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Tom Easton

"I’ve written short stories, novels, textbooks, poetry, and magazine articles for half a century. I spent thirty years as the book columnist for the science fiction magazine Analog. With a doctorate in theoretical biology, I also spent more than thirty years as a college professor. And it’s all of a piece. I started reading science fiction in 1957. The appeal to a callow thirteen-year-old was downright traditional, for that was about the age when an awful lot of science fiction fans and writers got hooked. But there was something more in my case. Dad was a biologist, Mom a nurse, so science was in the family. I turned thirteen in 1957, the year of Sputnik. The newspapers were full of Rockets! Satellites! Space! Very soon, we had Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo. Wernher von Braun and Willy Ley were beating the drums for space stations and moon bases. I was ready to discover Astounding (now Analog), with covers that looked (some of the time) just like Time, Look, Life, and other magazines of the time. The stories pushed the headlines into the future, and the stories, the fact articles, and even John W. Campbell, Jr.'s editorials (despite Campbell's tendency to chase some ideas into silliness) got me used to thinking about how science and technology interacted with society. Science was important because it meant understanding the universe. Technology meant using that understanding to do cool things. Both could generate exciting stories. But the real message was that science and technology were important precisely because of how they affected people, both as individuals and en masse, as a society, not always in obvious ways (electricity changed the rhythm of life because people could stay up later!). A secondary message—blame Campbell's editorials for this one!—was that in order to deal intelligently with issues of science, technology, and society, one must recognize that people disagree about facts, their meaning, and what to do about them, and one must think outside the box (even at the risk of being thought a bit nuts by people who don't even understand that there is a box).
In due time, I earned a doctorate in Theoretical Biology from the University of Chicago. When I started writing in the seventies, it seemed very natural to write science fiction, some of which dealt with those interactions of science, technology, and society. But only a very small number of people can actually make a living writing science fiction these days. When that penetrated, I became a college professor, teaching biology, including environmental science and ecology, as well as other science courses. It was only a part-time gig at first, while I continued to try to make writing generate a full-time income. In due time, the college asked me to develop a course on philosophy and methods of science, which eventually became a science, technology, and society (STS) course. Starting from my course materials, I edited an issues anthology (Taking Sides: Controversial Issues in Science, Technology and Society, McGraw-Hill, now in its 14th edition) and developed an anthology of stories on STS themes (Gedanken Fictions, Wildside, 2000). A few of the nineteen issues in the Taking Sides book dealt with the environment. It seemed a natural progression when the publisher asked me to take over Taking Sides: Controversial Environmental Issues (now in its 17th edition; I’m working on the 18th), a somewhat more focused STS book. The shaping influence of Campbell's Astounding is still there. Science and technology and their intersection with society are important. Thinking about them is fun. Taking different angles on them (getting outside the box) is crucial. My personal approach has shifted from just reading (Hey! I was just a kid when I started!) to writing stories and articles to doing textbooks. I've shifted my focus, but the same themes are there. They are also in the essays that make up this volume. My science fiction stories on how genetic engineering may affect the future are collected in the e-book The GMO Future. You can find others in Love Stories and UFOs."

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