Science Badges

Having fled screaming from grad school several decades ago, I have to admit I got a kick out of how many merit badges I could claim from The Order of the Science Scouts at Science Creative Quarterly.

Social SciencesFirst I have to claim the “I left the respectable sciences to pursue humanistic studies of the sciences” badge, on the grounds of discovering that as a research scientist, I make a pretty decent SF writer.

I’m pretty proud to be able to claim the “I’ve done science with no conceivable practical application” badge. Why, you ask? Doesn’t that make me a parasite upon society, a Golden Fleece Award-qualified waster of academic resources?

No conceivable useI’ve discussed the subject before, in “Jigsaw Puzzle.” I think research with no conceivable practical application is a better use of resources than research directed at a specific and narrow goal. I think basic research is more worthwhile than directed research.

Ninja (by professional courtesy)And if you don’t like that opinion, please keep in mind that I also have a decent claim to the “I may look like a scientist but I’m actually also a ninja” badge, by professional courtesy, as I have a first degree black belt in Aikido. If you give me a hard time, I’ll do the Aiki thing… and disappear.

(First degree black belt is where you learn how much you have to learn.)

07craftsI have a pretty good claim to the “craftiness with a sciencegeek twist” badge.

I gather from the SCQ blog that scientists look upon being published in the New Yorker rather as SF writers look upon being published by Nature. I have not been published by the New Yorker, so I’m claiming the Rejected by the New Yorker badge. Not only have I been rejected by the New Yorker; I’ve been rejected by the New Yorker for a poem only a geology-loving science fiction reader could love. If I remember right, “Diamond Craters” earned nothing better than a printed rejection slip.

Rejected by the New Yorker!On a whim, I sent a copy of it to the author of Roadside Geology of Washington. I wanted to thank him for his book anyway, as it lives in my car. (I’ve worn out a couple of copies of it.) He wrote back, bless his heart, and said he couldn’t imagine why the New Yorker would reject it; he liked it, and had pinned it up on his office wall.

I finally placed it with the Newsletter of the Alabama Geological Society, whose editor, David Kopaska-Merkel, is in fact a science-fiction loving geologist (and poet).

“Diamond Craters” isn’t the only science-oriented story of mine that the New Yorker ever rejected. I sent them “Elfleda” (you’re right; I have no idea what I was thinking) and they returned it with a snippy little note to the effect that they don’t publish myths. We will tapdance quickly over the fact that while the story’s narrator is a centaur and his love interest is a centaur/unicorn, there’s a brain transplant in the first paragraph and a zeppelin lands not long after.

Hey, it was a personalized rejection slip from the New Yorker.

Published in Nature!The Science Creative Quarterly professes that it will worship me if I have something published in Nature.

I wonder if they’ll worship me twice and a half? I’ve had two stories published in their “Futures” column: “A Modest Proposal for the Perfection of Nature,” and “Misprint,” and my collaboration with Ursula K. Le Guin, “LADeDeDa,” appears in the 12 March 2009 issue.

A neighbor, with a very busy life that includes being a biochemist, maybe had a vague idea that I write for a living, but when “Modest Proposal” came out, she said, “Vonda! I saw your story in Nature! That’s so cool!” And I had to agree that I thought it was pretty cool, too. I’m inordinately proud of having stories in Nature.

And, let’s face it, it’s the least they could do, considering the thousands of hours I spent reading the journal during my misspent youth as a grad student.

Inordinately fond of invertebratesAs I’m inordinately proud of my Nature flash fiction, I’m also “inordinately fond of invertebrates” and claim that badge as well.

After all, I run Talking Squids in Outer Space.


You can find The Moon and the Sun at Book View Cafe, where Chapter 16 is featured on Sunday. For print copies of The Moon and the Sun and my other SF novels, visit my website’s Basement Full of Books.



Science Badges — 5 Comments

  1. I sometimes wonder what my obit will say. I have to say that “Inordinately Fond of Vertebrates” would be pretty cool.

    And as one who has sewn on any number of merit badges and IP patches, I gotta say yours are cooler than my kid’s.

  2. Hi Madeleine,

    I’m normally fond of vertebrates, but I’m amazed by cephalopods. On the natural history links are oftentimes more interesting (I blush to admit) than the fiction links. Squid communication! Mimic Octopus! Walking Octopus (looks like the creation of an animator on LSD).

    I bet you could find at least one badge at Science Creative Quarterly that you could legitimately sneak into your kid’s merit badge sash. They have a bunch of others; I couldn’t claim them all, however hard I tried.


  3. Damn typing fingers. Meant to say invertebrates.

    As for my daughter’s patches…she has to earn those herself (and a lot of them are harder to parse, signage-wise, than the Science Creative Quarterly ones). She brings one home, I’ll sew it on.