A new anthology of stories finds inspiration in Einstein’s general theory of relativity, unveiled to the world a century ago in November 1915.
Novelist Pippa Goldschmidt has a PhD in astronomy and has worked as a writer-in-residence at a number of academic institutions such as the Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg in Germany. Poet and short story writer Tania Hershman is studying for a PhD in creative writing inspired by particle physics at Bath Spa University.
Both of them, as they explain in the introduction to their collection I Am Because You Are, believe that Einstein’s general theory is “so interesting that everyone should have the opportunity to know about it. And one way to illustrate what Einstein brought to the world without becoming bogged down in complicated maths is through art and literature inspired by his ideas.”
The editors therefore got together a team of writers, some of whom had “never been exposed to anything beyond weights and measures in school science lessons”, and arranged a day-long workshop where experts from the astrophysics group at the University of Oxford explained the basics of relativity, cosmology, black holes and quantum gravity.
Ms Goldschmidt and Ms Hershman also reached out to a wider group of writers, invited them to submit Einstein-themed stories and selected four from about 100 that they received.
Although the editors were happy to let the authors “respond to the theory in anyway they thought fit, to stretch and curve their imaginations!”, they were delighted by the range of unexpected topics that spurred creativity.
As well as Einstein’s life, they report, they have therefore included stories about “black holes as a one-way process leading from light and life to darkness and death”, “expanding space and the resulting red shift removing us from the ones we love”, “the interdependence of orbiting objects on each other” and even “physics’ difficulty in bringing together coherent stories of the very large and very small”.
Memorable story titles include “An endless parade of light heartbreaks” and “Eric’s mum has a black hole inside her”.
I Am Because You Are is published this week by Freight Books