Speculative biology is a field that makes predictions and hypotheses on the evolution of life in a wide variety of scenarios.
It is a form of fiction to an extent, and uses scientific principles and laws to make its case. It is often used to speculate about the future of life on planets other than Earth.
Speculative evolution is the process of exploring alternative scenarios, based on the principles of science. This form of science fiction explores a range of “what if” questions, such as: “What if Homo sapiens never evolved?” or “What if dinosaurs and humans became friends?”
Typically, a speculative evolution work may contain entirely conceptual species that evolve on other worlds or in alternate timelines; it may also discuss the fate of humanity and the development of other life forms. This subgenre also includes works that attempt to re-design creatures that are currently considered mythical, such as mer-people note, dragonsnote, Bigfootnote, unicornsnote, angels and demonsnote, or other fictional monstersnote.
The modern speculative evolution movement was arguably sparked by Dougal Dixon’s 1981 book After Man, which explored a fully realized future Earth with a complete ecosystem of over a hundred hypothetical animals. This work marked the first purposely-made speculative works available to the public that focused on the theme of evolution in an alternate history context, and is widely credited with bringing a new audience to speculative biology.
Another major influence on the speculative evolution genre came from Edgar Rice Burroughs, who often depicted imaginary products of evolution in his novels. These works, though, were generally small in scale: they usually involved one or two speculative creatures rather than a large ecosystem.
But there was always something interesting about these stories. Besides the fact that they were speculative, they usually had a very strange and magical aspect to them as well, which is what differentiated them from works that focused on more realistic or conventional scenarios.
For instance, a story like Edgar Rice Burroughs’s The Time Machine, which depicted a fanciful time-travelling world inhabited by imaginary creatures, was both fantastic and incredibly interesting. Its fanciful aspects were what made it unique, and it was a great example of how the genre could take the scientific principles of evolution and apply them to the creation of creatures that had a fantastical and yet real feel to them.
Other examples of speculative evolution include The Future is Wild, which depicts the development of an alternative human race on a world where humanity is extinct; and After the End, a science fiction novel that explores a post-human world where Homo sapiens have migrated off-world and developed a number of specialized species. These speculative evolutionary stories are all great reads, and they helped build the interest in a field of science that is still very much in development.
Speculative biology, also known as speculative zoology (though it is by no means limited to animals), is a sub-genre of science fiction that deals with evolution in the future, on other worlds, or in alternate timelines, the same way that many other sci-fi works discuss technology.
It is a highly creative genre, focusing on imagined scenarios that could occur in evolution to create strange yet plausible looking forms of life. Typically, a speculative biology artist will draw inspiration from astronomy, physics, biology, ecology, geology, and other scientific fields to create an accurate world for their project.
The concept of speculative biology was first introduced by Dougal Dixon, a Scottish scientist and artist. He has written several books devoted to speculative biology, including After Man: A Zoology of the Future and The New Dinosaurs.
In his book, Dixon argues that complex life is inevitable because of the laws of nature. He proposes that humankind will eventually expand into other solar systems, and in doing so, may come across alien life. He explains how these alien creatures would likely look and behave, based on the laws of biology and geology.
He then compares these to the way dinosaurs evolved, arguing that life on alien planets will be more similar to that of our own than we previously believed. He also describes the impact of humans on dinosaurs, pointing out that we would have destroyed them and their habitats if we did not first adapt.
Another example of speculative biology is Project Perditus, an ongoing art project that uses a satellite to analyze the life on an analog planet that is similar in size and composition to Earth, as well as explore what it will be like to live on this planet millions of years from now. The artwork for this project is posted regularly on Instagram and the official account promotes other speculative biology artists in the community.
Speculative zoology is a popular genre that often draws inspiration from real-life animals, scientific principles, and biological theories. It can be very inspiring and can help us to imagine the possibilities of what our future could be like, and what we might become.
Speculative biology is a movement in art and science fiction that deals with hypothetical scenarios in the evolution of life. The genre often incorporates elements of science, astronomy, ecology, and geology to build an alternative history or a completely imagined world.
While some works in speculative biology focus on only one or two species, others include entire ecosystems of dozens of different creatures. These works may be set on Earth in the past or in a future, and may be about the evolution of the Earth, or of an entirely new planet with different lifeforms.
A common characteristic of speculative biological works is that they tend to be very detailed, drawing inspiration from multiple sources and exploring various possible ways life could evolve in the future. This means that they tend to be extremely logical and believable, even if they are set in a fictional world.
Another trait of speculative biology is that it is often based on real scientific principles. This means that it is often very thorough and realistic, drawing inspiration from many different sources like astronomy, biology, ecology, and geology.
In addition to the fact that these types of stories are generally very believable, they also tend to be very engrossing. These stories are usually very elaborate and are designed to entertain while at the same time teaching people about different aspects of biology.
Unlike science fiction, which tends to have very specific plots, these speculative biology stories are more open and are often more about the animals themselves. This is because they are often aimed at educating people about the different ways that life can evolve, as well as how to avoid certain things that could harm their environment.
The idea of speculative biology as an artistic movement began in the 1980s when Dougal Dixon published After Man, a book that depicted a fully realized future Earth and its ecosystem. This book inspired a large number of similar books that focused on alternate histories or future scenarios.
Speculative biology is a field of study that uses science fiction to ask “what if?” about life on Earth. This can include questions about the possible evolution of organisms, such as humans or dinosaurs. It can also include the possibility of alternative history, in which some crucial event in the history of the planet would have taken a different path.
Genetics is one of the most prominent topics in speculative biology. This field is closely linked to the synthetic biology movement, which envisions organisms that are not found in nature. Speculative biology is also concerned with ethics and the potential for biotechnology to transform human society.
The emergence of a new reliance on genomics as an account of historical belonging is reflected in fictive and speculative family histories, such as Saidiya Hartman’s Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route (2006) and Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing (2016). Both texts offer a complex and interconnected reading of the rise of ancestry testing and the implications for historical narratives.
Hartman’s and Gyasi’s texts are rooted in histories of enslavement that have been subject to racialized interpretations of ancestry and genealogy. Their texts challenge the encroaching reliance on DNA as a description of kinship and offer reckonings with the genealogy of horror that has been written into embodied code, but that remains unproven in the genome.
These texts take up the premise that the failure of genetic descriptions to give a full account of both social and biological worlds does important cultural work by challenging and dismantling an assumption that the sciences have a natural and untouchable distance from historical time. The erasure of genetic evidence and the absence of a clear definition of the term ‘genetics’ does not make the ancestry testing itself irrelevant, but rather it makes space for the recomposition of history, as traces of endurance and survival remain undocumented in a past governed by enslavement.
This is especially true in a data-fuelled present where racialized narratives of genetic ancestry are constrained by the constraints of a ‘natural’ inequality that relies on Black bodies as a resource for accumulating wealth and power. As Ruha Benjamin has argued, these practices are often ‘the new Jim Code’, wherein the ‘dead money’ that’remains’ is used to sustain and bolster ‘natural’ forms of discrimination (2019).