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A Rejection

The British Journal of Aesthetics rejected my paper, “Doctor Who and the Paradox of Fiction”, but in a rather nice way:

This paper makes some interesting suggestions about how we should understand the nature of our emotional responses to fictions… All in all, what we have here is some good but not very closely connected points which are or might be worth making within a bigger project on emotions in fiction. The are not, on their own, of sufficient interest to justify a longish piece of this size. Perhaps it might be reworked into a shorter comment piece.

Although I was initially rather disappointed, the window is open here for a reworked shorter piece so I should definitely pursue this. Also, I received my peer review in about a month – which is absolutely incredible for a major journal.


Tardigr E granul 700x Does it really require 'credulity' to "believe in invisible life forms", as a certain science writer claims? If this means "invisible to the naked eye", most people today believe in such things, even without examining the evidence.  If it means "invisible to all known instruments", do you really think all such instruments have been found or can plausibly be constructed?

Few would call those in the former case 'credulous' for accepting things without examining the evidence personally, although maybe they should, on a strict definition of the term (a willingness to believe without having good evidence). On this basis, the lion's share of credulity in the world today is in respect of the objects of scientific study, since it is the minority - even among scientists - who check the evidence in all cases, and the sciences produce or describe a dizzying array of ever-diversifying objects. I suppose the doctored photo of the tardigrade above counts as good evidence, but I believed in the existence of these microscopic critters the moment I heard about them – I did not check the evidence (although I wished I still had a microscope so I could look for them in my house's gutters!).

Furthermore, if we allow for super-organisms I'm not really sure that the super-organism that occupies (say) the city of Chicago is strictly visible. Sometimes you can only see the parts of something, but that doesn't mean it isn't there. Plenty of people believe in the existence of climate change, but no-one has actually seen it, nor will they (this is precisely what Timothy Morton means by a hyper-object). What is the reasonable proof required to believe in the existence of something like a super-organism or a hyper-object that is primarily conceptual? And what, let's face it, can we know about that isn't conceptual at some level?

As I mentioned in Moore’s Paradox and the Belief in False Things, I believe in the essential goodness of humanity, something I also know is either false or untestable – this belief is therefore credulous. Nonetheless, I am unlikely to give it up no matter what evidence you present me. The person who thinks they can live their life without relying upon their own credulity at least some of the time is probably deceiving themselves as to the epistemic criteria they are relying on.

The Piano and the Armchair

Mahogany PianoWe relate to our things more than we recognise. As a result of a pact I made with my wife, we now have a piano (pictured left) in our lounge. It’s a lovely old mahogany piece, rescued from a skip by one of those strange and wonderful artisans who does for musical instruments what pet shelters do for animals.

My interest in the piano here is in what it reveals about the living arrangements in my house, since its arrival displaced an armchair. The chair in question was arranged, as so many are these days, to afford a viewing position on the television – the centrepiece of most contemporary lounges – although also so that the fireplace could also be focal in the winter. Because of the piano, the armchair can no longer be positioned where the TV is in full view, or indeed visible at all. Although initially a cause of consternation, I rapidly realised that this was no bad thing.

A person sat in the armchair is now insulated from the TV, and thus free from the hypnotic power this box possesses. I confess, in the pub I always try and sit away from the televisions because I want to talk to the people I am drinking with – yet the flickering sporting matches draw my attention like moths to candles, whether I wish it or not! The armchair not only creates a space liberated from the TV, it offers a more convivial arrangement for the room as a whole. A guest sat upon it can converse with those on the sofa comfortably, and if my wife decides to play the piano (currently hopelessly out of tune!) the new position is equally amenable.

Although I use a television for media consumption on a regular basis, I always aim to ensure it is only part of my experiential diet. Moving the armchair makes that easier. But were it not for the piano, I would not have been confronted with this aspect of my relationships with the things around me. How quickly we become accustomed to that which would seem strange to those who went before us…

After the Volcano

Part of the July Blogs of the Round Table.

After the Volcano Over at Critical Distance, it seems that the bloot on the extinction of blogs struck a chord and pushed the conversation further into the corners of the internet. Their BoRT for July, “Blogception”, is a continuation of the themes that began with “The Extinction of Blogs” and that I summarised in “Bloot Me If You Need Me”. You can find the contributed pieces with the recently-revived drop down box, below (hurrah!).

I particularly enjoyed the tmblr post by rumirumirumirumi that suggests that there probably isn’t actually a problem, since the talking is still going on. Yet I found it rather odd and amusing that I couldn’t actually comment to this post, because tumblr (a format I only discovered this month) doesn’t support it. It drives home for me that while the conversations still occur on the new media platforms, what is actually in danger of extinction is ‘just’ the old form of blogging. But of course, it was this form of blogging (and not just on the topic of games, as others have assumed!) that I suggested was in danger of extinction – and that I don’t want to lose.

