Children in Science Fiction

The following is a transcription of a panel about children in science fiction held at ConFuse 93. The transcription was done by Tommy Persson. To make the text more readable it was edited by Tommy Persson in some respects. Hopefully, not too many errors were introduced in this process. Panel participants were Carina Björklind (CB, moderator), Nancy Kress (NK), Mary Stanton (MS) and Jan Wallenius (JW).

CB: We are going to talk about children in science fiction or rather the lack of children. It is usually very hard to find children in science fiction books and as Nancy has phrased it, they are usually treated as furnitures with diaper. You talked about that in an interview in Locus. Could you say something?

NK: Okay, by the age forty, ninety percent of American women will have had a child. I don't know what the statistics is in Sweden but it's probably not that much different. And yet, to read science fiction, you get the impression that the entire race is not reproducing itself. Everything interesting that is being done in science fiction and fantasy is inevitably being done by people who are unencumbered by children. And as all of you who are parents know, having a child is an inconvenient thing. Just as you are about to track the villain the child wakes up and you have to nurse it.

You can't leave town because ... Even in fantasy the same thing comes up in real life. Here you are, you are off and you are slaying barbarians or dragons or whatever and the truth is that you got to stay home and do your farming because your daughter is going to need a dowry next month or she will never be able to marry anybody decent and she will have to be a serf for the rest of her life. And when you look at science fiction and fantasy you would think that the race is not reproducing itself. Look at some of the important books of the last say ten or twenty years. Consider for instance Neuromancer by William Gibson, a remarkably influential science fiction book that pretty much launched the whole cyberpunk movement. Not only has it no children to speak of, you can't even imagine children in this world. The world is an underworld, it is a down and dirty underworld.

It has got a lot of criminal activity, people are moving very fast, they are busy laundering money through several capitals of the world, they are busy stealing software from each other and plugging things in and out of their brain. There is a lot of activity and nobody wants to interrupt it because the baby has got diarrhea. My objection to this is that real life includes children and real life is more complicated than science fiction makes it in terms of family structures and finding places to put ... When was the last time you saw a starship with a day care center? And yet you can't really assume that all these people, going around space, on a five year mission, where no man has ever gone before are going to be completely child free for the whole time. I object to this and the reason that I object has to do with an assumption about what science fiction should be doing. My assumption, that I am making about science fiction is that it should be a real literature and what a real literature does, whether it is set in the past, the future, an alternate reality, a fantasy reality or whatever, is show us ourselves, show us human beings and all of our complexity, all of our messiness, all of our dreams, all of our mixed motivations, all of our total irrationality at some times and incompetent rationality at others. It shows us ourself and it gives us models to live by. I don't necessarily mean utopian models. Neuromancer is a good book, yet nobody wants to go slipping away becoming Case, the hero of that book. But it shows us a world that is at least as complex, at least as real, at least as contradictory as our own and that means it should include the complexity and the contradictions, and the mixed emotions, and the mixed motivations, and the accommodations that people's lives have to make for the presence of children.

CB: In your books you actually put in children and usually relationships between mother and daughter and things like that. But how is it with you Mary? You are also a writer, have you put in this aspect?

MS: Just for the sake of argument I'll take the opposite side of the fence here and argue that not only science fiction, which I have written in the past, but mysteries, which is what I am now writing as my main field of interest, and other types of genre literature are written to challenge the reader and make him think about new ideas but also as a matter of escape. I would pass it, just for the sake of the argument: why would you want to read about the complexities of diapers and diarrhea when what you would like to do is lose yourself in a universe where these kinds of things have been set aside for a higher adventure and a higher purpose? Not that having children and bringing them up isn't a higher purpose. Why do you need children? Why do you need children's presence in any kind of fiction?

