In Star Trek, altering a person’s genes has been illegal ever since some scientist accidentally created Khan Noonien Singh. But in talking to writer Dave Hutchinson about his new sci-fi novella Acadie (paperback, digital) — which is also set in a universe where genetically modified people are illegal — he admitted that his story wasn’t inspired by Ricardo Montalban’s most famous role.
To begin, what is Acadie about?
Acadie is about a colony founded by a group of renegade geneticists who have learned how to hack the human genome. This discovery has meant them going on the run in a stolen colony starship and hiding out in what they basically hope is the most rubbish, unobtrusive star system they can find. Several hundred years later, however, Earth’s authorities track them down and they have to prepare to evacuate the colony and everything in it to a new location.
It kind of sounds like The Eugenics Wars in Star Trek, which ultimately led to the Federation banning genetic experiments and, of course, Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan. Was that an inspiration for this novella?
It wasn’t inspired by The Eugenics Wars, though now you’ve mentioned it. I won’t be able to get that out of my head. It’s always hard to know what influences are going through your mind when you write something, though; you pick up a lot of white noise down the years, and inevitably some of it’s going to wind up, unconsciously, on the page.
Oddly enough, the first thing I think of when someone mentions The Eugenics Wars isn’t “Space Seed” [the episode of Star Trek that introduced Khan] or The Wrath Of Khan, but an episode of the animated series called “The Infinite Vulcan,” which features a scientist who survived The Eugenics Wars and wants, for some reason I can’t remember now, to create a 25-foot-tall clone of Spock. I think that was the first time I heard the phrase “Eugenics Wars.”
So if Star Trek wasn’t an influence on Acadie, are there any movies, TV shows, and video games that were?
I’m not conscious of any particular film or TV show being an influence on the story, but again it’s hard to tell what’s sloshing around in your subconscious. And the same with writers; I’ve read an awful lot of science fiction down the years, and it would be daft to say that there were no other influences, but I can’t think of a particular one.
Along with Star Trek, the plot of Acadie also makes me think this might be the first book in a larger series. Is it?
Acadie isn’t intended to be part of a series, that never occurred to me and I’m not sure, thinking about it at the moment, how I could take it forward. It started out, in my head anyway, as a loose sequel to an earlier novella of mine called The Push. But when I actually sat down and started to write it, I found I couldn’t quite make it work the way I wanted, so I wound up writing it as a stand-alone story.
I’m also curious why you wrote Acadie as a novella, as opposed to a novel. Did you set out to write a novella, or did you just write and not concern yourself with whether it was a novel or a novella or a short story or whatever?
It’s written as a novella because Tor.com announced an open submission period for space opera novellas. I don’t tend to write a lot of space opera, but I fancied having a go, so I wrote and submitted it and fortunately Tor.com didn’t think it was too awful.
But I don’t think the idea would bear the weight of an entire novel anyway. I think even at twice the length the story would start to get a bit tedious. Though looking at it now, I could maybe have made it a couple of thousand words longer; the last third or so seems to rush a little bit.
So has there been any interest in making Acadie into a movie, TV show, or video game?
I would love to say that Hollywood is breaking down my front door wanting to adapt Acadie, but so far my front door remains unbroken. That would be wild, though; I’m fascinated with the whole process by which a book or story winds up on the screen, and it would be interesting to see what someone made of it. I’m not sure it would make a series, not unless someone wrote a whole lot of new material. A video game would be extremely cool, though; I’d love that.
Lastly, if Acadie was going to be made into a movie, show, or game, who would you want to see cast in the lead roles and why them?
I don’t tend to imagine my characters’ looks very deeply when I’m writing. Duke, the narrator of Acadie, isn’t described at all. In fact, off the top of my head, I can only think of two characters in the story who are. Duke’s full name is John Wayne Farraday — John Wayne because John Wayne — so I guess I have a vague image of him as being a big chap, but beyond that I have no idea. It’s always fun to play fantasy casting, though; I’ve been doing it for years with my novels, though my ideas of who should play who are usually a long way from my readers’ ideas.