Hi all! I wrote a CS story as a school project and am rewriting it for a wider audience. It’s set in the future after a ‘Bioindustrial Revolution’ where technologies (medical and otherwise) borrow heavily from natural phenomena. Due to increased understanding of ageing and disease, there’s an overpopulation issue that outstrips development of urban infrastructure (transport, energy, educational, etc.). One side effect is that universities are incredibly hard to get into, and the MC is one of those who didn’t make it in and so currently works at a start-up lab as a janitor of sorts.
Somewhere along the way one of the lab founders disappears, and you’ll have to manage your personal relationships and finances whilst trying to find the founder and putting up with an insistent stranger.
It’s a sci-fi detective story with some moral and political components to it, and the detective part hinges on your ethical decision-making and ability to process the scientific information presented.
There’ll also be no romance but you can choose to have fun. Hopefully there’ll be opportunities for the MC to do other kinds of fun things, too.
Mainly focuses on biotech, drawing heavily from natural processes. Biomaterials, genetic augmentation, ageing, bacterial and plant defence systems, etc. A little bit of chemistry involved and a very, very, very brief reference to quantum chromodynamics.
political and moral components
I’m trying to be as objective as possible in portraying different political and moral orientations. Ideally, I’d like the story to adapt to your views but also seek to challenge them at some places - although the success of that depends on my non-existent coding skills.
Oh god, the science exam was scheduled for today? I haven’t even touched the books yet!
Well… if I’m gonna be honest… it sounds a tad heavy and boring? Too complicated? Also what do you mean by “detective bits”? Hopefully not chemistry and math formulas and other more complicated stuff because I don’t have a degree in either biology or medicine and a game like this makes it sound like it’s a requirement. xD
It’s a different concept for sure, you don’t see many games with that sort of theme going for them but I feel like it needs some extra spice to it to make it interesting and maybe dumb it down a little to make it more accessible to the “dumb folk” like me.
Overall my impression is that it’s a game with a “heavy, inside analysis of our medical industry, rich in science terms, knowledge and know-hows, with daily micro-management of our MC”. Not my beach.
I’m not knowledgeable enough for that, it was a high school project Have you read Michael Crichton’s Prey? There were things like flocking behaviour, virus assembly and AI learning mentioned, and the main character eventually figures out a way to solve his problem by drawing on that information. I want to do something similar. All necessary information is presented in the story, and at the end - the ‘detective bits’ - the reader draws inferences from it to figure out what’s happening. There’ll be hints, too. As with Prey, you can skip the details but they’re a rather large part and you’re probably not going to be able to get to the bottom of the main issue.
It does presuppose basic understanding of genetics. For example, this is what one of the NPCs says to you:
"One of the factors of ageing is degeneration of cells. Each time they replicate, sections of DNA at the ends are left out. Telomeres are caps at the ends that protect the actual ends from this shortening. When replication occurs, it’s the telomeres that are shortened, not the actual DNA.
“But with age, the telomeres themselves disappear, and so to keep ourselves from excessive ageing we either insert telomerase into our cells, an enzyme that stimulates new telomere growth, or we activate further production of natural telomerase in the body through acetylation of the TRM2 gene, which tends to become more suppressed in old age. There are, of course, risks and disadvantages: with injection, you reduce the risk of accidentally affecting other genes, but you have to inject the required proteins and RNA needed to help the telomerase function. And overall, too much telomerase can be harmful due to its ability to induce and prolong cancer, which is a terrible irony since it’s used to prevent it as well.”
It’s assumed that you understand that cell replication involves DNA replication, that construction of proteins/enzymes in cells requires other proteins, and that genes can be suppressed. Terms such as telomerase and acetylation are further defined in the glossary.
My main issue is balancing overall interest and the info parts. I don’t mind having a smaller audience if it means I can keep some of the more detail-heavy parts, but I will try to soften it a bit and hopefully make it readable for those who aren’t completely into the details. Thanks for your input and honesty, it’s really appreciated
Hopefully I can do this part justice. MC will have the choice to participate in dodgy clinical trials or sell an organ to earn some quick cash.
You can choose to be a boring homebody if that floats your boat.
Thanks for dropping by!
