'Science Into Fiction'
(not 'Science Fiction')Since 2009, Comma has been coordinating a series of science-inspired short story commissions, inviting authors and research scientists to collaborate on stories around particular areas of technology, theory, treatment or science history. As a form, the short story has always allowed authors to venture out from their comfort zones and to experiment with new techniques, new themes and new contexts. The Science-into-Fiction series is designed to exploit this 'portability' of the short story, enabling literary authors to consider new areas of scientific thinking in a way that is both informed and engaging. So far, the project has produced five anthologies, pairing writers with scientists to produce scientifically accurate stories accompanied by short, explanatory afterwords, written by the consulting scientists themselves and contextualising the research behind the stories:
When it Changed, 2009 - a collection of short stories responding to a diverse pool of modern research, from skin-printing to intelligent clothing...
Litmus, 2011 - which re-imagined breakthroughs and 'eureka moments' from science history;
Bio-Punk, 2012 - which examined biomedical research and ethical implications of such research,
Beta-Life, 2014 - which focused on artificial life and unconventional computing, and imagined what these will mean in the year 2070.
Spindles 2015 - which focuses on the new science of sleep (supported by The Wellcome Trust).
Along the way, other projects emerged. One author - Sara Maitland - was so inspired by the first of these commissions that she went on to write a whole collection of stories based on conversations with scientists: Moss Witch, 2013. Also, in 2011, Comma published a series of stories, essays and appreciations to celebrate the science-driven visions of Stanislaw Lem, Lemistry. The project also had a pilot anthology, in 2008, The New Uncanny, where authors were asked to select items from Freud's famous list of uncanny phenomena and write stories that found new examples of 'the uncanny' in modern contexts (but didn't work directly with scientists).
Comma continues to work on a host of other science-into-fiction projects, using the above consultation format.
Comma is also in the process of developing more Science-into-Fiction projects. Most imminently:
Thought X - a literary exploration of thought experiments and their role in science, supported by the Institute of Physics.
See our forthcoming page for more info.
Praise for the Series...
'Highly engaging and fascinating' – The Guardian on When it Changed
'Thought provoking at worst and stunning at best' – New Scientist on When it Changed
'Exquisite... delectable’ – New Scientist on Litmus
'Ingenious' – The Independent’s BOOK OF THE WEEK on Litmus
'Very alive, illuminating' – The Observer’s BEST BOOKS OF 2011 on Litmus
‘Fascinating reading’ – Financial Times on Bio-Punk
‘An exhilarating read.’ – The Short Review on Bio-Punk
‘A timely…strong anthology’ – The Guardian on Beta-Life
‘Will appeal to any fans of futurism’– Publishers Weekly on Beta-Life
BBC Radio 4, Open Book, Dec 2014
Prof. Martyn Amos and writer Sarah Schofield discuss Beta-Life with Mariella Frostrup
BBC Radio 4, Open Book, Sep 2013
Prof. Tara Shears and writer Sara Maitland discuss the physics behind the short story ‘The Beautiful Equation’ from the collection Moss Witch
BBC Radio 3, The Verb, June 2012
Writer Jane Rogers reads from her story ‘Morphogenesis’ from the collection Litmus
BBC Radio 4, Front Row, September 2011
Writer Alison MacLeod discusses her story ‘Heart of Dennis Noble’ from the collection Litmus which was shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award
BBC Radio 4, Front Row, Aug 2011
Editor Ra Page and writer Sarah Hall discuss Litmus
Each story in Sara Maitland’s new collection enacts a daring kind of alchemy, fusing together raw elements of scientific theory with ancient myth.
14 leading authors have here been challenged to write fresh fictional interpretations of what the uncanny might mean in the 21st century, to update Freud’s famous checklist of what gives us the creeps, and to give the hulking canon of uncanny fiction a shot in the arm, a shock to the neck-bolts...
British and Polish novelists join screenwriters, poets, computer engineers, and artists, to celebrate and explore Lem’s legacy through short stories and essays.
This anthology draws out and distills science’s love of narrative from a wide range of scientific disciplines, weaving theory into very human stories, and delving into the humanity of theorists and experimenters as they stood on the brink of momentous discoveries.
When It Changed is an attempt to put authors and scientists back in touch with each other, to re-introduce research ideas with literary concerns, and to re-forge the alloy that once made SF great.