Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Nature of the Beast

A couple of weeks ago I took part in a conversation with three other science-fiction writers - Ken Macleod, Joan Slonczewski and Peter Watts - about biology and science fiction. A transcript of the four-way interview, mediated by the irrepressible Oliver Morton, has been published in the latest edition of Nature and it’s available online, but unfortunately you’ll need a subscription to access the article and the cartoon illo (in which I appear to be Paul Merton imitating Commander Kang).

Our favourite moments in biological sf? Ken’s can be found in James Blish’s ‘Sunken Universe’ (aka ‘Surface Tension’); Joan’s in Kurt Vonnegut’s Galapagos; Peter’s in Alice Sheldon’s ‘The Screwfly Solution’; and mine in Greg Bear’s Blood Music...

3 Comments:

Anonymous Peter Hollo said...

What's "the latest edition" in this case? I don't really want to pay USD$30 to read it, but we get the print copies at work...

July 09, 2007 3:14 AM  
Anonymous Alfie said...

I bought a book on SF biology once, but it was mostly the authors complaining about other experts on the subject. I have a theoretical question, if you're interested: on Mars, would plants or animals brought from earth be taller because of the lesser gravity?

July 10, 2007 4:41 AM  
Blogger Paul McAuley said...

Peter, I think it's the July 3rd edition - I don't have a copy yet but will update if that's wrong.

Alfie - what on earth was that book of complaints? IF you tell me the title I'll never need to buy it... I think Mars-born humans would be taller because of the lower gravity - that's the accepted idea anyhow. Not sure about plants, since their growth is also determined by light levels and other factors (sunlight on Mars is of course much less than Earth, which would make plants become taller through etiolation, but I assume colonists would grow them under racks of lights).

Trees should be able in theory to grow much taller, because on Earth height is limited by how high they can pull water up the xylem in their trunks. I have a feeling that this theory may be out of date though...

July 10, 2007 8:55 PM  

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