Lab styles – what’s yours?

We’ve got a new piece up today from Vicky Ware about how you don’t have to be physically present in a lab (or telescope, or in the field) to do great science. Vicky is doing it on her own terms with a laptop. As science becomes increasingly computational, I predict we’ll see a lot more scientists going full circle back to being ‘armchair naturalists’, much in the way of times past. The social aspects of science are quite important for dissemination and inspiration, but one could argue that through social media, you don’t need to be down at the conference bar or in the institutional tea room to reap those benefits either.

It’s a strange new world.

Gothic twist

It wasn’t intentional, but today’s issue is looking distinctly creepy.

First, our latest serialized story, Experimenting with the senses by chemical engineering professor Mark Keane, is starting to feel a bit uncomfortable. What will the (fictional) chemistry professor do to his recalcitrant daughter in the name of science? (At least, we very much hope this isn’t autobiographical…just kidding, Professor Keane.)

Second, we’ve got some marvelously spooky flash fiction from immunologist Anne Burke, who looks like she’s writing what she knows only all too well.

We hope you enjoy them. And just a reminder that we are always looking for great new original writers. So if you have any ideas, get in touch on editorial[at]lablit.com – don’t be shy!

Finally, I’d just like to let you all know that we are gearing up to publish our latest update of the Lab Lit List. We’ve got quite a few new ones to add to our 200+ collection – look out for that in February. If you have any to suggest, now would be a good time.

In the meantime, happy reading!

Violent video games, AI, cryptology and the Feds – what more could you want?

A new year and a new pile of books to read – for pleasure, for reviewing, for discussion at my Royal Institution Fiction Lab book group. For the latter, we’re taking a look at Pandora’s Sisters by Michael Stephen Fuchs.

Pandora

The book was discovered in a second-hand shop by one of the regular Labliterati, Dom Stiles, a relentless collector of obscure science-related novels. It looks like a standard lab lit thriller, with a hotshot female artificial intelligence specialist protagonist and a sterling back-cover description – which includes the following sentence:

“And soon after, when men in strange hats come looking for her hard drive, shooting first and never really asking any questions, she finds herself on the run – pursued by multiple squads of heavily armed religious zealots, the Feds, and worse.”

Dom had brought it into our December meeting to pass around. People smiled, murmured, groaned. Christine exclaimed, “It’s got a double helix on the cover – it can’t be all bad!”

It had me at “men in strange hats”.

Christmas escapism: searching for CP Snow

The Two Cultures book cover

The formidable CP Snow (Wikimedia)

I haven’t had much time to read since going on holiday, but I’ve got a lab lit classic lined up: The Search by famous chemist CP Snow. Published in 1934, it is one of the oldest examples on our List – as such, I’m a bit embarrassed that I’ve never read it. It looks quite formidable – much like Snow himself – so I might need to fortify myself with more port before diving in.

And speaking of snow (not that there is any in England at the moment), I’ve just reviewed some polar lab lit over on the site: Everland, by Rebecca Hunt. It’s well worth a read.

Happy Christmas and New Year to all our readers!

LabLit chats with Anna Ziegler

We were so pleased that the award-winning playwright Anna Ziegler, whose play ‘Photograph 51’ is currently playing in London’s West End, took time out of her busy schedule to give us an interview.

“[Rosalind Frankin’s] story was so inherently dramatic and I was drawn to the complications and contradictions of her character, to the way that she was her own greatest obstacle.”

To learn more about Ziegler’s motivations and inspirations in penning a story about the human characters behind the discovery of the structure of DNA, do take a look.

Summer reading

It’s that time of year again: the hot weather brings dreams of holidays on faraway shores, and all of the time to read that such excursions bring. As usual, I’ve got Fiction Lab book group fare to prioritize – our novel for July is The Trudeau Vector by Juris Jurjevics. I haven’t started yet, but involves murder in an Arctic research station, which – like a strong iced cocktail – sounds like an essential beach accessory.

I’d love to know what everyone else out there is looking forward to diving into.

LabLit.com will be ten years old on 7 March 2015!

I am finding it difficult to believe that we’ve been bringing you the culture of science in fiction and fact for nearly an entire decade. But it’s true! Yesterday we published our 849th article: I never dreamed when I started this site that it would have had such great support, great contributions and great readers – to say nothing of mentions in the likes of The New York Times and US National Public Radio, or endorsements by Richard Powers and Neal Stephenson. Science in fiction has come a long way in ten years, too, with many more novels featuring scientists as central characters published than ever before. Long may that upward trend continue.

Despite my day job as a scientist, which seems to get ever more hectic, I’d love to find the time to put together an anniversary issue to be proud of. But I need your help. We are hereby making a special appeal for submissions for the big day – do consider sending in pieces for consideration!

Flash fiction extraordinaire

We are absolutely loving Glow by Joses Ho, our latest fiction on the site and our first offering from Ho. Not only is this story beautiful and touching, but it weighs in under 350 words, and is also only one sentence long!

Respect.

New Year, new fiction

We welcome 2015 with the first of a two-part mystery story by regular contributor Julia Richards, beautifully illustrated by Elicia Preston. There’s nothing we like more than a body in the laboratory to spice things up!

You may have noticed there’s been a lot of great fiction on the site recently – do check it out. We are keen to feature even more stories this year, so get in touch if you’d like to submit some science-related fiction. We run flash fiction, short stories and the occasional serialized novel; as a reminder, the stories must not have been published or appeared online before.

One for the List: Decoded by Mai Jia

We’re between upgrades to the LabLit List, but a steady stream of nominations keeps flowing into the editorial inbox. Thanks as always to the readers who’ve made suggestions – we are working through these and should have anything appropriate added in due course.

I’ve just finished one of these, Decoded by Mai Jia (translated from the Chinese by Olivia Milburn). It’s an interesting, enjoyable and strange tale, a rather metaphysical account of a codebreaker in post-World War II. More than any other book I’ve read, fiction or non-, it’s put me squarely into the heart and soul of a mathematician’s outlook. No mean feat for a topic that I struggle with and don’t much care for in the real world. It has a odd narrative structure, but is beautifully written with an undercurrent of humor. It is also the first Chinese addition to the LabLit List – hopefully the first of many!