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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Good (and Weird) Science

Posted by on Wed, Nov 28, 2012 at 7:59 AM

Most fiction writers, I think, can't seem to wrap their brains around science. It's easy to understand why: If you employed the scientific method accurately in a novel, it would be pretty boring. The road to discovery is lined with lots of unsexy errors, monotonous note-taking and un-dramatic failures. Richard Powers is one of those rare novelists who manages to write fiction that feels scientifically sound. His book The Echo Maker was about an Oliver Sacks-like neurologist who investigates a man whose head injury inspires him to think everyone around him—including his sister—has been replaced with impostors. And the book worked, in part, because Powers did the research and, more importantly, he learned the science.

Powers's new short story, "Genie," isn't as rooted in reality as Echo Maker was. In fact, it's a kind of very low key science fiction story. You can read the beginning of the story over at Byliner, which sets up the premise: A young couple steals a sample of heat-loving bugs from Yellowstone Park. The rest of "Genie" (it's about thirty-five pages or so, depending on how you like your font) is about the study of those bugs, and Powers made the story just the right size: Any longer, and Powers would begin to delve into the nuts and bolts of the scientific method, and he'd probably begin to lose readers. As it stands, "Genie" builds into a giddy climax that explains the reason why all those hours of beating one's head against a wall is worthwhile: That moment of discovery, when everything around you changes, maybe forever. That Powers manages to tell a story of a troubled relationship at the same time, and without belaboring the connection between his paired narratives of science and love, is why he's one of the best storytellers in the business today, science-minded or not.

("Genie" is available for sale from Byliner and Barnes & Noble, and Google Books, and, and Kobo Books, which means you can buy it from any independent bookstore that sells Kobo e-books.)


Comments (2) RSS

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the excerpt from genie is terrible! It reads like bad fan fiction. You should not be able to recommend books
Posted by why paul on November 28, 2012 at 8:29 AM · Report this
evilvolus 2
"it's about thirty-five pages or so, depending on how you like your font"

There's the one thing I don't like about e-readers. I keep wanting to bitch that the book I'm taking forever to read is nearly 1700 pages long!! But in bookbook form, it's only like 1100.

Which is still long, but still...not only can I not complain about the book's length as precisely as I'd like, I also feel super old for apparently dialing up the font size.
Posted by evilvolus on November 28, 2012 at 9:46 AM · Report this

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