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DarkSF is the Dark Chocolate of Science Fiction, says John Argo

Doom Spore. John Argo's fascination with the original 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers (and other good 1950s black and white SF films) led him to write this fresh and original take on a theme that is more plausible than you realize. Years after writing this intriguing adventure, the author learned that there really are fungal zombies that take over the brain and body, at least in the insect world—can humans be next?

Doom Spore (a DarkSF Series novel) is a 'summer movie in a book' - dark, chilling, and hugely creepy science-horror fiction in the tradition of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, They Walked Like Men, and The Thing. As it turns out (the author didnít know this when writing it in 2003-5) Doom Spore reflects a true phenomenon - the entomopathogen fungus family, which turns ants and other insects into suicidal robots (zombies) to help the fungus thrive while the helpless victim (e.g., a carpenter ant) suffers a prolonged and terrifying death right out of your worst nightmares. More on that true science in a moment.

Lt. Linsey Simon, San Diego Harbor Police, and her husband, hard-hitting reporter Jack Simon, are thrust headlong into the gripping case of a dangerous scientific experiment gone horribly wrong for corporate profit.

This scary and entertaining story begins quietly and ominously in little homes in ordinary neighborhoods around San Diego. A boy named Jimmy Mendez, 9, and his cousin Maribel Walesky, 10, await the return of their dads (merchant sailors) from the sea.

But the things that come home are not men. They look like sailors, but they are silent and empty-eyed, and are not the same dads who went to sea. At first, only the children can see this -not their mothers, nor any other adults--and nobody will believe them.

Soon, people begin dying all over town, turning into alien spore carriers seeking their next victim to infect. The inhuman forces behind this are well organized by a corporation whose desperate and risky effort to develop a forbidden jungle-derived drug has gone horribly wrong. From a secret airstrip, in the Volcan Mountains east of San Diego, crop-dusting missions fly over the city to spread their spores more efficiently.

By the time human authorities realize what confronts them, it's all but too late.

Now it's up to Linsey and Jack, along with two brave children and a few hardy citizens, to save the world. San Diego, beautiful tourist capital of blue skies and balmy sea breezes, becomes a colony of the fungal or Fifth Kingdom of life on Earth.

John Argo has written an entirely new and fresh premise here, using not the alien pods found in Jack Finneyís 1955 classic The Body Snatchers, but a fungus horror from right here on Earth in the jungles of Peru. Amazingly, after publishing this book, the author learned that there are actually zombie fungus life forms in those very jungles. This is no joke. They are called entomopathogens, right out of the worst nightmares of science horror. Thatís science fiction gone dark and creepy (like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Thing, and similar stories).

Doom Spore is fiction (so far) but entomopathogens are real. For example, the fungus Ophiocordyceps unilateralis (discovered in 1859 in a tropical rainforest) attacks insects including carpenter ants. The fungus seats itself on the antís head, drills into the brain, and builds a kind of living console on top of the head. The antís entire nervous system is now controlled by the fungus, making the ant into a zombie (literally). The fungus then controls the ant, forcing it to abandon its life and venture into areas where the temperature and humidity are best suited for fungal reproduction. There, the ant is then forced to attach itself to a leaf or similar perch until it dies from starvation and dehydration, overgrown with fungus as in the worst horror movie you can imagine. Even Doom Spore isnít quite as cruel, although Doom Spore is both terrifying and rewarding as a modern classic soon to be.

Jack Finneyís The Body Snatchers has been made and remade into movies at least three times. Thatís a sure sign a story is not just great, but an archetype that spawns endless homages. Doom Spore is an homage but not an imitation. Read it and youíll agree that Doom Spore is wildly fresh and original, and deserves to be made into a very scary, addictive movie.

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San Diego novels and stories by John T. Cullen John Argo Jean-Thomas Cullen


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What is DarkSF? We like to say that DarkSF is the Dark Chocolate of Science Fiction. DarkSF is not about gore or grue but about art and atmosphere. It is literary and poetic. Think of the artful genius of Ridley Scott's 1982 Blade Runner or Alex Proyas' 1998 Dark City or Julien Leclercq's 2007 Chrysalis, just to name three. The best SF is DarkSF because it tends to embrace sweeping themes in a rich broth of art and atmosphere. The list is long, and includes far more of world literature than our Puritanical society is allowed to think. Elements occur in the Epic of Gilgamesh, Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, Dante's Divine Comedy, Defoe's 1719 Robinson Crusoe, and tales by many modern masters. We'll be publishing a special DarkSF website soon to celebrate.