by CarlDjerassi


Settling down to read a newnovel and encountering a foreword immediately engenders wariness in a reader.Forewords are generally the mark of the academic needing to explain why the bookwas written in the first place, who then proceeds to do so with a sprinkling ofcaveats, erudite allusions or shameless promotion. So why do I venture on sucha slippery slope? Because I was an academic for half a century whose fictionwriting career only started around my sixtieth birthday—too late for aleopard to change his spots. Furthermore, my “science-in-fiction“(not to be confused with science fiction) carries with it the baggage ofdidactic motivation, which I would be foolish to deny in spite of the obviousrisks associated with such an admission.


With this caveat lectorof the “Herr Professor Doktor” out of the way, let me, as simple“Herr Autor” explain why I have chosen to combine the last twovolumes—“Menachems Same”and “NO”—in onevolume under the title “Aufgedeckte Geheimnisse” as the yin to the yang of the first volume, “Stammesgeheimnisse,” that contained the first two volumes of mytetralogy, “Cantors Dilemma”and “Das Bourbaki Gambit.”


The first explanation is quite simple. As the originalGerman editions of all four novels became out of print, their didactic valueproved to be ever more timely as testified by the fact that the Englishversions are being reprinted continuously and foreign translations are beingadded almost every year. But what exactly is that value?


Initially, I conceived of my tetralogy of“science-in-fiction” novels as a means of smuggling in the guise offiction some important aspects of the culture and idiosyncratic behavior ofscientist into the minds of an ascientific or even antiscientificpublic—in other words to describe how we scientists behave ratherthan just reporting what we do. The reception, notably in the USA, of“Cantors Dilemma” and“Das Bourbaki Gambit”however showed that equally fitting readers are scientists themselves—bethey students or established practitioners—because most scientists aresimply not aware of the cultural idiosyncrasies of their own tribal behavior.These two novels are now used in a variety of courses as recommended reading oreven textbooks. But while “Cantor” and “Bourbaki”focused exclusively on the academic universe, I wanted to throw a wider net inthe final two volumes by capturing also some of the behavioral pattern of industrialresearchers as well as of scientists operating in a geopolitical arena. Mostimportantly, in “Menachems Same” and in “NOI found myself returning over and over to ascientific theme that has interested me for decades, namely human reproduction.


That interest started some fifty years ago when Iparticipated as a ”hard” chemical scientist in the first synthesisof a steroid oral contraceptive. Over the past thirty years, I pursued thatinterest as a “softer” scientist when much of my teaching, readingand writing centered on social implications and on the recognition of theimpending separation of sex and fertilization—a topic of enormouspractical and ethical concerns. In “Menachems Same” I described the discovery in Belgium in 1991of ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection, meaning injection of a single spermdirectly into the egg)—arguably the most important invention in theburgeoning field of in vitro fertilization. I became convinced that thismethod, originally developed for the treatment of male infertility, would beused in the future by fertile couples and that its biggest impact maywell be felt by women. Support for this assumption is provided by theobservation that while the first ICSI baby is only 11years old, somewherebetween 50,000- 100,000 ICSI babies have already been born. While the novelillustrates the practical aspects of ICSI, I chose anothergenre—“science-in-theatre”—as the vehicle to explorethe enormous ethical implications of ICSI. These are covered in a play,“Unbefleckt,” throughthe same characters that populate the novel “Menachems Same.”


The other issue in human reproduction that has concerned mein my thinking and writing is the absence of a “Pill for Men” andmy increasing pessimism that such a male contraceptive will be developed atall, considering that a future scenario of storage of ones eggs and sperm,coupled with sterilization, may in the not too distant future makecontraception superfluous. Yet the “Pill for Men” hasalready arrived in the form of Viagra with its focus on sexual performancerather than fertility control. In my final novel, “NO,” I address that issue and other approaches tothe treatment of male impotence in a realistic context in the guise of atypical “biotech” company—so common in my personalgeographical area of the San Francisco Bay Area.


Finally, not unlike C. P. Snow—the Britishscientist/author responsible for coining the phrase “TwoCultures”—I chose “NO”as the vehicle to bring all of the characters from the earlier volumes of mytetralogy together in a form of human closure in which the why, howand what of scientific research is summarized. In other words, myearlier “Stammesgeheimnisse”and now my “Aufgedeckte Geheimnisse” represent efforts on my part to try bridging the two-culturesgap. But eventually secrets need to be told. Much of my life I used to be akeeper of secrets and now I have turned into a teller.


Carl Djerassi

San Francisco 2004