SIMS: Lance's Thoughs
First of I want to thank everyone who resent their Sims response to me. I apologize for losing the first one when my laptop died but believe me, it was a far bigger inconvenience for me. I had to retype my own thoughts and completely reedit and respond to most of you. I will attempt to be more careful in future with backing up files. Because of computer difficulties this will likely be a slightly shorter response than I usually do as I always type my thoughts as soon as I finish reading the book. I finished both the book and my thoughts a while ago, so I will have to do this again from memory.
I enjoyed Sims on two levels. First and foremost it was a great read. It was part legal/medical thriller, part mystery, and even part Sci-Fi. I liked and cared for the characters, which is very important for me in the enjoyment of the novel. Patrick Sullivan and Romey (can’t remember her last name) were very strong likable heroes fighting for something they believed in, add the mysterious Zero to the mix and you have a good solid group of good guys. (Thank God Zero did not end up being Ellis Sinclair, that would have been disappointing)
No shortage of bad guys either, the older Sinclair and Luca Portero give us a great bunch of heels to hate. Even with the strong heel and baby face factions I think the key to the success of this book is the Sims themselves. If you don’t care about the Sims you won’t care about this book. The key to liking the Sims, in my mind, was their broken English. Had they spoken perfect English I think it would have been impossible to see them as “lesser” than human. Convincing the reader that these creatures were leased as “product” was a hard enough task with out us being unable to differentiate them from people while we read. With out speech though I don’t think we could have related to them enough and there wouldn’t be sufficient sympathy on them to make the book work, so the broken English made perfect middle ground. The broken English made them child like which immediately made them likeable and as a reader I wanted to protect them and cheer them on.
The story itself took many great turns, keeping the story very fresh. We had the legal battle for the Sims Union, the struggle to uncover SimGens secret and the hunt for the pregnant Sim. So much to sink your teeth into there was no time to get bored. The only problem I had with the story through out was the concept of the Sims being leased as “product”. I had a hard time believing this would ever be done, but by the end Wilson had me sold. The military tie in with the Mandrels (I think that name is right, the military fighting Sim hybrids) sold it for me. With soldiers dieing almost daily in Iraq I could see the US government bending every moral rule in the book for an expendable hybrid animal soldier.
It is this thought that brings me the other level I enjoyed this book on. At first Sims seems like Science Fiction, but when Wilson gives us so much medical info and adds to that the military benefit of such gene manipulation and cloning, it made me, as a reader wonder, if this kind of thing isn’t happening already. If it isn’t can it be that far off? This scared the hell out of me, and had me spending a lot of nights laying in bed thinking. Do we go too far with science? Is there a danger in our constant struggle for advancement? Where is the line between scientific research and playing God? It reminds me of a line in the movie “The Rock”. Nick Cage says the line, “It is one of those things we wish we could de-invent.” I think the world needs to be careful, and think of the repercussions of what we do before we do it. Once you create a new race of being, it’s not like you can just un-create it afterwards if you don’t like the way it turned out.
Food for thought,
SIMS: F. Paul Wilson's Thoughs
First off, let me say how impressed I am with how articulate many of you were in your responses. And only one of you disliked SIMS. Which means as a group you show enormous taste and intelligence. ;-) Some of the most heartening remarks came from one of you who said she never liked fiction, but after reading SIMS, she’s ready for more. And another who said this was the first time he was interested in a book presented by a teacher. Music to my ears. Let me tell you how SIMS came about.
Lots of times it’s hard for an author to say where he got the idea for a book, but I know the moment SIMS began to take shape: When I saw an article in the NY Times about chimps and humans sharing 98.4% of their DNA. I was shocked. I knew we were close, but not that close. I remember thinking, what if someone decided to lessen that gap…? It remained a simmering idea until I was asked to do a novella for Cemetery Dance. Here was a perfect opportunity to tell a story about transgenic chimps. I began outlining, but the more I worked on it the larger it grew, until there was no way I could squeeze it into 40,000 words. This was a BIG book. And I couldn't commit to another major novel at that time because of other books contracted.
