SCIENCE FICTION about ECOLOGY and BIOLOGY


If You Like This, You'll Like That

Ultimate Science Fiction Web Guide

ECOLOGY

Copyright 1996,1997,1998,1999,2000 by Magic Dragon Multimedia.
All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be reproduced without permission.
May be posted electronically provided that it is transmitted unaltered, in its entirety, and without charge.
We examine both works of fiction and important contemporaneous works on non-fiction which set the context for ecological Science Fiction and Fantasy.
There are 48 hotlinks here to authors, magazines, films, or television items elsewhere in the Ultimate Science Fiction Web Guide or beyond. Most recently updated: 25 Sep 2000 [28 Kilobytes]
Related web page on themes such as Clones, Mutants, Intelligent Animals, Life Undersea, and The End of the World may be found at: If You Like This, You'll Like That [warning: very long text page, about half a megabyte, may load slowly] To find more books by these authors, see: Science Fiction Authors
Two leaders in Science Fiction explorations of Ecology and Biology are Frank Herbert ("Dune"), and Joan Slonczewski. Frank has, sadly, passed away (or been recycled). Joan is currently a Professor of Biology at Kenyon College, and is very effectively using Science Fiction books and films as tools for teaching Biology at the college level. Other sources of information on this web page are noted or hotlinked.
Some questions we study include: Biology in Science Fiction: Syllabus by Prof. Joan Slonczewski. Prof. Joan Slonczewski describes her required reading list as follows (the hotlink shows the color art for each book): Joan Slonczewski's Book List
The following list is selected, permuted, and edited from: Themes/Genres in Science Fiction: An idiosyncratic and woefully incomplete list, by Kay Fowler ©All the material in this website is copyrighted to Kathleen L. Fowler unless explicitly indicated otherwise. Permission is granted to use and distribute this material freely but please attribute properly by retaining the full header information. 11/16/99 "This list has been constructed over time based on a list and categories originally constructed by the late Professor Ted Michelfeld and owing debts to a number of other sources including The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. It is still under construction and by no means complete but it is a starting place. The categories are by no means as distinct as is suggested here. Most every one of these works could appear in multiple categories and in many cases I have assigned them rather arbitrarily to one of the many choices they might occupy."

Plagues/Disease/Epidemics:

  1. Mary Shelley. The Last Man (1826)
  2. Jack London. The Scarlet Plague (1915)
  3. George Stewart. Earth Abides (1949)
  4. Michael Critchton. The Andromeda Strain. (1969).
  5. Sherri Tepper. Grass (1989); Raising the Stones (1990) Sideshow (1992). Earth has become "Sanctity" controlled by fundamental relgionists. Rich exploration of themes of religion, ecology, social relationships, etc.

Agricultural/Ecological/Population Disasters:

  1. George Griffith. Olga Romanoff (1894) comet strike and alien invasion.
  2. M. P. Shield. The Purple Cloud (1901). poisonous gas.
  3. Arthur Conan Doyle. The Poison Belt (1913) the Earth passes through a poisonous ether
  4. J. J. Connington. Nordenholt's Millions (1923) agricultural disaster
  5. S. Fowler Wright. Deluge (1928). flood.
  6. Philip Wylie. When Worlds Collide (1932). dying sun on collision course with Earth. Film: When Worlds Collide (1951).
  7. John Wyndham. The Day of the Triffids (1951) Venomous Plants.
  8. Isaac Asimov. Caves of Steel (1954) overpopulation -- and a great mystery story
  9. John Christopher. The Death of Grass (a.k.a. No Blade of Grass) (1957)
  10. Robert Silverberg. Masters of Life and Death (1957). overpopulation.
  11. J. G. Ballard. "Billenium" (1961) population
  12. J. G. Ballard. The Drowned World. (1962). flood
  13. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Cat's Cradle (1963) Ice-9
  14. J. G. Ballard, The Drought (aka The Burning World) 1965.
  15. Harry Harrison. Make Room! Make Room! (1966). Film: Soylent Green (1973).
  16. William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson.Logan's Run (1967). Film: Logan's Run (1967) Overpopulation; destruction of those over 30.
  17. Lee Tang. The Wind Obeys Lama Torus. (1967). From India. Overpopulation.
  18. John Brunner. Stand on Zanzibar. (1968). Young adult novel on overpopulation.
  19. James Blish. A Torrent of Faces (1968)
  20. Fred and Geoffrey Hoyle. The Inferno (1973). Cosmic radiation
  21. Nancy Bond. The Voyage Begun (1989). Young Adult. In a near future Cape Cod, dwindling resources, unemployment, and ecological damage combine to make the Cape a dangerous, and forlorn world.
  22. David Brin. Earth. (1990). Black hole.
  23. Karen Hesse. Phoenix Rising (1994). Young adult. A young girl on a farm in Vermont copes with the consequences of a nuclear accident in Massachusetts. Dedicated to the children of Chernobyl.
  24. Monica Hughes. Invitation to the Game. 1996. Young Adult. overpopulation and shrinking resources leave most unemployed and without hope -- unless they can get into "the game"
  25. Jack McDevitt. Engines of God. (1997) Alien artifacts related to ancient mass destructions on a number of planets. Should we be worried?
  26. Mary Sullivan. Earthquake 2099. (1997) Young adult.

