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Morgan traces the genesis of Altered Carbon to an argument he had with a Buddhist at a party. “We got talking about karma and the idea that if you’re suffering in this life it’s because in a previous life you did something shitty. I’ve got a lot of time for Buddhism. Among the predominant faiths, it’s the one that’s the least full of bullshit. But I pressed him: ‘So I’m suffering and I can’t remember what I did to earn this suffering? That’s not right, is it, because I’m not that person?’ And he said: ‘It’s the same soul.’ I said: ‘It doesn’t fucking matter. What matters is whether you, as an experiential being, remember it. Otherwise I’m being punished and I don’t know why. That’s the height of injustice.’”
The everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink approach also extends to the show’s dizzyingly convoluted mystery plot, though critic Beth Elderkin points out that the show is actually easier to follow than its source material, the novel Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan. “If you can believe it, some character stories were combined into single characters,” she says. “So it’s even more convoluted when you’re reading it in the book.”
“It gives me hope,” he says, “because all the science fiction I write has too much stuff going on, too much exposition. So I hope this does well, because it gives me hope that you can create a really complex world and tell a cool story and get away with it.”