About

Founded in January 2023, Heresy Press is here to give oxygen to unfettered creativity and to provide a home for authors and books that dare to imagine freely, without self-censorship and fear. Fiction in all of its forms is the mainstay of Heresy Press, with adult literary fiction, satire, comedy, and speculative fiction leading the charge.

Heresy Press LLC is a member of the Independent Book Publishers Association.

Founder & Director

Bernard SchweizerDr. Bernard Schweizer, the press’s director, is a Professor Emeritus of English at Long Island University, Brooklyn. Having grown up in Switzerland, Schweizer traveled the world as a young adult, then began his undergraduate studies at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, before moving to the United States in 1990 and graduating from the University of Minnesota with a B.A. in English. Afterwards, he earned a doctorate in English literature from Duke University, and in 2002 he joined the faculty of Long Island University as an assistant professor of English, receiving tenure in 2007. Schweizer has an enduring fascination for literature that challenges boundaries of accepted social, cultural, and religious norms, and as a result of this interest, he has published critical studies on boundary-pushing travel writers, on the iconoclastic British writer Rebecca West, on misotheists (people who believe in God but hate him), and on irreverent humor in literature and film. Most recently, he has co-edited a pioneering book titled Muslims and Humor: Essays on Comedy, Joking, and Mirth in Contemporary Islamic Contexts. After retiring from his professorship in 2019, his literary passions drove him to found Heresy Press, a haven for ambitious, outspoken fiction that rigorously prioritizes creative freedom and literary quality above conformity to ideological credos.

Meet our Board Members

sherman alexieWinner of the PEN Faulkner and National Book Award, Sherman Alexie is a poet, writer, and filmmaker. He’s the author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, the beloved classic that sold millions of copies worldwide. His most recent book is You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, a memoir. He’s an enrolled member of the Spokane Tribe of Indians and was raised in Wellpinit, Washington, on the Spokane Indian Reservation. He lives with his family in Seattle.

Q: What are some of the books that have shaped your life?
A: As a young person, Stephen King’s novels were my obsession. In particular, Carrie and It spoke to me because their protagonists were social outcasts. When I first started writing serious poetry, I was simultaneously introduced to the work of other Native American writers, and it was the poetry and fiction of Adrian C. Louis and James Welch that in particular influenced me. They write about reservation life with a wit and honesty that I immediately recognized as a reservation-raised Native boy. Some other writers that have shaped my life are Emily Dickinson, Ralph Ellison, Lorrie Moore, Tim O’Brien, Simon Ortiz, Lucille Clifton, James Wright, Gwendolyn Brooks, Sandra Cisneros, and Jim Carroll.

Q: What are you currently working on, i.e. what project commands your passion?
A: My new book of poetry, untitled as of now, will be published in 2025 by my longtime publisher, Hanging Loose Press. I also have short story and novel manuscripts that are near completion. And I’m in the final stages of finishing The Magic and Tragic Year of My Broken Thumb, the long-awaited sequel to my YA classic, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

Q: Why are you throwing your support behind Heresy Press?
A: Traditional publishing has become an inhospitable place for truly challenging books. As a result, far too many writers, agents, and publishers are self-censoring. And I’m supporting Heresy Press because I know there are great books that’ll only be published by courageous people. And I hope that courage becomes contagious.

Q: Hypothetical: If you had a wish that would magically come true, what would it be?
A: I wish that a powerful alternative energy system would turn the Grand Coulee Dam into an obsolete monolith that could be torn down and allow the return of wild salmon to the upper Columbia and Spokane Rivers, the traditional fishing grounds of my tribe, the Spokane, and other Plateau Salish peoples.

Meghan Daum

Photo credit: David Belusic

Meghan Daum is the founder of The Unspeakeasy, a community devoted to fostering open dialogue and viewpoint diversity among freethinking women. She is the host of The Unspeakable Podcast and the co-host, with Sarah Haider, of the podcast A Special Place In Hell. She is author of six books, most recently The Problem With Everything: My Journey Through The New Culture Wars, a New York Times Notable Book for 2019.  Her collection of original essays, The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion, won the 2015 Pen Center USA Award for creative nonfiction. A Los Angeles Times opinion columnist from 2005 to 2016, she has written for numerous magazines, including The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, and Vogue. Meghan is the recipient of a 2015 Guggenheim Fellowship and a 2016 National Endowment for the Arts grant. She has been on the adjunct faculty of the Writing Division at Columbia University’s School of the Arts and also teaches private workshops in personal essay, memoir, and op-ed.

