Nature Future Conditional

The story behind the story: Try catch throw

Download the fully illustrated PDF of the Futures story

Download the fully illustrated PDF

This week’s Futures story is slightly different in that it appears both as normal text and as an enhanced graphic-novel style rendering. Written by Andrew Neil Gray and beautifully illustrated by Chris Malbon, the story tackles the thorny issue of whether the Universe is a simulation. The graphic-novel treatment came about as part of Nature’s sci-fi special this week in which, among other things, Nature takes a look at the history of Star Trek and the world of H. G. Wells. At least, that’s what’s happening in Futures’ version of the simulation.

Assuming that Andrew is showing up in your simulation, you can find out more about his work at his website or by following him on Twitter. Here, Andrew talks us through what inspired his tale — as ever, it pays to read the story first.

Writing Try catch throw

Try catch throw emerged from a prompt. A writing group I belong to held a flash writing challenge earlier this summer and I received a group of prompts. This one in particular caught my attention: You remember something that no one else remembers. Why?

Almost immediately I started thinking about a character entrusted with a secret, someone who has to struggle to keep it hidden. I considered time travel and mind hacking, but the simulation hypothesis (the idea that we might be living in an extremely convincing simulation of reality) connected with me the most.

If you were the only person in the Universe who knew it wasn’t real, how would this come to be and what would this imply? How would it affect your relationships? Then I had the idea of resets, of having the power to try things again as if you were living in a video game, and realized another character would constantly be on the verge of discovering the truth.

I have some programming background, so once I started writing, I remembered the try/catch syntax that exists for error handling in some languages. It immediately felt like the ideal structure for the story. This is one of those stories where once the idea and the structure were set, everything came together quite quickly. It felt almost inevitable…

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