Monday, August 16, 2010

Bio in SF Bits 8/16/10

Cleaning out my (much too long) list of bookmarks:

On the Influence of SF: 

Letters of Note: He was there with you on the bridge
A woman writes to Patrick Stewart about how much pleasure Star Trek: TNG gave her son with muscular dystrophy.
All through last year Wednesday evening was his highlight of the week, his excitement being matched only by his anger if "Star Trek TNG" was cancelled. I think that in his imagination he was there with you on the bridge, free of any disability, sharing to the full in all your adventures - he never missed one.
Big Think: Interview with neurophysiologist Vincent Pieribone
Science fiction is huge, but it doesn’t translate into science reality for students.  They love to go see science fiction films, but I think science is not nearly as exciting today as the science fiction is.  I got a lot of people who show up in the lab and they think every day is going to be like Mr. Spock running around the deck of the Enterprise making huge discoveries and stuff.  And it’s a little slow.  It’s a lot of [pipetting] and you know, things don’t work and like any job, it’s really like any job.
Timmi Duchamp @ Ambling Along the Aqueduct: Because culture, not nature, is the problem (on Helen Merrick's "Engaging the sciences through feminist science fiction")
In this article she argues that feminist science fiction has the potential for bridging the "two culture divide" that persists in feminist scholarship-- the divide between the sciences and the humanities. 

On Science in SF

At ScienceOnline2010:  Tamara Krinsky and Jennifer Ouellette discuss "how online video and social networking tools are playing a part in connecting science, Hollywood and its fans."

Gary Westfahl @ IROSF: No Bark and No Bite
Dogs, in contrast [to cats], appear to be relatively rare in the science fiction futures of all media, with few examples coming to mind. [. . . ] Could the reason be simply that most members of the science fiction community, like myself, tend to like cats better than dogs? Or is there some logical reason for this curious imbalance in the genre's predictions?

Mark Terry @ Tobias Buckell's blog: It's all science fiction, right?
I have a degree in microbiology and public health, spent some times in an infectious disease research lab, then worked about 18 years in a clinical genetics lab before turning to writing full time. So I can safely say that what goes on in those TV shows about forensics have about as much in common with how real crime labs operate as Star Trek has to do with how NASA operates.

Juliette Wade @ TalkToUniverse: Body Models and Metaphors
The aliens we create can similarly have different models and metaphors for the body and its operation, and if you use those things to your advantage, they can influence characters' behavior and judgments, and possibly even the plot of a story. If a character were injured for example, why would or wouldn't he/she decide to get treatment? How would that influence the course of the story? Would two people from different countries in a fantasy world have different ideas of how the body worked and what kind of treatment would be good for it? Might one believe that washing with soap was dangerous (as we used to), while the other believed it was necessary for sanitary treatment?

Deborah J. Ross @ Book View Cafe: Not Just Another Funny Forehead: Creating Alien Characters
Since I loved invertebrate zoology in college, I used the gastropod family as a model [for my aliens in Jaydium]. In doing so, I violated a slew of biological realities (including the limits on size of creatures that don’t have skeletons, internal or external, as well as the limiting rate of oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange). And yet, what I did worked. No one, not even my professor (to whom I presented a copy) railed at me for scientific idiocy.

Mary Catelli: Babies in World Building
One world building error that I find as often in SF as in fantasy:  many, many, many writers neglect to figure out Where Babies Come From and Why It Matters. 
Alien Romances: Pull out the genitalia
[. . . ]we could give the peculiar goolies to the alien villain... as long as he is not a close relative of the hero. This could be quite useful. The heroine doesn't have to see them. The gentle reader only has to hear about them. Yet, the point is made that aliens have evolved differently.


jeremy @The Voltage Gate: The walk from dreamed inspiration to story
It was 12:40 a.m. when I rolled out of bed, only three hours after falling asleep. The dream had ended at what seemed to be a confounding crossroads, but as I paced to the bathroom, groggy, I was already working out what happened next. The story that my unconscious had crafted was now being filled out consciously.'

Written SF

At Tor.com there's an interesting discussion going on of the new Heinlein biography.  See the round up of posts here.

L. Timmel Duchamp reviews Anil Menon's the Beast with Nine Billion Feet for Strange Horizons
The Beast with Nine Billion Feet tells a story in which the characters' personal lives and relationships become inextricably braided into an ideological conflict pitting two takes on the material consequences of biotechnology in bitter opposition.

Metafilter: James P. Hogan, author of Inherit the Stars, died on July 12th


Metafilter: The Waves of Sand Roll On (Frank Herbert and the Oregon Dunes)

Golden Age Comic Book Stories has great scans of Ed Cartier's illustrations for Travelers of Space

JC Hallman @ Bookslut: Jurassic Park and the Utopia Wars
The maddening thing is that when you try to explain something like Pleistocene Rewilding to someone who’s never even heard of it, you discover that before your utopian vision is complete, the dystopian retort is already in place: “Sounds like Jurassic Park to me.” That Jurassic Park might veil an ideology is a fact that many, it seems, would prefer their grave to accepting.

At the Mad Hatter Review Lavie Tidhar reviews Luna: The Genetic Paradise:
In brief, what Moav proposes is the establishment of a society along the lines of selective breeding, a complex structure dictating how many children—and with whom—anyone can have, based on their “humanity index”, a combination of IQ, artistic talent, and social-moral behaviour, with the focus on moral quality. Inherent in this scheme is Moav’s conviction that moral behaviour has a genetic basis, and can be passed on from parent to child.