This is an interesting concept to me, as someone who’s studying to be a scientist in a related field and has been involved in aging-related research (although I’m not an expert by any means). The quote is pretty good, and it made me go on a research binge into telomeres and aging (it seems that telomerase overexpression in adult mice can improve lifespan without increasing cancer , although there are a lot of other factors in aging as well).
btw have you ever read Oryx and Crake? It’s probably my favorite biotech-related fiction.
Ooohh I am certainly interested in the detective part. I wonder how well you will challenge our mind and as for the politic part. I am not updated in the latest news and politic but it has always fascinated me. I find it truly interesting. Well, I find it interesting when the teachers talk about it anyway. Will we have notes to put the information? I do not know if I can remember everything.
@autumnchen Now you’re making me a bit nervous about the scientific accuracy as I have no experience at all As you’ve mostly likely figured I made up the TRM2 gene - it’s bound to be more complex than that, but it would serve as an illustration of some issues associated with research into epigenetics, which features rather prominently in the story.
Thanks for the link! The “using AAV vectors” part means I’ll be changing a part of the plot (originally had another vector) but it’s fantastic!
The other factors of ageing will also be addressed to some degree along with problems associated with increased life-span. As it stands they’re only minor but this coming year I’ll be taking classes on foundations of health (and ageing), anatomy, genetics/epigenetics and social determinants of health so hopefully that’ll give me access to more articles and information and keep the speculative part of the story realistic. Thanks for contributing.
@LikeGames yup, I’m trying to make a feature where you can take notes and have them appear on the stat page. Thanks for commenting.
@blob it’s more like 80% sci-fi 20% detective but I’ll see about balancing it more! Thanks
it’s ok, both are my favorite! and all the genetics talks are good shit on another note, why don’t you keep the heavy explanation on a section of stat screen, like a note? that way, people could choose whether to read it or not.
The race scene is incomplete because the coding was driving me crazy (spent hours debugging), but should work. If you do run into a bug, though, I’m very very sorry and please let me know. Similarly, stats and morality system are still very much works in progress and may be changed.
If you’re willing to give some feedback, I’d like to know:
-how you find it in terms of interesting-ness or dryness. (I kept it to only two info-dumps!)
-what you think of the writing style. The writing is meant to be functional rather than artistic (as are the drawings) but if something annoys you I’ll try to change it.
-your thoughts on the issues mentioned (increasing secularity, corruption, drug legalisation, commodification, increased detachment, etc.) and whether or not they’re realistic in this setting.
-how you feel about the tech aspects of it, e.g. feasibility or relevance.
-how you feel about the general atmosphere/tone.
-anything else you’d like to comment on!
Had a look at this, thanks for recommending. It’s quite… weird.
Sorry, I must have missed this. There is a glossary, yes That too is a bit bare at the moment but I’ll definitely be expanding some of the entries.
I think the story is pretty interesting and I’d like to read more. Personally I don’t mind infodumps.
The blurred splotches of window light illuminate greying white walls as you hurry across the narrow sidewalk, dodging around inappropriately parked cars, neck sunk into your sweater to ward off the bitter morning cold.
This first sentence really threw me off. The first half just sounds awkward to me. (“blurred blotches of window light illuminate greying white walls” - too many modifiers i feel like). but that’s just, like, my opinion.
In general, I feel like the writing doesn’t have to be fanciful; straightforward would work just as well in this setting.
I don’t really know how far in the future this story is set or what technological/societal changes have occurred except for more advanced biotech, so it’s hard for me to say. The world feels a lot like today’s world, with some near-future gadgets and somewhat longer lifespans; it’s hard for me to get a sense of what this world’s issues are.
Is the story set in Alberta? Which city is it based on?
What’s the “chirality” of a body part?
I would guess that if aging as a general process can be delayed substantially, then aging-related illnesses will also be delayed by the same methods, or at least wouldn’t be difficult with some research. Or maybe the brain is an exception? I wouldn’t know…
I like the provided name options
“The female Zhou Enlai” sounds like a fascinating character (why would they be called that?)
For an example of one way to handle notes ending up in the stat page, you can look at Community College Hero and how it handles the HELL classes when you make them one of your study groups. Just stores the infodump tucked away in a side bit of the stat screen to peruse when needed, or ignore if you don’t care for whatever reason. A pretty adaptive setup.
