Monday, 28 July 2014

Pizza Delivery

A week and a half ago I had a slot at Science Showoff at the Grain Barge in Bristol. I decided I would read some light lab lit, dusting off "Schrödinger’s Pizza", which I've read at spoken word events only twice before, and even then not for a couple of years.

Turns out that experience — experience of reading at spoken word events — counts for something. The story was helped by having the right audience — science-literate geeks — but I also felt my reading of the story was far better this time round. It was easier to bring out the characters and the moments, so I also enjoyed reading it more than before — the memory of which had, until now, influenced my choice to leave it out of possible candidates for spoken word events.

As all the other presentations that evening were, well, presentations, all the other presenters used PowerPoint slides. I decided to go with the flow and prepare a couple of slides — for backdrop rather than exposition, and timer driven rather than clicked through manually. But it was still fairly minimal: a title slide, two slides showing the principal inspirations for the story and a slide with contact details against a photo of the issue of Litro in which the story first appeared.

One of the original inspirations that prompted me to start writing the story was a joke. I quickly found that mixing the story with the joke gave it too long a setup, and made the joke more central to the story than I wanted. I concluded after a few hundred words that the joke was best appreciated on its own and the story was better off without it, at which point I, well, concluded — I lost momentum and stopped writing. I started again when I was prompted by two things: a deadline (never underestimate the motivational power of a deadline) and a T-shirt, whose image I used on a slide at Science Showoff.

The other prompt and inspiration — and consequently slide image — for the story was the cover of an issue of Animal Man that Ewan Milne told me about and then gave me as a birthday or Christmas present. Don't remember the contents being up to much, but the cover more than made up for that.

It was a great evening, with presentations that were both fascinating and amusing, plus good conversations with the other presenters, organisers and members of the audience. Definitely something I hope to present at again, perhaps more lab lit — such as "Star Signs" — or something appropriately scientific distilled from my technical talks — such as "Cool Code" or illegal primes — or something else that surfaces a geeky interest — such as warp drive, the Soviet lunar programme or myths about science.

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