Really, this is a recommendation for the first three books in The Expanse series, as I’ve heard there will be three more. I already did a recommendation for the first book, which was so good that I had to read the next two.
The books are Leviathan Wakes, Caliban’s War, and Abaddon’s Gate. I found this to a be a rich, tense, and very fresh series. The authors (and yes, this is actually a collaboration between Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) have a very good sense of the plausible future. They also write space opera in a way that convinced me that they actually WERE in space. A lot of science fiction portrays space ships as if they were ocean liners, and this series didn’t make that mistake.
I particularly love the way the main character is the same throughout the books, but the supporting cast varies – it’s another way that the books seem to be more real – to live in a real world. The politics are also (unfortunately) very believable. The authors seem to “get” humanity as well as they get space.
I’m looking forward to the next three books. These three gave me many hours of pleasure.
Very pleased with the review roundup for The Diamond Deep. Here’s a brief spin through the highlights:
“There is a real first contact feel to Ruby and the denizens of The Creative Fire coming to terms with alien cultures, alien technology and even an alien environment. Given that, Ruby’s impact on the The Diamond Deep, while as striking as her impact on The Creative Fire, takes different forms and has different consequences.”
“I almost relegated it to the “save-for-later” pile. Boy, am I so very glad I didn’t.”
“A sequel to 2012’s The Creative Fire, this is a worthy conclusion to Ruby’s story.”
And best of all, one of my old friends from Longview came up to me at Orycon and told me she’d been up all night reading it. That’s maybe the best thing a writer can hear…..
Bothe The Creative Fire and The Diamond Deep can be found in all of the usual places, and signed copies are available at The University Bookstore in Seattle or at Powell’s City of Books, Beaverton Store, in Portland.
Now back to writing the next book and seeing if I can drive those four stars right through the roof to five stars. :)
The Diamond Deep came out early this month. Since I was out of the country, I couldn’t have a proper party. So I’ll be throwing one at Orycon, hanging out at a signing, and visiting a book festival over the next ten days. I will have a few copies of both The Creative Fire and The Diamond Deep available. But buying from me isn’t the best choice. It doesn’t support bookstores. Not only that, but I can’t sell you an electronic copy. So here’s the great deal for you….
Anytime between now and the end of the last event of the weekend (a great grand signing at the Powell’s in Beaverton, Oregon!), if you can find me and show me a receipt for en electronic version or bring me a print version and a receipt from a store, from Amazon, or from a bookseller at Orycon, I’ll give you a card to fill out that will enter you into a drawing for one of John Picacio’s 2014 calendar’s plus one of his Lotteria cards. The calendar will ship when John ships them all, late in this year.
Not only is this a great prize, but there is a link between the prize and the books. John is the cover artist for both novels, and his fabulous art for The Creative Fire won a Chesley, which is a prestigious art award.
So here’s where I’ll be in case you want to find me and enter:
This weekend (November 2nd and third) I’ll be at the Northwest Bookfest in Kirkland at a booth with other local authors. I’ll be there about half the time. Others include Louise Marley, Cat Rambo, Jennifer Brozek, and more….I think you can get to us for free, but I’ll tweet out for sure Saturday morning (follow @brendacooper). Next weekend, November 9th and 10th, I’ll be at Orycon in Portland, Oregon. On Saturday night, I’ll be hosting a party with another author and two editors (John Pitts is releasing his new collection, and his editor, Patrick Swenson will be there. Bryan Thomas Schmidt will be there for the release of an exciting new anthology edited, Ray Gun Chronicles. I have a story in there). We’ll be in the Presidential Suite and we will be having fun!
Sunday night, November 10th — starting at 4:30 PM, I’ll be joining other authors at the best Portland mass signing of the year, the Sci-Fi Authorfest at Powell’s in Beaverton. This is really fun — lots of us are there, storm troopers occasionally wander through, it’s family friendly, it’s near restaurants, and….if you buy a book there and have me sign it, this will be the last opportunity to enter this particular drawing.
Don’t miss this chance to have a wall full of John Picacio’s work for all of 2014! The picture below is linked to his Kickstarter, just in case you want to be sure to get a calendar!
This is part three of three. Now that I’ve listed some of the ways humans use animals (traditional and GM) and talked about ethics, I want to cover some reasons we may need GMO animals in the future. I want to remind readers that the highest ground is almost certainly to use conservation and respect to maintain a healthy ecosystem, to rely on care instead of test tubes. Of course, we haven’t done very well at that. Instead, we seem to be backing ourselves into a corner, which we will then have to fight out way out of. This is a very human way of being, even if it’s not particularly mature. I’m an optimist. We can get to a future we largely like, even though the corner is getting tight. The tighter we let that corner get, the more likely we are to need more dangerous and more radical innovation to escape.
