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Posts Tagged ‘Athena’

3 weeks left to enter the SiMF contest! And 6 days for the flashfic contest!

(Originally posted at Crossed Genres.)

The Science in My Fiction short story contest has just 3 weeks left before the deadline for entries! Entries thus far have been fewer than expected, though we’re still anticipating a rush at the end. There are $400 in prizes up for grabs – be sure to get your entries in! And please help us spread the word about the contest!

The Flash Fiction contest is also approaching the cutoff date for entries: June 15 is the final day! Entries to the flashfic contest have been surprisingly robust – though perhaps not surprising when considering first place gets pro rates or better. 6 more days to go! Voting will begin on the 10 finalists on June 23.

Crossed Genres is currently accepting submissions to the Invasion issue. June 30 is the deadline.

Finally: June is the last month to read Crossed Genres Issue 8: ANTHROPOMORPHISM. This diverse and unusual issue, containing an interview with SiMF contributor Athena Andreadis, will no longer be available! Please read it if you haven’t, and consider picking up a copy.

You Only Find What You’re Looking For

Author’s Note: This is the first SiMF post picked up for reprinting by io9 — I know it will be the first of many!

Extraterrestrial life is a staple of SF and the focus of astrobiology and SETI.  Yet whereas SF has populated countless worlds with varying success, from Tiptree’s haunting Flenni (Your Haploid Heart) to Lucas’ annoying Ewoks, real ETs remain stubbornly elusive: nobody has received a transmission demanding more Chuck Berry, and the data from the planetary probes are maddeningly inconclusive.  Equally controversial are the shadowy forms on Martian asteroid ALH84001, although the pendulum has swung toward cautious favoring of the biological possibility after scientists discovered nanobacteria on earth and water on Mars.

In part, we’re hobbled by the limits of our technology, including the problems of sample contamination and method-specific artifacts.  But we’re also severely limited by having a single life sample.  Despite its dizzying variations in form and function, extant terrestrial life arose from one source.  We know this because our genetic blueprint and its associated molecular machinery are identical across the three domains (archaea, eubacteria, eukarya).  So to be able to determine if something is alive, we need to decide what is universal and what is parochial.  We stumble through redefinitions each time our paradigms shift or our techniques achieve higher resolution.  Worse yet, our practices lag considerably behind our theories.

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If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want to Be Part of Your Revolution!

(incorrectly but fittingly ascribed to Emma Goldman, feminist, activist, trouble-maker)

Those who know my outermost layer would consider me a science geek. I’m a proponent of genetic engineering, an advocate of space exploration, a reader and writer of science fiction. However, I found myself unable to warm to either transhumanism or its literary sidekick, cyberpunk. I ascribed this to the decrease of flexibility that comes with middle age and resumed reading Le Guin’s latest story cycle.

But the back of my mind gnawed over the discrepancy. After all, neither transhumanism nor cyberpunk are monolithic, they come in various shades of… and then it hit me… gray. Their worlds contain little color or sound, few scents, hardly any plants or animals. Food and sex come as pills, electric stimuli or IV drips; almost all arts and any sciences not related to individual enhancement have atrophied, along with most human activities that don’t involve VR.

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SF Goes McDonald’s: Less Taste, More Gristle

Twelve years ago, Harvard Alumni Magazine asked me why I wrote The Biology of Star Trek despite my lack of tenure.  My answer was The Double Helix: Why Science Needs Science Fiction.  In it, I described how science fiction can make science attractive and accessible, how it can fire up the dreams of the young and lead them to become scientists or, at least, explorers who aren’t content with canned answers.

syfyThe world has changed since then, the US more than most.  American culture has always proclaimed its distrust of authority.  However, the nation’s radical shift to the right also brought on disdain for all expertise – science in particular, as can be seen by the obstruction of research in stem cells and climate change and of teaching evolution in schools (to say nothing of scientist portrayals in the media, exemplified by Gaius Baltar in the aggressively regressive Battlestar Galactica reboot).

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