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.

Portsmouth Bookfest 20×12 – Charlotte Comley

Today’s writer for the Portsmouth Bookfest 20×12 readings series is Charlotte Comley, who will be reading at Portsmouth Central Library at 12.20. Charlotte is an absolutely outstanding performer. I recently saw her semi-improvise a monologue which was funny, bittersweet and with a surreal twist that reminded me of Alan Bennett.

If you are close to Portsmouth city centre this Monday lunchtime and can find time to pop into the library to watch Charlotte read, you’re in for a real treat, I promise you.

Charlotte blogs at

UPDATE – Charlotte has written a great blog piece about her 20×12 experience – read it here.

Portsmouth Bookfest 20×12 – DJ Kirkby

Today’s writer for the 20×12 events at Portsmouth Bookfest is DJ Kirkby (@DJKirkby), who will be reading from her book for children Realand at Southsea Library, 12.20 pm. DJ is an all round lovely person and prolific writer. I’ve seen her read before and she’s excellent, so if you’re out and about in Southsea today (with or without children) I can definitely recommend that you drop in to meet her and hear her read.

DJ also has a great website which is well worth a visit.


Christine Lawrence @ Portsmouth Bookfest 20×12

I am now the proud owner of a signed copy of Caught in the Web by local author Christine Lawrence. Christine read an excerpt from her first novel at Southsea Library today as part of the Portsmouth Bookfest 20×12, a series of free readings by local authors.

Christine was an engaging reader, drawing the audience in[to the web!] with an energetic performance that gripped the attention of a few passers-by who ended up staying to watch. In keeping with the theme of her book, which deals with the incarceration of unmarried pregnant women in mental institutions, Christine created an atmosphere of claustrophobia and confinement, not only with her words, but also with her clever use of confined space and movement throughout the reading.

A great start to 20×12!

You can find out more about Christine at her blog:


Christine used space and movement to create a claustrophobic atmosphere

Book signing after the reading