Using the panel discussions of the most recent World Science Fiction Convention in Spokane, August 2015, I will jump off, jump on, rail against, and shamelessly agree with the BRIEF DESCRIPTION given in the pdf copy of the Program Guide. This is event #2153. The link is provided below…
Future Pharma – How will biotechnology and genome research revolutionize pharmaceuticals? How can biotech be better integrated into fiction? This panel will help provide an understanding of the diversity of contemporary and theoretical pharmaceuticals and how biotechnological breakthroughs can help move a plot along. Heather Rose Jones (m), Peter Charron, Barry Gold
My first ever “published” science fiction story dealt with just this subject, back when I was a 9th grader in 1971. I remember my incredible success with this story because a girl in my Journalism class got really excited as I described my story, about a man-on-the-run from the Galactic Drug Corporation. As I read, the character commented that the company provided the purest form of any drug you could want.
She looked up at me and said, “Where are they?”
As I recall, I just gave her a blank look...as a ninth grader I was about as “uncool” as you could possibly be: plaid, high-water slacks, bowl cut hair, hated blue jeans and pizza, read all the time...I had no idea what I was writing about, but I had somehow picked up on the prevailing culture enough to write the piece.
Since then, everyone I know has benefitted from biopharmacology: my wife takes human insulin produced by bacteria; my brother and father have stents in their hearts that had been coated with a substance that prevented the rejection of the foreign object; my brother-in-law who was born a hemophiliac, took freeze-dried Factor XIII in order to increase the clotting ability of his blood; I could go on, but there’s no reason to. The science fictional possibilities of pharmacology, biology, and biotech is undeniable.
I have a world where I’m exploring the possibilities right now. In my future, there are no aliens. There are also very few habitable planets (ever read the book, HABITABLE PLANETS FOR MAN? If you haven’t, here you go: http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/commercial_books/2007/RAND_CB179-1.pdf This book not only inspired me, it lit a fire under me that hasn’t ever gone out. I LOVE alien worlds, aliens, and everything else about SF!)
In my future, Humans are modified to fit environments and Humanity has split into two factions – the Empire of Man and the Confluence of Humanity. The Empire refuses to admit that anyone who is less than 65% Original Human DNA is Human. The Confluence embraces the modification of the Human genome to whatever lengths it takes to serve the rest of Humanity.
Obviously there will be conflict, and my focal point is in the clouds of the super-Jovian, puffy-Jupiter, named River. I’ve had two stories published in this world, “The Baptism of Johnny Ferocious”, “The Prince of Blood and Spit”, plus the as-yet-unscheduled, “Into The Deaths”. I imagine I’ll collect them altogether someday.
But back to the point of this essay, we will continue to expand our use of “manufactured” biotech products and will continually be faced with the problem of limits. At what point do we draw back?
Case to point is the refusal by parents of technology that would allow a deaf child to hear. The argument is that “deafness is not a handicap or a disease”. Deaf Australia puts it this way: “...a [cochlear] implant ‘implies that deaf people are ill or incomplete individuals, are lonely and unhappy, cannot communicate effectively with others and are all desperately searching for a cure for their condition. [This] demeans deaf people, belittles their culture and language and makes no acknowledgment of the diversity of lives deaf people lead, or their many achievements.’”
If this is already an issue, what does the future hold?