Mini Interview:

Q: What are some of the books that have shaped your life?
A: Even after thinking about this for a while, I’m going to give a bunch of obvious answers. The first answer, of course, is that there are too many authors to name. The second answer is The White Album and Slouching Toward Bethlehem, Joan Didion’s collections of essays she wrote from the late 1960s through the 1970s. I realize that if you’re a certain kind of essayist of a certain vintage, citing Didion is as “basic” as it gets. It’s the literary equivalent of putting up a Georgia O’Keeffe poster in your dorm room. But I feel like my life as a writer can be divided into BD and AD; before Didion and after Didion. When I read the opening passage of Slouching Toward Bethlehem, I was probably 24 years old. My reaction was first “how did she do this?” followed by “wait, you’re allowed to do this?” After that, it was game on. I ripped her off shamelessly for years until I found my way to my own voice. Didion has had this effect on countless writers, especially female writers but a lot of men, too. So, you hear this story a lot. But there’s a reason for that, just as there’s a reason for the Georgia O’Keeffe posters. It’s masterful.

I was also influenced by the novels of Philip Roth (again, the question was how is this allowed?) especially The Human Stain, which is probably my favorite novel of all time. I also read a ton of film criticism when I was in my teens and 20s. Pauline Kael shaped a lot of my thinking about what it meant to take ownership of your opinions and have real flourish without being a blowhard. Fran Lebowitz, too. Her essay collections Social Studies and Metropolitan Life just delighted me as a young person. She still delights me. The world can’t be too far gone if Fran Lebowitz is still in it.

Q: What are you currently working on, i.e. what project commands your passion?
A: I’ve gotten monumentally waylaid by podcasting and some other projects over the last few years and haven’t been writing nearly enough. But this is slowly changing. Right now, I’m working on a few new big, sprawling personal essays that I hope to include in a new collection. During the Trump era and into the first years of the pandemic I wrote dozens of essays that were mostly paywalled, as well as some pieces that I couldn’t figure out where to publish. So, I’d like to gather those up and get them out into the world. I’d also like to do a writing craft book, since I do so much teaching now and see the kinds of obstacles aspiring writers run into again and again. And, hey, I’d love to write another novel. Or three. It’s been 20 years since my novel The Quality of Life Report was published, and it’s a good thing no one ever reads it because I’d be canceled immediately. But it was the most fun I ever had writing anything. I was falling out my chair laughing as I was writing it. Mostly during the cancel-worthy sections. (Don’t read it!)

Q: Why are you throwing your support behind Heresy Press?
A: I think my last answer partly addresses that question. I’m proud to be associated with Heresy because I can’t even count the number of authors I know who have extraordinary manuscripts that, in any other time, would be snapped up by publishers, probably with bidding wars and book tours and all of that. But for any number of reasons, some of them having nothing to with the quality of the manuscript and everything to do with certain characteristics of the author, the manuscripts are sitting in the proverbial drawer. And for every author I personally know in this situation there are of course thousands more waiting to be discovered. Meanwhile, people moan about how the written word is dead, about how literature has become nothing more than a vehicle for moralizing or cheap pandering. Well, look a little harder. Great writing is still out there. It’s just not necessarily coming to us via the traditional channels.

Q: Hypothetical: If you had a wish that would magically come true, what would it be?
A: I wish that Christopher Hitchens would come back and tell us what to think about this whole mess we’re living in right now. I generally don’t like being told what to think, and I’m sure I wouldn’t agree with everything he said. But if he could come back even for a week and just make some YouTube videos or something, that would make me very happy. Obviously, I’d want him to stay longer but I have a feeling he’d want to get out of here before too long. Though he’d kill it on Substack.

Junot Diaz

Junot Díaz was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey. He is the author of the critically acclaimed Drown; The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which won the Pulitzer Prize; and This is How You Lose Her, a New York Times bestseller and National Book Award finalist.