NK: Because I don't think science fiction is an escape or should be an escape. I think that it is more important than that. Television is an escape. Look at how bad it's gotten, at least in the United States, and it's getting worse. Nobody looks at television or at least sitcoms and dramas because they think that they are going to learn something important about the way the world functions. If you want to escape have TV. Literature is too important for that to happen and I do consider science fiction to be literature. And again, I repeat, we need a model of the way the world works. This doesn't mean there have to be kids in every single book, but I am talking about the genre as a whole. We don't reflect the reality of the human situation which is that ninety percent of people will have children and children are a tremendous commitment of resources. All of you parents out there, you know how much time and energy and money and planning goes into kids. And any world that lets us escape into the possibility where that does not exist for everybody all the time is falsifying it and I don't think that is much of a useful escape or even much of an interesting escape.

MS: Well, lets define the term escape then. Nancy has two children and I have three and I really sympathize with the demand of time that children make on you and it seems to me -- I kind of hesitate to say this -- that real work in the sense of making new scientific discoveries, even real adventure, even real business, doesn't include children. There is much of the real world where the raising of children has to be shut into a particular segment of the population. Traditionally women and servants have been the ones to raise children. And it seems to me that while you are talking about integrating children into the real world of literature, that integration doesn't seem to exist in our existing world.

CB: What do you say about that Jan? You are a scientist and you are a father as well. Do you recognise children in science fiction more after you became a father?

JW: Well, I actually haven't thought about it but when you asked me to join this panel my first recollection was Aldous Huxleys Brave New World where children are grown in bottles. Some authors have treated the subject this way. They have got rid of the child problem by arranging for the society to take care of the children. They are grown in machines or they are born grown up or something like that.

NK: Let me say about that, that I think that is valid. How a society treats its children is an important component of what that society is like. In Brave New World where the children are being grown in bottles and then raised in ... That says something about a society. How a society chooses to address the raising of its children is something important about a society and that is another reason for including it in a book.

Let me answer what Mary said. It is true that business and scientific discoveries and international espionage do not of themselves include children. Probably, IBM and Xerox and Mitsubishi have not got kids scampering through the halls in their headquarters. Probably, international spies and terrorists are not logging their children along while they are doing what it is they have to do. And I will agree with you, and especially in a short story or a novelette or a novella where you are focusing on one aspect of the world (that is what makes it a short story). There you've selected and rearranged the world into a convenient pattern for the story and leaving out something as important as how the society handle children is certainly valid for that. But a novel is something else again. One of the functions of a science fiction novel is to give us an overview of the whole society, whatever it is, of that novel. And an important part of this society is how it raises its children which are essentially the future. Politicians are always saying that our children are our future and it is the truth, they are. And how a society treats children as a whole says something very important. Those scenes in Brave New World of decanting and the bottles going down the line as they are treated mechanically are a very important part of it. And in some of the best science fiction novels, or what I consider to be the best ones, of the last twenty-five years the question of how the society as a whole treat children (not necessarily the individual characters in the book, they may be childless, some people are) is an important component in the whole thing. For instance look at Ursula K. LeGuins The Dispossessed. Possibly one of the finest science fiction novels ever written. She spends a lot of time explaining how the planet Anarres has integrated child raising into the rest of its social structure. Children live in their own separate dorms or creches, they go to school and they learn many different things, any facet of the society. It is not a formal academic rigid program and they work as apprentices in various different things. So they find a niche for themselves as they move on and they became adapt in this work. And this says something about the fact that work in Anarres is undifferentiated, that everybody does pretty much a little bit of everything except those jobs that require highly differentiated skills like music and physics where you have to study for years. And because children are integrated in all of the wide spectrum of jobs it reflects the integration of the whole society into a wide spectrum of jobs, where you might make soap one day and lay pipes the next day and go out to do some farming the next day, unlike our society which is highly specialized. And it is an important component and the same is true of many good novels. I don't think you can leave it out in a novel.

CB: I think it reflects the society and science fiction is supposed to maybe predict the future.

Audience (Calle Dybedahl): Two years ago Stableford likened science fiction to a moral laboratory. A place where the author can experiment and research moral choices and ethics in situations which does not occur in normal society. I think that is a reason why children normally don't show up because if an author is experimenting with the morality of something that does not concern children, his book will not contain children. And most authors are men which traditionally, in our culture, does not have very much contact with children so they will naturally choose areas where there are no children, to write about.

