Nature Future Conditional

The story behind the story: How we know they have faces

This week, Futures considers the world of aesthetics with Marissa Lingen’s story How we know they have faces. Regular readers will be well versed in Marissa’s work, but if you’re new to her writing, please check out her website and Twitter feed — as well as the other stories she has written for Futures (handily collected at the foot of this post). Here, Marissa reveals what inspired her latest tale — as ever, it pays to read the story first.

Writing How we know they have faces

Once upon a time there were three little girls — two sisters and their cousin — who loved stories about aliens and spaceships.

The oldest little girl grew up to be a nurse educator, the kind of nurse with a couple of master’s degrees and heaps of opinions about whatever brand-new drugs and medical equipment came along. She still loved science fiction, and lots and lots of science fiction stories had medical themes, which made her pretty happy, although she liked the stories that didn’t have those things, too.

The middle little girl, cousin to the two sisters, grew up to study nuclear physics, then diverted into a career in writing science fiction. (Spoiler alert: this one is me.) And sure, she was writing the stories herself, but even when she was ‘just’ a reader, she could find lots and lots of stories that touched on the physics she loved. And that made her pretty happy too — although if you paged through her work it went outside the bounds of physics just like her cousin went outside the bounds of medicine for her reading joy.

The youngest little girl grew up to be an aesthetician. She thought about aliens and the big wide universe just as much as she ever had, because being an artist with make-up and other visuals of the human face wouldn’t have any reason to change that, but for some reason there weren’t a lot of stories that combined her professional love with her science fiction joy. She was willing to step outside her own field and enjoy other people’s interests, which is a good thing, because she had to be. Because despite the near-universal human interest in modifying and decorating our own forms, not a lot of science fiction gets written about it.

Mary, this one is for you.

Other Futures stories by Marissa Lingen

Say it with mastodons | My favourite sentienceSeven point twoPlanet of the five rings | Running safety tips for humansThe most important thing | The many media hypothesis | Boundary waters | Maxwell’s Demon went down to Georgia | The stuff we don’t do | Unsolved logistical problems in time travel: spring semester | Entanglement | Quality control | Search strings | Alloy

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