Writers on Writing: Gerald Callahan

Gerald Callahan is an immunologist who holds a joint appointment in the department of microbiology, immunology, and pathology and the department of English at Colorado State University. He investigates interactions between the human immune and nervous systems, the immunological basis of behavioral disease, the behavioral basis of immunological disorders, and the public understanding of science. He frequently teaches graduate seminars in science writing.


Faith, Madness and Spontaneous Human Combustion: What Immunology Can Teach Us About Self-Perception (2002, St. Martin's Press)

To learn more about Gerald Callahan or to purchase his book, visit http://www.palmdigitalmedia.com/author/detail/4355

Excerpt from Faith, Madness and Spontaneous Human Combustion

The air is nearly gone now, Laika knows that. Each breath is harder to draw and hold. She can' stop panting. It is so hot here. Less than seven days in orbit, and her support systems are failing. The coolers are no longer working properly and the oxygen generator is going as well. She has never been this frightened in her life. The men on Earth know what's happening to Laika, but they cannot tell her. Besides, the scientists have accomplished what they wished anyway, even in so few days. Days full of night. Days full of stars. Days full of failure. There is no need for more.

The final bleeds into the cabin and into Laika. She settles as best she can in her harness and the weightlessness of her capsule. Confusion pushes every other thought from her mind. The burning in her lungs slows and finally stops. Unforgiven, her heart simply quits pumping. Her last thoughts are of Earth and food.

Six months later, Laika's corpse burns to black ash when her ship reenters the Earth's upper atmosphere, slams against the fierce wall of air the dog once so loved to breath. Fire and ice. A streak of flame cracks the darkness over the northern hemisphere as she hurtles across the sky. Then there is only silence and darkness and ash.