Science Behind the Story

Good People, I’m excited to share a recently completed project with you. This is a free curriculum guide and companion text for the fiction anthology Origins.  Origins is available from our good friends at Hadley-Rille Books, if you’re into supporting small presses directly, or there’s a Kindle version ($4) at

The concept is simple: use science fiction to explore evolutionary biology. A good friend of mine, Randall Hayes, at Variation Selection Inheritance brought his scientific knowledge to bear and we developed the text with science teachers in mind. The free pdf version is The Science Behind the Story.   Here are the mobi (kindle) and epub (nook) versions. More about the manual is below, but first a little about the anthology.

Origins: Tales of Human Evolution is edited by Eric T. Reynolds Publishers Weekly said it was an “Ambitious overview of human evolution…individually excellent works…”

Clearly we agreed. Just check out these authors:

Gerri Leen (3,000,000 years ago)
Leslie Robyn (175,000 years ago)
Z.S. Adani (71,000 years ago)
Max Habilis (41,000 years ago)
Camille Alexa (31,000 years ago)
Jenny Blackford (2500 years ago)
Mike Resnick (throughout the span of human existence)

The manual starts with a chapter entitled “What Do I Do with Fiction in a Science Class?” and includes sections on “Reading for Understanding and Meaning,” “Annotation,” “Basic Story Questions,” and some “Basic Discussion Questions Template.”

Each story is broken down with the following: a Synopsis, a section on Vocabulary, the Main Characters, some Discussion Questions, Search Terms & Key Concepts in Evolutionary Science, Research/Discussion Questions, Links & Resources, and possible Assignments.

We end the manual with “What Else Can I Do with Fiction in a Science Class?” which includes a checklist for effective writing assignments, sample rubrics, peer review activities, in-class activities, and teaching strategies.

We hope science teachers and home schoolers find it instructive, useful, and engaging.

Randall runs a podcast covering biological sciences. As he notes, “VSI is a podcast about evolution, broadly defined as the behaviors of any system that displays the trifecta of variation, selection, and inheritance.” At his site, we are asking for feedback from teachers who download and use The Science Behind the Stories in their classrooms.

Some Other Kind of Writing

Hey folks. I thought I’d just throw an update out here since it has been some time since I’ve posted.

First of all, the deadline for Shotgun Honey’s anthology is approaching fast. Get your stories in soon! (full guidelines are below for your review). On our webpage, you will also have an opportunity to vote for our anthology’s title. Keep an eye out for that. It will undoubtably be close since we received so many fine submissions.

For those of you who teach, you might be interested in this text I have an article in. It’s called Quick Hits for Teaching with Technology: Successful Strategies by Award-Winning TeachersThere are a lot of fine scholars who offer some insights and tips on creatively using tech in class to engage students. For ten bucks, it’s a steal.

Another project I’m wrapping up is a free teacher’s resource manual for evolutionary biologists (grades 9-14). A colleague, Dr. Randall Hayes, and I received a Beacon grant to develop a manual that would help biologists explain and explore evolutionary theory to non science majors. Our thinking was fiction may give students a way into the science that a standard textbook couldn’t.

We decided on Origins put out by Hadley Rille Books. It features stories by some of our favorite sci-fi writers (Mike Resnick, Jenny Blackford, Camille Alexa, Max Habilis, Z.S. Adani, Lezli Robyn, Gerri Leen) and does a great job of “walking through” human evolutionary development. As the editor of Origins, Eric Reynolds has been extremely gracious and helpful as the manual has moved through the process and taken shape.

This project has been a massive undertaking with over ten thousand words on just my part concerning the fiction (synopsis, analysis, discussion questions, possible writing assignments, etc.). Randall dives in next with his connections to biology by breaking down each story and exploring ways in which students might engage the science within the fiction.

What we are particularly excited about is that due to the grant, we are able to offer it free to any teacher who wants to implement it in his/her class. We hope to have a pilot project this Fall, a larger cohort  this Spring, and its final version for public consumption by Summer 2012. Dr. Hayes has a blog and podcast where you can find wonderful interviews, and his musings on fiction, poetry,
science, and the connections therein. Definitely worth checking out. If you’re interested in creative writing and science. As a side note, I highly recommend Alice Fulton’s Fractal Poetics: Adaptation and Complexity.

Most recently Dr. Hayes and I received another grant entitled: Reforming a Large Undergraduate Non-majors Biology Course (Part 1 of Infusing Evolution Through an Entire College Biology Curriculum). While this will be a ton of work, I think Dr. Hayes’ innovative idea will lead to some exciting results in teaching biology and writing. Fingers crossed.

Lastly, I’ve got a copy of The Journal of Teaching Writing (from Indiana University-Purdue Press) which has my article “Significant Learning: Effectively Using Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs in a Critical Writing Class” in it. While their webpage isn’t updated yet (I’ll let you know when it is), this paper is one I’m particularly proud of as it brings together my passion for teaching and for noir. Better yet, my students seem to love it (the exercise, not the paper which I’m sure they would find completely boring).

As promised: Shotgun Honey Submission Guidelines

Format: .doc, docx or .rtf file in a standard short story format as described on William Shunn’s website.
Length: 1000 to 5000 words. 3000 would be the sweet spot.
Submission: Send your submission with [Anthology] in the subject. Attachments only. Single submissions only.
Deadline: August 1st, 2012. We recommend sooner.

Payment: $10.00 upon publication, 1 print copy of Shotgun Honey Presents… and our eternal gratitude.
Rights: 1 year first print.
Release: Target October 2, 2012.

No queries. Please follow the guidelines if you want your story read.