Interview With Brett Stevens
First of all tell us somthing about yourself. You are a mystery man when it comes to your personality, family, hobbies and so on.
And a mystery man I shall remain. Let me explain: in every job interview, they ask you these kind of questions. Why do they do that, do you think? The answer is to try to reduce you to a symbolic understanding with care and feeding instructions: "Likes long walks and kipper snacks, dislikes romantic comedies and spinach." I know that is not your intent here, but it is one-half of the reason why I have always been a bit quiet about myself. The other half is the same reason that J.D. Salinger, Elena Ferrante and Thomas Pynchon were recluses, which is that too much focus on the person obscures the focus on the work.
Before we kick off please let us know your top ten heavy metal albums.
Distilling this genre to ten is really difficult, so let me instead just list ten favorites that are perhaps more frequently listened to than any others around here:
- Sepultura - Morbid Visions/Bestial Devastation
- Bolt Thrower - The IVth Crusade
- Ildjarn - Forest Poetry
- Deicide - Legion
- Incantation - Onward to Golgotha
- Beherit - Drawing Down the Moon
- Iron Maiden - Killers
- Demilich - Nespithe
- Slayer - South of Heaven
- Burzum - Filosofem
Each of these recommends itself to repeated listening for enjoyment, and so I frequently throw them on. I imagine there are 50-70 releases from the genre that are of the can't miss category, and the rest at this point are probably adequate if you are determined to listen to heavy metal, but you will not suffer if they evaporate from your consciousness.
Why did you decide to write a book?
Originally I wanted to publish on the net alone. It became clear to me early on, like 1984 or so, that at some point every person on the planet would have a computer and use it to read things. This, to me, suggested a way to reduce paper waste and update manuscripts to correct errors and so on, eliminating two of the most vexing problems of books. What I did not know at that time was how powerfully destructive democratization is: when you invite everyone in the world onto the internet, they immediately cover it with spam, emotional responses, angry compensatory insults and the like. Having watched the internet go from barely usable in 1992 to highly useful in 1998 to barely usable in 2014, I feel it is time to put my words in print and leave the internet to be what it has become, which is daytime television for those with a lack of purpose in their lives. Poor souls.
Is this a collection of articles or a complete text?
Nihilism came about because of a suggestion by Manticore Press editor Gwendolyn Taunton that I should compile older works. I had a book in progress at the time which eventually became Parallelism, but realized the backstory was all missing, and that I had written it in the late 1990s but never relied on it because it was online and not in print, and because there were a number of editorial emendations I would need to make before I thought it was ready for a reader accustomed to my current texts. I went back through the materials I had written over the past twenty-five years, chose a selection of pieces that expressed the depth and nuance of these concepts, and then edited them thoroughly adding references and quotations and clarifying murky bits. On top of that, I added an extensive introduction which creates a mise en scène in which those earlier pieces each take an important role. This then serves as a good entry point to my second work, Parallelism, as will a third manuscript which also compiles earlier writings.
For all the uninitiated please explain what "nihilism" is according to Brett Stevens.
Nihilism is extreme realism and anti-humanism. This is a form of consequentialism, or recognizing that results in reality, and not our feelings or judgments about them, are what matter. Things established in reality change the principles and ideas by which we live, and those guide us more than anything else, so receding into the mind and ignoring reality is the most destructive and most typical of human behaviors.
Nihilism escapes this by re-orienting us toward external reality and the patterns within it as a means of figuring out how it works, and deprecates the human tendency to use hive mind emotions and social compulsion to enforce a false reality on others in order to keep the group together. It is a recognition that most human individuals, and most groups, use human-centered thinking which is why they end up with empty lives and doomed civilizations.
How long have you had the idea of writing this particular book?
Conceptually, since the far half of the middle 1980s. As far as putting these particular ideas into a book as a compilation, only about a year ago. I have been writing on very similar topics for the duration of this time mainly because it is not understood, and yet when people do understand it, they find their view of the world has entirely changed. A convenient all-in-one compilation seemed in order. Parallelism does the same for the philosophy that nihilism has enabled me to see, and the politics that result.
How long did it take you to write it?
Each of these pieces was written the same way: I would walk for hours in a semi-wilderness near where I lived and conceptualize a seed of an idea, then flesh it out into a mental outline which I could understand as one understands a shape in the dark by the touch of the hands alone, and then I went home and wrote based on that. In addition, behind each of these pieces are hours of thought on the ideas themselves as I explored what I knew, could verify, and could reasonably anticipate as true based on the patterns I had seen elsewhere in reality. Varg Vikernes refers to this as "syncretic eclecticism" but I know it simply as (part of) esotericism.
I know I do, but did you find the re-writings irritating?
I once saw an artisan who worked in laquer. He took out a brush, thought for a few moments, then made a basic shape with color. He then layered that with clearl laquer and paint in alternating layers, so that what was once a red-orange squiggle slowly became a quasi-three-dimensional goldfish. My writing fits the same form: a lot of thinking, a clear concept, and then layers of editing and re-writing to give it readability and nuance that supports the point rather than being chaotic like most writing.
Please tell us more about the other two titles.
The idea of nihilism hit me in full force when I was fifteen, but I had been mulling over the concept for many years already: the collision between what humans convinced themselves was true and then the plain reality in front of us. It took some time to get over the hurdles that this imposed, namely a somewhat tedious materialism followed by the eternal human tendency to streamline a complex series of situations into a single universal principle, like an ideology or mystical theology. The first book, Nihilism, compiles writings that I have been augmenting since the late 1980s, and the second, Parallelism, investigates -- with all-new text -- the consequences of nihilism and the thought system that results when one gets past those hurdles. The third, Solipsism, is another collection of essays previously published but with commentary and introduction describing the mental state in which most humans naturally fall that is nonetheless the opposite of what their intuition tells them.
Why did you select Manticore Press as your publisher?
Manticore Press editor Gwendolyn Taunton has worked with me in the past and demonstrated quality professional judgment as well as a focus on literature outside the mainstream which upholds the standards of great publishing houses of the past. It was a natural choice to write to her first and mention that I thought her idea a good one and had a compilation of texts ready.
What are your favorite books?
Most likely this question is best handled as the heavy metal one was, which is to look at not some abstract idea of "best" but books that are revisited frequently. For that, clearly Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs, Brave New World and The Perennial Philosophy by Aldous Huxley, Elementary Particles and The Possibility of an Island by Michel Houellebecq, all of Jane Austen and William Faulkner, anything Fred Nietzsche or Julius Evola wrote, and some recent discoveries, like the intriguing Barbara Pym.
Do you have any more books planned for the future apart from the three you already did?
Several projects occupy me right now. They take the form of exploration of human psychology as it relates to patterns in nature. It is unclear at this time what form they will take and so it is unwise for me to promise much of anything as it may change. However, it is likely that I will keep writing, both for print and on Amerika.
Any more comments.
Thank you for this interview. It was fun to answer. Maybe throw on some classic death metal and read about nihilism?