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What books not to write.

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PeterDF
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What books not to write.

I don't know whether the tale of woe :crying: you are about to hear will help you, but it might give writers on here an insight into what not to write and, perhaps, some clues about how the publishing industry works:

I written two novels "The God Machine" and "Another Kind of Adam" I have a masters in creative writing, and I have had several literary agents show interest in my books. I also did get signed up by an agent for "The God Machine" early in my writing non-career but she couldn't sell the book. Then, after more than twenty years of frustration, distress and disappointment as my rejection slip pile grew higher as I struggled to get them published, I finally decided that it just isn't going to happen in the way I thought it would, and that I need to stop and think things through.

For the entirety of the time I was submitting I endlessly wrote and rewrote the beginnings to my books, hoping that eventually I would hit on the perfect opening so that one of them might eventually get picked up. (I don't know how it works in other countries, but here in the UK, pretty much the only way to get published in the mainstream industry is to send the opening of your book to a literary agent first.) And I felt strongly that during this time that my writing was improving. Finally, during the first lockdown I extensively rewrote the opening to both books and felt that they were as good as they were ever going to be, and started resubmitting. Guess what - nothing happened. It was then that one agent, who was a bit friendlier than most, told me that it isn't always the writing or the plot that is the problem. From the time I conceived my first book, I had at the back of my mind the thought that what my books say might be a problem in getting them published, this finally cristallised into a realisation of what was wrong. My books take the philosophical position that genes underpin human behaviour. And this is not what the literary industry expects or wants.

While it is scientifically inescapable that genetics must be a component of human behaviour, you just can't admit to that in contemporary fiction. You can oppose inappropriate action like bullying, homophobia, racism and every other kind of cruel discrimination - as I do in my books - but you must not suggest a genetic basis for any of it. Many might say that this is how it should be. If we say that our genes are responsible for bad behaviour, evil people will have a perfect excuse. But, as my work makes clear, this is complete nonsense. Whatever genes we have are there as a result of mindless natural forces like Darwinian natural selection, and this has nothing whatever to do with what we SHOULD do. There is a principle in philosophy called The Naturalistic Fallacy which makes this point completely clear.

I should add here that I have not just spent my spare time during most of my adult life writing, I felt it was essential to understand the science and the philosophy underlying my work, (I do have a degree in philosophy and English literature) and this has led to reading hundreds of books, scientific papers, attending scientific conferences and meeting, and asking questions of, some of the world's best known scientists and thinkers. This research forced me to a distinctive way of thinking about how the world works, which I suppose has now evolved into a complete philosophical system.

If I couldn't get my novels published then the obvious next thing to do was to write a non-fiction book which sets out my ideas. I prepared a book proposal for my book, called "From Slime Eater to Sapiens" and sent it to the guy who seems to be acknowledged as the preeminent literary agent in Britain, who responded that he liked the writing very much but he wouldn't be going ahead with it (I know - to my chagrin - what standard rejection letters look like and this wasn't one of them). When I sent the proposal to another agent he told me that mainstream publishers won't take any writer of non-fiction on unless they are, as he put it, a "renowned academic" or have a well-known public profile. He suggested that I self-publish, or approach a small independent publisher.

Maybe it's monumental hubris on my part but I think my ideas are of profound importance to the way we think about the universe, the way it works and what it means to be human. This is the reason that I have never wanted to write a "straight" novel, and why I don't want to risk my books disappearing into the ether due to the fact that they haven't had the kind of promotion they would have in the mainstream publishing industry.

So that's the dilemma. And the only solution I've been able to come up with so far, is to write and record a series of podcasts, which I suppose could be thought of as an abridged version of "Slime Eater". I am currently finalising some details of the recordings and they will be going live soon. If these do take off and get a large numbers of listeners then I can go back to the agents with my new enhanced public profile.

I don't know if I'm allowed to include a link to the podcasts on this platform. Perhaps Chris might let me know. But whether that's possible or not. WISH ME LUCK!
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LanDroid

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Re: What books not to write.

It is fine to post details of your podcasts here. As I recall you have written several insightful posts on biology. We used to have more discussion on that topic. Not disputing evolution, but more on details of how it works. For example, is all selection for genes made at the individual level or is there also a group selection aspect for social animals?

Anyway, best of luck on your writing / podcast efforts!
_______________________________________________________
When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; even though you multiply your prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.
Isaiah 1:15

But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.
Exodus 21: 23 - 25
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PeterDF
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Re: What books not to write.

Hi LanDroid

Yes, I remember your name. Good to know someone remembers the discussions from back then.

On the question about group selection, yes, it seems to be scientific orthodoxy that there is a special case of group selection called kin selection, which works only where the individuals are related, and therefore share some of the same genes. Because genes are at the focus of selection, if for example you did something to help your brother/sister/cousin then this would be favoured by natural selection to the level and extent that it might get your shared genes into the next generation.
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Brooks127
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Re: What books not to write.

A few weeks ago, I got an invite to speak on a podcast about my writing. I write short fiction stories. During our conversation, I brought up that one of the reasons I add my fiction to the Internet Archive is due to my thinking publishers might be seeking more science and fantasy fiction short stories than my slice-of-life stories. That's cool. I have lot of friends who write SF/FF, but I wish there were more outlets for alternative works.

I thinks it's cool you want to start a podcast. If not a podcast, at least something to talk about your ideas. I created a YouTube channel to talk about why I write my stories.
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