Bakker discusses DISCIPLE OF THE DOG

R. Scott Bakker and James Sallis discuss Bakker's Disciple of the Dog (Canada, USA, Europe) on Mulholland Books.

Here's an extract:

Well, I had this idea of writing a crime thriller involving cults bubbling in the back of my bean for several years—so you could say that my brain had cleared a narrative space for Disciple already. The idea of an über-unbeliever investigating a group of über-believers was simply too rich.

Human beings are literally hardwired to believe they have won what I like to call “the Magical Belief Lottery,” to think that somehow, either by dint of providence, hard work, or disposition, they have somehow lucked into the winning combination of beliefs. Everybody feels this way. Me. You. There’s literally no escaping the conviction that we, and we alone, have somehow found our way past all the tomfoolery that so obviously afflicts everyone else on the planet.

The frightening thing to realize is that this “feeling of certainty” can be attached to any set of beliefs, no matter how crazed or preposterous they seem. Logical consistency. Factual evidence. Education. None of this stuff seems to make much of a difference. The research shows that what we believe largely depends on who gets to us first, and how the issue is spun. We are all cultists, whether we want to be or not, which is probably why we’re so hellbent on ridiculing “cults” proper.

So the idea was to write a crime novel where ignorance was the antagonist in a multitude of senses. A beautiful young cult member goes missing, and in the course of investigating her disappearance, Disciple discovers a murderous carnival of human folly and ignorance—which suits him fine, given his skills and outlook


Consider cults. Did you know that cult members tend to have more education and higher IQs and to be more “independent minded” than the general population? If you assumed the precise opposite (as I once did), then you have been victimized by what sociologists call “atrocity tales.” Every culture has them: stories meant to affirm the social status quo and to reinforce a sense of privileged in-group identity. The media regularly portrays cult members as gullible and “weak minded” when really, if you think about it, they’re the ones who had the strength to repudiate mass consensus, and there really is precious little that distinguishes the plausibility of their founding stories from those belonging to traditional belief systems.


Human folly is without a doubt one of history’s greatest scourges. Aside from natural disasters, almost every crisis you see on the evening news is the product of self-deception. So of course, we teach our children about all the errors they’re prone to make, the ones that underwrite the small catastrophes—things like divorce and addiction—as much as the large. We teach them about confirmation bias, social proof bias, my-side bias, parochialism, and the perils of coalition psychology. We teach them all the ways they will inevitably deceive themselves…don’t we?

Of course not. Instead, we teach them the precise opposite. We say “Believe!” when we know, as a matter of empirical fact, that they are hardwired to fool themselves. We set them up for tragedy more than we prepare them for it.

We all live in a hallucinatory culture of belief. In the good old days, stories typically punished us for our hubris, for the sin of not recognizing our limitations. Now they typically punish us for not pretending otherwise, for wavering in our daft faith. It makes it easier to sell toothpaste, to hold the poor responsible for their poverty, and to congratulate the powerful for their conviction

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2 commentaires:

Tristan said...

Man, I love Bakker, he is one of my favorite authors, and a brilliant writer. But man this gets old. Every book he tells us how pathetic and pointless everyone is, with only slight variations on the theme. He is being swallowed by his GREAT IDEA THAT EXPLAINS EVERYTHING, and while it hasn't yet, I fear eventually he will sacrifice his considerable talent to it.

kiewfici said...

Bakker has good ideas, but some of them are definitely discussed thoroughly even before his writings and it's sort of tiresome that he presents them as new.