Gemma Milne spoke to Berwick Literary Festival team member Chloë Smith. Gemma will be live, free and online at the Festival at 11am on Sunday 17 October.
Every now and then a book comes along that is so full of fascinating information I can’t help but interrupt whoever happens to be near me to recount whatever fact I’ve just learnt. Gemma Milne’s book Smoke and Mirrors: How Hype Obscures the Future and How to See Past It is one such book.
Jam packed with interesting and extremely well-researched information on a wide range of topics, the book is both deeply knowledgeable and readable. Gemma guides the reader through science and tech advances, deftly cutting through the hype to show us how to apply critical thinking. And, says Gemma, that’s how to work out what’s the next big thing – and what’s simply hyperbole.
Gemma tells me that she ‘always loved science, tech and maths, that’s the area I was always really interested in in school’. She studied maths at university but it had lost some of the excitement by the end of her studies.
There’s not enough critical coverage or contextualisation of what’s actually going on in the world
After graduating, Gemma had a short spell working at an investment bank and transitioned into marketing. She set up a podcast, began to work across creativity and tech and then ‘just googled how to become a freelance journalist’. Her career in writing began. Her writing focuses on ‘what’s the narrative that’s out there versus what’s the reality of what’s going on behind closed doors’. Her belief is that ‘there’s not enough critical coverage or contextualisation of what’s actually going on in the world’.
Gemma’s writing provides just the right amount of information to explain large complicated systems – agriculture for example – without overwhelming the reader. She takes us beyond the science to look at how a given theme integrates with policy, government strategy and economics.
If you want to understand more about the world we live in and impress your friends over dinner with new knowledge on the latest topics… Gemma’s book is definitely the one for you.
I asked her how she chose the topics covered in the book. Her reply: ‘I’m trying to replicate those “a-ha!” moments that I have when I’m reading stuff… finding weird facts that just by their very existence expose an entire system’. She also explains that ‘it’s not about trying to find the right answer’. Her driving force is to help us interrogate our own ethics and see things from a global perspective rather than simply following the hype we’re handed via media outlets.
If you want to understand more about the world we live in and impress your friends over dinner with your new knowledge on the latest topics such as cancer drugs or indoor farming: Gemma’s book is definitely the one for you.
Smoke and Mirrors; How Hype Obscures the Future and How to See Past It is published by Little, Brown and is available from all good bookshops.
Find out more about Gemma and her writing here
Chloë Smith is an artist and performance maker. She supports the admin, marketing, PR and schools work for the Festival. Find out more about her work here
For the full Literary Festival programme and information on registration and booking events click here