Size / / /

Gareth Rees takes on that perennial question, how to judge Greg Egan's fiction:

Judged by the standards of the literary novel, Egan’s works fall far short: his prose is dry and impersonal; his characters carry out their function in the story but no more; his plots are often episodic and lack dramatic conflict or resolution; he has a tin ear when it comes to satire. But all of that can be forgiven because he brings to his work a unique interest in the character of physical law. Many science fiction writers pay homage to this subject, of course, but for most the laws of nature are there to serve the story: a discursion on the physics of a wormhole, say, would be for most writers an adjunct to a fantastic voyage therein, but Egan has the chutzpah to imagine that the reader will delight in the physics for its own sake.

It’s this unique quality that makes Egan’s deficits excusable: a reader who seeks a novel that aims to provide insight into the human condition has ten thousand exemplars to choose from, but a reader who seeks a novel that aims to provide insight into the laws of general relativity has only Egan’s Incandescence.

I'm rather sympathetic to this line of argument. The most common response to the Egan defense is that scientific fidelity doesn't excuse poor characterisation, but this strikes me as a shell game; there's plenty of sf with poor naturalistic characterisation that shouldn't be sheltered by the Egan defense (some of it written by Egan, such as Zendegi, the novel that came between Incandescence and The Clockwork Rocket), but as Gareth says, Egan is uniquely committed to this approach, and skilled in its execution.



Niall Harrison is a reader and fan.
22 comments on “Reading Egan”

It's definitely a fair cop that most Egan characters strike people as flat. And usually it's for functional reasons. He's got some stock characters, especially in his short fiction--journalists, detectives, eccentric billionaires, etc. One place where I will stick up for the characters though is in books such as Schild's Ladder, Incandescence, and Clockwork Rocket. The characters in those stories are almost entirely driven by intellectual pursuits. While people like that aren't necessarily common in our society, I'd argue that they are perfectly real. I particularly found Yalda (Clockwork Rocket) to have a comfortable depth of characterization, especially in that I found myself empathizing with her quite a bit.
I guess what I'm arguing is that sometimes there are real people who devote themselves to science and have minimal personal/emotional drama, and having characters like that uniformly dismissed as 'flat' or 'poor characterization' may be using too broad a brush.
But yeah, I think people read Egan for the ideas, not for the characters, and that's perfectly fair.

Al R

I've always found Egan's characters perfectly believable within the terms of the novel, in a way that - say - I never did with a Robert Forward book. I've yet to read anything by him since Schild's Ladder, though.

I think the point Niall makes about Egan himself not always being able to use the Egan defence is very important. For me, a big point in appreciating his work came with Teranesia and the preposterous politically correct comedy characters. This made me question how much Egan is minimising certain aspects of writing in favour of others and how much he is just shit at writing. If these issues are always present, no matter what type of novel he is producing, I think the criticism has to be more than a shell-game.

Karen: "I'd argue that they are perfectly real." Shades of the discussion I was having with Phoebe earlier this week here. Call it the Neal Stephenson defense? 🙂
Martin: But hang on, "just shit at writing" is precisely the sort of thing I'm objecting to; it's too broad a brush. I'd agree he's not good at characters, but argue his writing has other strengths. When he plays to those strengths, his fiction is compelling and worthwhile; when he doesn't, it's less so. (Although I have to give him credit for trying to write more character-driven stories.)

Niall - Yes, exactly. Sometimes it feels like people insisting on 'good characterization' are actually demanding a lot of personal melodrama that itself may not be particularly realistic. I'm reading "Timescape" by Greg Benford right now (as another example of hard sf, to contrast to Egan). Benford's a writer who pays more attention to character and sense descriptions, and is obviously strongly influenced by the modernist movement. But jeeze, I could have done with less in-depth examination of the philandering bureaucrat's flirtation techniques and pervasive misogyny, thanks! (Although to be fair maybe all that will pay off and be totally integral to the theme of the book in a way I don't understand yet; I'm only 2/3 of the way through it.)
By the way, Al shows exactly why he's a real writer and I am not: "I've always found Egan's characters perfectly believable within the terms of the novel" That's exactly what I wanted to say, but in much fewer words. Thanks!

