Guest post by Dr. Stuart Clark
It’s always in the top three questions about this book. Often, it’s question number one: why did I choose to tell the true stories of astronomers Kepler and Galileo in fictional form? The answer is a simple one. Their lives were so dramatic that there was nothing I needed to invent to make them work as novels. I just had to craft them.
As I worked on The Sky’s Dark Labyrinth, I discovered that some simplification was needed to keep the story moving and some invention was necessary to fill in the gaps but my aim was to preserve the important facts so readers could share in these staggeringly important moments of history. But share without the boring bits, the maths and the technicality and all that. I could hive that off behind the closed doors of my characters’ various offices and studies!
This would be a novel – biographical fiction if you want the latest literary buzzword – about astronomers rather than about astronomy.
As I performed my detailed research on the lives of Johannes Kepler and Galileo Galilei, I was staggered at the events that they witnessed and the lives that they led. I also learnt that science was born from these highly religious men, not to challenge God but to glory in Him.
I wanted to know, what was Galileo thinking when he stood before the Inquisition? What did Kepler feel like when he saw Tycho Brahe’s giant observatory for the first time (in its own time as marvellous as the Hubble Space Telescope is today)? How did Kepler react when the soldiers marched on
and a battle raged in the market square close to his house? Prague
History could not tell me; the emotions, thoughts and fears of these men largely died with them. So, if I wanted to explore those deep human responses I had to turn to fiction and I had to speculate.
I reasoned that every scientist knows how to extrapolate between data points. I toyed with the idea that The Sky’s Dark Labyrinth would be the literary equivalent. Then I realised that presenting science as fiction had a long precedent.
When Galileo wrote his book about the moving Earth, the Dialogue, he did not present that in a dry, pedantic way. Oh no! He invented three characters who argued and presented different points of view in a fictional debate set over four days. Perfect, I thought, to use fiction to discuss the perception of scientific truth – and off I went.
The Sky’s Dark Labyrinth is the result. I hope you enjoy it.