NK: I like the phrase ''a moral laboratory''. I like that a lot. But I also think it carries some implications. Morality implies that you are looking at something larger than just what you are doing right there. For instance, it is possible to look at say genocide, say invent a virus that is capable of wiping out an entire country's worth of population. It is possible to look at it only scientifically saying I engineered the virus to do this and I engineered the virus to do that. If I am going to look at it morally though I have to look at all aspects of what that virus is going to do and all consequences. The idea of fiction as a moral laboratory, seems to me, only reinforces the fact that you need children, because children do represent a society's future and surely any aspect of any moral issue is its consequences on the future. And frankly, I think that if the majority of writers in science fiction that are men, and in the United States about sixty-five percent of SFWA are male, are leaving out children in this grand moral design because they have not had much contact with them themselves, then I don't think that it is a strength. I think it is weakness. I think it is an indictment not only of science fiction but also of the way children are raised and the way work is differentiated in effect that fathers are not sufficiently involved. I don't want to make blanket statements because I know some very involved fathers, but it is the system that isolates men from there children.

CB: But isn't there a problem if the men write science fiction about technology and the female authors write science fiction which involves emotion and children and all this? Then we preserve the traditional pattern that men take care of all the technical stuff.

MS: First of all I think I would take issue with the distinction -- perhaps it's a real one as science fiction is evolving -- with men simply addressing the technological scientific breakthrough issues and women looking at the more intuitive side of things. I think that Nancy's own work is an example of scientific and technological forecasting being integrated with the intuitive character driven novels as opposed to plot driven novels. The writer in me really says wait, it isn't that there are gender specific ways of addressing fictional tasks. On the other hand, Carina, you are probably stating a reality which is that in the United States science fiction in the thirties and forties was written predominantly by men who had as their task intellectual and scientific issues. And I can't think of one story up until Nancy began writing in the early eighties, except for Ursula K. LeGuin who predated her, where the author addressed full universal human issues integrating science, technology and family into one thing. What you are expressing is a reality which I hope is a reality of the past.

CB: Me too.

NK: My guest of honor speech tomorrow night is on women in American science fiction and I am going to touch on some of these issues so I do not want to say too much on those issues right now. But let me back up a little to something you said before. I think another reason (I just feel like I am fighting alone here) that I think it is important to include depiction of how children are handled in a society in science fiction novels

is because I think science fiction should be character driven. What I mean by that is that I think the people in science fiction, whether they are male or female, should be as fully realised as complete real human beings, as characters in mainstream writing or as any of you are, characters in real life. For example, a person has a child and he is a man who only goes home and sees his children very briefly a few times a week, just think of an extreme case, the 1950 American male who leaves completely the raising of the children to his wife and sees them perhaps at dinner and a maybe a few hours on Saturday and has very little to do with them until they are grown up at which point he realises that he never knew his children and regrets it bitterly. Even in that case a large portion of energy, his financial resources, his planning will be for his children. He will plan to send them to university, he will plan how they are going to have a career, he will plan on what it is that he can do for them, he will be spending a large portion of his income on raising them and all of this will change his thinking. I don't mean that every character in every science fiction novel has to be a mother or a father. I know a lot of people who don't have children. For writers especially, the percentage is much higher than it is for the normal American population. I would say fully half of the writers I know are childless by choice. So I am not saying that every person in a novel has to be a parent but when no important characters in the novel are parents, then what you have done is you have falsified the human condition and you have missed the chance to develop a really full characterization of the society and of the people, because when we become parents we change as all of you who have children know. Over time you find that you are thinking for two people or three people or four people and not just for yourself, and that changes the way you look at the world, it changes the way you look at the future. And to leave that out of all the major characters in a science fiction novel is not to reproduce human reality in a way that is as fully, as rich, as it can be and as it needs to be. Just because science fiction is about science or adventure or whatever, which it is, I am not denying that, does not excuse writers from using it as a moral laboratory which means that you have to include all of the important aspects of being human and certainly parenthood is one those.

Audience (Holger Eliasson): Why stop at children, why not create perfect description of a future society? Why not include environmental issues? Why not include law? Crime?

