I was very impressed by Slow River's depiction of the near-future applications, and consequences, of developing biotechnology and nanotechnology. The novel uses accurate, technical terminology to create a sense of reality; even for those readers who are not familiar with the technology Griffith is discussing, her faculty with it is obvious and lends authenticity to the novel. Furthermore, it is this background of science and its economics which makes the novel more than a simple, plot-driven work of fiction.
Gattaca is a difficult and interesting movie. I find my feelings about its subject matter to be very much split between the positive and negative; while genetic manipulation provides great advances and has considerable potential, the movie makes clear the potential cost as well.
After the brief discussion about genetics in class on Monday, I figured I'd talk about my understanding of the genetics involved and how they would affect Oankali form and society. Although our current understanding of genetics limits our engineering methods to basically linking one gene to a single protein or trait, it's become pretty clear in the last decade that our genome is much more complicated than that--we are exponentially more complex than a fruit fly, for example, but we have less than double the actual number of genes that a fruit fly has.
Le Guin presents to us, in The Left Hand of Darkness, with a breed of human which is truly biologically asexual, and posits that many of the traits we consider implicit to mankind are a result of the way we categorize behaviors, activities, ideologies and so forth in a male/female, dualistic manner. To strengthen the distinction between "us" (represented by Genly Ai) and "them" (the Gethenians in general and Estraven in particular), she gives us a very distinctive, stereotyped view of masculinity and femininity through Genly Ai early in the novel.
Of the many interesting things that Heinlein addresses in Starship Troopers, the thing that captures my attention the most is his discussion of power, both its origins and the ultimate responsibility which comes along with it. As American voters have, over the last fifty years, become less and less engaged in the political discourse and more dissociated from the violence (or threat thereof) from which their political power is derived, Heinlein's views on this have become even more pertinent, not less.
So a couple thoughts on Heinlein. First of all, although I agree with the below comment that alien races can imply racial connotations, I think that in this case Heinlein used the communal properties of an insectoid race to demonstrate the potential power of a communist social structure in a species adapted to it--and to show it's fundamental incompatibility with human drives. Second, I think Heinlein's discussion of the source of political power, though not directly involving race or gender as a major factor, is a potentially useful tool for understanding modern political power relations.