Reproduction in F&SF

Mark Pottenger


This is a list I worked up in response to a question about reproduction in F&SF.



Biological constructs. Some stories assume manufacture, some assume biological reproduction after first generation manufacture.


Many stories assume working cloning of humans.


Integral to many SF stories. Colonies vary from very tightly tied to the parent population to completely cut loose.


Are copies as good as originals. Several authors have written about transportation systems that destroy the original version of an object or person and transmit information used to construct a copy at the destination. Some stories get into the question of whether doing this with people constitutes murder and creation of doppelgangers. The World Swappers by John Brunner. Way Station by Clifford D. Simak. Venus Equilateral by George O. Smith. The Star Trek series.


Birds that get other birds to hatch their eggs & feed their young.

Various stories use the idea/analogy.

Doppelgangers, Golems, Fetches, Spirit Doubles:

These are all ideas from myth or folklore used in F&SF.


Reproduction and immortality are often linked issues in stories.

Some assume immortality must be linked to sterility, others assume immortality will lead to severe population problems.


Insects provide many models (eat mate, eat host, cocoon, metamorphosis, etc.) that authors use or build on.


Some authors use this as a method of achieving exact physical reproduction of anything.


Many stories have explored various ramifications.


Reproduction by manufacture.


Various stories with parasites, intelligent and not.

Quantity or quality:

Many species of animals produce numerous spawn that suffer high attrition.

Other species like birds produce a few eggs per breeding season & guard them.

The mammal model produces a few offspring after growth in the mother.

The marsupial model is a variation.

In plants, spores are numerous.

Seeds, especially in fruits, are less numerous.

Some plants only reproduce asexually (runners, cuttings).

All of these models from Earth life are used and varied in SF.

Self-replicating star probes and robots:

These have been explored in speculative science articles and SF stories.


Several authors have explored various forms of symbiosis.

Uploads to super networks:

Several authors have used this shift from biology to technology.


Some stories suggest that vampirism is an infection, some that people can be magically changed into vampires, some that they are a separate race.


Several varieties plant eggs in paralyzed prey insects which the growing young eat.

Various stories use the idea/analogy.


Made by conversion of normal organisms.

Specific stories

The Seedling Stars by James Blish:

Humanity spreads by creating human descendants adapted to each planet.

The Uplift War series by David Brin explores interference with evolution.

“The Vitanuls” by John Brunner:

A short story about the supply of human souls running out when world population hit a certain level.

Sten series by Chris Bunch & Allan Cole (Sten, The Wolf Worlds, The Court of a Thousand Suns, Fleet of the Damned, Revenge of the Damned, The Return of the Emperor, Vortex, Empire's End):

A character alive from 20th century to story set 2 or 3 thousand years later. Cloning and transmission of experiences/memories.

Patternmaster series by Octavia E. Butler (Patternmaster, Mind of My Mind, Clay’s Ark):

People bred for psionic talents by an person living for thousands of years by taking over host bodies.

The Childe Cycle by Gordon R. Dickson:

A long future history with humanity splintering based on personality fragments with an eventual merging of fragments due in the future.

Sorcerer’s Son by Phyllis Eisenstein:

A child fathered on a woman by a summoned demon, but the sperm is actually from the summoning sorcerer.

Humanx Commonwealth series by Alan Dean Foster:

Several stories include reproductive strategies of various species. “Snake Eyes” explores a cross-species link in raising young. Flinx in Flux explores the biota of Longtunnel. Midworld has several unique life-forms.

Conrad Stargard series by Leo Frankowski (The Cross-Time Engineer, The High-Tech Knight, The Radiant Warrior, The Flying Warlord, Lord Conrad's Lady, Conrad's Quest for Rubber, Conrad's Time Machine, Lord Conrad's Crusade, Conrad's Last Campaign):

The neo-horses and wenches created by the time-traveling civilization are versions of horses and people with full control over their own reproduction. The don’t reproduce until the decide to, then they produce sets of 4 offspring with full imprinted memory of the parent up to the moment of birth. The children are either clones of the parent or parthenogenetic daughters.

