Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!

Here is where you can purchase the above tome, in various formats

Illogical Volume: I hate trying to write a synopsis of anything (because: BORING!), so here’s the back cover blurb:

What do Batman, Doctor Who, quantum physics, Oscar Wilde, liberalism, the second law of thermodynamics, Harry Potter fanfic, postmodernism, and Superman have in common?
If your answer to that was “Nothing” then… well, you’re probably right. But in this book Andrew Hickey will try to convince you otherwise. In doing so he’ll take you through:

How to escape from a black hole and when you might not want to
The scientist who thinks he’s proved the existence of heaven and what that has to do with Batman
What to do if you discover you’re a comic-book character
Whether killing your own grandfather is really a bad idea
And how to escape from The Life Trap!

An examination of the comics of Grant Morrison, Alan Moore and Jack Kirby, Doctor Who spin-off media, and how we tell stories to each other, Sci-Ence! Justice Leak! tells you to look around you and say:

“This is an imaginary universe… Aren’t they all?”

Botswana Beast: Andrew is our – not fake, real internet – friend, full disc etc. etc., he was actually the first person I interviewed in… well any capacity really, it was a real pleasure to me, I really like doing interviews, I guess I should do more. This isn’t really a review, call the TSA!

So, but I’ll get the complaints out of the way quickly – I don’t like the typseset and it particularly buggers the citation from Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?at the end with linebreaks, it’s a bit like reading poetry in speech balloons (so sorry, Etrigan the Demon) that bit and – I don’t know – linebreaks are bit fussy throughout, could’ve used some hyphens on the multisyllables, I imagine this is basically all a problem of publishing through Lulu. Secondly, it fails to entirely transcend the original format – but certainly does work better in collation, no question, in particular the ‘Are You Living in a Comicbook?’ chapter and it’s following – because some concepts, like Dave Sim, are improperly introduced, some of the mathematical concepts – Copenhagen, Many-Worlds – are discussed at length earlier and only given fuller grounding in the 3rd last chapter or so. The Harry Potter fanfic chapter could probably have been wholly excised, although it is interesting in terms of ‘canon’ and so forth. I do think to address the complaint about better-smoothing the book into a, you know, a book would have been a lot of work for little gain; an overhaul, essentially, and I’m not unsympathetic being deeply lazy, which Andrew is clearly not, the author I read here is a constant clear rejoinder to me with his ceaseless interest and desire to work at his fascinations, a rejoinder to my cynicism and Anti-Life force essentially.

Other than that, though, it really is pretty much an untrammelled  joy – I pretty much cannot face non-fiction without wanting to go into coma (seriously, a vast land of fetid prose, I’m sure all you NF readers can set me straight, look forward to that) and this was entirely digestible, pointed and exciting to read. Given it’s written, essentially, on hypertime, paracontinuities and the destruction of canon/Objectivist lore and I am, I’d have to say probably only the second or third most enthused person in the world at these concepts, it does feel rather made for me. So I read it in a night, which I think is an indicative of either how thrilled I am to see these concepts mined or – maybe, I’m not gonna tell you this is objective because read the last sentence - maybe it’s actually really chippily and digestibly written, maybe it has a whole bunch of interesting shit written about excitingly. Or both! I don’t know, you should read it if you like the above-mentioned stuff?

Illogical Volume: Double disclosure, not only is Andrew an internet friend, he was also daft enough to ask me to proofread this book and provide “helpful” suggestions.  He even swapped a couple of chapters around at my suggestion — THE FOOL!

Even as someone who had an “inside” view of the creation of this book, I still found the format a little frustrating at first. I think this is related to Botswana Beast’s complaint about the way that scientific concepts are introduced early but not fully explained until near the end. Obviously, since I didn’t suggest changing the order of these parts, these issues bothered me less than they bothered Mr Beast.  Indeed, as I pressed on, I found this to be part of the charm of Sci-Ence! Justice Leak! – it’s  a fractal story about fractal stories, and I’ve always been a big fan of art that expresses its themes in style as well as in content.

And hey, even when Andrew doesn’t get back round to a topic, I liked getting to do a little bit of extra dot joining myself – a good sign that I enjoyed the book, that!  So, for example: the realisation of the way the seemingly disconnected essay on the Melmoth chapter of Cerebus was actually an essential part of the ultrastructure was probably when I decided that this was A Proper Book, whatever the fuck that means. Melmoth is a tangle of interconnected fictions concerning the life and death of Oscar Wilde, and by writing about it early on Andrew underlines the complex relationship between the real and theoretical that runs through his book.

