It’s Alive!

Well, I am at least.

I don’t have too much to say about the intervening time between my last post in March of 2020 and today. I spent most of that time like many others who already had a work-from-home day job – indoors and away from others. I started wearing masks everywhere, got more houseplants and pairs of leggings, and got vaccinated as soon as I got the green light to from work. I also read more than I usually do, played more guitar and video games, did a variety of horror-themed puzzles, had conference call movie nights and virtual hangs with friends, and started lifting at home and running outside instead of at the gym.

Eventually I was able to start writing again after the initial shock of everything faded back into the general background baseline anxiety of existence.

In happy news, my short story, “Small Turn of the Ladder” was published in Analog in time for my 39th birthday. It’s the first story I’ve sold in quite a while, one I first wrote years ago when I was in the midst of the worst of all my autoimmune garbage and chronic c. difficile infections. It was meant to be about the coming antibiotic crisis and the psychological weight of coping with an incurable disease and a possibly fatal infection.

I also completely finished my long-term Science and the Fantastic column. I believe it came in at around 40k words total, and covered over 150 years of history across science fiction and biology. I’m pretty proud of it, and it gave me an excuse to read a lot of older science fiction I might never have thought to look at otherwise.

I’ve got exciting news to share as well – I’ve got contracts signed on what I hope will be another long-lived essay series – this time for Asimov’s! It’ll start up next year and explores different thematic aspects of classic science fiction movies. I’ve already got two and a guest editorial in the can: the first about George Méliès’ 1902 silent film A Trip to the Moon and the third about Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. The second essay, currenlty in progress, will be about Frankenstein, which I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the research for. The first essay and the editorial is currently scheduled to appear in the Spring 2022 issue. Expect further announcements here and on Twitter as I have them!

Finally, I’ve got a lot of stories making the rounds at different markets at the moment – a healthy mix of revisited older and newer ones I’ve finished in the past year. I’m in the middle of writing a few more, which I’m hoping to finish by the time this last essay gets submitted, since I want to spend the Winter working on a novel.

I hope you’ve all been as well as can be expected, are fully vaccinated, and have plans to get your annual flu shot in the next month or two.

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Some reading for your cabin fever

It’s been a minute since I last updated, but I’ve had a bunch of things published in the past ::counts backwards:: nine months? Sheesh. Well, no one reads personal blogs anymore, so no great loss. I’ve been channeling that energy into lots of different writing projects lately. Namely:

  • A slew of new installments in the Science and the Fantastic column
  • A two-part examination of how science is used in science fiction over at Locus Magazine (from both the theoretical and practical angles)
  • I channeled my current anxiety over the coronavirus epidemic into an essay on con crud and community over at Uncanny.

I’ve got just one more installment in the column coming up for next month, another essay I pitched to a new venue due later this month, and some other exciting non-fiction-related stuff in the months to come.

I’m writing this, as I mentioned above, in an anxious time. I’ve been following the coronavirus news so closely that I almost feel like I did way back in 2009 when I was unemployed for six months between grad school and finding a job – obsessively refreshing pages waiting for new information that might make me feel… what, exactly? Better? Like I have a handle on things? Like control over my life is magically back within my grasp?

I wish I weren’t asthmatic (adding one to the infinite pile of times I’ve wished this were true since I was diagnosed when I was five). I wish I didn’t have this autoimmune disease (again, with a +1 to the ever growing pile). I dislike being robbed once and for all of that youthful sense of immortality, which I feel like we can cling to if we can only convince ourselves that the manner of our own death remains nebulous – could be literally anything. But then as you get older, and health problems compound, you spend more time shoring up those crumbling walls between you and your own mortality, certain likelihoods increasing in size become difficult to ignore.

Ah, well. Being mad about it, I learned a long time ago, accomplishes nothing except to increase stress. I accept it, take all my medications, go to all my appointments, get a job that gives me good enough health insurance (which is a kind of fucked thing to have to always have in the back of my mind) to be able to best take care of myself and reduce anxiety levels to a manageable amount so I can continue to have the headspace to do the things that make me feel like I’m living as best I can between obsessively refreshing websites for coronavirus updates.

It’s raining here today, which people always treat like such an anomaly but this is just the other season in San Diego – the wet one – and I am now technically putting myself under enhanced social distancing, so I’m curled up on the couch, work laptop beside me, deadlines coming down the pipeline, a slew of unwatched media and unplayed video games to engage with, and a brand newish pirate banjo to pluck when I want to fill the room with something as lonesome sounding as someone asking, “Why?” in an empty toilet paper aisle at the grocery store.

These are strange times, to be sure, and sometimes I can almost feel the history unspooling beneath our collective feet.

Be good to each other y’all – it’s pretty apparent now, more than ever, that we are all that we have.

