Writing, Science, Ethics & Rejection


Screen Shot 2013-04-14 at 11.40.33 PMThis is an abbreviated post.  There is a major fire near The Pink Flamingo.  This is all the time I have to get something up.  The power is off.  Don’t know if they will be evacuating us or not.  UPDATE:  The power came back on about 12:45AM.  A small business went up in flames tonight.  My prayers are for the owner.

My father once said I was the most rejected person he knew.  He was discussing the pile of rejection letters every new writer accumulates.  At first they were soul crushing, then they became routine.  There is one, though, that I still remember.  It came in the form of a personal rejection written letter from the late, great, legendary Isaac Asimov, himself.  It was puzzling, at first.  It is still puzzling.  I guess it shocked me to discover that one of the greatest science fiction minds – ever, was not as up on the latest science.  I wrote the short story during the late summer of 1978.  From what I’m learning about Asimov’s health, how he had contracted HIV, and was keeping it quiet, it makes a little sense.

I was absolutely shocked because he was not up on the latest science.  Perhaps his letter can be excused by this information, that he was quite ill.  Then again, perhaps not.  I still have the letter, but it’s packed up, in storage.  The jest of it is that he found my the premise of my short story so outrageous that even he was rejecting it on the basis of science fiction.

My premise?

A biologist discovers surviving DNA  in someone long dead and clones this person, implants the clone into an embryo and a living baby eventually emerges.  Asimov thought that no reputable writer would ever even consider using the premise of finding what were thought to be DNA in a long extinct creature.  No reputable writer would consider the possibility of cloning that DNA, not only on humans but for long extinct creatures.  If so, the literary world would reject the premise as laughable.

Fast forward about 12 years and Michael Crichton.  Yep, THAT book – Jurassic Park, which was based on the very premise that Issac Asimov, the science fiction genius rejected.  I made my rejection even worse.  Here it was, I had the idea, wrote something different, but used a version of it, 12 years before Crichton, but yet, my short story (which still isn’t bad) was rejected.

Lets fast forward 21 years after Asimov’s death. The Pink Flamingo found an interesting article about – not the science of cloning – but the ethics of should it be done.  Not that it can’t be done, but, like Ian Malcolm kept saying, it wasn’t that it couldn’t be done, but should it be done?

“…“De-extinction” is a transparently phony concept. In general, it won’t work as typically advertised. Most of the extinct species being discussed have left only fragments of DNA, if that. Even if scientists manage to modify (for instance) elephant DNA in the direction of mammoth DNA, they will never know if they exactly succeeded, and they certainly won’t know whether the regulation of gene expression is the same. That’s why Harvard’s George Church, one of the people behind this, refers to “neo-mammoths” with the “best qualities” of elephants and mammoths. It’s not raising a species from the dead, it’s building a brand-new one.

There is an immediate price for that, in pain and suffering of the animals involved. Cloning, which would be part of the process, remains extremely inefficient. The latest published work on mice had success rates that varied, inexplicably, between 3% and about 20%. Clones that make it to birth are often defective; many die quickly. And of course surrogates would be needed to carry the constructed embryos to term, with definite but unpredictable risks: for example, some surrogates carrying clones have died in pregnancy because the fetus they carried grew too large for no known reason.

Moreover, even if a species were revived, where would it live? That environment is gone, which is likely a major reason for the extinction in the first place. And how many would you make? All the animals being touted for re-creation are social species. How cruel would it be to make just one?…”

Once again, we deal with liberals who keep putting their feelings into the animal world.  Currently, one of the few extinct species that we know they are trying to the world is a mammoth.


At least, it’s nice to know that I wasn’t the only one rejected and screwed by Isaac Asimov.  He did the same thing to Sir. Paul McCarthy.

The real problem here is not the rejection, but the fact that we’re now dealing with some over the top, and out of control multi-billionaires who have more money than common sense.  It’s not going to be if someone decides to clone a woolly mammoth, but when.  For all the bleeding heart animal lovers (and I am one – to a point) they can socialize with their nearest relatives – elephants.

The problem with a critter the size of a woolly mammoth is about the same problem in cloning – successfully, a T-Rex.  They are huge.  They are powerful, and they might have a very nasty temper.  They could kill people, as we have seen from cave art.

Look, just go watch Jurassic Park.

It’s not that we can, as Ian Malcolm said, but if we should.