Before I talk specifics, here’s a quick reminder of the ethics points I brought up in my post about GM ethics:
We don’t know how much the growing population and increasingly unstable climate will affect us, but I am certain life will not be business-as-usual. Here are a few of the ways that we may use GM animals in the future.
Pollinators: Bees are dying from colony collapse disease. Scientists have pointed to multiple possible factors, the latest of which is simply the stress of modern living. Seriously – it appears that any combination of diesel fumes, neonicotinoids (from pesticides), habitat loss, or parasites may cause entire bee colonies to disappear. I empathize with the poor bees – some days the stress of the modern world does seem tough to just keep going through! But seriously, we need pollinators for most crops and we may have trouble keeping enough healthy bees to manage all of the work. Perhaps bees can be helped so that they are more resistant to stress, parasites, and poisons. We need bees. Without them, we won’t be able to produce enough food to feed the world. Other key pollinators such as bats are also endangered. We may be able to make robo-pollinators, but bees are natural carbon-based beings that melt back into the earth for easy re-use, and I shudder to imagine stepping on the dead carcasses of pollinator nanobots on a hike through the woods. There is work being done (linked below) that may help create stronger bees without GM tools. That would be safer. Any useful deployment of GM bees will stretch the ethical constraint about minding the boundaries. Nevertheless, pollinators are so critical we should be working on every technique we might need.
Ecological Niche-Keeping: As mentioned early-on in this series, we appear to be heading right over the biodiversity cliff into a mass-extinction. In many ways, it has already started. Pollinators are only one of the wriggling and breathing parts of the ecosystem under severe threat. There are others. GM tools may help us bring back extinct species (including recently or not-yet-but-soon-to-be-extinct species). Think critical and sensitive layers of the food change, like krill. Think predators or prey necessary to keep a balance. We might prop up existing species (for example, by adding a unique biological marker that helps us track bears so we can be sure we know when they are outside of our door, or something that makes ivory trackable back to the originating elephant). We might have to bring back species after we drive them to extinction.
Adaptation Assistance: Some species may have a thin line between them and extinction as their habitats change in response to climate change. Making a bird a bit more resistant to cold might help it survive, for example.
To improve the health of the animal: Even when there’s no need to change an animal because its habitat changes, we may be able to simply improve some animal’s health. For example, we might find a way to eradicate collie-eye in dogs. In a current case, the Roslin Institute just published a paper on using DNA editing to create pigs that are more resistant to illness, and hoping that their work will migrate to wild populations (see the Pig 26 article linked below).
Improving food animals: Part of how we manage our wild animals is to manage the parts of land and the sea that are spent feeding us. That means getting more efficient and doing less damage with our farming. Many of the examples so far are either under heavy attack from the far left (think Monsanto corn) or stuck in a waiting game for approval (think AquAdvantage Salmon). Orange crops in Florida are threatened by citrus greening, and standard eradication methods are persistently failing. There is work underway on a GM solution. Yes, I know an orange is not an animal. Most GM food improvements are not animals, yet. I suspect there are a lot more corporate lab experiments waiting to see what happens with the salmon currently under consideration (they grow faster). I personally prefer we switch to others sources of proteins, but I’m a minority, at least at the moment.
Thanks for reading this, which is the third entry in a three-post series on GM animals. If you missed the others, they are Human use of Animals: Lists and GMO Ethics. I didn’t spend so much time on this topic because I think it will be a major part of what we need to do the preserve and enhance our ecosystems in the future. I hope it isn’t. I hope it’s a small part of a program driven far more by protection of our existing ecosystems. I chose to spend this many words on this topic because it’s interesting, it’s emerging faster than many people seem to be aware of, and there are a multitude of questions we should be asking. I am also hopeful that we can avoid labeling all things related to GM animals as bad. Some will be bad, and should be fought in the legal system and online. But others may be critical to the future success of humans and animals alike.
As usual, here are a variety of related links:
Building a better bee, Maclean’s, Thursday, October 7th, 2010, Tom Henheffer Note that I couldn’t find a 2013 follow-up to this topic
Where it appears that I will be very moderate, as I am moderating far more often than actually opining…..:)
Orycon is in Portland, Oregon, November 8-10
Reading (Probably from The Diamond Deep!)
