"Save the Ants!"
January 19, 2010, 06:02 AM
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Last year, I cited Nicholas Wade's interview with sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson, in which Wilson disclosed that at age 79, he was writing his first novel, but he was in a tussle with his publishers over whether his main characters would be human beings or ants. I argued that we had plenty of novels about human beings, so why not let the world's foremost ant expert write a novel about ants?

Now, under "Fiction," The New Yorker has published an excerpt from E.O. Wilson's upcoming novel Anthill, a short story entitled "Trailhead:"

The Trailhead Queen was dead. At first, there was no overt sign that her long life was ending: no fever, no spasms, no farewells. She simply sat on the floor of the royal chamber and died. As in life, her body was prone and immobile, her legs and antennae relaxed. Her stillness alone failed to give warning to her daughters that a catastrophe had occurred for all of them. She lay there, in fact, as though nothing had happened. She had become a perfect statue of herself.
Here's an interview with Wilson about his novel.

One inevitable shortcoming of ant fiction, however, is that all dialogue is exchanged by smell:

The ants expelled a pheromone from a gland that opened at the base of their jaws. A chemical vapor spread fast. It shouted, Danger! Emergency! Run!