Percival’s Planet gets a nice mention on Lab Lit (as very much opposed to Lad Lit) — a list of novels that feature scientists as central characters. Thanks to Dr. Jennifer Rohn, founder of Lab Lit and author of the much-praised novel Experimental Heart, for including the book!
This kind of thing means a lot to me. I like to know that I haven’t misrepresented the scientific endeavor entirely. My father, Peter Byers, is a medical geneticist at the University of Washington; my first novel takes place (in large measure) in a genetics laboratory. In high school I worked occasional afternoons in my father’s lab, responding to reprint requests or photocopying articles from the depths of the library – this was in the dark ages before the Internet – so I was able to witness the workings of his lab from up close, and to observe (in the idle, uncomprehending manner of a teenage nonscientist) the bland make-do surface of daily laboratory life, the not-so-new-any-longer machines, the labels hastily written in black marker on blue tape, the coffeemaker always on and smelling sort of bad — and I loved it all, the long corridors of similar labs down the E wing of the Health Sciences building, the sense that every laboratory interconnected with others around the country and around the world, and the sense that all that effort had been organized by good people in the service of research that might, one day, end a certain variety of human suffering.
I knew I wanted to write about that sort of work, and though it took me a while to figure out how much it meant to me exactly, the impressive daily enterprise that science is, in full, has always struck me as one of the great human things in the world to be optimistic about. Done well and completely, science is a communal effort, performed in the service of understanding the universe more fully, with an often decades-long time scale. If our species ends up making it on Earth in the long run, it’ll be thanks to those folks who have been undertaking this work for so long. C’mon guys! I don’t want to move to Mars! I just finished planting my tomatoes.