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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

You Live in a Sci Fi: Guest Post over on Mel Massey's Blog



Hey! Did you know you live in a scifi? I wrote a post over on Mel Massey's blog all about three crazy technologies you probably didn't know TOTALLY exist right now. From telepathy to home-grown organs, can you pick out the one that's not real? It'll surprise you. = P
Edit, Dec 2016: Full post archived here below.


Hi! I'm Petre Pan. I'm writing from the past to tell you that YOU live in the future.

I don't mean that metaphorically. You live in a wild science fiction world that many people can't even imagine, and you can impact and change that scifi tale if you want. Let me show you. Or, as a freaky man once put it, "I'd like to play a game." Tell me which of these three technology scenarios is in development--or already working!--right now.

Home-grown Pancreas






Formaldehyde and the scent of blood assaulted Prakriti's nostrils as she entered the lab. Her eyes widened; her stomach leapt, maybe not into her throat, but it certainly leapt somewhere. Body parts littered the room in petri dishes and vats, and in the center of the room a man with a stained lab coat was handing her brother a wad of cash.

"No!" Prakriti cried. "No, we're not that tight on money--we'll get through, you don't need to sell your kidney!"

"Kriti, what the--how'd you find me here?" her brother gasped.

"Been trailing you since Mongolia, through Tibet--everywhere. Please, don't--"

He crossed the room and gripped her shoulders. She pushed away; he yanked her in for a hug. "Kriti, listen. I'm not selling my kidney. I'm selling a few stem cells, that's it, and Reshad's gonna grow me a whole new pancreas to replace the silly diabetic one I was born with. He'll publish the results, and people world over will be growing organs!"

"That's impossible," Prakriti cried. "Please, let's just go. Come back home, face the disease and stop running! We'll--we'll find a way to pay for medications."

"I refuse to live that life. I'm willing to gamble for a better one." He flicked her a two-finger salute and disappeared into the surgical room. "See you in Mumbai."



What did you guess? Real, not real? Is he seriously getting a new-grown pancreas? Well, he is! We've totally done this. Again and again. Even with vaginas! We can grow organs now!

Dinosaur DNA






I cocked back the slide on both pistols, listening for that sweet click and pop as the tranquilizer darts prepped in their barrels.

"You'll have one shot at Dr. Schillenberg through the window when you fall past the Tower of Terror. Miss that, and you gotta trek your way back up a roller coaster more rickety than a house o' cards made o' toilet paper."

I smirked. "I'll keep that in mind." I strapped on my parachute and dove out the plane.

Wind slammed me in the face as I rocketed towards the abandoned theme park. Popped my chute; aimed my pistols; floated by the open window--

It was empty. "Whoohoo, soldier!" someone called. I glanced down. My heart just about stopped then and there. The woman in a lab coat, below me, she was--she was--

I tapped my finger to the radio embedded in my ear. "Uh, command, we got a problem. Schillenberg's ready for us. And, uh, she's riding a freakin' T-rex."

"You know what to do, soldier."

I grimaced; pulled my rifle off my leg as I floated towards them. Hell if I'm gonna talk back to Jones, but I really DIDN'T know what to do. They don't teach you to kill dinosaurs in Afghanistan.



This is the odd one out, right? Viable dinosaur DNA can't survive fossilization.

Or so we thought. A few years back, scientists found fresh, viable tissue inside dino bones (1, 2) , which of course stunned us all since we know soft-tissue decays far too fast to survive that long (3). It prompted all kinds of debate about the age of the fossils themselves (4), which you should totally check out if you get time. But for now, let's bottom-line it: we can't make dinosaurs yet because we're not sure we have the right creatures to splice their genes into, or enough intact DNA, but we've got blood! We're much further into crazy scifi world than ever before.


Telepaths






Tanisha drew her shawl tighter over her head, doubly-masking the cap of wires hidden under her weave as she slipped into the drug-lord's penthouse. Had to find out when and where this deal went down tomorrow. Leak that back to Anderson, and she'd win her revenge. She ducked into the closet, huddling between Armani suits that reeked of musk.

Click--apartment door opening. Hushed voices; Big Brandon's booming laugh--but she couldn't quite make out words--light stung her eyes--crap! The closet-door opened--Tanisha froze before a pale, hollow-eyed man and the barrel of a .44 magnum. "Looks like we got a rat, boss."

