Science Meets Fiction: Julie Bertanga, Saci Lloyd and Jane Rogers, Friday 6th July, 1 – 3pm, Museum of Science and Industry
Words and photographs by Hannah Clarke
Having only snippets of knowledge on the authors attending the Science Meets Fiction event today at the Museum of Science and Industry, I wasn’t fully sure what to expect. Would there be Doctor Who Daleks roaming the event? Would there be a live experiment to show the public the advance of science? Would the authors try to explain their own theories on time travel? You’ll soon see.
As I sit in the MOSI, I quickly recognise there isn’t a better home for this event, as the authors, Julie Bertanga, Jane Rogers and Saci Lloyd all delve into how science inspires them and what role it plays in their novels.
As well as the full room of 11-16 year-old students having their scientific minds in top form, there is also a sense of anticipation, as this event will also reveal the winners of ‘The Midland Future Manchester Young Writers Competition’, judged by Julie Bertanga.
As each author takes their place at a microphone, they all have their own way of drawing the audience in and grabbing their full attention, enlightening and inspiring us by talking about their inspirations, then reading short fragments of their latest novels. Julie starts with her novel Exodus, the first of a trilogy (Zenith and Aurora are the second and third books), where she shares with us how the idea of this novel came from reading an article in a newspaper 10 years ago. The article itself was an SOS from the South Sea Islands, as climate change was taking an unheard, dramatic effect in the form of rising sea levels. The story follows Mara’s life 100 years from now after the impact of climate change. Julie also expresses how the science of today has huge inspiration behind her work, such as the recent discovery of the Higgs Boson (‘The God Particle’) and how this explores the destructive and creative aspects of human nature.
Jane Rogers is next with her novel The Testament of Jessie Lamb. Taking place a mere six months in the future, the thought that not much can change is deceiving. Jane takes long, dramatic pauses, intensifying the story, almost bringing it to life. The novel explores a threat of biological terrorism as the disease MDS (Maternal Death Syndrome) starts to attack. By targeting pregnant women, it is quickly evident that this will soon be the cause of a shrinking population. The novel explores an inter-generational conflict between the youths and their elders with the characters having to succeed in finding a solution, which the previous generation failed to do.
Last to speak is the very animated, and funny, Saci Lloyd. Saci quickly informs us that she sees herself as a political writer and rather than basing her novels in the future with futuristic ideas, she enjoys taking today’s problems and twisting them. The audience is quickly engaged in Saci’s lively presence, guaranteeing laughter from everyone when reading a critical email from someone who said the future in her book wasn’t ‘realistic’ enough as the car company Saab have stopped creating a model which featured in her books. Reading from her novel Momentum, we hear how the characters Uma and Hunter are in London where parkour is popular, even more so than getting the bus.
We get to the Q&As. I learn how the ideas can advance just like science and how important science is within literature. We are told that science should support the story rather than the other way round.
“Take an idea and run with it.”
A member of the audience asks the authors how long it takes them to write a novel. Saci and Julie say roughly 1 to 2 years, whereas Julie says 5. They also share how not every novel they write finds instant fame and success. Exodus was difficult to get published and also sell in North America. Julie also received emails from librarians telling her to stop writing ‘scary, climate-changing stories’. Tips get passed around on how to overcome procrastination; turning off the internet being one of the top ones.
“Writing is like snakes and ladders.”
Now is the time to reveal the winners of the competition and present the top three with signed copies of the books from today’s authors on top of a pocket video camera for first prize.
Third place belongs to Rubab Zahra, with After the Dark Days
Second place belongs to Joseph Arthur Smith, with Fodder
First place belongs to Josh Degenhardt, with When the Rain Falls They Talk of Manchester
Julie finishes by reading the dramatic, edge-of-seat, winning piece. One thing is clear, these authors better watch out!