Sat Nov 9 10:00am-10:30am
Political Systems in SF
Sat Nov 9 11:00am-12:00pm
Why don’t writers get it right? What to think about when developing local, national, global, and interplanetary governments. How governments with different cultural values really operate and (fail to?) interact.
I will moderate this session
Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading
Sat Nov 9 12:00pm-1:00pm
Join members of Broad Universe–an organization dedicated to women in genre fiction–for a whole bunch of really short readings crammed into one hour. Editorial note – there are always REALLY FUN. You get to hear SEVEN women in short time….and I promise, some will blow your socks off! Consider grabbing a sack lunch and joining us for this fun panel.
Ann Gimpel, Phoebe Kitanidis, Cat Rambo, (*)MeiLin Miranda, S. A. Bolich, Brenda Cooper, Laurel Anne Hill
Can the USA become a nation of makers again?
Sat Nov 9 2:00pm-3:00pm
What’s stopping us? What’s helping us? What do we need to do?
I will moderate this session
300 years from now
Sat Nov 9 3:00pm-4:00pm
What will Earth be like? Will we recognize it? Will we have left? Will we have survived?
Copy Machines – Precursor to Replicator?
Sat Nov 9 4:00pm-5:00pm
It’s not Star Trek yet, but 3D printers are getting better and cheaper fast. Higher end machines can do complex multi material objects. What are the economic and social implications? Is SF taking note?
Science and Spirituality
Sat Nov 9 5:00pm-6:00pm
Are science and spirituality mutually exclusive or intertwined?
I will moderate this session
**** BOOK LAUNCH PARTY FOR THE DIAMOND DEEP, for the anthology RAY GUN CHRONICLES, and for J.A. Pitt’s collection, BRAVADO’s HOUSE OF BLUES *** location TBA
How can we become energy independent?
Sun Nov 10 12:00pm-1:00pm
Natural gas powered cars? Cold fusion? Tapping the earth’s core? Compost for energy?
I will moderate this session
Starting from scratch
Sun Nov 10 1:00pm-2:00pm
How would you rebuild society from the ground up?
I will moderate this session
I knew there would be reading time on a recent trip to France and Italy for my mother’s birthday, so I stopped at the bookstore on my way out of SEATAC. I decided to be a reader rather than an author, to grab fiction for entertainment instead of some new way to do research for my Backing into Eden series of blog posts. I failed, on accident. I picked up Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior. If you have been following me awhile, you’ll know I love her books. I am convinced this is her best work yet. And it directly relates to my current concern about the environment and our ecosystems.
Flight Behavior is both a work of science fiction and a fabulous, award-winning literary novel. My dad and I had a related conversation during the trip about one of our shared favorite works, On the Beach, by Nevil Shute. I stated that On the Beach is one of the best post-apocalyptic SF novels ever written. My dad countered that it wasn’t science fiction at all because “all of the science was known.” In case any of you missed On the Beach, it’s a tale about the end of the world by the hand of man, via nuclear war.
Flight Behavior is about the end of the world by the hand of man, via climate change. Unlike On the Beach, Flight Behavior doesn’t go all the way to the last death, or even really near that. Perhaps instead of being post-apocalyptic, it could be considered inter-apocalyptic, or whatever word would describe a book written about the middle of the slow death of world, a moment just before the tipping point where no change is enough to restore what lived before the change.
Both books are told through the eyes of fairly normal protagonists and deal with day-to-day images of despair and bravery and reflection and beauty. This makes them far more powerful than the fire and brimstone images that appear in common post-apocalyptic novels and movies.
Back the conversation with my dad. On the Beach is so good, it makes me cry every time I read it. It was written post-Hiroshima, and is relevant today, if slightly dated. Both On the Beach, and Flight Behavior are based on science, but in neither case is the science all “known.” One of the beauties of science is that what we know changes and grows. But both works rely on real work done by real scientists on truly dreadful topics. Both are set in the near future (from date of writing) and both are excellent examples of literary fiction and science fiction.
Flight Behavior is so multi-layered I want to re-read it again right now. And of course, since it’s a Kingsolver, it’s also a book full of poetic line by line writing. I’m tagging it to show up in the Backing into Eden page because it’s very relevant to the work I’m doing with that blog series.
I finished Frankenstein’s Cat on a recent long airplane ride. There’s tons of information on the internet, but this is the only book I’ve found so far that deals with the GM animals topic that I’m currently in the middle of a series of Backing into Eden posts about. While I knew about roughly three quarters of the experiments that I put in my lists post, this book pointed me toward the others. The seeds of the ethics post are there, although only one reference is directly from the book – the concept of “Do no harm.” If you’re interested in this topic, this is an easy read that covers a lot of the ground at a high level.
