My entry in Jason Evan's Clarity of Night "Elemental" Short Fiction Contest has been posted. Read it here, if you haven't already, and then come back to read about the behind-the-scenes.
Applied physics is a fun field where collaboration on a paper can run into the hundreds of authors. When I was still in academics, I worked with one of these collaborations on a grant to fund a high-energy particle detector. In preparation for the grant, I was invited to visit Fermilab.
Fermilab hosts several accelerators, including the Tevatron, which when I visited may have been the highest energy supercollider in existence. I visited before I had a digital camera, and now I regret not having better memories of that time. Fermilab was in the process of deploying upgrades and therefore it wasn't active when we visited, but this had advantages. Because there wasn't active acceleration, the lead physicist on the project guided us on a tour of the facilities.
Years later, I remember it looking like an underground railroad. Pipes lined the elliptical track to curve into the distance. It had a astronaut quality to it, reminding me of Star Trek ships in spacedock, crayola red and yellow pipes against gray rock, fluorescent lights illuminating everything. At the time, I never dreamed of writing, and therefore didn't try to capture how it looked while my memories could be trusted.
The Economist recently ran an article, "Antimatter of Fact", about how researchers at CERN had created anti-atoms as it existed for fifteen minutes before annihilation. The researchers were attempting to determine why there seems to be more matter than anti-matter.
Memories of my trip to Fermilab must have simmered in my subconscious and with a dash of news, and Jason Evan's image, my story was born. I hope you have enjoyed this behind-the-scenes that ended up longer than the actual story.