Heard It on the Grapevine by Monica Gagliano

As a non-scientist I’m hugely appreciative of scientists who can write up their findings in a simple way that invites everyone to consider the implications. Monica Gagliano has done just that with her article, “Heard it on the grapevine: the mysterious chatter of plants” published online at The Conversation.

Studies show that plants respond to sounds and produce meaningful sound themselves. And that’s as much as I’m going to recap the article…it’s not a long read and it’s very clear. Well worth clicking through the link. What I do want to talk about in this review is how strongly structured the article is.

I write fiction and plotting is one of the nightmares of my life. Yes, genre fiction does tend to have certain expectations shaping each story’s structure, but you still have to be clear about what experience you want a reader to have at particular points in the story. At all times you want the reader to want to read on (because they can put a book down any time and you want them to pick it back up), but at some points you want them to be hopeful, fearful, angry, whatever…a good story demands an emotional engagement.

But back to this science article. The structure is deceptively simple. First the background on bioacoustics (nice that this recap wasn’t patronising), then the new research (cool!) and what it may mean in understanding plant life, and then, this lovely set up whams us with the emotional challenge: If plants aren’t passive, insensitive organisms…do we have a right to tear down their world (and concrete over it)? A really effective structure that left me as a reader thinking — and as a writer, pondering a little science fiction fable 🙂


4 Replies to “Heard It on the Grapevine by Monica Gagliano”

  1. As a gardener, I feel the author might be anthropomorphizing plants. I'm no scientist, but what the author is describing appears to be a biochemical reaction, primitive instinct that has evolved with each species of plant.

    Ref: At a time of environmental crisis, promoting a new perception of plants as “living beings in their own right” means creating the conditions for the well-being of those who truly make life on Earth possible: plants.

    The conclusions feel like too much of a stretch for me. Perfect for SF, but OTT for science.

    1. I couldn't tell if she was anthrop…ing or if I was reading that into her article. Sparked some "what if" thinking … fiction writers, we're easy 🙂