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Marine Science Fiction Earth's deep oceans have often been called the final frontier. But despite being a largely-unexplored environment that's both deadly to humans and inhabited by weirdly alien creatures, it's been woefully underutilized as a setting for science. But underutilized doesn't mean nonexistent. There are a number of excellent science fiction stories either set in the ocean or with a marine biology focus.

As an introduction to what I like to call Marine SF, I thought I'd point to some of the related short fiction that authors have shared for free online. The stories range widely in both subject matter and tone, from Peter Watts' hard science stories featuring humans modified to work deep in the ocean to Vonda McIntyre's alternative17th century natural history. There should be something to entertain almost everyone.

A Niche, Home, and Bulk Food by Peter Watts
Peter Watts is a self-described reformed marine biologist whose Rifters are humans modified to work at deep-ocean thermal vent power stations. You can read two short stories set in the Rifters universe: "A Niche" and "Home". If you enjoy those, he has also made available the full Rifters trilogy (Starfish, Maelstrom and ßehemoth). And don't miss the interesting supplementary technical information for each novel at Rifters.com.

If you prefer stories that are lighter in tone, I'd also recommend his "Bulk Food", which has an unusual take on saving the whales.

Aficionado and Temptation by David Brin
David Brin is perhaps best known for his novels set in the Uplift Universe, in which bottlenose dolphins and chimpanzees that have been "uplifted" to sapience work alongside humans. His short story "Aficionado" details the beginnings of the Uplift project, while his novella "Temptation" follows the adventures of Jijo, an uplifted neo-dolphin exploring the ocean on a distant planet.

Shogoths in Bloom by Elizabeth Bear
In Eliabeth Bear's novelette "Shogoths in Bloom" a marine biologist studies great creatures (shogoths) living off the coast of New England at the onset of WWII. It has been nominated for a 2009 Hugo award.

Oceanic by Greg Egan
Greg Egan's "Oceanic" is set on the distant planet Covenant, many thousands of years after its settlement - and ecological modification - by humans. The story follows the life of one Martin, whose work as a marine biologist reveals the important role that life in Covenant's great oceans have played in the development their society. "Oceanic" won the Hugo for best novella in 1998.

Natural History and Extinction of the People of the Sea, by Vonda N. McIntyre, illustrated by Ursula K. Le Guin.
In Vonda McIntyre's novel The Moon & The Sun a sea man and sea woman are brought to Louis XIV's 17th-century court. Thus begins the adventures of lady-in-waiting Marie-Josephe in exploring the natural history of these alien creatures. For a flavor of the sea people's biology you can read McIntyre's faux-encyclopedia article "Natural History and Extinction of the People of the Sea", which is illustrated by Ursula Le Guin. And if you'd like to read futher, McIntyre offers her novel in a variety of electronic formats.

The Talking Squids in Outer Space web site
And last, but not least, there is McIntyre's Talking Squids in Outer Space web site, which looks at squids in science fiction. It includes links to some related squidly stories, including "Sheena 5" by Stephen Baxter, "The Town on Blighted Sea" by A. M. Dellamonica, and "Neon Sea Dreams," by Rupert Goodwins.

This list just a sampling of what SF has to offer in the way of stories with a marine setting, since only a fraction of published SF stories are available online. It should be enough, however, to give a taste of what's out there. I hope you enjoy!

A Niche, Home, and Bulk Food by Peter Watts
Peter Watts is a self-described reformed marine biologist whose Rifters are humans modified to work at deep-ocean thermal vent power stations. You can read two short stories set in the Rifters universe: "A Niche" and "Home". If you enjoy those, he has also made available the full Rifters trilogy (Starfish, Maelstrom and ßehemoth). And don't miss the interesting supplementary technical information for each novel at Rifters.com.

If you prefer stories that are lighter in tone, I'd also recommend his "Bulk Food", which has an unusual take on saving the whales.

Aficionado and Temptation by David Brin
David Brin is perhaps best known for his novels set in the Uplift Universe, in which bottlenose dolphins and chimpanzees that have been "uplifted" to sapience work alongside humans. His short story "Aficionado" details the beginnings of the Uplift project, while his novella "Temptation" follows the adventures of Jijo, an uplifted neo-dolphin exploring the ocean on a distant planet.

Shogoths in Bloom by Elizabeth Bear
In Eliabeth Bear's novelette "Shogoths in Bloom" a marine biologist studies great creatures (shogoths) living off the coast of New England at the onset of WWII. It has been nominated for a 2009 Hugo award.

Oceanic by Greg Egan
Greg Egan's "Oceanic" is set on the distant planet Covenant, many thousands of years after its settlement - and ecological modification - by humans. The story follows the life of one Martin, whose work as a marine biologist reveals the important role that life in Covenant's great oceans have played in the development their society. "Oceanic" won the Hugo for best novella in 1998.

Natural History and Extinction of the People of the Sea, by Vonda N. McIntyre, illustrated by Ursula K. Le Guin.
In Vonda McIntyre's novel The Moon & The Sun a sea man and sea woman are brought to Louis XIV's 17th-century court. Thus begins the adventures of lady-in-waiting Marie-Josephe in exploring the natural history of these alien creatures. For a flavor of the sea people's biology you can read McIntyre's faux-encyclopedia article "Natural History and Extinction of the People of the Sea", which is illustrated by Ursula Le Guin. And if you'd like to read futher, McIntyre offers her novel in a variety of electronic formats.

The Talking Squids in Outer Space web site
And last, but not least, there is McIntyre's Talking Squids in Outer Space web site, which looks at squids in science fiction. It includes links to some related squidly stories, including "Sheena 5" by Stephen Baxter, "The Town on Blighted Sea" by A. M. Dellamonica, and "Neon Sea Dreams," by Rupert Goodwins.

This list just a sampling of what SF has to offer in the way of stories with a marine setting, since only a fraction of published SF stories are available online. It should be enough, however, to give a taste of what's out there. I hope you enjoy!

Peggy Kolm's Biology in Science Fiction Blog is one of few blogs of its kind that really proves that science fiction books, movies, and Tv shows are based on the biological sciences. This blog discusses cloning, genetic engineering, mutant monsters, longevity treatments and all the other biology behind the fiction.

Image Credit: NOAA's Undersea Laboratory
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