Another specbio/specevo related question, though not so much about SF/F proper but a real world project

As a kid I had a copy of the Dorling-Kindersley book 'Universe: The Definitive Visual Guide' published in 2005. This was specifically the first edition, which had a cover like this:

enter image description here

It is specifically this version, because later versions (with different covers) omit the detail, but in the chapter on the search for extra-terrestrial life (SETI, etc), it mentions off-hand in a corner about this scientific university project (I believe Cambridge was one of the universities involved?) simulating life on other worlds, a speculative evolution project. The project had 'created' (fictionally) an alien creature which looked like a cross between an armadillo and a lobster, but blue, and it had a cutesy name too, this included a picture of it as well, how I remember it.

I keep trying to find this project again, to remember what the 'alien' looked like, but I cant as the only copies of the Dorling Kindersley book I can find online are later ones, that omit it. If anyone could help either identify the experiment/project or find it from the original first edition, that would be a great help!

  • Maybe the Coti simulation? I don't know what book it could have appeared in though.
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 2:29
  • Ah, this isn't the exact one either, or at the least I dont see the creature I remember here. This is a fascinating project though. Again thats why I named the book I remember it in, as it was definitely there, if someone has that first edition (for added context, I live in the UK) it would be able to find it hopefully
    – Samzer
    Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 2:36
  • 1
    Hmm, if no one here has a copy of that book or recognizes the description, it looks like you can get a copy of that edition pretty cheap from some of the listings from UK sellers on bookfinder.com (if you or anyone else does pick it up, be sure to post the answer!)
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 21:09
  • Hm, if nobody does eventually answer I may have to do just that, honestly.
    – Samzer
    Commented Dec 24, 2022 at 15:31
  • Also, I have asked this question on Reddit as well (the SpeculativeEvolution subreddit) and someone replied with this creature that feels very, very similar to the one I remember - all thats diff is colour, mostly: i.imgur.com/kB5BZuA.jpeg However - this is apparently from Dougal Dixon's Greenworld, which was published in 2010, but the Universe book was published in 2005? This is getting so strange...
    – Samzer
    Commented Dec 24, 2022 at 15:32

1 Answer 1


Possibly the Medea project

Medea: Harlan's World (1985; ISBN 0-932096-36-0) is a 1985 collection of science fiction short stories by different authors, all taking place on the same fictional moon. It was an experiment in collaborative science fictional world-building, featuring contributions by Hal Clement, Frank Herbert, and others.

More details

Medea was an epic project. Harlan Ellison decided it would be a good idea to bring together some of the best science fiction writers available and allow them to build a world in front of an audience. He accomplished it in 1975 where a stageful of science fiction authors, in front of a group of college students numbered in the thousands, dreamed and fleshed out the world “Medea” (or, as it became affectionately known, “Harlan’s World”)

  • Ah, sadly not at all - again, if I remember correctly, this was a full on scientific project being done at universities (I believe Cambridge involvement?), not an explicit science-fiction project like this.
    – Samzer
    Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 2:11
  • Sorry - I'll keep searching.
    – Andrew
    Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 2:39
  • No worries! I haven't heard of this project before and I LOVE the Frank Kelly Freas art for it, so thanks for bringing it to my attention anyway!
    – Samzer
    Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 2:40

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