Her published works include a veterinarian meets werewolf paranormal romance trilogy with some forensics in the first book, Moonlight Medicine: Onset. She currently resides in Ann Arbor, MI with her husband. Jan S.
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Gephardt is a writer, artist, and longtime science fiction fan. Her new science fiction novel, Going to the XK9s , is scheduled to be released this year by Durendal Productions. It is the first in a series about a pack of super-smart bio-engineered police dogs who struggle to establish themselves as full citizens, while solving crimes and sniffing out bad guys.
To prepare for this novel series, she has devoted much of the last four years to researching, among other book-related topics, police investigational procedures and forensics. The Questions, and our answers:. How does the definition expand or change, when you apply it to science fiction?
JH: My explanation of forensics is the opposite of the scientific method. When you use the scientific method, you start with a hypothesis, then design experiments or make observations to test that hypothesis, and end up with a result.
With forensics you already have a result: a murder victim, a contaminated stream, a collapsed building. You then come up with a hypothesis of how that result came to be and do experiments or look at the evidence to try to determine how likely your hypothesis is. This would include analysis of images, fingerprints, chemical substances, DNA, blood spatter, ballistic evidence, etc.
In each category of physical evidence, standards have evolved, based on systematic observations and more general scientific knowledge. The reliance upon hair-sample analysis before the availability of DNA testing is an example of a formerly-trusted forensic technique that more recently was found to fall well short of that standard. That is, what are some of the pitfalls science fiction mystery writers might need to consider and try to avoid?
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Soft science fiction writers have a lot more leeway. They can just make stuff up and not worry about any pitfalls, but they may lose readers who know what is impossible, like determining the age of a latent fingerprint or time of death down to the minute. Due diligence helps avoid silly mistakes that can ruin the story for readers who know better.
How big a role should forensics play in a science fictional crime story, as opposed to other aspects? What other investigation techniques or practices do you think might evolve, and how might they compliment or augment what we now think of as investigational best practices? JH: Wow, okay, so any other investigation technique could evolve, but if your story is science fiction, I feel that the author should stick to science, i. That is what the reader will be expecting from a science fiction novel.
If the author wants to do character-centered speculative fiction, then they can concentrate on other investigational practices like mind reading during interviews or using super emotionally sensitive people to assess a suspect. Now it has become important in an amazing range of ways, applicable to a variety of crimes. Gaze into your crystal ball and speculate about ONE other potential kind of evidence that might become radically more important, given just the right breakthrough.
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JH: Forensic science is constantly making radical breakthroughs. Imaging has made enormous strides recently in areas like crime scene reconstruction being able to take a 3-D image of a crime scene for later analysis , spectroscopy developing a sensor to detect date rape drugs , and adding audio to video by analyzing vibration images. We know that dogs can be trained to detect everything from bedbugs to cancer to hidden cocaine, but our ability to communicate with them is severely limited. What could they tell us if they could communicate in more detail? How would things change if we could swear one in on the witness stand?
In your own work, what have you found to be the most challenging or intriguing aspect, when extrapolating future crime-solving techniques? All my fictional forensics is doable at present. If only we could find a way to say for sure if.
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What are some reasons that there might not be any forensic evidence? JSG: There are lots of reasons why no forensic evidence might exist—even apart from the careful machinations of a criminal mastermind. I bet the other panelists can come up with more. When he first arrives, all the evidence he has is a head and the townsfolk are all tight-lipped and unhelpful. Then he has his evidence kit stolen and has to buy supplies from the local hardware store to remake some of his evidence collection tools.
It is a great example of how, in a small town or isolated place, the characters may not have the equipment or skills to process a scene, even if they find one.
This is a good example of the necessity of proper chain of custody of evidence and how it may be broken, rendering the evidence lost or useless. If it takes place in the past, be very careful not to have police acting like the CSI of today and collecting evidence that there are no techniques yet established for analyzing. JSG: Investigational-style observations could fit into lots of stories.
Perhaps one of your characters is an amateur graphologist who never does business with someone whose handwriting shows certain characteristics. JH: This is a good place to talk about all of the different disciplines of forensics. The following is an almost exhaustive list:. Is the public done with forensics and shows like CSI? Is it still interesting to readers? Consider that most of the N.
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The result is a healthier, more pleasant cycle and a more connected woman. US Edition U. News U. HuffPost Personal Video Horoscopes.