Mini Interview:

Q: What are some of the books that have shaped your life?
A: Reading was the way I survived my immigration to the United States. I read compulsively but there’s no question that an early encounter with Richard Adam’s Watership Down and JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings changed me forever, as a reader and as someone who dreamed of being involved in literary culture somehow. And then I read Samuel R. Delany’s Driftglass and there was absolutely no going back.

Q: What are you currently working on, i.e. what project commands your passion?
A: Currently flailing away at finding another book to write. Seems like I can’t get a novel to hang around long enough in my head or heart to carry to conclusion.

Q: Why are you throwing your support behind Heresy Press?
A: What aspect of our literary culture isn’t threatened by our current social political moment? We’ve entered that sorry stage where it sometimes seems there is more hating of books than there is reading. On the left, on the right and at all the stations in between, there seems to be a profound misunderstanding of and an outright hostility towards the role and function and value of art. Lack of arts education, decades of underfunding educational systems, the inculcating of reactivity and hyper partisanship and prosecutorial impulses by our social media overlords means that art’s transgressive functions, its contradictory elusiveness, its confounding humanity are all being militated against. That’s the long of it. The short of it is if you love literary culture, as I do, if you owe it your life, as I do, you will wish to defend it and Heresy Press is a bulwark, and in this burning world literary culture needs all the bulwarks it can get.

Q: Hypothetical: If you had a wish that would magically come true, what would it be?
A: The complete and irreversible elimination of humanity’s capacity for cruelty.

Karen GantzKaren Gantz is a highly experienced legal professional based in New York City, specializing in entertainment, copyright, and literary property law. As the President of Karen Gantz Literary Management, she represents numerous authors and manages international rights for their works and options for TV and film. In addition to her legal career, Karen is a published author herself, having penned Taste of New York: Signature Dishes from the Best Restaurants and Superchefs: America’s Emerging Royalty.

Mini Interview:
Q. What are some of the books that have shaped your life?
A. Literary masterpieces such as Anna Karenina, Pride and Prejudice, and the page turner Lessons in Chemistry grab my interest. The poems of Emily Dickinson captivate my attention, especially where she writes “There is no frigate like a book to take you miles away. I am drawn to narratives that champion strong women that overcome adversity.

I have tried to recreate the Jewish literary salons around the world at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries with many remarkable and talented artists, philosophers, and writers who wanted to share, debate, & foster ideas. The salons have been hosted at independent bookstores and at my home where professors have discussed many favorite classics such as Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, Proust’s Swann’s Way and Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest.

Reading the classics offers a timeless exploration of human nature, broadens our perspectives, transports us to new realms, cultivates wisdom, and challenges us to contemplate what is good, true, and beautiful.

Q. What are you currently working on, i.e. what project commands your passion?
A.

Alan Dershowitz has written over 50 books including the New York Times bestsellers Defending Israel and Chutzpah and his most recent book, War Against the Jews: How to End Hamas Barbarism. I am passionate about representing Dershowitz’s books on Israel because I believe he is one of the most forceful advocates for Israel in our country, and Israel needs all the friends it can get. Additionally, I am invested in promoting Dan Weiss’s book On Character: What It Is and Why It Matters, as there is a void of leaders with strong moral character in our society. I feel very privileged to represent Dan, who is the former president of Haverford College and Lafayette College, and the former CEO of the Metropolitan Museum. He is a man of extraordinary brilliance and great character. I greatly admire him and treasure his friendship. I’ve also had the pleasure of developing a friendship with talented actor and SNL frequent host Alec Baldwin while representing his three books over the past 20 years. Floyd Abrams, the most prominent first amendment lawyer in the country, who has argued 13 cases in front of the United States Supreme Court has become a lifelong friend of mine during my representation of him. These relationships not only enrich my professional journey but also bring a unique and fulfilling dimension to my personal life.

Q. Why are you throwing your support behind Heresy Press?
A. I stand behind Heresy Press because of my involvement in its inception, where I contributed to drafting a master contract aligned with heterodox principles. This endeavor holds deep resonance for me, particularly as I am increasingly troubled by the suppression of exceptional literature by mainstream publishers who avoid releasing books due to fear of cancellation attacks and identity politics. Furthermore, the idea of founding a publishing house focused on promoting democracy and free speech aligns perfectly with my values and advocacy efforts. Heresy Press represents a promising venture for the contemporary literary landscape.

