So, the Kickstarter for Neoreaction a Basilisk is up. That’s the link right there. In case you’ve missed the hype machine for it over the past few weeks, it’s a book why far-right politics are stupid and also about the end of the world. The official description’s on the Kickstarter page over here. We’ve posted two excerpts on the site so far (Excerpt One – Excerpt Two) and there’s more coming over the next few weeks, along with some fantastic podcasts about the book. This post, on the other hand, serves as a bit of backstage commentary on it all for the Eruditorum Press regulars.
First, a simple pragmatism. My wife and I are moving next month. We’re excited for this, and it’s almost certain to have good effects on my work, but it’s expensive as moves are. So that’s part of why I’m Kickstarting this book, and doing it now. That said, I hope the ideas appeal. Certainly I found them interesting, hence, you know, accidentally writing it.
This gets to the other big reason why I decided Kickstarter was the way to go with this one. One of the problems with accidentally writing a book is that certain important planning steps involving figuring out how you’re going to describe and market a book get skipped. Typically these steps exist to kill off or heavily modify ideas that, while potentially interesting, are potentially undisciplined and difficult to explain to somebody else. This, of course, is also one of the major advantages to accidentally writing a book, but it doesn’t do wonders for the conventional marketing campaign.
It also makes it suitable for having a bit of fun with. As purchasers of Recursive Occlusion will be aware, despite (or perhaps because of) being a digital-centric author, I love the book as an object. It’s part of why I love Blake so much. So with a kind of eccentric and inadvertent book, it seemed like a good time to do something I’ve kind of always wanted to do, which is a book that serves as an homage to the pre-ebook, pre-POD self-publishing tradition of zines and half-baked conspiracy theories. (I’ve literally been considering something like this since the Deadly Assassin post in Eruditorum.) You can see a preview of the visual style I’m going for here.
This also nicely solves one of the harder things about Kickstarters, which is the lengthy period between taking everyone’s money and knowing how much giving everyone their stuff is going to cost. Especially important when you’re using one to fund a short-term expense like a move. With a manuscript in hand and an intended format that’s a bit odd, I could do a Kickstarter where all the rewards would ship more or less upon completion, making all the idiosyncratic editions Kickstarter-exclusive. Which they are – I’m never going to sell any of them again.
To balance that, if the Kickstarter funds I’ll be doing a permanent edition with, assuming we hit any stretch goals, some extra essays on topics like Gamergate, Donald Trump, and Austrian School economics (the last of these would be co-written with Jack). So that’s another perk.
None of this, however, answers the question “Phil, you accidentally wrote a book, why did you do that,” which is a perfectly reasonable question, as is “why should I care about these right-wing shitheads?” And I’ve got a bunch of podcasts coming up over the next few weeks where I’ll talk about that, along with all sorts of other stuff. But a version of it, by way of trying to describe this oddball book one more time.
The short version is that I had an idea for an essay about empathy and it turned out not to be an essay. But moreover, even as it resolutely failed to get this idea into any sort of tidy and straightforward shape, the terrain I found myself mapping proved interesting. Id been circling around the theme of the eschatological in my work for a while, and this topic was finally giving me the opportunity to explore it in full. The book’s first sentence is “let us assume that we are fucked,” and it continues relentlessly from that premise until it finds a compelling and generative vision in the face of it that fact. Through a very strange path.
Or, to put it another way, this is a book that uses Eliezer Yudkowsky, Mencius Moldbug, and Nick Land as a loosely stitched together foundation on which to build an oddball philosophical structure made of bits of Hannibal, China Mieville, Alan Turing, Thomas Ligotti John Milton, and a futuristic AI that will torture you for all eternity if you buy a mosquito net.
I hope you’ll find the idea interesting and consider tossing a few bucks at it.