When Writing Excuses was invited to be guests of honor at Westercon 67, we had the opportunity to interview numerous guests of the convention, each of whom were luminaries in their respective fields.

We met Brad Voytek, who is a doctor of neuroscience and a professor of computational neuroscience at UC San Diego, for the first time right there at the show, and immediately knew that we wanted our listeners to have the chance to hear from him. One of his passions is treating science fiction as a gateway to (and in some cases an actual example of) science education.

He starts by talking about Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep, which teaches the reader about the brain by telling the story of what would happen if a zombie walked in to the emergency room. Mary talks about Launch Pad, the NASA workshop for writers. And then Brandon tells us about blending vegetables into junk food…

We grill Brad mercilessly, and have great fun with the whole show as we talk about some of our favorite science fiction, and a few of our favorite starting points for learning actual science.

 

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The City & The City, by China Mieville, narrated by John Lee.

Writing Prompt: A sapient sheep desperately needs a delaying tactic. If it gets shorn, bad things will happen.

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.

Visit http://AudiblePodcast.com/excuse for a free trial membership.

Audible Free Trial Details

Get an audiobook of your choice, free, with a 30-day trial. After the trial, your paid membership will begin at $14.95 per month. With your membership, you will receive one credit every month, good for any audiobook on Audible.

Cancel anytime, effective the next monthly billing cycle. Cancel before your trial ends and you will not be charged. Check out the full terms and policies that apply to Audible membership.

This entry was posted on Sunday, August 17th, 2014 at 4:00 pm and is filed under Conventions, Guest, Live Audience, Research, Sci-fi, Season 9. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

5 Comments

  1. August 17, 2014 @ 4:30 pm


    Thank you for airing the Westercon67 recordings. I was able to meet Dr. Voytek, but unable to attend the recordings and it rocks!

    Posted by TameKate
  2. August 18, 2014 @ 12:14 am


    Asimov is a great model for how to do this both in fiction and in nonfiction. He was a professor of biochemistry until the writing took off. Interestingly, one of his few writing failures was a textbook he did. Another role model is Arthur C. Clark. He did classified research on automated landing systems during WWII and wrote one of the very first technical papers on geosynchronous satellites. He is also credited with the first general introduction to space elevators. I would recommend his earlier fiction over the later. (The dividing line is the sentinel / 2001 a space odyssey.) For those interested in a technical analysis of ‘space opera’ technology, both the real and the fictional stuff I recommend the following link: http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/index.php. The guy who runs the site is actually an illustrator by trade.

    Posted by Pat Russell
  3. August 18, 2014 @ 12:25 am


    This episode reminded of me of Scott Westerfeld’s Peeps, where vampirism is caused by a parasite and every other chapter talks about a real world parasite in a way that was interesting. I now look forward to reading about neuroscience through zombies.

    Posted by Klimpaloon
  4. August 21, 2014 @ 5:45 am


    This was an excellent podcast – reminded me of Duke University’s project: http://sites.duke.edu/sciencefactfictionjournal/
    I think academic teaching can take a lot of cues from SF (or sometimes even fantasy) literature to make their fields more exiting to students.

    The City and the City (which I greatly enjoyed) would be a great book for courses in nationalism or political geography, though that’s not my field. I have actually also used SF podcasts for teaching business and economics, which you can read up on here: http://www.diabolicalplots.com/?p=6779 (the site seems to be down right now)

    Posted by Moritz
  5. August 21, 2014 @ 7:32 pm


    Hey, kid, you wanna learn some science? No. Hey, wanna read a story? Here you go…

    And the kid thought he was just reading about some zombies… he, he, he!

    For those who want to know what zombies, neuroscience, and science fiction are doing stomping around in science education, here’s a transcript!

    http://wetranscripts.livejournal.com/91874.html

    Also available in the archives, naturally.

    Posted by 'nother Mike

Leave a Comment

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.