It’s very typical that university programs are divided between science and the humanities. Seemingly disparate areas of study, the approach, methodology, often even the personalities of the students are different. In our day and age, however, the applications of science have been integrated with nearly every facet of life and the pursuit of science permeates our cultural and social behavior. The idea has become the overriding paradigm of Western existence and is infiltrating developing areas apace. So intricately interwoven, in fact, eliminating science would drastically change the direction our lives are moving. Hard science fiction the strongest artistic link binding these two traditionally insular areas together, Karen Burnham’s author study, called simply Greg Egan (2014, University of Illinois Press), attempts to make a case for the author being the best literary example of the association: science as humanism.
Burnham approaches Egan with the methodology of a standard author study. Her own doctoral work in science utilized, evident are the knowledge and ability to contextualize and present the subject matter, attention to detail and history, and the importance of working from a structure that shapes the whole—a predication, as it were. The body of the text therefore parses Egan’s fiction into four distinct areas: ethics (as exhibited in character, gender, lgbt aspects, transhumanism, uneven distribution of wealth, money and politics in scientific research, etc.), identity (including neurochemical consciousness and consciousness as information), “hard core math and physics” (including subjective cosmology, figuring out the rules of physics, how science works in the fictional societies and cultures, and alternate physics and cosmologies), and the relationship between the worldview presented in Egan’s fiction and contemporary society (including religion, post-modernism, and science as giving purpose and meaning).