Tackling fiction with what he knows best

I was thumbing through my New Yorker magazine when the featured fiction story caught my eye. The accompanying graphic showed several silhouetted ants and the opening line of the story read: “The Trailhead Queen was dead.” I began reading and got pulled into the plight facing the colony, which was profoundly affected by the death of its long-lived queen.

Something about the fiction story was different though. While it kept my attention it also fed me detailed and fascinating facts (e.g. “…..ants are encased in an external skeleton; their soft tissues shrivel into dry threads and lumps, but their exoskeletons remain, a knight’s armor fully intact long after the knight is gone.”) Halfway through reading, it struck me that this was just the sort of story a biologist could write. I flipped back to check who authored the piece and was startled to see that it was a biologist.

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