Saturday, April 04, 2009

Biology in Science Fiction Mega Link Roundup: April 4 Edition

I've slowly - oh so slowly - been going through the links I collected for "future reading" over the past few months. I also had a link roundup post meant to be published in January that somehow never made it out of draft form. The result? A mega maxi link roundup!

General SF Rumination

Gerry Canavan presented a talk on "Science Fiction and Ecological Futurity" (via SF Signal)

Mike Brotherton: Why Science Fiction Rules the World (but not enough!!!)
More and more often these things are aspects of our modern reality that have no precendence in human history. Somehow history gets respect and people say it “repeats itself” even though that is not true. Science fiction isn’t exactly great at prediction, but the process is very useful for meeting the future with open eyes.
Jason Stoddard suggested that the burden of the modern science fiction writer is keeping up with scientific progress. In response, Jeremiah Tolbert explained why Stoddard is wrong. The central issue seems to be how important "realism" in science is to science fiction (via Futurismic).

Meanwhile, Megan at Teen Ink magazine is teaching teenagers how to research science before writing science fiction. (via io9)

BBC talked to Ken MacLeod, Paul Cornell, Iain Banks, and Ian Watson about whether science fiction needs to stay up to date with scientific breakthroughs to be relevant.

Arvind Mishra has a more detailed look at the First National Discussion on science fiction in India.

The Consumerist reports on a study showing people rate harder-to-pronounce words as "riskier". It's true for food additives and rolloer coasters - maybe it's true for alien names too?

Written Word

Vice Magazine interviewed Ursula Le Guin (via SF Signal):
Some sf writers decided a while ago that true sf can only be based on the so-called hard sciences—astronomy, physics, chemistry, engineering, computer science, and so on. The word “hard” brings some gender luggage along with it. And sure enough, these guys find stories based on the “soft,” or social, sciences to be a debased and squashy form of the genre. They see it as chick lit for geeks. So, OK. If anybody wants to build a ghetto inside the ghetto and live there, fine with me. But I wish this sectarianism hadn’t infected Wikipedia. If they want to call my stuff social science fiction, that’s fair enough. But so much of what I write isn’t sf at all.
Graham Sleight at Locus online: Yesterday's Tomorrows: Ursula K. Le Guin
[Left Hand of Darkness] traces a slow process of discovery — of Winter and its inhabitants. In that respect, in that it's about finding out, it's a perfectly science-fictional work. (The later Ace edition carries a provocative introduction by Le Guin, in which she administers a few well-judged kicks to the idea of sf as narrowly extrapolative or predictive.) We find out, for instance, via Chapter 7 how and why the Gethenian biology was created. This chapter is an ethnologist's report on the planet — what would, in other circumstances, be considered an "infodump." But Le Guin is so thoughtful a writer, the implications of her thought-experiments so thoroughly and deeply felt, that you find yourself wanting to hear this information, even if it is couched in as dry a form as this.

Mur Lafferty at reviews Scott Sigler's Contagious.

Peter Watts reports that his novel Blindsight is "going to be a required text for a Biological Psychology course at the University of Miami"

Brian Switek at Laelaps rants about Monster, a creationist anthropology thriller:
Peretti also mentions that his favorite author (and chief writing influence) was Michael Crichton, and this makes sense. Not only does the book have an anti-science bent, but it reads as a sort of mash-up between Jurassic Park, Congo, and Icons of Evolution. Even though it is a monster story, the author makes it clear that the real monsters are the immoral evolutionists who will stop at almost nothing to uphold their crumbling intellectual doctrine.
Jeff Carlson writes about the background behind his novel Plague Year

Nancy Kress reviews Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go and talks about "cloning-for-organ-donation" in SF in general.

Kress also looks at genetically modified mosquitos, as they appeared in her biothriller Stinger, and in real life.

Jo Walton writes at about Octavia Butler's Survivor, a novel Butler repudiated and refused to be a allowed to be reprinted. Part of her problem is the simple interbreeding of humans and aliens, and the way the novel depicts race and color (literally).

Jo Walton also looks at aliens and sapience in H. Beam Piper's Fuzzy novels

Annalee Newitz at The Rise of Science Among Insects in Greg Egan's Incandescence

NK Jemisin reviewed Naomi Novik's Temeraire novel Victory of Eagles last August for Fantasy Magazine and the discussion touched on alternative evolution.

Peter Watts posts a proposal for a new novel, Dumbspeech.

DamienBarret has a great Flickr set of his visit to Alan Dean Foster's house. He got to see Foster's awards and decorations including a "fossilized critter" that "might help ADF with his depictions of the Thranx or other insectile cratures in his books."


