Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the release of your science fiction novel, Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful, through Delacorte Press! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the book’s premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Arwen Elys Dayton: Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful is a fictional look at human genetic modification in the near and distant future. The book is told through six interconnected stories, each exploring a different aspect of our future world and the evolving face of humankind.
Several years ago, I began reading every article I could find on the topic of genetic manipulation. The gene editing tool known as CRISPR was just entering the public consciousness, but there was so much more to learn about: companies growing human organs in labs and human-compatible organs in livestock, methods for dramatically extending the human lifespan, and the sampling of DNA from other species to, perhaps, improve the human genome.
There was a moment when I thought, “This is it. Soon, we’ll be able to eradicate disease, extend our life spans, turn humans into superhumans!” But a few minutes later, I had a quite different thought: “We will definitely find some way of messing this up in spectacular fashion.”
Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful exists in the space between those two thoughts. It shows us our possible future as a species, and it asks, “How will you grow up, fall in and out of love, and figure out who you are when the very essence of you is changing?”
BD: What can you share with us about your creative process in researching and writing the book, especially given the incredible 6 interconnected stories told throughout, and what have been some of your creative influences?
AED: Some of my lifelong influences have been Dune by Frank Herbert and all of Ray Bradbury’s works. Mary Renault’s The King Must Die was also a huge influence when I was a teenager. Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age is still one of my favorite books, and the way he weaves short stories into the broader narrative in that novel is something I think about frequently. The format of Cloud Atlas is definitely an inspiration for Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful, though the parts of my novel are much more interconnected than the stories in Cloud Atlas.
Calling the way I write a “creative process” always seems like overkill, because I never feel very organized. But I knew I wanted to write stories set in our world as human genetic modification became more prevalent (or even rampant) and as soon as I knew that, the individual pieces of this book began appearing in my head.
At a certain point, I had to figure out the full, coherent timeline of our next 100 years, which involved mapping out the cultural, political, and even religious implications of being able to make all sorts of changes to the human body and to future generations of humans. That was interesting speculative work, and it allowed me to “hang” the six sections of the novel in exactly the right places on that timeline and to figure out what information about the world would be revealed in each.
BD: Given the impact that science fiction can have in inspiring future generations to pursue careers that better humanity and our world, what do you hope that readers will take away from your work?
AED: Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful is full of debatable circumstances. Semi-identical twins who are dying. When one lapses into a vegetative state, the decision is made to use the healthy parts of her organs to give her brother a chance at life. A girl who’s hiding the degree to which her body has been rebuilt, knowing that her friends, and in particular the boy she cares about, won’t approve of the artificial parts that are now keeping her alive. A child who had been designed to have high intelligence, with tragic results. And more.
Some of these possibilities are beyond current science, but some are starting to happen right now. What are the questions we need to be asking? Should parents have a right to manipulate a child’s brain? Should a government be permitted to physically modify convicts if it makes them more “useful” to society? Who gets to choose what makes humans human?
First and foremost, I hope this book is an entertaining look at the future of our species. Beyond that, I hope it inspires readers to learn about this topic and be part of figuring out the next steps in human evolution.
BD: What makes Delacorte Press the perfect home for Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful?
AED: Delacorte “got” this book immediately and gave it so much support from day one. It’s been great working with them.
BD: Do you foresee expanding the novel into subsequent books or even into other entertainment mediums, if given the opportunity?
AED: I’ve thought about this a lot. I’m not sure if I will expand the current stories, though it’s tempting because the last three in particular (asteroid mining slaves, dolphin boy, and the Proto humans) have so much fertile ground to explore. I’m still considering this. But on another topic, there may be some film/TV news about the book on the horizon…
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
AED: I’m starting work on a companion novel to Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful and am really enjoying it.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful and your other work?
AED: You can always find me on Instagram and Facebook (@arwenelysdayton)!