I am utterly fascinated by active scientists who also write fiction, particularly science fiction. There have been more of them than the average person realizes, including physicist Robert W. Wood, who co-wrote The Man Who Rocked the Earth (1915) and The Moon-Maker (1916), and astronomer Simon Newcomb, who wrote His Wisdom the Defender (1900). I would also add to this list millionaire inventor John Jacob Astor, who wrote A Journey in Other Worlds in 1894. The tradition continues to this day, as illustrated by my friends Blake Stacey, who wrote Until Earthset (2008), and Andrew David Thaler, who wrote Fleet (2013).
There are still more out there, I’m sure, that I have yet to come across. This was demonstrated to me recently, when I encountered astronomer Fred Hoyle’s 1957 novel The Black Cloud.
I learned of this book through the always excellent Valancourt Books, who will be releasing a new edition in 2015.
Set in the year 1964, the novel focuses on the efforts of an international group of scientists as they try and save humanity from a massive black cloud that is approaching the solar system from interstellar space. You’ll notice that I say “save humanity” instead of “stop the cloud,” because there is no stopping the cloud: it is an object of planetary scale, and the best mankind can do is anticipate its behavior using the laws of physics and attempt to plan accordingly.