Sunday, September 9, 2012

Idea Garage Sale: Who are the Clones?


A secret cloning facility, using the DNA of lab volunteers, unwitting grad students and miscellaneous tissue donors, and famous scientists long dead. Aliens, too, if you want 'em. None of your full-blown out-of-the-vat TV/movie clones, which not only have full use of their muscles but demonstrate that hairstyles are genetic; but proper clones grown from eggs to become babies to be raised. In the lab, according to whatever theories the scientists around are testing or espouse, subject to the vagaries of changes in funding priorities, facility politics, and personnel changes.

Of course when they hit their teens, they escape. Who wouldn't?

The first question to ask is, Of whom are they clones? How do they understand their relationship to their originators?

The second is, What other experiments were done on them in conjunction with just cloning?

Some of them might be chimerae, instead of clones. Combinations of star athletes with famous scientists, a merging of Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison in an attempt to get The Perfect Inventor, supersoldier prototypes who are part human, part wolf, part sheep. What happens if we genderswap Albert Einstein? Or Lana Turner, whose career as a scientist is not nearly as widely known as it should be? Some of them might be vehicles for experiments in gene therapy: Let's see if we can clone Stephen Hawking and get a version with no major health problems.

You could have sets of nearly-identical twins, triplets, quads, or more, representing different runs of the same experiment.

Having assembled this core cast of characters, they will dictate the emphasis of the story as a whole; or, if you want a certain kind of story, you would choose a cast compatible with it.

It's a flexible concept that can be modified for different formats and different SF subgenres. You could have a lot of fun writing it for parody or satire. You could do a very dark, gritty story addressing the reality of cloning new creatures from mature tissue - a whole passel of kids facing early aging and death. You could do a whole series, with the kids escaping from the lab in Book or Season 1 and in subsequent ones adjusting to "normal" life, uncovering other labs, dodging government black ops, or whatever.

It's a suitable core idea for an RPG, too. I'm thinking a point buy system, with "heroic" rather than "superheroic" point totals. Tell your players the premise, let them pick the clone they want, and let them build them. You could have pregens of a few likely picks which could be customized, so if two people wanted to be clones of Albert Einstein, but if one wanted to be a genderswapped Einstein and one wanted to be Einstein + Babe Ruth, they could both get what they wanted by starting with the same base character and tweaking the appropriate features.

I'm afraid the work involved in doing this seriously is more than I care to face, as the research would be more technical and less historical or anthropological than I like; but I am having fun with a household of eight sim teens squatting in an abandoned warehouse, each one cloned and in some cases genderswapped or alienized from a familiar sim that comes with the game, or from those shared by the player with whom I swapped characters awhile back. Their cloning lab mysteriously burned down and now they just keep saying they come from France...

1 comment:

  1. The RPG Paranoia had the players be members of sextuplet clone "families" in response to their high mortality rate.
    Neil Gaiman's Interworld had teams made up of doppelgangers of the same person from different worlds (of various ages, educations, genders, number of limbs, &c).
    Yes, many possibilities, definitely.
    Gee, thought I had a point in there, guess not.