Thank you so much for your time and comments. They’ve been tremendously helpful in terms of directing what needs to be fixed or clarified. I think changing previous stuff messes up the save system so I’ll definitely do some editing (will change first sentence) but will hold off adding it in until I can be sure it won’t disrupt saves.
Near future, maybe 2050s, and the closeness to the current society is due to the fact that I’m actually pretty skeptical of change being as fast as the media make it out to be. The main industrial revolution was, idk, ~50 for the whole transition to occur? It’s loosely based off that.
There are arguments that the industrial revolution was kick-started by an influx of wealth (from colonisation) and foreign workers into Britain, allowing for a concentration of ideas and engineering. But what seems to me to be an issue now is that there’s globalisation, and there’s a lot of stuff done online, and resources are diverted into a multitude of scientific pursuits. It seems to be more scattered and disjointed, the opposite of what happened in the industrial revolution, so I figured that any major changes would take quite a while, which is why it really is just the current world with a few tweaks here and there. The bioindustrial revolution was the result of a strenuous burst of collective energy - propelled by growing health awareness - so biotech is much more heavily developed than other technologies, which are more or less similar to what we have now.
The main issue I’m trying to get at is the mismatch between scientific developments and public policy/knowledge. For example, government promotion of free vaccines and cancer tests is quite ineffective - you don’t even have GPs telling patients that such resources are available, so there’s a gap between what’s possible and what’s perceived to be possible. And that is a relatively simple problem, so I don’t see much hope for a post-bioindustrial society. Expectations either under- or over-shoot reality. This is illustrated with the “chirality of a body part” - it doesn’t make sense, and even if the chiral changes as described in the story were possible, it’s bound to have a lot of complications. It’s a scam, basically: high-tech snake oil that feeds on the growing fear of ageing-related complications and an inflated sense of trust in biotechnology.
Do you feel that’s valid or overly cynical?
All the other aspects I’ve tried to touch on (incompetence of governance - as seen today with gene patenting and whatnot -, rampant overpopulation, and more later on) are all related to a lack of thorough communication between the scientific community and the policy makers and general public.
I actually did some research into principles of urban infrastructure, and the mismatch again between scientific/tech developments and infrastructure heavily informs what I’m trying to construct, and also factored into the choice of setting.
BC, actually, but with Alberta’s wolf culling unabashedly transplanted in Are you Canadian?
It’s geographically Fort St. John, but is a mix of that and some other big cities I’ve visited. In this story, FSJ (not sure if it’d still be called that, tbh, so it’ll remain unnamed) has a population of over 3 mil and attracts quite a few scientists and engineers, both national and foreign.
The rationale: most [big] cities now already have infrastructures that are temporally marked and designed to suit what the city - and society at large - was at that time. The city I live in now, for instance, population 1.6 mil, is experiencing massive urban sprawl and the public transport system has been stretched thin because the original system was designed to serve the existing city and not the new suburbs, and it’s hard to fix the entire system so any holes are just patched. With advancements in biotech and the increasing problem of overpopulation, more infrastructural holes will appear and more patching up will be needed, so larger cities actually face a bigger problem.
Smaller cities like FSJ (current population 20000), however, have simpler pre-existing transport/electricity/waste/health care/etc. infrastructures, so can more easily adapt and might potentially overtake other established cities in transitioning during a bioindustrial revolution. For example, the unroad entry/exit ramps require specially-designed cul-de-sacs, which aren’t feasible to build in developed cities but can be built in a newly expanding city. Drive out a bit from the outskirts and there’s just farmland and straggly forests (if I remember correctly - it’s been ages), and there’s the huge Alaska highway running through and the Peace nearby. Suitable for accommodating the expansion and infrastructure overhaul required, and so in this story my humble hometown has become a major city. The part where MC lives and works is in the current centre and is the poorer part of the city; the nursing home is on the outskirts of present-day FSJ, and Terkhashvili’s apartment, Easton’s lab, and most other places are in the “new” future parts.
