The Magician's Garden

NON-FICTION by Paul Riddell in Issue 150 – March 2019

It’s a very old trope in fantasy stories and games: the wizard or healer who needs an incredibly rare, delicate, or deadly flower, leaf, root, or bark for a critical bit of magic, and the plant from which it grows may only be found an inconvenient distance away. It may be that the spell is so rarely […]

The Mighty Feats of the Everyday Microbe

NON-FICTION by Douglas F. Dluzen in Issue 149 – February 2019

“The Martians—dead! . . . slain, after all man’s devices had failed, by the humblest things that God, in his wisdom, has put upon this earth.” —The War of the Worlds, H. G. Wells, 1897 Just about everywhere you look an invisible (and humble) presence lurks, a horde of single-cellular organisms that is found on every surface of […]

Eros, Phileo, Agape, Storge: Love and Romance in Science Fiction

NON-FICTION by Carrie Sessarego in Issue 148 – January 2019

The romance and science fiction genres have often been at odds, yet science fiction, on page and on screen, has given us some of the most iconic love stories of all time. Romance serves many purposes in fiction in general, and these functions certainly apply to science fiction. Additionally, romance in science fiction helps us […]

The Modern Search for the Fountain of Youth

NON-FICTION by Douglas F. Dluzen, PhD in Issue 147 – December 2018

Please forgive Juan Ponce de Leon, but the secrets to human immortality don’t reside in Florida. He should have traveled west to Southern California, near present day Loma Linda, or south to the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica. Or, instead of crossing the Atlantic altogether, he could have set sail to the more familiar Mediterranean […]

Melon Farmers! Science Fiction Stumbles on the Way to the Theater

NON-FICTION by Mark Cole in Issue 146 – November 2018

There’s an old saying about five-star restaurants: you do not want to see the kitchen. Let’s face it: sometimes you are better off not knowing how things get made. That certainly applies to movies. Film is a big business, which devours vast quantities of money and talent—and too often, the talent finds itself at the […]

Endless Forms Most Horrible: Parasites and SF

NON-FICTION by Julie Novakova in Issue 145 – October 2018

“Certain wasp-like insects, which construct in the corners of the verandahs clay cells for their larvae, are very numerous in the neighbourhood of Rio. These cells they stuff full of half-dead spiders and caterpillars, which they seem wonderfully to know how to sting to that degree as to leave them paralysed but alive, until their […]

How and Why CRISPR Will Change the World

NON-FICTION by Doug Dluzen in Issue 144 – September 2018

There is a silent war that is waging on every surface of the planet, in every droplet of water, and on the skin and within the bodies of everyone you know. It’s hypothesized by some that this war began near the dawn of life on Earth. Almost certainly, we have that war to thank for […]

Mary and the Monster: The Life of Mary Godwin Shelley

NON-FICTION by Carrie Sessarego in Issue 143 – August 2018

This year is the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Often considered to be the first science fiction novel, this book tells the story of mad scientist Victor Frankenstein and the creature that he creates and then rejects, with disastrous consequences. Rejection, loss, and the destruction of families were ever-present in […]

The Monster at the Movies: Film Adaptations of Frankenstein

NON-FICTION by Carrie Sessarego in Issue 142 – July 2018

Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein is 200 years old this year. First published in 1818, the story tells of a scientist, Victor Frankenstein, who becomes obsessed with reanimating the dead. Victor creates a monster who is never named. In the book, the Monster is also called “the creature,” “the devil,” and “the daemon.” In most movies, […]

The Effects of Space and Other Worlds on the Human Body

NON-FICTION by Douglas F. Dluzen, PhD in Issue 141 – June 2018

Our success at establishing a permanent Moon colony or brushing gloved fingertips through Martian soil is intimately tied with how our bodies handle extended periods of living in non-Earth gravitational environments. If the human body can’t adapt to these conditions, it will be impossible to further explore the heavens until our spaceships can support sustained […]