Q. Hypothetical: If you had a wish that would magically come true, what would it be?
A.

I hope my children, Ariel and Benjamin, will always live full, joyful, and meaningful lives. May they speak freely without censorship, be enveloped in beauty, and maintain their infectious optimism. I wish for them to nurture lasting relationships and life-affirming qualities, to be healers for others, to uphold a positive view of life, and to live with unwavering integrity and effectiveness.

I’ve always shared with my children Teddy Roosevelt’s mandate to be a warrior. “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs… but who does actually strive to do the deeds…if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Rebecca GoldsteinRebecca Newberger Goldstein, a novelist and professor of philosophy, is the author of ten books, seven of which are fiction. Among her awards are a MacArthur and the National Humanities Medal, awarded in 2014 by President Barack Obama. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a research associate at Harvard, and a visiting professor at New College of the Humanities, London, UK.

Mini Interview:

Q: What are some of the books that have shaped your life?
A: When I was eleven, I started reading Will Durant’s The Story of Philosophy. The first chapter, on Plato, gave me such a high that I’ve had an addiction to abstract ideas ever since. I quit the book when I got to the chapter on Spinoza. Despite Durant’s efforts, I couldn’t make head or tail of it. That’s ironic, since eventually Spinoza’s Ethics became a life-shaper. As far as my writing fiction, I’d have to blame George Eliot’s Middlemarch. She hid the philosophical ideas that animate her novel so well that they don’t intrude on the pleasures of fiction but subtly insinuate themselves. That’s what art can do for philosophy, and what philosophy can do for art. Middlemarch encouraged the delusion that I could try to emulate her.

Q: What are you currently working on, i.e. what project commands your passion?
A: The present book is about the longing to matter and how that longing brings out both the best and the worst in us.

Q: Why are you throwing your support behind Heresy Press?
A: The imagination, of both writers and readers, is among our most extraordinary human powers, allowing us to escape the narrowness of our own identities. It’s wrong—aesthetically and morally—to fetter it, and fettering is exactly what the current dogma pervading the publishing world does. We get throttled with the notion of “cultural appropriation.” Even worse, the current dogma dictates that some lives—conforming to simplistic group classifications—are more worthy of literary attention than others. It’s become a heresy to challenge this dogma. Heresy Press named itself well.

Q: Hypothetical: If you had a wish that would magically come true, what would it be?
A: One wish? What a dilemma. Should I wish for something personal that would make a big difference in my own life, or be more high-minded in my wishing? If I go the high-minded route, then I’d wish that the various contemporary dogmas, assaulting us from the Right and the Left and pulling us apart into enemy camps, would—presto!—disappear. But thinking selfishly, I’d wish that my current unwieldly book would finally assume its ideal form and allow me to finish it. Combining the selfish and selfless together into one maximally greedy and grandiose grab, I wish my current book to be finished and that it helps to play a part in ridding us of our divisive dogmas.

James MorrowJames Morrow is an American novelist of historical fiction and fantastika. He published his first novel in 1981, and has continued writing fiction ever since. Among his eleven novels in print, the most notable is The Last Witchfinder. James Morrow is the winner of multiple literary awards, including the Nebula Award and World Fantasy Award (both repeatedly), the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire, Prix Utopia, and others.

Mini Interview:

Q: What are some of the books that have shaped your life?
A: I’m a literary satirist by profession, with a dozen sardonic, theologically-inflected novels to my name. The books that shaped my sensibility include—almost axiomatically, I would say—Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote, Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, Voltaire’s Candide, Samuel Butler’s Erewhon, Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle, and John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces.

Q: What are you currently working on, i.e. what project commands your passion?
A: My current project, a novelette, turns on the conceit that the vanished world of Atlantis was the locus of the invisible realm that, according to Platonic philosophy, undergirds the objects available to our senses (just as two-dimensional shadows attest to a three-dimensional domain beyond). At the heart of my Atlantis lies a zone of ideal forms, immutable archetypes, and the grand triple-helix of the good, the beautiful, and the true. But humankind, as we all know, can tolerate reality only in small doses, a circumstance that seals the doom of my legendary lost continent.