NK: A really good science fiction novel will include those things. It will be done by implication. The environmental issues will be there because we will see people moving around the planet and you can't not put the environmental issues in. For instance, can they breathe or do they have to put on an oxygen mask when they go outside. Is there enough food or is it severely rationed. Those are all environmental issues and they will be there. Is it a highly technological culture or are there plants. And if there aren't any plants, how are the animals eating and how are the people eating? You can't not include environmental issues. You can't not include law because for one thing you have to imply whether or not people are breaking the law. Even the simplest adventure novel has got to include that. Is what these people are doing legal or are they likely to take heat for it? You got to by implication include these things. That doesn't mean you stop the story dead for paragraphs of explanation because if you do, you are probably dead as a writer. But it is there by implication. Law, how people go to the bathroom -- you may not actually see anybody doing this and in fact I'd rather not. How is waste handled and what technological level is there? I remember one of the most interesting and telling little details in 2001, the movie, which I saw when it came out in 1969, and was blown away with. This guy goes into a low gravity toilet and there is a long list of explanations, because when you think about it you realise this is going to be tough without gravity. It was just a little detail but it added a richness.

CB: A good example, which you mentioned in the interview, is Bruce Sterling's Islands in the Net. What you said was that before he became a father there were no children in his books. But after he became a father this changed. In Islands in the Net they are tossing this baby all around.

NK: Yes, I like Islands in the Net very much. I like almost anything Bruce writes, but particularly Islands in the Net for this reason. The couple which gets involved in international espionage does have a baby along for the first third of the book. And it is very inconvenient. They are touring an enormous former battleship which has been converted into a floating food station. It is using algae and other food from the sea, and converting them into something that is edible for human beings. And they tour this food station, and while they do this they got the baby in its infancy and it has to be changed, and they got to take turns carrying it, and there wasn't enough diapers brought along, and one thing and another. It lended a level of realism, and then one of them has to go to Africa on a really dangerous mission and the question comes up: which one? Somebody has to go back to Texas with the baby and somebody has to go ahead and go to Africa. They can't go together because nobody in there right mind would lug a baby along on an international terrorist mission. So it is a real decision and there are real consequences. It's the woman Laura who goes on the mission and when she comes back, considerably later than she expected, a matter of years, her daughter who is no longer an infant doesn't know her, doesn't recognise her, and in fact has been raised by her husband who has grown away from her and her mother and has become somebody different then Laura would have raised her herself. And it's heartbreaking, it's the most heartbreaking scene in the book, and it's also a very real scene, and it lends a depth to the scientific part and the adventure part that a lot of other books like Neuromancer completely lack. I think Islands in the Net is a much better book. It didn't get the attention, it's not flashy like Gibson's Neuromancer, but I think it's a much better book, probably for that reason. Of course you are certainly free to disagree with me.

MS: I think your question really raises something that perhaps we should just comment on. In current fiction which is set in the present, such as mystery or horror or mainstream fiction, there is a whole lot of assumptions that you can make about the society that you know the reader is going to understand. Among those things are: what is the legal system, how are the ecological issues handled and how are children handled? When you are reading fiction not concerning the future then there seem to me that the mark of a high quality novel is that all of those things have been taken into consideration, in the novelist mind if nowhere else. We are not talking about having a large proportion of science fiction containing scenes containing children. Just that a science fiction novel of the future in addition to considering what's the law and all these things that make a real universe also includes how you talk about the kids and what you do with the kids, because nobody can create a universe without children, it isn't a real universe.

CB: I think an illustrative example is Aliens where there is a child which Ripley has to save. In the original film, before they cut it, in the beginning we see the base where the marines go, but we see it bustling with life. People are working there and there are lots of children because there are families there. You see small kids on three-wheeled bicycles and they are in the computer room and someone comes in and say: ''you can't have the children here'', and that is just marvelous. Here are really happy families and then they find this crashed space ship with the monster in it and the next scene is when Ripley is contacted because they have lost contact with the base. The film as shown in the cinema starts with Ripley returning and she is contacted because they have lost contact with the base. And then this child turns up from nowhere because they arrived at an empty base. There are no people there and because we never saw this base bustling with life we didn't get the shock effect that you get when you see the un-cut version. It wasn't so important with children and all this so they just cut it out.