Yeah, that’s a part I’m murky on as well. I figured that since this extension is unnatural, there are going to be some areas, perhaps those controlled by polygenes or homeobox genes (? since telomerase treatments are used in later life) that lag behind, so there’d be a mismatch between some organs. Also, accumulated damage: I don’t think extra telomerase will save organs damaged through lifestyle choices, and since lives are longer more irreversible damage is built up, so a demand for organs would be high (although understandably they would not be prioritised on the replacement list, hence the increase in black market prominence). And the brain I really don’t know about, but since neurons are quite different and the brain seems to be trickier than other organs to regenerate, I’d assume there’d be quite a gap between research and tech on overall ageing and that on the brain.
But that’s all conjecture based on high school understanding of biology, so if you have any ideas or corrections I’d be very grateful to hear them! If I may ask, what’s the related field you’re studying for and what kind of ageing-related research was it that you were involved in?
Um, I am hoping to change that so it sounds more mysterious and creative.
Later on (ch 3/4-ish) MC will find out about this organisation and meet two of its coordinators, who, although they have rather mundane tasks and the time to meet some random nobody MC, are prominent drivers of the organisation’s ideological beliefs. One of them is a Russian immigrant (“the Hammer”); the other is CBC. I’ve therefore titled them to refer to their heritages, but also to the fact that Molotov and Zhou, despite being respectively seconds-in-command to Stalin and Mao, did play important parts in their countries’ policies.
(It’s only meant to be a passing parallel, not political allegory, and though I might invoke some stereotypes in the story, it’ll be for a specific reason and meant ironically.)
Had a look, are you referring to the part where it says “What you’ve learned for the first HELL test:” and all that? (haven’t read it before.) I think I’m aiming for the notes to be more flexible and not to give guidelines for what’s stored, but it’s an interesting idea and might be borrowed in some way later on. Thanks for the suggestion and for stopping by!
That is a long post… it seems you’ve put a lot of work into this.
I think it’s fine for society to not change much by 2050. valid
Given the “chirality” thing, it seems that we have a slightly unreliable narrator? Are there other things that are just fake?
How is overpopulation an issue here? It’s hardly a problem in modern-day Canada (or most of the developed world actually, and the developing world is getting there fast), and higher life expectancy won’t change that a lot. Has there been mass population movements? A new baby boom? Clone armies?
I’m not too up-to-date on the science myself. I just guessed that if you can deliver telomerase, you can also deliver stuff to promote neuronal regeneration or whatever. These are still active research questions so I guess it’s okay to just make up something interesting. My own research is mostly in bioinformatics.
Also, since you seem to be going for realism, have you considered the effect of global warming in your setting? Maybe that’s why 3 million people moved to Fort St. John (it’ll probably be temperate there by 2050, and it’s immune to sea level rise)…
The story is focalised through a narrator who knows about as much as the actual MC knows, who’s not as knowledgeable as they could be. Terkhashvili doesn’t bother to correct you if you do choose to tell him, so it’s meant to reflect what the MC genuinely believes it to be true. Chirality’s the main fake thing. Other processes will have some merit, but almost all will also have drawbacks.
The overpopulation is relative and links back to the failure of infrastructure to keep up. Some cities now in developed countries have traffic congestion, long hospital waiting times, school overcrowdedness, etc., and the mayor of the one I live in basically said that ‘that’s just the way it is and is only going to get worse’. So with life extension, there is much more strain placed on developed urban infrastructures (an ageing population in particular puts a disproportionate amount of strain on the healthcare system), which leads to a sense of general overpopulation that permeates the whole country, supplemented by the rise of cities like FSJ that are trailblazers in terms of post-bioind-revolution urban design, but which also have the flaws and misjudgement associated with prototypes. (Specifically, FSJ’s planners overestimated the effectiveness of their education infrastructure.)
I know a few people who had expressed concern over their ability to enter university (in Canada) despite good grades because of the intense competition from the increasing population and foreign students, and though I haven’t verified that, it seems like something that would get worse in the future.
Yes, thanks for the global warming reminder - there would have also been a mass movement into Canada and other northern rim countries due to the resource/agricultural opportunities it creates. FSJ is, as you pointed out, inland and well-positioned, and is also currently a mining town and not particularly cold to begin with. Not sure what a clone army is but there won’t be human clones.
So I meant overpopulation in a general sense that it’s outstripping urban development, rather than ‘300 people per square kilometre’ objective overpopulation (which you’d be in a better position to understand with a background in informatics! Sounds like a frustrating field, though.)
Telomerase injections are meant to be a bit shaky (main method is genetic modification), but that’s a good point. I’ll do more research into it As it stands, I have neural regeneration to be done mainly through iPSCs, using epigenetics to then re-differentiate them into nerve cells, and then implanting them or something to replace dead brain cells. A professor of epigenetics gave a talk at my school on that, and I’m guessing it’s something that might occur before 2050s anyway since he said it’s been a concept in development for a while now.
i personally like how you describe the ocean here.
also what does “chiral” means here? it’s mentioned several times and i got the vibe that it’s bad, even though google just described it as:
also, about Hangunder: about the mild immunosuppressant…do you mean the corticosteroids? if yes then i think it’s better if you change the immunosuppressant to corticosteroids, since “immunosuppressant” isn’t exactly the right drug to tread headache. or change it to mild vasoconstricting drug? since headache in hangover could be caused by vasodilation in the head blood vessel.
so is this what the needles for?
but if i’m being serious, i could see narcotics and psychotropics being legalized as recreational drug, but only when people find the counter for their negative side effects. those drugs affect the brain heavily, and could easily kill with a small misdose. and since you mention
telomerase isn’t the counter. so i saw the drug legalization as a bit unrealistic.
on an unrelated note, i recall that brain wasn’t capable of regenerating itself (hence alzheimer)?
i can’t say enough that i love it but what is the function of rubber duck T-chromer? thermochromic ink is cool and all but is there a specific function to them in biotechnology?
It was described in the encyclopedia, which I didn’t realise wasn’t working Sorry about that, will fix it and that other error you found. I use the really simple definition of chirality as the property of a molecule to bend light in a certain direction (either left or right). In nature a type of molecule would only bend light in one direction all the time, so natural enzymes and whatever would likely only recognise a molecule in that configuration. So the thinking goes that if you change the chirality of a molecule (since it involves a very specific disassembling and re-assembling, a synthetic enzyme has been developed for this) it will no longer be recognised by other organisms, which could then mean stuff like it’d be immune to attacks from bacteria and stuff. As said in text avalanche #1 above, the procedure of changing the chirality of all the molecules in a body part is a scam which presents an over-simplified view of the complexity of disease susceptibility obfuscated by authoritative-sounding jargon. (Why the government allows it to continue will be mentioned later by a character from the provincial industrial relations commission.)
Well, this is rather embarrassing. I think I had antihistamine in mind but somehow my fingers made it immunosuppressant… but corticosteroid looks like it’d work better than antihistamine! Thanks, will change that.
Hmm, so a hangunder-type substance that works for those drugs? I don’t know much about them, but if they “affect the brain heavily” idk how feasible creating a counter would be. Originally had in mind something like the fact that the actual legalisation would reduce the stigma associated with using them, so more educational resources and help centres are available that would reduce accidents from them, but that is a good point I will need to do some research on
No, not naturally, I don’t think. But in this setting they’re capable of “growing” neurons through induced stem cells taken from the person, so as to create a personalised regeneration program.
Well, I’d imagine that some of the research done regarding interactions of biochemical substances and some organisms would have to be incredibly precise and temperature-controlled. A convenient way of monitoring temperature would be through using equipment printed with thermochromic ink, where it’s a bit like pH indicators where small changes in temperature will lead to drastic changes in colour, so the researcher/lab tech can remain aware of this and adjust. Also, since metabolism produces heat, it would also give a qualitative indicator of how a reaction is going, which together with quantitative data gives the user a more intuitive sense of what’s happening.
narcotics and psychotropics bind strongly to the receptor on their site of action, resulting a very effective drug with short onset that causing dependency. also they have a narrow therapeutic window
this is a therapeutic window of diazepam. a steeper slope means even small changes in dosage could result in a very different response. also it would kill at 80 mg. worse, the body develops tolerance that resulting in user taking larger and larger doses…leading to overdose.
Hangunder for these drugs already exist (i.e Naloxone) but it has several side effects and causing withdrawal symptoms that could make people dislike using them personally??? idk. i do agree that educational resources and help centers could help, but not significantly.
OR MAYBE YOU COULD MAKE A TOTALLY NEW DRUGS WITHOUT THOSE ADVERSE EFFECTS. yknow, i’m thinking about digital narcotics and psychotropics
question: if biotechnology advances that much, how come there’s no lab grown organs???