C Theory: First, we would like to begin with a general question about science fiction, and your position as an SF writer. How would you characterize your work in relation to the actual sciences of genetics and biotech? What do you see as the role of SF in relation to the sciences?
Science fiction has always functioned as an interface
between scientists and the interested lay public. A fair number of scientists
write SF, in part to relax, in part to publicly explain ideas near and
dear to them and also perhaps to play with ideas their colleagues wouldn't
appreciate seeing in formal journals. Many, many more scientists enjoy
reading it (if they have time,
after the journals, to read anything!). But SF also opens up the playing
field to artists and writers who can explore scientific issues in ways
scientific journals don't or won't. Social modeling of the implications
of scientific discoveries is necessary to both science and society — whether
it be positive or negative or balanced!
CTheory: Your SF novels _Blood Music_and _Darwin's Radio_ both deal with the ways in which genetics and biotech transform the human condition. But they also seem to be very different versions of what that transformation entails. What was the driving force behind these two books? Is there a connection for you between them?
Greg Bear: _Blood Music_ followed hard on the dawning of my realization that DNA is a self-organizing cybernetic system — a kind of neural network. The implications of that were staggering — and at the time, working off my debt to visionary science fiction, I wanted to carry the idea quickly to its ultimate conclusion — which came to resemble the worst nightmares of the early pioneers of nanotechnology. It's a parable of the consequences of knowledge and evolution — of what happens when biological systems acquire supreme control over their environment. Some view it as a scary horror novel — others as a tale of religious transcendence. To me, it's both — change is both scary and enlightening.
"We are not who we think we are. The mind is the brain and body working together and reacting to the environment; the brain by itself cannot explain mind. In Western culture in particular, our inheritance from the Greeks and the Enlightenment is a kind of fiction about the role of Self and mind that people in other parts of the world — Japan or India, for example — find puzzling. The human mind is made up of elements that, if analyzed objectively, turn out to be remarkably "unhuman" in the Western conception. In other words, we are made of layers of different sorts of biologically based minds, strongly interconnected, but performing different tasks at different times in our lives, using shared resources. The conscious mind — which is still consistently regarded as the true and reliable Self in our culture — reacts after the fact to what these other minds do. Consciousness is a social interface, mandated by our nature as social animals. The conscious self is very useful, sometimes serving as a critical judge, after the fact, of our emotions and actions, but it's not the one in charge much of the time. (Marvin Minsky's _Society of Mind_ is a key text in this debate, as well as Julian Jaynes and William James, Jung, and Freud, all of whom had different approaches to the same fascinating problem.) " - Greg Bear
release _Blood Music: Pentamerous Metamorphosis_ CD by Global Communication
on Dedicated #13 (1993)
Chapterhouse - _Blood Music_ retranslated by Global Communication into _Blood Music: Pentamerous Metamorphosis_.