Tuesday January 19th, 2010

Colonial Life

antsIn April, famed science writer Edward O. Wilson will publish his first novel, Anthill. There’s an excerpt of the novel in this week’s issue of The New Yorker. The magazine’s fiction editor, Deborah Treisman, interviewed Wilson about the project, which includes “ a novella within the novel, which is told entirely from the point of view of ants.”

I tried to develop the full picture, a fuller picture of the whole ecosystem—that is, exactly what is there—and then center the action on a group of ant colonies. Which might sound as though I’m descending into the trivial, but in fact what I’ve done is take the reader into the most advanced social system that exists on Earth outside of human beings, and describe life within an ant colony. [. . .] And I can do that because I’ve spent much of a career working on how ants communicate, how they learn, what they know, how they orient, and so on. And it’s as though I were describing, I think many will see, as though I were describing in that novella—as you say correctly, it takes about a quarter of the book—as though I were describing accurately how life might have evolved up to a high social level on another planet.