Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Brief Discussion of Genetics and Sci-Fi

Spartezda, one of my co-bloggers over on The Toasted Scimitar, has posted a couple of thought-provoking articles concerning genetics in Fantasy. You might want to take a peek:

http://toasted-scimitar.blogspot.com/2008/03/their-family-tree-doesnt-branch.html

http://toasted-scimitar.blogspot.com/2008/03/ebony-orbs-of-doom.html

This raises an important point for Sci-Fi (and my particular crossover-sub-genre, Sci Fi Rom). Even though you may write Fantasy, which includes non-scientific elements like magic spells and powers, there should be a genetic basis for character traits, or at least a logical genetic foundation for these traits. Genetics can create some wondeful premise ideas (as illustrated by the musings of those who commented on her articles, myself included).

I think this topic is even more important for Sci-Fi since even soft Sci-Fi should be based in part on science, or at least on applying liberal imagination to basic science. *smiles* Genetics is such a diverse, controversial and fascinating topic. It has potential far beyond the typical "breeding of a super race" and believe me, after years of trying to breed a Thoroughbred superhorse, I have received a very expensive education in the fickleness of genetics toward any such grandiose plans.

What excited me most is the concept of recessive genes in Sci-Fi or Fantasy. Instead of trying to produce a super-race, maybe someone would try to conceal specific genes linked to special powers or traits for several generations--perhaps to hide them from a repressive ruler or occupying force by outlawing the crossing of two individuals carrying the associated recessive genes--and then recreate them years, decades, or even centuries later through selective breeding of those still harboring these recessive traits in their genetic makeup. Hide in plain sight taken to a whole new level.

For me, genetics has always been a fascinating topic, and one not explored to it fullest value in either Sci-Fi or Fantasy. One of the amazing things about genetics is that there are so many variables involved in the outcome, no one can predict (at least at this point in time) what the sum of the total in the offspring of any two individuals might be. It's been proven that even so-called exact copies--clones--are not exact copies. Differences in external factors such as nutrition, temperature, etc. can make even genetic duplicates very different individual from the original. (The clone of champion barrel racer "Scamper" is a case in point. The clone didn't even have the same markings as the original Scamper.)

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