Genetic Fingerprinting Wasn’t Always A Reliable Tool For Fighting Crime. DNA’s Transitional Period Was Incorporated Into This Dark Fiction Narrative.

Today’s crime-solving is easy. You take a swab of some icky stuff left at the scene of a crime, do something science-y with it, and a mystery gets solved. A bad guy goes to jail. Everyone sleeps at night. Perfect. It’s the happy-ever-after we expect for crime events.

We assume that DNA sequencing has been with us forever but it hasn’t. In fact, there are countries in this world where DNA science doesn’t exist at all. Technology and knowledge aren’t equally shared around this globe of ours.

And then there’s that wonderful moment in history when DNA science arrived in our own country and city. It was brand new but not yet perfected. At that point, genetic sequencing was super expensive, time-consuming and didn’t always yield the same results twice. It was unreliable. We liked what it promised to do but couldn’t trust it. A hair follicle, saliva, or semen, wasn’t enough to convict a criminal in court. This meant some of them got away with murder.

I wrote a novel where one criminal committed a heinous crime before the process of DNA matching became a perfected science. They lived well after it’d been accepted into Criminal Law. Someone else finds some good, DNA evidence on an old love letter and then makes a threat to reveal a long-hidden truth by sending it to a crime lab. It’s blackmail by DNA — a different angle on the DNA component of crime narratives. (My story isn’t exclusively about DNA. The cover of the book confirms this.) This transitional period when DNA science didn’t exist, and then did, is an alluringly grey area for this writer. It intrigues me a lot. It makes me wonder how many real-life criminals are out there just waiting for a knock to come on their door for something they did pre-DNA science.

SEETHINGS could be seen as a true murder story as its details feel alarmingly real. If that’s the case, then we’ve something to genuinely fear about the normal citizens of this world. Such a criminal could be your neighbour or the person sitting opposite you in a coffee shop. You couldn’t tell if they’re a killer by looking at them. You’d have to take a sample of their genetic fingerprint to a lab, and then run it through an unsolved crime database, to know for sure.

Now here’s a twist of an idea: Take a sample of your own DNA to that lab. Wouldn’t it be funny if your DNA profile matched one that appears in an unsolved crime? That’d shock you, right? You’d deny it, of course. You didn’t do it. After all, like my protagonist, you’re a decent, kind person. And you’d remember committing such a crime, wouldn’t you?

What if you’d genuinely forgotten about committing it? First, you’d have to be convinced you did it. Let’s assume you are already convinced, the next thing you’d want to know is why and how you came to forget. What was so traumatic that you failed to remember committing murder?

Is someone setting you up or are you simply going mad?

That’s also SEETHINGS.

-Michael Forman

Five women’s bodies are discovered after the nights of thunderstorms. Their spouses are suspected of the crimes, but it becomes clear that someone else is responsible. There’s no blood and few clues. A storm photographer who specializes in taking pictures of lightning may be the only witness.

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