Marcus MacGregor is a former middle grade and high school English teacher with experience in film, screenwriting, theater, and music. Melding all of his interests with a sincere concern for the direction modern science might be taking us Marcus has released the first offering in a four-part series of young adult (YA) novels surrounding the exploits of fictional Hollywood stuntman and animal trainer Wade Boss.
“Wade Boss Hybrid Hunter” presents hours of entertainment to both young and old readers, though the story and lighthearted writing style is designed for YA fans. Marcus capably intertwined the traditional spaghetti western with contemporary settings and topics, injected the author’s own brand of sometimes not so subtle humor (in a good way), to create a not so common hero. Wade Boss is a bit of a throwback. A cowboy at heart more at home on horseback than four wheels, Boss is called upon to defend the nation against hybrid monsters, the first of which, a mutant pairing of tiger and lizard, is introduced in the prologue. And this is where we need to step aside from the story for a moment.
Transgenic experimentation/science is a reality. As laymen, we tend to think of hybrids in terms of food production. Hybrid seeds are produced from naturally out-breeding crops, from which inbred lines are produced by repeated self-pollination, the end result being those tasty fruits and vegetables we all enjoy. But science now has the ability to transplant genetic material from one species into an egg or embryo of another species. Think in terms of sheep injected with a bacteria that kills blowflies, thus producing lambs immune to that particular insect. Or, the concept of pig embryos injected with a human gene to produce hearts that can be transplanted into people without fear of rejection. These possibilities aren’t from my imagination. They’re very real. I even found one discussion about the possibility of creating a human brain inside chimpanzees to produce human mentality with superior strength and agility. I don’t think there’s much to fear there though. Give them their own Internet social network and text phones, and we’d only see them at suppertime.
“Wade Boss Hybrid Hunter” takes transgenics to the ultimate level of crossbreeding animals to produce new species, which, for the author’s purpose of telling a great story, then run amuck. ‘Wade Boss’ is fun. The story is crisp, the dialogue and plot well-constructed. For those seeking a blend of science and westerns in today’s world, you should give this book a try.
Q) What got you interested in transgenics?
A) Well, I’m always curious about emerging technologies, whatever they be. But my specific interest in hybrid animals is mostly driven by my desire to write stories with monsters in them. I’ve been crazy about monsters since I was a kid. They’re unbelievably cool, and in terms of storytelling they can be powerful metaphors for things that need to be fought and overcome.
I also like my science fiction to revolve around science that’s on the verge of becoming non-fiction. When you know that a certain technology is imminent, I think the potential dangers hit closer to home, making the story that much more engaging. And for better or worse, that’s where we’re at when it comes to transgenics: the technology is science-fiction only in the sense that it’s in its infancy. In fact hybrid animals do exist – maybe not as exotic as the ones in my book, at least not that we know of. But this is a technology that is being aggressively advanced – and not just somewhere out there in the world, but right here in United States.
Q) The sub topic of transgenics could have easily been transformed to an adult series of stories preaching the dangers. Instead, you chose to make it a secondary issue in order to manufacture the evil doers for a YA series. Why?
A) On many levels I’m concerned about the potential abuses of genetic power, but with Wade Boss: Hybrid Hunter, my primary interest was to tell a whopping-good yarn. I wanted to offer young adults a rousing, optimistic adventure – the kind I thrilled to as a young man, but which is seldom written anymore. As the series progresses, the ethical questions related to genetic engineering are explored to a degree, but never in such a way that the narrative becomes oppressive.
The thing that makes rogue genetic science so perfect for Wade Boss is that you don’t need lots of huge expensive equipment – like a nuclear reactor, or a large Hadron collider – to conduct it. That aspect of the science allowed me to concoct bad guys who could plausibly operate in the shadows, always staying one step ahead of Wade and his fellow hybrid hunters. So my concerns about transgenics are very real, but as far as Wade Boss is concerned, those dangers primarily exist to take readers on an adventure.
Q) You were an English teacher passionate about C.S. Lewis, who besides being a novelist was a theologian and Christian apologist; yet, you chose to write Wade Boss’s stories. How did that decision come about?
A) Yes, I love Lewis! As a teacher, I especially enjoyed introducing my students to his space trilogy. But whereas Lewis’s fiction leans heavily towards allegory, Wade Boss is more of a “what you see is what you get” kind of tale. That’s not to say that it’s shallow. It’s just that the metaphors are not intended to stand for anything specific. I hope that the story teaches something about truth and ultimate meaning.
Q) “Wade Boss Hybrid Hunter” is devoid of the macabre and darkness found in a lot of YA work these days. You could have easily gone that route to take advantage of the trend, but didn’t. Why not?
A) Well, first off I want to say that there is nothing inherently wrong with a story just because it’s dark. But with regards to contemporary YA literature, there does seem to be an over-emphasis on darker story lines, to the exclusion of others.
In Wade Boss, the stakes are plenty serious – life and death, in fact. But the tone of the story never becomes pessimistic or cynical. The tag-line on the back cover of the book is: “Dangerous new world. Old-fashioned hero.” And I’ve worked very hard to write the kind of hopeful story that used to be more prevalent, but is often scoffed at these days.
There’s a lot of depth as the saga unfolds, but always a lot of subtle humor too, which will appeal to older teens and even adults. There’s really something in it for just about everybody. There are strong male and female characters. It’s an action-adventure first, but there’s also some romance in there as well – nothing inappropriate, either, which hopefully a lot of people will find refreshing as well.
Q) Any parting thoughts for readers about to be introduced to your work?
A) I guess I’d say that for anyone looking for an adventure that is more light-hearted than the majority of YA books out there, Wade Boss: Hybrid Hunter may be what you’ve been waiting for! It’s extremely fast-paced, but the characters are very emotionally “real.” It’s a story with a lot of compassion – in fact, Wade’s compassion is what determines almost every major decision he makes.
Wade isn’t a perfect hero – he makes mistakes and occasionally loses his temper. But he has a very soft heart, and when he does mess up, he’s always genuinely sorry and tries to make things right. Unlike so many anti-heroes who have to be dragged kicking and screaming to be anything other than selfish, Wade truly wants to be a good man. For me, that’s the single most compelling thing about the story, and I think a lot of young adults out there are hungering for that kind of role model.
DA Kentner is an award-winning author. www.kevad.net