The Idea Mill #34

This one is going to be a bit different than other Idea Mill visits. I usually save links and try to get three unique stories to post about. Today I have two, and I’m combining them into one concept.

If you’re new to these, I write speculative fiction and that involves asking “what if.” I think it’s important to base spec fiction in reality wherever you can. These stories help build a bit of foundation that we can use to build our speculative story.

This time, I don’t even have links. This stuff is everywhere and is very current news. This is why I’m constructing the post this way. If I wait, it might not be as current.

You must have all seen the stories involving Cambridge Analytica and the misuse of Facebook data. I know Facebook stockholders are aware of it. In a nutshell, these people pirated the data to make targeted events during the last election cycle. If you believe all the stories.

We live in an age of data. The world is full of massive databases that contain everything from our banking information, our preferences online, where we eat, where we buy groceries, and more. Surf for a new book to read, someone is tracking it. Follow a clickbait article with a titillating story and it’s been logged. I know if my wife looks at anything on her laptop, my Facebook ads change and show me options to her search. Made it kind of hard to surprise me for Christmas.

This is what we already live under. Enter the new database that we’re contributing to. This one is fun… there’s no harm in fun, right? It’s almost taken on a party atmosphere. Here’s how it works:

You take a swab and wipe it around the inside of your mouth. Then you mail it to a company who will analyze it and send you an idea of your genetic heritage. Usually it proves that Mom really did know what she was talking about as far as your ethnicity.

Keep in mind, your results are going into a database somewhere. Keep in mind that one of the largest databases in the world was just accessed inappropriately and misused. Now we have a solid foundation to start speculating. What if…

What if the Nazis had access to such a database. Think how much more efficient their genetic purging could have been. Genocide went on before the Nazis, and it’s still going on today. Don’t tell me it will never happen on such a large scale again.

We can also take this into the speculative realms. What if aliens made a cold clinical decision and used this database to collect whatever they prefer and destroy the rest.

Keep in mind that your heritage is only one thing a DNA test can reveal. How about one of the cancer genes? Maybe the hacker is big insurance, and they start raising the prices on those who have one of these genes. Maybe the general population develops a new prejudice against someone with one of these genes. You no longer have to worry about cancer killing you… your neighbors will do it long before then.

Maybe the database starts influencing reproduction. Insurance refuses to cover children from matings they didn’t pre-approve. Maybe it’s not so deep, what if humans start checking out potential mates on the database before getting involved with someone? We already run background checks and credit checks on potential partners. This isn’t all that far fetched. My own wife and I spend part of date nights on our phones these days. Humans aren’t as connected on a personal level as they were twenty years ago. Nope, not getting involved with her because she’s going to lose her teeth by the time she’s fifty.

Take it up a notch, and have one spouse cave to the pressure of breeding with an approved partner. A mutual agreement would certainly lead to a marital breakdown. A secret affair can also add a mountain of stress.

Maybe there is a trend toward a certain genetic combo that poses a workplace hazard. Could employers start demanding DNA tests as part of the hiring process? Maybe it reveals a reasonable percentage of people with that gene are prone to thefts.

These are big ticket issues that work in some kinds of fiction. They play on the idea of what we are afraid of, which is always a good idea in fiction. There is also a possibility of taking it down to a smaller level and telling a good story too.

What if some family fun revealed a secret nobody was supposed to know? A bigot could make for a good character arc. Pride makes a great thing to toy with in our stories. He or she despises some kind of race or ethnicity. A DNA test reveals the character is of that heritage at least partially. First thing would be to despise his parents and blame them. Maybe he runs away and goes on a journey where he finds himself and discovers some errors he’s made during his life. Maybe he finds family members he never knew he had. Maybe the employees he’s been making work overtime, and denying benefits to, are his nieces and nephews.

Obviously a family member who was the result of an affair could be pretty dramatic too. What if this revelation changed the line of succession to the throne of some country? Or maybe it’s a huge inheritance? You could play this for laughs, or make it dangerous and dark. What do you mean Uncle Bob can’t inherit Grandpa’s company?

I’m not contributing a corny story this time. I wanted to rush out the foundation stories from the news and speculate a bit. What could you create using these two current events? I’d love to hear it.


Filed under The Idea Mill

37 responses to “The Idea Mill #34

  1. A very deep post in many ways. And disturbing too – I don’t doubt everything you’ve written will come true at some point – and that society will be very horrible to live in.

