October 14, 2011 § 1 Comment
In thinking of ideas for my future science fiction story, I’m reminded of a lyric from one of my favorite bands, the Avett Brothers. They once said, “Ain’t it like most people? I’m no different, we love to talk on things we don’t know about.” The horrible grammar of this lyric aside, I find myself in this situation. Having read a huge number of amazing science fiction stories regarding relativity, time travel, and cosmology, I am extremely tempted to try my hand at just such a story. That being said, I am almost positive any attempt by me to write a story about advanced physics would become so bogged down in technical falsities that the plot would become irrelevant.
With this in mind, I’ve decided to stick with what I know: biology. The branch of this field that has undoubtedly received the most public attention in recent years has been genetics. With the advent of relatively cheap genetic screening and our newfound ability to manipulate DNA, this field offers a huge playground for science fiction writers to play around on. While the idea is still in development, what follows is a vague outline of what I hope to write.
In the not-so-distant future a private company (we’ll call it The Company for now), is able to genetically engineer children to the specifications of the parents. While this is the biggest scientific “tooth fairy” of the story, it is not completely implausible as our knowledge of the human genome broadens. In a seemingly miraculous showing of good faith, this company makes the genetic engineering affordable to almost everyone. While there would undoubtedly be groups of holdouts who don’t believe in such engineering (this allows the creation of a sort of underground, possibly protagonist group), the vast majority of parents would take advantage of this option in the hopes of providing a better life for their children.
In a single generation the vast majority of individuals in the world have been genetically engineered by The Company. This could be made more plausible by making an extremely intelligent, charismatic leader of the company who was the first person to be completely genetically engineered. His seeming perfection would be idealized by parents who want the same for their children. As the story progresses, the ulterior motives of this leader become apparent. In an attempt to gain control over what amounts to the entire world, he has inserted a “self-detruct” mechanism into the DNA of The Company’s engineered people. While this sounds cheesy, it is completely plausible biologically. While I haven’t picked an exact mechanism, one possibility could be a time-activated perforin gene. The time activation part could come as part of a natural circadian rhythm (or in response to puberty or some other biological process), and the resultant expression of perforin would cause a sufficiently bloody and painful death.
The crux of the action in the story relies on the fact that The Company has a cure for the self-destruct gene (most likely in some sort of genetic inhibitor). Because the human genome is so large, it would be nearly impossible for any independent scientist to find the correct location of the gene and create an inhibitor in time. The Company (with the leader as the antagonist) uses its possession of this cure as a means to make huge profits and shape the world to their desire.
The plot line will more than likely center on a genetically engineered individual who tries to gain access to the cure and distribute it for free (think a futuristic Robin Hood). This creates the possibility for interaction with non-engineered people, possibly resulting in some sort of love story. There are a lot of directions that the story could go, and I’m not exactly sure which one I’ll choose. That being said, I think the idea offers a lot of options and is a good place to start. Now I just hope no one has written it before.