I’m also writing a story about Lise Meitner and the discovery of nuclear fission. This afternoon, as I sit in Electric, I keep staring at my photocopy of the periodic table and thinking in a banal way, ‘wow, isn’t it amazing how all the elements fit together’. An interesting table in Meitner’s story is the table in the Deutsches Museum, which housed the apparatus that Otto Hahn, Fritz Strassman and Lise Meitner used to do their irradiations and chemical separations (it was a composite as the various experiments were done in different rooms). It is now my desktop image (all the photographs on this blog have served their time on my desktop). This table is now infamous because for many years it was labelled ‘Work table of Otto Hahn’, and became emblematic of how Meitner was ‘written out’ of the history of the discovery (he alone was awarded the Nobel prize for it). Ruth Sime and other historians of science have done a lot to write her back into the history. Meitner appears on the periodic table as Meitnerium (Mt). So after talking to a historian of science and helping to edit my brother’s CV (he is a scientist working on quantum mechanics) I’m feeling extremely scientific (I’m sure it will pass).
I spent years not having finished my PhD, and now it seems this ‘not quite finished’ status has transferred to my book. When I do finish it I imagine I will have to find something else to not quite finish for as long as possible. I don’t like endings. Though I love short stories and some say short stories are all about endings. For me they are the hardest part to write (after titles). In the remaining ‘not ended yet’ stories, I am, as my editor suggested, attempting to write about the victors of war and not the bystanders or victims. I’ll say more about this when the end of these stories is in sight.