A Note from William Rubel
I am so proud to be able to introduce to you Stone Soup‘s Science and Science Fiction themed September issue. As always, to download the full issue and to read all of the contents you have to be a subscriber. Single copies of the print issue can be ordered from our online store.
This issue marks the first anniversary of Editor Emma Wood’s first year with Stone Soup, and a continuation of the program of special themed issues that she initiated with her first issue last September, which was poetry. A huge thank you to Emma! The art in this issue is particularly fine. Emma commissioned illustrations for this issue, to complement our Science Fiction contest winners’ work. I’m going to write more about Emma, and our staff, and our plans for Stone Soup this school year in next week’s Newsletter. But, for today, I’d like to keep the focus of the Newsletter on this extraordinary September science issue.
‘Parker’, by Kate Duplantis, is the cover illustration. Look at the detail! This is classic science fiction in visual form. Real science—precise observation of nature—underpins the animal and plant forms. The bark on the trees is at once believably bark-like and exotic. The bird is clearly a bird—but not one living on earth today. Is it a throwback to the age of the dinosaurs, a future mutation, or something real as yet undiscovered? A real tour de force!
This is what Emma wrote to introduce the issue:
I’m thrilled to finally share the winners of our Science Fiction Contest with you, in this special Science Issue of the magazine. Each story is inventive, strange, suspenseful, and “scientific” in its own way. “Middlenames,” the winning story, imagines a society that assigns you a middle name—which determines your identity for life—at birth. “Young Eyes” explores the dangers of technology, while “Mystical Creatures of Blue Spout Bay” and “Sunk” take on the environment. This issue also features nonfiction writing on scientific topics—from the solar eclipse to organ transplants—as well as three poems that engage with scientific topics and ways of thinking. I hope this issue serves as a reminder that writing and literature don’t happen in vacuum; they aren’t separate from other subjects like algebra, physics, or biology. As you read, I want you to think about your largest, nonliterary passion. How can you engage it in your own writing? As always, send the results of your experiment to Stone Soup!
This issue really challenges the boundaries we place on writing. Our own labels of fiction, science fiction, literature, science writing, etc. are conveniences. They are ways of packaging writing. And, of course, when you sit down with a book or a magazine article it is good to know that what you are reading is fiction or nonfiction, as that helps determine how you think about what you are reading. On the other hand, lots of great fiction writing and lots of great nonfiction writing cross genres. For example, while one of the most famous American novels, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (1851), is clearly a work of fiction about the hunt for a whale, large portions of the book are pure non-fiction. The inspiring French naturalist, Jean-Henri Fabre (1823-1915) was a great scientist. And even more wonderfully, he was a great writer. Fabre wrote brilliant science about insects, and his texts are often woven through with personal observations. He uses descriptive language that is so elegant, eloquent, evocative, and beautiful that whole pages can transport you into the realm of poetry.
And so, when you pick up Emma’s challenge to engage your largest non-literary passion in your writing, I encourage you to think outside the box; think outside the literary categories that you know about. You can write a novel that is also a work on marine science, or describe an ant colony in a way that fully draws us into that world. If you are someone for whom algebra opens up a beautiful world, then Emma is asking you how you might incorporate that algebraic way of seeing into something more literary, and in doing so help the rest of us who cannot see it to understand it and discover something new.
So, pick up a pen and start writing! For many of us, the act of writing itself gets ideas flowing.
Until next week
Contests, submissions, and more
There are two weeks left to submit material for two of our current calls for submissions. Recipes for our food issue, and entries for our concrete poetry contest should both be with us by September 15th. As ever, use the Submit button to send your work to us.
Next week we will be telling you more about a brand new competition that we have been working on with MacKenzie Press: the Secret Kids contest. For this contest, we are looking for book-length work, and the prizes in several age categories include publication of your own book! Entries are due in January 2019, so you have time to polish your longer form entries. Look out for our more detailed email all about this contest, coming soon.
Highlights from the past week online
Visit the Stone Soup blog for thought leadership, reviews and more from our young bloggers, all age 13 and younger. There is new material throughout the week, every week. If you have something to say that you think our readers would be interested in, then please submit a sample blog entry.
Don’t miss our young blogger and leader in our refugee campaign Sabrina Guo’s latest blog post. This week, Sabrina shares a summary and her reflections on a talk by Tara Abraham, Executive Director of Glamor Magazine’s The Girl Project, “Reflections on the Syrian Refugee Crisis.”
Our sports blogger Leo T. Smith makes his predictions for the new NBA season. What do you think will happen this season in basketball?
In our review section, Ananda Bhaturi reviews The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. Have you read this classic from 2004? What did you think? Join the conversation in our comments section!
Animators and graphic artists! Have any of you used Toon Boom Harmony, software for making animated stories? Read Dylan Gibson’s review of the software on our blog.
From Stone Soup, September 2017
Ode to the Common Weed
By Katy Meta, 13
A cousin pointed you out
when strolling calmly
to the abandoned playground.
“A weed!” she falsely exclaims
while she prods at your
However, my eyes
must be deceiving me,
for I see
the most enchanting creature
that is known to man.
Your velveteen leaves,
with drops of morning dew,
from a freshly spun
creamy golden foam
to an arctic forest green
as deep as the night itself.
Your indigo bud,
hidden behind blankets of green,
is a freshly washed gown
hidden in the back of a dress shop,
anticipation flooding through
every one of Nature’s stitches,
waiting for that someone to see it for
what potential it has.
A gift from Heaven itself,
masked behind the role
it has been granted.
Instead of plucking it
from where it has begun to
instead of pressing your immaculate
body against the coarse bindings of my scrapbook,
instead of trying to alter
your stunning figure,
I let you go
for it is not my choice
whether your kind may stay alive
There is nothing I can do,
except for to hope
that my memory
will not fade away.
Today, I continue to see
your long lost brothers and sisters
on evening strolls,
in sunlit valleys,
and inside the inner workings
Read more nature poetry at the Stone Soup website.
Stone Soup’s Advisors: Abby Austin, Mike Axelrod, Annabelle Baird, Jem Burch, Evelyn Chen, Juliet Fraser, Zoe Hall, Montanna Harling, Alicia & Joe Havilland, Lara Katz, Rebecca Kilroy, Christine Leishman, Julie Minnis, Jessica Opolko, Tara Prakash, Denise Prata, Logan Roberts, Emily Tarco, Rebecca Ramos Velasquez, Susan Wilky.