BioPunk: Stories from the Far Side of Research

New anthologies from Comma Press are always exciting, but BioPunk: Stories from the Far Side of Research is doubly so (for me, anyway), because my story “Xenopus Rose-Tinted” is in it.

BioPunk is the third and final anthology in Comma’s series of scientist-author collaborations and explores the ethical ramifications around innovative bio-medical research. Once I had agreed to get involved, I was sent a list of potential research areas nominated by the scientists. The concept was that each author would pick a research area, meet the scientist, learn as much as they could about the research and write a story that would then be checked for factual accuracy by the scientist. Each story would be published with an afterword from the scientist, explaining the science in more detail and grounding it in real research.

Once I had picked my research topic (which I’m not going to go into here, as it would spoil the story) I travelled up to Manchester to meet my scientist, Dr Nick Love. Nick made me very welcome and spent a day showing me around his lab and explaining his work. Nick may well be the most patient man on the planet when it comes to answering stupid questions and explaining cutting-edge research to someone who just scraped through her biology A-level. He had kindly prepared a couple of crib sheets for me, one of which used a lovely musical metaphor to explain part of the science, which I refined a bit and used in the final story. We also talked about ethics and I was struck by how reflective Nick was around these issues, and that he did not pretend there were any easy answers.

Writing “Xenopus Rose-Tinted” was challenging at times, as I tried to articulate complex scientific ideas in language that would keep non-scientific readers engaged, but would also accurately reflect the scientific reality. I also struggled with the ethical issues and agonised over how to address these in the story without sounding too preachy. But I also had a lot of fun writing this story, and I hope you have fun reading it too.

BioPunk: Stories from the Far Side of Research, ed. Ra Page (Comma Press, 2012) is published on 22 November 2012, in paperback and on Kindle. Follow this link below for additional information.

I will also be reading an abridged version of “Xenopus Rose-Tinted” in Portsmouth Central Library at 12.20 pm on Thursday 1st November 2012, as part of the Portsmouth Bookfest 20×12 event.