It’s publication day! There have been two or three launch events already, and I received my copies of the book a week or so ago, but October 29th is the official publication date for Spindles: Stories from the Science of Sleep, which includes my short story My Soul to Keep. (Actually, I’ve found three different ‘official’ publication dates online but I have time to write a blog post today so I’m going with this one!)
The anthology, published by the very marvellous Manchester-based independent, Comma Press, is the latest in their series in which fiction writers collaborate with researchers and academics to produce science-themed stories and accompanying afterwords.
To quote from the blurb on the back of the book: “For centuries, sleep has provided writers with a magical ingredient – a passage of time during which great changes miraculously occur, an Orpheus-like voyage through the subconscious daubed with the fantastic. But over the last ten years, our scientific understanding of sleep has been revolutionised. No longer is sleep viewed as a time of simple rest and recuperation. Instead, it is proving to be an intensely dynamic period of brain activity: a vital stage in the re-wiring of memories, the learning of new skills, and the processing of problems and emotions. How will storytelling respond to this new and emerging science of sleep?”
There are fourteen stories, from a strong line up of specially commissioned writers, including M.J. Hyland, Deborah Levy, Sara Maitland, Adam Marek and Adam Roberts. The standard is high throughout but I was especially taken with Maria Hyland‘s A Sleeping Serial Killer and The Raveled Sleeve of Care by Adam Roberts. Many of the scientific afterwords make fascinating reading in themselves.
For my contribution, I was paired with Ed Watkins, Professor of Experimental and Applied Clinical Psychology at the University of Exeter, a specialist in mood disorders. With his help, I researched and wrote a story centred on the interconnections between depression and hypersomnia, or excessive sleep. Narrated by Kim, a technician in a sleep laboratory, My Soul to Keep is the tale of a young woman, Charlotte, who is entering her 365th day of uninterrupted sleep, confounding medical science and all attempts to wake her. Meanwhile, in the street outside the lab, hordes of Charlotte’s devotees have set up a sleep camp and are chanting her name, convinced that she is some kind of living (or sleeping) goddess.The Manchester Science Festival, where I took part in a recent launch event, heralded the anthology as follows: “Despite storytelling’s age-old fascination with sleep and dreams, authors have yet to properly address even the basics of contemporary sleep science. Comma Press have commissioned a talented and exciting group of sleep scientists and fiction writers to tackle this most ordinary, and most mysterious animal function. From memory consolidation, to the ‘printing’ of new memories during sleep, from sleep disorders like parasomnia, to genetic theories about insomnia – this anthology of short stories and scientific afterwords covers everything the modern field has to offer, whilst staying in touch with the age-old mythology that still surrounds and informs our understanding of sleep.”
Spindles was supported by the Wellcome Trust and is edited by Ra Page, of Comma Press, and Dr Penelope Lewis of the University of Manchester’s NaPS (Neuroscience and Psychology of Sleep) lab. For more details about the collection or to order a copy at a discount price of £8.75 (RRP £9.99), please click on this link to the Comma website.