The novelist on his latest thriller, Upgrade, out July 12, which tells the story of a gene-editing scheme that threatens to change humanity forever.

.- Where did the inspiration for Upgrade come from?

We're at this point in time where genetic engineering is on the precipice. Having complete control over the total human genome is a little bit out of reach - but it's right on the horizon.

.- You did a ton of research on gene editing. Was there anything you learned that stood out?

The big thing I came away with is how afraid scientists are of this research and this technology. I didn't realize how unnerved everyone was about the optimistic potential of this technology - but also the pitfalls that await us.

.- How much liberty did you take with the science?

Not as much as I thought I would have to take, which terrifies me. This book is going to be sold as science fiction, as a futuristic thriller. But I really don't think it is.

We're already living in the future - I don't think science fiction exists anymore. All of the threats and promises in this book are at our fingertips. Jennifer Doudna, one of the co-creators of CRISPR, talks about having this nightmare of Hitler discovering it. 

That always stuck with me : the person who discovered this gene-modification therapy is kept up at night, fearful, fearful of what might happen.

.- If not sci-fi, what is Upgrade?

The book is set slightly in the future, because I wanted to accelerate where some of the climate change and more in-the-weeds technology was heading, but it's a mirror of where we might be five minutes from now.

I have three kids. I am uncertain. Everyone one seems to feel that way. Are we going to be here prevalently as a species in 100 years. 75 years?

It's a weird thing for a species with full sentence to contemplate its demise. The last dodo bird didn't know it was the last dodo bird.

.- Are you purposefully nodding to COVID in the book?

I started it in September 2019. My first attempt was a completely different way in : I had imagined doing almost a Jurassic Park tjing, more about how gene editing could affect new life-forms.

Then COVID-hit, and I had this realization : think about what we're going through right now. Why would I not be writing about this technology vis-a-vis humanity?

I had written almost an entire novel, but I ended up throwing that away and starting over.

.- The world is a scary place right now. What gives you hope?

There's a moment in the book [protagonist] Logan says something like, You can't sacrifice humanity to save humanity, because if you do, you're giving up the whole game.

I fell into that like a trust fall. It's not necessarily my first instinct, but that's all we have at this point : trust and compassion. Trust that we have gotten this far. We are ultimately a cooperative species.

We have to trust that we're going to get through this very dark time together.

The World Students Society thanks Time Magazine's, Annabel Gutterman.


Post a Comment

Grace A Comment!