Cover of first edition (paperback)
|Media type||Print (Paperback)|
|LC Class||PS3573.I45652 B45 1996|
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.
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.
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.
- "The Nebula Award Listing: SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY & HORROR BOOKS BY AWARD". WWEnd. Retrieved 2013-01-15.
- Bellwether at Worlds Without End
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