A Nandu, an Uruguayan flightless bird like an Ostrich, stalks through grassland.

Susan M. Gaines on the ‘Nerd Novel’

In advance of her Zoom talk on 17 February, Susan M. Gaines has been in touch with us at the BookTalk blog with a couple of thoughts to help us contectualise her novel, Accidentals.

Accidentals belongs to a loosely defined subgenre of fiction that novelist Jean Hegland and I have taken to calling nerd novels. The word nerd may have negative connotations for some, especially in British English, but we use the term affectionately. Webster dictionary editor Cory Stamper argued in a 2012 BBC News Magazine piece that ‘nerd now denotes a depth of knowledge in a particular area’, and the OED definition includes the addendum, ‘Now also: spec. a person who pursues an unfashionable or highly technical interest with obsessive or exclusive dedication.’

‘It is in this sense that Jean and I coined the term nerd novel to describe what we have begun to see as a distinct body of contemporary literature in which not only the characters, but also the themes, plots, and sometimes even the structures depend on some form of systematic knowledge — whether it be in the sciences or the humanities and arts. (I say contemporary, but of course, Moby Dick is a quintessential nerd novel).

‘If you’re interested in finding out more about nerd novels, you can listen to the virtual Litquake talk that Jean and I did when we were in lockdown together in California last spring: Nerd Novels: A Different Kind of Escape (https://fb.watch/3yxnm5WHAQ/). Or, if you just want to see a listing of other nerd novels—like Jean’s Still Time about a Shakespearean scholar with Alzheimer’s, or Richard Powers’ novels about science and music—you can check out the (somewhat outdated) nerd novel lists on our websites (https://susanmgaines.com/home/nerd-novels/).’

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