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Introducing: Joan Slonczewski

I'm going to be somewhat busy for the next week (travelling to and from, and attending, this conference), and am unlikely to be blogging. So I thought I'd had the podium over to a surprise guest: Professor Joan Slonczewski. In addition to teaching microbiology at Kenyon College, where her students conduct research on bacteria in extreme environments, she's been publishing SF for a quarter of a century, winning the Campbell award along the way (for "A Door Into Ocean").

Her latest novel, The Highest Frontier, (Kindle edition available here) shows a college in a space habitat financed by a tribal casino and protected from alien invasion by Homeworld Security. Her best known book, "A Door into Ocean", depicts an ocean world run by genetic engineers who repel an interstellar invasion using nonviolent methods similar to Tahrir Square. In her book "Brain Plague", intelligent microbes invade human brains and establish microbial cities. (And you can find her books via Amazon here.)

If you're looking for SF informed by a sharp understanding of genomics and biology, Joan's got a lot for you! And she's also got a strong interest in space colonization — which I hope she'll share with us over the next week.



You know what? Fine. FINE. I don't need those hours of sleep, anyway.

Those books sound phenomenally interesting. I've just asked my bookseller to organise me some copies.

Thanks for the heads-up!


Brain Plague at least is at Smashwords, so any format you like.


She's a charming and engaging speaker in person. We here in the Twin Cities were lucky to have her come to Diversicon a couple of months back.


If you'd prefer to order from the Uk where possible:-

Speaking of which, would some kind person teach me the HTML for converting a hyperlink into a visible text link please?



While I suppose it would be weirder to wake up with a tentacle for a head, it's still pretty strange to check Stross's blog in the morning and see that one of your old biology profs is going to be the guest writer.


To get Joan's book here, you need to enter:

<a href="">Joan's book here</a>

As a general pattern: <a href="http://xxx">yyy</a> to use the link xxx and the title yyy.


Joan Slonczewski is totally one of my favorite writers, even though I don't think her other books quite measure up to "A Door Into Ocean".


Thanks; that's exactly what I wanted to know. I know a few HTML tags, but it's not something I need as a rule.


As a writer, I have some old friends at Kenyon, so enjoy!

And congratulations to you on being on the Wikio Top Ten list....


I have The Highest Frontier, but I bounced, very hard, off of "table salt was a controlled substance." On page 12.

Should I push past that?


Without having read The Highest Frontier, the following two links (which popped up on Tony Finch's Link Log yesterday) sound as though they might be of tangential interest:

The (Political) Science of Salt

Scientific American: It's time to end the war on salt.

(Tony notes interesting links there. He by no means vouches for all of them, but it's a public bookmark list that I tend to find interesting. To be nice to you lot, I've un-shortened the links.)


After reading io9 about "The Highest Frontier", last week, I'm a little conflicted as to whether I want to read it, since I've been writing something involving cylinder space colonies (though quite different, and for longer than I care to admit--and if it's print-worthy I can't say). But, I think I'm near the end of it, so will likely read Prof. Slonczewski's take later.

I think it's time that we got past the gee-whiz factor of Rama.

And I'm looking forward to see what she says here.


So as a quite accomplished biologist, is synth bio everything it's cracked up to be? And when can I start tinkering with it using sub $1000 in equipment costs :)


I remember Children's Star, which had some excellent aliens.


As a former Kenyon student, and fan of Ms Slonczewski's writing... cool. Looking forward to it.


Loved The Door into Ocean, and I still regret giving my old copy away to a friend. What a great antidote to Dune!


OK, I'll bite: Why does Dune need an antidote?


Gotta read the book to find out. 'Sides, it's not my original description. I just found it apt. See


You are aware that 'The Highest Frontier' isn't available on Kindle for Australian readers. That's one of probably many possible sales down the proverbial drain. I guess you don't need the money.

Robert Horley


Although I understand your feelings, you should be aware that it won't be Joan's decision which editions are available in which territories. I rather expect her to be also unhappy at this.


Nasty, nasty!

That's not the author's fault -- blame the publisher for sitting on the territorial rights. (AIUI Joan's books haven't hitherto been well-published in the UK/commonwealth territories.) Alternatively, check to see if Amazon are up to their shitty blackmail tricks again -- de-listing books to apply bargaining pressure to a publisher.


The Door Into Ocean was published in the UK, as part of the Womens' Press sf series back in the 80s. The others of hers that I have read are US editions though.


Hope today's post helps. BTW in reading my books, it may help to know that Vonnegut is one of my favorites. Especially Galapagos.


Roboschro.monkey: Thanks, what's your class year? Feel free to get in touch at Kenyon.


Charlie, I trust you will be coming back with a rich load of ideas for the blog and some open questions on topics that you have disagreed with - such as embryos nurtured by machines at the destination planet.


Bored Optometrist: A Door into Ocean was written in part as a response to Dune, and you'll find interesting parallels. I teach both books regularly in my course Biology in Science Fiction. BTW, how can an optometrist be bored? Every year at my checkup, I see more new toys in there.


Robert Horley: Thanks for mentioning the problem getting books in Australia. Have you tried Nook and Smashwords? Can you send me documentation that it's unavailable anywhere? Since you're the first to bring it up, I'll send you a free copy for your trouble.


My apologies to Joan. I realize it isn't her fault that her books are blocked by kindle in Australia. I was just venting as this isn't the first time I've been blocked from buying books from kindle.


Joan, an "introducing $person" thread seems the most appropriate place to ask this type of question. How does one pronounce your surname? I've a feeling it's of Eastern European origin, which means that my first instinct of "Slonc Zew Ski" may well be wrong.


I would guess it's more like Sloan-chevski.

Of course, she may have her own way. I used to mispronounce my own middle name, until I learned a smidge of Gaidhlig.


If it is Polish, I suspect the "l" was originally dark; so it would be something like Swanchevskee or Swoonchevski. There is also a good chance that her family does not pronounce it that way. I know mine is not pronounced as it would back be East.


You're right originally, when my grandfather came over it would have had the barred-L letter, and sounded something like "Swine-chevski". But as paws4thot suggests, the pronunciation quickly Americanized to "Slon-ZOO-ski." The students call me "Dr. Zeuss" behind my back.


Thanks; I said my first thought was probably wrong!


Hmm, I'd have got it half right, guessing 'Slon-chevski'. But seeing how even French names get mangled (St Louis, Notre Dame, anybody?), I'm going to assume that America follows the proud and ancient British tradition of repronouncing names in the most convenient manner (Paris being the canonical example for the British).

Having a surname whose pronunciation few people get correct without prior education[*], I can understand your predecessors not wasting all their time trying to correct their new fellows.

*It doesn't help that there is a city of the same name up near Vancouver which has the 'wrong' pronunciation.


How does anyone get from "notre" to "not err"? Particularly when they still spell it "notre"?


The same way we Brits pronounce centre as 'cent-err'. Natural languages are mostly total hacks, and expecting either logic or consistency will lead only to disappointment.


Some of us still pronounce it as "centrr" you know.


@Joan: Class of '91. Philosophy major, with added time spent in Drama and IPHS. I think I knew you enough to say hello to, but that was it. I was avoiding science classes at the time, because friends who were in them kept going on about how much time they took up. Nowadays I follow science much more than I do philosophy. Go figure.

Anyway, good to see you here. Have fun.


Hi Bob, FYI, I'm using an Australian registered Android phone, with an Australian registered Amazon account, and I've just successfully bought, downloaded and started reading "The Highest Frontier".... Looks like Amazon or the publisher were listening !!!




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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on September 27, 2011 10:26 AM.

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