Author Archives: Alice de Sampaio Kalkuhl

From Zombies to Darwin’s Radio: Guest Post from Alice De Sampaio Kalkuhl

Genetics in Science Fiction

As a Genetics student, I often sit in a lecture and think to myself: this would make for a really good science fiction story, and apparently, most of the stories that could have been inspired by the latest paper Nature Reviews Genetics have already been written. Genetics as a discipline is very much a point of view on many other sciences. It’s the perspective of the genes. The following examples are all books based on topics that are regularly studied in different aspects of a genetics degree.

Human Evolution

The question of what would happen, if there was a new species of humans has inspired many authors. Here, I want to draw your attention to the likes of Nancy Kress and Greg Bear. Especially in Beggars and Choosers by Nancy Kress, the ethical questions of Genetics are made pat of the plot, rather than just something that is simply disregarded. Usually, retroviruses give you cancer, but in Darwin’s Radio by Greg Bear, they give you new humans. Both books show the implications of introducing a new human species to society.

Blast From the Past

Jurassic Park is the best example how genetics is used in science fiction to showcase evolution and palaeontology. Dinosaurs, both their recreation or discovery, are a great plot point, which has been shown not only by Michael Crichton, but also by Bernhard Kegel and many more.

Epidemiology

Epidemiology (the study of infectious diseases) relies heavily on genetics and when I first read The Girl with All the Gifts, by M.R. Carey, I immediately remembered the lectures I had attended during first year about ophiocordyceps unilateralis (a parasitic fungus) in the context of biodiversity and parasitism. Epidemics like the ebola outbreaks were also part of other courses. The more I learn about epidemiology, the more I get to appreciate zombie stories with realistic outbreaks like The Girl with All the Gifts.

Every time there is a new method in genetics, there is a potential for a thriller. Mýrin by Arnaldur Indriðason is a brilliant thriller featuring the Human Genome Project.

Genetics is a very complicated subject, and there are a lot of misconceptions in science fiction about it. Sometimes, authors will make an effort to stick to the current state of research, but there are many controversies in the field and many books don’t display those sufficiently or use disproved interpretations. Genetics in science fiction provides the possibility to create hard science fiction by gambling on a certain interpretation to be true. 

Author Bio

Alice de Sampaio Kalkuhl is an author and Genetics student. She was born in Cologne, Germany and lives in Manchester, England now. Her debut novel Energy equals milk times coffee squared was published in 2017 by Champagne Cat. In research, she focuses on phenotypic plasticity.

For more from Alice, check out her website or her latest release, Preach On Havoc.


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