Bellwether (novel)

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Bellwether
ConnieWillis Bellwether.jpg
Cover of first edition (paperback)
Author Connie Willis
Country United States
Language English
Genre Novel
Publisher Bantam Books
Publication date
1996
Media type Print (Paperback)
Pages 247 pp
ISBN 0-553-37562-8
OCLC 33078699
813/.54 20
LC Class PS3573.I45652 B45 1996

Bellwether, is a 1996 science fiction novel by Connie Willis. The novel is broadly based on certain unsettling aspects of human culture. It was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1997.[1]

Plot introduction[edit]

The main character, Dr. Sandra Foster, studies fads in Boulder, Colorado. Her employer, Hi-Tek, wants to know how to predict fads, in order to take advantage of this knowledge and thus to possibly create one. While Dr. Foster is extensively researching and analysing fads, Hi-Tek itself is swept by management fads. In addition, the Management wants one of its employees to win the mysterious Niebnitz Research Grant (the fictitious award is very similar to the MacArthur Fellowship's Genius Grant). Meanwhile, the employees struggle with chaos created by the administrative assistant from Hell. Willis uses humor to come to an unsettling conclusion.

Resolution[edit]

The scientists experiment with sheep, finding that they are guided by bellwethers, which are "indistinguishable from the rest of the flock, only a little greedier, a little faster, a little hungrier, [a] little ahead of the flock." Analogously, fads are started by some persons among the crowd, who, even without realizing it, are a little ahead of the rest.

It is worth noting that Willis is also creating a subtle reworking of Robert Browning's Pippa Passes. In Browning's work, which is explicitly mentioned in Willis's, a cheerful girl, Pippa, passing by folks in a village influences everyone to the good. In Willis's novel, the administrative assistant from Hell, Flip (which is short for Phillipa, as is Pippa) likewise influences everyone, but doesn't do so with charm and her influence may not be to the good.

References[edit]

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