Some years ago I wrote a book called Sheridan Derwydd, which is about a genius with a smarter sister who gets to deal with all the impossible problems. Just today, I found this book sitting on one of my own favourite book sites, Booktopia, Australia’s leading online bookstore. I had absolutely no idea how it got there, though. Rang Booktopia and tracked it down to the E-Pub distribution network. Ah, um… well… It’s cheap on Booktopia, too, which is a plus. Some of my books on Amazon cost up to $40, and I do know how much thought goes into paying that sort of money and shipping.
Anyway, here’s an excerpt. NOTE: My stuff is strictly for those who are comfortable with it, and antihistamines usually don’t work.
Sociology and Other Forms of Masochism
A Nobel Prize (two behind Sally) and a large number of degrees later, at the implacably young age of 28, Sheridan was sitting in the local café reading a strange book called The History of Scientific Failures. He was trying to find a common thread in failed theorems. It was a worrying experience.
Apparently everything was impossible until so irrevocably proven that it was impractical for even the dullest pedagogue to deny it. Interestingly most of the failed theories were negative positions; “Human flight is impossible”, “Man cannot withstand accelerations of more than 25 miles per hour”, “It would take 200 Earth years to travel 4.5 light years at the speed of light, therefore it’s impossible”, “The bumblebee can’t fly”, and other authoritative drivel.
There were gems regarding the possible size of insects, reducing them to roughly average present day sizes, while the museums had specimens of a dragonfly called Meganeuron, which was the size of a hawk, on plain view for centuries. It was noticeable that the opposing thought regarding evolution had never offered any supporting explanation on its own behalf regarding the observed data.
It merely refused to consider them. This was followed by a history of the Denial Industry of the 20th century, in which all scientific achievements were alleged either never to have happened or to have been faked. Again, a purely negative position.
Interesting reading, but not likely to raise either the image of science or of public debate. History does tend to prove that humanity progresses despite itself as much as it does because of itself. He was distracted by a slightly frayed looking gentleman who obviously recognized him and was staring at him. Not a menacing or irrational stare, but a stare.
“Yes, can I help you?” asked Sheridan, largely avoiding the glacial tone which makes that question so offensive.
“Oh. Excuse me. I……. I was staring……simply forgot not to stare, I’m afraid……One of the reasons I was staring……that is, having realized who you were….. I’m not usually this inarticulate. (Pause to breathe normally) Actually Dr. Sheridan,…..I mean, Dr. Derwydd……despite my rudeness, you might be able to help me. That was what I was thinking about while I was forgetting to stop staring……God that sounded awful…. I can actually put two sentences together when I try……”
Sheridan knew a compatible soul when he heard one. Anyone this tangled in their own conversation was quite likely to be brilliant….eventually. The person seemed harmless to everything but the English language. So far it was doing far more introverted conceptual knitting than it needed, for such a young language.
“Have a seat, some tea, and grind it out,” said Sheridan, hoping that the process of changing seats wasn’t going to be as tough as the dialogue to date.
“I’m a sociologist.”
“Oh, I am sorry. How awful. Does it hurt?”
That did it. Relief surged across the other’s face together with a large unaffected grin. The man’s name was David Krishna, he really was able to put two sentences together, and he really did have a problem. The problem was that he really was a sociologist. He’d apparently begun his PhD thesis. He’d made an outline of his intended research, his theories, and had made one rather startling discovery that he badly wanted to include in his thesis.
The study was called Generational Socio Economic Stagnation Among The Poor – Mechanisms Of Social Decay. Using very large data bases and the huge quantities of ignored documentation which every citizen generates in their lifetimes, David had found a fundamental process. The generational aspect was the key to poverty. There was clear unmistakable evidence. Rather more complex than a hereditary disease, but as dangerous and often as fatal.
Sheridan had become very alert upon hearing the name of the thesis. He’d soon realized as he listened that this answer was not derived from mere statistical survey of historical incomes. It obviously required enormous amounts of information from a lot of very different and often slow or unresponsive sources, like repositories, family archives, coroners, police records, government housing reports, medical journals….. literature and news reports of the time…….
Anything to do with human life, really. This heavily documented, much-too-multi-formatted monster would have then had to be made usable. David seemed somewhat surprised himself at the vast ocean of data he’d accumulated, after Sheridan gently interrupted him to ask how much actual raw data he’d collected.
“About 5 billion gigabytes. It was a bit of a struggle. I had to use network memory.”
“How on Earth did you make that workable?” Sheridan’s own mind was haring through possible methods as he asked.