I’ve passed around Miners to some people, and someone thought it was thematically similar to Oscar Wilde’s book from the late 19th century, The Picture of Dorian Gray. In it Dorian, a young, beautiful man, is granted the fountain of youth, with a catch. The sins that would normally age and disfigure him over time are instead projected onto a painting of him, which he hides from the world. Throughout the story, Dorian wrestles with having to view his misdeeds form on the painting as his soul degenerates, all the while his face and his physical attractiveness remain unchanged.
One recurring theme is how sins can be rationalized into virtues and how virtues can often be rationalized into sins. It’s a view emphasized by Dorian’s reading of a fictional book, in which the author mentally visits and adopts the moralities and beliefs of different ages throughout time. The suggestion is that morally, anything goes, if you wait long enough. The potential of human beliefs is wide.
In Wilde’s story, we view this from a single point in time, squarely planted in late 19th century England where the culture is firmly established. Society has a developed etiquette and this or that way of dealing with and judging people and actions while Dorian himself (and his closest, morally ambiguous ally) are on the outside looking in.
This is a very effective way of showing Dorian’s moral evolution, which is apparent against a static background of “how things are”.
Miners has a similar premise. The main character, Matteo, has access to immortality but where Miners differs is in setting. Instead of a well-defined society, South Texas (in the future) is in a transitional phase in several ways.
The setting of Miners hangs between an emerging authoritarian state and an emerging wild frontier. In it, people are continually monitored by “Mist”, a sort of live, cloud-record of personal activity. Yet corruption thrives and “Alamo City” can appear lawless. Biohackers sell off-Mist data to both law enforcement and criminals by swapping physical hard drives.
Unlike Dorian, whose ethics are challenged by newfound immortality and constant praise, Matteo is challenged by the ghosts of misogyny and machismo of the recent past. These aspects of culture survive in digitally indexed forms and hint at the danger of mixing toxic beliefs with radical biotechnology.
I hope this muddies the waters for how we evaluate Matteo (and other characters). What are the sources of Matteo’s sins in a fluid, changing society?
Put another way, Miners would take place in Dorian’s book of the ages between each chapter, where the landscape of morality is evolving and not yet decided. There is even a fictional book in Miners, which is hinted deals with the “persistence of personality”, or how values and perspectives are passed from person to person, through generations.
Stepping back, I think it’s really cool that my little attempt at a science fiction story parallels themes from a novel from the past, which itself is a thing I wanted to explore.