Clade is my first novel, published by Bantam Spectra in December, 2003. It won the second annual Emperor Norton Award, was a finalist for the Philip K. Dick Award, and a nominee for the Alaska Association of School Librarians Puffin Award. A large part of the book was written while I was living in Watsonville, California. Like many of the farming towns along the California Central Coast, Watsonville has a long history of labor conflict, migrant workers, and immigrants (legal and illegal). Immigrant populations, especially illegal ones, tend to be insular. Out of fear or prejudice, the people that make them up keep to themselves. To a large degree illegal aliens remain physically and psychologically isolated from the general population. They live in self-contained communities where they can easily maintain their own language, ethics, and cultural traditions. They don’t need to integrate, and often don’t want to. This was the idea behind the clades and pherions (viral pheromones). What, I wondered, would the world look like if the divisions between people were biochemically mediated and enforced, to the point where certain populations and segments of society could be physically separated and prevented from interacting? Clade was my attempt to use science as a metaphor to explore segregation along cultural, social, religious, and economic lines. I was particularly interested in this question on the level of everyday life. How would this technology affect the lives of the poorest segments of the population? The main character, Rigo, isn’t illegal, but he’s on the lower end of the economic scale. Like everyone, he wants a better life for himself, and has to figure out how to do that within the constraints imposed on him by the clade social order.
It’s late, almost dusk, when Rigo finally gets off work, grabs a quick bite to eat at Salmon Ella’s, and catches the Bay to Bay shuttle from Monterey to visit his ailing mother in San Jose.