Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Science Fiction

I write fiction. (Publishing—that’s a different story.) I realized recently that the fiction that I write is scientific, though not necessarily “science fiction.”

Every piece of fiction is, in some way, a scientific model. The author creates a world, which must operate by its own rules. Even if it is set in a “galaxy far, far away,” it follows its own natural laws. The author sets up the premise and the plot, then lets the simulation run, much as a scientist may run a climate model on a computer to predict the future consequences of global warming. I am somewhat bothered by fiction in which the ending was, even in retrospect, unpredictable. Despite his status as Japan’s foremost living writer, I find the novels of Kenzaburo Oé to be unsatisfying for this reason. In at least two instances, the main character suddenly decides to be good at the end.

Most of my novels and short stories is an experiment in which the world is our normal world but in which I alter just one variable. In How the Mighty Have Fallen, everything is normal except that a little band of Neanderthals—who are very smart but socially clueless—has survived into modern times. In Now You See Me, everything is normal except the main character becomes invisible (he has no other special powers). In Dominion over Time, everything is normal except a graduate student figured out how to travel in time. I can explore the consequences of these experimental manipulations because each of the novels has a control: the world as we know it. And in Darkness at Down House—I’m not tellin’ yet.

So it appears that, even in my fiction, I have the passion for the scientific way of exploring the world.

There may still be room for a few people for the Evolution Road Trip (see here), but we have a nice-sized and diverse group of eleven to twelve participants. I think we will have a grand time for our inaugural run of the Evolution Road Trip!

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