THE PLANE TRUTH BY MY BROTHER BOB (ROBERT J. SCHADEWALD) has been a work in progress since at least 1984, although I’m sure the idea of it dates to the 1970s. It’s a work that is unfinished in places, perhaps more detailed than one would have thought possible in places, perfectly constructed in places, and all over the (flat) map in still other places. Bob worked on The Plane Truth until the week he died in 2000. Of all things, completing this book to his satisfaction was of the utmost importance to him. I believe that the book remained unfinished because Bob felt that it never met his standards closely enough to be published. Bob hovered over this book and wouldn’t allow it to come to fruition. My brother was an incredibly talented writer, but in some ways, I think, he was never totally satisfied with anything he had written. So he kept writing and rewriting this book. The dull glow of this not-quite-finished hue is evident in places within this work, but also the eloquence and beauty of Bob’s finished writing shines in other places.
The Plane Truth is offered for what it is: an unfinished scholarly work on the history and background of flat-earth belief sprinkled through with the characters and colourful personalities of those involved. “It’s a small, flat world” was a phrase Bob often used when hearing of some unlikely coincidence. For Bob, flat-earth analogy could fit almost any situation. When he discussed creationism (the precursor of intelligent design) he would explain the argumentation creationists used by comparing it to the argumentation Victorian, England, flat-earthers used. (Spoiler alert: they’re the same.) When creationists promoted a Two-Model Theory (creation/evolution) bill to be taught in schools, Bob wrote a bill called A Balanced Treatment of Flat-Earth Science and Spherical-Earth Science Act. The reaction of Charles Johnson (then president of the Flat Earth Society) can be found in Chapter 9: “Johnson and Johnson”.
It’s hard to know how Bob would have felt now with so many references to flat earth in use. Some examples include Thomas Friedman’s books, The World is Flat and Hot, Flat and Crowded; Flat Earth Productions (a digital visual effects company); Flat Earth Veggie Crisps; and, here in Minnesota, Flat Earth beer. I know for certain that he would have loved that last one.
My brother was a student of pseudoscience. It fascinated Bob to try to understand how someone could so firmly believe in an idea that almost everyone else would consider an indicator of insanity or, at least, naiveté. Bob studied not only flat-earth belief, but also creationism, perpetual motion, alternative geodesy (geocentricity, hollow earth, pole shift), Big Foot, the Loch Ness monster, and Tesla-mania, to name a few. Of all the pseudosciences Bob studied, flat-earth belief was one of the first and always his favourite. He studied flat-earth belief and history from about 1974. He formed acquaintances with as many people as he could find who believed that the Earth is flat. He travelled to England to research original materials of the British flat-earthers, and he corresponded with like-minded people all over the world in his quest to find out as much as he could about the development and fluctuations of flat-earth belief. He was considered a world expert on the topic.