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“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”

There have two more installments of the Science and the Fantastic column published on since I last wrote – they cover the weird interstitial period of SF of the 50s that I cover using Bradbury, and the maniacal scientific work of Monod in uncovering mechanisms of cellular regulation. This was followed up by my first dip into the expansion period for both biology and science fiction in the 60s, covering Ballard and the movement’s British origins, which aligned nicely with the birth of recombinant DNA technology, and thus biotech.

I am happy to be out of the golden age of SF – I am getting really sick of writing about sexist white dudes. That being said, there are still more sexist white dudes ahead, but it’s going to be easier to move away from them in SF as we move forward. Not so much so in biology.

The Nobel Prize page has a breakdown about the demographics of Nobel Prize winners between 1901 and 2018 (mind you, this is in all categories, not just the sciences):

  • Of 935 Nobel awards, 52 have been awarded to women. That’s a little over 5.6%.
  • Of those 52 Prizes, most were in Literature or Peace, and one for economics
    • 3 women have won for Physics (out of 210 winners – or 1.4%)
    • 5 women have won for Chemistry – one was Marie Curie, who also won one of the physics ones (out of 181 winners – or 2.8%)
    • 12 women have won for Physiology/Medicine (out of 216 – or 5.6%)

I couldn’t find a convenient current breakdown of prizes in the sciences by racial demographics, but the awards are overwhelmingly awarded to white men, and there has yet to be a black Nobel prize winner in the sciences.

Of course, Nobel prizes are not necessarily the best indicator of the quality of a career in research (much like the Oscars aren’t the end-all-be-all in quality of an acting career). There are always politics involved, and many of the women and minorities doing groundbreaking research today won’t necessarily see any recognition for a lifetime of work for a while, but I both imagine and hope that this is going to continue to change moving forward as barriers continue to be broken down and scientific cultures of racism and misogyny diminish. The numbers don’t look good right now, and writing a history of two fields that have been overwhelmingly white and male (for a lot of the same reasons) feels disheartening, especially looking around at how the demographics in both fields has changed and continues to change.

  • As of 2015, women have reached parity in the biological and medical sciences
  • Minorities seem to have equal representation if all lumped together, but representation within groups is disproportionate, with more Asians in STEM careers and fewer black and latinos (see table 3-19)

None of this is to say that women don’t still run into misogyny in the sciences, and systems of oppression still act as gatekeepers to many minorities, but compared to even 30 years ago, the trend in diversity has at least been in an upward direction.

But I digress. The next article will be about Philip K. Dick (who the above title quote is from) and Sydney Brenner’s massive project to map the developmental fate of every cell within the roundworm C. elegans. Both were preoccupied with the central questions of life – what makes us what we are? It’s a compelling question to examine both from the angle of Dick’s fiction and Brenner’s work, and I felt it was interesting enough to push back the article I’ve been looking forward to writing about LeGuin and Lynn Margulis.


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My God, It’s Full of Stars

2001 A Space Odyssey is one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s the perfect marriage of gorgeous and profound, with some of my favorite tropes (AIs and space madness, first contact, scientific realism, etc) by one of my favorite directors, and I am beyond delighted to have been able to write about it, albeit in an oblique way. I will forever plug Michael Benson’s phenomenal Space Odyssey about the making of it. I didn’t think it was possible for me to love that movie any more than I already did, but Benson managed to increase my fondness exponentially. The next Tor column will cover Arthur C. Clarke and the cracking of the genetic code, and I also got to throw in a very relevant shout out to Fred Sanger, who’s inventiveness is the grandfather of my specific biotech niche (so I can thank him for paying my bills), so I was a very happy camper researching this one.

The last one, if you missed it, went up a few weeks back on Isaac Asimov and the discovery of messenger RNA. Jacques Monod was an absolute madman and I deeply enjoyed the logic in Asimov’s books (and memoir). I once again lament someone who seemed so affable was also a serial ass grabber of women. ::long sigh:: In any case, you can find that post here.

Not too much to report on other writing fronts, except to say I have found over the past year that I deeply enjoy writing nonfiction. It scratches the itch of my atrophied academic past self, and I have gotten to read a lot of science fiction, biographies and histories I wouldn’t have otherwise. I love finding the strange connections between things, and exploring both histories in parallel has really colored my perspective on history in the last century and a half. Even past the expiration date of the column, you can bet I’ll find other things to jump into to write about (maybe ones that don’t require quite so much reading – I’ve read 20 books so far this year and February’s barely half over).

