Guest post by National Book Award winner, Pulitzer Prize finalist, and MacArthur Fellow Richard Powers. Powers is the author of Generosity, The Echo Maker, Gainand the new Kindle Single "Genie", a work of speculative fiction.
The idea for "Genie" came to me when I was staring down into the abyss—specifically, the Abyss Pool in Yellowstone National Park. Anyone who ever stood above this deep, clear, steaming hot spring with its shocking, psychedelic highlights has experienced the place’s otherworldly pull. The pool’s wild azures and mustards are the traces of ancient hyperthermophilic organisms—creatures that can live at temperatures that until recently were considered way too hot for life. Trying to wrap my head around what I was looking at—a multi-billion-year-old solution to surviving the extreme conditions of the infant Earth—I felt bombarded with messages from another, very different planet.
I was completing a novel at the time, the story of an avant-garde composer looking for a way to spread his unheard music through the world before he died. The genomes of the Abyss’s extremophiles and the scores of my fictional composer twisted around each other in my head—long strings of encoded information, patterns trying to perform themselves and propagate in a hostile place. By the time I finished the long drive from Wyoming back to my home in Illinois, the genie was out of the bottle, and I had my story.