mrcreek: Rana palustris, the pickerel frog (Default)
2015-10-21 04:29 pm

My original fiction

All rated PG or PG-13. For each story, the "background" is a (usually spoiler-heavy) discussion of the science and creative process that went into it.

Sequence
(Approximately 15,000 words)
Grad students stumble upon what appears to be a message in the human genome. They soon find themselves running from pursuers as they struggle to be the first to decode the secret that connects them to events in the distant past. Featuring prehistoric beasts.
Background

Trail (the sequel to Sequence)
(Approximately 13,000 words)
The grad students trek across the Canadian wilderness as they continue to probe the origins of the mysterious sequence.
Background

The Gardener
(Approximately 6,000 words)
Millions of years in the future, a young man shares a planet with an unusually versatile species. But when others feel threatened by it, he must fight to preserve even a small portion of his world.
Background

The Pioneer (the sequel to The Gardener)
(Approximately 9,000 words)
A young hominid growing up on an alien world finds her peaceful life disrupted by shipwrecked space travelers.
Background

Polymer Monopoly

(Approximately 24,000 words)
In an alternate Pacific Northwest at the turn of the last century, all industry is based on large machines that resemble enormous protein molecules. In this biochemistry-inspired steampunk tale, a hapless salesman finds himself swept into a secret underground movement to topple the ruthless local fuel tycoon.
Background
mrcreek: beetle in flight (pic#265196)
2009-12-18 11:29 pm
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The Science of The Pioneer

Apparently I have written a postscript describing the science behind all of my stories except The Pioneer (not counting Polymer Monopoly, which I am still turning into a full-length piece). So, here are some reflections on Shebbin's adventures. Does the plot in fact revolve around a biotechnological concept that could save the world? Read on.

Mot? )
mrcreek: beetle in flight (pic#265196)
2009-11-22 11:54 pm
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The Pioneer

I have posted The Pioneer at originalfiction. Here are the details:

Title: The Pioneer
Genre: Original Science Fiction
Rating: PG for non-explicit references to reproductive biology, mild violence
Summary: A young hominid growing up on an alien world finds her peaceful life disrupted by shipwrecked space travelers.
Notes: The sequel to The Gardener. Contains spoilers for The Gardener, obviously. Approximately 9,000 words. Five chapters and an epilogue.

This is probably my most generic story yet, both in terms of the "hero's journey" plot structure and the "mysterious visitors from outer space" trope, but I think the creativity comes out in the speculative biology. See this post for random musings about the background to this story. I hope you like it.
mrcreek: beetle in flight (pic#265196)
2009-11-19 01:55 am

Teaser for The Pioneer

If you enjoyed "The Gardener," you can look forward to the sequel I am writing, "The Pioneer." I'm still putting on the finishing touches, but here are some reflective thoughts about The Gardener and a hint of what is coming next (without any plot spoilers for either story, so read ahead without fear).

I'm not familiar with very many stories set in the far, far future like this one is. I'm not sure why that is the case, but I really enjoy how this setting provides almost limitless worldbuilding while still being grounded in the history and biological realities of life on Earth as we know it. Extraterrestrial life is a fascinating concept, but it's kind of overused in science fiction, and I'm a bit of an alien skeptic anyway (if they exist, and if they are at least as complex and intelligent as multicellular terrestrial life, and if they are close enough to us in the universe that we'd be able to interact with them, then that would be really cool, but the probabilities associated with each of those ifs might be pretty small). Terrestrial life after millions of years of evolution gives you many of the same imagination benefits as aliens, while remaining slightly more plausible. Plus you can assume that something different evolved in every solar system seeded by humans, which can be combined with diverse technological and cultural advances, leading to practically infinite storytelling options. Human differentiation raises other fascinating questions. What if racial variation were real and significant, not just skin deep?

The idea for "The Gardener" originated when I wondered what phenotypic plasticity taken to the extreme would look like. Would a totally plastic species have a high probability of survival? How would it interact with other members of its species that occupied distinct niches? In the story I don't go into details about how the fungus species evolved, but in my head I assume it included natural or directed horizontal gene transfer, so the fungus didn't have to reinvent from scratch many of the adaptations found in various species today. As a biologist, I'm tempted to include detailed physiological descriptions of some of these forms, but to keep the action moving I have mostly maintained brevity. Some of the adaptations can be (I hope) inferred by the reader; e.g. the vegetation is black because that pigment would absorb the full energy spectrum of sunlight, an improvement over green chlorophyll. One challenge in writing was to avoid taxonomic terms; there are no "birds" or "insects" in Yorel's world, because every organism is a fungus, not an animal, even if it looks and behaves like an animal. But the distinction between taxonomic words and ecological words can be blurry. For example, a "carnivore" is either (taxonomically) a member of a particular order of mammals, Carnivora, which includes cats, dogs, and weasels, or it is (ecologically) any meat-eater, such as a shark or a venus fly trap. Yorel's world includes carnivores of the latter sense but not the former. Another interesting challenge was to avoid the trappings of sexual reproduction, since the fungus reproduces with spores. There is no pollen in Yorel's world, for example. Although there are "fruits" and "flowers," I assume these have an asexual purpose, such as to attract mobile organisms to spread spore.

"The Pioneer" takes place twelve years after The Gardener ends, and it focuses on the new character that was introduced in the epilogue. It begins kind of like "Little House on the Planet," but then the young heroine's peaceful life is disrupted when strange visitors land and are not happy with the fact that they are not permitted to leave. I can't say more without any spoilers, so you'll have to check out the story when I get it posted.