NK: I think it is changing though. Look at the two Star Treks. In the original Star Trek with Captain Kirk and Mr Spock there were almost never any children and there certainly weren't any on the Enterprise. They went around doing their thing around the galaxy. You hardly ever saw a child unless it was on a planet where they happened to put in. The current Star Trek series Deep Space Nine -- it has just started on television this past season -- is a Star Trek show and it has that Star Trek look and that Star Trek feel although there are different characters. It takes place on a space station which once belonged to aliens who have abandoned it. The federation is taking it over and the person who is in charge of running it is Captain Benjamin Ciscoe. A lot of alien races come here to re-fuel and then they pass on so it is sort of a crossways of the galaxy. The commander of the space station, Captain Benjamin Ciscoe, has a son eleven year old. His wife is dead and he is raising this son himself on the space station. There are other children on the space station too. As a result there is a school and there is day care arrangements and although this is in the background it makes the Deep Space Nine feel more like a future the human race might eventually have than the original Star Trek. It is true that the Enterprise in the original Star Trek was a military ship and you don't generally have children running around a military ship. However it's also true that we don't assign our military to one ship without getting them off for five years, without them coming back to their families for five solid years. It seems to me that if you have people out there for five solid years, people are going to get married, children are going to be born and families are going to be formed. None of that was happening on the Enterprise. On Deep Space Nine it is. And I think that it is a better show for that. So I think it is starting to change. Hallelujah!

Audience: In the American series V, the solution was that there were two children born. One was defective or dead and the other was alive. It was a girl with some paranormal powers and that was, I think, a very unusual solution to the series so I wonder if you think it was a difficult way to solve the problem or ... How do you think about that as a writer? You have to solve the problem that you have sex between different races, that must work, and you have this idea of having a child born that ended the series so my idea was that it was not a very easy way ...

NK: I didn't see V. I saw the first few couple of episodes and I didn't like it. So you have to ask Mary because she saw it.

Audience: Do you think there was a lot of argument before they come up with this solution?

MS: Did you think it was a cheap solution an easy solution? I thought it was a good one.

Audience: No, I think it was a quite complicated way to end.

MS: This baby was the merging of the two races and I thought that ...

Audience: There were two babies. One was defective in some way. The other one was a girl and she sort of saved the whole Earth.

MS: That is sort of a Christian theme in the sense that there is a child that shall solve the conflict and bring the races forward together. I thought it was a good conclusion. I don't think that that is using children in quite the way that we have been discussing up until now because up until now we have been discussing the lack of children in the creation of science fiction novels as being a vulnerability. It isn't a real world until you consider the children. But this seems to me as an example where like the biblical phrase ''and the little child shall lead them''. This was, a little child shall lead them to a better, happier resolution of this conflict. I liked this series very much because I like that kind of adventure science fiction and I saw it all the way through. A friend of ours wrote the novelisation and I bought it and read it and liked it very much. I though it was good, I thought it was a worthwhile resolution, and I thought it was a good use of the child. I don't like to see science fiction novels where children are held in threat because I think that is a cheap and easy way to get the readers' interest. But that is a third issue altogether, where you have some innocent kid who is being held in jeopardy just to keep the action going. I think that is tacky. Well, did I answer your question?

Audience: Yes.

MS: I frequently don't.

CB: We mentioned earlier that men haven't much to do traditionally with the children so male authors may have a tendency to just ignore children in their writing. But actually, there have been a lot of novels and short stories which have touched on the theme in Brave New World where they try to get rid of the replication. Either they try to produce children without a woman in an artificial womb or you try to clone people or something. That is another question of course. That seems to have been one way of trying to deal with this, we don't want children and how could we get rid of the process altogether? As a technical problem.

