When Victoria Lee first wrote “The Fever King” (2019/Skyscape), they did not intend to predict the future. Rather, they hoped to explore our habit of repeating history. Then the coronavirus hit, and the parallels between the fictional Durham, Carolinia in 2074 and the real Durham, North Carolina in 2020 deepened further.
The fantasy YA novel focuses on Noam Álvaro, a child of undocumented immigrants from Atlantia living in a post-apocolyptic Carolinia. A pandemic of a magical virus plagues the nation, and the vast majority of people who contract the virus die. Some, however, survive and retain magical powers catered to their personalities. After Noam’s parents die, and he survives the virus with a new power to control technology, he is recruited by the government that oppresses immigrant families like his own.
In their book, Lee explores themes like immigration, xenophobia, child sexual abuse and public health. Their novel, the first in a series, was adapted for the webcomic app Webtoon. The comic has more than 373,000 subscribers, who read an updated strip of the story weekly. Host Frank Stasio talks with author Victoria Lee about writing a fantasy novel based in the South and the joys of watching an illustrator translate words into art. You can follow Lee on Instagram at @sosaidvictoria, where they host occasional live events.