Sunday, May 15, 2016


Stacey Berg is a medical researcher who writes speculative fiction. Her work as a physician-scientist provides the inspiration for many of her stories. She lives in Houston and is a member of the Writers’ League of Texas. When she’s not writing, she practices kung fu and runs half marathons.

Berg applied the Page 69 Test to her debut novel Dissension, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Up so close, the glow of the spire washed half the familiar stars away. If she were in the desert, she would see a long tail spiraling off that constellation there, and the dim red eye that blinked over the horizon at this time of year just there, but from here even her sensitive vision could make out almost none of those familiar patterns. It was enough, even so, to bring those desert camps to her in detail, from the taste of the smoke in her throat, pungent and resiny, to the small hissing creaks the rocks made as they cooled in the night, to the way, trapped once by a pack of canids, she had lain with a pebble pressed painfully into her thigh for long hours when she dared not move.

She wondered if the Saint had a thread of thought for her.

After a while she let her forehead drop on her drawn-up knees and closed her eyes.

Her attention snapped back to the yard when the lights abruptly came on.

It wasn’t unusual for young hunters to be out at this hour; they might have had an exercise or some practice they had come up with on their own, or maybe tonight they just couldn’t sleep either and had decided to get an early start on their day. What was unusual was to see a motionless figure on the ground, another kneeling beside it, and two more girls standing very, very still above them.
Dissension takes place in a world where the Church, with its cloned Saint, leads the remnants of humanity as they struggle for survival in the last inhabited city. Echo Hunter 367 is exactly what the Church created her to be: loyal, obedient, lethal; unable to care about anything but the duty the Church created her to fulfill. But by page 69, Echo is having a crisis of the conscience she’s not supposed to possess. This page gives us a sense of Echo’s isolation: the dimness of the familiar stars, the remembered pain and danger of the desert. The detailed physicality of her memories tells us something about her hunter nature. Although this passage does not emphasize the science fiction aspect of the story, we get hints from the comment about Echo’s particularly sensitive vision, the mention of canids, and the idea of a thinking Saint.

This page directly addresses one of the story’s most important themes, Echo’s loneliness and uncertainty as revealed in her thoughts about the Saint. And even though this is a quiet passage, it propels the story’s key events, as the ominous discovery of the still figure on the ground triggers murder, exile, and Echo’s search for the truth about herself and her world.
Visit Stacey Berg's website.

--Marshal Zeringue