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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

DUTY AND DEVOTION with a side order of Genetic Alteration by A.R. Norris

Mad Science: Altering Humans

Face it; humans have been altering genetics since the dawn of man. It's called natural selection and breeding. But, what if, in the near future a parent could go into the OB and peruse a genetic menu and design their baby? Even further, what if an adult decided to drastically change some element of their physical form?

Genetic engineering is basically altering someone's hereditary information to change their physical properties (internally or visually). There are two main types of approaches and two different objectives.

Let's chat approaches first. Approach one: Somatic. This is adding genes to cells that are not eggs or sperms. This approach is a one hit wonder and can not be passed on to the next generation. The second: Germline. This is modifying the genes in eggs and sperm…and even sometimes early embryos. This will carry on from that generation forward.

There are two main objectives: Negative and Positive. Negative genetic engineering focuses on curing and treating disorders. Positive genetic engineering focuses on enhancing hereditary properties. Most people are fine with negative engineering; it's when the talk turns to positive engineering that things get sticky.

Where's the end or limit to positive engineering? Initial research is starting out with well enough intentions with life extension, brain health, and even limb and organ regrowth. But then you hit the gray area; making people smarter and athletes stronger. And of course, further still is the mad scientist realm; extra limbs, night vision, lung capacity…

Night vision and lung capacity? That's not too bad, right? Imagine this capability in the wrong hands. In countries that still have slaves…need higher productivity? Corporations would be in their full rights to give "workers" extra limbs and night vision to work longer hours.

And don't forget about the taboo worshippers. Right now people spend a lot of money to alter their physical form. It's expensive and painful, but people do it, from devil tongues to horns to tattooed eyes. What if the technology existed to do it through gene manipulation instead? And how many more would be interested in things like extra arms, just like the Hindu gods?

What about the next generation? Where would be their freedom of choice in this? Of course, if they didn't like that grandpa changed his hereditary make up so all his offspring's eyes would be blackened and have forked tongues…well, they could change it all over again, right?

In my SFR, Duty and Devotion, I explore this concept through one of the secondary characters (and a few other background characters). Kaitlin Watlow is a Jovian and the first ever Jovian pilot. Her people had been altered by corporations centuries ago to work the Jupiter energy collection facilities. Below is an excerpt outlining one of the potential social ramifications of this idea.

A Jovian. Frightened nerves shuddered through her. Nettie tried to hide her own reaction, but unlike Jenny, she knew she failed miserably.

Having been slaves to the Union for generations, the opposing government historically bred Jovian as slaves, bodyguards, soldiers, and assassins. Jovian people had exacted their freedom and partnered with the Alliance to keep it several generations ago but many in the solar system still held fear and prejudice. Others from the inner solar system, like Nettie, had never met one.

Because Jovian citizens had only been freed from Union servitude and joined the Alliance in recent history, they were a distrustful and close-knit people. Most never veered far from their planet and satellites, and hardly ever in large numbers. Not that many other Alliance territories would be very accepting had they made a huge effort to migrate out. It would be uncomfortable to say the least. Out of all the human races, the Jovian had been altered the most, almost to the point of being nonhuman. It reminded many of the stretches human science made in its code of ethics. This pending war seemed to have pushed the Jovian people into the masses, unease on either side be damned.

The new crewmember seemed to catch her apprehension and slowed to watch them carefully with an undercurrent of challenge. "Kaitlin Watlow. Space Aviation Pilot."

Kaitlin had four limbs and a head, but that was the end of any comparison to non-altered humans. Typical of the species, Kaitlin's skin was a hardened cartilage of milky white, smooth and unmarked. Her body bulged with hyper-developed musculature due to life in the extreme ranges of gravity and barometric pressure. Her arms alone were over twice the thickness of Nettie's own. Translucent neon pink hair dangled to her ankles, braided and adorned with crystals.

Nettie fought the urge to retreat. At the same time, she stared into the woman's eyes, unable to look away. They were huge with no eyelashes. Without identifiable pupils, the irises swirled in multiples of vaporous purples and pinks. She found herself almost hypnotized by them.

"Do you have a problem, Ice Princess?" Kaitlin challenged in a confrontational tone, meaning the slander in the most demeaning manner.

Thank you, Liana, for having me on your blog today. It was a lot of fun geekin' out about genetics.

I hope you all liked the excerpt and the article. Make sure to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Duty and Devotion.


And thank you, A.R., for stopping by! I can't wait to read this book!


  1. Thank you again, Liana, for letting me hang out today! - A.R. Norris

  2. This is one I'm looking forward to reading. Lessee, can I win a copy even if Amber is on my blog tomorrow?

  3. I would like a shot at winning.

  4. Woot! Congratulations on what looks like a great book! I've only recently started reading more sci-fi, and the biologist in me was instantly intrigued by all the genetic engineering :)

    My email is mystiparker (at) yahoo (dot) com

  5. Been looking forward for the chance to add this title to my TBR pile.

  6. Marva - You can comment here and I'll comment on your blog tomorrow? I'm looking forward to reading this one!

  7. ((HUGS)) Thank you all so much! I'm starting to get the day before nerves hoping you'll all like it.(Hope it won't evolve into a N&V thing...) Any-who!

    A.R. Norris (posting as anonymous since my blog comments still aren't working right)

  8. Just read through the sample and it is really engaging writing. I'm excited to read the whole thing!

  9. I adore your cover and am looking forward to reading this story. It sounds so good! Loved the excerpt.

    doxisrcool at aol dot com

  10. Thank you E.C.! I'm honored you liked my sample.

    Thank you Anna! I agree, the cover is beautiful. Desert Breeze's cover artist is the one to gush over though. She is amazing.

    - A.R.

  11. Congrats to you A. R. :) I'll tweet this!

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  12. I love the line about her nerves shuddering through her :) and beautiful cover. Very interesting. Blessings, BJ