The Meiosis of Cells and Exile

asimovsI have a new story out!

“The Meiosis of Cells and Exile” is a novelette about the Soviet scientist Lina Stern. It’s just been published in the latest issue of Asimov’s.

I enjoy mixing science history and speculative fiction, and “Meiosis” is an example of this. Lina Stern (1878-1968) was a biochemist and director of the Physiology Unit in the Academy of Sciences. She was also a member of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, and Stalin was not impressed. Free speech was not something he found to be a priority, and the scientists and writers making up the Committee disagreed – to their very great cost. 15 members of the Committee were arrested and imprisoned for several years before being sentenced to death in a political show trial. Most were executed in 1952 in what came to be known as The Night of the Murdered Poets.

Lina was the only survivor, saved by her scientific talent and sent into exile in Kazakhstan instead. She was in her seventies at the time, and my story tells of her travel into that exile, fuming with what has been done to her and the rest of the Committee.

There’s (kind of) a happy ending to all that horror. Lina, despite her age, survived both Stalin and the miserable torturing bastard who imprisoned her and the rest of the League. She came back out of exile and spent the next 14 years of her very long life working for science, heading up the Physiology Department again at the Biophysics Institute.

It’s an apt story to be out at the moment, I reckon. Have been on Twitter the last few days, watching accounts from the Badlands National Park and NASA go rogue on climate change, tweeting science facts even though they’re under significant pressure not to. Scientists have the responsibility to speak truth to power, and I reckon Lina would have agreed.

(If you’re interested in reading more, Lina Stern also turns up as a supporting character in my short (free!) novel The August Birds.)

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2 comments

  1. I remember her appearance in The August Birds! Sad as it was.
    Your new story does indeed seem very timely. I heard yesterday that scientists at the EPA, here in the US, are now required to submit all reports, including scientific papers, for review by the new administration to ensure they are in line with their way of thinking (if indeed they do think at all) on such issues as climate change. As you say, now more than ever scientists have a responsibility to ensure that the truth prevails.

    1. Chilling, isn’t it. And Australia has been doing some pretty dodgy things around scientists and climate change for the past year or two as well. The rot doesn’t seem to have come to New Zealand as yet, but no-one had better lay their grubby hands on any of our national parks, is all I can say. Really feel for the US scientists in EPA and the Park Service right now. NASA as well.

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