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Sunday, 9 October 2016

Pseudoscience and Science Fiction

It doesn’t seem that long ago (February and March this year) that I wrote a couple of posts featuring motley arrays of offbeat science fiction and pseudoscience books, which I described as research for a book I was writing. So I’m really pleased to be able to follow up those posts with the array of books pictured above – my author’s copies of Pseudoscience and Science Fiction, which has just been published by Springer. This is one of the world’s biggest academic publishers, based in Germany, and they really do have a very slick and streamlined system for getting books out quickly and to a very high professional standard.

I know what you’re thinking. Why should a prestigious academic publisher want to touch a book about such non-academic topics as pseudoscience and science fiction? Well, they do popular science books as well, and one of their ongoing lines is called Science and Fiction. Aimed at “science buffs, scientists and science fiction fans”, the series is a mixture of fiction (often written by professional scientists) and non-fiction. The latter primarily looks at the “real” science in science fiction, in a similar vein to some of Brian Clegg’s books (cf. From Science Fiction to Science Fact). But I felt there was a gap in the market that needed to be filled. What about the pseudoscience in science fiction? After all, pseudoscience is a lot more exciting – and much easier to understand – than real science, and hence much more fiction-friendly. On top of that, there are numerous examples of explicit interactions between science fiction and pseudoscience – much more than between either of those disciplines and academic science.

This is a subject I felt eminently qualified to write about. My house is filled with books, and perhaps two-thirds of them are science, pseudoscience or science fiction. Not to mention my vast collection of Fortean Times magazines, going back more than twenty years. I just searched the final text of Pseudoscience and Science Fiction for “Fortean Times”, and it appears 55 times in 180 pages! So I had great fun writing the book, and I really hope it will appeal to the target audience of “science buffs, scientists and science fiction fans”.

Here is the publisher’s blurb (I had nothing to do with the last paragraph!):
Aliens, flying saucers, ESP, the Bermuda Triangle, antigravity … are we talking about science fiction or pseudoscience? Sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference.

Both pseudoscience and science fiction (SF) are creative endeavours that have little in common with academic science, beyond the superficial trappings of jargon and subject matter. The most obvious difference between the two is that pseudoscience is presented as fact, not fiction. Yet like SF, and unlike real science, pseudoscience is driven by a desire to please an audience – in this case, people who “want to believe”. This has led to significant cross-fertilization between the two disciplines. SF authors often draw on “real” pseudoscientific theories to add verisimilitude to their stories, while on other occasions pseudoscience takes its cue from SF – the symbiotic relationship between ufology and Hollywood being a prime example of this.

This engagingly written, well researched and richly illustrated text explores a wide range of intriguing similarities and differences between pseudoscience and the fictional science found in SF.
For some reason the publishers put a 2017 date on the book, but don’t let that put you off – it’s out now. It’s available both as a paperback and an ebook, and there are lots of ways you can get hold of your copy. Here are a few links (the Amazon preview is particularly generous, if you want to get a flavour of the content and style of the book):


Peni R. Griffin said...

You managed to keep that down to 180 pp? I would've had to run on and on and on...congrats on the new book and I hope it does well. It should have a pretty broad niche for its market.

Andrew May said...

Thanks Peni - I hope you're right!