If you believe nothing happens by accident…or everything happens for a reason…then this is a story for you.

It begins when a young teenager at a local school is assigned a class project over her sophomore year. Project topics were not prescribed, and no guidance was issued on how to make, or do, or present, the project.

Zophia Kotala, 15, an articulate young lady with a penchant for language and deep love of science, decided she wanted to write a novelette about something that concerned her, something she was interested in and something that might resonate with the students who attend class with her in the International Baccalaureate program at Cocoa Beach Junior/Senior High School.

She had been pondering about what direction her project should take when she read a news story from 2017 about a Siberian town experiencing an ancient disease outbreak. Zophia, an honor student, said that’s when things got interesting.

“I began my research and kept coming across information that scientists and epidemiologists were predicting worldwide infectious diseases,” something that would be devastating to human life. And the economy. Something that would disrupt life in a way that no one had ever seen before.

She began writing “Scorching Siberian Winter” in December. The story chronicles the daily challenges of a brother and sister weathering through an apocalyptic global pandemic, and also focuses on climate change, science and politicians whose refusal to address those issues resulted in complete and utter destruction.
The novel coronavirus, Covid-1, was diagnosed in the U.S. and China on the same day, January 20, more than a month after she started penning her story.

“I had already started writing it, and then it actually was happening,” she said, still a bit dazed by the confluence of events.

With a heavy sigh, she added, “I’m sorry for what this means for the world, but it’s happening NOW,” she said. And, it’s likely to keep happening if we don’t collectively address the issues mentioned in her book, among
other things.

The project, titled “Communicating the Possible Future Following Global Warming Through Fiction Writing”, was presented in a Science Fair format on March 10. Along with the 50-page novelette, the project included a core question, and background research – topics she is well-familiar with. having placed almost every year since her first science fair presentation in the fourth grade.

Zophia said teachers and students both were stunned and asked repeatedly how she knew this was going to happen. She related her research in an answer that is stunning in its simplicity and shattering in its scope: “Scientists have been predicting global epidemics for years now because of climate change. It is not rocket science, just basic science.”

Science is something Zophia one day hopes to have a direct impact upon, and says she knows for sure she will work all the way through to a PhD or, perhaps, a PsyD degree, if she pursues a degree in psychology. She’s weighing options and touring college campuses, knowing she’s got a bit of time to make her choices.

When she’s not developing dystopian novelettes, she’s pretty much a normal teen. She plays on the school JV softball team, performs in the Brevard Youth Chorus and hangs out with her 10-year-old brother, Bobby, playing an occasional game of tennis or watching movies together.

She also attends Shakespearean and musical plays with her mom, and has been doing so for years.

“I love Shakespeare’s writing so much! He’s funny, smart, and stimulating… I could read his plays all day long,” she said.

Yeah, this kid’s alright.

Shawna Lucas
Publisher at Space Coast Magazines | shawna@spacecoastmagazines.com

Shawna Lucas (formerly Kelsch) has lived and worked in Brevard county for the past 20 years, serving in a variety of jobs and community service roles. She’s a former food and news reporter for Florida today, and was owner/operator of a marketing company that assisted clients and partners such as the Florida Healthcare Coalition, Blue Cross & Blue Shield Foundation for Florida, The Brevard Health Alliance, and Florida Tech to identify and solve pressing community health issues. She has she has dual bachelors degrees in Journalism and Sociology from the University of Miami, and was an inaugural fellow at the Freedom Forum Diversity Institute at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN.