I’ve been in love with d-mat from an early age, although of course it wasn’t called that back then. I knew it under a bunch of other names, including transmat, T-mat, teleporter, and of course the famous transporter of Star Trek. This seemingly magical device popped up in a lot of places and had a lot of names, and I loved them all. It might seem a weird thing to be obsessed by, but it raised so many interesting possibilities that I couldn’t let go of it.
Philosophers in recent times totally get why. If you put a person into a d-mat booth and take them apart atom by atom, have you killed them? If you then rebuild them by running the process in reverse, are they still the same person or an exact copy of the original, resurrected? Should we think of an exact copy of a person as the same thing as the original person, or are they different somehow? What about if you make two copies instead of just one? Are they same person–and if not, why not?
You can do your head in with this stuff. Or, since science hasn’t yet built a working matter transmitter, you can turn to fiction to explore it further. That’s the path I chose, culminating in the release of Twinmaker: Jump, which addresses some of these concerns head-on.
But one idea isn’t enough for a novel, and I absolutely did not want to write a philosophy textbook. The book I wanted to write was a fast-paced thriller with a dash of romance to spice things up along the way (because who doesn’t love a good love story? I know I do). I wanted to leave the reader thinking about everything that just happened rather than feeling like they’ve just sat an exam. The best way to do that, for me, was to take them on a tour of the world–showing them rather than telling them all about it.
So Jump has crashlander balls and hobbyists who play with real-life trains and fabbers that can make or remake anything you like and terrorists who send viruses (real ones) through d-mat booths and a thousand other things that make the world feel like somewhere that might one day be kinda real . . . including the people who live in it.
My main character is Clair Hill, a high school student whose life is utterly ordinary for her time, up to and including having a crush on her best friend’s boyfriend. She lives on one side of the country and goes to school on the other, but she can step as easily between those places as we’d ride in an elevator between floors. She’s completely used to this way of life, although it still seems new to her grandparents. She doesn’t sit around with friends saying stuff like “Are you real?” and “Of course I am, but what about you?” (except in slang) because they feel completely real. It’s a safe world for everyone . . . until things go wrong.
Of course things go wrong. There wouldn’t be a story if they didn’t. (Actually, there would be, but it wouldn’t be this story.) In writing Jump I wanted to explore the kind of anxieties I felt as a teenager–about being good looking, or avoiding pimples, or not growing the right way, whatever. If someone had offered me the chance to change myself for the better, even if it was illegal, I might have jumped it. That’s where the idea for Improvement came from. Everyone wants to be better, somehow . . . but teenagers are probably the only people crazy brave enough to try it.
(Originally published by Specsonspecfic in 2013.)