This week's curiosities come credits to planet Earth. In researching alienness for my writing projects, I've been shifting between biological otherness, as well as social otherness. And our own planet does not disappoint.
This week is a bit more science-heavy and less on the fiction, but to be frank, this stuff is a treasure-trove for one's imagination and we're lucky to have this stuff of sci-fi be reality.
How trees talk to each other
Beyond the science of how trees within geographic areas communicate, Suzanne Simard also explores the "social" aspect of that communication and sharing. Trees of a specific species prefer to send nutrients and warnings to other trees of its own species or even its own relative (child, sibling, cousin). Suzanne Simard's book, Finding the Mother Tree, came out last May, where she delves deeply into the social life of forests, and the cooperative network of creatures that we only half-experience. What's not yet clear is why the different types of root fungi shuttle nutrients and information between trees at all, and how trees of the same genetic line find each other to create stronger bonds.
Sex Lives of Fish
The closest we can come to finding truly mind-bending life is our oceans, and, perhaps because of our current climate state, more research has surfaced recently about oceans ecology and marine biology. Marah Hardt's is short but fun. There's a particularly bizarre process for the fanfin anglerfish (at around the 12:10 mark), but earlier she talks about several fish species which all are born a particular sex and then later in life change to another, and some even change back and forth. I wonder if LeGuin knew about these fish when she wrote about the Gethen inhabitants.
Obsidian by Sarah J. Daley
This came out yesterday and is Daley's first novel. Centered around a Shade Nox, the only witch among wizards, and they believe her to be an abomination. This doesn't stop Shade, who's intent on protecting her people. She wields powerful magic with her obsidian blades, but it's not enough. She wants to raise a Veil of protection, something not attempted for over a century and never by a woman. What's more, the church of the Brotherhood holds on to these Veils of magic and they're not about to allow an abomination have access.
The worldbuilding feels lush and deep, with lots of stories simmering in unexpected places. In fact, in Scalzi's Big Idea post on the 25th, Daley goes into detail on some of the worldbuilding elements, and it's very compelling.