The Phoenix interviews Paolo Bacigalupi about The Windup Girl:
When I say science fiction, I think of classic Foundation, I think of rocket ships. But there's this other tradition of science fiction, which is sort of the stealth version. It's the stuff you see with Aldous Huxley or George Orwell, where you're extrapolating about who are we, where are we going, what our society looks like, and I feel very connected to that strain of science-fiction writing.
And Bacigalupi was interviewed by Annalee Newitz at io9 about the future of hard science fiction:
I do research, but it's after stuff has percolated for a while. When I was an editor at High Country News I was reading all their stuff. There was a one-liner about checkerspots in [my short story] "The Gambler" - stuff like that, which I've absorbed elsewhere, drops in at convenient places as I'm writing. I'm always reading environmental journalism. Science writers point the way to interesting stories.


John Scalzi interviews Ted Chiang about The Lifecycle of Software Objects:

People routinely attempt to describe the human brain’s capabilities in terms of instructions per second, and then use that as a guidepost for predicting when computers when be as smart as people.  I think this makes about as much sense as judging the brain by the amount of heat it generates.
SF Signal interviews Jeff VanderMeer about The Third Bear
I wanted to show progressions and commonalities of theme or style. For example, "The Situation" with its biotech is followed up by a Dr. Moreau-type tale. A story about trying to find something that can never be found is followed by a story about wanting to be lost. I tried to also vary the length where possible. For example, the longer "Errata" and "Appoggiatura" couldn't really go back to back. "Appoggiatura" didn't feel like a story that could have anything come after it, so it's last. It has the finality of "The Third Bear" but also an openness to its ending. Some, like "Shark God vs Octopus God," are placed as palate cleansers.
Book Trailer for Scott Sigler's Ancestor a "bone crunching tale of high-tech horror"


Kay Holt @ Science in My Fiction: I know why the vampire sparkles!

By now, I’m sure you’re all with me; vampires are bugs. But what kind? It took me a while to figure it out, but now I’m convinced that vampires are nothing more than overgrown, parasitic…

Joel at Twelve Hours Later on "Year of the Rat"
In “Year of the Rat” (鼠年), published in the May 2009 issue of Science Fiction World, Stanley Chan Qiufan (陈楸帆) gives his unemployable college seniors an opportunity to serve their country by joining up with a rat-fighting brigade. Armed with crude spears, the new recruits hunt Neorats (新鼠), genetically-altered rodents that escaped from the incubators where they were being raised for export to international markets. It’s brutal work, particularly as the rats begin to evolve in ways that make them harder to track and kill, but the young men have no other choice [. . . ]

 Elizabeth Bear: long past their woodland days
It will probably come as a surprise to nobody, but I love me some science fiction. 
But recently, an acquaintance asked "Do you believe in science fiction?" Being in a contrary mood, I answered "no." What I meant, I admitted when pressed, was that I did not believe in the valorization of SF as the literature that's going to somehow save the world.
Television

The Science and Entertainment Exchange's has an overview of the "Watching the Watchmen and Cheering the Heroes: The Science of Superheroes" panel at the 2010 AAAS meeting.
The question of how much of who we are is genetically determined, and how much is a factor of environment and the choices/decisions we make, underlies the entire story arc of Heroes, which explores the question of destiny versus free will when it comes to our identity, our abilities -- and our future.
Script PhD interviews the science adviser for Fringe. 

And Popular Mechanics looks at some of the science in the most recent season of Fringe: Fringe Double Feature Plays with Mutation and Exorcism, Does Fringe's Virus Eradication Plan Hold Up?,  Fringe's Killer Biological Weapon is Rooted in Fact


American Physical Society: The Futurama of Physics with David X. Cohen
Futurama Executive Producer and head writer David Cohen on his background in physics:
Cohen knew from an early age he wanted to be a scientist–he was directly influenced by both of his parents being biologists. “It became a matter of which science I would go into,” he recalls. He had always gravitated towards math and physics and computers, and contemplates that his choice to pursue physics in college was perhaps “a pathetic form of rebellion against my parents.”
Regeneration in Doctor Who was modeled on "Acid Trips"

Metafilter post rounds up links to BBC documentary series on British science fiction

Movies

Scott Pierce of Popular Mechanics talks to the CDC about the Franken-Virus in the Crazies
Eisner spoke with the CDC's Steve Monroe to figure out the possibility of manufacturing a virus in a toxin that switches from a waterborne illness to an airborne disease as it mutates. "The filmmakers clearly realized that they were going to stretch reality, but wanted to know about what was possible," Monroe says.
Scott Sigler's AMC column is about the use of protoplasm in Hollywood
When you think of slime creatures in real life, you may first think of the amoeba," says Tom Merritt, a Ph.D. in virology, gene therapy, and human molecular genetics. "These living slime packets are great, as you can throw them into liquid nitrogen -- freezing them instantly and suspending life itself -- then just thaw them out later like nothing happened. I don't think the same can be said for Ted Williams."


io9: The Hyperevolved Fish are Ready for Sexytime in  Humanoids from the Deep

Dayle McClintock @ Tor.com: Mega Piranha: an interview with director Eric Forsberg
I always research my projects. In this case, I did not research genetically-manipulated piranha. I did research food projects ongoing in South America.

Hero Complex: 'Planet of the Apes' Again? Yes Hollywood Still Has a Monkey on Its Back

Stephen Popkes @ Book View Cafe: Understanding Evolution
. . . I saw Cameron’s Avatar a few weeks back. I knew immediately that the aliens (the Na’vi) were not native to the planet.
Why? You might ask.

WolfGnards: How Long Could Luke Survive in a Tauntaun?


Games

GamePro: The real science of StarCraft 2 

GamePro: The real science of Mass Effect 2




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