Perhaps one problem is that we do habitually talk of 'good' characterisation, and mean different things by it: realistic, or compelling, or complex, all of which are actually different. That is separate again, though, I think, from the question of whether characterisation needs to be any of those things -- needs to be central in that way -- for a piece of writing to be an effective work of fiction. The problem there, it seems to me, is that one person's 'believable within the terms of the novel' is another person's 'thin'; and how much that comes down to preference and appropriateness rather than being a distinction of quality,

This might be the right place to test drive this argument:
Egan’s stories, dealing as they do with a purely mechanistic and rational universe, treat heroes a little differently than many sf stories. They de-privilege the hero in a way slightly uncommon in the genre, and much different from traditional fantasies. People have been known to point out that it’s difficult to recall much about Egan’s characters; neither their names nor much else about them really stick in the mind. Although this blanket generalization is a bit unfair: characters like Prabir in Teranesia, Tchicaya in Schild’s Ladder and Martin in Zendegi are pretty well developed in a traditional sense, having romantic entanglements and conflicting feelings and motivations. But it is undeniable that in some of the short stories and purely science-oriented books, the characters really are there solely to illustrate a point.
But sometimes complaints that the characters are flat and affect-less hit home. I’d argue that to some extent, that’s a feature, not a bug. At the very least, it is a consequence of his overarching philosophy of the world. Could a different writer have overcome that limitation? Probably, but not without sacrificing some of the seeming objectivity that needs to come along with this particular view of the universe and its workings.
In heroic fantasies, the hero is usually someone special, touched by destiny, a Chosen One. Almost no matter what this person (usually male) does, the universe will arrange itself in such a way to make sure his destiny is fulfilled. He can do magic that no one else can do, not simply because he’s smarter, but because he’s special. (Think of Arthur pulling the stone from the sword). Looking now at traditional science fiction, heroes tend not to be privileged in a magical way, but they are Special nonetheless. Consider the trope of the Competent Man--he’s smart enough to manipulate situations and engineering to win the day. He can think or talk his way out of almost any conundrum.
Egan’s characters tend not to fit that mold. On a fundamental level, they’re no smarter or better than anyone else. And in order for them to win the day, that have to *understand* the universe, as opposed to *manipulating* the universe. Egan wants to make it clear that, thanks to our minds which have evolved into Universal Turing Machines, no natural phenomena in the universe is beyond our ken. There is nothing out there that “Man is Not Meant to Know.” Any of us have the core capability (whether or not we choose to use it) to understand everything about the universe. And it’s this understanding that is critical, not just engineering. It’s one thing to have an asteroid headed for the Earth, and to build a spaceship to go deflect or destroy it. That’s just engineering. In Clockwork Rocket, Egan’ protagonists are faced with the prospect that if any asteroid hits their planet, the whole thing will go up in smoke. They build a generation starship, not to go up and shoot down asteroids, but to buy themselves time to *think*, to understand the situation fully and try to come up with a permanent solution. In Incandescence, the alien race lives inside an asteroid with no concept of the outside world. In order to survive, they have to come to an understanding of the relativistic space in which they live (orbiting close to a black hole and beginning to spiral in) before they can even think of doing some engineering (all of which happens offstage) to modify their orbit and save themselves. In Schild’s Ladder, the understanding is the climax of the story, and any subsequent engineering solution is left to the readers imagination after the last page is turned. All these stories have this in common: the journey of the characters is one of greater understanding; not simply throwing engineeering solutions at the wall until something sticks. It should also be noted that Egan’s settings are often professional contexts, where the romantic and family entanglements typical of character-driven fiction are less likely to arise.
In the face of the universe, any single individual is a little insignificant. Egan’s characters stand out less than the enormous scientific discoveries they take part in. This may be making a virtue out of necessity, but one can read these beings, more than most, as stand-ins for all of us. Who they are matters much less than what they are capable of--which is something all of us are actually capable of, understanding the universe around us. Given enough time and effort, we could, any one of us, understand almost everything about the universe, even starting from first principles. So if these particular people may seem a little bland, consider that in one respect, what they are doing is nothing special, no less than any of us could do if we put our mind to it.

Dan P

Very interested in Karen Burnham's line of thought above.
I'd also like to observe that three of my most personally-memorable protagonists are Egan's (the mathematically-inclined AI of Diaspora, the implant of "Learning to Be Me," and the erroneously data-mined disaffected subject of another short which title escapes me now), as well as one of the most memorable relationships (between protagonist and an asexual character in Distress).

Dan - I think the short story you're thinking of is "Worthless" from 1992. That's one of his less-reprinted ones; it's cool that it had that impact on you.

