Simmons ’70: And You Can Dance To It

by Steve Charles

March 22, 2012

When Dan Simmons ’70 was in graduate school, he worked part-time for a researcher who was studying films of newborn babies.

“They would put the baby near the mother, who was talking to someone else, and they would film this baby’s reaction to language,” the bestselling author of The Terror and the Hugo-Award-winning Hyperion series told students, faculty, and guests during a talk at Wabash on Tuesday. “Whenever the mother would talk, the baby would respond with movement.

“So the human infant does a language dance; it’s trying to take part in the conversation even at 10 weeks.

“That language dance continues throughout our lives, and those who feel it the deepest become poets,” Simmons added, then smiled. “Those who feel it more shallowly become novelists. And those who feel it but don’t want to express it, or can’t, become great readers. But this language dance is so important.”

During his three days on campus, Wabash joined Simmons in that dance as the writer worked with students in class, gave a public reading Monday night, and spoke about his work on Tuesday. He also endorsed liberal arts education as "the perfect preparation" for a writer: "I cannot think of a better preparation for becoming a novelist than liberal arts education to begin with, but since that phrase means so little these days, Wabash College in particular. You’re getting the perfect education for a novelist, it simply prepares you to be the utility infielder that a novelist is. I’m not saying that just because I went to Wabash College—I say this to high school students all over the place: If you want to write, go to a liberal arts college."

Here's a photo album of some moments from Simmons' visit to Wabash and the College's writing program.

Further reading in Wabash Magazine"A Break in the Action" (1998); "Keep in Touch" (2003);  and Simmons' essay on fatherhood, "The Kid" (2007).


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