Using Science Fiction to Understand Biological Concepts by Tamsen K. Meyer and Cheryl H. Powers ©1994 Woodrow Wilson Biology Institute "Integration of disciplines that involve science, social issues, and literature is an increasingly attractive alternative in curriculum development today." "Science fiction has great appeal to many students who do not necessarily think of themselves as readers nor as the stereotypical 'math/science student.'" "The following is a resource list of science fiction short stories and novels that might be used either as an interdisciplinary teaching unit for teachers, an enrichment exercise in your biology course, or possibly a summer reading list for students entering your course the following year." "It also can serve as a starting point for students to create their own science fiction stories if only selections from these novels or short stories are read. "Students can demonstrate their understanding of complex biological concepts by writing their own short science fiction stories on topics such as 'The Day Diffusion Stopped.' What a difference a gene makes: food in the future, medicine in the future, eugenics revisited, and restoring extinct species are possible genetics ideas that could be developed." "Readings are listed by title rather than author because titles seem more useful. Titles were submitted by several Woodrow Wilson participants. A content summary is included for most of the selections and if there is a film version of the book, the notation FVA (film version available) is added in the following bibliography.
  1. Andromeda Strain, Michael Crichton. 1969. New York: Knopf, Random House. A returning space capsule releases an alien virus on the earth. FVA
  2. The Beast, Peter Benchley. 1991. New York: Random House. Coral reef ecology is disturbed and a giant squid picks man as his new prey.
  3. Blade Runner, The, Alan E. Nourse. 1974. New York: D. McKay & Co. In a future of increased human longevity, doctors struggle to cope with problems of overpopulation, hereditary disorders, and virulent new diseases. FVA [The Ultimate Science Fiction Web Guide says: actually, the title is used in a film based on Philip K. Dick's 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep"; see below]
  4. Boys from Brazil, The, Ira Levin. 1976. New York: Random House. Dr. Mengele attempts to produce cloned copies of Adolf Hitler, but in order to do so he must reproduce the environmental factors which made Hitler the evil genius that he was; deals intelligently with the fashionable subject of cloning. FVA
  5. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley. 1946. New York: Harper and Bros. Reproductive technology as imagined in the 30's - this famous satire about a technologically stratified world six centuries in the future helped define 20th-century humanity's view of itself. FVA
  6. Clan of the Cave Bear, The, Jean Auel. 1980. New York: Crown. Human evolution at the level of the Cro-Magnon/Neanderthal junction. FVA
  7. Congo, Michael Crichton. 1980. New York, Knopf: Random House. Animal behavior, primate evolution: near future thriller of African exploration involving a tribe of talking gorillas.
  8. Deathworld Trilogy, Harry Harrison. 1974. Garden City: Nelson Doubleday. Coevolution and adaptation: mysteries of a planet where every life-form appears to be implacably hostile to human colonists.
  9. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Philip K. Dick. 1968. Garden City: Doubleday. After World War Terminus, the Earth is an underpopulated wasteland where people keep electronic animals as pets; killer androids come from off-Earth where most economic activity takes place. Filmed as The Blade Runner.
  10. Dorsai, Gordon R. Dickson. 1976. New York: Dow Books. Themes of human development and the purpose of life; originally published as The Genetic General.
  11. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey. 1968. New York: Ballantine. A well crafted tale of a planet threatened by spores from space which can only be defeated by taming fire-breathing dragons; first of Dragons of Pern series.
  12. Dune, Frank Herbert. 1965. Philadelphia: Chilton. Planetary environment and system of cultures much like that which would be present on Earth if Earth had no water. FVA
  13. Earthclan: Startide Rising, David Brin. 1987. Garden City, NY: Nelson Doubleday. Genetic manipulation, origin of man: intelligent dolphins and chimpanzees cooperate with man in the exploration of space.
  14. Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card, 1985. New York: Tor, A Tom Doherty Association Book. Interstellar war, aliens and genocide.
