How can you write a story from a “what if?”. . .
Thought X sets out to answer this question in the form of an anthology of scientific and philosophical thought experiments examined through the lens of short fiction. Writers – established and emerging – are paired with thinkers and scientists to creatively “translate” each theory into fiction. The introduction by accelerator physicist Dr Rob Appleby and Ra Page, the founder and editorial manager of Comma Press, sets up the experiment: beginning with the premise that if a thought experiment is “just, at base, a story” then it can be applied to, or explored by, other fiction. The book does what it says on the tin; this collection explores hypothetical situations and ideas through the medium of storytelling. From Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity to determinism and free will; from desire to quantum mechanics. And featuring, of course, a take on Schrödinger’s famous cat-in-a-box thought experiment (this in Margaret Wilkinson‘s lovely, melancholic If He Wakes).
Each story is followed by an essay by a scientist/philosopher explaining the - sometimes brain bending - theories behind the tales. The essays in themselves make for entertaining, if sometimes challenging, reading! There are a mix of genres present, from Adam Marek’s speculative futuristic Lightspeed to the almost timeless folk tale setting of Zoe Gilbert’s Tether. Another story of note is Annalise Mackintosh’s Inertia, a tender story that explores Special Relativity through the protagonist’s agony in watching her father dying and the imagined (and often funny) thoughts of a teenage Einstein woven through. Ian Watson’s Monkey Business is a fun riff on the Infinite Monkey Typing Pool. This theory posits that if you filled a room full of monkeys who ceaselessly bashed away at typewriters for as long as they needed, then, at some point, a full Shakespeare play would emerge from the clattering, chattering chaos.
Other writers include Sandra Alland, Annie Clarkson, Marie Louise Cookson, Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Claire Dean, Andy Hedgecock, Annie Kirby, Adam Roberts and Sarah Schofield. Thinkers include professors: Jonathan Wolff, Stewart Boogert, Sarah Brindle, Steven French, Roman Frigg, Frank Jackson, Tara Shields, Ian Stewart, and Michela Massimi; doctors Seth Bullock, Ana Jofe, and Reader Dr Rob Appleby. If that stellar line-up of writers and thinkers doesn’t tempt you enough,
Manchester-based independent publisher Comma Press has form with their science-into-fiction model and boast a chunky back catalogue of short story collections including: Litmus: Short Stories from Modern Science, Bio-Punk, and Beta Life (all of which are highly recommended). They’re an exciting, experimental publisher who are well worth checking out.
THOUGHT X: FICTIONS AND HYPOTHETICALS / EDITOR: DR. ROB APPLEBY, RA PAGE / AUTHOR: VARIOUS / PUBLISHER: COMMA PRESS / RELEASE DATE: TBC