So I wrote SIMS in bits and pieces until it all came together in a cautionary tale set in a world exactly like our own except for one thing: the science of genetics is decades ahead. Now, the first response I heard when I laid out my scenario of a worker species of chimps was, “And they revolt, right?” Wrong. If you’re going to genetically engineer a worker species, you engineer revolt out of them. (I was definitely NOT going after a Planet of the Apes thing.)
I was mostly interested in the interplay between the sims and my human characters. I used the sims as a litmus test of values: How they reacted to sims told you what they were like inside.
In order to write SIMS I had to go back and give myself a course in genetics. During my medical school days in the early 70s we knew a tiny fraction of what we do now. What we’ve learned in thirty years has blown me away and opened up worlds of fiction possibilities. Trouble is, science is moving so fast I’ve got to keep dancing to prevent the work from being obsolete by the time it’s published.
Now that we’ve mapped the human genome, I think the possibilities are magnificent. We can eradicate inherited conditions like cystic fibrosis and Tay Sachs, Alzheimer’s, and even the genetic predisposition to heart disease. If we move cautiously, we can open a golden age. If we goof up, it can be catastrophic – say, accidentally releasing a virus that will make the old Spanish flu look like a mild cold.
Now to specifics from your letters:
A number of you liked the headings giving dates and locations because they kept you oriented as to the story’s timeline. Good. But let me tell you, I did that for myself as well. It’s such a complex story with so many shifts of location and point of view that I found it necessary to keep reminding myself where I was.
Some of you said you picked up Zero’s identity as a sim early on, others say it was a whopping surprise. I wanted you to believe it was Ellis in disguise. I try to be fair with my plot twists – that is, dropping a trail of bread crumbs along the way so that you’ll whack your head and say, “Why didn’t I catch that?” It’s a delicate balancing act and I guess I was too fair for some of you. But I’m gratified to know you were paying close attention.
Someone brought up the idea that the sims referenced slavery in our history. That’s true, but don’t think slavery is dead and gone. It’s still fairly routine among the more primitive African tribes. Meerm – a big divide between those who thought her scenes provided a peek into the child-like mind of a sim and those who found her annoying. What can I say? It served a purpose. But her pigeon English annoyed me too (just a little) so I kept her passages short.
One of you was wary because you found SIMS in the horror section. Yeah, well, publishers and booksellers like to pigeonhole writers and I’ve been tagged as a horror writer. Even if I wrote a Harlequin romance you’d find it in the horror section. I consider SIMS a science thriller.
Also a comment about being glad SIMS didn’t have a "Hollywood-happy-ending".
I hear you. My approach is, we’re fighting a war and there will be casualties on both sides.
One of you found Romy “unreal.” Well, that’s why we call it fiction. But to think men can look at a pretty girl and feel no interest, that’s fiction too – far-out fiction. I decided early on that Romy would be the conscience of the novel. That required a strong woman, one who wouldn’t depend on a man to save her. I also liked writing about a woman who was tougher and more bloodthirsty than the males around her. Maybe we need more Romys in the world.
A number of you mentioned the change in Patrick over the course of the novel. That’s known as a character arc. Most of the characters in SIMS stay the same through the novel, but I thought it would be interesting to take a shallow, mercenary fellow and see if I could bring him around. In a sense he was the reader’s surrogate – you and Patrick learned about the sims together.
Not every character should have an arc. Luca Portero, for instance. A ruthless head of security has to be a certain personality type who’s set in his ways. (Of course, that type can have an arc too; think of Javert in LES MISERABLES.) Luca was pretty much a sociopath, although he did have real feelings for Maria. His problem was that he thought he was dealing with a bunch of tree-huggers and a herd of dumb animals (who weren’t as dumb as he thought).
The major theme of SIMS? I wanted you to consider the question of what is human. It will very soon be a question without an easy answer. What happens to SIMS now?
On my recent trip to LA I had a meeting with the TV wing of Lions Gate Entertainment; a number of phone calls followed. Seems they’re very interested in developing SIMS into a miniseries. This is still in the development stage and it will probably be January before we know whether or not we have a green light. If you want to keep up with how it develops, sign up for my newsletter at repairmanjack.com.
Thank you for your comments. It’s been a pleasure.
F. Paul Wilson
The Jersey Shore