The Oyster's Garter takes a look at what the Earth was really like 150,000 years ago, when the Battlestar Galactica folks landed in Africa.

James F. McGrath at Exploring Our Matrix writes about John the robot in Sarah Connor Chronicles who questions why God didn't make humans with more ball socket joints and uses to talk about evolutionand "the image of God" (via io9)

Science Not Fiction talks about the real science of Sanctuary's abnormals, gives the lowdown on Sanctuary's Bad Bad Prions, and looks at the series' gene therapy

Charlie Jane Anders at io9: Kyle XY: How Not To Do a TV Series Finale

Science Not Fiction: Battlestar Galactica, Self-Repairing Material and biofilms


ScienceOnline: Alexis Gambis brings science and film together to create a new genre of science fiction (ScienceOnline is a project of NYU's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program)

George Dvorsky posts about young filmmaker Jason Silva's short film "The Immortalists", which is "a love letter to science and philosophy that explores the idea of engineered radical life extension and biological immortality"

T. Ryan Gregory at Genomicron: Would you act as a consultant on a scifi movie? And more importantly, would you accept compensation if you did?

Jonathan Fahey at writes about The Science Behind 'Watchmen' and the teaming of Hollywood with scientists

John Scalzi @ SciFi Scanner on Video Game Movies:
In point of fact, the average gamer is nearly thirty, not dumb, and while he may enjoy bombs, blood and babes, I'm willing to bet he'd happily see a movie that doesn't assume he's stupid. When I watched Doom, the scene where a scientist explained that a certain percentage of the human genome has never been mapped (and the part that hasn't, well, that's your soul, you see) made me want to throw a rock through my TV -- which is ironic, as the film stars The Rock.
SciFi Scanner looks at directors that include some real science in their science fiction. Included are Andrew Niccol, director of Gattaca and Steven Spielberg, director of Jurassic Park (and lots of other movies, of course).

Matthe Nisbet at Framing Science: "What about the "Gattaca" Effect on Perceptions of Medical Cloning?"

James Sanford takes another look at GATTACA, plucked from Rotten Tomatoes' list of "Ten Sci-Fi Flicks for the Thinking Man... or Woman".

At Nature Jascha Hoffman reviews films about science at the Sundance Film Festival (subscription required). points out that "it seems a lot of this was more medical than scientific, with tales of mental breakdown, bipolar disorder, autism and psychopathology."

Scientific American 60-Second Science: Science at the Oscars

Ain't it Cool News reports that Ronald D. Moore's prequel to The Thing will be directed by Matthijs Van Heijningen, who is an experienced director of commercials. Hopefully he can make the transition from the 15 second to 90 minute storytelling. In any case, it's supposedly heavily based on John W. Campbell's 1938 novella "Who Goes There?", which I'd think makes it a remake of John Carpenter's 1982 The Thing, which itself was a remake of the 1951 move The Thing From Another World, rather than a prequel. Don't moviemakers realize there are SF stories out there that have never been made into movies? But what do I know.

Darren Naish at Tetrapod Zoology reports on the whereabouts of the Krayt dragon skeleton from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.

BoingBoinger Xeni Jardin reviews her favorite B-Movie - The Food of the Goods - for Fancast.

Repo! The Genetic Opera is coming to DVD. Genevieve Valentine at rounds up the special features. has an exclusive peek at the DVD's "Sing-Along" feature.

io9 has a nice clip of Vegan Horror, Sheep Punching, and a Lot of Fart Jokes (with a clip from Black Sheep)


Torsten Reil gave a TED talk on how he studies biology to make realistic animation.

John Holbo at Crooked Timber points out that Jack Kirby's comic books are really bad on evolution and Norm Doering has more on creationist misconceptions about evolution that seem to be based on comic book science.

An article in the January 2009 issue of Scientific American looked at the depiction of evolution in the game Spore.

NotCot visited Alien Fresh Jerky in Baker - a small town out in the California desert between Barstow and Las Vegas. Despite the name, they don't sell jerky made from aliens, which might or might not be tasty. No, what they sell is beef jerky made from abducted cows and other alien-related products. Sounds awesome.

Correlation vs. causation: There are fewer babies and fewer storks - is it pollution? or space aliens?


1 comment:

  1. Its a comprehensive but very useful list for those who have that unsatiated urge to know more and more about less and less of sf ! And thanks for including Banaras Document on Sf -which also appears in LOCUS ,March ,09 under the caption -International report from India !


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