Archive | Commentaries


Scientists as Public Figures

For most people, it is rare to see a working scientist on TV, hear one on the radio, or read about one in the news. Nobel laureates become of course instant celebrities, but their appearances tend to fade rapidly from the public spotlight. It is true that the better media outlets attempt to explain what […]

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The Case for Hard-Core Lab Lit

The novels on the Lab Lit List share two defining characteristics: (1) a realistic scientist as either the main character or a character central to the storyline, who (2) is pursuing realistic scientific work. The one-word and one-sentence descriptions of the titles on the List make it clear that lab lit novels are independent of […]

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More on Genres and Subgenres

Several things happened in the last week that started me thinking again about my earlier description of lab lit as a genre or subgenre. The first was an email discussion about scientists as fiction writers. The next was Jerri’s comment on my recent review of Simon Mawer’s novel, Mendel’s Dwarf. Another was something I read […]

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What makes it hard to suspend disbelief?

In my review of Petroplague, I wrote about the fact that readers of fiction agree to suspend disbelief when they pick up a novel.  I complained specifically and in some detail that Petroplague went over the edge of my tolerance for improbable feats of physical endurance and reckless derring-do, although not as far as most […]

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The Scientist as Amateur Sleuth

I know it appeals to the popular imagination, but I just don’t buy the premise of a popular form of murder mystery, what I call the “amateur sleuth concept.”  The idea’s very simple.  The main character is anything but a detective – librarian, architect, chemistry professor or graduate student.  Then murder strikes in a place […]

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The Novelist as a Scientist of the Mind

In his novel Thinks…, David Lodge uses the technique of having more than one first-person narrators.  However, I’m more interested in the first-person narration technique itself and what it tells us about our inner lives.  Thus, his protagonists are a novelist, whose work involves imagining the private thoughts and feelings of her characters (as opposed […]

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Reviews of Two Fictionalized Biographies

I had read two other fictionalized biographies before I began blogging about fiction about science. It’s been long enough since I read them that I hesitate to write as detailed review as I have previously. However, my current recollections of these two books are instructive and raise an interesting question about this kind of novel. […]

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