Category: Uncategorized

CRISPR and Future Human Evolution


On Tuesday night I attended a book talk and signing by my friend, Daniel Suarez. His new book, Change Agent, explores a future where genetic editing enables humans to control evolution of the species. The story is set in the year 2045.

Dan began the evening with a talk about the future potential of CRISPR and DNA editing. This was news to me. He mentioned the ability of obtaining a DNA editing lab for less than $1000. He suggested that individuals could edit the DNA of their children. Those edits could transfer to future generations. A quick Google search confirms that experiments have been carried out in fixing sickle cell anemia, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and immune system cells.

Dan forecasted that there could be concerns about corporations claiming ownership of the DNA of individuals. If parents received genetic editing provided by a company to fix issues for their children, then those children might be responsible for paying the company for the rest of their lives. There may be many questions and challenges because of who makes the edits and who owns edits of DNA.

CRISPR offers multiple ways to affect the future. Mosquitoes can be genetically modified in what is called “gene driving,” to lead to the end of a species of the insects that spread a particular disease like the malarial parasite. Crops can be changed, the DNA of rice can be modified and combined with DNA of other plants to become more resistant to salt water, or to require less water. Obviously, people will be raising ethical questions about some of these uses of DNA editing.

One scary scenario Dan mentioned was how individuals or groups around the world, who are angry at another group, could obtain a DNA editing lab very cheaply. Those angry people may design “gene driving” materials to attack their enemies. Perhaps a government agency should be monitoring our DNA in a public health process in order to detect if we are being attacked.

I found the talk about CRISPR to be interesting, and somewhat disturbing. For example, humans could splinter and diverge in different directions, through the modification of some people’s DNA. Dan says his fiction writing is not meant to be doomsday forecasting, but, I can’t stop thinking about it, and my mind goes right there. He says if we think about the future and watch for certain trends, we have the chance to control the evolution of the human species.

Change Agent became available on Tuesday, April 18, 2017. One review says, “The depth and sophistication of Suarez’s dystopian world—not to mention his facility at making complex science intelligible to the nonexpert—rivals anything Michael Crichton ever did.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)


MKUltra: CIA Mind Control Projects


In the 1950s Sidney Gottlieb, began parts of the MKUltra projects under the orders of the CIA. The aim of these series of related projects were to develop mind-controlling drugs and techniques for use against the Soviet bloc. Part of the motivation for the projects may have been response to alleged Soviet, Chinese, and North Korean use of mind control techniques on U.S. prisoners of war in Korea.

The actual facts about MKUltra will never be fully known. In 1973, CIA director Richard Helms ordered all MKUltra files destroyed. MKUltra was 162 different secret projects that were financed by the CIA, and contracted out to universities, foundations and other institutions. About 80 institutions and 185 researchers participated, but most did not know the CIA connections to the research.

Millions of dollars was spent by the CIA, from the 1950s to the early 1970s, on studies examining methods of influencing and controlling the mind, and of extracting information from subjects during interrogation. The Canadian government was also involved through the work of Dr. Donald Ewen Cameron who experimented on unwitting patients in Canada. The Canadian government paid compensation to some victims.

In the mid-1970s, congressional committee and presidential commission reports revealed that the CIA and the Department of Defense had conducted experiments on both unwitting and willing subjects as part of projects to study influencing and controlling human behavior through the use of psychoactive drugs such as LSD and mescaline and other chemical, biological, and psychological methods.

While the CIA claims MKUltra type projects have been abandoned, there is no way to corroborate such claims. No individuals or institutions were ever brought to justice relating to these projects. We can only hope that such experiments have been discontinued due uselessness.

Other S. A. Gibson posts about mind control:

Ruining the reputation of self-publishing: an amateur writer, one year on.

Ed Ryder - blogging to an empty theatre

approval-15914_640Before we start, apologies for the clickbait title. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt in the last twelve months it’s that negative headlines get a lot more attention than positive ones. You clicked on it, after all!

But what else have I discovered in my voyage into the minefield-strewn world of writing and book marketing, and how was In Vitro Lottery received (if at all) by the reviewing and buying public? Read on to find out!

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March 2017 Science Fiction and Fantasy Faire


Thanks to the 80 authors and artists who shared their time with us during the week of Monday, March 13th through Saturday, March 18th. I enjoyed myself. I want to give a big shout out to Maria Olaitan Akande. Without the help of my co-host, this event would not have been possible.

Attached to this post will are links to highlights from each day.

Monday Highlights:

Tuesday Highlights:

Wednesday Highlights:

Thursday Highlights:

Friday Highlights:

Saturday Highlights:

Here is a link to SFF Faire presenters’ book and story links:

Stay tuned for news of future plans…


The Heroine in True Grit


In 1967 Charles Portis published True Grit: A Novel. The story is told from the POV of Mattie Ross, a 14 year-old girl. The novel is considered by many to be one of the great works of American fiction. The book was converted into a movie with John Wayne in 1969. The story was retold in other movies and by the Coen brothers in 2010.