The Man Who Folded Himself by David Gerrold:

Several versions of a person interacting through time loops.

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman:

A distant future in which most of humanity is a very limited gene pool.

“All You Zombies” by Robert A. Heinlein:

Several versions of a person through time loops.

Double Star by Robert A. Heinlein:

Intelligent partially vegetable Martians who reproduce by budding.

Lazarus Long books by Robert A. Heinlein (Methuselah’s Children, The Past Through Tomorrow, Time Enough for Love, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, To Sail Beyond the Sunset, other books & stories):

The “Howard Families” are the result of encouraging naturally long-lived families to breed together, starting in the 1800s & lasting for several centuries.

Cloning and assembly of new people from selected chromosomes and transfer of computer intelligences to human bodies down the timeline.

The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein:

Mind-controlling alien parasites.

Philip E. High:

Many of his books include a perfect mate theme, explained as a mechanism by which people recognize their ideal genetic match. It is probably most clearly presented in The Prodigal Sun.

Code of the Lifemaker and The Immortality Option by James P. Hogan:

A mechanical ecology with evolving machines.

“Hybrid” by Keith Laumer:

Psionic tree species that manipulates carrier species.

Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey:

Genetically engineered “dragons” with clutches of eggs laid by queen after mating flight with dominant male. Telepathically linked to humans.

“A Womanly Talent” by Anne McCaffrey:

Psionic talent to manipulate genes of one’s own offspring at conception.

Flight from Rebirth by J. T. McIntosh:

“Rebirth” technology that takes old people with high potential and turns them into biological teenagers with no memory of the previous lifetime.

The Anything Tree by John Rackham:

Psionic tree with seeds that grow into whatever the people planting them expect.

Time to Live by John Rackham:

Personalities “reincarnated” into new bodies through technology.

Berserker series by Fred Saberhagen:

Self-replicating intelligent spacecraft inimical to most forms of life.

Agent of Vega by James H. Schmitz:

Several alien races in a well-populated galaxy.

Hub series by James H. Schmitz:

Many races, including psionic trees that took over several planets & modify any other organism to be dependent on them & eventually die out.

“The Screwfly Solution” by Raccoona Sheldon

Short story about aliens blocking human reproduction (pest control).

Time & Again by Clifford D. Simak:

Novel about every living thing having a soul companion from birth.

Skylark series by Edward E. “Doc” Smith (The Skylark of Space, Skylark Three, Skylark of Valeron, Skylark Duquesne):

Most intelligent races with two sexes, but one using fission, in a universe full of inhabited planets. Spores distributed through universe. Virtual reproduction of people through technology allowing remote projections.

Lensmen series by Edward E. “Doc” Smith (Triplanetary, First Lensman, Galactic Patrol, Gray Lensman, Second Stage Lensmen, Children of the Lens, Masters of the Vortex):

Many intelligent races with various reproductive strategies (two sexes, mostly male, mostly female, many sexes, asexual, fission) in two galaxies full of inhabited planets. Most races in two galaxies descended from one ancient race.

Masters of Space by Edward E. “Doc” Smith:

Has a form of android with a Guide brain used during creation.

Warlock series by Christopher Stasheff:

“Witch moss” on the planet Gramarye takes the form of organisms vividly visualized by nearly witches or warlocks. Once it takes a form, the form breeds true, populating Gramarye with elves, brownies, etc.

Null-A series by A. E. van Vogt (The World of Null-A, The Players of Null-A, Null-A Three):

One character with several (cloned?) bodies (used sequentially).

The Voyage of the Space Beagle by A. E. van Vogt:

Several aliens encountered by an exploration ship.

LaNague Federation series by F. Paul Wilson:

Splinter colonies allowed and encouraged to maximize genetic and cultural diversity of humanity.

Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny:

Personalities “reincarnated” into new bodies through technology.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (movie):

Either takeover or copying of people.

Copyright © 2002 Mark Pottenger

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