Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Greg Egan

Greg Egan

Karen Burnham
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 192
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/j.ctt6wr563
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Greg Egan
    Book Description:

    Greg Egan (1961- ) publishes works that challenge readers with rigorous, deeply-informed scientific speculation. He unapologetically delves into mathematics, physics, and other disciplines in his prose, putting him in the vanguard of the hard science fiction renaissance of the 1990s. A working physicist and engineer, Karen Burnham is uniquely positioned to provide the first in-depth study of Egan's science-heavy oeuvre. She traces the author's career from his early short stories through novels like Permutation City and Schild's Ladder and the Hugo Award-winning novella "Oceanic," analyzing how Egan used cutting-edge scientific theories as a way to explore ethical questions and the nature of humanity. As Burnham shows, Egan's collected works constitute a bold artistic statement: that narratives of science are equal to those of poetry and drama, and that science holds a place in the human condition as exalted as religion or art. The volume includes a rare interview with the famously press-shy Egan covering his works, themes, intellectual interests, and thought processes.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09629-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-16)

    Traditionally, a book-length study focusing on a single author might begin with a chapter of biographical material: parents, early childhood, family history, and the like. This book, focusing on the work of Australian science fiction author Greg Egan, will not follow the traditional format. The scant biographical details known about this multifaceted, influential author can be summed up as follows: Egan was born on August 20, 1961. His mother was a librarian. He had an early interest in film, earned a bachelor of science in mathematics from the University of Western Australia, and worked as a programmer in the medical...

  5. CHAPTER 1 WRITING RADICAL HARD SF
    (pp. 17-50)

    When people discuss Greg Egan today, it is usually in the context of “hard SF.” Of course, hard SF as a term is nearly as difficult to define as “science fiction” itself, but whatever it is, Egan is certainly at the center of it. InThe Hard SF Renaissance(2002), which included two of Egan’s stories, editors David Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer described him as “perhaps the most interesting hard SF writer to emerge in the 1990s” (25). Egan also served as a touchstone for several story notes in the anthology: Robert Reed “[finds himself] retreating from Greg Egan’s more...

  6. CHAPTER 2 ETHICAL STANDARDS
    (pp. 51-75)

    Ethics have long been an important concern for science fiction as it looks to the future: how can we move out into the universe without perpetrating the worst abuses of the past? Greg Egan has considered ethical issues from his very earliest publications. He tends to hold his characters to the highest ethical standards within the framework of his stories. His near-future biotech stories consider the ethics of medical research and clinical practice from a number of different angles. When he writes about genetic engineering and AIs, he invites us to consider our responsibilities to those sentient entities we create...

  7. CHAPTER 3 IDENTITY AND CONSCIOUSNESS
    (pp. 76-100)

    Throughout Greg Egan’s career, some of his strongest stories have focused on the theme of identity. This takes several forms, from the neurochemical components of identity in today’s humans, through the identity shift as we make the transition into digital immortal beings, to the identity concerns unique to those digital descendants. When Egan’s fiction takes up the question of identity it generally looks under the skin at the neural system of the brain. There are many questions about neurons and consciousness that science is only now beginning to answer—and the answers provided so far diverge wildly from our day-to-day...

  8. CHAPTER 4 SCIENTIFIC ANALYSIS
    (pp. 101-127)

    Science is central to Greg Egan’s approach to literature. The fact that humanity is able to comprehend the fundamental nature of the universe is a source of endless wonder, something his stories constantly seek to illuminate. When reflecting on his writing career, he says:

    If I’m pleased with one general achievement, it’s to have contributed something to the very small subset of literature that engages in a meaningful way with the full context of human existence. The fact that we are part of a physical universe whose laws can be discovered through reason and observation is the most profound and...

  9. CHAPTER 5 SCIENCE AND SOCIETY
    (pp. 128-156)

    InEternal Flame, one character mentions “the most powerful engine of change in history: people arguing about science” (361). The vast majority of Egan’s writings concern science and the scientific process. Even when pointing out all the ways things can be unfair or go wrong, his fiction reflects a shining optimism that through the advancement of science the human race can achieve wonders. To say that this is not a universally shared faith would be an understatement. Scholars from many different intellectual backgrounds have challenged science’s status as the preeminent mechanism for knowledge gathering and human advancement. This criticism has...

  10. INTERVIEW WITH GREG EGAN
    (pp. 157-180)
    KAREN BURNHAM and GREG EGAN

    KAREN BURNHAM: What sort of science fiction did you read growing up?

    GREG EGAN: Because my mother worked in a library, I managed to get an adult library ticket at the age of about nine or ten, so I was reading all the SF that was around in the early ’70s. If you name any SF writer who was in print then, I probably read at least one thing by them, but don’t ask me to list all the titles. I was reading one or two novels a week, year after year, so I was just immersed in this vast...

  11. A GREG EGAN BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 181-182)
  12. WORKS CITED
    (pp. 183-186)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 187-190)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 191-194)