An essay by author Christopher Edge
Science and stories
A few years ago, when I started writing my novel The Many Worlds of Albie Bright, I remember a friend asking me what it was about. “It’s kind of like the film It’s A Wonderful Life,” I replied, “but with quantum physics.” A frown furrowed my friend’s face. “Quantum physics?” he said. “And it’s a children’s book?”
I don’t think I write children’s books. I think I write stories. And stories are for everyone. But children are natural-born scientists, brimming with questions and an insatiable urge to find out more about the strange and wonderful universe around them. I’ve seen this first-hand as a parent, where the need to find answers to my son’s and daughter’s questions about life, the universe and everything, has led me to brilliant TV series such as Cosmos and Human Universe where the wonder that science can inspire is brought to life by brilliant scientists such as Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Professor Brian Cox.
Professor Cox has been quoted as saying, “Science is too important not to be a part of popular culture” and I believe children’s books have a role to play here too.
In my novels The Jamie Drake Equation and The Many Worlds of Albie Bright I wanted to bring the wonder that lies at the heart of science into the world of children’s fiction, taking theories about the search for alien life, the speed of light, quantum physics and parallel worlds, and using these to tell stories about love, loss and family. In my forthcoming novel The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day I tell the story of a girl called Maisie who’s a bit of a science whiz and when she wakes on the morning of her tenth birthday to find her house is empty and an unsettling, all-consuming blackness outside her front door, Maisie has to use her knowledge of the laws of the universe to solve the mystery of her changed reality.
Science explores the big questions about life, the universe and everything – the same questions that can underpin the very best fiction. Why are we here? What makes us human? How do we know we really exist? Science can help to create a real sense of wonder. A gift for storytellers.