Martin Lewis writes: This made me question how much Egan is minimising certain aspects of writing in favour of others and how much he is just shit at writing. If these issues are always present, no matter what type of novel he is producing, I think the criticism has to be more than a shell-game.
I think this is a clear exposition of the viewpoint that I was trying to shake up in my blogpost that Niall linked to. There are critics who have a particular template in mind for what constitutes a good work of art, and then every review risks turning into an exercise of scoring the artwork against the template, even if the template is utterly inappropriate.
Hence Martin's idea that one can be "just shit at writing" with no consideration as to what end the writing is directed; and his suggestion that criticism can be "a shell-game" — that is, if a critic judges a work as successful in achieving goal A, they must be hiding the fact that the work was shit at achieving goal B, which is the only valid goal (at least according to Martin).
I guess we all have our particular obsessions—if Middlemarch is your favourite novel, then it'll always be tempting to judge every other novel by how closely it approximates that masterpiece—but a literature that consisted only of Middlemarch and attempts to emulate it would be a poor one indeed.

I'm less knowledgeable about Egan's works than many here, so I'm thinking about these arguments in an abstract manner. Perhaps that's appropriate.
I understand, I think, what you're suggesting in your extended piece, Karen: that anyone should theoretically be able to project themselves into Egan's characters, see themselves reaching the same understandings, precisely because his characters have so few individual characteristics that might act as barriers to such reader projection. Is that a fair summation?
If so, several objections come to mind:
The first is that if Egan is trying to convincingly argue that the capability for understanding the universe is inherent in human life, then it seems to me crucial that he provide convincingly human characters who reach this understanding. Otherwise Egan's arguments are suspect. It becomes akin to saying that if everybody could just look past their differences, we could have world peace. Well yes, but. And if you remove the roundedness from characters circles, they could be stacked neatly without gaps, too. Egan's writing, as you position it, sounds like it has some of the same impulses as Utopian writing, with some of the same implicit questions.
The second objection is that in these comments you're making two incompatible arguments at once. On one hand, you say that Egan's characters are necessarily featureless because they are "stand-ins for all of us." On the other hand, you say that his characters depict, more accurately than is generally acknowledged, the features of a specific type of person: "real people who devote themselves to science and have minimal personal/emotional drama." And I am entirely with you, and Niall, and others, in saying that yes, such people exist, and deserve to have their stories told. But doesn't that end up hurting what you posit as Egan's central argument--if in fact Egan's characters are not "stand-ins for all of us" in the understandings they're able to reach, but rather specific people who may be better suited than most to reach those understandings?
The final objection I'd make, then, is that the matter of skill in depicting character applies just as much to these characters who "devote themselves to science and have minimal personal/emotional drama" as to characters that are bursting with "romantic entanglements and conflicting feelings and motivations." The digression on heroic fantasy characters and Competent Men seems to me irrelevant, an artifact of SF&F genre tunnel vision. It's all true, but it ignores the idea that there's a large genre of mainstream mimetic fiction whose project has been to find ways to describe the smaller endeavors of characters who are insignificant within the greater cosmos, just as you say Egan is trying to do.
Picture, if you will, Character A in one hypothetical version of a story, whose devotion to science and whose lack of personal/emotional drama is shown by the fact that nothing but her science-related work is depicted in the story. Now picture a different character, Character B, in a different version of that same story, whose devotion to science and whose lack of personal/emotional drama is shown when she is offered an opportunity to go out to a bar with some lab colleagues after work, but after thinking about it feigns a migraine so she can instead stay late to finish a problem she feels on the verge of solving; who gets home that night, problem solved, and pauses to appreciate that she no longer lives with roommates and so can enjoy a quiet celebratory glass of wine and whatever is in the Netflix queue without having to deal with their simple presence, although she does spare a moment to dispassionately wonder whether she should care more that she's happy not to be out with her coworkers; Etc. I am, as you can tell, not a fiction writer. And also, I do think absence is an under-utilized technique in fiction, particularly genre fiction. But still, there are techniques of fiction whereby quieter aspects of character--awareness of choices, decisions not to do things, etc.--can be detailed. And I think those details can help us believe more in character achievements than when those characters are simply blank slates. Or at least, I'd find any understanding Character B achieves to be a much more believable human achievement than Character A. Character B's achievements are achievements made by human choices against human distractions, while Character A seems over-obviously a sub-human device destined to understand whatever the author has decided they will achieve understanding of. Humanity adds difficulties, in other words; understandings reached without having to negotiate those difficulties are suspect on an individual level, absurd on a species level.
I'm not, I hope, being too critical. Karen, you said this was a test drive of an argument, so I figure it would be better to stress test it now, than have these objections made in some more formal location. And you may well have answers for them.
This is also not meant to skewer Egan's work, some of which I like; and I like it sometimes for the foreground characters, and sometimes for the reason that Gareth Rees suggests, that the true character being observed is the character of the universe. I confess that I do have the sense that, as someone who likes that big picture nature of the universe stuff, I had better like Egan's work, because he's one of the few writers doing it today. That doesn't mean he always does it well, or that I can't imagine it being done better in some cases. But that does mean it's worth looking at the works individually, on their own terms, to see what doesn't work and what does--rather than relying on orthogonal arguments about Egan's displayed limitations as a writer of character to sweep aside everything into the "doesn't work" bin.

