I hope that if people read it a hundred years from now — and I think they will — they’ll see fascinating science, but they’ll also see wonderful writers.
And that was my other goal for this collection — for each of these stories to stand up as a great works of literature.
In this installment of the Undark Five, we asked her about what makes a story stand out, for insights into telling stories about science, and about gender and diversity issues in science writing — and in society — a topic that she believes is one of the most important issues facing the profession. Tim Folger [the series editor who selects a collection of stories each year for a guest editor to review] casts a really wide net.
Questions and answers have been lightly edited for clarity. I’m not at all invested in whether someone learns anything from what I write. He is reading for science in a much more diverse way than many of us do.
In other words, 75 percent of the contributors were women.
When the anthology series began, the opposite was true — they featured about 75 percent male writers. And I want to talk about it and I am afraid to talk about it — in the sense of not wanting to get beat up.I sent emails to people I knew to get names — book editors at publishing houses, literary agents, publicists. They matter in the world we live in now when we are inundated with so many news streams.Our attention is pulled so many ways and with a collection like this, we’ve done the work and you can just explore and enjoy.It’s much harder to figure out how to bring diversity into an anthology.You can tell by most bylines and it’s misleading and poor methodology to look at people’s photographs and make your own determination.“This is one of the most exciting times in the history of science,” New York Times-bestselling author Sam Kean proclaims in his introduction to The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2018. But there are more scientists making more discoveries in more places about more things than ever before.” The twenty-six pieces assembled here chart the full spectrum of those discoveries.From the outer reaches of space, to the mysteries of the human mind, to the changing culture in labs and universities across the nation, we see time and again the sometimes rocky, sometimes revelatory road to understanding, and along the way catch a glimpse of all that’s left to learn.And it reminds you that you are participating in an art form called storytelling.Even though you are a science writer, you are participating in this art form that also includes Miles Davis. The anthology contains 25 stories and just six of them were written by men.What about the question of diversity in contributors?We’ve had many conversations in the community of science journalists about the fact that the field can feel overwhelmingly white, and about how — and when — we can improve that.