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What is Science-Inspired Fiction?

While my first love is fiction, I studied Mathematics and Physics at university and wanted to combine my interest in science with short stories. Inspired by Alan Lightman's beautiful book, Einstein's Dreams (see below), I found a way to do this which I call "science-inspired fiction" - not to be confused with science fiction! Taking a piece of scientific fact as her starting point, I allow my imagination free rein in creating a story from it. I am collecting more and more examples of SiF or "sci-lit" - see below...

As a science journalist, I was exposed to the wonders and craziness of scientific discovery on a daily basis. Science, to me, is endlessly fascinating. scientists are exploring our world from so many different angles, asking questions that no-one has ever asked before. They say to themselves, 'What if....?' This is the same question fiction writers ask... so it seemed natural to me to combine the two!

The title story in my collection, The White Road, is a great example of how this works. It was inspired by this quote from weekly science magazine New Scientist:
What's long, white, and very, very cold? The road to the South Pole is nearing completion… this road will stretch for more than 1600 kilometres across some of the most inhospitable terrain in the world.
The short story that emerged is about a woman fleeing from tragedy who sets up a roadside cafe alongside this snowy"white road" to the South Pole. Read the story on

Half the stories in this collection are similarly inspired by articles from New Scientist. My Name is Henry, for example, was inspired by an article on the damage caused by lightning strikes; Express took as its starting point a piece of research about how people who are bilingual spend their lives ignoring one of the two languages they speak; On a Roll was inspired by an article on randomness.

I am now writer-in-residence in Bristol University's Science Faculty, taking inspiration directly from the labs, and working on a collection of biology-inspired short stories.  Read my blog about my experiences.

Riffing on Strings

an anthology of cr an anthology of creative writing inspired by String Theory....

...including Tania's story, Secrets

Einstein's Dreams

Alan Lightman's beautiful and original meditations on the nature of time and Einstein's theory of relativity. A true example of science-inspired fiction.


Michael Frayn's thought-provoking and moving play about the visit made by the German physicist, Werner Heisenberg, to Neils Bohr during World War Two.

"...dedicated to real laboratory culture and to the portrayal and perceptions of that culture – science, scientists and labs – in fiction, the media and across popular culture."  Check out their ever-expanding list of novels, films, plays and TV programs featuring science and scientists!

including Tania's flash story Sci Idol

The Wave Theory of Angels

Alison MacLeod's stunning novel which combines medieval theology with 21st century physics. 

Tangled Roots

Sue Guiney's wonderful debut novel about a physicist dealing with issues of family, religion and the workings of the universe. 

A Quark for Mister Mark

101 Poems about science

Published by Faber.

Darwin: A Life in Poems

Ruth Padel's poems about the life and work of her great-great-grandfather, Charles Darwin.

The Solitude of Prime Numbers

Paolo Giordano's dark and moving novel about families, mathematics, tragedy and friendship.

When It Changed: Science Into Fiction

An anthology of short stories resulting from pairing fiction writers with scientists.

Litmus: Short Stories from Modern Science

A second anthology of short stories resulting from pairing fiction writers with scientists - this one centred around the myth of "Eureka" moments.

About Grace

Anthony Doerr's beautiful novel about water, about snow crystals, about love and dreams, catastrophe and hope.

The Gate of Angels

Penelope Fitzgerald's wonderful and very funny love story about a Cambridge academic physicist.

Litro magazine's SCIENCE-themed issue (April 2011)

PANK magazine's SCIENCE and FICTION issue (Dec 2011)

Brazzaville Beach

William Boyd's novel which manages to combine the study of chimps in the wild with the mathematics of turbulence!