The stories in the Light Reading Anthology
were written by members of the public from all walks of life. What links them is the fact that their authors were all inspired by the science that is made possible by the Diamond synchrotron, which produces some of the brightest light on the planet and helps thousands of scientists every year to study all kinds of materials, from artificial hips and samples of the Mary Rose to virus proteins and potential new fuel sources.
Light Reading was a public short story competition that ran last year. Last week’s launch of the anthology saw successful writers gather at Diamond to get their first glimpse of the compilation of the most impressive tales. The anthology contains the best 20 stories entered into the main competition category (3000 words) and the five Flash Fiction entries (300 words or less) that received the most votes from the public via the Light Reading website
Corie Ralston (pictured below), whose story – The Sound of Science – scooped the 1st Prize, flew over from the USA to attend the event. She was joined by fellow Light Reading and Flash Fiction entrants who came from across the UK to visit the source of their inspiration and receive their prizes.
While Diamond features in all the stories in some way, they are as varied as the science carried out at the Institute itself. In The Sound of Science
a harassed scientist leading a tour of the synchrotron is heckled by a slug-like alien obsessed by his DNA. As the tale unfolds we get to the bottom of the alien’s mysterious visit to planet earth. Other adventures include a ghostly encounter on one of the beamlines, an adrenaline-filled escapade with an Egyptian mummy, and a tender exploration of love and memory by a man succumbing to dementia.
Corie Ralston, who is herself a scientist working at a synchrotron in California, is thrilled to have won 1st Prize. Corie explains, “I was intrigued when I heard about the Light Reading competition and feel very honoured to have won. The other stories in the anthology are really fascinating and the book also gives readers a wonderful insight into Diamond’s machine and its science. The idea for The Sound of Science came out of a tour I gave at the Advanced Light Source. I started out feeling irritated that the tour was taking valuable time out of my day. But the enthusiasm of the group and their endless questions made me see the synchrotron through their eyes....as a truly extraordinary place where the progress of science is almost tangible. Also I love science fiction, so it seemed natural to put an alien at the heart of the story!”
During the event, Prof Gerd Matelik, Diamond’s Chief Executive, and Lord Alec Broers, Diamond’s Chairman, presented each writer with a copy of the anthology. Gerd comments, “Our idea with Light Reading was to draw creative writers and readers to the science that we do here and inspire some interesting fiction along the way. We were really impressed by the high quality of all the entries we received. Everyone clearly put a huge amount of effort into their stories and it was wonderful to see Diamond come to life in people’s imaginations in such dramatically different ways. Looking ahead, we believe a version of Light Reading for school children would be a really exciting project and will be launching this shortly, with the help of some of the authors whose stories appear in the anthology.”
Following the launch event on the 7th September, the public can read and download (to Tablet or Kindle) the Light Reading Anthology, which was edited by former Times science journalist Dr Anjana Ahuja, at www.light-reading.org. Schools wishing to register their interest in the Light Reading story competition for their pupils can e-mail Diamond’s Outreach Manager Laura Holland at firstname.lastname@example.org.