  15. Fantastic Voyage, Isaac Asimov. 1988. New York: Doubleday and Co. Microminiaturization is used to explore the human body; written originally as a screenplay for the movie of the same name. FVA
  16. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley. 1980 (1818). James Kinsley and M.K. Joseph eds., Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press. Gothic horror story about a medical student who creates an artificial man; first English science fiction novel. FVA
  17. Galapagos, Kurt Vonnegut. 1985. New York: Delacorte Press/Seymour Lawrence. An observant ghost haunts the Galapagos Islands for a million years and watches as the descendants of a few marooned humans devolve into a new species - furry, finned, and small of brain; a sadly funny Darwinian fable.
  18. Genesis Quest, Donald Moffitt. 1986. New York: Ballantine. A species of intelligent starfish in another galaxy use genetic engineering to recreate the extinct human race.
  19. Human Error, Paul Preuss. 1985. New York: Tor. Scientists produce a biochip or living microcomputer.
  20. Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton. 1990. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. This fictional account of a theme park featuring dinosaurs cloned from DNA in mosquitoes fossilized in amber lends itself to many interesting discussions of genetic engineering, ethical issues, and chaos. FVA
  21. "Last Question, The," Isaac Asimov. 1959. in: Nine Tomorrows: Tales of the Near Future. Garden City, NY: Doubleday. Themes of artificial intelligence and definition(s) of intelligence.
  22. Mortal Fear, Robin Cook. 1988. New York: G.P. Putnam and Sons. Eyedrops accelerate the aging process.
  23. Mutants: Eleven Stories of Science Fiction. Robert Silverberg, ed. 1974. Nashville: Thomas Nelson. Anthology of collected works.
  24. Plague Dogs, The, Richard Addams. 1977. London: Allen Lane, Rex Collings. Issues of animal experimentation, epidemics.
  25. "Rendevous with Rama," from 2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur Clarke. 1985. London: Octopus. Ecosystems necessary for terraforming are described.
  26. Ringworld, Larry Niven. 1970. New York: Ballantine. Complex artificial world is the main focus of this popular book.
  27. Science Fiction Adventures in Mutation, Groff Conklin, ed. 1956. New York: Vanguard Press. An anthology of collected works. [the referenced site misspell's Groff's name]
  28. "Sound of Thunder, The," Ray Bradbury. 1966. in: Science Fiction for People Who Hate Science Fiction, Terry Carr, ed. New York: Doubleday. Ecology, human impact on the environment.
  29. Sphere, Michael Crichton. 1987. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. The discovery of an ancient spacecraft deep in the ocean is the focus of a scientific probe. [FVA]
  30. Time Machine, The, H.G. Wells. 1931 New York: Random House. Ecological splitting of society leads to human evolution. FVA
  31. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Jules Verne. 1908. London/New York: J.M.Dent. Underwater adventures with sea creatures, technology of sea exploration.
  32. Watchers, The, Dean Koontz. 1987. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. Ethics of genetic engineering and issues of animal welfare.
  33. West of Eden, Harry Harrison. 1984. New York: Bantam Books. Imagine a world where dinosaurs did not die but survived to develop their own civilization; their culture comes into conflict with an emergent human race.
"An excellent resource for short summaries of works of science fiction is: The Ultimate Guide to Science Fiction, David Pringle. 1990. Grafton Books, London; Collins Publishing Group." "Numerous anthologies of science fiction short stories are available in libraries and science fiction magazines have many interesting short pieces. Omni, Amazing Stories, Fantasy in Science, and Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact are four that are recommended." "This is by no means a comprehensive list of science fiction that could be used at the secondary level. Hopefully, teachers will use this as a springboard to generate their own annotated bibliographies that might also include favorite biological literature (books, poems, stories, and essays) and film resources that are not science fiction." "A sample writing exercise that might be done after students have read 'The Andromeda Strain': Support the truth of these quotes as demonstrated by events in the book: "The survival value of human intelligence has never been satisfactorily demonstrated." "Increasing vision is increasingly expensive." In the acknowledgments Crichton states, "We can expect more crises on the pattern of Andromeda." How much truth exists in the novel? What evidence do you see to support his prediction? (Thanks to Susan Terry for these questions.)

