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Joan's 1986 Campbell Award-winning novel A Door Into Ocean shows her command of genetics and ecological science, as well as her commitment to pacifism and feminism. It depicts the ecosystem of a planet covered entirely by water, inhabited by an exclusively female race of genetic engineers. Daughter of Elysium (1993), The Children Star (1998), and Brain Plague (2000) are loose sequels.
A serialization of The Children Star (1998) appeared in Analog Science Fiction and Fact, a magazine known for hard science fiction.
Her most recent book, Brain Plague (2000), depicts a world where intelligent microbes inhabit human brains. The microbial aliens have potential for great good as well as great evil. They evolve in the same way as pathogens such as the AIDS virus or as symbionts such as our digestive bacteria, which help keep humans healthy. Brain Plague tells of a future in which genetic engineering, combined with nanotechnology, can do everything from shaping our bodies to growing enormous buildings for us.
Still Forms on Foxfield (1980) (1988)
A Door Into Ocean (1986)
The Wall Around Eden (1989)
Daughter of Elysium (1993)
The Children Star (1998)
Brain Plague (2000)
John Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel, A Door into Ocean, 1987.
Robert Tomsich Award, for outstanding achievement in research in science, Kenyon College, 2001.
Silver Medalist, National Professor of the Year program, Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, Washington DC, 1989.