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Time considered as a helix of infinite possibilities
  1. Jay Clayton1,2
  1. 1 Curb Center, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, USA
  2. 2 English, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jay Clayton, Curb Center, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, USA; jay.clayton{at}


This article explores the temporal implications of genomics through the lens of a classic science fiction story by Samuel R Delany, ‘Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones’. Delany’s futuristic vision of ‘hologramic information storage’, which allows the interplanetary Special Services to discover and predict everything a suspect has done or will be doing at any time in the past, present or future resembles ‘genome time’, the illusion that data encoded in your DNA can reveal your entire life—not only where you came from but what you will become—and that it is knowable from a single test in the present. The temporal implications of genomics are compared with ‘queer time’ and contrasted with the temporal implications of nanoscience and climate change in order to clarify what is distinctive about genome time. In conclusion, some practical consequences of genome time are discussed.

  • queer theory
  • genetics
  • literature
  • literary theory

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  • Correction notice This article has been corrected since it was published Online First. References have been amended.

  • Funding This paper was supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health for Genetic Privacy and Identity in Community Settings, 5RM1HG009034.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.