8 January 2008

Evolution and science in teenage fiction.

Barbara J. King at Bookslut reviews Robin Brande’s novel Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature. It's worth a read, and it was thought-provoking.

Specifically: where are the fictional scientific heroes for our young people? Too often in fiction and film evil nerds do awful things in labs, the results escape and get out of hand with destructive consequences. The scientists involved are gnostic (they keep special knowledge from us) and gnerdy (bad hair, clothes, manners and specs). In an inversion of reality, normal people with chiselled jaws, silicone things, snappy one liners and cool specs save civilisation.

Believe Gillian Beer in Darwin's plots, evolutionary narrative in Darwin, George Eliot and 19th century fiction (1983), since the Origin hit the shelves fiction is imbued, saturated with Darwin's evolutionary ideas.

But where are the books for children and teenagers in which evolution does not cause mutated threats to the human race, where science and scientists save humanity and get the credit. Where scientists get the natty threads and the whip-crack one-liners. Where they don't just get to watch while their good work is taken by a cut lead man or woman and put to good use. Reading around science blogs and entries for Open Lab 2007, there is an abundance of imagination, good prose, ideas, sharp dialogue and great one-liners out there.

Winning young hearts and minds to science needs to be done outside the lab, too (hence the replica Beagle) and engaging minds through fiction and film is important. A flood of good fiction in 2009 where scientists and science were the heroes would be another good way of celebrating Darwin's life. There's time: first three chapters, synopsis, send to agent with a covering letter. I bet plenty of you have novel ideas in notebooks or drafts deeply buried in deliberately mis-named folders. This is a project to be continued elsewhere. I'll think about the elsewhere later, but for the moment Killian Crawford (who writes the excellent H5N1 blog) published a very useful guide for the first time novelist.


nunatak said...

Inspirational! When I grow a spare head I'll have a crack at it. In the meantime, there IS a film where scientists not only save the day, but have chiseled jaws and nice threads to boot. It's called Sunshine and if you watch on DVD be sure not to miss the special commentary by the physicist consultant to the film. It's almost better than the film itself.


There is a novella called "The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists" by Gideon Defoe. It was mildly entertaining & both the pirates & the scientists, including Charles Darwin were the good guys.

Podblack Blog said...

Excellent, you've inspired the next post of mine on Podblack Blog! As an English teacher, I've taught Wyndham's 'The Chrysalids', Westerfeld's 'Uglies' series and there's an overwhelming number of feature films which portray scientists in a negative fashion. I'll see if I can come up with a contemporary list of pro-science recommendations.