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Love, Danger, and “Thought Experiments”: A Conversation with The Dissenter

November 1, 2019

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A few weeks ago, Portuguese YouTuber Ricardo Lopes asked me to be on his wonderful show, The Dissenter. I was kind of surprised, since a fiction writer like me seemed a bit off the beaten path for him. I’d already watched several of his “Dissenter” episodes and knew he had a particular interest in the sciences; one that included anthropology, neurology, and psychology to name a few disciplines. His roster of interview subjects was impressive, too, at times reading like a who’s who of world-renowned brainiacs – ranging from Gad Saad to Noam Chomsky.

“So, you want to go slumming with a mere fiction writer?” I asked him.

“I love fiction,” he said.

Ricardo and I first met on Twitter of all places, where we got into a conversation about Tolkien, Game of Thrones, and what people actually want from a story. I was so impressed by his unrelenting curiosity, his broad knowledge and infectious open-mindedness. Quite simply, he’s fun to talk to.

On his unconventional, conversational-style program, he conducts long-form, penetrating conversations that aren’t only for other eggheads. They’re for people like us, who simply love to learn and aren’t afraid not to know the answer. Or more to the point, aren’t afraid to get an answer that may not fit comfortably into our worldview.

That’s what’s great about Ricardo. He’s fascinated by the counter-intuitive, will offer an unpopular opinion, or even go off the rails if need be. He wants to know. He wants to understand. He knows two opposing things can be true at once.

Aristotle says

Long story short, when we actually sat down to “do this thing,” I knew it would be a rare treat for me, and, I hoped, for anyone listening. 

We talked about the role fiction plays in helping us create alternative realities that encourage us to understand ourselves and others better, and help us weather difficulties. These “thought experiments” as Ricardo calls them, allow us to safely explore disturbing, even horrific circumstances like war, the mind of a killer, a dangerous attraction, the worst thing that could possibly happen in our lives.

By dallying in these dark places, we may even recognize the folly of our most reckless fantasies, or be empowered to take calculated risks. Far from being a threat to our emotional well-being, “thought experiments” most often encourage personal growth and the development of empathy. We agreed that no writer worth her salt can afford not “to go there,” as they say. It’s why people buy our books for heaven’s sake. And why we write in the first place. 

Ricardo and I also talked about lovers and love stories, how much we both hated the final season of Game of Thrones (although he says anything after season 5 was at best a disappointment and at worst an abomination), why the classic novel, Lolita, which many revile as glorifying pedophilia may actually be a terrific cautionary tale against it, and how agonizing experiences like illnesses or acts of violence, despite their obvious shortcomings, can be powerful instruments. Ones crucial to our evolution as human beings. They can create a master from a hobbyist, a general from a grunt, a saint from a sinner. If they don’t destroy us in the process.

So, please, join us for this conversation. You’re going to love it. And if you don’t, you’re going to love hating it. Either way, you’re not going to be able to get it out of your mind so easily…and that’s the point of a great conversation, isn’t it?

“Dare to know.” –Emmanuel Kant

The Dissenter: What people want from fiction and the art of worldbuilding

And if this gave you something to think about, please consider become of patron of Ricardo’s on Patreon.

The Dissenter on Patreon

  1. Just watched a couple of minutes of this. Will watch the rest later. First impression: You come across as very professional, very together, and very interesting. You’re good at this.

  2. Thank you. Ricardo makes it easy. He’s so gracious.

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