Crap crap crap--Tanisha ground her teeth as Hollow Eyes yanked her out of the closet. He threw her in front of Big Brandon. The fat-ass mob boss stood arms akimbo and laughed. "Oh, hey, it's--Taniqua? Tan-tan? Oh, you wanna correct me?"

Tanisha's eyes blazed. Oh, yes she did.

"See how pissed off she is? But she can't talk. Unfortunate accident, right, to her tongue, after her poor dead Momma ratted Daddy out. Tan-tan's a living example of what happens when you betray me." The mob boss leaned in; spittle soaked his rank breath. "And that example is the only reason you're still living." To his men-- "Make sure she doesn't leave the apartment. 'Specially not around 3:30 tomorrow by Warehouse 33, right Tan-tan?" Big Brandon roared with laughter. His men glanced back and forth in confusion. "Oh, little family joke. My little girl was gonna report her Daddy to the cops just like her mom. But she's not now. Handcuff her to the dresser, we're moving out.

Tanisha struggled a little, and kept up the whole rebellious glare thing for a while, but the moment they shut the door behind them she unleashed her glee. Ha! She could scream her triumph from the rooftops. Dear Daddy didn't know how he'd lost his last ten lieutenants to Officer Anderson. Dear Daddy didn't know about telepathy.


So yeah, Tanisha can communicate with Officer Anderson by telepathy. You totally don't believe me. But the Army does. They put down $4 million dollars on developing telepathic helmets, and they're only fifteen to twenty years from completion. I KID YOU NOT. I am gonna be talkin' to my kids via brain waves, no crap.

So, point made? You live in a ridiculous future scifi world.

But it takes more than crazy settings and wild technology to make a good scifi story. You need a protagonist with a conflict. Unfortunately, in addition to the scifi setting, your world has conflict.

Throughout your modern scifi world, there's a rampant slavery epidemic washing across your nation, your continent, and your planet. I'm not building metaphors here, political or otherwise. The number of women, children, and men bought and sold as slaves for sex and forced labor right now throughout Africa, Europe, East Asia, and the Americas literally dwarfs everything you ever heard about ancient slavery. We need everyday citizens to learn how to identify and rescue human trafficking victims using resources like these (http://cmda.org/resources/publication/human-trafficking-continuing-education). We need cashiers, healthcare providers, moms at home, protagonists all around the planet to get these phone numbers into their cells (http://thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/2011/03/30/how-to-help-global-hotlines/). We need heroes to intern for rescue organizations like these (http://www.slaverynomore.org/organizations/), and eventually pursue long-term careers in catching the bad guys and recuperating the victims. You're in a scifi world perhaps far greater than anything you ever read in a comic book or watched on TV, and we just need a protagonist to step in and make a difference.

Are you our scifi protagonist? Maybe your life's more of a contemporary romance or drama, and I can't force you into a genre swap. But maybe, just maybe, this post will reach someone who's ready to take a leap into the real science fiction future. Who knows.

It's a brave new world out there.

If you liked this, there will be more like it over at petrepan.blogspot.com!



(1) Schweitzer, M. H. et al. 2009. Biomolecular Characterization and Protein Sequences of the Campanian Hadrosaur B. Canadensis. Science. 324 (5927): 626-631

(2) Schweitzer, M. H. et al. 2013 Molecular analyses of dinosaur osteocytes support the presence of endogenous molecules. Bone. 52 (1): 414-423); see also Woodward, S. R., N. J. Weyand, and M. Bunnell. 1994. DNA Sequence from Cretaceous Period Bone Fragments. Science. 266 (5188): 1229-1232

(3) Allentoft, M. E. et al. 2012 The half-life of DNA in bone: measuring decay kinetics in 158 dated fossils.Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 279 (1748): 4224-4733.



(4) Compare two major debate articles http://creation.com/dinosaur-soft-tissue vs. http://discovermagazine.com/2006/apr/dinosaur-dna

2 comments:

  1. Nice one — love the weird yet true quirkiness. And you write really fun short fiction... I was mad when each of those vignettes ended. What happened to Big Brandon??!??!

    ReplyDelete