While human cloning hasn’t been perfected, yet, it’s still a controversial topic that’s inspired moral, ethical, and spiritual debates. But all of these discussions have been about whether human cloning should or should not be allowed, not what happens when it does. It’s those latter kinds of questions that inspired aspects of Mur Laffery’s new sci-fi murder mystery novel Six Wakes (paperback, digital, audiobook), as you’ll see in the following interview.
Photo by J.R. Blackwell
Let’s start at the beginning: What is Six Wakes about?
Six Wakes is a clone murder mystery in space. A skeleton starship crew wakes up in newly cloned bodies and have to figure out their own murders, knowing that one of their own crew did it.
Where did the original idea come from?
It’s hard to say, I got inspiration from many places. The video game FTL uses cloning in a way that got me thinking, however, and the concept of using cloning to extend life instead of making multiples of oneself is one that I took straight into Six Wakes.
Given that Six Wakes is a sci-fi mystery, what do you consider to be the biggest influences on the sci-fi aspects, and what do you feel are the biggest influences on the mystery aspects?
I read a lot of Agatha Christie in research for this novel and tried to study how she put together her mysteries. As for sci-fi influences, it’s harder to say as I’ve read a lot more sci-fi books than mystery, so there have been a lot of subtle influences throughout my life. But the work by Kim Stanley Robinson [the Mars trilogy] and Connie Willis [Blackout, All Clear] probably were the most influential.
As you said, cloning is a big part of the story. In deciding how cloning would work, did you base it on how cloning has worked in real life or a fictional description?
Technologically, I went fictional for the purpose of the story. But I did try to come up with a realistic legal response to cloning. A lot of cloning stories treat cloning as something that happens to a small group of people, but I wondered what happened if cloning were widespread. I figured it would be heavily regulated because of the chances of abuse. So one of the first things I started with was wondering what authorities would try to curb. Multiple clones would be too chaotic in a world with overpopulation issues, and DNA modification would be way too easy to abuse. This is unfortunate for the people whose lives would be better by the removal of genetic diseases, for example, but they need to stop arbitrary gene manipulation. And of course there’s estate law. Does a clone inherit or does a child? Too many problems presented themselves, so I came up with a way to regulate cloning.
A lot of sci-fi novels these days are not stand-alone stories, but are instead the first books in a series. Is that the case with Six Wakes?
It’s a standalone novel, but there are places I could take it. I am kicking around some ideas for a sequel, but I’ve not decided where it would go.
Now, along with Six Wakes, your previously digital-only, serialized novel Bookburners — which you co-wrote with Margaret Dunlap, Max Gladstone, and Brian Francis Slattery — has also just been released as a print edition. Did you guys add or change anything for this new version?
I believe a copyeditor from Saga [the print edition publisher] had a look at it, but we didn’t change any of the content.
Did you guys decide to do a print version of Bookburners because it’s hard to burn a book that’s printed digitally?
No, we did a print version because Saga bought the print rights.
Going back to Six Wakes, has there been any interest in turning it into a movie, TV show, or video game?
Nothing yet, but fingers are crossed.
Which do you think would work best and why?
Probably a movie, as it’s a standalone. Though I think it would work as a game, too.
So if it was up to you, who would you like to see them cast in the main roles of the Six Wakes movie or video game?
I had Stephanie Beatriz from Brooklyn Nine-Nine in mind for Captain Katrina De La Cruz. But she is the only clear actor I was picturing. I am uncool and not familiar with a lot of the popular young actors these days.
Finally, if someone really enjoys Six Wakes, which of your other books would you suggest they read next and why?
I honestly don’t know. Six Wakes is unlike anything else I’ve written. My first two books, The Shambling Guide To New York and The Ghost Train To New Orleans, were urban fantasy humor. But they seemed to be well-liked, so I’d love it if people picked those up.