Roslynn D. Haynes
June 9, 2016
Science and its predecessor, alchemy, have been topics of fiction in the West for over five centuries but until late last century novelists, with few exceptions, condemned science and scientists on social and moral grounds. However, since the 1990s, science has acquired a more benign and humane image, associated with combatting deadly viruses, saving endangered species and communicating the urgency of dealing with climate change. Novelists, too, are increasingly intent on authenticity in presenting scientific research and the motives and moral dilemmas of scientists. Such science novels risk being overloaded with scientific facts and explanations, so the craft of the writer involves integrating the necessary scientific information without damaging the artistic integrity of the work. This paper explores, through interviews with authors and in-depth reading of texts, how the following writers accommodated the science component within the life-world of their narrative and took steps to avoid an ‘information dump’: Rebecca Goldstein ( The Mind-Body Problem and Properties of Light ), William Boyd ( Brazzaville Beach ), Simon Mawer ( Mendel’s Dwarf ), Susan Gaines ( Carbon Dreams ), Clare Dudman ( Wegener’s Jigsaw ), Richard Powers ( The Echo Maker ), Barbara Kingsolver ( Flight Behavior ), and Pippa Goldschmidt ( The Falling Sky ).