Blood Music Essay - Critical Essays

Greg Bear


Greg Bear’s topics range from fantasy to pure science fiction, and they generally demand that his protagonist come to a new understanding of the universe. During the 1980’s, Bear won the Nebula Award twice, for the novella “Hard Fought” (1983) and for the short story “Tangents” (1986), and the Hugo Award (1984) for the short story “Blood Music,” published in Analog. He has stated that Blood Music, his seventh novel, was influenced by his study of information theory and information mechanics. Upon the suggestion of David Brin and John F. Carr, Bear decided to expand “Blood Music,” adding complexity with chapters devoted to new char-acters.

Much in the manner that James Blish’s A Case of Conscience (1958) uses a fictional Jesuit astrophysicist to raise ethical questions regarding the individual moral systems of other galaxies, Bear builds his story on the writings of the actual Jesuit paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who combined Christian theology and evolutionary theory to posit Jesus Christ both as temporal and as a timeless symbol for the final step of evolution, which he described as a “noosphere.” Bear is not directly theological, though he works with the idea of a creator; his basic debt to Teilhard is the notion of a critical mass of thinkers somehow transcending space and time and bringing into existence what amounts to a new heaven and a new Earth.

Bear’s novel has been called a Childhood’s End (Arthur C. Clarke, 1953) for the 1980’s, and the comparison seems apt. Theodore Sturgeon’s More than Human (1953) also comes immediately to mind as a source for comparison. Blood Music follows in the tradition of science-fiction writing that ponders the possibility that Homo sapiens may not be the final word in nature’s self-expression. Bear’s novel shows a greater scientific sophistication than Clarke’s earlier work, focusing in convincing detail on the actual biological mechanisms used in laboratories of the 1980’s and 1990’s. It suggests that the human need to see humanity as the center of the biological universe is as egotistical as humanity’s earlier notion that Earth was the center of the galaxy. As threatening as the notion of absorption into a larger community is to Bear’s characters, he does his best to convince them, and his readers, that individual subjectivity may go the way of nation-states. In its place will come a cooperative assertion of racial memory.