WHY DO SO MANY PHYSICISTS WRITE CRIME NOVELS?

Mystery Weekly

Over at CrimeReads, Lee Randall has this to say about two interrelated realms many think have little in common:

“All complex narratives are networks,” writes Jane Alison in Meander, Spiral, Explode. “Any literary narrative of depth asks your brain to pull threads across the whole . . . your experience moving through them is never purely linear, but volumetric or spatial as your thoughts bounce across passages.”

That sounds like physics to me. This branch of science encompasses everything from mechanics, heat, light, radiation, sound, astronomy, atomic structure, electricity and magnetism. It demands elasticity of thought and an ability to think in metaphors. Physicists strive to describe the universe and understand the relationships between all its components.

That’s what novelists do, too!

(And short story writers!) There’s nothing like the feeling of linking together seemingly disparate elements into a unified whole. When it works, you feel it — and if you don’t feel it, neither will the reader. If plot arises from character, then the other elements of a story, including the objective, theme, scenes, twists, etc, should work in harmony to create a single, emotionally satisfying effect on the reader.

Nothing prepares you for such a challenge like reading widely and deeply. The resulting cross-pollination of ideas not only helps you see the interrelatedness of things, but keeps your sense of wonder alive. And that motivates you to create more stories.

My story “The Calculus of Karma” is a combination science fiction and mystery tale. A big chunk of the fun in writing it was creating a puzzle for the protagonist to solve. And what a puzzle — our rookie detective has a dead space miner on his hands, but no murder weapon, no suspects, and he has to solve the case before the death sparks an escalation between warring factions of miners. Inspiration finally arrives from Sir Isaac Newton and Al Capone.

That’s the challenge of science fiction — you have to create believable plot and character arcs, craft an entertaining story, produce flowing, sparkling prose, and — get the science right.

10 thoughts on “WHY DO SO MANY PHYSICISTS WRITE CRIME NOVELS?”

  1. Interesting correlation. To add to your last statement, I think the challenge of storytelling of any kind (prose, comedy, script, etc.) is to first be believable. If there is no “willingness to suspend disbelief,” the teller would be hard-pressed to have an audience. And the other items (plot, scene, verbiage, etc.) all work in concert to effect the desired “transportation” into the story. Solid post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, in my case, I write mysteries because I couldn’t get a job in the sciences. That of course made me a police officer. But truthfully, part of it is basically the same thing. We have an end effect, and we get to figure out how it happened. My training as a scientist made me a really good detective.

    Liked by 1 person

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