NK: I think that is a legitimate use of science fiction though. If it is a moral laboratory it is also a laboratory for the limits of science. Things we can't do yet but we probably will be able to do eventually. If we can do these things, how will we use them in terms of reproduction, is certainly a valid approach for science fiction to take. One of my favourite science fiction novels is Kate Wilhelm's Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang which is about cloning and in this version most of the population of the United States has been wiped out. Of what is left, a lot of the population is sterile. They expect that eventually the entire population will be sterile. To ensure that the race doesn't die out, they are trying to develop cloning so babies can be cloned from existing people. And they do do this. They develop cloning and it goes through I think six or seven generations where they will clone three or four of you and then from each of those they will clone three or four. But what happens is, as she develops the novel, something is lost. Without the mixing up of the genes you don't get the regrouping that leads to individuality and without the high level of individuality that human beings have you loose originality and creativity and diversity. And by the time they are in their seventh or eighth generation they have a real problem. I wont give it away because I want you to read the book because it is wonderful. And that is a valid approach, that is scientist cautionary tale. If we do this, if we depart from what is normal for human beings, disaster lies ahead. That's one message science fiction has.

I think the opposite when I write. These kinds of things are inevitable and it may be that there are better ways to reproduce and improve the race than we currently are using and maybe there is not. But whether they are better or not, they are on their way so we might as well accept them. For instance, genetic engineering. My novel Beggars in Spain just came out a few months ago in the United States from Avon. The novella version came out three years ago, and the novel version takes the story through another two or three generations. The premise here is that in the future it is possible, using in vitro fertilisation, to choose the genes for your children for some characteristics. Not everything of course because the human gene obviously is very complicated but you can choose some appearance characteristics. If you for instance want your child to be tall and have blue eyes and red hair, this is easily arranged. You can have a predisposition towards musical ability, you can't guarantee the child to be musical but a predisposition towards it can be arranged. If you want a high IQ -- this is genetically controlled, at least largely genetically controlled -- it can be put into the genes. What comes out in the novel is that a new genetic modification has just been developed which is that people don't have to sleep at all, ever. There are some evolutionary theories that say that sleep may in fact not be necessary to the human brain. We may sleep because it is a holdover from a time when it kept us safe, when there were a lot of predators around and to be able to be out of the way during the nocturnal hour,s when most of those predators were roaming, was an advantage to us. And the reason that we dream is that it wouldn't be an evolutionary advantage to go in too deep a sleep because when a predator comes up and starts gnawing your arm off you want to be able to be awake and notice this so that you can stop it. So we dream so that the brain can be bombarded from the limbic system and from the brain stem. It bombards the cortex to keep us only lightly asleep so that if you are attacked you will wake up. That means that the whole thing can be eliminated without causing any real damage. One theory says you sleep because a chemical accumulates in your brain that forces you to sleep. If you don't, and sleep deprivation experiments show this, sleep for a long enough time you start to have psychotic episodes. But it could be that this is because of accumulation of a certain kind of neural transmitters in the brain that we haven't yet identified. So if you genetically engineer people so this doesn't happen, they never have to sleep. Now what happens to my people who never have to sleep? First of all they gain an extra third of life, an extra eight hours over all the rest of us. Secondly they have a boost in intelligence because -- this is my theory now remember, I can do it anyway I want -- they are not having their brain stems bombarded for eight hours by irrelevant messages while they are dreaming. So this as a side effect turns out to boost intelligence. There are other side effects too. But what happens essentially is that you create a race of genetically superior people, not quite super-men but they certainly are genetically superior to us norms and the next generation gets even more so and the one after that even more so. And you can see this is going to cause trouble, and it does, because for one thing it is a very expensive genetic modification, so the only people that can have it built-in in vitro are those who have enough money or enough connections with the scientific establishment in order to do it. And since these children are already advantaged by having parents who have got some money and some connections you eventually end up with a gap between the haves and the have nots which the United States is already suffering from at a tremendous amount. And you end up with political unrest and you end up with all kinds of social consequences. The reason I told you the whole plot of my novel is not because I think you should all read it, although of course I do think you should all read it, it is because children are used in this novel not because they are cute and not because they are important, although they are important to a society, but because when you are writing about the projection into the future, children are often the way you get there whether it's through cloning or genetic modification or whatever. And so I think that is another legitimate use of children in science fiction. It is the next generation that has to deal with this or the one after that or the one after that. How will they do it?

