The Science of Creativity

10 November 2020 Stephanie

I love the kind of synchronicity that creates the sense of being on the right track or which boosts motivation – several recent science and palaeontology stories have popped up to lend a writerly thrill and assist in my research.

One of them was actually rather mind-blowing! The type of discovery I used to dream about when I was imagining the journey of the prehistoric protagonist of Bone Lines as she struggles to keep herself and her infant alive.

Following a study of the longest set of prehistoric footprints (that we currently know about), an extraordinary narrative has now emerged, adding a certain ‘poetry’ to an evidence-based hypotheses. The tracks are those of a woman from 13,000 years ago in what is now New Mexico and the story they tell is of her rapid movements accompanied by a toddler (sometimes walking beside her, sometimes carried) in what appears to be their escape from a predator.

Other perhaps less threatening animals, such as mammoths and a giant sloth, cross her path, and her return footsteps are singular, so one can only hope she delivered the child to safety rather than contemplate the opposite conclusion.

If any of you have read Bone Lines you will hopefully feel the resonance in these findings. How thrilling it is when one’s creativity is backed up by reality and when fiction echoes – or even in some way predicts – emerging fact!

Read more here.

For good measure, here are some more footprints that support the theories discussed in the modern narrative, as well as the imagined journey of ‘Sarah’ (and her ancestors.)

Another intriguing piece of research about how Neanderthal genes may increase the risk of Covid-19 also suggested I was on the right track with one particular storyline I’m working on in the next book in The Children of Sarah series. While the plot device in book two is rather different – and even opposite in a sense – there was enough synergy here for me to think, yes, this idea is plausible!\

Then this gratifying story came along confirming other suggestions that stone age women did their share of the hunting too – and were valued for it – and made another of my writerly days. (There’s many millennia separating them but I wonder what knowledge/skills/tools she and ‘Sarah’ might have compared if they had time-travelled to a rendezvous?)

Back to the modern day, and Jennifer Doudna is the kind of scientist who inspired the character of Eloise in Bone Lines (and the sequel in progress) so I was delighted for her and her colleague Emmanuelle Charpentier when they were awarded the Nobel prize for their  extraordinary work on the gene editing tool, CRSPR.  I was fascinated to read what she believes the future of this technology may hold and about what she is working on now, in this interview.

Whether they confirm or make me question what I’m working on, I always love coming across stories such as these.  And it’s encouraging to be reminded that human history is long and robust – and that despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, there’s much going on today that is hopeful and forward-thinking.

We may not be running from sabre toothed cats, but we still have the risks and power of ‘nature’ to contend with, and must take action based on informed and well managed assessments, using whatever support, wits and tools are at our disposal.




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