On the life front, I’m doing quite well. I’ve got some personal goals of being able to run a sub 30 minute 5k, leave the country again, get competent at my new day job (which I love so far), level up my cooking game, and start getting some fiction back into circulation. The first four I’m already working on, and my upcoming pilgrimage to Cascadia and the annual Rainforest Writers Retreat should help with the last of those, and since the latest column is in the can, I am very much looking forward to focusing on just fiction for a week. See, I’ve had some novelette/novella length projects that have had to take a back seat to all the research and writing of the column, and are at least three medium/long stories and a novel trilogy stuck up in my head – all kind of dark, hopefully funny, and chocked full of science. I look forward to having some of those see the light of day hopefully in the next few years.

No playlist this month, but instead I encourage you to check out the latest albums by Jeff Tweedy (WARM), Sharon Van Etten (Remind Me Tomorrow), and Hop Along (Bark Your Head Off, Dog), which have all been in my heavy rotation lately.

In the meantime, please enjoy this hole to another universe that is definitely NOT a tiny bathroom monolith.


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The Green Morning

First off, I’ve decided to take a short hiatus from the column. I’ve fallen chronically  behind by inches each month with all of the reading for each installment, despite staying on a just-about monthly schedule. I’ve succeeding in impressing myself with my stamina, but I’ve been skirting the edge of burnout these last few months, which have been busy with travel. Along with a recent (and impending) major dayjob upgrade, I needed a moment to breathe. After checking in with my editor, I settled on taking the holiday months off, and we’ll jump back in with Asimov and beyond in the new year.

But the last one on Heinlein and all things DNA replication went up at the end of last month. It represents the first essay on the three corners of the Central Dogma, and the first of the Golden Age trifecta of grandmasters (which can be found here). Reading as much by and about Heinlein, I think, preventing me from letting my personal distaste cloud the essay while still not letting him off the hook for the problematic elements that make him hard to read in a modern context.

When I sent that piece off, I went on a gleeful Asimov palate cleansing binge. Despite knowing Asimov himself was no paragon of modern virtues, I much prefer his detective story frames and long form psychohistory chess games. Though both Heinlein and Asimov frequently resort to white rooms full of talking heads, Asimov’s diatribes read more like cold logical proofs than hyperbolic political screeds, and I’ll take a proof over a screed any day.

Which has got me thinking more and more of bypassing the obvious Clarke article to follow up Asimov and skipping ahead one to Bradbury. Reading The Martian Chronicles for the first time these past few days has me feeling more as though Heinlein’s the heart, Asimov’s the head and Bradbury’s the soul, with Clarke pulling it all out into the future with the evolution of humanity. I can almost justify it to myself to exit the Golden Age early to talk about how Bradbury (and Vonnegut) took the genre and painted it with shades of literary awe to bring in a wider general public.

I know I’m probably just looking for an excuse to read all the Bradbury that’s been heaped on my to read pile, but, true to form, I’ve been mostly following my whims with this column anyway and my intuition hasn’t steered me into a corner yet. Futhermore, in the introduction to my edition, Bradbury says,

The Martian Chronicles was published in the late spring of 1950 to a few reviews. Only Christopher Isherwood placed a laurel wreath on my head as he introduced me to Aldous Huxley, who, at tea, leaned forward and said, “Do you know what you are?”

Don’t tell me what I’m doing, I thought. I don’t want to know.

“You,” said Huxley, “are a poet.”

I can see so many shades of Bradbury in so many of the writers I adore, and reading his fiction is like crawling under some warm blankets with a flashlight. Of course I’m looking for an excuse.

Finally, Bradbury’s sentiment above (in italics), he picked up from Fellini in describing his creative processes – to ignore the film in the camera and let his feel for the scenes inspire him. Bradbury says writing The Martian Chronicles stories followed a similar path. So since I’ve been taking a very similar approach to writing this column, I’ll consider this my final, flimsy, fortune-cookiesque justification.

Since I last wrote, I went to New Orleans for the first time, camped in the desert, saw one of my dearest friends get married, saw a slew of bands and finished my Agent Cooper tattoo, but that’ll be for another post.

Until then, I’ve put together another new playlist of music I’ve been enjoying. You can find it here (opens in Spotify).

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No skin like the skin you woke up in

A little late updating this month because there has been a lot.

First up, next Tor column is up! It deals with the discovery of the structure of DNA by Watson and Crick, and the rise and fall of John W. Campbell. This one I had the distinct pleasure of having to write TWICE, thanks to my overzealous cleaning of my desktop mixing with a moment of I-should-have-known-better. It’s a strange experience having to rewrite an entire draft from memory. Never before had I been so sure that a first draft was flawless than in that second full draft (while knowing full well that first drafting was no better than the second). But in the end it wound up hitting all the notes I had wanted it to and it was no worse for the delay.


