It’s interesting… I didn’t originally intend for this to be an alternative history story. I was just going for supervillain origin story. But I’d long been enraptured with Lamarckian evolution. It is the perfect evolutionary theory for communism, because it’s so damn optimistic! Darwinian evolution is a horror, as I expound on in the story. You get born with random genes, and then you find out if they’re good enough by being killed by nature (or, if you’re lucky, avoiding that). The selection process is needlessly cruel, and the determination of your worth (fitness of genes) is capricious and beyond your control. It’s a lot like Calvinism. You’re already saved or damned before you’re born, which one is the case is entirely beyond your control, and you have to go through this entire painful BS “life” thing just to find out which one you were fated to. :(
Lamarckian evolution, OTOH, is quasi-fair! If you work hard, you are rewarded. It closes its eyes to the cruel nature of reality, and embraces a comforting fantasy, because that fantasy is the way the world SHOULD work. Which, IMHO, is exactly the same thing communism does. And both failed for the same reason. Reality doesn’t care about what you think is fair.
Anyway, I wrote before about how much I love that Ted Chiang takes apart the world, changes one thing, and then puts it back together to see how it would run with that one thing changed. I don’t think I did quite that, I cannot aspire to Chiang-levels of writing. But I tried. If Lamarckian evolution is true, that’s a big change. It affects a lot more than just my one scientist in her laboratory, it alters how everything on earth works. I can’t get into all of them in a short story, but how does the world look different in ways that are relevant to the plot? If societal structures stayed similar to what we’re familiar with, what effect would that have? If the world looks like how the Soviets of the 50s envisioned it, how could that be explained in Lamarckian terms?
And so you get things like Europe’s aristocratic killer-elite. :)
Anyway, I am thrilled and honored to have been selected as a finalist for this award, and I look forward to meeting my fellow nominees at WorldCon next month!