It’s also quite accessible. I like my science that way, particularly when I’m starting out with a topic. The book ranges rather widely across related bits of information with no real conclusions. That’s OK. I kind of think that’s where we are with our newfound abilities to play god with a test tube and a bit of fur or ancient bone.
In the last post, I simply listed both our traditional and our “new” ways of using animals. Perhaps I was a little harsh, since humans have treated certain classes of animals like family. We have even gone so far as to evolve essentially symbiotic relationships. For example, I wouldn’t want our family dogs to have to live wild. They don’t have those skills. On a related note, I read a recent article about how wild animals are adapting to urban environments. But I digress. This is a three-post series. It started with the lists of what we’ve done up to now. It will end with a post about what we might do in the future. And this time, I want to talk ethics.
Ethics can provide one framework for finding our way from now to a better future. They’re no guarantee, but they’re foundational. In this case, I’m hoping they might guide the direction in which we take our ever-growing ability to tinker with life.
I’m going to address the ethics of GM and other futuristic animals across a wide range of possible – and different – actions. For example, de-extinction is different from creating designer pets, and protecting cows (and thus humans) from mad cow disease is different than growing human organs inside pigs. If you’re lost, refer to post number one, and follow the links. I’m only going to attempt to talk about ethics within the context of this series, which is all about how we take responsibility for the ecosystem in which we live.
I want to be very specific. I’m talking about action we take via science to create new animals, to modify or help or de-extinct existing animals, and the use of animals as subjects for experimentation with GM tools for human or animal health or other reasons. I’m including mammals and insects – and not crops – in my thinking in this post.
I’ve got five points:
The animal must be no worse off
I’d like to see “do no harm’ here, but that’s not possible in this world or the new world. After all, we eat animals. Additionally, even this ethical bar will not be possible when managing ecosystems (see earlier chapters that discussed removal of invasive animals – a hard choice, but sometimes one population must be killed to save another). But in the sense of things we do to animals in the name of science or health, I think we can get to this place. We can stop experiments that harm animals. If growing human organs inside of pigs for transplant makes the pigs worse off, we should find another way. If making a goat with milk that adds in an anti-diarrheal which could save thousands of human children makes the goat no worse off, then that would fit inside of this ethical boundary. If giving a horse a new gait makes it weak in the spine so it has a short life, we should not do that, but if we can give it a blue mane and it’s no worse off, that’s all right (if silly). We should apply this backwards to breeding programs as well. My family fostered a dog that had been bred for its beautiful white coat but came out deaf with epilepsy – a common outcome of recessive/recessive crosses for this breeding. This cruel and legal behavior should not be allowed. New or changed or even “improved” animals must – at a minimum – be no worse off. And I far prefer if they are better off.
No animal slaves
You can buy kits now that give you the ability to make cockroaches turn the way you want with a remote control. Similar research is directed at creating bugs that can be used as spies. This should not be allowed. Note that there are PETA positions that suggest we should not own our pets. This is not what I mean here. Training a dog or a horse is a good thing, and can be done humanely in a way that allows the animals to make willing choices. And that’s the difference. My dog can choose not to sit (and sometimes she does), but military spy bugs can’t choose not to fly in the direction they are told. They will fly to their death. That is not a power we should develop.
Operate inside the ecosystem
I truly believe that we are going to be in far more control of ecosystems than we are today. All of them. From watching the boundaries of preserves (to save elephants from poaching or allow sharks to mate) to managing the lives of urban wildlife, we’ll be more involved than ever. Any large-scale change needs to be designed to work inside of the ecosystems we’ll be managing. For example, the re-introduction of velociraptors should not occur in a temperate forest where we’re also trying to bring back or protect grizzly bears.
Mind the boundaries
GM and other related technologies are all comparatively new. We would be wise to err on the side of extra caution. Boundaries are should be designed based on the technology and animal in question. But they must exist and be enforceable. This may require tagging and tracking of gene-mod animals, or forced sterilization after they are finished with their work and adopted out (today, some are euthanized, which violates the ethical boundary “the animal must be no worse off.”). We are not yet as wise as nature, and we may never be. There are bound to be mistakes, and better models as we learn, and all of the other mess that comes with science. It’s a good mess, but we need to be sure to clean up after ourselves in a way that honors the lives we touch.
