Summer denouement, and what’s on the horizon

As autumn gathers around the LabLit.com nerve center, I can only lament how few books-for-pleasure I managed to get through during my vacation. But it’s always the way – sometimes the novels I pack never even manage to leave the suitcase.

We’ve been a little quiet over the summer period, but content should start picking up again soon in its usual “back to school” kind of way. As always, if you have anything to contribute to the site, just drop us a line on editorial(at)lablit.com. I promise we don’t bite. And if you think our response is taking too long, just give us a friendly prod. We are all volunteers with busy day jobs!

In the past week or so we’ve put up two new pieces – a story about the grant-reviewing process from our regular fiction contributor João Ramalho-Santos, entitled ‘Panel‘, and today’s offering: a neat little essay about how fiction adds value to understanding the scientific experience, from another regular contributor, Pippa Goldschmidt.

I can also report that a year’s worth of new nominations for the Lab Lit List has officially hit the desk of our List editor, Åsa Karlström, and should be ready for publication soon! (No pressure, Åsa.) It’s early days, but I’m fairly confident in saying that this may be our biggest upgrade yet, reflecting a growing popularity for writers wanting to deal with scientist characters. Long may it continue.

in the meantime, happy reading!

Hot summer reading

It’s the heart of summer now here in England, and we’re in the midst of a protracted heatwave. Sunshine always makes me want sit in the shade and get lost in a good book.

Life is as busy as ever in the Lab Lit nerve center. But after recovering from a flurry of literary engagements, including Fiction Lab’s Ten-Year Anniversary event at London’s Royal Institution, I’ve had the chance to do a bit of beach reading myself – including a guilty pleasure which I’ll review in due course for the main site. In the meantime, if you’re wondering what to bring on holiday, I recommend a number of recent lab lit novels in an interview on Living Lab Radio with the fine folks at WCAI National Public Radio, in what’s becoming a semi-regular geeky spot. Take a listen.

I’ve also got a new novel out myself: Cat Zero, which has everything you need for a great escapist read with science at its heart. But don’t just take my word for it: Matthew Reisz, writing for The Times Higher, deemed it “highly entertaining” and said that “it shines light on the backbiting and tensions of lab life as an unlikely team of scientists work to save the cats of Kent from a mysterious virus”. He also wonders, “who could stop themselves reading to the end to discover how it turns out?”.

Who indeed? Go on, you know you want to.

Edward Docx under the microscope at Fiction Lab

Docx (right) ponders a tough question by Fiction Lab regular Richard Marshall

The LabLiterati had a wonderful time this past Monday when author Edward Docx (no relation to the file extension) was our special guest at the Royal Institution’s Fiction Lab. His novel, The Devil’s Garden, is a smart and literary lab lit thriller featuring a group of scientists studying ants in the Amazon who get caught in a deadly conflict among the military, the oil companies, the indigenous tribes and the cocaine producers. Highly recommended.

Ed was a lovely and engaging guest who was interested in our feedback and kept the conversation moving with lively descriptions about his own times in the Amazon and the inspirations for the story. He rather charmingly brought along two copies of his latest novel Let Go My Hand to give away to the people he sensed were “the least enthusiastic” about The Devil’s Garden. He even joined us down the pub afterwards and bought us two rounds of bar snacks – what better way to endear himself?

The clot thickens

We are pleased to publish the latest instalment in “The League of Imaginary Cats”, our series examining famous scientific discoveries through the lens of fiction. In A rose by any other name, Deputy Editor Richard P. Grant writes about a mysterious discrepancy surrounding the development of the famous anticoagulant, heparin, which remains a mystery to this day.

And if you’re new to the Cats series, you can use the navigation tools at the top right to check out the entire series.

The big chill

It’s been a bitter cold winter here in London, complete with various nasty illnesses decimating the LabLit nerve center. But I’m happy to report that spring finally seems to be on its way – even though the thermometer still doesn’t reflect it.

I also had eye surgery in the new year, which put a stop to most of my reading endeavors. I did trial out an Audible eBook, and while I enjoyed the experience, I decided that it was just too expensive to carry on. So until my eyes get a bit better, I’m going to be living vicariously through the discussions at the London Fiction Lab book club..

Our most recent piece up at LabLit comes from our regular contributor Anne Burke, who’s been inspired by an interview with Margaret Atwood to muse about the difference between science fiction and speculative fiction that happens to come true some time in the future.

Finally, I’m pleased to report that we’re gearing up for a major upgrade of the LabLit List, going live in March.

In the meantime, I wish you all a cosy, warm and happy ending to this long, cruel, flu-ridden winter! I’d love to hear what you’re reading to survive in good cheer.

An unusual angle on Fermat’s Last Theorem

Our fiction series The League of Imaginary Cats continues with An attic recluse, a fine flash fiction from Helen-Frances Pilkington – with a rather abrupt ending.

As the cold and grey January trundles on here in our neck of the woods, I hope that everyone is escaping in novels and stories and looking forward to the coming spring.

Happy New Year – and yet more reading for your pile!

Well, that was quick: and another year has gone by. Here at LabLit.com, we’re approaching our 13th year of existence, and our 1000th article. It’s hard for me to believe that we’re still going strong, and that interest in the project remains high.

To wit, over Christmas I was interviewed on NPR about a few recently published lab lit books. Most aren’t on the List yet, because we’re still in the process of preparing our Spring upgrade. So consider this broadcast a sneak preview!

In other news, we’ve just published another fine, one-word-titled short story from our fabulous repeat offender João Ramalho-Santos: Statistics. João’s stories always have an autobiographical feel and tend to be steeped in melancholy, but with a humorous edge. Do check it out – and take a look at his back catalogue when you’re finished.

From all of us here at LabLit.com, we hope the new year brings you everything you need and want!

It’s that time of year again!

The twinkling lights of LabLit

I’m pleased to report that here in the LabLit nerve center, we are officially off for the Christmas holidays. This means family time, down time, not-thinking-quite-so-much-about-science time. And of course, reading time, at long last.

There are quite a few books on my pile. But at the moment I am devoting all of my spare time to the pre-publication flurry surrounding my own upcoming lab lit novel, Cat Zero. There are galleys to proof, dedications and acknowledgments to write, puffs to solicit, advance review copies to be optimistically posted to various outlets. The big day is 1 February 2018, but the novel can be pre-ordered on Amazons near and far already (UK and USA).

We are delighted today to publish two new pieces on the site. First we have “Geeks at play“, a brief review by our chief lab lit sniffer, Dom Stiles, of some of the main science-y board games. So if you’re strapped for a last-minute Christmas gift for that scientifically-minded loved one, do check it out. And second, we’ve published “Along the edge“, a fantastic flash fiction from Maura Yzmore (the pen name of a professor in the physical sciences at a large university in the US). Her day job, according to her bio, involves “quantum mechanics, dry-erase markers, geeky puns, and lots of technical writing.”

How can you possibly resist? Get in.

From all of us at LabLit.com, have a wonderful and restful holiday season!

The Colour of Cats

What do cats have to do with pH? you might well ask.

Actually, according to Fiction Lab regular Richard Marshall, not a lot. Instead, in “Wyndhams“, he claims that the inspiration behind those coloured pH strips familiar to those of us who have spent any time at all in the chemistry lab was not so much feline, as piscine.

The trouble with lichen is that it all smells a bit fishy.

And I’ll let you into a little secret: ‘Universal Indicator’ was the working title for this series, before we settled on “The League of Imaginary Cats”… for reasons that may or may not become apparent in a few installments’ time.

The dog’s…

No cat, but a strange take on various heroes of genetics from Rachel Rodman.