Coming Soon: The Virtuous Cyborg

Neuron ChaosIt gives me great pleasure to formally announce my new book project, The Virtuous Cyborg, which builds upon the cybervirtue discussions going on here at Only a Game this year. A publisher has already invited me to place the book with them, but I will not announce who it is until later this year when we’ve dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s. I will just say for now that they are are a small independent press with a commitment to virtuous publishing and nurturing talent outside of the mainstream corporate system, and they feel like a great fit for my philosophy writing.

The new book will be another short form text like Wikipedia Knows Nothing, but will not have a free edition as I am committed to repaying the investment of both trust and money the publisher is making by publishing me, and their situation means they have to be practical about making ends meet. (ETC Press, as an academic publisher, had different priorities, and I’m very grateful to them for being there when WKN needed a home).

At this time, I am inviting pre-readers to read the draft manuscript, that will be ready some time in April. All you need to be as a pre-reader is someone I have already spoken to (in any medium) with an interest in my philosophy and the time to read a 30,000 word manuscript in April-May this year. I will need feedback in less than a month, so please make sure you have the time to help out.

Interested? Contact me through the usual channels, including comments here if you have no other option.

The opening image is a free texture from TextureX.com which I found here, used under their license and remaining under their copyright.


Likened to Hume

Always pleasant to hear nice things about your own work, but my email this morning had an especially joyous moment when a book editor not only offered me a gig but wrote of Imaginary Games:

…I came to your book with enthusiasm. It did not disappoint. In fact, aside from the great exposition of ideas I found your prose style astonishingly lucid and generous. Hume came to mind.

Being compared to Hume is a great complement, since not only was he Scottish (I am one quarter Scottish, on my mother’s side) but like me he was also an ‘outsider philosopher’, utterly disconnected from the academic philosophy of his day. A great start to my week!


WKN: Reviews Wanted!

WKN Free PDF QRAt the moment, there are no reviews of Wikipedia Knows Nothing anywhere at all. It would be great to raise that number by an infinite degree through the simple expedient of having at least one review on, say, Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, or indeed anywhere else where book reviews live.

If you’ve already read the book, please consider writing a short review for a suitable site, and if you haven’t, why not scan this QR code and pull down the free PDF, or follow the link above for details of the paperback or ebook? Your assistance is appreciated!


WKN: The Author's Copy

WKN-shelfThere’s a special pleasure in unwrapping the package that has your own book in it, something that doesn’t come along every day. A pleasing object, Wikipedia Knows Nothing the paperback; she has the same form factor as some low-print run role-playing games I was given by a good friend in Tennessee. Sitting her up on my top philosophy shelf next to my ‘imaginative investigations’ trilogy shows just how light and nimble she turned out. Who could be threatened by such a small thing?


Wikipedia Knows Nothing - Out Now!

What does the Wikipedia know, and how can it know it? More to the point, how can anyone using an anonymously edited source, the contents of which change on a daily basis, know that what they are reading constitutes knowledge? In this provocative challenge to contemporary concepts of objectivity, four figures of knowledge – the Wikipedia, scientific experiments, anonymous peer review, and school education – are investigated in order to question the way we understand the world around us.

Rather than support the classical view of an objective world 'out there' that our beliefs must accord with in order to count as knowledge, Wikipedia Knows Nothing argues that all facts are the residue of skilled activities and that knowledge is better understood as a practice. Furthermore, rather than a single 'real world', the many worlds that we each live within form a multiverse about which our subjective knowledge-practices give us broader understandings than the objective knowledge produced by experimental apparatus.

The merit of the sciences doesn't lie in their possessing the only path to truth, but in their capacity to develop knowledge-practices that can resist objections across all worlds. This leads to an urgent need to recognise the role of practices in creating and maintaining knowledge, and the different ways that truth can be stitched together into distinct but non-contradictory patchworks of 'real worlds'. When we do, we must question any claim that knowledge can come from anonymous individuals exercising an unchecked power to silence others – whether this happens on the internet in wikis, or in professional academic discourse.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.

Purchase Print or eBook from Lulu.com, or Download for free.

Cross-posted from ETC Press.


Soon, Everyone Can Know Nothing

As I write, I’ve just clicked ‘send’ on the email that will take the author edited manuscript of Wikipedia Knows Nothing and deliver it to the new publisher. The book is being distributed with a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND (“Share”) license, making this my first free ebook. With luck, it will be available in time for DiGRA/FDG in August, but we’ll see how the winds of fate are blowing this Summer…

More news on my newest book as and when it comes in!


Free Your Book And What Will Follow?

Digital BookFor the first time in my life, I find myself contemplating releasing my new book for free. This is an odd thought, but it could make sense for where I'm up to in my career as a multi-class author with feet in very different areas. Not ready to commit yet, but even thinking about this marks a change in direction for me.