Pescadro: where the streets have no reception

Thankfully, this installment marks my departure from the pulpy roots of SF and has launched me up into SF’s woody stems. As such I have been reading a lot of Heinlein and Asimov. Asimov has proven to be a good chaser for all the Heinlein, but I know totally understand why folks were always saying, “Stick to his juvenilia.” Starman Jones and Have Spacesuit Will Travel did both turn out to be the least (literally) offensive things I’ve read by him, whereas every single other book made me want to throw my Kindle across the room. Repeatedly. The objectifying feminism, bad faith arguments, the black and white thinking, the logical contortions in the midst of strawman arguments… They’re exhausting. I’ll be happy to be done with the Heinlein article (and him) and onto the Asimov one where at least there aren’t as many women on the page for him to be misogynist about and I can just loose myself in cold waves of beautiful logic.


7/8 of the soberest Bruisers you’ve ever met

The last month (and a half) has been eventful. I finally got to realize the childhood dream I never thought I had and go to scenic Sheboygan, Wisconsin for a dear friend from grad school’s bachelorette party. There was much drinking while floating in a lake beside a ridiculous house with a bunch of hilarious women. This was immediately followed up with a retreat with my writers group. Never have so many of us been in one place (we missed you, Sandra!) in meatspace at the same time. There was no cell reception (and limping WiFi), much giggling, alcohol and delicious food, and I managed to get the column draft done before discovering I had deleted it once I deposited myself at the WorldCon hotel. A number of drinks later and I was able to just relax and enjoy the con for the rest of the weekend. There was again, much giggling, drinking, good food, and good friends, and I got back feeling primed and ready to… rewrite that column.

Cooper Tattoo.JPG

My leg has something to tell you


I also got a new tattoo – this one representing my deep and abiding love of Twin Peaks and a promise to future Kelly that we’ll make it up to the Pacific Northwest someday. Until then, I’ll have a little bit of it with me always.

My band also played another show. There was surprisingly good turnout, we played some new songs and some old, retooled songs. It was our sixth show this year, and along with the new EP we recorded, I really feel like we’re hitting our stride and that’s a deeply satisfying feeling.

Finally, I’ve updated my monthly Spotify playlist with all the things I’ve been enjoying this past month (and a half). Find it below, and feel free to subscribe to it if you dig it. I’ll be posting updates to it regularly since I know there’s an overwhelming amount of great music coming out all the time and finding new stuff (especially as you get older) gets to be more and more work, so you can benefit from the legwork I’ve been doing (and maybe throw some cash at some good bands when they come through your town).

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Paint dots on your wrists to see me in your dreams

The next installment of the Science and the Fantastic column just went live. This one’s about Olaf Stapledon, J.B.S. Haldane and Julian Huxley’s work to bring about the Modern Synthesis in biology (basically the moment that everything that had come before in disparate bits of research synthesized into an experimentally verified whole).

I’m grateful the column introduced me to Stapledon’s work. Star Maker and Last and First Men are fucking mind-bending, and his biography was heart-breaking – the story of a man who knew he had something to say, and struggled most of his life to find the best way to say it, only to have fascism and the second world war destroy his chance at having the kind of career he wanted. It sure as hell touched a nerve.


Songs from the Not-So Big Chair

Random life updates: my band spent the weekend in the studio recording bits for the next EP, which should hopefully be done and out this fall. There was much giggling, beer and pizza. We’ve got another show coming up at the beginning of September at the Black Cat, which I’m looking forward to.


I almost moved to Seattle. Missed getting a new job by a hair. I’m beginning to think I’m never going to get up there. My mom (who was a flight attendant until very recently) told me a few years back that she had put in for a transfer to Seattle from Chicago when my brother and I were little, and she also missed it by a hair. I still hope I’ll wind up there someday soon, otherwise the imminent Twin Peaks tattoo I’m getting next month will make a liar of me.

In related tattoo news, two of my best friends and I all got matching tattoos. It was both my and the tattoo artist’s first ribcage tattoo and it was a learning experience for us both. Pro tip: if you bring a friend for a ribcage tattoo, maybe make it one that’s not hilariously funny.


Madeline Kenney and Jenn Wasner killing it at Soda Bar

Finally, I got to see a few excellent shows this past month – Wye Oak and MadelineKenney were fucking fantastic, and Car Seat Headrest channeled their best David Byrne, making even the shitty local all ages venue tolerable for a night. This weekend I’ve got tickets to see Beach House, and will, unfortunately not make it to the Hop Along show, which I hadn’t realized was on the same night. Ah, well.

I’ve been listening to lots of rad new music lately so I put together a Spotify playlist for your enjoyment below.

I’ve got a long fun vacation coming up that involves a bachelorette party for one of my best friends from grad school, a writing retreat with my Bruisers, then Worldcon in San Jose.

