• Featured Novel: 'The Cicada Prophecy' by J.R. McLeay

    In the near-future of J.R. McLeay's science fiction novel, The Cicada Prophecy,
    medical science finally discovers the secret to achieving immortality and eternal youth, but it comes with a price: in order to preserve everyone's youthful vitality, they must undergo an operation before passing into adulthood that locks their body in the form of a pre-adolescent eleven year-old.

    The Cicada Prophecy's
    plots revolve around the lives of Eva Bronwen, the only adult female of child-bearing age; Calvin James, the pastor of the Garden of Eden Church; and Richard Ross, bio-ethics professor at NYU and Surgeon-General of the UN.

    McLeay is a Toronto University graduate and biogerontology researcher focused in the area of molecular biology and recent rapid advances on human aging, and his debut novel is based on exciting breakthroughs that might lead to unlocking the secrets to immortality in our near-future.

    Interview with J.R. McLeay

    Why is the title of your novel "Cicada Prophecy"?

    There is a special phenotype of Cicada in the (real) natural world called Magicicada Cicada, which live extraordinarily long lives by controlling their hormone levels and placing themselves in a very long juvenile state before suddenly emerging en masse as adults in a short mating frenzy. I think this is an fascinating metaphor for the premise outlined in my story, where humans find a way to manipulate their bodies in a similar way.

    Since your immortal characters are locked in being 11-year-olds, are they able to reproduce? And with the death count declining in your world, does the issue of overpopulation arise?

    No, this is one of the key elements of this new world - nobody can reproduce anymore other than the few remaining adult female 'queens'. The issue of overpopulation or declining population doesn't arise until there is a complication with the hormone patch that everybody must wear to keep them in the physical state of an eleven year old. Only when people start dying off from this complication does this become a concern because otherwise everybody lives indefinitely, and since their is virtually no reproduction the population is in a state of equilibrium.

    Of all the ages, why 11-years-old?

    This is the age just prior to sexual maturity. The science of human longevity extension is predicated upon maintaining the special biochemistry of pre-adolescent juveniles to preserve the anti-aging potential. The aging clock is turned on as soon as we go through puberty and it is impossible to turn back after this time.

    The concept of life extension in "The Cicada Prophecy" is interesting. How does this discovery create conflict in your story?

    The essential conflict arises between those who believe the immortality provided by the new science is at odds with God's original plan versus the majority who have abandoned their faith to embrace the concept of eternal youth with no concern any longer for matters of the afterlife. This raises many moral issues and eventually an escalation of the debate to a serious conflict with drastic consequences.

    What do you think is the most interesting part of Dr. Ross' lecture about the science of aging and evolutionary biology?

    There are many fascinating issues pertaining to this subject of life-extension and human eugenics, both morally and scientifically.

    One of the key questions is: Would everybody want to live forever if it meant they would be forever locked in the bodies of an eleven year old?

    And the corollary issue: If they chose to accept this, would they otherwise behave like adults as they mature chronologically? Would the low testosterone levels experienced by the new juveniles create a more peaceful world with less conflict and violence?

    Do you believe that medical science will eventually reach this discovery sometime in our near future?

    Recently, there have been some dramatic advances in the area of biogerontology (the science of human aging at the cellular level), for which three American scientists won the Nobel prize for Medicine and Physiology. Studies on primates and other animals are showing that life extension can be dramatically extended via the manipulation of hormones and the pituitary. We're not quite at the point of producing immortals, but the key trigger for aging has been discovered and there are increasing resources being applied to investigating the implications for human aging. I believe we may see a dramatic breakthrough within our lifetimes.

    How does the extension of life influence the society and culture in your fiction? And do you think that would be the same case if discovered in reality?

    Perhaps the biggest question is if everybody knew they could live forever and no longer feared death, would they abandon their faith in God?

    The other critical life-altering question pertains to the subject of evolution, and that is if people could no longer reproduce while the rest of the world biology is ever-changing, how will the human race be able to adapt and protect themselves from potential future threats from the natural environment?

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