The Science of Sci-Fi, Tick Style: Pt. 1

Simon says,

“They’re called botheads!”

I have been thinking for some time about writing a post about the scientific research that went into Tick, but found that the information (and the many connections to my book series) was an intimidating amount, too much to add into one block. So, I have decided to break them down into more readable chunks so that I can share with you the science behind the science fiction in my debut YA series, Tick.  This post commences Part One.

Let’s go back a bit. I honestly can’t say exactly where the inspiration came from for my YA sci-fi series, which is, in short, about Josephine Bristol, a teenage girl desperate to become an artist in a drone-surveyed Los Angeles where neuroscientists permanently “fix” people with brain disorders, a task perhaps not so daunting were she not plagued by a violent mental and emotional dysfunction. I have mentioned in quite a few interviews that my main character’s “tick” — as she calls it — bears resemblance to issues of my own adolescence, although not in the “art imitates life” sort of way that has caused readers to question my husband’s safety (people are worried!). Jo’s tick is rather a dramatized representation of my years suffering from a deep and dark depression and the journey I have taken to finally write a book about it. In my series, the use of these brain-adjusting doctors is a futuristic evolution of psychiatry, and I am in awe of how many readers have noted the possibility that sometime in the near future, neural brain adjustments can become something not only used for medical purposes, but for personal advance as well.

I didn’t just make this concept up. Scientists are in the process of targeting specific neurons in the brain to inhibit or assist the movement of signals between synapses, thus altering certain cognitive functions. The purpose for this research is hoped to be applied in treating brain disorders such as schizophrenia and depression, but it takes no stretch of the imagination to see how easily this technology could be used to “fix” people of minor inflictions, like their compulsion to drop $20 at a fancy coffee shop every day. The science is called optogenetics, and I’ll get to the specifics of it later in this post, but first I want to get into how I even learned about optogenetics in the first place. Continue reading

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

Image

I didn’t know I didn’t know that much.

One of the most valuable things I learned in school was that I didn’t know shit about anything. While I was an introspective and philosophical adolescent (read: I was convinced I was positively smarter than anyone I knew) who understood humans and the universe they live in, I learned that there was such a vast amount of things in the world I didn’t know were available for a teenager such as myself to know anything about. There was so much I didn’t know I didn’t know, so much I never even considered necessary or interesting or relevant. That’s one of the joys — er, betrayals — of adulthood, learning that there is still so much about life that you I don’t even know exists. Sure, I know I still don’t understand rocket science, or parenthood, or walking a tightrope, and a lot of those things I have little interest in learning. But coming to terms with the vast quantity of things I didn’t even know were possibilities is both a riveting and risky experience. I’d imagine it’s a little like agreeing to be the world’s expert on the next newly discovered animal species . . . you have no idea what you’ll end up with and whether you’ll spend the rest of your career being laughed at by your peers.

As a novelist, the same rules apply while writing. Not before I create a story, not while plotting or even researching, but rather while I’m writing.

Continue reading