Saturday, November 26, 2011

Particle Theory, by Edward Bryant

Particle Theory was recently republished in Strange Horizons, linked from Free SF Online, the best one-stop SF library one could ask for.  Having gone through the award nominees for this year, I am again reaching into the past.

Ted Chiang has an excellent introduction to this piece, commenting on SF's addiction to large scales--galaxies, empires.  This focus on the very big picture is common across the spectrum of hard SF to fantasy.  I confess to being an addict of the large scale, which has made SF very rewarding for me to read.  But I also love Chiang's fiction, and he operates at a mostly personal level.  He claims his greatest influence here is Edward Bryant. 

In this story Bryant brings together two big ideas in one conflicted and lonely man.  He is an astronomer following news of several nearby stars going supernova, and is at some level suspecting we are next.  He is also facing prostate cancer, and decides to try an experimental pion therapy at Los Alamos.  I am not sure if this was even being thought of in 1977, but I do know that proton therapy is emerging as a treatment in this millenium.  Always fun to read stories that have later come somewhat true.

And the story is a decent one, expanding my appreciation of the personal approach.  Certainly those seem more common now.  In any case it is good to see this available for free.  3 stars, worth seeking out.

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