Canadian author (R.) Scott Bakker hit the SFF world hard to critical acclaim a few years ago with his debut The Darkness That Comes Before (review), followed shortly by the next two volumes of the Prince of Nothing Trilogy (review), The Warrior Prophet (review) and The Thousandfold Thought (review). His epic trilogy delves deeper and more philosophically than typical and tackles some weighty issues surrounding the idea of certainty. A follow-up trilogy (?) is forthcoming with The Judging Eye kicking it off sometime in early-2009.
In Bakker’s newest book, Neuropath (review), he embraces the psycho-thriller and gets a bit closer to his passions as a philosopher. The basis for the book resides in the reality of cognitive science and just what recent findings say about human consciousness.
I’m very pleased that Scott as taken the time to answer Questions Five – apparently I caught him in one of his more strident, evangelical moods.
What type of protection do you recommend for genre promiscuity?
SB: KY. It protects against chaffing and the like. Use enough of it and even half-naked barbarians and farmboys-who-would-be-king can be quite pleasurable.
So I’m told, anyway. Ahem.
Fill in the blank: Kids today just don’t appreciate the value of ___. How does Neuropath reflect this?
SB: Self-knowledge. They are told, over and over and over, “to believe in themselves,” and yet nowhere—literally nowhere!—are they taught just what it is they are believing in. Being human isn’t easy. In so many ways, we are our own biggest obstacles, and yet we teach our children to close their eyes and just pretend otherwise. We set them up to fail in all the ways that we fail. We give them little gold stickers.
Neuropath takes this as a central theme.
If Neuropath were a fortune cookie, what would its fortune be?
SB: You are not what you think you are.
Neuroscience, psychology, and cognitive science have been amassing evidence of this for decades now, and yet nary a peep makes it to mainstream culture. We send our kids to school, and instead of learning how to evaluate claims, or how to compensate for the myriad ways in which we all dupe ourselves, they are taught the precise opposite: to celebrate our stupidity, in fact.
Turn on the news. There isn’t a single crisis which does not turn on our cognitive shortcomings. Arguably, there’s no single greater cause of human misery, be it terrorist attacks or marital breakdowns, and yet we keep it hidden, and keep on pretending.
And I fear that our future will be far less forgiving than our past.
How would you interpret this fortune if were your own?
SB: That I’m not what I think I am. That despite all my hardwired tendencies to buy my own bullshit, I need to hold onto my doubt. Suspending judgment is the hard road. The high road—I hope.
Why should Neuropath be the next book that everyone reads?
SB: Because all the weaknesses I’ve referred to are factual–only our ignorance, vanity, and fraudulent culture allow us to think otherwise. The whole point of Neuropath is to suss those weaknesses out and to cut against them.
The reader is the real protagonist—or antagonist as the case might be.