Experimental science writing publication

So much science writing comes in a certain set of forms. News, features, briefs, profiles, etc.

Why aren’t there more creative types of science writing? There is a movement of creative non-fiction, although that seems to have a fairly narrow view in itself. Why not an experimental science writing?

It probably doesn’t exist because there is no outlet for it. Nobody would publish such a thing, partly by definition because it’s experimental and there is not necessarily an audience for it.

So I’ll make an experimental science writing publication.

First a few key aspects of it.

1. What is experimental science writing?
It’s really any kind of story telling about science that uses unusual forms.

2. Does it have to be text?
Not at all! For a publication, it needs to be capturable in some way, such as text. But photographs would work fine. A recipe/algorithm for how to do something would also be fine.

3. What medium would the publication be in?
To get started so it doesn’t drown under the weight of dreams-too-big, I think that a print-on-demand magazine or book should be able to capture most of what we want. At least to start with. Later versions could be online and interactive.

4. Who would contribute?
Anybody who is interested. There is no need that your day job be as a professional science writer. You can define your connection to telling the stories of science however you like.

5. When will this happen?
I’m thinking now and writing this so it begins now. I’ll put out a call for submissions and see what we start to get in. Then we’ll take another look.

6. How can I be involved?
Contribute, edit, design, organize, contribute, contribute, smile, encourage, contribute, enjoy.

7. What are the kinds of things you are looking for?
I hate to say as it might push you in a certain direction, but I’m thinking about a few things myself. Translating an issue of a journal into haiku. Building an installation of a branching story in real space, photographed for the publication. Creating a rogue QR-code infestation in my town with each code telling a little story of science. Exquisite corpse, science style.

8. What do I do now?
Create something. Send it to me. Chat with me. I’m physicsdavid just about everywhere but I prefer gmail for contact. Or just add your name or a comment below and I’ll keep you in the loop.

6 thoughts on “Experimental science writing publication”

  1. I’ve always thought there should be more stories of Science success perhaps in a comic form – although I think these might exist. We could turn Einstein into a super hero who saves the world using knowledge of physics and or logic.

    That’d be a big undertaking I’m sure. But if you can various talents together, I.e writings, illustrators etc, it might just work.

  2. Actually, I’ve been thinking of science inspire graffiti recently. And on that subject today I thought it would be cool if we had some stickers we could slap on to things that would read “Made with Science” – just to remind everyone how important science is. I call it science bombing ;). But I’d like to have a series of them with these words and unique images. But it has to be small, like an icon or something. But theoretically we could blow them up and paste them on to sides of buildings ;).

  3. @SaCrlt: These are exactly the kinds of things that would be excellent to have.

    I’m not sure it needs to be such a big undertaking to get it started though. We should start with what we have and experiment with format, etc. and let the thing grow to excellence.

    Funny you should mention science graffiti. For my previous magazine (for which we commissioned comicsa sometimes including a manga cover and a cover and comic by Roz Chast) I was trying to do a science graffiti piece.

    Interestingly, the hard part wasn’t getting permission to have the graffiti done on a particular space at a govt lab but in getting the top San Francisco graffiti artists to agree to do it because of the risk of being identified! In the end they just weren’t prepared to because of the risks and because it was too legitimate!

    I love your science bombing idea. I’m about to do it with stickers printed with QR codes that contain bits of science info. Here in Palo Alto, I think enough people are familiar with QR codes that they’ll actually know what to do with them once they see them. One way to get stickers done rally nicely would be through Moo: http://us.moo.com/products/stickers.html They are small but reasonably cheap and look excellent.

  4. What a great idea, David. In the spirit of graffiti, I wonder whether we could apply science writing to tattoos–an offshoot of Carl Zimmer’s collection of science tattoos, in written form? I’d also love to see short-short form science writing, similar to short-short stories (some define those as 1,500 words or less). And at some point, audio science writing. What about science versions of the “This I Believe” essays? Putting parameters around it helps create the experiment…love this idea and I’ll spread it around.

  5. @Denise: I recall an art project that involved finding 100 or so people who would each have one word tattooed on their body. Nobody knew the whole story except the author. That might be extreme but I wonder if you sequenced images from Carl’s collection whether you could effectively tell a story…

    I am definitely into short short stories but for me 1500 words is long!

    Here’s an idea for short short:

    Four Words of Science (FWOS) project

    Schrodinger’s cat isn’t is (SCII)

    (some kind of mini story, and index them by their initials)

    Update: See Four Words of Science set up now. I’ll open it up to others to contribute once I get it properly set up.

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