Miscellaneous ecological novels:

BLOOM by Wil McCarthy [New York, Del Rey, 1998, paperback, 303 pages, cover art by Rick Berry] [A New York Times Notable Book] A science fiction book featuring nanotechnology. Reporter John Strasheim, Captain Wallich, bioanalyst Renata Baucum, and the rest of the small crew of the space ship Louis Pasteur travel on a dangerous mission from Jupiter's moon of Ganymede and the Immunity, visiting the Gladholders in the asteroid belt, to the inner solar system, including Earth, which has been taken over by the feared Mycosystem. From the back cover: "Mycora: technogenic life. Fast-reproducing, fast-mutating, and endlessly voracious. In the year 2106, these microscopic machine/ creatures have escaped their creators to populate the inner solar system with a wild, deadly ecology all their own, pushing the tattered remnants of humanity out into the cold and dark of the outer planets. Even huddled beneath the ice of Jupiter's moons, protected by a defensive system known as the Immunity, survivors face the constant risk of mycospores finding their way to the warmth and brightness inside the habitats, resulting in a calamitous 'bloom'" But the human race still has a trick or two up its sleeve: In a ship specially designed to penetrate the deadly Mycosystem, seven astronauts are about to embark on mankind's boldest venture yet -- the perilous journey home to infected Earth. Yet it is in these remote conditions, against a virtually omnipotent foe, that we discover how human nature plays the greatest role in humanity's future." Denver Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Club SCIENCE FICTION BOOK SELECTION

Miscellaneous Biological novels/films:

  1. Fantastic Voyage, film based on novel by Isaac Asimov, where an (impossibly) miniaturized submarine explores the interior of a living human body.
  2. Them, film: radiation makes ants grow (impossibly) large.
  3. The Thing, film (and remake of film) from short novel "Who Goes There" by John Campbell; an alien creature terrifies antarctic expolors with its ability to change shape. How do you know that your partner is not an alien morphed to resemble a human?
  4. Film: It Came from Beneath the Sea
  5. Film: Jaws
MANY MORE: {to be done}
Academic Papers on Ecology and Science Fiction "From Earth to Ecosphere: Science Fiction, spaceships, and ecology", by Mark Rich pages 373-93 of: "Science et science-fiction", Actes de 4eme colloque international de science-fiction de Nice, 3-6 Apr 1991, Ed. Denise Terrel, Metaphores, #20-21-22 (sep 1992), 2 vols., 653 pages, 180 ff. Order from J. Emiliana, UFR Lettres, BD Herriot, 06007 Nice Cedex, France
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Copyright 1996,1997,1998,1999,2000 by Magic Dragon Multimedia.
All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be reproduced without permission.
May be posted electronically provided that it is transmitted unaltered, in its entirety, and without charge.