To celebrate the release of the final instalment in Byddi Lee’s gripping Dystopian trilogy, we’re going back to where it all started in Rejuvenation!
The Melter War has left the Earth’s surface devastated, leaving humanity to survive on what little land is left between the Scorch Zones and the rising oceans, where towering scubscrapers dot the dystopian shorelines.
Bobbie Chan is a doctor caring for the ultra-elderly in one such subscraper when she notices a mysterious, new disease afflicting her patients; some show signs of age reversal before a catastrophic, and often fatal, cardiac arrest strikes.
Bobbie begins to wonder if she is witnessing a bio weapon in full force. A Melter attack? Are they destined to finish the war they started?
Bobbie begins a race against time to rescue the Rejuvenees and uncover their true enemy.
How Irish Legends Inspired A Science Fiction Trilogy About Getting Younger.
As I was growing up, the Irish legends that captured my imagination most were not the daring-does of Cuchulainn – The Hound of Ulster nor the stories of Macha – the queen who gave her name to my home town Armagh. In fact, the ancient warriors and royalty didn’t interest me at all, but those stories that involved distorted ageing and extended longevity did. It was an indulgence of sorts to weave the essence of these stories into The Rejuvenation Trilogy.
Rejuvenation is set in a dystopian future. There are matter streamers to provide food, hovercrafts for transportation, and carebots to tend to the frail. Against this backdrop of technology, we see a society that is top-heavy with an aged population. People still yearn to be and stay young.
The Irish fairy tales have stood the test of time and inspire the children of that era, such as our main characters, Bobbie and Gracie, fraternal twins. Gracie suffers from a rapid ageing disease called Progeria and is particularly drawn to the stories of Tír na nÓg, the Land of the Forever Young that’s far across the waves and can only be reached by a magic horse as she explains to Bobbie…
‘“I’m no angel,” Gracie said, grinning. “I’m one of the little people, a leprechaun! And I’m going to escape to Tír na nÓg.”
“To where?” Bobbie asked.
“The land of everlasting youth. Everyone is beautiful and young there, and when I go there, I’ll look just like you,” Gracie said. “But with black hair, like Daddy.”
“How do you know all this?”
“I read about it on the Internet.”
“Can I come?” Bobbie couldn’t imagine being anywhere without Gracie.
“Yes, but you’ll have to wait until when you’re old. Like me.” Gracie’s fuchsia pink dress reflected off her skin, giving her bare, veined scalp an ethereal glow.
“But you’re only nine. We’re the same age.”
“Yes, but I’m the one who’s a fairy, remember? I’ll watch over you from Tír na nÓg. Time passes slower there than it does in Armagh, so it will only feel like ten minutes to me before you’re there, too.”’
Excerpt from Rejuvenation Book 1
The Children of Lir is another example of a legend that tells of excessive ageing and longevity. Lir’s children are turned into swans by their stepmother and sent into exile for three hundred years. They returned to their home in Ireland and resumed human form – as three-hundred-year-old humans – then they died. I’m grossly paraphrasing, but nonetheless, it’s a tragic tale.
We find out early in Rejuvenation Book 1 that Gracie died at the age of 13 from her condition. Her death left a lasting effect on her twin sister Bobbie who, feeling she had acquired a special understanding of ageing because of Gracie, went on to become a geriatrician. In Rejuvenation Book 2, Bobbie uses the fairy tale of the Children of Lir to try to make sense of ageing and death in the real world, a challenge for her since she sees both daily in her job.
Other Irish fairy tales hold more promise, like the one about Fionn Mc Cool being tricked by the old witch, the Calliagh Berra on top of Slieve Gullion, the highest mountain in County Armagh. As the story goes, one day Fionn found a young woman crying by the lake at the top of the mountain. When he asked her why she said she’d dropped her gold ring into the lake. Being the hero he was, he jumped in after it. But the girl was the old witch who was jealous of her sister for being in love with Fionn. The witch had put a spell on the lake so that when Fionn came out, he had aged to become a withered old man with white hair. But Fionn’s followers made the witch reverse the spell, and he became young again.
The Rejuvenation Trilogy is all about regaining lost youth and its consequences. Bobbie’s most elderly patients contract a strange disease which proves fatal to some but others, including her Granny, survive and become younger, fitter and psychopathic!
I was drawn to the idea that eternal youth wasn’t exactly the be-all and end-all and wanted to explore the gifts that come with age. In a society that values the beauty of youth, that’s quite a challenge, but even the Irish legends will have us realise that the beauty of youth is only skin deep as in the story of Oisin, Fionn Mc Cool’s son.
As the story goes, Oisín falls in love with Niamh, a woman of the Otherworld. She takes him across the waves on a magic horse to Tír na nÓg. After what feels like three years to Oisín, he becomes homesick and wants to return to Ireland. Niamh warns him to stay on the magic horse and never to touch the ground. But when Oisín returns, he discovers that 300 years have passed in Ireland. He falls from the horse and instantly ages. As the years catch up with him, he quickly dies.
In Rejuvenation Book 1 this same legend is reflected in several instances of age catching up quickly on a youthful body and although this legend is not actually recounted, it forms the basis of some of Bobbie’s nightmares.
‘By the time Death carried Gracie to Tír na nÓg four years later, Bobbie had read scores of legends about the Land of the Forever Young. Alone in the bedroom, Bobbie had once shared with Gracie, she’d jolt awake after dreaming of her twin sister returning for her on a white horse, young and beautiful, her black hair billowing out behind her. Bobbie would reach for Gracie, but as their hands touched, Gracie’s hair would turn white, her skin would wrinkle, her body crumple as she died all over again from old age.’
Excerpt from Rejuvenation Book 1
I think ultimately the idea of folding the old fairly tales into a high-tech dystopian future is a metaphor for life – we can’t forge ahead and embrace the new and the vivacious unless we can carry with us and learn from the stories and wisdom from years gone by.
Byddi Lee grew up in Armagh and moved to Belfast to study at Queen’s University. She has since lived in South Africa, Canada, California and Paris before returning to live in her hometown, Armagh.
Her Rejuvenation Trilogy, is published by Castrum Press and Rejuvenation Book One, Book Two and Book Three all available now. Book One is also out in audiobook.
She has published flash fiction, short stories and, in 2014, her novel, March to November. Byddi has also co-written the play IMPACT – Armagh’s Train Disaster with Malachi Kelly and Tim Hanna. IMPACT was directed by Margey Quinn and staged by the Armagh Theatre Group in the Abbey Lane Theatre June 2019.
During the COVID 19 pandemic when all theatres were closed, Byddi teamed up with Malachi and Tim to write Zoomeo & Juliet and Social Bubble Toil & Trouble suitable for live performance delivered through Zoom, produced by Margery Quinn and performed by the Armagh Theatre Group.
Byddi is a co-founder of the spoken word event Flash Fiction Armagh and is co-editor of The Bramley – An Anthology of Flash Fiction Armagh.
Sign up to Byddi’s newletter for more details of release dates.
This Event Was Organized By:
R&R Book Tours