“Junk” is available to read for free, among my Stuff to Read pages. Go here to see it.
My second fiction sale, “Junk” is online (at least for subscribers or anyone in a library) in the “Futures” fiction feature column in Nature. I’d originally drafted it for the “Futures” series that ran to the end of 2006, but never got around to submitting it to Henry Gee in time. Happily, it was turned down by the place I’d shuffled it off to, and in the interim, the good folks at Nature had decided to relaunch the column. When I heard about the relaunch, I send it right away and the next day I was made an offer. (One I couldn’t refuse!)
There was even wonderful artwork by Jason Jarsoslav Cook, a.k.a. Jacey, who thoughtfully provided me with a version of the graphic to post here:
The roots of the story were a debate between my friend/CW classmate Guy Immega, a brilliant guy. He and I were disputing whether junk DNA is really junk or not, in the wake of discussing a story of his in which it’s assumed to be nonfunctional and used in a really novel and interesting way. We decided that the truth is somewhere between our two positions, finally — at least some noncoding DNA likely has function, but knowing what it is might be beyond us for some time to come. He sold his story to Postscripts, so I guess all in all, it was a fruitful discussion!
Update (15 June 2007): A post on a breakthrough (though it’s not such a surprise, is it?) suggesting the premise of this story was correct; junk DNA isn’t junk, it’s just poorly understood.