November 2014: In the first of what I hope will be many years’ involvement in the Cambridge Festival of Ideas, I took part in two events on the festival calendar. The first was a Faculty of English staple – one of the ‘How to Read’ events where members of the Faculty guide the audience through their chosen texts. Having just submitted the manuscript of my edited collection (along with co-editor Dr Caroline Edwards at Birkbeck) on Maggie Gee, I was delighted to have the opportunity to talk about Gee’s work in public, focusing on the short story collection The Blue (2006). The other event was dreamed up by myself and Dr Melanie Keene, organiser of the Cambridge Literature and Science reading group and author of the hotly anticipated new study of Victorian science and fairytales, Science in Wonderland (2015). We wanted to inaugurate a regular festival event that would bring scientists and literary scholars together to discuss a topic of concern or relevance across disciplines. This year we focused on ‘Reading the Anthropocene‘. Philip Gibbard, Professor of Quaternary Palaeoenvironments in the Department of Geography at Cambridge, and writer and environmental campaigner Tony Juniper joined Melanie and I to discuss whether we are indeed now in a new geological era, and whether or not that actually matters.
September 2014: It was a pleasure to be welcomed with open arms by the 34th Cambridge Film Festival team as one of their Q&A hosts for this year’s event. I presented a range of Q&As from talking with director André Sanger and producer Sally Angel about the hard-hitting holocaust film Night Will Fall, to a much more light-hearted but equally interesting conversation with director Rowan Joffe and novelist Stephen J Watson (picture below) after the screening of the film adaptation of Stephen’s best-selling novel Before I Go to Sleep, starring Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth. There is an amateur video of the Q&A available on you tube:
I also hosted two Q&As with directorial duo Çağla Zencirci & Guillaume Giovanetti, whose most recent film Noor took my breath away. Move over Thelma and Louise – here’s a twenty-first century road movie with a gender twist that everyone should see.
August 2014: Loncon3, the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention, London. This was the first Worldcon to be held in London since 1965 and the 75th anniversary of the very first Worldcon held in New York in 1939. Thousands of SF fans from around the world descended on London for activities ranging from the costume parade to academic panels. I went along to give my last talk on What Scientists Read before I put the project on hold until September 2016, as well as to take part in panel discussions on the animal in SF (with Adam Roberts and others), climate change narratives (with Kim Stanley Robinson and others), and the uses (or abuses?) of TED as a form of science communication.
May 2014: The Palimpsest Symposium, part of the Invisible Fabrick project, Norwich Castle Museum, Norwich. Myself, and fellow academic Clarie Preston joined artists Patrick Coyle and Adam Chodzko and architecture writer Owen Hatherley to discuss the ever productive and engaging metaphor of the palimpsest, especially the way in which it provokes new thinking about history, text and land.
April 2014: What Scientists Read, Edinburgh International Science Festival, Edinburgh. My fellow What Scientists Read project team member Pippa Goldschmidt – astronomer and author of The Falling Sky – hosted a lively discussion at the EISF in which myself, SF author Alistair Reynolds and two of our intrepid WSR interviewees discussed the influence of literature on science. Many thanks to the Royal Society of Edinburgh for the funding to put on the event and to all the interested audience members who made it such an engaging evening. I look forward to returning to the EISF next year for more lit-sci related activities which I’m told the organisers have up their sleeves!