Too many stories treat genetic engineering like the new fairytale machine. Authors willing to confuse their fantasy with science fiction think any sort of bizarre creatures are possible if scientists are allowed to run mad in the lab. It’s as if genetic engineering is a subject at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
While writing THE CALINE CONSPIRACY, we wanted to suspend disbelief, not hang it up and use it like a piñata. Although we revel in the possibilities of genetic engineering, we understand the hard work behind it. Nothing goes from Eureka! to available-at-the-corner-store in a few weeks. There has to be research approval, patent battles, experiments, setbacks, publicity efforts, distribution details, and finally, a product.
Although manipulation of the human genome is inevitable, both for curing disease and for cosmetic reasons, animal experiments will come first. Our vision of the near future includes genetic engineering used to make living ‘toys’ for the wealthy, but also the backlash against it. There will be people who love the idea of messing about with the genome, and those who hate it.
THE CALINE CONSPIRACY doesn’t sidestep those details. It embraces them. They became the setting, informed the characters, and channeled the plot. The fundamental question we asked ourselves while writing was this: why breed the ideal pet through generations when you can create one from scratch? What would such a creature look like? Act like? Could the best of dogs and cats be combined into one animal, perhaps called a caline?
Calines are smarter than border collies, elegant as cats, as playful as otters. Calines have been genetically engineered to be everything a pet owner could want.
Except that they might kill you one day.
The world is shocked when geneticist Ivan Frithke is murdered, and his own pet caline, Madeline, is the prime suspect. Is this an isolated case, a flaw in the calines’ design, or something more? The widow doesn’t believe her darling could kill, and hires PI Aidra Scott to prove Madeline’s innocence.
Aidra has sworn off pet ownership and wants nothing to do with animals—genetically engineered perfection or not. But the more she investigates, the more Aidra becomes convinced an innocent animal is being framed.
Who would want to see the makers of calines disgraced and destroyed? Conservative factions, as well-meaning as they are strident, believe that sinister means are justified by the ends. Could one of them have killed Ivan Frithke? And how will Aidra prove it in time to save Madeline’s life?
So....is genetic engineering the blackest necromancy of the modern age? Or is it the philosopher’s stone, promising life and prosperity to all who possess its secrets?
Neither. As with any field of serious scientific study, it is a tool—a tool whose uses and misuses
must be explored and understood, all in the service of an entertaining story. We enjoyed blending science fact into science fiction in THE CALINE CONSPIRACY and we hope to give some of that enjoyment to our readers.
About the authors: Margaret Yang and Harry R. Campion live in Michigan, where they have co-authored a series of near-future thrillers under the pen name M.H. Mead. THE CALINE CONSPIRACY is their newest novel. You can find out more about them by visiting their website www.yangandcampion.com or finding them on facebook www.facebook.com/MHMead