Owning the Unknown gets some attention
October 22, 2023
Just a quick update on my nonfiction book Owning the Unknown, now available for purchase at all the usual places: Library Journal has a starred review here. Quote:
When contemplating the existence of God, how does one determine what questions to ask in order to find the most correct answers? While this may seem like a strange question for a science-fiction writer to post, Hugo Award-winning Wilson proves himself to be just the person to tackle it... He invites readers, whether theist or atheist, to question what they believe and why, but in a more approachable manner than many intellectual or philosophical books on atheism. The book traces the history of science fiction as a genre and points out how this saga correlates to modern atheistic thinking. Wilson puts forward his own brand of "intuitive atheism," while encouraging readers to come to their own conclusions and, along the way, consider how and why they arrive at them. VERDICT: Skeptics of religious belief and fans of science fiction are likely to love this book. People of faith may be somewhat uncomfortable with the topics discussed, but Wilson handles these subjects in a respectful and considerate manner.
Want to read a brief excerpt from the first chapter? The Amazing Stories website has one here. And the venerable atheist/agnostic publication The Truth Seeker -- published continuously since 1873! -- also has an excerpt in its current issue, though it's not available online.
An excellent audiobook version of Owning the Unknown, expertly voiced by Audie Award-winner Pete Cross, is available from the customary sources.
And while this was never a book destined for the bestseller list, I've had enough feedback from readers to suggest that it's managing to find an appreciative and thoughtful audience. Thanks to everyone who's taken the time to share their thoughts with me.
(New novel Forty Million Summers remains a work in progress, but it's just a couple of chapters from a final draft. Stay tuned.)
A new book (and maybe more to come...)
May 1, 2023
Yes, it's been a while. I know. This website has been moribund for a few years now, and I marvel at the patience of anyone who still checks it on a regular basis. I've been more active on social media lately . . . and, to be honest, there just hasn't been much major news to report. The truth is that I hit a creative speed bump after the publication of my last novel, and there were days -- months -- when I figured I was more or less done with writing for publication.
But never trust a writer who claims to be retired. I'm happy to announce I have a new book coming out this September, my first long-form work of nonfiction, Owning the Unknown, now available for preorder at all the usual places, as well as a fat new novel currently at the final stages of "in progress."
How to describe Owning the Unknown? The book's subtitle -- A Science Fiction Writer Explores Atheism, Agnosticism, and the Idea of God -- is the thumbnail version. Robert J. Sawyer, the multiple-award-winning author of Calculating God and many other fine novels, has this to say about it:
"An absolutely first-rate book; I loved it. With this slim volume, Robert Charles Wilson brings gentle reasoning, good humor, and a healthy dose of humility to a field of discourse that's hitherto been dominated by the sneering tomes of Richard Dawkins and other New Atheists. Wilson gently deconstructs the arguments of believers and builds his own positions with the deft hand of a logician and the questing spirit of a philosopher. For believers and nonbelievers alike, this is an amiable evening spent with one who approaches the ultimate questions with respect for those who hold differing opinions and discusses them with -- dare I say it? -- grace. A masterwork; highly recommended."
It's also a very personal book: a sort of matryoshka doll, a memoir inside a history of the science fiction genre inside a defense of metaphysical agnosticism/atheism. Nonfiction, but including two short stories of mine you may not have read. And I know how odd that sounds. It is odd. It's an odd book.
I started writing it when the pandemic was just beginning to bite. The idea of writing about atheism with a view from science fiction had been on my mind for a long time, but it had never seemed like a practical project until we were all locking down and masking up and fretting about the future. The result I think, is a book that even readers not immediately drawn to the subject matter might find entertaining, and one that offers a fresh perspective to anyone already familiar with the questions it addresses. I offered it first to the secular-humanist press Pitchstone Publishing, and I'm pleased to say they'll be releasing on September 26 in a very reasonably-priced trade-paper edition.
But writing Owning the Unknown also served to remind me of what I love about the science fiction genre and why I've dedicated a long career to it. And the upshot is that I was motivated me to begin work on the novel-in-progress currently hovering at the brink of completion: a fat new book with the working title Forty Million Summers . . . though I don't want to say more about it until it's finished and finds a home. Stay tuned!
(Photos: the cover of Owning the Unknown, and a shot of the page proofs as I was working on them.)