Tlotlo Tsamaase

Viroid by Tlotlo Tsamaase

Gaborone, Botswana

College freshman Zuri Masozi grew up in a simulated world, Virtualis, where he and his friends are integrated to expensive downloadable apps that allows them to modify their gender, race and body size. He can be anything he wants to be: male, female, old, sexy.  So when the medical-procedure day arrives for the eighteen-year-old boy, he’s eager for a gender change. To him the medical procedure allows him to be what he’s always desired: a girl. In Virtualis there are no surgical cuts and there are procreation options. Virtualis is idyllic unlike Realum the reality-based world Zuri abhors.

But, when a group of outsiders, Viroids, instigate attacks to overthrow Virtualis, Zuri fights to terminate them according to the government’s strict regime: by being both a student and a soldier—the perfect patriot for a dying city. Like hell will she lose her ‘selected’ gender when she’d waited years to become a woman. Virtualis is her sanctuary and the way she sees it: nothing will stand in her way to preserve it. Only, she’s clueless as to what happens to their plugged-in bodies in Realum.

VIROID is an Adult science-fiction complete at 77,000 words. VIROID hosts a multicultural diverse cast concerning their struggles with their gender, race and sexuality as they battle to survive in a power-hungry commercialist world much like Moxyland by Lauren Beukes á la Ghost in a Shell.


The Book Doctors: The issue of transitioning genders, the fluidity of sexual identity, and the choice of how one carries oneself through the world is of much interest at the moment.  And we’ve never seen this issue tackled quite like this. It’s fascinating to create a virtual world where one can become whomever one wants to be without having to undergo surgery or any other physical change. Fascinating, compelling and unique.  It’s everything we want in a book, taking a topic we’re interested in, and giving it a new treatment.  That being said, we don’t understand enough of how the virtual world and the real world interact and coexist.  It will be great to give us some word pictures of our hero/heroine in both places.  We also don’t get an idea of who the Viroids are, what they look like, why they’re so intent on destroying the virtual world.  And it’s a little unclear when the pronoun changes from male to female.  We also, again, don’t see a series of events that escalate and lead to a fiery climax.  We like the comparable title.  We don’t quite see enough of the power-hungry commercialized world in the pitch and would like to see more of that because it is an of-the-moment villainous entity.  And we’d like to see more of the interior of our hero, besides the fact that he/she wants to save the world and go from being a man to a woman.  Shine a light inside him/her so we can see what it’s like to be in a body that’s the wrong sex.  We love the fact that you’re from Botswana, and we have no idea how to pronounce your name, but it seems like it will sound absolutely wonderful when spoken aloud.  Fantastic idea for addressing an issue which obsesses a nation, a very post-modern take on gender fluidity and assignment.  Not a clear enough picture of how this world works, and who exactly our hero is.


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