Ian R. MacLeod’s “New Light on the Drake Equation”

I’m currently working on a review of Robert J. Sawyer’s Rollback for the journal Foundation. I’ve been looking for stories that relate to the two main elements of Rollback: 1) radio communication with a distant alien world, and 2) the disconnect between artificially created generation gaps (two old people, one made to look young, the other not).

I had forgotten about Ian R. MacLeod’s “New Light on the Drake Equation” (2001). As I wrote in my review of Gardner Dozois’ Best of the Best Volume 2: 20 Years of the Best Short Science Fiction Novels (which includes MacLeod’s story) in SFRA Review:

“New Light on the Drake Equation” is the warmest piece of the nanotech stories. It features a scientist listening to the sky for signs of alien intelligence who lives in a world impacted by commercial nanotech used for altering the mind and body for such ends as bird-like flight and overcoming alcohol addiction. The story is about the transformation of humanity into the aliens sought by the scientist, and breaching the gulf between those most alien to us–lovers, friends, and other cultures.

Of course, I’ll also talk about Carl Sagan’s novel Contact. If you can think of other stories that engage either or both of the two themes above that I should look at, please post them in the comments.

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