Life Beyond Us, a new anthology by the European Astrobiology Institute and Laksa Media, depicts the timeless quest for finding alien life in 27 science fiction stories by award-winning authors and 27 essays by scientists. Its goal? To bring science closer to the public, entertain and simultaneously aid science understanding and critical thinking.
Ever since the days of Shelley, Verne or Wells, science fiction has been inspired by science and inspired scientists in turn. Its power of imagination, use of narrative and its popularity make the genre especially suited for raising interest in science. A newly published anthology Life Beyond Us aims to achieve this goal with a novel approach of mixing original science fiction (SF) stories revolving around astrobiology, written by world-renowned authors, with accessible science essays by experts addressing a topic in each story.
The story-essay combination blends entertainment and scientific knowledge to arouse curiosity, carrying the reader to the boundary between science and SF. Effective science communication and critical thinking support are more than essential nowadays, and Life Beyond Us seeks to foster them and entertain at the same time. Educators and outreach professionals wishing to use Life Beyond Us in class will be able to download accompanying educational materials on the European Astrobiology Institute (EAI) website.
The book has been co-edited by SF author and evolutionary biologist Julie Nováková, who co-leads the outreach working group of the EAI, and the book’s publisher Laksa Media editors Lucas K. Law and Susan Forest, who produced critically acclaimed anthologies such as Where The Stars Rise and The Sum of Us. Its contributors include award-winning authors such as Mary Robinette Kowal, Eugen Bacon and Gregory Benford, with an introduction by Stephen Baxter, and science essays by experts from national space agencies, universities and scientific institutions across the globe, who present topics ranging from planetary protection to robotic space exploration, exomoons, space agriculture or water world habitability, all the way to xenolinguistics or SETI.
Life Beyond Us is the second astrobiological SF anthology by EAI, following Strangest of All, the “proof-of-concept” e-book anthology of reprint SF stories and original essays by Julie Nováková. With thousands of downloads, positive reception and use as a science teaching material, the book showed the merit of such outreach approach. To publish Life Beyond Us, EAI teamed up with Laksa Media, an award-winning Canadian publisher with a unique model of helping a cause via each book it publishes; in this case, science education.
EAI was founded in 2019 to support research, education and outreach in astrobiology across Europe and beyond. With NASA’s Perseverance on Mars, private science missions planned to launch toward Venus and elsewhere, closer exploration of the icy moons on the horizon and exciting exoplanet discoveries practically on a daily basis, astrobiology is a booming scientific field bound to create general interest, and SF is a perfect tool to bring it closer to the public and let people feel the curiosity and joy of discovery at the core of science and SF.
Life Beyond Us is being published in paperback, hardcover and e-book formats, and is available at all major online retailers as well as selected brick-and-mortar bookstores. The anthology is going to be presented at EAI’s Biennial European Astrobiology Conference (BEACON), ComicCon Prague, MetropolCon Berlin and other in-person, hybrid and online events. It’s available here.