In the late 90s, some scientists in Edinburgh, Scotland, presented to the World, Dolly. She was a sheep they had cloned by messing around with adult sheep cells by injecting an egg into it and thereby creating an embryonic egg that they were able to grow into a fully formed ewe. Cloning wasn’t new in the 90s. Experiments in cloning were actually successful as far back as 1885 when Hans Adolf Edward Dreisch shook up some sea urchin cells and proved cells could be separated and grow into two identical creatures.
From that moment on, the scientific world has been working hard to clone animals (not by shaking them), and map the human genome. Mapping the human genome allows incredible advances in medicine by pinpointing where things go wrong in development, very early in the embryonic stages. Knowing which pieces and parts of a strand of DNA are responsible for not just traits like blue eyes or curly brown hair, but also genetic defects like Down's Syndrome, Hemophilia, and Huntington's Disease. By understanding where to find the root of where something goes wrong, the hope is that cures can be discovered.
With the advent of the first discoveries of twinning, the scientific world has been faced with a great tug of war…research and find cures vs. maintaining an ethical standard for science. Where is the line in the sand? If human beings are cloned, are they "human?" Or are they something else? Can we discard all the laws for the ethical treatment of animals, which are human food sources, if we are growing them in a lab instead of on a farm? Should we be cloning human beings at all?
The Boys From Brazil by Ira Levin took a good hard look at cloning in a fictional setting. The book takes a look at the question: What if Hitler could be cloned? Going deeper than that, it questions how much behavior is innate (nature) vs how much is learned (nurture). It was the first story I had read as a child about cloning and I've been fascinated with it ever since, seeking out more books, like The Island of Doctor Moreau (which didn't really get the science right, but was fascinating to my 13-year-old self all the same), and finally writing my own novel about it in 2016.
Last week, Dolly was back in the news. The Washington Post is reporting that they finally figured out Dolly's age at birth. Remember, she was created from an adult cell, so the question was, at "conception" was she 6 years old or was she a new "baby?" I won't give it away. Go read the story yourself. I'll go work on editing my novel. It needs a lot of work!
Nearly all of the stories I have written or plotted started out as some scene from dream I had. Sometimes I will wake up and immediately need to write down what I was dreaming about, and other times, I won't, but I will continue to fixate on the dream all the way to work and think about it for days until I finally give in and put it on paper. At times, putting the words together is the only way to get the ideas to give me peace.
This morning I woke up from a dream about being on a spaceship as a teenager. As I slowly came to the reality of warm blankets and the early vibrations of a household coming back to life, I let my thoughts wander about what it would really be like to be on that spaceship I had been dreaming about. After twenty minutes or so, I grabbed my phone of my dresser and opened up a note-taking app to scribble down everything I had been thinking about.
While lying there with my eyes closed, I had mostly wandered the ship and observed how things were running. What were the families like? Did they still have school like our current-day classrooms? Did the kids work or just the adults?
And as I thought more and more about it, a story of sorts started to take shape from the world building. My fingers were flying over the keys as I tried to remember all the places my mind had traveled, and in the end, I'm sure I forgot some things, but I also filled in blanks that were missing.
Here's a glimpse of some of my notes:
Earth was dying. In a desperate attempt to survive, human beings were taking to the skies and heading to the next closest inhabitable planet based on what the premier scientists of the time were toting. So far, this is nothing new right – we've seen this Sci Fi story a million times. And truthfully, I don't know if what I'm imagining at this point is even anything so different than all of those stories, but it's mine.
The ship my main character is on was built in space. The sheer size and mass of a ship that would carry thousands of people and all the supplies required for survival to a new and inhabitable planet would not have any possible way to launch based on current technology.
At some point around the middle of the story, or maybe it will be how the story starts when it actually gets written, the reader will discover everyone has been lied to. People aboard this ship and others had all been told the original ship, sent hundreds of years earlier had breached the gap in space and started a colony. The truth was nobody knew if that ship had made it because the communication stopped after they got so many parsecs out from the last orbit of satellites, and my main character somehow finds this out. When he questions an authority figure, he is told the reason for the lie. The ship is headed for an unknown planet. They have no idea what they will find if they reach it. They have no idea if they will reach it. But Earth was dying. And a new planet meant hope. And hope would be what kept the people on the ship sane.
And there's more in my notes. A lot of world building, like I said before. I don't know that I could write the amount of information I packed into my notes in a single book, so maybe I will plot it out as a series. I can see there will need to be a LOT of research though I could to some extent spoof some of the science since it takes place a couple hundred years into the future. But since I would like to address global warming and dying planets, NASA and other space exploration (what do the starts look like from a spaceship?), fusion reactors (is this the best bet for propelling the ship?), and stuff I haven't even thought about, I'm going to have my work cut out for me if I ever write this one.
It's always exciting waking up with a new story. I wish I had more time to write.