Q: Why are you throwing your support behind Heresy Press?
A: I feel privileged to have lived long enough to observe many American institutions, public and private, acknowledge as never before this republic’s legacy of racism, misogyny, and anti-LGBTQ bigotry. But I must hasten to add that, when it comes to nurturing that irreducible enterprise we call the art of fiction, the imperative of inclusion is of limited utility. Nobody said it better than the late movie critic Pauline Kael, whose 1962 essay “Is There a Cure for Film Criticism?” adduced the work of Jean Cocteau (among many others) to distinguish deuces-wild aestheticism from mere high-mindedness: “Art is the greatest game, the supreme entertainment, because you discover the game as you play it. There is only one rule, as we learned in Orphée: Astonish us! In all art we look and listen for what he have not experienced quite that way before. We want to see, to feel, to understand, to respond in a new way.”

Q: Hypothetical: If you had a wish that would magically come true, what would it be?
A: I wish that the God of Abraham would evacuate his sacred ass from his holy throne, manifest himself to the leaders of the Israelis and the Palestinians, and instruct them to try acting like adults.

Richard N PattersonRichard North Patterson is the author of 23 bestselling and critically acclaimed novels, including Degree of Guilt, Protect and Defend, Exile, Fall From Grace, and Trial. His nonfiction narrative of the 2016 presidential campaign is titled Fever Swamp. Formerly a trial lawyer, he was the SEC liaison to the Watergate special prosecutor, an assistant attorney general for the state of Ohio, and a chairman of Common Cause. Patterson is currently a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Q. What are some of the books that have shaped your life?
A: Like a lot of people who value great literature, I would start with War and Peace. No sane novelist can hope to emulate Tolstoy. But he masterfully demonstrates the magnificent potential of fiction, melding narrative, characterization, human psychology, history, military analysis and social commentary. This novel stands as an invitation to ambition in using the novel as a window to explore reality, and a rebuke to the pallid and self regarding novels which characterize too much of modern fiction.

As a young man I was very struck by Jack Newfield’s Robert Kennedy, a Memoir. It is a penetrating look at the politician RFK came to be, humanizing him while dwelling on his personal psychology. To paraphrase an observation by one of Kennedy’s contemporaries, “Bobby’s not a politician, he’s a character in a novel”. Not only did I find Newfield’s rendition of RFK fascinating, but three decades later it informed my characterization of Kerry Kilcannon, the central figure in my trilogy of presidential politics.

I was roughly 14 when I first read Alan Drury’s Pulitzer Prize-winning political novel Advise and Consent. As with many who became involved with the world of politics in some role or another, I was enthralled to see politicians portrayed as complex and flawed people navigating a morally labyrinthine environment. When I became a writer, I wanted to do that as well as Drury did in the moment of his greatest achievement.

Q. What are you currently working on, i.e. what project commands your passion?
A: In candor, I’m consumed with recovering from major back surgery. It takes a while; the x-ray of my back looks like a home improvement project, complete with six screws and two rods.

In the year before that I was engaged with the publication of my last novel, Trial, in the face of the new dogma in publishing that white authors cannot portray Black characters or problems which affect Blacks in particular—in the case of my novel, such corrosive issues as discriminatory law enforcement, the exploitation of racial anxiety by right wing politicians and media, the rise of white nationalism, and the difficulty of obtaining a fair trial for Black defendants in racially charged cases. I strongly believe in the tradition of social realism which roots fiction in a scrupulous journalistic inquiry into our most pressing societal problems—regardless of the identity of the author. The true criteria for such fiction is talent, imagination, and a determined effort to understand lives and circumstances beyond one’s own personal experience.

Once I’m able to sit in a chair, I suspect my mind will turn to essays broadly addressing our political and social landscape.

Q. Why are you throwing your support behind Heresy Press?
A: Because I strongly believe in its mission. To me, a primary engine of fiction is authorial empathy and imagination which crosses the lines of identity; indeed, I think those elements are essential to the health of a pluralist democracy. In the last year I have written about this extensively, following such distinguished voices as Zadie Smith, Henry Louis Gates Jr., and Pamela Paul. Heresy Press serves as an antidote to the toxicity of preemptive censorship on the basis of identity or ideology, encouraging the artistic freedom which is the foundation of true diversity in literature. Its spirit is essential if we are to prevent fiction from becoming as polarized and balkanized as our society is becoming, creating a blinkered literature rife with narrow tribalism and solipsistic self-contemplation.

