• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • Work with all your cloud files (Drive, Dropbox, and Slack and Gmail attachments) and documents (Google Docs, Sheets, and Notion) in one place. Try Dokkio (from the makers of PBworks) for free. Now available on the web, Mac, Windows, and as a Chrome extension!


Storytellers create nano

Page history last edited by frogheart@... 13 years, 1 month ago

It appears that writers imagined 'nanotechnology' first. Prior to physicist Richard Feynman's seminal 1959 lecture, 'There's lots of room at the bottom', considered by many to be the birth of nanotechnology, there was a slew of science fiction 'nanotechnology' stories.  For example,


  • 'Microcosmic God' (1941) by Theodore Sturgeon
  • 'Waldo' (1942) by Robert Heinlein
  • 'Hobbyist' (1947) by Eric Frank Russell
  • 'Surface Tension' (1952) by James Blish
  • 'Autofac' (1953 by Philip K. Dick


Colin Milburn, in his essay,[1] points out these possible progenitors and notes that one of Feynman's colleagues was familiar with Heinlein's Waldo story which shares metaphors and engineering principles with Feynman's speech. (For more about the similarities, under Jump joints, click on Modern Times and for more discussion and science fiction story references on nanotechnology and fiction, under Leaving the mysteries, click on Wikipedia's Nanotechnology in fiction essay.)


In the field of nanotechnology, the very strong relationship between writers/storytellers and scientists operates in both directions. K. Eric Drexler, an engineer, wrote a nanotechnology book, 'Engines of Creation' in 1986, intended to popularize the new science.[2] It has, in its way, influenced almost every storyteller since who works the nanotechnology narrative, whether they know it or not. Any story which features a 'nanobot (Drexler's nanoassembler) run amok' is referencing the book. Drexler's book has also influenced much of the early discussion about nanotechnology risk. (For more about risk, under Jump joints, click on Can you hear me Nano Tech.) 


Television programmes such as 'Stargate' and 'Stargate Atlantis',[3] the 2007 'Bionic Woman',[4], the movie 'Agent Cody Banks',[5] books such Michael Crichton's 'Prey',[6] (Crichton cites another Drexler book in the bibliography for his fiction), and Greg Bear's short story,[7] then novel, 'Blood Music' all feature some variant of the 'nanobots gone wild' theme. There is one author, Neal Stephenson, who acknowledges Drexler's influence but never uses 'the wild nanobots' theme in his book 'The Diamond Age'.[8] Consequently, it stands almost alone.


Jump back

Nano goes Pop


Jump joints 

Modern Times

Can you hear me Nano Tech


Leaving the mysteries

Wikipedia's Nanotechnology in fiction essay



  1. Milburn, C. (2004), Nanotechnology in the Age of Posthuman Engineering: Science Fiction as Science. Nanoculture: Implications of the New Technoscience. [e-book] Bristol, UK and Portland Oregon, USA, Intellect Books.
  2. Drexler, K. E. (1987) Engines of Creation. (originally published 1986, paperback edition 1987) New York, New York, Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing.
  3. Wikipedia (n. d.) Nanotechnology in fiction and popular culture. [Online essay] (Accessed August 3, 2008 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nanotechnology) Note: Could not get the url for the essay page, click on essay listed in sidebar on right side of page)
  4. Webber, A. (October 11, 2007) Bionic Woman Episode 3: I love Sarah Corvus. [Online posting about tv episode broadcast October 10, 2007] (Accessed October 11, 2007 from http://blog.meevee.com/my_weblog/2007/10/bionic-woman-i-.html)
  5. Agent Cody Banks (2003) [Movie directed by Harald Zwart; story by Jeffrey Jurgenson; screenplay by Ashley Miller; runtime: 102 minutes]
  6. Crichton, M. (2002) Prey. Toronto, Canada, HarperCollins
  7. Dann, J. & Dozois, G. (1998) Nanotech. New York, New York, Ace Books, The Berkley Publishing Group, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc.
  8. Stephenson, N. (2003) The Diamond Age. 2003 Bantam trade paperback reissue of 1996 novel, New York, New York, Bantam Books

Comments (0)

You don't have permission to comment on this page.