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Astrobiology Science Fiction
What is Astrobiology Science Fiction?
Astrobiology is the study of life in the universe, here on Earth and out among the stars. Astrobiologists study the conditions that led to the evolution of life here on Earth and then look elsewhere in the solar system for similar conditions—these preconditions for life are often ignored by Science Fiction writers. And while intelligent life is perhaps the most exciting, and is the most dynamic for the purposes of Sci Fi storytelling, astrobiology is about all life and the potential for life.
Other Features of Astrobiology Science Fiction
- Level of Real Science
Moderate. Astrobiology does have scientific legitimacy and as a field of study utilizes many other sciences (geology, ecology, physics, astronomy, and so on). However, there is no real scientific evidence either for or against life elsewhere in the universe—at least not yet. This provides great opportunity for Sci Fi to speculate on what life we may one day find out there amongst the stars. Astrobiology Sci Fi will draw from real scientific disciplines, but must necessarily go beyond what we currently know.
- Level of Grand Ideas/Social Implications
High. At the heart of the inquiry of astrobiology is a huge question: are we alone in the universe? This is an incredibly grand question with far reaching implications. What would happen if we are the only intelligent life in the universe? What if we're the dumbest of the intelligent life in the universe? What if we find life, but not intelligent life? How will humanity react to this news politically, culturally, theologically?
- Level of Characterization
Variable. Developing human characters is sometimes minimized in the presence of alien life. However, characters can also be incredibly well developed—what better way to understand a human life than with contrast of the discovery of something alien?
- Level of Plot Complexity
Variable. Astrobiology sometimes is full of exploration and adventure, the science of astrobiology is a king of treasure hunt—it offers a thrilling plot to be sure. However, sometimes the plot can be underdeveloped when authors become enthralled with worldbuilding, and scientific and technological details.
- Level of Violence
Variable. We can't expect all life in the universe to be friendly, and we can't expect all life to be hostile—so depending on where the author wants to take the story, the level of violence will vary.
Related Science Fiction subgenres
Speculative Fiction. Astrobiology speculates on the existence and nature of life in the universe.
Astrosociobiology Science Fiction. Astrobiology is a part of Astrosociobiology and sometimes astrosociobiology is a part of astrobiology.
Firm and Hard Science Fiction. Astrobioloy can certainly belong to either camp—really just depends how close to current scientific theories the author wants to stay.
Exotic Ecosystems. Finding life in a truly alien ecosystem—there is biology there!
Extraterrestrial Science Fiction. This one is about intelligent life—astrobiology isn't always about intelligent life.
Microbiological Science Fiction. Life in the universe may be very small.
Astrobiology Science Fiction isn't for you if...
If you think we're alone in the universe.
- 1 Wheelers
- 2 Between the Strokes of Night
By Charles Sheffield. This book proposes a form of life that thrives in intergalactic space.
- 3 Calculating God
By Robert Sawyer. Aliens arrive on Earth looking for proof of god. The novel postulates that most alien species will prefer uploading themselves into virtual reality.
- 4 Revelation Space
By Alastair Reynolds. A complex novel that postulates many different lifeforms who struggle against ancient, machine-like intelligences seeking to destroy all new organic life..
- 5 The Black Cloud
By Sir Fred Hoyle. Written by an astrophysicist, this book is about an enormous cloud of gas that comes between Earth and the sun—to disastrous climatic effects. The cloud's behavior is unpredictable and is revealed to be a superorganism.
- 6 The Andromeda Strain
By Michael Crichton. Not all life is met out among the stars, sometimes it comes home and sometimes it is very very small.
- 7 Reality Dust
By Stephen Baxter On the moons of Jupiter an escaped scientist discovers a lifeform in the ice.
- 8 Dragon's Egg
By Robert Forward. The first in this series proposes life on the surface of a neutron star.
- 9 If the Stars are Gods
- 10 The Sparrow and Children of God
By Mary Doria Russell. Written by an anthropologist this novel explores more social and cultural ideas about meeting alien life—in this case intelligent, but technologically inferior aliens. The book is a bit recursive and shows readers how imagining other worlds allows us to reimagine ourselves.