In Orpheus Chanson’s world, geniuses and prodigies are no longer born or honed through hard work. Instead, procedures to induce Acquired Savant Abilities (ASAs) are now purchased by the privileged. And Orpheus’s father holds the copyright to the ASA procedure.
Zimri Robinson, a natural musical prodigy, is a “plebe”–a worker at the enormous warehouse that supplies an on-line marketplace that has supplanted all commerce. Her grueling schedule and her grandmother’s illness can’t keep her from making music–even if it is illegal.
Orpheus and Zimri are not supposed to meet. He is meant for greatness; she is not. But sometimes, rules are meant to be broken. Here is a thriller, love story, and social experiment that readers will find gripping–and terrifying.
Top Ten Things Based on Real Science in Gifted
One of the reasons I love writing futuristic YA is that I get to use lots of scientific research in the process of world building. Here are my top ten picks (in no particular order) for actual science in GIFTED:
1. Fulfillment Warehouses
Corp X, where Zimri works, is based on Amazon fulfillment centers (FCs), which are reported to be up to 1.2 million square feet. In the book, Zimri works in the last human-operated FC in the country.
2. Automated Nanobot Technology (ANTs)
The other fulfillment centers in Zimri’s world use ANTs—millions of teeny tiny robots that work together to move and pack merchandise. ANTs might look something like this:
In real life we’re far away from this tiny tech, however, at Stanford University a team of six microbots weighing 3.5 ounces total recently pulled a car that weighed almost 4000 pounds, so it might not be long until small robots could be doing heavy lifting for humans.
3. Personal Occupancy Domicile
I “borrowed” the idea for Zimri’s POD from the work of Kent Larson at MIT who designed a hyper-efficient, 200-square-foot apartment with moveable walls and retractable furniture.
4. Flying Cars
Orpheus has an automated flying car called a Cicada. IRL, driverless cars are already hitting the market and flying cars are just around the corner. The Slovakian company AeroMobil claims that by 2017, they will have this road-ready vehicle with stowable wings available for purchase.
5. Acquired Savant Ability Surgeries
Orpheus’s father is pushing him to have an ASA surgery so he’ll be a musical genius and can continue the family fortune. Although there is no such thing as this kind of surgery, it is true some people suffer head trauma (either through illness or injury) that results in an acquired savant ability. Usually these abilities occur in music, math, visual art, or enhanced memory. Scientists don’t know why this happens, but most likely some aspect of the brain’s circuitry has been “rewired” as a result of the trauma.
Orpheus wears an ExoScreen glove with a built-in finger cam. Although I made up the glove, the finger camera is a real thing based on the Air Clicker camera, which is a blue-toothed enabled device that connects to a smart phone.
7. Self-cleaning clothing
There is a small moment in the story when Orpheus says he’s worn his pants so many days in a row that the light-activated self-cleaning molecules in the fabric have stopped working. Researchers in Australia have already developed a special coating for fabric that can remove stains when activated by bright light. No water needed!
8. Delivery Drones
Items from Zimri’s fulfillment center are carried away by deliver drones and dropped into people’s home through special chutes. Amazon is already advertising drone delivery as one of their services of the future. Although I made up the dragonfly drone paparazzi in the book, California has already banned using drones to take photographs of celebrities.
9. Hybrid animals
Zimri talks about coyolves, squimunks, and frozards lurking around the river where she lives. I made up the squimunks (squirrel + chipmunk) and frozards (frog + lizard), but a coywolf (a mix of western coyotes and eastern wolves) is a true natural hybrid prevalent in the northeastern United States and Canada.
10. Digital Piracy
As long as there has been radio, TV, and digital downloads, there have been people figuring out ways to jack the system. Things are no different in Zimri’s world. She sets up a DIY short wave radio station hidden under the eaves of an abandoned house to distribute her music and then “accidentally on purpose” hi-jacks a digital stream, interrupting a legal concert with her own illegal show. Sites like NinjaVideo have been shut down and its founder jailed for flagrantly infringing on copyright laws by streaming digital content without paying for it.
Heather Swain lives in a crooked house in Brooklyn, New York with her husband, two children, a barkless dog, and two rescue cats. She is the author of four novels for young adults, two kids craft books, two novels for grown ups, and numerous short stories, personal essays, and non-fiction articles.