Thursday, January 28, 2010

Heredity and Destiny

TIME magazine of January 18 contained an article on "Why Your DNA Isn't Your Destiny":


It explains how, through the action of cell components called epigenetic markers, which tell genes when to switch on or off, an individual's environment, diet, and life experiences can shape the traits passed down to offspring. This is a huge departure from the long-established Darwinian belief than environment has no effect on heredity. It turns out that, to some extent, the discredited theory of Lamarck—who championed the notion of inheritance of acquired characteristics—might have been right.

This news should interest horror and fantasy writers because it provides a mechanism for a scientific explanation of vampirism, lycanthropy, or zombification (if you treat those conditions as contagious) as caused by a virus that creates a permanent, inheritable alteration in the victim's DNA.

Speaking of vampirism as disease, by the way, has anyone else read THE STRAIN, by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan? It's horror as well as SF, and very grim, but worth reading—the most ingenious treatment of that theme I've read in a long time.

Margaret L. Carter
Carter's Crypt


  1. The Heroine in my current WIP wrestles with all this and figures something else out about the critters after her.

    I tell ya, it's quite challenging writing a character who's a heck of a lot smarter than me!

  2. Yes, it's turning out that genes are far more plastic than was once thought.

    Take cancer, for example. Many forms may be caused by genetic mutations induced by infections like viruses.

    With cancer, the person doesn't usually live long enough to reproduce, but surely there are other virus induced mutations that aren't fatal, and that are passed on.

    So where does that lead?

    Sime~Gen. ( )

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg