An Interview With Meihan Boey, Author Of The Messiah Virus
Hello Meihan! How have you been lately and how have the reviews for The Messiah Virus been so far?
Awesome! I’ve been busy but with all the good stuff, like planning a cool yoga-SingLit session in celebration of the Singapore Writers Festival — an idea only Kenny could have dreamed up, but hey, why not?
I’ve seen a couple of reviews for The Messiah Virus, most notably by Wayne Rée and Crispin Rodrigues. I’ve also seen the odd random review on social media, plus of course the nice things friends say! Overall, everyone’s been wonderfully positive and the general idea of the story has made the impact I hoped for, so I’m certainly pleased!
Did you manage to have some fruitful conversations with your readers or have you learnt anything new that you wish to apply in your next book?
Yes! Crispin had a good critique which helped me consider a few ways I might make ‘the next one’ better. In particular the motivations of some characters were left ambiguous. While this was deliberate (for gods are cryptic and ineffable, even the artificial ones), it did make me think I could have dealt with that theme in a more developed way.
One reader gave me my favourite review thus far: “I loved it so much I had to pace myself to try to make it last!” It was an online review (fortunately) or I would have probably grabbed and kissed her...!
Although The Messiah Virus is your debut novel, you have written many different things before. Wayne Rée has described your book as ‘lots of “pew pew bang bang ker-ba-boom” space adventure and action.’ How would you describe yourself as a writer?
Haha, exactly as Wayne put it! I like to also describe it as a ‘rain, tea, and books’ sort of style. Nothing I write will ever be depressing, intellectual, or artistic; it will never be Literature with an uppercase L. But you can safely count on me if you want a story to entertain you on the beach, on a plane, or at home on a rainy Sunday. You’ll never find me in a classroom.
I’ve tried to write ‘serious’ fiction and have failed miserably. My brain is all bright colours and bang bang pew pew ker-ba-boom.
Did you have any space opera aspirations for The Messiah Virus when you were writing? Do you see the novel as a film or even a comic?
Haha well it was written very deliberately as a space opera, using every single trope, so I would totally recreate it as a comic book or anime script! (Since my background being largely in comics!)
I would love to create a comic out of The Messiah Virus, but years of being in comics has also demonstrated how much work, money and coordination goes into a good comic. When all these ducks are in a row, then we might paddle down that river.
In your biography, you claim to want to be Super Saiyan. How did that notion come about?
OHHH HOW MANY WORDS CAN THIS ANSWER BE???
Ok, long story very short — I am the biggest fan of Dragonball Z. I was, and still am deeply infatuated with the Saiyan prince Vegeta. His one overriding characteristic is stupid mindless persistence, to wit — he trained with extreme, near-lethal stubbornness to become a Super Saiyan, the super-powered version of the alien race, the Saiyans.
I used to be a fat girl. I decided my dream was to complete an Ironman triathlon. With stupid mindless persistence, I Vegeta’d my way through ten years of training, and completed an Ironman in 2013. I was dead last, but I made it before the cutoff time — 12 seconds (I am totally serious) before cutoff.
To me, that’s the real-life equivalent of a Vegeta Super Saiyan — you may not be the strongest, fastest, or fittest, but that’s no reason not to stupidly and mindlessly persist in trying.
Entering the literary community of Singapore, what has been the most memorable thing that has happened to you that made you excited about being an author?
Oh gosh! Kenny’s acceptance letter!!
Seriously, like most aspiring authors, I have so many rejection letters. Kenny’s acceptance letter was not only amazing just because it was an acceptance, but also because he was clearly willing to take a risk on someone he’d never heard of, in a genre only one other Singaporean author has ever published a whole novel in.
Without that letter, all the other amazing things wouldn’t have happened, like being a part of SWF or meeting all these other amazing writers I’ve admired from afar for years (O Thiam Chin! I sat beside O Thiam Chin! My god!).
What made you think of creating a fictitious world dominated by females, and to top it off, one that seamlessly included many different races?
I studied Media Studies in university, and in particular Gender Studies as applied to mass media.
Sci fi is one of the most problematic genres of fiction in terms of inclusivity and the representation of women. I’m not saying it’s bad — it is what it is — but it occurred to me that a galactic universe dominated by a female, Asian perspective would be something interesting to explore.
It started, I think, with a combination of Alia from Dune (who was, in my opinion, the most interesting character, and was completely shortchanged by her story arc) and the Sisters of Battle (now called Adepta Sororitas) from Warhammer 40K. These ladies are so distinct from the patriarchal galaxies they’re from, I just thought — what if they were in charge?
Thank you for doing this interview with us! In closing, what are you most excited about now?
So many things!!
Firstly, a comic book I’m involved in the creation of is finally launching at SWF: The Once-and-Marvellous DKD, about Singaporean musicians in the Vietnam War.
Then, Kenny sent me another of his wondrous acceptance letters, for another novella to be out in 2020.
Finally, on the prompting of a few readers, I’ll start on a sequel to The Messiah Virus — let’s see where that goes!!
I’m just so happy to now be a part of the SingLit community, and I love the support and respect among all the authors, publishers, editors and book elves (I was one for 8 years, so I don’t underestimate the value of the book elves) I've met.