Science fiction novelist shares experiences

Science fiction novelist James Morrow will be participating in a discussion concerning religion, science and pop culture at 2 p.m. in the Grace Allen room of the Library. ORACLE PHOTO/MIKI SHINE

Harvard graduate and satirical science-fiction author James Morrow is visiting USF for two days this week. 

As part of this days on campus, he delivered a lecture concerning his most recent novel “Galapagos Regained” and discussed science-fiction writing in general.

“What I most value about the SF (science-fiction) genre is the way it beguiles us into pondering the human condition from the broadest possible perspective,” Morrow said. “SF invites us to think of ourselves not just as beneficiaries of particular ethnic or racial identity, but as members of a species.”

His novel focuses on Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution through the heroine Chloe Bathurst, an unemployed Victorian actress working on Darwin’s estate who goes on a quest to disprove the existence of a supreme being.

Bathurst believes Darwin’s research is the key to winning a contest put on by the Percy Bysshe Shelley Society, but his research hasn’t been published yet. She takes a trip to the Galapagos Islands to bring back her own evidence.

“I’ve been preoccupied with Darwinian thought for many years,” he said. “But then the sort of thought experiment had to be devised … I wanted to do kind of a mash-up of ‘Candide’ and ‘Around the World in 80 Days.’”

Morrow also discussed the historical component found in several of his science fiction novels, including “Galapagos Regained,” and the kind of research he conducts.

“In theory, (research) should go on forever,” he said. “In theory, all historical novelists should go mad because you can never learn everything there is to know about an era. It did help … to have an agenda. I was able to eliminate a lot of historical figures who were just irrelevant to my plot.”

Morrow will participate in a public discussion with USF professor Rick Wilber on Tuesday, which will address science, religion and pop culture. The talk will be at 2 p.m. in the Grace Allen Room located in the Library.