Metallic Mayhem in the Movies: Giant Mecha, Then and Now

NON-FICTION by Mark Cole in Issue 140 – May 2018

It’s hard to explain that moment . . . Something moved in the hazy distance of a vast white plain, and an army of machines emerged from the mist. And for an instant, it was no longer The Last Jedi. It was 1981 and the Imperial Walkers had begun their assault on Hoth. It was—and years later, still […]

Inspiring Writers with Four Scientific Breakthroughs

NON-FICTION by Lucas Rosa in Issue 139 – April 2018

One of the key features of science fiction is the speculation about the future of human technology and its relationship with our kind. Thus, keeping up-to-date with scientific advancements is an important activity for writers of the genre. In the laboratories of research institutes all around the world, true magic is being made right now, […]

Aliens Among Us: Cephalopods in Science Fiction and Fantasy

NON-FICTION by Carrie Sessarego in Issue 138 – March 2018

In 2015, the news briefly and erroneously lit up with the announcement that science had revealed that octopuses are actually aliens. The misunderstanding stemmed from a quote from Nature: “It’s the first sequenced genome from something like an alien,” jokes neurobiologist Clifton Ragsdale of the University of Chicago in Illinois, who co-led the genetic analysis […]

The Undiscovered Country: Planets of Dead Stars

NON-FICTION by Julie Novakova in Issue 137 – February 2018

The solar system is dying. It’s happening slowly, but inevitably. In approximately six billion years, the Sun will become a red giant: a bloated star burning up hydrogen in its outer shell. It will have engulfed Mercury and Venus and, possibly, Earth. While our beloved planet may survive the event, it would do so as […]

Why Science Fiction Detective Stories Aren't Impossible

NON-FICTION by Mark Cole in Issue 136 – January 2018

Perhaps it wouldn’t have been as bad without all the buildup. Episode after episode, Doctor Who regaled us with stories about Madame Vastra, a reptilian Silurian living in Victorian England, and her prodigious detective skills: The police always went to her with their difficult cases. She was the basis for all those stories about Sherlock […]

You are (Most Likely) Not Living in a Simulation

NON-FICTION by Craig DeLancey in Issue 135 – December 2017

The idea that we may be living in a simulation is familiar to science fiction readers. Some fine films and many novels explore the theme. But though the idea may be old, one surprising new twist has arisen in recent years: many people now claim that we are likely living in a computer simulation. Such […]

Science Fiction and the Fall of the Evil Empire

NON-FICTION by Mark Cole in Issue 134 – November 2017

By the 1970s, no one believed in Communism anymore. Not in the Soviet Bloc, at least. Least of all those running the system and particularly not the KGB and the State Security Apparat. Which didn’t stop the vast machinery of the Communist State from shuddering on, crushing those who dared to resist, while it slowly […]

An Optimist and Pessimist Tackle the Fermi Paradox

NON-FICTION by Julie Novakova and Tomas Petrasek in Issue 133 – October 2017

The universe around us echoes with the Great Silence. It seems oppressive to some, foreboding to others. We have not picked up any alien transmissions; seen any indications of interstellar travel or construction; met any other civilization. Yet even with propulsion systems based on known technological principles, it should be possible to colonize the whole […]

Artificial Wombs and Control of Reproductive Technology

NON-FICTION by Stephanie M. Bucklin in Issue 132 – September 2017

A new technology could help save the lives of premature babies—and raises new questions about both age of viability and reproductive control. It’s called the Biobag, an artificial womb designed by researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Essentially, the Biobag is a fluid-filled bag hooked up to wires and cords. Researchers maintain the bag […]

How to Invent an Alien Language? A Linguistic Perspective

NON-FICTION by Olga Kuno in Issue 131 – August 2017

Invented languages spoken by races in imaginary worlds can add credibility to a story, making both the world and the characters feel more real. An author of a science fiction or fantasy novel involving different countries or planets may choose whether to make everybody speak the same language or try to create separate languages. As […]

Impossible Colors of an Infinite Universe

NON-FICTION by Matt Jones in Issue 130 – July 2017

In 2001, Karl Glazebrook and Ivan Baldry, a team of astronomers from John Hopkins University, discovered that the universe had a color. This discovery was somewhat inadvertent. Glazebrook and Baldry had originally set out to study the history of star formation through the use of a major spectroscopic survey known as the “2dF Galaxy Redshift.” […]

How to Injure Characters Without Killing Them

NON-FICTION by S. E. Jones in Issue 129 – June 2017

Every author strives for reality. Especially so when it comes to science fiction and fantasy. If the author gets the details right, then the unreal is cemented. Despite this, authors often injure characters in ways that would, in the real world, lead them to death or extensive hospital stays. Humans are fragile creatures, and the […]

Cut, Fold, and Conquer the Universe: The Best Models in the Galaxy

NON-FICTION by Mark Cole in Issue 128 – May 2017

It wasn’t unbelievable. It was something more than that, something you could hardly wrap your mind around. If you’ve seen the Matrix sequels, you would recognize it instantly: the APU (Armored Personnel Unit), a huge, heavily-armed and intensely detailed battle exoskeleton. It wasn’t so much that someone had created a model of this complex machine: […]

Narrative Perception: A Study in Interspecies Stimuli

NON-FICTION by Calden Wloka in Issue 127 – April 2017

Perception is the gateway to cognition; it is the difference between awareness and ignorance. Although we are often not consciously aware of how our senses operate as they perceive the world, their physiology nevertheless dictates our understanding of reality. The realm of speculative fiction is filled with characters that possess sensory abilities different from those […]

SF Short Fiction Markets in China: An Overview of 2016

NON-FICTION by Feng Zhang in Issue 126 – March 2017

In 2010, the Chinese science fiction market was heavily dominated by a small number of magazines that published mostly short fiction. Science fiction has since become a hot theme in multiple cultural and creative industrial areas such as book publishing, movies and television, games, comics and animations, and theme parks. For instance, in 2016, there […]

Frodo Is Dead: Worldbuilding and The Science of Magic

NON-FICTION by Christopher Mahon in Issue 125 – February 2017

In 1966, Time magazine asked, “Is God Dead?” on its infamous April cover. Around the same time, a piece of graffiti began appearing in New York subways: Frodo Lives! It was an interesting crossroads for America—God seemed to be fading out of the lives of many Americans, while Tolkien’s masterpiece was just starting to find […]

The Evolved Brain

NON-FICTION by Benjamin C. Kinney in Issue 124 – January 2017

In 2014, the psychologist Gary Marcus from New York University gathered a book of essays by the world’s leading neuroscientists, including multiple Nobel prize winners. From this experience, he drew one main lesson: we have no unifying idea about how the brain works. However, Dr. Marcus and his essayists missed something. We comprehend much more […]

Bugs from Outer Space & Invasive Earth: Planetary Protection

NON-FICTION by Julie Novakova in Issue 123 – December 2016

We have seen this scenario in science fiction a million times: Scientists uncover an alien organism previously buried under ice, or bring bugs from another celestial body to Earth. Before we know it, an apocalypse unveils: It was a deadly pathogen threatening to wipe out all life on Earth! This clichéd scenario is far removed […]

Kubrick to Scott: Relevancy and Realism in Cinematic Science Fiction

NON-FICTION by Mark Cole in Issue 122 – November 2016

By the time 2001: A Space Odyssey arrived, everything had changed. Behind the Iron Curtain the Soviets launched their own science fiction boom, one far more realistic and adult-oriented than ours. Pavel Klushantsev’s 1958 documentary, Doroga k zvezdam (Road to the Stars), strongly influenced Kubrick. It starts with a brief history lesson, then moves into […]

Méliès to Bonestell: Relevancy and Realism in Cinematic Science Fiction

NON-FICTION by Mark Cole in Issue 121 – October 2016

The future looks a lot more real than it used to. Or at least that’s the impression given by movies like Gravity and The Martian. For over a century filmmakers have wowed audiences with voyages to space. Unfortunately, most of them look silly now—and even fewer would hold an audience’s attention for ninety minutes. Will […]
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