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This Interview has been provided by Orbit, and is printed with their permission.
Was there one basic idea or theme you wanted to explore when you embarked on Kil'n People?
Several that converged on the same point.
Take the universal human dream of more lifespan. We already live a very long time for mammals, getting three times as many heartbeats as a mouse or elephant. It never seems enough though, does it? Most fictional portrayals of life-extension simply tack more years on the end, in series. But that's a rather silly version. The future doesn't need a bunch of conservative old baby-boomers, hoarding money and getting in the grand-kids' way. What we really need is more life in parallel - some way to do all the things we want done. Picture splitting into three or four 'selves' each morning, then reconverging into the same continuous person at the end of the day. What a wish fulfilment, to head off in several directions at once! Yet, in Kil'n People, folk take this for granted - it's a modern convenience. Isn't that what we always do with miracles, like electricity and literacy and flight? We make them routine.
More inspiration came from the past. Take the mythical golem, or the terracotta soldiers of Xian, China. Or the way ancient Sumerians thought they could immortalize their souls by writing their names in clay tablets. Keeping with this tradition, my dittos - or one-day human xeroxes - are made of kiln-baked clay.
Are these clones?
We hear a lot about cloning. My earlier novel, GLORY SEASON, portrays a future when women can conceive clone daughters, cutting men out of the loop. But despite all the clamour, cloning isn't really copying. Even identical twins are different. Any cloned child will have unique life experiences, profoundly different from her genetic original. No, clones are a false path toward the dream of being many at once.
The dittos in Kil'n People are cheap duplicates that any person can make quickly on a 'personal copier' and dispatch to run errands, study, or handle business - or engage in pleasures that are too dangerous for living flesh. Or to solve crimes! (And there would be new types of crime.) Dittos dissolve after 24 hours, so they are highly motivated to make it home and download the day's memories. It's how they continue living, in the original organic brain.
But every neat solution creates new problems...
Do you develop the world fully in your mind before beginning to write, Does it often surprise you?
I like to be surprised. Fresh implications and plot twists erupt as a story unfolds. Characters develop backgrounds, adding depth and feeling. Writing feels like exploring.
If ditto technology were available now, would you happily duplicate yourself, and if so, what for? (Would you use a ditto to write?!)
It's a matter of personality. Will your copies stay loyal to you? Will they share your goals and even sacrifice themselves in order to assist the original or 'real' you? Or might they go their own way? Some people would be well-suited for such an era, sending duplicates to study and work and have fun in ways you would never risk in your real body. Others would hate such a technology, the way some despise today's Internet. I figure I'd fall in the middle somewhere. Sure, it would be great to get more accomplished... but I'd feel queasy looking my 'disposable' selves in the eye.
Al Morris is a P.I. in the classic tradition - albeit with some rather useful technology at his disposal! Are you a big fan of detective stories?
Change is the principal feature of our age and literature should explore how people deal with it. The best science fiction does that, head-on. Still, I have a special respect for detective fiction as the most honest genre. There's no way that fancy language or artful technical distractions can disguise basic storytelling faults, not in a mystery novel! At the "whodunit" moment, when all is revealed, there has to be a sensation of satisfied surprise. The reader finds all evidence in place, well foreshadowed, and the crime reconstructed without blatant cheating.
I always recommend that aspiring novelists begin with a mystery, before moving on to their favourite genre. It trains you to play fair with the reader.
Copyright© 2002 Orbit
. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. The interview has been provided by Orbit
and is printed with their permission.