Bellwether by Connie Willis

By Connie Willis

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Chin any the less deserving of the Niebnitz Grant’s million-dollar endowment. It isn’t necessary to understand how something works to do it. Take driving. And starting fads. And falling in love. What was I talking about? Oh, yes, how scientific discoveries come about. Usually the chain of events leading up to them, like that leading up to a fad, follows a course too convoluted and chaotic to follow. But I know exactly where one started and who started it. It was in October. Monday the second. Nine o’clock in the morning.

I looked across the room at Dr. O’Reilly. He had his head in his hands. “Okay. ” Forty hands shot up. I looked at the waving hands and thought about the Pied Piper and his rats. And about hair-bobbing. Most hair fads are a clear case of follow-the-Piper. Bo Derek, Dorothy Hamill, Jackie Kennedy, had all started hairstyle fads, and they were by no means the first. Madame de Pompadour had been responsible for those enormous powdered wigs with sailing ships and famous artillery battles in them, and Veronica Lake for millions of American women being unable to see out of one eye.

And it wasn’t his glasses. Look at Elton John. Look at Buddy Holly. It was something else, something that had been nagging at me all evening. Maybe I should go back down to Bio and ask him if I could study him. Maybe if I followed him around while he taught his monkeys to Hula Hoop or whatever it was he was going to do, I could figure out how he managed to be trend-free. And by studying a nontrend, get some clue to its opposite. Or maybe I should go home, iron my clippings, and try to figure out what caused two million women to suddenly pick up their scissors in unison and whack off their Little Lord Fauntleroy curls.

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