Q. Hypothetical. If you had a wish that would magically come true, what would it be?
A: World peace is the obvious answer. But I will go for something only slightly less ambitious: an America that is not curdled by anger, misinformation, and cultural and racial animus. In other words, a country whose people can see each other as human beings with similar fears and ambitions, and who also aspire to understand the lives of others whose circumstances are different than their own. As I said, that requires fostering the empathy and imagination which characterizes the best literature and, more broadly, a society concerned with the health and welfare of all.

A boy can dream, after all. And so, critically, can writers.

Lou Perez Lou Perez is a comedian, writer, and producer. He’s the author of That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore: On the Death and Rebirth of Comedy, host of The Lou Perez Podcast and The Wrong Take, and was head writer and producer of the Webby Award-winning We the Internet TV.

Mini Interview:

Q: What are some of the books that have shaped your life?
A: Three years ago, every night before my wife and I put our son to bed we’d give him a bath and then I’d read to him. On the night I found out I was losing my job we happened to be reading Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein.

I opened the book of poems to “It’s Dark in Here”:

I am writing these poems
From inside a lion…

Soon-to-be-unemployed, a new father, global pandemic… It sure was dark in here, reading that poem from inside a lion. But then I turned the page to find “Ourchestra”:

So you haven’t got a drum, just beat your belly.
So I haven’t got a horn—I’ll play my nose.
So we haven’t any cymbals—
We’ll just slap our hands together,
And though there may be orchestras
That sound a little better
With their fancy shiny instruments
That cost an awful lot—
Hey, we’re making music twice as good
By playing what we’ve got!

Some days later, a fan of mine asked me if I was hopeful for the future. I gave his question a lot of thought. What I decided is that I have no choice but to be hopeful. If you’re not hopeful, then you have to create your own hope. By playing what you’ve got!

Q: What are you currently working on, i.e. what project commands your passion?
A: A half-hour stand-up comedy special.

Q: Why are you throwing your support behind Heresy Press?
A: I only want to read stories that fuck me up. Heresy Press publishes those kinds of stories.

Q: Hypothetical: If you had a wish that would magically come true, what would it be?
A: For my parents to be 40 years younger than they are now.

Steven PinkerSteven Pinker is an experimental psychologist who conducts research in visual cognition, psycholinguistics, and social relations. Currently Johnstone Professor of Psychology at Harvard, he has also taught at Stanford and MIT. He has won numerous prizes for his research, his teaching, and his books, including The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, The Blank Slate, The Better Angels of Our Nature, The Sense of Style, and Enlightenment Now. He is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, a Humanist of the Year, a recipient of nine honorary doctorates, and one of Foreign Policy’s “World’s Top 100 Public Intellectuals” and Time’s “100 Most Influential People in the World Today.” He writes frequently for the New York Times, the Guardian, and other publications.

Mini Interview:
Q: What are some of the books that have shaped your life?
A: George Miller’s The Psychology of Communication (1967), a collection of essays on memory, language, and mental computation, which introduced the key ideas behind the cognitive revolution. Donald Symons’ The Evolution of Human Sexuality (1979) and Martin Daly & Margo Wilson’s Homicide (1988); not just because of the sex and violence, but because they introduced the key concepts of evolutionary psychology: subtle patterns of conflicts and overlap of genetic interest, and natural selection as a shaper of desires, not behavior. Thomas Schelling’s The Strategy of Conflict (1960), which explained the “paradoxical tactics” in game theory in which irrationality, helplessness, and ignorance can be a strategic advantage in war, bargaining, and everyday life. John Muller’s Retreat From Doomsday (1988) which called attention to the historical decline of war and explained it by the power of ideas. All these books, by the way, are not just conceptually brilliant, but witty and beautifully written.

