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Interview

Pretty in Ink

The brains behind Inkling, a new science webzine

Jennifer Rohn 17 December 2006

www.lablit.com/article/187

Starry eyed: Casselman and Gosline

We think nerds are a cooler commodity here

Anna Gosline and Anne Casselman from InkyCircus, one of science's most popular blogs, are about to launch a new female-oriented science webzine called Inkling – the site goes live tomorrow. LabLit.com recently caught up with Gosling and Casselman to find out more.

First things first – tell us a bit about how InkyCircus came about. When was it founded and what were you trying to achieve?

It began in September 2005 as a way to pass the time, really. We just wanted to have an outlet for our opinions on science, our many strong opinions. But it fast became all about having fun.

Where did your interest in science come from?

Curiosity mostly. And genetics (both of our dads are scientists).

What's your favorite type of science and why?

Epidemiology. Because of all those grand sweeping statements about your health or lack thereof. Plus it's the most contradictory science we've come across. Example: whether or not to eat fish and the consumption levels of red wine and chocolate. Of course Arctic science is a favourite too, because it's disappearing.

Did you ever think the blog would be as popular as it became?

No. Not at all. We're constantly picking our jaw up off the floor at the fact that anyone reads it at all.

A screengrab of Inkling, which goes live tomorrow.

Why the emphasis on girls in science? Do you feel women have special needs or interests compared to men when it comes to science?

Why? Because as girls, we can relate to them the best. And we know there are a lot more chics out there like us – those who love science, might not necessarily be in academia any more, but still enjoy reading about it. As for special needs, no. The science stories we love the best are those with humor, personality, a real gripping story and something that we can personally identify with. Those elements are often missing from news-driven science coverage. We think this might be why women don't partake as often as men do. But then again, maybe that's why non-scientists in general steer clear of science journalism.

What's the most surprising or weirdest thing that ever happened at InkyCircus?

Katie had this post about the ethics of selling kidneys. Lo and behold the comments section became a veritable marketplace for people trying to sell their kidneys. Seriously. They're still rolling in.

You both spent some time in London – do you think the geeky science scene is different in London than it is back home in Canada, and if so how?

Definitely. Vancouver is way too chill to have anything like the science culture scene that London boasts. That being said, in North America it's pretty hip to be square. We think nerds are a cooler commodity here.

Why did you decide to launch the magazine? What are its main goals and who is the target audience?

Why? Because we think there needs to be a new voice in science journalism and we think we'd have a lot of fun helping writers and artists provide it. The main goal is really to make science more approachable, more fun, something that people can relate to better. The target audience is everyone who is curious about science but mildly turned off the heavier publications out there today. And according to the big science magazine's readership stats, many of those people are women.

What were the biggest challenges about getting Inkling off the ground?

Being our own bosses and holding off on the Doritos and Grey's Anatomy DVDs. That was hard. Working up the courage to ask people to work for basically nothing – that was hard, too.

Can you give us a sneak preview of some of the stuff you'll be featuring over the next few months? (see the screen grab for more tantalizing hints)

The real secret behind chocolate's tempting aroma; how beano works (‘cause we're Canadian and always revert to fart humor); why sticking a herd of cows into a hermetically sealed bubble is good for the world; why dogs are not only man's best friend but also a scientists' dream research assistant; how vampires can cure cancer.

You’re both freelance science writers: if you could re-live your life, would you become a scientist?

Nope.

Who's your favorite scientist in a work of fiction (novel, TV, play or film) and why?

Speaking as Anna: Temperance Brennan from Kathy Reichs’ books. She's just so, um, cool. And very okay with decomposition. Anne recently got reinfatuated with Dr. Peter Venkman from Ghostbusters. That man's a total rock star.

Will InkyCircus carry on?

Very good question. It will definitely carry on in some form, possibly coming under our mag's umbrella. The short answer is yes, but exactly how, we're not sure.