The PEN/Robert Bingham Fellowship for Writers honors an exceptionally talented fiction writer whose debut work — a novel or collection of short stories published in 2006 — represents distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise.
The Bingham Fellowship is one of two big-money (well, over $10,000, which is big money by literary standards) awards given out by the PEN American Center each year; the other is the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction, which this year went to Philip Roth. Not bad company.
Janna is a good friend, and her novel about Alan Turing and Kurt Godel is an extraordinarily imaginative achievement. Most importantly, she is a working scientist who refuses to let her curiosity be restricted by the narrow parameters of her day job. In principle, there’s no reason why one person shouldn’t be able to write technical papers about cosmology and black holes and create successful literary fiction at the same time; in practice, however, modern intellectual life is not set up to reward that kind of wide-ranging work, and it takes a great deal of conscious effort to resist falling into one of the comfortable pigeon-holes that academia provides. Here’s looking forward to her next book!