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How Author Victoria Lee’s Fantasy Novel Eerily Predicted Our Present Moment

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Sara Deek
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Courtesy of Webtoon

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.

Josie Taris left her home in Fayetteville in 2014 to study journalism at Northwestern University. There, she took a class called Journalism of Empathy and found her passion in audio storytelling. She hopes every story she produces challenges the audience's preconceptions of the world. After spending the summer of 2018 working in communications for a Chicago nonprofit, she decided to come home to work for the station she grew up listening to. When she's not working, Josie is likely rooting for the Chicago Cubs or petting every dog she passes on the street.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.