Matt

Oops, some HTML formatting was lost when I previewed my previous post: in "if you remove the roundedness from characters circles," the word "characters" was supposed to be struck-through.

I think Karen Burnham's long defence of Egan's characterisation is a valiant attempt, but much as I love Egan's novels, I have to agree with Matt Denault. Egan's every(wo)man characters function well in the post- or non-human context of Incandescence, Diaspora or The Clockwork Rocket, but the evidence persuades me that Burnham is right to say that Egan is "making a virtue out of necessity". In a novel like Zendegi, where the theme of the book (a dying father's attempt to mould the character of his son after his death) really requires much deeper and subtler characterisation to be emotionally convincing, and Egan fails to bring it off.

Yes, I should add that in my post I talked about the choice between details and lack of details, but there's also the matter of choosing the right details; and in most cases that's where characterization succeeds or fails.

Matt - thank you so much for your thoughts! I really appreciate your taking the time to dig into this more deeply.
I understand, I think, what you're suggesting in your extended piece, Karen: that anyone should theoretically be able to project themselves into Egan's characters, see themselves reaching the same understandings, precisely because his characters have so few individual characteristics that might act as barriers to such reader projection. Is that a fair summation?
In the spirit of an evolving argument (i.e. presenting a moving target), just your summation makes me realize some serious problems with my argument. I definitely don't want to suggest that everyone can read themselves into Egan's characters--they partake so much of the white-male-European default that's been typical of SF throughout the last century, and that should be challenged. Even when Egan's characters aren't technically WEIRD (I love that acronym: Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic), they read that way. And that's a failing of characterization.
What I wanted to get at was that Egan (with some, not all, of his characters) highlights a universal aspect of human experience that often gets downplayed with other methods of characterization: specifically our almost infinite capacity for understanding the universe.
The first is that if Egan is trying to convincingly argue that the capability for understanding the universe is inherent in human life, then it seems to me crucial that he provide convincingly human characters who reach this understanding. Otherwise Egan's arguments are suspect. It becomes akin to saying that if everybody could just look past their differences, we could have world peace. Well yes, but. And if you remove the roundedness from characters circles, they could be stacked neatly without gaps, too. Egan's writing, as you position it, sounds like it has some of the same impulses as Utopian writing, with some of the same implicit questions.
Actually, if you look at some of Egan's futures, they can be read as: when everyone's rational and there are plenty of resources, we'll have world peace. And I'm with you in saying--well yes, but.
I've been reading Gregory Benford's Timescape recently, and it presents almost exactly the Character A/Character B contrast with Egan's characters that you are looking at. Egan's characters go into the lab and figure stuff out. Benford's characters go into the lab, leave the lab, fight with their girlfriends, demonstrate lots of misogyny, have political discussions, go back into the lab, and figure stuff out. (To be fair, it was written in the late '70s, I should really stop harping on the misogyny).
The problem is one of focus. While I appreciate Benford's approach and celebrate it's faithfulness to traditional novelistic virtues, it can't help but place the focus of the novel on the people and their quirks instead of the science. When you spend large chunks of the text with romantic quarrels or even netflix rentals, you're at least subliminally indicating that the not-science stuff takes precedence over the science stuff. Egan keeps the focus on the science in a way which is unusual even in sf, which gets right back to where Gareth started this whole conversation. I'm not sure its possible to center the science-y bits without decentering the characters; although if anyone wants to point me at stories that do this I'd appreciate it (maybe Ted Chiang? Time for some re-reading!) But I guess I'm back to: there's room for both approaches.
The final objection I'd make, then, is that the matter of skill in depicting character applies just as much to these characters who "devote themselves to science and have minimal personal/emotional drama" as to characters that are bursting with "romantic entanglements and conflicting feelings and motivations." The digression on heroic fantasy characters and Competent Men seems to me irrelevant, an artifact of SF&F genre tunnel vision. It's all true, but it ignores the idea that there's a large genre of mainstream mimetic fiction whose project has been to find ways to describe the smaller endeavors of characters who are insignificant within the greater cosmos, just as you say Egan is trying to do.
You're absolutely right on this one.
Egan's every(wo)man characters function well in the post- or non-human context of Incandescence, Diaspora or The Clockwork Rocket, but the evidence persuades me that Burnham is right to say that Egan is "making a virtue out of necessity". In a novel like Zendegi, where the theme of the book (a dying father's attempt to mould the character of his son after his death) really requires much deeper and subtler characterisation to be emotionally convincing, and Egan fails to bring it off.
I also want to strongly agree with this. When you're trying to bring far-future or very alien worlds with very complicated concepts to an audience, having clear (nat particularly poetic or allusive) language can be a virtue, and possibly having minimally complicated characters can be a virtue. But that doesn't help at all when you're looking at near-future books like Zendegi.
you're making two incompatible arguments at once.
I'll also cop to this one, but in my defense they were two separate posts. The first one is my own gut feel, the longer one is more likely to make it into the book I'm writing. The first one is simply me feeling slightly affronted when a character that I identified and empathized with, Yalda from Clockwork Rocket, is denigrated as being flat and/or poorly characterized. With Yalda I felt that Egan finally tackled some of the realities facing women in the sciences in a way that a) few writers do; and b) is much more sophisticated than, say, the way he handled Violet Mosala in Distress. I'm hoping my second argument will stand alone, especially after putting more thought, informed by folks comments here and elsewhere, into it.
Thanks to all! Glad to hear more comments if you have them!