There have been many questions about how should a male writer portray a female character or vice-versa? How should writers of one ethnicity write characters of different ethnicity? I think we can talk about Mattie Ross to spark a conversation about these topics. The author wrote Mattie as a headstrong youngster seeking justice for the murder of her father. She has found out that the murderer, Tom Chaney, has joined with a band of violent brigands and retreated into lawless lands. She knows she needs the help of a strong violent man. She finds Rooster Cogburn, and with the help of Texas lawman LaBoeuf they take off into the wilderness in pursuit of the killers.

Mattie is not shown as a superhuman fighter. She does use her father’s handgun on occasion to defend herself, but is not shown as expert or unstoppable in the use of force. This, I think, is a telling way to show characters. They have weaknesses, and are good at some things, and less good at others. Rooster Cogburn is shown as a drunk and incompetent at times. No character is perfect, but each character is driven to achieve their goals.

One major aspect of Portis’ portrayal of Mattie is to show her in old age as a bitter, penny-pinching spinster. I don’t have a critique of this character arc, but I wanted to mention it. I still believe the character of Mattie makes a valuable model for building characters. They are not superhuman. They have strengths and they have flaws. Mattie Ross is a memorable character because she was an ordinary person who had to perform extraordinary deeds to achieve her goals.


The Overlooked Charm of Endbooks

Nicholas C. Rossis

Endbook example | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books Marbled endpaper from an 1875 copy of Die Nachfolge Christi by Thomas von Kempis. PUBLIC DOMAIN. Image via Atlas Obscura

In the endless eBook vs. print debate, one aspect is rarely mentioned: the art of endbooks. And yet, as Sarah Laskow—my favorite Atlas Obscura blogger—points out, these can deliver a small jolt of wonder that perfectly complements a lovely book. An over-eager reader can breeze by even the most striking endbooks, yet they’re an art form with a history all their own.

An ENDuring Hostory

For centuries, designers have taken the formal necessity of joining a book’s pages to its cover and turned it into an opportunity for creativity. When a book is made, one side of an endpaper (sometimes also called an endpage or endleaf) is pasted into the inside of the book’s cover; the other side is the first page of the book. Originally, they were…

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The Scandalous Flap Book History

Nicholas C. Rossis

Mary Natalie reading with mommy | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books Mary Natalie reading a story about an insomniac bear who bears (heh heh) an uncanny resemblance to her dad.

Mary Natalie loves her flap books so much that we now have an assortment of them. My personal favorite is probably Spot, although that was before I realized what a scandalous history flap books have, courtesy of Sarah Laskow of Atlas Obscura. To my great surprise, flap books were first conceived not as innocent children’s companions, but as titillating mementos of tourists’ good times in what can only be described as Renaissance Europe’s own Las Vegas: 16th century Venice.

What Happened In Venice…

Sixteenth-century Venice was a cosmopolitan, wealthy city, known for its diversity, romance, and relaxed mores. As a republican port city, it was tolerant of all sorts of people and all sorts of behavior in ways that other European cities were not. All this made the city a popular…

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When Book Covers Get Characters Wrong

Kristen Twardowski

Book cover design is often grand, but sometimes publishers don’t get it quite right. Take for example the case of Nnedi Okorafor.

Nnedi Okorafor is an extraordinary science fiction writer, and she has the Nebula Award to prove it. Before she was quite so lauded, however, she had a strange and terrible interaction with her publisher regarding the cover design for The Shadow Speaker.

The Shadow Speaker is a young adult novel that was originally published in 2007 and received a James Tiptree Jr. Award. The book is set in 2070 in a time after a nuclear war that occurred in the early twenty-first century. It follows the story of Ejii who lives in a Nigerian village and is the 14 year-old daughter of her tribe’s former chief. Ejii is Muslim, and though her family has a complex ethnic background, she is undeniably African.

Which is why it was…

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Time Travel Stories Never Account for This One Thing

Our Great Escapes

Don’t be surprised to see flashing lights behind you and hear a police siren while you read this blog post. And it’s not because that slightly illegal prank you pulled in your youth has finally caught up with you.

You’re speeding.

Yep. Sitting in your chair, sipping your coffee or munching on your favorite snack, you are moving at a pretty ridiculous clip.

We experience day and night because the Earth rotates. Being an inhabitant of the Earth and subject to its gravity, that means we are spinning along with it. Standing at the equator, you would be moving at the rate of just over 1,000 miles per hour. In the middle latitudes, where most of the human population resides, it’s roughly two-thirds of that, or six-t0-seven hundred miles an hour.

And your mom always complained about you being so slow to get ready for school in the morning!

We can’t…

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Not with a bang

Not with a bang

Dawnrigger Publishing

Playing with world-building snippets for my Restoration stories again…

The end of world was a global event, but it wasn’t an end. It wasn’t an event. It was a process, a slow collapse that only looks inevitable in retrospect. It was never seen as apocalypse even when cities burned and missiles flew. Perspective is tricky, and denial is a powerful force. If globalism was the theme of the twentieth century, the lesson of the twenty-first was that connections can transmit chaos as easily as commerce .

During the span of decades comprising the Revision Years, governments toppled and economies disintegrated, businesses failed and took governments with them, social and political institutions crumbled and billions perished. Bastions of political stability were eroded by surrounding conflicts, and alliances proved as deadly as enmity.  No place on the planet went untouched by the upheaval.

Some sciences progress by leaps and bounds in times of conflict, but others cannot be…

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