In the original Planet Of The Apes movies, simians were originally domesticated to be pets because dogs and cats had gone extinct. But then, of course, they realized the monkeys, etc., could be used as slave labor, and the next think they knew, it was the future, and apes had become our masters. But what if, instead of trying to turn gorillas into pets, they had created designer dragons. It’s an idea explored in Dan Koboldt’s new sci-fi novel Domesticating Dragons (paperback, Kindle). In the following email interview about it, Koboldt discusses what inspired and influenced this story, as well as why, despite being about dragons, it’s not a fantasy tale.
I always find it best to start with an overview of a book’s plot. So, what is Domesticating Dragons about, and when and where is it set?
It’s about a genetic engineer who goes to work for a company that designs living dragons that are sold as pets and service animals. It’s near future science fiction, but it draws on a number of real-world scientific concepts and technologies.
Where did you get the original idea for this story, and how, if at all, did that idea evolve as you wrote it?
I first wrote this story as a novella. At the time, I was aiming for something that combined dragons with the genetics research that I do for my day job. Some of the feedback I got on that early story brought up some fundamental questions, like why the main character would choose to work at a company that made dragons, and what else must be going on in the world for dragons to be so important. I decided to make it a full-length novel so I could answer both questions.
You said a moment ago that Domesticating Dragons is sci-fi, but anything with dragons always makes me think of fantasy.
I honestly don’t feel there are as many fantasy elements in this book as people might think. Instead, it leans more into the technothriller genre, which might appeal to fans of Michael Crichton.
And hey, I’d be remiss not to point out that there’s an enemies-to-lovers romantic subplot that I’m especially proud of. I have a lot of friends who write romance and they must be rubbing off on me.
The title also makes it sound like a how-to. I know it’s not, but are there any helpful tips as to how to domesticate a dragon in Domesticating Dragons? Not that I have a dragon in my apartment that isn’t house trained, that would be crazy….
Wouldn’t that be nice? But you raise a good point about the difference between taming a wild animal and domesticating a species. Wild animals that you tame — like the lions and tigers in a circus — are still inherently wild animals. They might become accustomed to human contact, but they can still be dangerous to their handlers. And if they procreate (the animals, not the handlers), the offspring will be just as wild. Domestication, by contrast, is usually a process that takes place by selective breeding across many generations.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you catch a komodo dragon, try to get a docile one. And make sure you lock his cage at night.
Now, dragons have been presented in very different ways, be it Game Of Thrones, the How To Train Your Dragon movies, or that Rick & Morty episode with the slut dragons. What kind of dragons are in Domesticating Dragons, and did you base them on the dragons in some other novel or movie or an Adult Swim show?
Believe it or not, I based them on breeds of dogs. The premise of the book is that an epidemic has killed off most of the world’s canines. Think about how many roles that dogs play in modern society. They’re best known as family pets, but they also serve as guards, hunting companions, and even emotional support animals. In a world where you can design any kind of dragon you want, there’s no reason that dragons can’t serve the same purposes.
So was Domesticating Dragons influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games?
I’m a genetics researcher, an author, and a father of three kids. How much free time do you think I have!? This book has an alternating timeline, which is something that Scott Lynch — one of my favorite authors, incidentally — does really well in his Gentleman Bastard sequence. Two of my favorite shows of all time are Prison Break and Lost. If they inspired anything, it was to write chapter endings that really make a reader want to keep going.
And then, in regards to the more literary influences on Domesticating Dragons, are there any writers, or perhaps specific stories, that had a big influence on this story but not on anything else you’ve written?
Fine, I’ll say it! Jurassic Park. If I hadn’t read that book as kid, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. And I suspect you were going to keep asking me about influences until I admitted it.
Speaking of your other writings, prior to Domesticating Dragons you wrote the Gateways To Alissia trilogy. Is Domesticating Dragons the first book in a series as well?
Hey, thanks for noticing. Yes, my other series is about a Vegas magician who infiltrates a secret medieval world. I consider it fantasy, and with fantasy, most people expect a trilogy. That’s how I planned the story. But I wrote Domesticating Dragons as a stand-alone book. Though I probably wouldn’t say no to writing more stories in this world.
Earlier I asked if Domesticating Dragons had been influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games. But do you think this story would work as a movie, show, or game?
I could see it as a TV show. Absolutely. Look at some of the properties that have found success in that format lately. Game Of Thrones brought epic fantasy to the mainstream audience. Netflix has produced a lot of great sci-fi series, like Black Mirror.Domesticating Dragons would fit into an episodic format because designing each new type of dragon is its own challenge.
If that happened, who do you think they should get to play Noah and the other main characters?
Oh, well if I get to pick anyone, let’s cast Wil Wheaton as Noah Parker. I think he fits the mold, and what can I say? I’m a Next Generation fan. Can we get Taylor Swift for the crunchy, quick-witted love interest? Constance Wu [Crazy Rich Asians] would be perfect as Noah’s boss, the director of the design department. J.J. Abrams [Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker] can direct it.
Finally, if someone enjoys Domesticating Dragons, what novel about dragons by someone else would you suggest they read next and why that?
I just read The Priory Of The Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon and really liked it. The dragons are the bad guys in that story, but it’s a wonderful book.