Random throwaway conversations may survive, but the blog clusters are dying – and as far as I can tell new formats like tumblr and G+ do not and cannot maintain community in anything like this way. G+, I can now honestly report, reverts to the usenet/forum format for community – with all the disastrous problems this entails. But then Oscar drew my attention to First Person Scholar via a post entitled “Feed-Forward Scholarship” that feels very much like another shot at a Terra Nova-like scholarly outreach community. A definite sense of circles and roundabouts hangs in the air – transformation is certainly afoot, yet there is also a sense of recurrence, of things coming back around.

You won’t care about the extinction of the blog clusters if – like Corvus and others – you are getting your conversational fixes elsewhere. Probably the only people who do care are those of us who benefited from the experimental era roughly a decade hence when the blog clusters dominated digital discourse. These current discussions have left me in no doubt that dialogue does still take place on the internet, but they have not yet convinced me that those of us in the ‘old guard’ have nothing to lose by giving up what we once had. On the contrary, I am more certain than ever that we have already lost what we had. But perhaps this is not as great a cause for alarm as I originally suggested.

Every extinction is an opportunity for that which survives: after the volcano, new life flourishes in the fecundity of its desolation. So it seems to be on the internet. If I cannot keep my blog clusters alive, I must be mindful of how my blogs, survivors of this catastrophic transition, can blossom in some as-yet undiscovered niche.

Chaos Ethics Ruminations

Starting to get a trickle of feedback on Chaos Ethics – and thus far the response is positive! Several readers of the manuscript have been chewing on the first few chapters, and one has swallowed the whole book down and coughed up an annotated furball in response. I suspect at least one more is close to doing the same soon. There’s still some issues to address, but on the whole people are finding it stimulating and inspiring – which is great to hear, as I have worried more than is sensible about how I have pitched this book.

Alas, the endorsements are proving more difficult. I’ve already had it politely turned down by Allen W. Wood, Bruno Latour, and Mark Vernon – the problem mostly being lack of time. Will be approaching Mary Midgley and Michael Moorcock shortly, but I’m going to need some new leads if I’m going to get three solid endorsements. Much to do before this one is finally in print!

Now Playing: Ni No Kuni

Finally committed to my AAA game for the Summer, and it is Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. As I write, I’m just deciding whether to play in English or Japanese.

First impressions? The box is pleasantly austere, as is becoming traditional for computer RPGs these days. But why is “Ni No Kuni” not translated into English? “Second Country” would be a literal translation, but “Second Realm”, “Second World”, or even “The Other World” would work too. Presumably "Another World" was excluded owing to the 1991 game. Odd to leave the title in Japanese, though, unless they’re expecting to sell only to anime fans…

Cross-posted from – please leave comments over there!

The Anxiety of Reconnection

Water on Sand An uncomfortable collision awaits me. I have just returned from a week on the Isle of Wight, visiting my family and enjoying the rural and coastal charms of the place where I grew up. Away, I achieved an unprecedented degree of relaxation – so much more than I ever managed when I was running the consultancy full time. I was able to literally set aside all the many strands of my work and never let them enter my mind. No email, no twitter, no social media of any kind. I used the internet solely to check the weather and the tide tables. I wrote nothing but my diary. I read nothing but fiction – a rarity for me these days.

Now, I am back at my desk. Although still putatively on holiday for the next two weeks, I nonetheless cannot avoid reconnecting (hopefully only briefly) to the outside world. This brings an oppressive trepidation to bear upon me. My email – or rather, my imagined experience of re-encountering my email – is a tangled knot of pre-existing obligations and fresh demands, an unpleasant confrontation with the remorseless logistics of my daily life that I have managed to escape for ten scant days. This box stands in front of me – and even though I do not wish to open it, I know that I shall.

This angst is so trivial in any grand scheme you might care to suggest that it seems an indulgence to experience it, much less remark upon it. Is this discomfort merely rooted in the yearning to remain within the bubble of my holiday, or can it be that my work – which I enjoy – is a greater burden than I recognise? From inside, the pleasures of even the small achievements offset the remorseless labour, but from outside it is solely the latter that seems in focus. What is it about reconnecting that troubles me so disproportionately?



Today is the eighth birthday of Only a Game - happy Bronze Anniversary to all you players, whether stallwart or new! Here's to the delightful madness we have already shared, and the greater chaos to come. Blogging will be disrupted while I'm away visiting my family on the Isle of Wight, but I'll be back with some crisp new nonsense very soon. In the meantime, peruse the baker's dozen of classic posts I trotted out for the anniversary and perhaps share some freshly baked thoughts of your own in the comments. Your views are always welcome here!

The Game resumes in a fortnight.