Storytelling, it’s your gift

Bouts of inspiration can hit you at the most inopportune times. Mine came while sandwiched between the wall of an airplane and my stocky neighbor on my latest flight across the country. My neighbor, a rather sturdy, but surprisingly gentle creature reminded me of the beauty of storytelling and how it reaches the broadest of populations. From the eldest to the youngest and to the seemingly toughest to the gentlest people.


While settling into our flight, my nameless neighbor browsed the entertainment section and came to a halt as he tried to decide between "Coco" and " The Incredibles 2". However, to be frank these weren't the titles I'd expect him to be searching through. He overlooked a series of live-action films, and in an instant settled on animated tear-jerkers. Internally I'm very excited for him; my dismissal of his interest in children's animation speaks to my inherent bias. Nevertheless, in an instant, his smile grew, perhaps his heart too, and a childlike joy rested over him while he indulged in the superhero abilities of the Incredibles family.

As the plot thickened, my neighbor paused his film, unplugged his left earbud, then turned to me with a face of pure bliss and contentment and said, "Wow, I love a good story, and this is an amazing one!". He then returned his earbud to his ear, resumed his film and continued on as if nothing had happened. Completely bewildered, my only response was to smile and agree.

As I had some time to ponder this interaction further, it really prompted me to consider the future of scientific storytelling. At its core, science is messy, artistic, and full of tension and contradictions. Scientific processes and occurrences naturally write their own epic plots; yet, few of these stories have ever be told in a captivating manner. Each field is like a distinct genre possessing a different feel and tone. Our efforts at JKX comics are beginning to tackle issues of access and exposure. However, since my plane ride, and because of this anonymous stranger, I'm more determined than ever to get people as excited about delving into the harmony and contentions of scientific stories as they are about Disney, Pixar or Marvel stories - because science stories are equally as epic!

I mean come on, how amazing is it that a virus can replicate itself, take itself and its newly replicated posse to a new cell and party until the cell explodes? True story, check it out. Storytelling is such a powerful way of uniting and mobilizing people. As Erin Morgenstern said, "You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone's soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift."