Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Making of "Snips"

Summer's over! But that just means that I'm one step closer to finally completing my collection of dystopian science fiction stories, "In-Futura". I'm now on to the final five stories in Part III: Meaning. The first story in this series explores the meaning of human nature and the role of our DNA's SNPs, or "Snips".

The primary inspiration for "Snips", like many of the stories in In-Futura, was an article that I'd read about a current trend in science, technology, and society. In this case, the article, called "DNA diviners: Valuable service or dangerous novelty?", told the story of DNA diviners, and the perils of knowing too much about your inner genetic nature through quick DNA analyses. My biggest takeaway from the piece, however, was the predicament that these tests put the counsellors responsible for reporting someone's results in - how would the patient respond? What would they do? How will the information change their lives?

Here is the synopsis:

In the future... getting your genetic code analyzed is as common as visiting your doctor, with "DNA diviners" revealing the secrets hidden inside one's inner genetic nature: from disease risks to ancestry. Dr. Cecilia Cortez, a GENme Genetic Counselor, must face a daily struggle to deal with the varying reactions of her patients to the results of their report. But when one patient's "Snips" reveals shocking and dangerous information, she quickly learns that some DNA secrets are best left hidden.

Below are three interesting challenges that I encountered while writing "Snips":

(1) More Research, Research, Research!

If "Borrowed Time" required an extensive amount of research into military terminology and the current state of drones, "Snips" required an equal amount of time spent getting up to speed on DNA testing and terms. The key to incorporating the "science" into short science fiction isn't necessarily to become an expert on a certain topic, such as genetic analysis, but rather to know enough about how it works to ensure that the  fiction part of the story is somewhat believable. The second benefit of jotting down some notes before attempting to write the story proper - it provided me with a wealth of terms and phrases that I could sprinkle throughout the text.

(2) A Dialogue-Driven Adventure

The second challenge that I faced with "Snips" was writing an adventure story in a very different way than I'm used to. Rather than throwing lots of action and moving from scene to scene, as I do in many of my stories, this time the majority of the action would take place in a single, not-to-exciting setting: the office of a DNA diviner, Dr. Cecilia Cortez. Much of the adventure, then, and much of the dramatic tension, would have to come from the dialogue between the Genetic Counsellor and her strange new patient. This story was one instance where I lot of my energy went into creating compelling characters with believable voices.

(3) Adapting the "Foundling"

Finally, the story of "Snips" is, at its heart, the story of the "Foundling" - an archetypal tale in which the main protagonist, who feels weak and unimportant, finds someone or something much weaker than himself, and by taking care of this "Foundling", he realizes that he's strong after all. The best example of this story in action is E.T. - Elliot and his "Foundling", E.T. In the case of my story, I had to find and adapt the key elements of this archetypal tale, all while adding new and fresh elements tied to the unique premise of the story.

"Snips" is currently submitted for publication - wish me luck!