This aspect of Sci-Ence! Justice Leak! reminds me of old argument between Marc Singer and Jim Roeg, about various forms of multiplicity. Half a decade on, I agree with Singer when he highlights the danger of taking the “gestural multiplicity” of, say, DC comic books as any sort of basis for an actual “politics of multiplicity”, and this is a relevant concern here.  Thankfully Andrew is more convincing in his arguments than Jim Roeg was, and he works hard to blur the boundaries between the gestural and the real in almost every chapter.

I know I’ve laid the praise on pretty thick so far, but I do have some issues with the book.  Like Botswana Beast  says, the citations are often a bit sloppy, with odd blocks of white space sitting between text and images. More troublingly, given that Liberal philosophy is essential to the story Andrew’s telling, I hit a bit of a speedbump when I read the chapter on Liberalism and Cybernetics. When Andrew writes about the Liberal Democrat party…

…we support things like greater democratic representation and accountability, mutualism, devolution of power to local levels, civil liberties, and so on.

…I find myself wincing a little.  Not out of any knee-jerk hatred or dislike for the Lib Dems (I know there are a lot of good people in the party, and I probably loathe them less than either Labour or the fucking Tories), but because I can’t help but see these same words put to other uses by the Liberal Democrats’ current coalition partners, the aforementioned Tory bastards.

A perfect example of the dangers of conflating the real and the abstract, you might think, butin the end.  I think it’s more nuanced than that. Indeed, Andrew is very clear that he doesn’t think that these beliefs need to lead to some sort of free-market paradise, and it’s likely that I’m bringing a lot of my own issues to the book here.  Still, Sci-Ence! Justice Leak! is Andrew’s story, not mine, and by collecting all of these blog posts here, Andrew provides them with a sense of cohesion, of old fashioned authority even. Which is kind of ironic, given the book’s focus on pluralism, but it works in the book’s favour in the end. Sci-Ence! Justice Leak! makes a passionate, committed case for a worldview based on liberalism and multiplicity.  And really,  given the hateful rhetoric that dominates so much of current public life, what could be more energising than that right now?

There’s a lot of Doctor Who in there though, so… it’s still a very niche book, but if it’s your niche then I suspect you might just love it.

10 Responses to “As Above, So Below: Sci-Ence! Justice Leak! Reviewed”

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  2. Andrew Hickey Says:

    Actually, one of the things I was worried about was that there wasn’t *enough* Doctor Who in there – I excised a bit about The Three Doctors that fits all the themes perfectly because I thought it was hammering things home a bit much. If you haven’t seen The Three Doctors, multiple iterations of the Doctor, after the Earth is attacked by antimatter beasts, travel into the centre of a black hole where they fight Omega, a legendary figure from the past and hero of the Doctor’s who turns out not to be as heroic as they thought. Omega later turns out to be a purely conceptual entity, having lost his physical form. The Doctors kill Omega in a matter/antimatter annihilation, and say death was the only freedom they could offer him. I think you can see how this might have fit the book…

    Re: the typography, I was limited somewhat by Lulu’s restrictions on space, but *some* of what you’re seeing is an artistic choice. The line-breaks in the quote from Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow actually come in *exactly* the same places that they do in my copy of the trade – I thought they added something to the quote. I tried setting it both ways and it worked better as ‘free verse’ as it originally appeared.

    I was also restricted somewhat by my choice of font – which I chose because of all those available to me the main font used is the one most readable for my legally-blind wife, so presumably for other people with poor eyesight. (The serif font I use for quotes is less readable, but is from the same font family while being contrasting).

    I also did have to make a lot of choices about what to explain where, and I agree that the decisions I made are arguable ones – but David’s right in that the problem is that everything connects to everything else. I’ve decided to frontload the book with unexplained stuff and have it pay off later, rather than be too linear about it (some drafts were *much* further away from the original blog posts, but I moved back towards them).

    As for the Liberalism bit, well, as you know, I debated quite a bit about whether to leave that in, both publicly and in private discussions with my proofreaders. I *HOPE* I make it clear that what I’m talking about is the very antithesis of Conservatism – some Tories know the words, but they don’t know the tune.

