine of Darwin’s Paradox would do if she were trapped in a sink by an evil scientist,” I growled.

“She would contact SAM, her AI friend (through veemeld), and have him shut your place down then have the AI-assisted vacuum cleaner tie you up and rescue her. I’m assuming you have an AI-assisted vacuum cleaner…you look like the type.”

"Bwa ha ha ha ha! No such luck Nina, Wal-Mart doesn't sell AI—" I gasped, suddenly remembering that I had purchased my vacuum cleaner at London Drugs.

“Help!" Nina shouted. "I’m trapped in a sink by an evil scientist, I’m out of ammo and I need to be rescued!”

My faithless, dastardly vacuum cleaner roared from the broom closet, zipped up into the sink and for a moment, a allowed myself a brief glimmer of hope that it would entrap Nina in the HEPA filter, but no! I watched helplessly as the dust catcher transformed into a cockpit, the beater bar folded back into a turbo nacelle, and wings burst out from the sides. Nina jumped in, fired up the tau-lepton rockets and blasted the roof off my condo. She engaged the particle accelerator engine and soared up into the night sky.

I stood there, shaking my fist in futility until I realized she had turned the vacuum cleaner around and was preparing for a dive-bombing run. Well, I wasn't about to take that sitting down. I ran to my IKEA sofa set and pressed the secret button on the side of the tastefully machined wood frame (the button that the Swedes don't want us to know about) and had a minor panic attack as I imagined the sofa would not transform into a combat chassis quickly enough. However, as practical and utilitarian as ever, my sofa came through and I leapt into its reorganized frame, appreciating the pillowy softness of the transformed cushions as I did so. The retro rockets fired, and I was propelled into the sky just in time to avoid being blasted to smithereens by a massive dust bunny that Nina had fired at me. I reoriented the gun turrets that had evolved out of the armrests and let fly a series of small metal assembly tools (and you thought they had no use after you put the sofa together! Tch!)

Unfortunately, small metal assembly tools are not very aerodynamic, and only work as projectile weapons in the vacuum of outer space. I completely missed my target. Nina had popped out the circular saw attachment on the vacuum and was coming at me with horrendous speed. I dodged.

I was fast, but not fast enough. The power cord whipped out of its retractable holder and wrapped around one of the protruding sofa legs, holding firm. Nina swung around me like a Rebel Snowspeeder around the legs of an Imperial Walker and buzzed me with the saw, nearly taking my head off. I punched the retro rockets into reverse and snapped her off. Now it was time to retaliate. I shot several rounds of white glue-covered wooden pegs into Nina's engine nacelle at the same time as she aspirated all of my rocket fuel into the vacuum's HEPA filter.

Our eyes met.

We both underwent motility failure simultaneously, and fell spiraling back to Earth. I wondered if the contents insurance I had on my condo would cover this. Nina shouted curses at me for cheaping out and not buying the deluxe model vacuum cleaner that came with a parachute attachment. Alas.

We crashed through the roof of a nearby Baskin-Robbins.

When I came to, Nina was already digging her way through a three-scoop serving of Cherries Jubilee, a deep cut over her right brow and a look of utter contentment on her face. The smashed vacuum cleaner rested in pieces around her stool, wisps of smoke rising from the burnt plastic shards. My sofa had not fared much better, and I saw that it had been foolish of me to ever have worried about the mustard stain on one of the cushions.

I pulled myself up to the counter and ordered a triple scoop of Pistachio Almond. As I let the cool flavours melt over my tongue, I turned to Nina and asked, "Same time next week?"

She was holding the handle of her spoon in one fist, with the top of it pulled back by the fingers of her other hand, catapult style. A hefty payload of ice cream rested in the bowl of the spoon.

"Why wait?" replied Nina.



You can order Darwin's Paradox from!

1 comment:

sfgirl said...

LOL! Sure hope you like Cherries Jubilee! Great interview, Jen! Maybe now you'll buy the deluxe version.