    People have never been such commodities (bar outright slavery which still happens) as they are now. Data data data data….seems like EVERYTHING is being logged and on top of that we have a planet we are collectively killing through direct action or in the future through sheer numbers and strain on resources and something will have to give.
    I think we are already beginning to see the machine turning in a disturbing way from politics to environment.

    Highly worrying times. Not to be alarmist, but things are only going to get worse in innumerable ways.

    PS I think you have several books based on your post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think there is a genocide going on somewhere in the world. Seems to always be one, which is tempting me to side with those aliens. My mind goes to cloning in regards to this. Like a story where humanity has been shrunk to a single person who is protecting the genetic database while trying to figure out how to revive the species. He/she can deal with:

    1. Machine failure that puts some groups at risk. Example: Containment issues in the Danish section.

    2. Not knowing how to do the cloning, so they’re studying the notes left behind. This brings up the question of if they should try and risk losing people during the learning stage.

    3. Finding files that show the flaws in some DNA samples, which makes them wonder if those should be revived at all. Not just violence issues, but various genetic defects like Down’s Syndrome or Autism. Since this person is playing God, they might start to wonder if they should push for a genetic purity.

    4. Upon success, raising and teaching these new humans.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. There are many “What ifs”. What if you created a new toxin? And “What if” you used it for your own agenda?

    Just a thought.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Did you ever see Gattica? Thoughts like these have bothered me since that movie came out. And we’re getting closer every day.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Astounding post, Craig! I applaud your genius and the hard work you put into your craft. I suspect ‘big things’ from you – not that there haven’t already been ‘big things’ from you… Your writing is clean, original, and pure! (Hopefully, not embarrassing you with my lavish praise! It is sincere!) ♥

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I recently finished a book series where aliens came and wiped out millions of people on Earth because they possessed alien DNA from their own species. Earlier visits from the aliens involved more than just observation, apparently.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sounds interesting. I think I fare better to keep my scale smaller, but I do enjoy the space operas and whatnot. When I’ve tried to write something of that scope it doesn’t meet my standards. When I focus on one person, or a few, it seems to come out better.

      Liked by 3 people

  7. I’ve thought about writing a book using the concept of DNA ancestry specimens being used for nefarious purposes. Might still do it. You’re right–the environment we live in now is rife with possible story ideas. And some of those might be downright scary stories!

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I think these foundations are excellent, Craig.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Some scary thoughts there, Craig! They would be awesome stories.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. My son, Michael, has these sorts of ideas and questions, Craig. He told me last night he is going to write a book for real people [i.e. not children] when he grows up and it will be about nanotechnology. I just watch and think you are very clever!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve already got a plot going with some existing characters where the nano tech will return to play a role. It will be a sequel for multiple characters. So wonderful that Michael is a thinker. I have no doubt about his prediction as an author.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Love the way you wrote this Idea Mill, with the What if’s? There’s technology out there that takes DNA and is able to create the face of the person. It’s incredible what they can do with a small sample, and it’s also frightening if left in the wrong hands.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Dude. You think like me. I think like you. I literally, just today, gave thought to what the DNA data could be used for. Gattica came to mind, as well as the Holocaust, as well as cloning.
    It all makes me shudder.
    It did not inspire me to outline a plot, but I did ponder a while.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. The “What ifs” could go on forever. Which is a very bleak thought. Our data is logged on from the time we’re born to when we’re dead. Information can be a sharp scalpel dissecting our very lives as we watch helpless. One hopes this isn’t the greatest achievement of human civilisation.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. My first gut reaction: how sad that people will just use any detail to judge each other.

    I’ve never been a fan of DNA-in-a-box type tests. My Dad did a whole bunch of genealogical research in the years after his retirement. He had been a rocket scientist and needed some data to crunch. As a result of his retirement hobby, he brought us all a bunch of cool and interesting stories. The postmasters and schoolmarms of a small Kansas town. The ancestor who was a Hessian deserter. The ancestor who stole horses and was lynched. The way all the European noble houses wanted to connect themselves to Jesus, so if you found a noble ancestor you’d eventually be able to trace your lineage all the way back to Adam and Eve!

    Compared to what, DNA-in-a-box doesn’t give you much to go on.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There are some interesting studies going on that use DNA to track human expansion. Where did the Dutch expand, the French, etc. The slave trade is providing data we never had before. What is the heritage of folks in the Carribean, etc. It comes at the cost of a database, and a database can be misused.


  15. Pingback: Writing Links…3/26/18 – Where Genres Collide

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