Life Beyond Us: Showcasing Astrobiology through Science Fiction Stories
Julie Nováková (European Astrobiology Institute, Czech Republic), co-editor of the ‘Life Beyond Us’ anthology, describes this new collection of 27 science fiction stories by award-winning authors and 27 essays by scientists.
Read article in the fully formatted PDF of the Europlanet Magazine.
Ever since the days of Shelley, Verne or Wells, science fiction has been inspired by science and inspired scientists in turn. Its power of imagination, use of narrative, and popularity make the genre well-suited for raising interest in science. The new anthology, Life Beyond Us, aims to achieve this goal with a novel approach of mixing original science fiction stories about astrobiology, written by world-renowned authors, with accessible essays by scientists addressing topics from each story.
The story-essay combination blends entertainment and scientific knowledge to arouse curiosity, carrying the reader to the boundary between science and science fiction. Effective science communication and critical thinking are more than essential nowadays, and Life Beyond Us seeks to foster them and entertain at the same time. An online guide is also being prepared for educators wishing to use Life Beyond Us in class, with materials for teachers freely available on the European Astrobiology Institute (EAI) website.
As a science fiction author and evolutionary biologist, with the responsibility of co-leading the outreach working group of the EAI, it has been my pleasure to co-edit Life Beyond Us alongside Lucas K. Law and Susan Forest, who produced critically acclaimed anthologies such as Where The Stars Rise and The Sum of Us. Its contributors include award-winning authors, and the science essays are by experts from national space agencies, universities and scientific institutions across the globe. Topics range from planetary protection to robotic space exploration, exomoons, space agriculture or water world habitability, all the way to xenolinguistics (possible alien languages) or the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI).
EAI was founded in 2019 to support research, education and outreach in astrobiology across Europe and beyond. With NASA’s Perseverance on Mars, private science missions planned to launch toward Venus and elsewhere, closer exploration of the icy moons on the horizon, and exciting exoplanet discoveries practically on a daily basis, astrobiology is a booming scientific field bound to create general interest. Science fiction is a perfect tool to bring astrobiology closer to the public and let people feel the curiosity and joy of discovery at the core of science and science fiction. Life Beyond Us is the second astrobiological science fiction anthology by EAI, following Strangest of All, a “proof-of-concept” e-book anthology of reprint science fiction stories and original essays. With thousands of downloads, positive reception and use as a science teaching material, the book showed the merit of such an outreach approach. To publish Life Beyond Us, EAI teamed up with Laksa Media, an award-winning Canadian publisher with a unique model of helping a cause via each book it publishes – in this case, science education.
Life Beyond Us is published in paperback, hardcover and ebook formats, and is available at all major online retailers as well as selected brick-and-mortar bookstores. The anthology has already been presented at EAI’s Biennial European Astrobiology Conference (BEACON), ComicCon Prague, MetropolCon Berlin and will be showcased at other in-person, hybrid and online events over coming months.