Fact and Fiction in “The Annual Argument at the Deextinction Board Meeting”

I hope you’ve had a chance to read my hard science fiction story about deextinction in the latest Analog.  Most of the story is based on my research, but I did make a few parts up.  Here’s the lowdown on fact and fiction in the story:

Is there a single board where people pitch deextinction plans to get funding?

Not to my knowledge, and in general that’s not how research funding works (there are lots of independent groups deciding what research to do, so there might be boards but not one single board).  I made that part up.

Is deextinction a real science?

Yes, it is.  There are groups currently working on deextincting the Wooly Mammoth, Passenger pigeons, and other creatures.

Are there people trying to determine which species to deextinct?

Yes, there are people making lists.

Was the Irish Elk a real animal and is it on the lists?

Yes, it was and is.

Are there people studying the ethics of deextinction?

Yes, there are.  There are groups arguing against it and groups arguing for it.  There are also people studying the ethics to produce guidelines on what species to deextinct.

Is Pleistocene Park a real place?

Yes it is.

Did the Neanderthal Y chromosome really not make it into the human genome?

According to one study, it did not.  The paper speculates that homo sapiens could not carry male fetuses with Neanderthal Y chromosomes to term.

Do the Irish Elk have the same issue with the Y chromosome?

Not to my knowledge.  I made that bit up.

Is the genus name for saber-toothed cats really smilodon?

Yes!  Smilodon fatalis.  Isn’t it a great name?

Was there really a saber-toothed salmon, and is its genus name really smilodon?

Yes, there was.  Alas, it has apparently been renamed.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour through deextinction links! I enjoyed doing all the research that went into this story.

Published: Rigel’s Missing Tail

I am pleased to announce that my story “Rigel’s Missing Tail” has been published by Stupefying Stories. The setup for the story – a murder mystery – rattled around in my head, unsolved, for a decade. Then I wrote another story where the victim meets three aliens … and two of the aliens decided they’d solve the mystery for me. I’m so happy to share their success with you!

Clever Bubble

I am very pleased that Perihelion Science Fiction has published my story “Clever Bubble.”  You can find it here:


One of the fun bits of writing this story was designing the game that the aliens play with Will.  I wanted to have something like soccer, but with four teams and played in three dimensions.  (Actually, I had originally considered having eight teams, but it got too complicated.)  Each team has their own goal (the arrows’ mouths) at one corner of a vertical square, and each team has their own ball (Will is the ball for his team).  After each time a team scores by getting its ball into another team’s goal, the goals can be re-arranged to make it more difficult for a team to score where they need to.  In order to win, a team has to have scored on all the other teams more recently than they have scored on it.  So it’s a game of strategy as well as motion.  Will, as an intelligent soccer ball, only figures out how to score and not how to keep score.  But now you know how to do both!

I hope you enjoyed the story.

Have You Looked in a Mirror Lately?

I am very pleased that Goldfish Grimm’s Spicy Fiction Sushi has published a story of mine called “Have You Looked in a Mirror Lately?”.  You can find it here:


“Goldfish Grimm’s Spicy Fiction Sushi” is an awesome name for a magazine, don’t you think?

Published: Stupid Manuscripts

I am very pleased that Interstellar Fiction has published a story of mine called “Stupid Manuscripts”.  You can find it here:


The idea behind “Stupid Manuscripts” – that a computer could generate random scientific articles, one of which might be close enough to right that a scientist could use it – is one that I had in my files for years and years before I found a fun way to write it.

The ability of a million monkeys to randomly type out Hamlet (or any other work of Shakespeare) sooner that the heat death of the universe has been proven to be almost impossible.


However, computers have been used to generate text a word at a time a number of times.

In fact, a computer wrote a book in 1984:


And computers have written fake science articles to test how well science journals and conferences screen their papers:



And a computer was used to generate a chapter of the “world’s worst novel” which was written to show that Publish America will accept anything:


Unfortunately for my character Hugh, in reality all of these generated works are nonsense.

The likelyhood of a computer generating a close-to-right scientific article (particularly one with equations, where you’d go back to the case of the infinite monkeys typing a character at a time with an even bigger alphabet of symbols) is still highly improbable.  So Hugh really had a lot of work to do …

And I had a lot of fun playing with acronyms.

I hope you enjoyed the story.