What Do You Find at a SF Convention? Ernie Hudson and Corrupted Science, That's What!
As guests of I-Con at Stony Brook University on Long Island this last weekend, my wife and I participated in the literature track of this sprawling multi-media SF convention that features over 100 writers, actors, gamers, artists, and comic book creators. When you have a science fiction convention this big, part of the appeal is the interplay of subcultures, whether it be Trekkies and anime fans hanging out together or actor Ernie Hudson appearing at the same convention as respected author Peter S. Beagle. The dealer's room at such events is a maelstrom of different influences, with the Long Island Advanced Rocketry Society sharing space with graphic novel vendors, jewelry makers, and clothing sellers, among others. Seeing Hudson was definitely a treat--especially signing autographs for amateur ghost-busters, as above. I've always been a fan of his acting, and think Congo is an overlooked gem of a movie.
But the real treasures of interest to Amazon readers were two books by John Grant, Corrupted Science and Discarded Science, which I found nestled between heroic fantasy trilogies and space operas at one of the book dealer tables...
These are beautifully designed small-sized hardcovers that cover fraud, deception, and hoaxes in science, along with theories that, as the author says, "seemed like a good idea at the time." Both books are absolutely fascinating, and roughly cover a period from just before the Renaissance to the present. What easily could have devolved into a mere listing of facts and circumstances instead becomes something deeper and more profound. Many of these stories are hilarious, but many are also horrifying. Sections in Corrupting Science, for example, include Fraudulent Scientists, Seeing What They Want to See, Military Madness, The One True Book, and Ideology Trumps Science. Along with incisive and often devastating anecdotes that seem to prove we're really more ruled by emotion and a need for fame than by our intellects, Grant makes the point again and again that although science itself has a kind of objectivity, scientists often do not.
In a sense, what Grant has written here is a history of the world focusing on human deception and folly in science. The writing is funny, humane, insightful, and balanced. I think these are my two favorite finds of the year thus far. I will be ordering extra copies for all of my friends and relatives come the holidays.