This anthology draws out and distils science's love of narrative from a wide range of scientific disciplines, weaving theory into very human stories, and delving into the humanity of theorists and experimenters as they stood on the brink of momentous discoveries: from Joseph Swan's original light-bulb moment to the uncovering of mirror neurons lighting up empathy zones in the human brain; from Einstein's revelation on a Bern tram, to Pavlov's identification of personality types thanks to a freak flood in his St Petersburg lab.
Each story has been written in close consultation with scientists and historians and is accompanied by a specially written afterword, expanding on the science for the general reader. Together, they bring vividly to life the stories behind the 'eureka!' moments that changed the way we live, forever.
In 1919 Sigmund Freud published an essay that delved deep into the tradition of horror writing and claimed to understand one of its darkest tricks. Like a mad scientist, he performed literary vivisection on a still-breathing body of work, exploring its inner anatomy, and pulling out mysterious organs for classification. His aim: to present to the world a complete theory of ‘das unheimliche’, the uncanny.
In the spirit of this great experiment, 14 leading authors have here been challenged to write fresh fictional interpretations of what the uncanny might mean in the 21st century, to update Freud’s famous checklist of what gives us the creeps, and to give the hulking canon of uncanny fiction a shot in the arm, a shock to the neck-bolts...
'It’s not too great a stretch to see Comma as the literary equivalent of Factory Records.'
- The Herald, 2 Dec.
'Delightful and disturbing'
- The Independent on Sunday, 14 Dec.
'A masterclass in understated creepiness... a deliciously macabre collection that the old Austrian might well have enjoyed.'
- Book of the Week, Time Out, 12 Jan.
'If we need the uncanny – and I suspect we do – then we also need it updating... laudable.'
- Book of the Week, The Independent, 2 Jan.
'A bold idea.'
- The Guardian, 3 Jan.
Which of these would you wager is pure science fiction, and which currently being developed in the lab? Such is the speed and excitement of today’s bio-medical research – sprinting from the starting gun that was the Human Genome Project – it’s sometimes hard to tell. In a unique collaboration, fourteen short story writers have been invited to explore the increasingly grey area between the fantastical and that which is already within our reach. Closely collaborating with scientists and ethicists working at the forefronts of their respective fields, each writer has been tasked with predicting some of the potential ‘ethical side-effects’ of this ground-breaking work. Not all progress, after all, is progressive. And dark forces are afoot that threaten to hi-jack what many declared would be ‘the century of biology’.
'Fascinating reading.' - Financial Times
'An exhilarating read.' - The Short Review
Toby Litt's Bio-Punk story 'Call it ''The Bug'' Because I Have No Time to Think of a Better Title' short-listed for the 2013 Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award.