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SV: Evolution in science fiction

I thought I would say a little more about Olaf Stapledons "Last and
First Men" where he traces the human line into the far future through (I
think) fifteen consecutive species, including one winged. Rather dated
scientifically (written in 1930) but pretty impressive still.

A very different SF book with an at least partly evolutionary theme is
Roy Lewis' "What we did to father" (1960), a hilarious story about an
Early Pleistocene African supergenius and paterfamilias who chivvies his
uncomprehending and unwilling family to adopt fire, cooking, spears,
stone tools, living in caves, exogamy etc.

I agree with Raptorial Talon that most SF books do not handle
evolutionary themes well from a factual viewpoint, but there are
exceptions. For example Poul Andersons "Winter of the World" which is
set during the next glaciation, when the human species has split into
two, physically very similar, but behaviourally quite distinct.
Larry Niven has also written a number of good stories which are
factually reasonable. For example the short story "Green Marauder" which
gives a rather startling view of the consequences when photosynthesis
evolved on Earth.

As for evolutionary equivalents of time travel there are a number of
books "where Chicxulub didn't happen", for example Harry Harrysons
"Eden" series, already mentioned.

Another theme that comes back frequently is the idea that alien
intelligences have visited Earth in the past, and interfered with
evolution. A recent example is S. M. Stirlings "The Sky People" and "In
the Courts of the Crimson Kings" set in a parallel universe where
superintelligences known as "the lords of creation" visited the solar
system during the Jurassic and terraformed Venus and Mars (later
returning to transplant humans as well). Venus is a rather standard
dinosaurs-and-other-giant-beasts scenario, but Mars where the wil-life
is dominated semi-avian evolved theropods and a variety of highly
modified Mesozoic marine organism is quite fascinated, and makes me wish
Stirling had devoted more space to describing the planet. 

Tommy Tyrberg


-----Ursprungligt meddelande-----
Från: owner-DINOSAUR@usc.edu [mailto:owner-DINOSAUR@usc.edu] För Luis
Oscar Romero
Skickat: den 9 juli 2009 00:00
Till: dinosaur
Ämne: Re: Evolution in science fiction

Many SF books has been written on the future evolution of the human race
or the human mind. The Dune saga, by Frank Herbert, comes to mind with
the breeding schemes of the Bene Gesserit towards a Homo superior. Also
I recall More than Human, by Sturgeon, which focus on the development of
a collective mind, and Sirius, by the same author, about a
superinteligent dog, capable of speech.  
I can't recall now any book which focus on the past evolution, unless we
consider SF the saga of the Children of the Earth ( the Clan of the Cave
Bear and its sequels) by Jean Auel, which deals with the interaction
between Neanderthals and sapiens. Dinosaurwise , one of my favorites is
The Planet of the dinosaurs  and its sequel the Survivors by Anne
McCaffrey, that I read in the sixties and already had furry pterosaurs,
but it doesn't dwelve in evolution, but the exploration of a planet
where earth dinosaurs and pterosaurs had been transplanted, and have
survived among the local fauna. 
And of course, there is Raptor Red... 
Luis Oscar Romero, lor@fibertel.com.ar 
----- Receiving the following content -----  
From: Jeff Hecht  
Receiver: Dinosaur mailing list  
Time: 2009-07-08, 13:56:36 
Subject: Evolution in science fiction 

I'm going to be moderating a panel this weekend at a science fiction
convention called Readercon in suburban Boston. The title is "Is
Darwinism Too Good for SF?" and it's asking if evolutionary theory "has
been _too good_, too unassailable and too full of explanatory power, to
leave the wiggle room where speculative minds can play" that science
fiction writers need to write memorable stories. Are there evolutionary
counterparts of time travel and faster-than-light?  

I know a few science-fiction fans are on the list, and I'm curious how
you'd answer those questions. Stephen Jay Gould's idea that trying to
repeat evolution wouldn't produce the same results comes to my mind.
What comes to yours?  

Jeff Hecht, science & technology writer 
jeff@jeffhecht.com or jhecht@nasw.org 
525 Auburn St., Auburndale, MA 02466 USA 
tel. 617-965-3834 http://www.jeffhecht.com