CB: I think it is very important that authors address these questions because even today it is possible to discover inherited diseases and I know that in some countries they dispose of female foetuses and things like that. I think in the future it's very possible that it will be hard to get insurance and things like that if you have an inherited disease. And we might have the opposite problem that only the rich are able to produce children if they have a disease in their family.

It's very hard to know what will be possible in the future with genetic engineering because we don't know where the limits are yet. I think it is very good that authors explore this as you have done.

NK: Twenty years ago, twenty-five years ago, Larry Niven said, maybe it is as much as thirty years ago, he said to -- not to the science fiction audience which already knew it -- the audience of the larger world press: there is an organ bank in your future, there will be a time when we can transplant kidneys and hearts and livers and you will have to decide who gets them and who doesn't. And of course the mainstream medical community said: oh, that is just science fiction, that is just those crazy guys out there. And now of course this is a genuine issue. Who gets organs, can you buy them, can you afford them, how are they allocated, who gets them and who doesn't? In the United States not that long ago a two year old child was dying of a liver disease and needed a liver transplant. Her father had a lot of media connections and he went on the television and said that his child was going to die if he didn't get a liver for her and the donor came this way through and the child lived. But the father of another two year old, who does not have that kind of media access, cannot do that. Niven said that thirty years ago. I say to you, twenty years from know or twenty-five or thirty years there is genetic engineering. It is in your future, it is there, and there will have to be some laws, and some vote of preferences and some decisions made at some point. It will be a issue in your lifetime.

Audience (Jessica Santesson): Some days when my daughter is having a bad day, screaming a lot, all day through, being really bad, I can't help thinking about Edgar Rice Burroughs and his books about John Carter. I mean it is quite a practical having children at Mars where they have eggs where they grove them and they come out all grown up.

NK: Gregory Benford wrote a very amusing and wickedly satiric short story called ''Freeze Frame'' in which he has a sort of cupboard or closet which is in stasis. Time does not pass in a stasis. And he has this yuppie couple who both has careers. They are very busy and they have a high powered social life and they have a child. And when it turns out that neither of them has time for the child they just put him in stasis for a while. And it turns out they are ready to retire and they realize the kid is only two years old. They are seventy and they have a two year old because they spent their entire time and never had time for him. And it is a wicked satire, I mean the importance or this case the non-importance of children to this particular lifestyle.

CB: Arthur C. Clarke has written a book that in Swedish is called Delfinön (Dolphin Island) where you have a child that is raised more or less by a computer and there are no grownups around. You get the impression that there are grownups but you never meet any of them which is also a very strange situation. We have only a few minutes left if you want to make any more comments or a round up?

NK: Any more question from the audience in the last few minutes? Comments?

Audience: Do you think it is changing? Are there more children in quality science fiction now then there were ten years ago?

NK: Yes, I really really do. I think it is changing a lot. I think the influx of women into the field, which again is something I am going to talk about in my guest of honor speech, has made a tremendous difference. Again I am speaking of American science fiction which is the only one I can really talk about. I think that the women's movement in the United States, despite all the yelling and screaming and shouting at it's cause, has also raised everybody's consciousness so that even male writers are beginning to put a lot more attention to procreated issues in there books. And yes, I do think it is changing. Things like Alien and Aliens, what this comes down to is a battle between two women at the end, the alien woman and the human woman, for their children. She is protecting her eggs, which just happens to be ripening in human beings, sort of disgusting, and the human is trying to protect this child that she has adopted. And you have two strong women fighting it out to the death. You never would have seen that in science fiction twenty or forty years ago when male writers where handling it. I think it is definitely changing, and I think it is a change for the good and not only because I happen to be a woman but because I think we can have depiction as I've said of real societies that way.

CB: We have to finish here.

NK: Thank you. You have been a good audience.

LSFF:s hemsida