I'm not sure its possible to center the science-y bits without decentering the characters; although if anyone wants to point me at stories that do this I'd appreciate it
Stanisław Lem's Solaris.

Thanks, I'll move it up on the to read pile! I loved Lem's Cyberiad, and have been meaning to read Solaris for a while now.

The first is that if Egan is trying to convincingly argue that the capability for understanding the universe is inherent in human life, then it seems to me crucial that he provide convincingly human characters who reach this understanding. Otherwise Egan's arguments are suspect.
Sorry for my disjointed response, but upon further reflection I think this is really the heart of the problem, or at least the heart of the problem with my argument.
A lot seems to hinge on 'convincingly human.' Talk about a fuzzy target! Al R and myself seem to find Egan's characters 'convincingly human' more than Matt and Martin do. Who's right and who's wrong?
Then there's the Character A vs. Character B question. Does the fact that Character A is super-focused make it hard for us to relate to her, leading us to find ourselves less convinced that we too could understand the secrets of the universe? Or does the fact that Character B likes wine instead of soda (or is a she instead of a he, or is straight instead of gay, etc...) make it hard to relate to her instead, with the same result?
I'm getting back down to the fundamental question: 'what does well rounded actually mean?' It certainly doesn't simply mean replicating the personality and behavior of a real person on the page, because I think we all agree that there are people in real life who are very like Egan characters. Instead maybe it means to sell that characterization to the reader. Egan seems to have done a good enough sales job for me and Al, but not for Matt and Martin. For other authors, I'm sure that might be reversed, or maybe there are characters that Matt and Al would find convincing that Martin and I wouldn't.
Can anyone help me get past: 'gosh, it's all subjective?'

Hi Karen, glad this is of use!
The problem is one of focus. While I appreciate Benford's approach and celebrate it's faithfulness to traditional novelistic virtues, it can't help but place the focus of the novel on the people and their quirks instead of the science. When you spend large chunks of the text with romantic quarrels or even netflix rentals, you're at least subliminally indicating that the not-science stuff takes precedence over the science stuff. Egan keeps the focus on the science in a way which is unusual even in sf, which gets right back to where Gareth started this whole conversation. I'm not sure its possible to center the science-y bits without decentering the characters; although if anyone wants to point me at stories that do this I'd appreciate it (maybe Ted Chiang? Time for some re-reading!) But I guess I'm back to: there's room for both approaches.

