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Discussing Blood Music in Class

Posted by Brian L. Smith on 11/16/2016

Dear Mr. Greg Bear, I am a San Jose State MFA Creative Writing student leading a class discussion on the short-story version of Blood Music. The instructor encouraged us to contact the authors of the pieces that we are presenting, so I hope you don’t mind if I shoot a few general questions your way. First of all, I was impressed by the plausibility of the technical ideas that you were using to explain the nanotech creatures and their computing capabilities. It got me wondering about how much research goes into writing this type of sci-fi story. Do you have any favorite ways of keeping abreast of science ideas? Are you naturally driven by a curiosity about science and is that part of how you got into science fiction? One reason I ask this is that I have been driven to write fiction partly because of my interest in ideas, in my case philosophical ideas, particularly ideas about consciousness and altered states, and some of my stories have veered into realms that are science-fiction-esque. I came across your story Blood Music in an anthology and, if you don’t mind me saying so, it stuck in my mind and had an influence on something I was working on. Also, as a person who is somewhat new to sf literature, I was curious as to who might be some of your greatest influences.

Re: Discussing Blood Music in Class

Posted by Greg Bear on 11/16/2016

Hello, Brian! Very good questions. I was inspired to do this story by a news item in NEW SCIENTIST in 1982, about the potential uses for what they called "bio-chips." Something clicked! I've always kept up on science and research, to the best of my time and ability--SCIENCE and NATURE and SCIENCE NEWS, etc--and interviewed scientists whenever possible. For the short story version of "Blood Music," I was challenged by my editor, Stan Schmidt of ANALOG, to demonstrate to him that cells could have this scale of thinking ability. I did a napkin-level scribble on numbers of codons in a single human cell--several billion, as I recall--and just guessed that if these were given a certain freedom to re-program, the scales might match. Stan accepted that, and the rest is history. Incidentally, the story has not been substantially revised since its first publication. Among my most influential authors, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Olaf Stapledon, and Poul Anderson--as well as dozens of others! Best of luck with your own stories!

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