FAQ’s Answered #9: What Inspired “Prodigal Sun” & “High Steaks”?

Today in a series of replies to FAQ (frequently asked questions) sent to me by fans (and sometimes not so much), I answer the question:  “What inspired “Prodigal Sun” and “High Steaks”?

In 2017 I published “Prodigal Sun”, which was the first new title in the Quantum series in a decade. The previous title, “Loderunner” was released in 2007, and the previous three titles between 2005 and 6. At first glance, anyone who’s read the first four books would notice something different about “Prodigal Sun”. For starters, whereas each of the preceding four stories are fairly self-contained and follow onto each other, the story begun in book 5 doesn’t end at the last line of the book – it continues into the next book, title 6, “High Steaks” – and beyond that as well!

Also different to the original four titles – the first quadrilogy if you will, these next two new stories, “Prodigal Sun” and “High Steaks” go down a rather dark, frightening path since they’re inspired in part by current events.


But what actually inspired the story?

In 2016 when Donald Trump rode a wave of hysteria, hatred and race-identity national-socialism that broke inside the Oval Office, I remember the incidence of reported hate crimes against people of color, perceived LGBT people, Muslims and Jews in the US immediately sky-rocketed. Images of property vandalized with “Trump’s our president now” and racist or homophobic slurs scrawled on it flooded news and social media. The fearfulness of persecuted minorities – especially immigrants – whose civil rights protections and fight for equality had enjoyed a measure of progress and stability under 8 years of Obama and democratic tenure – was suddenly tangible.

Emboldened by the now familiar, chilling statements: “Trump’s our president now” and ironically, “make America great again“(“MAGA”) deplorable walking paradoxes set about making life a living hell for everyone they hated, even if it meant destroying their own country, its infrastructure, economy – and even their own livelihoods to do it. “Make America great again” they chanted – while everything they stood for – and every inch they gained in undermining the safety of their neighbors, family members or work colleagues signified the exact polar opposite.

What was going on in the US was relayed via social media – ‘Facebook friends’ – but more than that, it was made that much more personal for me by people I had known and met offline – LGBT people and people of color who expressed how afraid they were for their own or other’s safety.

The outward facade the United States of America had built up, of being a bastion of “liberty, equality and justice for all” and as a supporter of global human rights, crumbled into dust literally overnight.

The office of POTUS too suffered a devastating blow as other world leaders overtly stopped taking it – or anything it’s occupant said or did, seriously. Beyond the president being a walking, talking orange comedy skit on SNL, like many people around the world, I expressed acute embarrassment for the part of the average ordinary American.

But…how did all that affect me, living in South Africa?

In 2016, Trump and his acerbic zombie following existed for us only in the faraway United States – and on Facebook, and Twitter… But Trump’s stochastic terrorism echo didn’t stop there.

As bad as it was seeing what was going on over in the US in terms of preference given to hateful, ignorant statements being uttered against people on the basis of their race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation – I suddenly noticed South Africans repeating the same mindless zombie horseshit virtually verbatim! It became immediately obvious to me that Trump and his idiotic cult followers and their publicly aired caveman views were emboldening right-wing lunatics everywhere!

Across Europe and in South America, right-wing nationalist politicial parties and fascist idealogues – typically riding on tickets of “Christian identity” – suddenly began to make the news. They seemed to be scrambling to capitalize on Trump and more importantly – on the unashamed, unwavering tidal-wave of support he had from American flag-waving nazis, white nationalists and similar domestic terrorist organizations! Likewise, in South Africa, right-wing-leaning loons also felt emboldened, said “Hold my beer!”, zipped up their Human suits, and goose-stepped onto center-stage!

For my wife Wendy and I, the almost weekly or monthly incidence of blocking bible-thumping neo-nazi nitwits on Facebook (from the US and South Africa) harassing us for being lesbian, being married, being openly Pagan – or because of me being transgender, increased to an almost daily activity.

We began to notice more local neanderthals using the old South African flag as their cover images on Facebook, and spouting the same hateful Christianist rhetoric against atheists, Jews and Muslims and in particular against LGBT people – as trumpanzees from the US. Sharing memes is easy after all – and birds of a feather flock together.