"So do you want the Nobel for physics, or peace?"
"Can I hold out for both?"
-- Dark Integers

Hmm. Yes and no, I'd argue. Yes, looking at Timescape specifically, its use of traditional mainstream drama does tend to push to the side a sense of the importance of the science. But no, I'm not sure that any story that is faithful to traditional novelistic virtues must push aside the science. I don't think take "novelistic virtues" to necessarily mean lots of drama; it's more a matter of making best use of the full range of available tools to tell the story. It should be possible to use the techniques of good literature to convey character in ways that support a story--how people speak to each other, how they think and what they think about, how they work--without having the characters dominate the science. Of course the most obviously favorable situation, as Gareth wrote, is when the characters can themselves be seen as artifacts of science: post-humans and non-humans. There, the focus on character and the focus on science are inexorably entwined. Ted Chiang did this with "Exhalation," I thought; Vandana Singh's "Distances" could also be a candidate [1]. Another way of preserving a balance could be where the characterization is used to illustrate, or as metaphors of, the science, as in Peter Watts's Blindsight, and Simon Ings's "Zoology" (Justina Robson's "Carbon" from the same anthology is another candidate, but I suspect the character/science balance is a little too tilted toward the former).
But this all comes down to what you're trying to do, I think. If you're trying to situate Egan within the field, then yes, comparisons with Timescape and with Heinleinian Competent Men seem valid and useful--even if we can name a handful of other stories that do similar things, Egan's still been doing it longer, in more works and in more ways, than anyone else I can think of. On the other hand, if you're trying to make qualitative claims about his fiction...well, I have no problem with the argument that what Egan is doing is rare and useful, and thus it is a good thing he's doing it and his works are worth examining in some depth because of it. Where I start to twitch is when you seem to want to go from "what he's doing is rare" to "what he's doing is good fiction," or at least "it's impossible to do what he does and have it be traditionally good fiction," because at that point the comparison that I start to make is not just to what has already been written, but to what could be written, the possibilities inherent in fiction that are suggested by what's already been written. But that may just be how I think about these things.
[1] Singh's "Distances" would be an interesting comparison because the other side of your question of focus stems from your WEIRD acronym--to what degree is there this thing called "science" that can be centered, separate from the culture that practices it and how they practice it? To what degree is the separation you want to make between character focus and science focus based on a cultural understanding of what these things are and how they relate?

I have no problem with the argument that what Egan is doing is rare and useful, and thus it is a good thing he's doing it and his works are worth examining in some depth because of it. Where I start to twitch is when you seem to want to go from "what he's doing is rare" to "what he's doing is good fiction," or at least "it's impossible to do what he does and have it be traditionally good fiction,"
That's an excellent point, and I will definitely keep it in mind. In trying to defend against 'just shit writing,' it's too easy for me to slip into 'no, it's great!' which is not a balanced view.
to what degree is there this thing called "science" that can be centered, separate from the culture that practices it and how they practice it? To what degree is the separation you want to make between character focus and science focus based on a cultural understanding of what these things are and how they relate?
Heh, I'm doing quite a bit of reading on this topic right now. I'm glad that this seems like a natural extension of the inquiry--every once and awhile I wonder if I'm off in the weeds somewhere.

Can anyone help me get past: 'gosh, it's all subjective?'
I got nothing; I can't see a way to get past subjectivity. It's not even a matter of us arguing over a set of principles of what good characterization might be; it's a matter of the question, should we have such a set of principles, or should we tailor the principles by which we evaluate each story to the argument contained within the story? I tend to favor the latter, if for no other reason then that it generally permits more interesting observations on the story in question.
Heh, I'm doing quite a bit of reading on this topic right now. I'm glad that this seems like a natural extension of the inquiry--every once and awhile I wonder if I'm off in the weeds somewhere.
No, it sounds fascinating--I'm really looking forward to your book!
Do you have any recommended readings on this topic, BTW--the interrelationship between science and culture? It's something I've seen argued about in bits and pieces, but it would be nice to read a reasonably recent sustained treatment of it.

Matt-
I haven't found the perfect book yet for science and culture. Many of them tend to be culture-wars type books from the 90's. Of those, I found Mary Midgley's "Science as Salvation" to be a very interesting analysis of the narratives of science and specific kinds of futurism.
If I find something more en pointe, I'll let you know.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: