January 27, 2006

Friday Fun: LabLit

Perfect for a Friday, I get to combine my usual focus on science & technology with my occasional focus on science fiction! Check out the site LabLit: The culture of science in fact & fiction for a bunch of fun and stimulating feature articles and resources. Or, as they put it, stuff about:

a small but growing genre of fiction in which central scientific characters, activities and themes are portrayed in a realistic manner, in a realistic (as opposed to futuristic or speculative) world. Lab lit, furthermore, encompasses all stories in which scientist characters are shown carrying out their scientific endeavors in a way that is integral to the plot. (I am always happy to see realistic minor scientist characters in literature of other genres, but I would not classify these books as 'lab lit' unless science was mostly the point of the novel. The boundaries are not always cut and dry, however.)

Lab lit is not synonymous with science fiction, although of course there can some overlap. Science fiction is removed from reality by definition and will have an element of fantasy – it will be set in the future, say, or in an alternative universe. No matter how realistically crafted these fantasy scientists and their world are, or how closely they parallel actual science culture, it will not be a scene that you and I could easily encounter were we to walk into a research institute, field station or any other place where scientists are doing what they do. Science fiction has and will continue to give us true-to-life protrayals of scientists in many cases, but the genre itself is a different beast.
While they're a bit coy about the whole sf thing, quite a few of the novels, films and other works they cite as just "novels" are, in fact, science fiction. They should just come clean and admit that sf about scientists doing science is really LabLit too, even if it's in the future. In any case, there's lots of very interesting things to check out on their site.

Some examples of the features they have:
A few pointers? First of all, it would be nice if the article blurbs on the front page actually matched the titles of the articles inside. Also, they should probably design their front page to be a bit less cluttered, only showing the most recent couple of articles in each category and making it a bit clearer how to get to the older items in that category.via Locusmag.

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