In the meantime, may all your feelings effervesce in a pleasant sort of way.

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Radium, Dinosaurs and Ridiculous Cakes

I’ve had two articles go up since I last posted.

Part 4 of the Science and the Fantastic series about Edgar Rice Burroughs and Theodosius Dobzhansky. This one’s theme was mutation and I got to write a bit about the radium craze that was happening after the turn of the 20th century, and Dobzhansky’s work in tying mutation to the mechanism of natural selection.

A spoilery thought experiment about what happens after the end of the latest Jurassic World movie. It was the article I never thought I needed to write about a Jurassic Park movie.

I also turned 36 a few weeks back. I celebrated by swapping out my 18 year old car for one that doesn’t spew white smoke from beneath the hood and hit me in the face with the sun visor whenever I would accelerate. I wondered if I would have feelings about giving up my car – I bought it 14 years ago when I was in grad school. No matter how tight money got and how many bills I had to float to make sure I could eat, I never missed a single car payment. That car was my sense of security and represented a kind of freedom of movement I’d never felt before. We went on a lot of adventures, me and that car. But not being hit in the face while I drive hasn’t gotten old yet.


I’m also on vacation for the next week. I haven’t had this much time off in a row where I get to stay home in a very long time. I’m hoping to get a head start on the next two Science and the Fantastic posts, which will hopefully free up some time in the next two months for me to finish up a draft of a space horror story I have been slowly re-outlining. Up next is gonna be an article about Olaf Stapledon, Julian Huxley, Star Maker and the Modern Synthesis. I’ve been looking forward to writing this one for a while. After that I’ll be writing about Watson, Crick, Gernsbeck and Campbell, with the birth of the magazine era and the discovery of the structure of DNA.

I am getting a little tired of writing about white dudes in these articles, but we’re finally starting to get to the time periods where diversity was increasing in both fields. I am really looking forward to what’s coming after these two, where I’m going to start writing about broader movements within SF chronologically, as well as areas of specialty in biology with their salient discoveries.

If you’re interested in the source material I’ve used so far in the articles – I have a running bibliography in this post that I’ve been keeping updated as I go.

I might attempt to make another ridiculous cake, too. I made this one for my birthday this year, and am itching to add a new ridiculous cake to my repertoire. This one looks promising. Also, PBS just started airing a fifth season of Great British Bake Off, in case you might need something kind to watch because your threshhold for horror just keeps getting crossed by current events.

Be good to yourselves and let’s look out for each other, okay?

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On the Origins Bibliography

I wanted to start a post that serves as a running tally of all of the stuff I’ve been reading for the column that can be referred back to if you’re interested in that sort of thing. It’ll be updated as I go. This bibliography is comprehensive for the entire series upon its completion on 5/27/20.

History of science references:

  • The Gene: An Intimate History (2016) by Siddharta Mukherjee
  • A Short History of Nearly Everything (2003) by Bill Bryson
  • The Scientists: A History of Science Told Through the Lives of its Greatest Inventors (2002) by John Gribbin
  • The Origin of Species (1859) by Charles Darwin
  • The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, 1809-82 (1887) by Charles Darwin
  • Voyage of the Beagle (1939) by Charles Darwin
  • An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798) by Thomas Malthus
  • Daedalus; Or Science and the Future (1924) by J.B.S. Haldane
  • Evolution: The Modern Synthesis (1942) by Julian Huxley
  • The Double Helix (1968) by James D. Watson
  • What is Life? (1944) by Erwin Schrödinger
  • The Eighth Day of Creation: Makers of the Revolution in Biology (1996) by Horace Freeland Judson
  • The Biology Book: From the Origin of Life to Epigenetics, 250 Milestones in the History of Biology (2015) by Michael C. Gerald
  • “The Concept of Allosteric Interaction and Its Consequences for the Brain” by Jean-Pierre Changeaux in The Journal of Biological Chemistry (2013)
  • “The lac repressor” by Mitchell Lewis in CR Biologies (2005)
  • “Allostery and the Monod-Wyman-Changeaux model after 50 years” by Jean-Pierre Changeaux in Annual Reviews of Biophysics (2012)
  • Genentech: The Beginnings of Biotech (2009) by Sally Smith Hughes
  • What Mad Pursuit (1990) by Francis Crick
  • Sydney Brenner: A Biography (2010) by Errol Friedberg
  • Lynn Margulis: The Life and Legacy of a Scientific Rebel (2012) by Dorion Sagan
  • Symbiotic Planet: A New Look at Evolution (2008) by Lynn Margulis
  • Acquiring Genomes: A Theory Of the Origin of Species (2003) by Lynn Margulis
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (2010) by Rebecca Skoot
  • The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer (2010) by Siddhartha Mukherjee
  • Dancing Naked in the Mind Field (1998) by Kerry Mullis
  • A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution (2017) by Jennifer A. Doudna
  • The Epigenetics Revolution (2012) by Nessa Carey

