One of my all-time favourite authors, R. Scott Bakker, is back, on hiatus from his trodden fantasy path to tackle the psycho-thriller genre. And while the cover of the book and the tagline you see there are an utter cliché of the genre (blame his publishers — bad Penguin Canada, baad), his content is terrifically intense and realistic, with beautiful doses of poetics and philosophy for flavour. (Read a prior bit about his literary-fantasy series, The Prince of Nothing.)
There is an insightful interview with Mr Bakker over at Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist where he delves into the reasons for writing the book and what issues he wanted to tackle with this project. (I like that he started the project for his wife, aww.):
Scott: Are the muggles ready for Neuropath? That remains to be seen. The vast majority of readers will reject the vast bulk of the claims made in the book – that goes without saying, I think. Our incompetence as theory believers pretty much assures that people will refuse to acknowledge their incompetence as theory believers, and so muster all the power their myriad biases have to offer. Just for instance, you would think that encountering well-formed counterarguments would make people more skeptical of their own beliefs – after all, someone has to be wrong and it could very well be you – but research has shown that precisely the opposite is the case. Thanks to things like source bias, selective attention, confirmation bias, and so on, we almost always feel that we have utterly demolished those counterarguments, and if our position is so strong as to demolish well-formed counterarguments, well then, it simply has to be true! In other words, we draw the most irrational, self-serving conclusion possible. […]
Pat: The thesis underlying the novel is that there is no such thing as human free will and that consciousness as we know it is illusory. Do you believe that this controversial premise is the reason why it was difficult for you to find a home for this manuscript?
Scott: In the US, maybe. But I really think that the problem had more to do with the fact that the content was philosophical, more than the specific nature of that content. I had one very high profile NYC editor call me up to explain why he was passing on the book, even though he thought it was the most disturbing thing he’d read in 10 years! That’s literally what he said. What it came down to was that he thought the book was too cerebral to sell in the American market.
Pat: Given the subject matter presented in Neuropath, do you personally have any hope that humans can overcome their "hardwiring" (whether it be via social engineering or genetic manipulation)? Or is "rewiring" something that scares you even more than the present condition?
Scott: We’re fucked.
[Obviously continued… even with some new info on the upcoming Prince of Nothing instalment!]