The local right wingers who’d been subdued and quiescent for years had suddenly became very brave, and began again openly criticizing mixed relationships and marriages, freedom of religion in schools and secular government, ‘gay marriage’ and ‘transgender freaks’. A new wave of public shaming, bullying and intimidation began, and surged against their favorite targets.

I watched as these intellectual infants gleefully reposted ignorant memes, repeated outright lies and shared propaganda about the fictitious threat of transgender child predators preying on children in bathrooms, and violence-glorifying responses from agreeable “concerned” parents. With almost ironic gay abandon, they indulged in LGBT character-assassination using the usual Christianist tripe as both source and justification. The ‘diknekke‘ declared themselves patriotic – but towards the old South Africa – the one where militant white Afrikaner nationalists ruled, and if you weren’t white, Afrikaans, Christian or heterosexual – well, then life was bound to be pretty fucking hard…

Before I realized it, I felt my jaw set and my head tilting askance. If I had claws and a barbed tail, they’d be out, gleaming and ready to strike. “Is that so?” I thought angrilly. I’d seen all this before, and I wasn’t having any of it! Not on my watch!

I’m a storyteller, a writer – and so I did what I do best: I wrote.

Prodigal Sun” and “High Steaks” (and their sequels in the Quantum series which I’m currently working on) take the Terran colony Deanna and its characters down a familiar path of shock and awe, abject terror, and darkness and despair as a group of highly organized and well-funded neo-Nazi domestic terrorists stage a fascist coup and takeover.

The inhabitants of Atro City wake up one morning to find that the safe world they’d always known had been washed away in a sudden rip-tide of blood and violence… and constant fear.

LGBT people, aliens and religious moderates aren’t welcome in this brave new world, and the patriotic, flag-waving nationalist usurpers immediately crack down on anyone on their list of undesirables.  McMillen’s our Chancellor now – and there’s a new place on the map – their final destination, and it’s called ‘Xanadu’.

Deannans are a curious bunch – they’re not patriotic towards the Terran empire in the jingoist sense, but they’ll happily turn up to a parade for member of the imperial family visiting Deanna. They’ll eat hotdogs, cheer and wave a flag and enjoy the show and the carnival atmosphere.  This is the future after all, and everything’s cosmopolitan and peace and plenty. Beyond that, they’re mostly the sort of people who would want do the right thing – and sitting idly by while watching their friends and neighbors getting dragged away by jack-booted thugs doesn’t sit well with them.

The thought that an undercurrent of social malcontent had been suppressed and ignored for so long that it had hadn’t actually died out is unconscionable to the Terran government – and when it surfaces and strikes on Deanna, they are completely blind-sided by the revelation that it wasn’t only not dead, but that it had thrived in the dark – and that the tiny head that reared up on the remote colony had had the support of a vast invisible web!

That is part of the larger background story however, and will unfold as the stories write themselves. 😉


Both “Prodigal Sun” and “High Steaks” are part of the larger narrative, and follow several characters as they travel along this dark, winding path through the Human soul. Some are regulars seen previously in the series, and a few new faces are introduced along the way.

The story will continue to be told across several more parts, and the expected reckoning will come, justice will be done, and Ramalama will shine again – although Deanna and those living on it, will be forever changed.

If I can think of a way to sum up the central message of these latest books forming what I call the ‘quadrilogy’ within the Quantum Series, it’s to say yes, there is a frightening darkness to Humanity, which if left unchecked or ignored and allowed to thrive and prosper will wreak untold harm – but that the abiding overall truth is that most of humanity is humane and good at its core: Do not despair – the sun will shine again, and its light will obliterate the darkness, and expose and shame the monsters in Human form for all to see.

Where can you get “Prodigal Sun” and “High Steaks“?

You can find my books all over the place – on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Lulu, Smashwords, PayHip, and a stack of others around the world! You can also find them on my website’s Shop page.

For South African readers, Kobo lists all available titles in South African currency!

I hope this answers this question to your satisfaction!

Feel free to email or message me via Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn if you have any comments or questions!



If you would like to know more about Christina Engela and her writing, please feel free to browse her website.

If you’d like to send Christina Engela a question about her life as a writer or transactivist, please send an email to christinaengela@gmail.com or use the Contact form.

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All material copyright © Christina Engela, 2019.


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