History of science fiction references:

  • Science Fiction: A Very Short Introduction (2011) by David Seed
  • The History of Science Fiction (2006) by Adam Charles Roberts
  • The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2011) by John Clute, Peter Nicholls, John Grant
  • The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction (2003) by Edward James
  • Olaf Stapledon: Speaking for the Future (1994) by Robert Crossley
  • The Astounding Illustrated History of Science Fiction (2017) by Dave Golder and Jess Nevins
  • Understanding Contemporary American Science Fiction: The Formative Period, 1926-1970 (1990) by Thomas D. Clareson
  • Understanding Contemporary American Science Fiction: The Age of Maturity, 1970-2000 (2005) by Darren Harris-Fain
  • Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with his Century (Vols 1 and 2) (2010) by William H. Patterson Jr
  • New Maps of Hell: A Survey of Science Fiction (1960) by Kingsley Amis
  • Breakfast in the Ruins: Science Fiction in the Last Millenium (2007) by Barry Malzberg
  • In Search of Wonder (1967) by Damon Knight
  • I. Asimov: A Memoir (1994) by Isaac Asimov
  • Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction (2018) by Alec Nevala-Lee
  • Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece (2018) by Michael Benson
  • Arthur C. Clarke: The Authorized Biography (1992) by Neil McAleer
  • How Great Science Fiction Works (2016) by Gary K. Wolfe
  • Arthur C. Clarke (2018) by Gary Westfahl
  • The Bradbury Chronicles: The Life of Ray Bradbury (2006) by Sam Weller
  • Miracles of Life: Shanghai to Shepperton, An Autobiography (2008) by JG Ballard
  • Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick (1989) by Lawrence Sutin
  • No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters (2017) by Ursula Le Guin
  • Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books (2016) by Ursula Le Guin
  • Ursula K. Le Guin’s Journey to Post-Feminism (2010) by Amy M. Clarke
  • Ursula K. Le Guin Annotated Bibliography, (Forthcoming) by Sandra J. Lindow
  • Conversations with Octavia Butler (2009) by Octavia Butler
  • Octavia E. Butler (2016) by Gerry Canavan
  • How Star Wars Conquered the Universe (2014) by Chris Taylor
  • William Gibson (2013) by Gary Westfahl
  • Modern Masters of Science Fiction: Iain M. Banks (2017) by Paul Kincaid
  • Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture (2013) by Ytasha L. Womack
  • Speculative Blackness: The Future of Race in Science Fiction (2016) by Andre M. Carrington
  • Black and Brown Planets: The Politics of Race in Science Fiction (2014) by Isiah Lavender III


