Friday, January 19, 2007

Evolution Never Sleeps

"There's never been anything in the literature to indicate that chipmunks behave in groups."
"Well, maybe this is something new."
"What you saw was just normal duetting behavior. One animal barks, then the others join in. That's all."
If chipmunks began exhibiting cooperative behavior would we recognize it? Elisabeth Malartre's* short story Evolution Never Sleeps (pdf) asks that very question.

In the introduction to the story in the Year's Best SF 5 (1999), David Hartwell notes:
The hard science is evolutionary biology and the idea, while reminiscent of the riotously rubber-science B-movies of the 1950s, is rigorously executed and made serious. It teaches us something about the bedrock scientific theory of Evolution, upon which so much SF has been based since 1895.**
More recently, Malartre has written for the journal Nature's "Futures" short science fiction series (if you have a subscription to Nature, you can read "Words words words: Kissing a biotechnological blarney stone" and "Looking for Mr. Goodbug" online).

* Malartre is the pen name of a "biologist and writer living in Laguna Beach, California who teaches at the University of California, Irvine." She has collaborated on writing projects with her husband, UC Irvine physics professor/science fiction writer Gregory Benford.

** True, despite the claims of some naysayers.


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