Thursday, March 7, 2013

Jessica Brody: Scientifically Altered is the New Vampire

The amazingly talented Jessica Brody offered to write up a guest for me and I was thrilled to take her up on it. In a publishing world where thousands upon thousands of books are published every year, she explains what it's like when an idea doesn't come from a single author. Timely and intriguing! Enjoy!
The universe is a mysterious place. Particularly when it comes to books. Ask any author and they’ll tell you, “the minute you come up with a fantastic idea, I can guarantee you, seven other authors are having the same or extremely similar idea at the exact same time.”
Here’s a familiar story I hear constantly from authors:
“I had an idea to write a book about [insert trendy YA topic here] two years ago, before anyone else was writing about it, and then as soon as the book came out, BOOM! There were suddenly 2 or 3 other books releasing at the same time that were  also about [insert trendy YA topic here].”
I’ve heard this so many times it’s scary. And it makes me wonder how on earth that could happen. It’s a phenomenon that still mystifies me. It’s like our muses are cheating on us. They’re whispering sweet nothings in our ears, telling us, “you’re the only one for me,” while they’re secretly having love affairs with five other writers at the same time, whispering the same sweet nothings in their ears.

There’s a reason why YA literature moves in “trends.” There’s a reason why 5 books that are eerily similar will come out in the same year, completely separate from each other. And despite what some readers may think, it’s not because one book did well and then 4 other authors decided to copy it very quickly. The publishing industry doesn’t work that fast. It takes up to two years for a book to come out. So the only explanation for the perplexing phenomenon is that the authors are actually having the ideas at the same time.
I like to call it “universal consciousness.” The very reason you’re having the idea is not because your muse is exceptionally brilliant and faithful to only you, but because the idea is floating out there in the universe, ready to drift into your awaiting mind, making it completely accessible to every other awaiting mind at the same time.
Of course, I always heard these kinds of stories and thought, “Well, that will never happen to me!”
But lo and behold, it appears it has...
Three years ago I had an idea for a book (You can read the conversation with my muse in which I had said idea here). When I pitched it to my agent I said, “It’s the Bourne Identity for Teens with a Sci-Fi twist!” I thought that was such an intriguing pitch. And of course, I’d never heard it before! And neither had my agent.
He later used that same pitch to sell it to my publisher. And now, nearly three years later, when UNREMEMBERED is finally out in the world, I’ve just recently discovered that there are at least two other books releasing around the same time that were pitched the exact same way. “The Bourne Identity for Teens!” And those books explore a very similar idea as UNREMEMBERED. They all deal with teenagers who have been manipulated (or I like to say, “enhanced”) by science. In fact, I recently discovered that there are several books that are either out now or have recently been released that deal with the subject of Scientifically Enhanced Humans.
So did I cry and stomp my foot when I found out that my muse hadn’t been faithful to me and that I wasn’t the only person who thought to write about a teen girl who had been “touched up” by mad scientists?
No. Actually, I rejoiced! I thought, “YES! I’ve stumbled into the new thing.” Remember how popular vampires were? And werewolves? And fairies? Maybe “Scientifically Altered” is the new vampire!
In fact, just yesterday I learned the term, “Biopunk.” I was fascinated when I found it in a review of UNREMEMBERED, since I’d never heard of it before, and immediately had to look up what it meant. Here’s what Wikipedia reported back to me:
Biopunk science fiction is a subgenre of cyberpunk fiction that focuses on the near-future unintended consequences of the biotechnology revolution following the discovery of recombinant DNA. Biopunk stories explore the struggles of individuals or groups, often the product of human experimentation, against a backdrop of totalitarian governments and megacorporations which misuse biotechnologies as means of social control and profiteering. Unlike cyberpunk, it builds not on information technology, but on synthetic biology. Like in postcyberpunk fiction, individuals are usually modified and enhanced not with cyberware, but by genetic manipulation. A common feature of biopunk fiction is the "black clinic", which is a laboratory, clinic, or hospital that performs illegal, unregulated, or ethically-dubious biological modification and genetic engineering procedures.
I literally got the chills when I read this. This description contained so many elements relevant to UNREMEMBERED, it was scary. Like REALLY scary! I felt like the writers of this post had reached into my brain and pulled out this description. And I never even knew the term existed until three days before my books was scheduled to release.
This is Universal Consciousness at its finest.
Although I haven’t read every single book that fits this new “biopunk trend,” from reading their descriptions I can still see how they’re all are very different in their approach on the topic, which just fascinates me more. I’ve always said, if you give 10 authors the same one-sentence description of a book and tell them to write it, you’ll wind up with 10 VERY different books. I do think UNREMEMBERED stands apart in this new YA trend. There are some twists and turns that readers won’t expect and won’t find in other stories like it. But I’m excited to be part of this new growing trend in YA literature. And especially excited to be in the company of some amazing authors who, like me, are clearly fascinated by how science can change us, and how it can make for a thrilling story. 

Unremembered by Jessica Brody is available now! I loved it and definitely recommend you all checking it out -- her writing is awesome. 

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