Thursday, 18 August 2016

Opening Salvo

Standing on the verge of getting it written Hello. Welcome to my new blog. I did start a blog back in December 2011, and managed two - TWO! - posts. But normally I find that I have neither time nor inclination to keep at it, and I greatly prefer the speed and lightness that is enabled by Twitter. However. I have a book to write. The book is about bioethics, utopia, biomedicine, and how these things relate to each other. Writing a book is HARD. I have been staring at a computer screen for weeks already without making a lot of progress. So, partly to get myself out of that rut, and partly to have a place to put work in progress up for what the cool kids call "beta testing", and partly to be able to post off-cuts and false trails and odd little ideas that might not come to anything... here I am! I don't promise to publish regularly. But I am on research leave until July 2017 without any other forum for my thinking at any greater length than 140 characters a time, so I may well appear here quite often. I look forward to hearing what you think about what I post here. I will moderate the hell out of you if you are rude, nasty, irrelevant, or just annoying. It's my blog, after all. But otherwise all engagement is welcome. It's lonely out here on the ice wall of writing. Watch this space!


  1. Good Luck with the blogging journey second time around. I have never had the hell moderated out of me - could be fun! In any event, I KNOW I will learn from whatever you write which has to be a very good thing.

  2. Hi Richard I am a pretty useless blogger too - I always think I should do more. Anyway this sounds interesting I guess you have an idea what the book will be, what the parts will be and how to fill in the gaps? I have a little knowledge on this subject - but I honestly prefer to read and write fiction. I did co-teach on a sci fi course and we did a session on biology so I have a collection of short sci fi stories if you are pursuing the use of fiction.
    Weirdness like how do we live in society when we feel we are deeply (biologically) solitary, and quite anti-social beings? And yep I think people get hung up on animal dirt cos they are conveniently trained to hide that they do dirt too.

  3. Thanks Joanne. I am trying to work up the proposal now, and it is (not) surprising how difficult that is! I am used to thinking at essay length, and developing the architecture of a book is a new challenge. I read a lot of fiction, but I have no talents in that direction at all. Aside from the pleasure of reading for its own sake, I find science fiction "good to think with". One of my strategies for thinking about this book is to think about Italo Calvino's "Invisible Cities" - very pithy little thought experiments playing with ideas and language. There is not enough play in academic writing, I find. Weirdness is something I will need to write about in depth, but one part of it is what SF critic Darko Suvin called "cognitive estrangement". Trying to find ways in which thinking differently about what human beings do which higlights ways of being human which are both "natural" but also - most of the time - just out of sight and hard to bring into focus. I would disagree with you on the point about humans being "deeply (biologically) solitary". I think we are quite the opposite. That isn't to say that some of us greatly prefer to be on our own. But if the most distinctive thing about humans is our use of language, then language is the most social thing there is. I suppose being social and being sociable are not the same!

  4. Hi Richard - I think perhaps you were doing Phd when I was undergrad at Liverpool - a vague memory - (much more hair?).
    Yep I did mean that - some of us feel solitary - not all. Some people are the complete opposite and cannot bare to be alone. I have not yet read the 'Calvino' story - so difficult for me to understand your inspiration. I can dig out the list of short stories we used for contemplation. You have chosen a difficult subject. I seem to think differently about everything anyway. Let me know if you'd like the list - you'll love reading the stories anyway if you haven't already. I am not sure how to follow your blog here - all the best....

  5. Thanks Joanne. I think everyone would enjoy Italo Calvino's book - it is very short, and written with such grace and lightness of touch. It is one of the books I recommend to anyone who will listen! I would be interested in your list, very much so. I did spend a year in Liverpool as a post doc in the Philosophy Department 1995/6. I was in a garret next to Andy Sawyer's office for the SF Collection, and it was talking to him, Stephen Clark and the shade of Olaf Stapledon which sowed the seed of my thinking about SF as a way to think about philosophy. I never taught while in Liverpool, but yes, you may well have seen me around. I did have more hair (and a bushier beard) in those days.

  6. Yes I am pretty sure it is you I remember though we only passed on the stairs (my crazy reason for remembering is I thought you could be Peri Maxwell, the main character in my first novel, student of Prof. Clarkeson - LOL)
    I re-organised that little library in the Philosophy Dept basement too! Siruis is a great one for Bio-ethics I guess - I will look into Calvino then maybe I will understand you more. Reading Last and First Men right now though.
    I taught the other half of the sci fi MA with Nick Davis and will enjoy having a look at the file again over the weekend and dig out what I can for you.
    I've been wanting to find the time to read you emotions essay - going there now - Hope your book is coming together.