Jon Ronson with John Mitchinson


The Psychopath Test is Ronson’s last book and that’s where he starts. Labelling people as mentally ill can be highly problematic, but we all like a “mental health check list” he says. There’s a parallel with his new book “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.” The public shaming that takes place on the internet is a form of labelling and it is intentionally dehumanising.

The book contains chapters based on a whole series of examples of public shaming. One of these was about Justine Sacco, who sent an ostensibly racist tweet whilst on her way to South Africa. She believed she was making a joke exposing a passive racist bubble in which many white Americans exist. That’s not what the twitterati believed. The shaming took place whilst Justine was asleep on the plane with no access to the internet. By the time she landed she was the focus of worldwide hatred and had lost her job.

After Ronson took us through his book-centred performance, and performance it was, with timing and humour honed over an extensive promotional tour, John Mitchinson’s interview was completely on point.  If you didn’t have tickets for Texas this was a fine way to end a Hay day.

We are defining the boundaries of normality by terrorising and humiliating the people who stand outside.  Social justice is being defined by people who care more about ideology than they do about people, says Ronson.

Google Hangout with Dan Tyte

Dan Tyte was a panelist at the last Hay Festival . He was born and raised in Cardiff, Wales. He studied English Literature at the University of Liverpool before becoming a PR man. I’ll be talking to live next week on Google Hangouts about his debut novel ‘Half Plus Seven’ which was published by Parthian Books in April 2014. It has been described by the Editor of NME as “a lethal cocktail of Bukowski and Mad Men, finished with a twist of dry Welsh wit.”

You can sign up to watch the broadcast on Wednesday 27th August at 7pm.  Just click here to register and you’ll get a reminder

Losing Myself in ‘The Sky’s Dark Labyrinth’

Guest Post by Dr Stuart Clark

Like every author, whenever I start a new project, I wonder what the best way to present my materialwill be. I know from previous books that I will be devoting years of my life to the endeavour, researching, writing and then discussing it. So it’s essential that I find both a stimulating subject matter and a way of presenting it that it excites me.

The Sky’s Dark Labyrinth is certainly that. It’s my debut novel.

I wanted to write about the fractious birth of science in the 17th century, set against the backdrop of religious divide as Europe ripped itself apart in the prelude to the Thirty Years War. My previous books have been non-fiction explorations of astronomy. Yet, as I researched this particular subject and its principal players, the more convinced I became that the way to do this most vividly was to dramatise it.

In the same way as CJ Sansom mixes crime fiction with popular history in his fantastic Shardlake series, so I wanted to mix historical fiction with popular science. So began the endless drafting and redrafting as I sought to find a voice that worked in fictional terms. I needed something that would bring the story and characters to believable life but would not twist the facts out of all proportion.

The Sky’s Dark Labyrinth is the story of two men who are rivals, working on different sides of the divided Christian Church. Johannes Kepler is a German Lutheran in the grip of a God-given inspiration to distil the heavenly motion of the planets into mathematical form and prove that God’s realm is understandable to humans. In Italy, the devoutly Catholic Galileo Galilei is convinced that the Earth is not the centre of the universe and sets out to prove this before Kepler can.

So, I have stepped into the world of fiction to tell their stories, to imagine how they felt as they looked at the universe, as they watched their friends and families die during the war, and how they balanced their religious beliefs with the sometimes contradictory new knowledge they were uncovering.

I’m finding it a liberating experience. All the things that sparked my imagination and that I reined in as a non-fiction writer, I can now bring to the fore. The works of HG Wells are sometimes described as scientific romances and I’ve come to think of The Sky’s Dark Labyrinth as my astronomical romance. It allows my imagination to turn these hagiographied brains into living, breathing individuals, embedded in their times and places.

It is as Johannes Kepler wrote, four centuries ago, “The roads that lead man to knowledge are as wondrous as that knowledge itself.” The Sky’s Dark Labyrinth is published by Polygon Books.

Stuart Clark’s Hay appearance is on Friday 3rd June, at 1pm.   His website is and his twitter account is @DrStuClark.

You can buy The Sky’s Dark Labyrinth here.