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Annalee Newitz

Fiction and Excerpts [6]

Fiction and Excerpts [6]

The Sex Chart That Changed My Life: Spectrums of Sexuality in John Varley’s Wizard

I was fifteen when a good friend loaned me his battered copy of John Varley’s novel Wizard. At that point in my life, I was the only girl running with an all-male group of nerds who were obsessed with computers and science fiction. Because my friends were mostly guys, I’d started to wonder if there was something kind of weird about my gender, and maybe my sexuality too. But I wasn’t sure what that meant.

And then I leafed through Wizard. In the section after the title page, where fantasy novels have maps, Varley had a complicated chart of all the sexual positions possible for his aliens, the Titanides, who possessed three sets of genitals. Every year, the Titanides competed for the best sexual positions, and the winners were allowed to reproduce. As I looked over the little boxes full of circles and arrows indicating group sex, solo sex, gay sex, and whatever-the-hell sex, I felt seen for the first time.

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The Rise of Geoscience Fiction: Seven Books About Remaking the World

Though science is a wide-ranging and varied pursuit, science fiction tends to focus almost exclusively on astronomy and physics, with the occasional dip into medical science. But that’s changing. Pioneers like Ursula Le Guin began to center anthropology and sociology in the genre fifty years ago, and today we’re seeing SF that explores environmental science, molecular biology, neuroscience, and more. My particular favorite is geology, also known as Earth science—or, if you’re beyond our little blue marble, planetary science.

My new novel The Future of Another Timeline is about time traveling geologists, and my inspirations come from other books that foreground the work of people who taste rocks, control plate tectonics, and explore the ecosystems of other worlds. Here are seven works that define the new subgenre of geoscience fiction.

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Earth, 2144. Jack is an anti-patent scientist turned drug pirate, traversing the world in a submarine as a pharmaceutical Robin Hood, fabricating cheap scrips for poor people who can’t otherwise afford them. But her latest drug hack has left a trail of lethal overdoses as people become addicted to their work, doing repetitive tasks until they become unsafe or insane.

Hot on her trail, an unlikely pair: Eliasz, a brooding military agent, and his robotic partner, Paladin. As they race to stop information about the sinister origins of Jack’s drug from getting out, they begin to form an uncommonly close bond that neither of them fully understand.

And underlying it all is one fundamental question: Is freedom possible in a culture where everything, even people, can be owned?

Annalee Newitz’s science fiction debut Autonomous is available September 19th from Tor Books. Read chapter 3 below, and check out additional excerpts at the Tor/Forge blog and on Boing Boing.

[Read an Excerpt]

The Truth in Fiction

There are some truths you can only tell in fiction

I’ve been a professional writer for most of my adult life, but it’s only recently that I wanted to write fiction. As a reader, I’ve been a voracious consumer of science fiction since I was a kid. But when it came to writing, I preferred to focus on the awe-inspiring real world of scientific discovery. As a science journalist, I’ve reported on stories from medieval reservoirs in Cambodia to underground cities in Turkey, and from laser-packed labs at MIT to a massive genome sequencing facility in California.

But I never reported on the stories I’ve always told myself privately, in my own head.

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Canadian Prairie Futurism: Looking at Tomorrow without Forgetting the Past

On a lazy evening in Regina, Saskatechwan, you can go to a bar called The Fat Badger, grab a beer, and put a little money into the jukebox if you want to hear an old country song about the prairies. Except the jukebox is my cousin, a soft-spoken guy named Marshall Burns, strumming guitar with his band The Alley Dawgs and singing as many classics as they know (and there are a lot). It’s the kind of thing you might have seen here 80 years ago. Or that you might see 180 years from now.

Two summers ago, when I was finishing the first draft of my novel Autonomous, I watched Marshall play and thought about the future. Back then he was at Leopold’s Tavern, and I’d come to the crowded bar with a bunch of family after a long dinner full of conversations about politics and art. This is the sort of thing we might do more often if there were an apocalypse, I mused. We’d gather in some communal shelter, after a day of hunting and gathering in the trashed wastes. Then somebody from our family would start to sing. We’d raise our voices too, to take our minds off the famine and plague and wildfires.

[But it’s also the exact kind of thing we’d do in a Utopian future.]

Scatter, Adapt, and Remember (Excerpt)

In its 4.5 billion-year history, life on Earth has been almost erased at least half a dozen times: shattered by asteroid impacts, entombed in ice, smothered by methane, and torn apart by unfathomably powerful megavolcanoes. And we know that another global disaster is eventually headed our way. Can we survive it? How?

In this brilliantly speculative work of popular science, Annalee Newitz, editor of, explains that although global disaster is all but inevitable, our chances of long-term species survival are better than ever. Scatter, Adapt, and Remember explores how scientific breakthroughs today will help us avoid disasters tomorrow, from simulating tsunamis or studying central Turkey’s ancient underground cities, to cultivating cyanobacteria for “living cities” or designing space elevators to make space colonies cost-effective. Readers of this book will be equipped scientifically, intellectually, and emotionally to face whatever our future holds.

[Read an Excerpt]

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