  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1870) by Jules Verne
  • The Time Machine (1895) by H.G. Wells
  • The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896) by H.G. Wells
  • The War of the Worlds (1897) by H.G. Wells
  • Metropolis (1927) by Fritz Lang
  • We (1924) by Yevgeny Zamyatin
  • The Fatal Eggs (1925) by Mikhail Bulgakov
  • R.U.R. (1921) by Karel Capek
  • Brave New World (1932) by Aldous Huxley
  • Island (1962) by Aldous Huxley
  • A Princess of Mars (1912) by Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • The Gods of Mars (1913) by Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • Triplanetary (1934) by E.E. “Doc” Smith
  • The Skylark of Space (1928) by E.E. “Doc” Smith
  • Armageddon 2419 (1928) by Philip Francis Nowlan
  • The Moon Pool (1918) by Abraham Grace Merritt
  • Odd John: A Story Between Jest and Earnest (1935) by Olaf Stapledon
  • Last and First Men: A Story of the Near and Far Future (1930) by Olaf Stapledon
  • Star Maker (1937) by Olaf Stapledon
  • The Last Evolution (1932) by John W. Campbell
  • Who Goes There? (1938) by John W. Campbell
  • Starman Jones (1953) by Robert A. Heinlein
  • Double Star (1956) by Robert A. Heinlein
  • Have Spacesuit, Will Travel (1958) by Robert A. Heinlein
  • Methuselah’s Children (1958) by Robert A. Heinlein
  • The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966) by Robert A. Heinlein
  • Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) by Robert A. Heinlein
  • Starship Troopers (1959) by Robert A. Heinlein
  • Destination Moon  (1950) screenplay partly by Robert Heinlein
  • Friday (1982) by Robert A. Heinlein
  • Foundation (1951) by Isaac Asimov
  • The Gods Themselves (1972) by Isaac Asimov
  • I, Robot (1950) by Isaac Asimov
  • The Caves of Steel (1954) by Isaac Asimov
  • The Naked Sun (1957) by Isaac Asimov
  • The Robots of Dawn (1983) by Isaac Asimov
  • Robots and Empire (1985) by Isaac Asimov
  • Foundation (1951) by Isaac Asimov
  • Foundation and Empire (1952) by Isaac Asimov
  • Second Foundation (1953) by Isaac Asimov
  • Childhood’s End (1953) by Arthur C. Clarke
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (1969) by Arthur C. Clarke
  • 2011: A Space Odyssey (1969) screenplay by Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick
  • Rendezvous with Rama (1973)  by Arthur C. Clarke
  • Fountains of Paradise (1979) by Arthur C. Clarke
  • 2010: Odyssey Two (1982) by Arthur C. Clarke
  • 2061: Odyssey Three (1989) by Arthur C. Clarke
  • The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke (2001) by Arthur C. Clarke
  • The Martian Chronicles (1950) by Ray Bradbury
  • Fahrenheit 451 (1953) by Ray Bradbury
  • R is for Rocket (1962) by Ray Bradbury
  • The Halloween Tree (1972) by Ray Bradbury
  • Dandelion Wine (1957) by Ray Bradbury
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962) by Ray Bradbury
  • Farewell Summer (2006) by Ray Bradbury
  • The Illustrated Man (1951) by Ray Bradbury
  • Bradbury Stories: 100 of His Most Celebrated Tales (2003) by Ray Bradbury
  • Death is a Lonely Business (1985) by Ray Bradbury
  • A Graveyard for Lunatics (1990) by Ray Bradbury
  • Let’s All Kill Constance (2002) by Ray Bradbury
  • It Came From Outer Space (1953) screenplay by Ray Bradbury
  • Moby Dick (1956) screenplay by Ray Bradbury
  • Naked Lunch (1959) by William S. Burroughs
  • High-Rise (1975) by JG Ballard
  • The Drowned World (1962) by JG Ballard
  • The Crystal World (1966) by JG Ballard
  • The Atrocity Exhibition (1970) by JG Ballard
  • Crash (1973) by JG Ballard
  • Concrete Island (1974) by JG Ballard
  • Empire of the Sun (1984) by JG Ballard
  • The Complete Stories of JG Ballard (2001) by JG Ballard
  • Dangerous Visions (1967) by Harlan Ellison
  • Time Out of Joint (1959) by Philip K. Dick
  • The Man in the High Castle (1962) by Philip K. Dick
  • The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1965) by Philip K. Dick
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968) by Philip K. Dick
  • Ubik (1969) by Philip K. Dick
  • Martian Time-Slip (1964) by Philip K. Dick
  • Dr. Bloodmoney (1965) by Philip K. Dick
  • Now Wait for Last Year (1966) by Philip K. Dick
  • Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said (1974) by Philip K. Dick
  • A Scanner Darkly (1977) by Philip K. Dick
  • A Maze of Death (1970) by Philip K. Dick
  • VALIS (1981) by Philip K. Dick
  • Rocannon’s World (1966) by Ursula Le Guin
  • Planet of Exile (1966) by Ursula Le Guin
  • City of Illusions (1967) by Ursula Le Guin
  • The Word for World is Forest (1972) by Ursula Le Guin
  • A Wizard of Earthsea (1968) by Ursula Le Guin
  • The Tombs of Atuan (1971) by Ursula Le Guin
  • The Farthest Shore (1972) by Ursula Le Guin
  • Tenahu (1990) by Ursula Le Guin
  • The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) by Ursula Le Guin
  • The Dispossessed (1974) by Ursula Le Guin
  • The Lathe of Heaven (1971) by Ursula Le Guin
  • The Unreal and the Real: The Selected Stories of Ursula Le Guin (2012) by Ursula Le Guin
  • Kindred (1979) by Octavia E. Butler
  • Wild Seed (1980) by Octavia E. Butler
  • Mind of My Mind (1977) by Octavia E. Butler
  • Clay’s Ark (1984) by Octavia E. Butler
  • Patternmaster (1976) by Octavia E. Butler
  • Parable of the Sower (1993) by Octavia E. Butler
  • Parable of the Talents (1998) by Octavia E. Butler
  • Dawn (1987) by Octavia E. Butler
  • Adulthood Rites (1988) by Octavia E. Butler
  • Imago (1989) by Octavia E. Butler
  • Fledgling (2005) by Octavia E. Butler
  • Bloodchild and Other Stories (1995) by Octavia E. Butler
  • Unexpected Stories (2014) by Octavia E. Butler
  • Neuromancer (1984) by William Gibson
  • Count Zero (1986) by William Gibson
  • Burning Chrome (1986) by William Gibson
  • Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988) by William Gibson
  • The Difference Engine (1990) by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling
  • Virtual Light (1993) by William Gibson
  • Idoru (1996) by William Gibson
  • All Tomorrow’s Parties (1999) by William Gibson
  • Pattern Recognition (2003) by William Gibson
  • Spook Country (2007) by William Gibson
  • Zero History (2010) by William Gibson
  • The Peripheral (2014) by William Gibson
  • The Wasp Factory (1984) by Iain M. Banks
  • Consider Phlebas (1987) by Iain M. Banks
  • The Player of Games (1988) by Iain M. Banks
  • Use of Weapons (1990) by Iain M. Banks
  • The State of the Art (1991) by Iain M. Banks
  • Excession (1996) by Iain M. Banks
  • Inversions (1998) by Iain M. Banks
  • Look to Windward (2000) by Iain M. Banks
  • Matter (2008) by Iain M. Banks
  • Surface Detail (2010) by Iain M. Banks
  • The Hydrogen Sonata (2012) by Iain M. Banks
  • The Bridge (1990) by Iain M. Banks
  • Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram (2003) by Iain M. Banks
  • Walking on Glass (1986) by Iain M. Banks
  • Feersum Endjinn (1996) by Iain M. Banks
  • Transition (2009) by Iain M. Banks
  • Brown Girl in the Ring (1998) by Nalo Hopkinson
  • Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora (2000) by Sheree Thomas
  • The Salt Roads (2004) by Nalo Hopkinson
  • Skin Folk: Stories (2001) by Nalo Hopkinson
  • Midnight Robber (2000) by Nalo Hopkinson
  • Sister Mine (2013) by Nalo Hopkinson
  • The New Moon’s Arms (2007) by Nalo Hopkinson
  • The Chaos (2012) by Nalo Hopkinson
  • Report from Planet Midnight (2012) by Nalo Hopkinson
  • Falling in Love with Hominids (2015) by Nalo Hopkinson
  • House of Whispers Vol. 1: The Power Divided (2018) by Nalo Hopkinson
  • House of Whispers Vol. 2: Ananse (2020) by Nalo Hopkinson


