Last year I rather foolishly allowed myself to be persuaded to take part in the #AtoZChallenge – the challenge being to write a blog post a day for the month of April, using the letters of the alphabet as one theme. Some people go even further and give themselves a single, unifying theme to write to, rather than just perambulating through the alphabet. Having been inveigled into this challenge, I then struggled for a little bit to come up with a theme. I couldn’t bring myself to write 26 random posts, I definitely wanted a theme to give the posts some focus to help both the reader and the writer. Eventually I came up with “How to write a thesis”, since this then gave me some fodder for day job as well – I get fed up saying the same things over and over again, so now I can airily wave a hand and point to the blog.
This year, I have no one to blame but myself! Despite the stress of writing up all the posts, the friction between this and other projects, I actually quite enjoyed it, and I got some great feedback from the community, so I thought I’d give it another go. They say to write about what you know and this worked for me last year, so this year I thought I would stick to something that arises from the day job, but to give it more of a twist so (drum roll, please), my theme for this year is:
Materials in Mythology and Speculative Fiction.
In the day job, I am a Materials Scientist and Engineer. What does that actually mean? Well, I’m interested in a tetrahedron formed from properties, processing, performance and (micro)structure. We often put characterisation sitting in the interstice between these four things. The key point is that all four are linked, so for example if I change the process, I will probably change the structure, which will lead to a change in the properties and performance. What I’m trying to do on the one hand is understand what has led to certain changes occurring in the first place and on the other is to try and eliminate problems without creating more. So I might look for a process that is cheaper and more energy efficient, but in doing so, I don’t want to change the microstructure because this will lead to a very different set of properties and different performance.
So for this year’s blog, I’m going to look at 26 occurrences and uses of materials which exist outside of our normal reality and explore why they have the properties that they do and whether this is possible or not – just because something is Fiction, it doesn’t have to be made up, if you see what I mean!
I should probably take the time to mention what I mean by mythology and by speculative fiction. I didn’t really want to go down the route of Prudence and her cousins (see Margaret Mahy’s Raging Robots and Unruly Uncles) and keep on adding things on as I think of them, so my simple thought here is that mythology in this context is anything from the written and spoken traditions of our world, which may or may not exist, but has given rise to epic stories. Speculative fiction includes, of course, fantasy, sci-fi, s.f. and everything in between. A nice broad remit…