REVIEW: Around Distant Suns edited by Emma Johanna Puranen

Review of Emma Johanna Puranen, ed., Around Distant Suns (Guardbridge Books, 2021) — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

The premise of this anthology is “what would happen if the creators of science fiction had dedicated science consultants that they could go to with all their scientific questions?” The scientists in question are based at St Andrews Centre for Exoplanet Science, and the writers in the School of English at St Andrews University, and Emma Johanna Puranen, science consultant and member of the Centre, is the one who brought the pairs together and edited the collection. The result is nine stories that emphasise both how important it can be to “get the science right” (even if not all the science needs to be right in fiction) and how similar the scientific and creative processes are, especially in science fiction: Both the scientist and the author are making models of how the world could be.

Each scientist/author pair met multiple times over the course of the creation of the stories that are published here. The stories were intended to be science driven — initial meetings were for the scientists to speak to the authors about their own research, to collectively and collaboratively find ideas that lend themselves to fictional exploration — but the goal was not to cloak science communication in a fictive guise, but instead to use the power of fiction to explore new ideas, new questions, new lands. The result is this anthology of stories, poetry, and plays, each of which is accompanied by reflections on the creation of the piece by both the writer and the scientist. A fantastic collection representing the very best of collaboration, this is the sort of book that makes me go “I want to do that” — I want to read stories like this, write stories like this, edit collections like this. I hope Puranen does another volume next year!

As is usual, we’ll review each story individually and link the reviews back here as they are published.

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