I've made some good money out of my how-to books like 21st Century Game Design and Game Writing: Narrative Skills for Videogames, but with publishing giant Cengage struggling to make ends meet in the era of web content overload they have pulled out of games book publishing entirely. That means as soon as the print edition of my 'how to' books sell through (and one already has), they're out of print. I'm shopping around for a publisher to take over these, but most I've contacted are in the same state as Cengage or worse... Traditional publishing is struggling.

Meanwhile, my last three books are a trilogy of philosophy forming my 'imaginative investigations' (Imaginary Games, The Mythology of Evolution, and Chaos Ethics). Published with Zero Books, these are not titles a conventional small press could handle, but 500 copies is a 'best seller' for Zero, and I've already cleared this sales target with the first of the three and am gradually getting there with the other two. In a few months I will have sold a thousand books of philosophy, which is a tiny fraction of my total book sales yet still an achievement in a niche field like philosophy.

Now in comes Wikipedia Knows Nothing, which is also philosophy but short-form. I wrote it for Repeater, the small press my editor at Zero created after he (and I, unrelatedly) left then. But he knows what my philosophy books will sell, and a thousand copies isn't viable for him, nor for any other small press I've contacted. That leaves the academic presses (who, in fact, would generate greater sales for it anyway) – but will I really get a book that claims blind peer review is immoral through a publisher that uses blind peer review as standard? Every academic press is bizarrely wed to this queer artefact of the twentieth century. I have to doubt my prospects, although I haven’t ruled out submitting to my contact at MIT Books, and maybe to Minnesota Press as well (they pride themselves in being a little unorthodox, and they've been a good friend to Ian Bogost).

But there's a third option: a self-published (or pop-up publisher issued) e-book. I can make these myself easily enough, and even getting an ISBN for book catalogues is quite manageable. One key point in this regard is my realisation that I don't have to worry about a lack of publisher promotion because every publisher below the scale of the upper market 'fast-sellers' leaves marketing to the author. Case in point: despite being a huge multinational, Cengage left promotional activity to my books with them up to me. They supported me, but it was ultimately up to me to make everything happen. That was even more true of Zero, although under new head Doug Lain that is changing in new and interesting ways.

The bottom line is that even the best case for the new book is to generate, say, $5,000 for me. To put that in context, that's what I earn on a typical two-week game consultancy gig. No-one writes philosophy to get rich – we mostly write it because we're unable to stop thinking about philosophical problems and need to work them out on paper to get them out of our heads. So whatever happens I'm not looking at making a lot of money with the new project. Which brings up an interesting option: giving it away for free.

The scuttlebutt on free e-books is that they typically 'sell' a hundred times as many copies as paid e-books. I doubt that number holds for philosophy, but either way the advantage of having a short-form e-book is that it can reach people who currently wouldn't read my work, and could perhaps reach ten thousand people if not a hundred thousand. That potentially expands both my audience and the number of people who might enter into discourse with me - both are desirable, but the latter is especially appealing since I am feeling increasingly isolated these days. (My own fault for going down the philosophy rabbit-hole, of course...) This isn't new logic: even the big publishers are now giving away free e-books in order to build the brands of their authors and thus ultimately sell more books by them.

One final option to consider is Open Humanities Press. I already spoke to Graham Harman about this (he edits their 'New Metaphysics' line), and going with them – if they will have me! – would put me in good company. I might not get the free e-book, because they only distribute free PDFs of their books, but as someone who is now undeniably an academic (for all that it rankles to admit that!) it might be better for me to go where other academics I respect, like Joanna Zylinska, Timothy Morton, and Levi Bryant, have gone. However, I’m pretty sure they use blind peer review as well – so I might do just as well to submit to other academic presses first. Swings and roundabouts.

Being an author has become an important part of my self-image. Indeed, I agonised over what to put as my profession on my first son's birth certificate (Game designer? Game writer? Philosopher?) before finally settling upon 'Author'. It may be a small part of my earnings, but it's a huge part of my identity these days that I write books - and I love doing it, too. Absorbed in a manuscript I am more immersed than in any game. I live among my words.

These are strange times for publishers, and thus also for authors. Perhaps I have indeed reached a point where the best thing I can do is go fishing with a free e-book... But I worry about going it alone, even though it was always only ever me promoting my work. I like working with people, I don't want to push myself into ever-quieter corners of obscurity. But then, maybe a free e-book is the message-in-a-bottle I need to end my hermitage? Forces are pulling me in different directions.

I ask you, whoever had read this far, to help guide me. I'm not lost because I know exactly where I am. I'm just not entirely sure where I am going.