In The Highest Frontier, student-athletes go out in space to Frontera College, where they discover how to save planet Earth. Their space habitat is run by a tribal casino and protected from ultraphytes (UV-photosynthesizing aliens) by Homeworld Security. The ultraphytes evolve like an RNA virus–which is a lot more bizarre than normal evolution, with alarming results.
Joan’s classic A Door into Ocean was cited by Isaac Asimov for its theme of pacifist revolution. The book depicts an ocean world run by genetic engineers called Sharers who repel an interstellar invasion using methods similar to Tahrir Square. Daughter of Elysium continues the Sharers’ story, in a saga encompassing several planets and a population that live for a thousand years. The Children Star continues the “Elysium cycle” with a mystery planet, settled by impoverished children from an overcrowded world. The new planet Prokaryon has intelligent natives–but where? In Brain Plague, intelligent microbes invade human brains and establish microbial cities. The brain-dwelling microbes convince artists to paint scandalous art (scandalous to a microbe).
Besides writing books, Joan teaches microbiology at Kenyon College, authoring with John Foster the textbook Microbiology: An Evolving Science. She contributes to the nation’s economy by employing students to conduct research on bacteria in extreme acid or base, like the stomach or pancreas respectively. For arts and humanities majors she teaches the notorious course Biology in Science Fiction.
Artwork based on The Highest Frontier