Literary Genetics, Margaret Chiavetta

Literary Genetics

By Margaret Chiavetta

Henry MayVock was a certified literary geneticist and book grower. He never had much luck with growing books but he managed to splice and produce a few decent literary-genetic lines (lit-gens) from other book seedlings. Selling the few lit-gens to more skilled geneticists gave him a meager income, but it was enough to continue his attempt at growing a bestseller. His most successful lit-gen was from the “Tolkien-King” line, which he spliced with a less known but successful book from a grower named Shore. The book that grew from this seed had holes and continuity errors in the plot and no ending, but it did produce interesting creatures called bumble-wiggens. Expert geneticists were trying to splice the lit-gen in order to extract the bumble-wiggens and transfer them into a complete and engaging story.

MayVock’s book garden was populated with mostly disasters. If there wasn’t something horribly wrong with the storyline then there was something wrong with the characters. One book didn’t even have characters. It went on for three hundred pages, describing a single landscape. That book ended up as kindling in his fireplace, like so many others. Some books didn’t grow properly. Instead of the standard 8” x 11” rectangle the paper sheets would grow into deformed shapes. One book’s pages grew as triangular spikes that could puncture the skin. Another bloomed like a rose, producing rounded petal-like pages. Though the site was eye pleasing the words on the page were obscured. MayVock sold the rose lit-gen to an interior decorator for a decent price.

After years of struggling and coping with so many failures and so very few meager successes, MayVock was pacing his garden with anxious anticipation. A book was growing in the middle of the hothouse – where the most sunlight was available – that he had been watching carefully for months. Throughout his work he had always used careful calculation, and applied standard procedures and principles when splicing lit-gens, but one day, out of total exasperation, he spliced lit-gens with absolute recklessness. He had been saving one seed that he spent most of his savings on that produced a bestseller from a very successful grower. Out of fear of destroying this one expensive seed with a bad splice, he let it sit in a locked case. But one night, after many drinks, he opened the case and went to work on it.

Splicing involved studying the genetic string, which contained codes for things like syllable arrangements, character strengths, conflict climax etc. MayVock was too drunk to discern the codes so his splicing was random. He also decided to splice-in codes from an unsuccessful lit-gen he had produced. The book had a bad plot, but the main character was extraordinary. In the world of literary geneticists, this splicing of a pure-line with a failed-line would be considered defilement.

MayVock sat on his front porch drinking his sixth beer, and reflected on all of the bestseller pure-lines. Successful growers kept their lines so pure that the stories being produced were becoming more and more generic and similar, but for some reason they sold by the millions. The thought enraged MayVock and that was when he had the idea to break the pure-line and try something new.

One of the most surprising results was that the first page of the book grew first. Books generally grew with the last page first and slowly one-by-one the pages grew backwards towards the first. This was an antagonizing process for growers. Literary geneticists have been trying for ages to find the genetic code that would result in the first page growing first, but the results were usually scrambled page numbers so many geneticists didn’t even attempt it anymore.

This accomplishment alone could make him millions, but what’s more, MayVock had been reading the pages as they bloomed and the story is a phenomenal discovery. The protagonist from his failed-line is a shining star and a hero of the highest caliber. The plot is the most engaging, with well calculated twists and sudden emotional upheavals. MayVock was having sleepless nights, terrified that the next page would be greatly flawed and ruin the book’s perfection. His days were long and desperate. He went on several long walks; otherwise the pain of staring at the unmoving pages would make him break into a cold sweat.

All of his resources went into the care and production of this single book. The other books in his garden were now brown and dry, withering away slowly to their deaths. His most expensive soil filled the pot of the masterpiece and he used the last of his savings to import the finest book growing water from the Himalayan Mountains. On cloudy days his insanity drove him to call the local weather service and demand they do something about the clouds obstructing the sun.

Now, he paced in front of the plant. The last three pages were curled together in a scroll-like bouquet and the deep red flower that bloomed from the stem above the pages was dropping seeds like a leaky faucet. Three more pages, just three more pages of the seemingly perfect ending to this masterpiece and his life was set. He would want for nothing. He would have the best hothouse in the world, with the finest everything the world has to offer and he would create for the rest of his days without pressure or fear.

The three pages weren’t moving under his stare and he felt the cold sweat start so he grabbed his hat and a notebook and went for another long walk, jotting down ideas for his next splice with child-like enthusiasm.  It was a sunny day and his driveway was dry and blossoms fell from the cherry trees that lined his path. With a smile he jotted something down at the top of the notepad:  More Beer



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