Programmable memories, fatherless reproduction, nano-tech implants, amphibian-powered scar treatment, full body modification, brain-scanning lie-detectors, inter-species reproduction, self-determining synthetic ‘green goo’… Which of these would you wager is pure science fiction, and which currently being developed in the lab? Such is the speed and excitement of today’s bio-medical research – sprinting from the starting gun that was the Human Genome Project – it’s sometimes hard to tell. In a unique collaboration, fourteen short story writers have been invited to explore the increasingly grey area between the fantastical and that which is already within our reach. Closely collaborating with scientists and ethicists working at the forefronts of their respective fields, each writer has been tasked with predicting some of the potential ‘ethical side-effects’ of this groundbreaking work. Not all progress, after all, is progressive. And dark forces are afoot that threaten to hi-jack what many declared would be ‘the century of biology’.
"The bio-punk believes in the common ownership of...vital knowledge,...for the open-sourcing of all...bio-knowledge, most of which remains hidden from general view in pay-to-access research journals." This collection of 14 science fiction short stories by British authors including Jane Rogers, Sara Maitland, and Toby Litt focuses on the narrow boundary between fiction and reality in science research and development, and on the many ethical dilemmas that research about biological systems and creatures can create. Each story is based on recently-published scientific research, and is followed by a response essay written by a scientist or ethicist (in fields like stem cell research, genetics, and pharmacology). From "encephalic modification clinics" that use fMRI to erase brains, to a culture that has saved apes from extinction by developing their potential as agricultural workers, to the questions that can be created by supplements and drugs and their clinical trials, these stories will alternately entertain, bemuse, horrify, and puzzle. The scientific responses provide details of the research on which the stories are based as well as the dilemmas that researchers face and how far the story is removed from current scientific capabilities. It's an intriguing story collection well-complemented by the offerings of those in the field.