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A Sight for Sore Eyes

Soon the third article in my column comes out. The last two parts you can read here and here. For this one, I got to read Brave New World for the first time since I was a sophomore in high school. In fact, the copy of it I have *is* my high school copy, complete with a clear Property of Lincoln Park High School stamp on what is left of the cover. When I opened it, the smell of cigarette smoke and aging book paper brought me back 20 in an instant. It’s almost too bad I’d already used time travel as a theme already in the previous article because shit did that make me wistful.

I’ve been super grateful to have the opportunity to write this column. I had never once considered trying to write non-fiction, let alone an entire column, and Sarah Gailey is 100% to blame for it happening at all. I was super nervous about it initially, worried that I hadn’t read widely enough of older SF to be able to write about the history of SF with any confidence, but that’s the thing about any project – I never feel like I know enough about anything I’m writing about, but if I let that stop me, I would never write anything at all. And hey, that’s what research is for, after all.

And boy do I LOVE research, so writing it has been an absolute delight, and I harbor very little resentment that it leaves me no time to work on the two languishing stories I started at Rainforest in February (and we’re not even going to talk about the book draft).  I deeply appreciate the perspective it’s given me not only on major works science fiction and biology, but also fleshing out the larger context of these previously isolated mental data points. It’s also given me an excuse to read a lot of old foundational works of SF I never would have taken the time to read otherwise (what with my massive to read pile of contemporary books I am currently staring at even now with great longing from my couch). Being someone with one foot planted firmly in the sciences and the other in science fiction, having the opportunity to trace how they evolved side-by-side has been completely absorbing.

So my deepest thanks to Sarah for being a marvelous instigator, and to Bridget at Tor for her continued enthusiasm and support of this project. I look forward to continuing to be completely absorbed by it for the foreseeable future.

On the science side of things, my day job sent me out to Jersey City the other week for a meeting, and I got to arrive a few days before to spend the weekend with dear friends for two days of drinking and talking, and got to catch up with Bo and Ben, who it was so good to see after so many years. The work meeting culminated with a glass-domed dinner cruise, where I got to talk all the science talk and admire the Statue of Liberty and the lights of Manhattan by night.

Now I’m working on the next installment of the column, which should come out next month. It’s about mutation and the pulps, all working towards the following column, which will be about science and science fiction’s respective modern syntheses, a theme that is understandably near and dear to my heart.

I’ve got some fun stuff coming up, including a trip back to the midwest for a bachelorette party, a writing retreat followed by Worldcon, and between now and then I’ll turn over another year on the odometer. Can’t wait.

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