    I must emphasise though that I’m not trying to make excuses for my book – it stands or falls on its own merits, and I’m glad both of you think it stands more than it falls. It’s just an odd experience of me to be the subject of criticism by two people whose critiques I always enjoy reading, and I feel the urge to engage with your criticism of my work as I would with your criticism of the work of Eddie Campbell or Shaky Kane or whoever. But I’ll try to keep quiet…

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  4. plok Says:

    Sadly, I haven’t been able to pick up a finished copy yet — arrggh, I don’t know which, if any, of my suggestions made it in! — but I’ve also (it occurs to me just this moment) been holding back on commenting for the same reason I was holding back just a tad when suggesting — because, yeah, the “fractal story about a fractal story” thing, I spent about eight years knee-deep in a project with that self-similar style/content thing going on myself, and…

    …I’m way into it, now! So I was trying not to let my enthusiasm for it take over too much, I think it’s a mark of how well Andrew executed it that I would’ve cheerfully just gotten my grubby paws all over the thing, because it so deftly tweaks that reflexive-storytelling circuit in my brain that was laid down by Alan Moore all those years ago. Don’t we all want to write some perfect atemporal crystalline digression-foxtrot of a book sometime or other, all of us? To see it done well is to feel like it’s expanding out to include you as a reader, too…so the fitting of form to function here couldn’t have been more well-chosen, and just looking at the culpas turn all felix, as they did with PEP!2, is really a joy…especially if you remember reading them as standalone posts. I thought it actually “chapterized” quite elegantly, and even better generated a good amount of forward momentum from that change, not just making minor adjustments to allow a better superficial flow, but actually producing some new charge from that editing. Also it’s really nice and brisk and clear, of course, which makes me happy to have restrained myself because man, if I’d got my fingers on it more than I did, the briskness and clarity would’ve been the first thing to go! I actually think everybody oughtta do something like what Andrew’s done here, something that because of its reflexive/digressive structure could only have been done by the person who did it…that makes opportunists like me think “oooh, oooh, oooh, wanna touch!” Want to be part of.

  5. plok Says:

    THREAD-KILLER!

  6. Illogical Volume Says:

    Andrew – That’s a fair point about the Doctor Who comment, actually. I’m going to amend that line a little, but it’s probably worth noting that Doctor Who jumped to mind as a perfect example of everything that people might find alienating about the book because it’s pretty alien to me.

    Thanks for providing (public!) context for some of the gripes we had about the format, and whatever you do, don’t worry about staying quiet here! I think we showed your book respect by reviewing it as we would a book that wasn’t by one of our (NOT FAKE!) internet friends, so… it’s probably difficult for you to engage with the piece like you would a review of Shaky Kane’s Monster Truck, but if you wanna get into it then please go ahead.

    Plok – Heh, don’t think that comment was a thread killer, even though it might have looked that way. I know I certainly intended to respond before now, so maybe everyone else is just as far behind themselves as I am…

    I’ve just been having one of those weekends where I struggle to put two words together, you know?

    Anyway: I can definitely relate to what you’re saying here, because while I was proofreading Sci-Ence! Justie Leak! I became profoundly aware of the fact that I would make a terrible editor. Most of my suggestions seemed to involve rewriting the book in my image, to the extent that I felt like some sort of tyrant who wouldn’t be happy until Andrew had written the book I would have written if I was more patient and disciplined.

    I felt like Darkseid, basically, but that’s okay – sometimes you’ve got to go with these urges in the hope of getting the dirty water off your chest…

    And like you say, Andrew’s book survived our interventions with its briskness and clarity intact, so no harm done, right?

  7. Andrew Hickey Says:

    You both did a fine job of proofreading – and David, don’t bother reworking the ending of this. There *is* a lot of Doctor Who there – there just could have been more.
    Plok, I suspect the ‘thread-killerness’ comes from this being a book that very, very few people have read (although I suspect almost all those people read this site).
    And yes, I do think this is a fair review, and as unbiased as you can make it. I think it’s fair to say that we’re friends *because* we all like each other’s writing, rather than you saying you like my writing because we’re friends.

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  9. Mindless Ones » Blog Archive » Mindless Ones at Thought Bubble UK Says:

    [...] You might think that you’re sick about hearing about all of the lovely that we have to sell you, but you could be wrong because Andrew Hickey is going to be in the house too, selling copies of his two books on comics: Sci-Ence! Justice Leak! – a book about Batman, Doctor Who, quantum physics, Oscar Wilde, liberalism, the second law of thermod…. [...]

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