Darryl Cunningham’s How to Fake a Moon Landing, which debuted last month at MoCCA Arts Fest, looks at a number of popular fallacies, from homeopathy to global warming denial, and lays out not just the science behind each one but the history as well, including the personalities who drove them.
Personal tales crossed over into science in Cunningham’s first book Psychiatric Tales, which not only described different mental disorders but related stories about each one, told from Cunningham’s vantage point as a care assistant on a psychiatric ward and his own experience with depression. How to Fake a Moon Landing is less personal but still has a point of view, which is that there’s good science and bad science, and it’s important to be able to tell the difference. (You can see excerpts from the book, and his other work as well, on his blog.) I spoke with Cunningham about both books during a quiet moment at MoCCA.
ROBOT 6: Do you have a background in science?
Darryl Cunningham: I worked as a care assistant in an acute psychiatric ward, and after a few years, I thought I would do training to be a mental health nurse. I did a three-year course, which is very, very academic — more academic than it needs to be. Through that I learned how to write essays and research things, and to be skeptical about research, to look at how things have been properly peer reviewed, [whether] the evidence has been replicated, that kind of thing. I got a sense of how science works. After eight years of doing this, I was completely burned out. I couldn’t continue — I had a major crisis, really, started suffering from anxiety and depression, and I had to leave that work, but out of that whole experience, Psychiatric Tales came out.
I got into the habit of researching and have been able to boil down a lot of information into a comic strip format. And I listen to science podcasts when I’m drawing — some are famous ones, like The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe — and listening to these, I realized there was a whole series of hot-button issues that came up time and time again that people didn’t really understand, things like the idea that the moon landing was a conspiracy, the MMR vaccination controversy, and evolution, not so much in Europe but very much here. I had the whole book structured for me and ready to go. All I had to do was research, write, and draw it. [Laughs] It took the better part of a year.
Beyond a vague description of it as “a very silly children’s book,” we’ve been given scant details about Fortunately, the Milk, the upcoming collaboration between Neil Gaiman and Skottie Young (for the U.S. edition) and Chris Riddell (for the U.K. version). But at long last, the author has broken his silence in a video introduction from SFX.
“It’s the silliest, strangest, most ridiculous book I’ve ever written. And I’m damned proud of it,” Gaiman says. “It’s called Fortunately, the Milk. It’s the story of a father who goes out to bring back milk for his children and, at least according to him, on the way is kidnapped by aliens, kidnapped again by pirates, rescued by a stegosaurus in a hot-air balloon. He has a nearly fatal encounter with a volcano god, there’s a ridiculous amount of time travel. There are ponies. There are vampires, or possibly one-pires, there are interstellar dinosaur police, and there’s a happy ending. And fortunately for everybody, there’s milk. Can a container of milk save the universe?”
Officially announced in July as part of the author’s five-book deal with HarperCollins Children’s Books, Fortunately, the Milk will be released Sept. 17 in the United States, and in October (from Bloomsbury) in the United Kingdom. Watch the video below, and check out Skottie Young’s cover for the U.S. edition.