Animals are generally owned. I’ve owned at least a hundred in my lifetime, from gerbils to budgerigars to competition horses. Food animals are owned by a farm, then a butcher, then a store, then a restaurant and then whoever eats them. But I have never owned a line of animals, or a species. I believe that new animals that are created using GM should not be owned in that way either. This is a tough one, since a profit motive drives innovation. This is going to be tough at the court level as well. Drugs are patented for 20 years, with the option to extend for five more. Something like this seems reasonable for new creations, except that a standard of care should be added. For example, if you use GM tools to create a border collie with opposable thumbs, not only would you only have the patent for only twenty years or perhaps twenty-five years, but because border collies are living things, you should also be required to guarantee that the dogs are cared for, tracked (so that you don’t create a wild opposable-thumb border collie to kick-butt in agility) and so that intelligent decision can be made at the end of the patent period. This is even more important if you make an animal smarter (once more, think of David Brin and the concept of uplift, and then marry that with the animal personhood movement that is starting to hit the courts and which may grant some human-style rights to certain animals).
These are ideas – sparks for conversation. But they are important sparks.
There is another discussion about whether or not we should do any of this at all. I’ve never seen us put a genii back in a bottle. Even large and scary science like nuclear bombs have (at best) been managed. This – like nuclear physics – is a technology that can bring great good and/or great harm. Our values and ethics (with a sprinkling of fear) are the core of how we have managed not to spread mushroom clouds all across the earth. We need the same values, ethics, and fears to deal with new GM world.
The Diamond Deep is about how love and strength and creativity can shine in the face of great power, and about the way that real leaders protect their people. It’s also about the speed of change. The core “what if’ for this second story in the duology is “What if you were effectively stranded in a place with little change, while your home culture surfs waves of new technology and expands to fill a solar system?”
Every book takes work – my work for a year and a bit to write and polish, and following that the art and art direction, the book design, the copyedit, the marketing, and I suspect a lot more that I never see. Pyr and I have together birthed The Diamond Deep, with help from the fabulous John Picacio and a host of others.
I’m really happy that the entire saga is not only done, but also available for people to order. It’s getting a good start – It’s a Barnes and Noble Bookseller’s pick for October and Romantic Times gave it a four-star review.
It will also be available at The University Bookstore in Seattle, where I am doing my first post-release reading on October 18th. If you’re local to me, please come down and support all of the great work Duane does for us in the community.
There will also be a launch party for it at Orycon in early November. Yes, that’s a bit late. But I’m traveling, and I wanted to throw a party I can attend! More on that later…..
This series is a discussion of how we take responsibility for the birds and the beasts and the fields and the oceans and whatever Genesis left out (for example, the Bible doesn’t mention the atmosphere). It’s time for some discussion of the future of animals and how we’ll use them. Yes, that’s blunt. Humans use animals. This entire post is two lists: traditional human uses of animals and ways we are changing animals via biotechnology.
Throughout this series I’ve talked about conservation, brought up one of my favorite causes (saving the elephants), and worried about both plants and animals in a land use context. I believe in preservation. Captain Paul Watson is one of my heroes. So is Jane Goodall, and Sylvia Earle. But now I’m moving from the topics of preservation and conservation into the edges of creation.
This is going to take more than one post. So without further ado….
Now that we have new tools available via decoded DNA, a bit of math, and a pipette, I’ve found many specific examples of animals we’ve changed. The historical list probably didn’t need any explanation, but I’ll add a short blurb and a link for everything on the GM list:
I’m sure I’m still missing a lot of examples from this list. if you have something I missed from either list, please add it in comments.
There are generally barriers (physical and legal) between most of these GM uses and the rest of the world. But not all – the Glofish that you can easily buy at Petco are a GM product. Some of the experiments I’ve linked to above have already been cancelled, and the GM animals euthanized. Some are about human health, some about science, some about commerce. A few are (sort of) about the animals.
Humans are not going to stop experimenting. Not unless we wake up tomorrow and discover that some handy aliens have come and dropped a pill that changes basic human nature into all of our water supplies.
I don’t have time inside of Backing into Eden to explore all of things on either of these lists, but I will look at why we might want to use GM animals in the future and how we might create an ethical framework for doing so.
This time there’s no linking section. After all, I gave you links above! But I am going to recommend a book: Frankenstein’s Cat by Emily Anthes. I’m reading it. Grab it and read along with me.
I am a writer, public speaker, and a futurist. I’m interested in how new technologies might change us and our world, particularly for the better.
I’m excited about my most recent book series, a duology called “Ruby’s Song” which includes the books The Creative Fire and The Diamond Deep, both published by Pyr. I’m also doing a non-fiction blog series, Backing into Eden, which comes out roughly twice a month and explores ways to care for the world, now and in the future.