I had read a detailed article on the topic of the one-child policy in China, about how the Chinese government was using the method to practise population control. In order to prevent the country from reaching unsustainable population numbers, the government was preventing people from having children too many children and limiting family sizes. What if, in the future, a totalitarian government controlled the population of an entire city in a similar way?
I combined the idea of population control with one more related to social organization. I've always been intrigued by the nature of Dunbar's Number, 150. It's been said to be the maximum number of people who can coexist within a single group and still know all the other members relatively well. Once a group of people grows beyond 150, it becomes difficult for people to keep track of all of the bonds that tie each other together, and more organization is needed. For example, when hunting and gathering tribes begin to grow past Dunbar's Number, the group usually tends to split into two in order to maintain social cohesion.
Now, wouldn't it be easier for a totalitarian government to control population levels if, instead of maintaining a city's entire population, they simply maintained groups of 150? What would happen, then, if a group grew above this number? Where would the excess children go—would they be killed, or exiled? What would happen to this outcast infant: Number One Fifty One?
So began a concept which, I soon realized, was much too big for a 15 page short story. It was a concept that demanded examination, that screamed adventure, and that led to a world too big to be contained within such a short narrative. Therein lie the origins of my first novel, an epic dystopian science-fiction adventured called 151!