Q: What are you currently working on, i.e. what project commands your passion?
A: A book on “common knowledge” in the logical sense of everyone knowing that everyone knows something (as opposed to just everyone knowing it). This special state of knowledge is necessary for conventions like driving on the right, or using the words and rules of a language, and it drives economic and political phenomena like bank runs, speculative bubbles, hoarding, and public demonstrations. It also shapes a lot of our social and emotional life, including reputation, euphemism and innuendo, emotional displays like blushing and crying, and social media shaming mobs.

Q: Why are you throwing your support behind Heresy Press?
A: Many of our institutions, including universities and publishing houses, have been hijacked by a new prudishness, cowardice, and dogma. We need new ones to challenge the legacies, not necessarily by out-earning or out-publicizing them (though that would be nice), but by showing that there is a viable alternative which satisfies the demand for new ideas and works.

Q: Hypothetical: If you had a wish that would magically come true, what would it be?
A: Just like Miss America: World peace. But as a quantitative chronicler of was, I can be more a bit more specific and realistic: a return to the level of 2005, when the global rate of battle deaths was 0.2 per 100,000 people, the all-time low. We know that’s not utopian because it happened.

Steven Pinker’s latest book is Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters

Erec SmithErec Smith is an Associate Professor of Rhetoric at York College of Pennsylvania, a Research Fellow at the Cato Institute, and the co-founder of Free Black Thought. Although he has eclectic scholarly interests, his primary work focuses on the rhetorics of anti‐racist activism, theory, and pedagogy as well as the role of rhetoric in a free, pluralistic, and civil society.

Mini Interview:

Q: What are some of the books that have shaped your life?
A: This is difficult to narrow down, but I will try. Plato’s Gorgias and Phaedrus are books that shaped my interests in rhetorical theory, as well as Aristotle’s Rhetoric and Longinus’ On the Sublime. Also, I have to say that Nietzsche, in general, is a very important author for me. The Birth of Tragedy, The Gay Science, and Beyond Good and Evil were especially influential. Regarding fiction, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man was very eye-opening; it articulated much of what I was feeling as a teenager.

Q: What are you currently working on, i.e. what project commands your passion?
A: Currently, I am working on fortifying Free Black Thought, a non-profit I co-founded to promote and defend viewpoint diversity among black Americans and to show that classical liberalism is social justice if its principles are implemented correctly. The people involved in Free Black Thought hope to do this through an online journal dedicated to viewpoints neglected in mainstream publications, a podcast series highlighting voices that go unheard in cultural studies and race relations, and the creation of curricula focused primarily on the celebration–not just lamentation–of black history.

Q: Why are you throwing your support behind Heresy Press?
A: Heresy Press has a mission similar to that of the Journal of Free Black Thought, i.e., to give a platform to voices often neglected in mainstream media. Journals and publishing houses have gotten quite homogeneous, favoring particular experiences not representative of the diverse reality of America. Both Free Black Thought and Heresy Press are dedicated to displaying and celebrating that diverse reality through their respective publications.

Q: Hypothetical: If you had a wish that would magically come true, what would it be?
A: I would wish to reverse academia’s trend toward illiberalism and a false narrative of ubiquitous black victimhood. I would hope to return to an appreciation of merit, equality, deliberation, and diversity of viewpoints.

Nadine StrossenNadine Strossen is a New York Law School Professor Emerita, past national President of the American Civil Liberties Union (1991-2008), a Senior Fellow with FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression) and a frequent speaker/media commentator on constitutional law and civil liberties, who has testified before Congress on multiple occasions. Among her major publications are HATE: Why We Should Resist It with Free Speech, Not Censorship (Oxford, 2018) and her recently released Free Speech: What Everybody Needs to Know.

Mini Interview:

Q: What are some of the books that have shaped your life?
A: The three most important, all of which I read when I was about 12—so they have had the largest continuing impact—are:  Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, On Liberty by John Stuart Milland The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.  Of course, they  all involve themes of individual liberty and societal justice, and in the case of the two novels, searing depictions of the opposite.  To quote a phrase I learned from  Reason Magazine’s EIC Nick Gillespie,  Ayn Rand was my “gateway drug” to (civil) libertarianism (for other folks, I understand, that role was  played by science fiction).

Q: What are you currently working on, i.e. what project commands your passion?
A: Since January 2018, with the publication of my book HATE:  Why We Should Resist It with Free Speech, not Censorship, I have been on a perpetual speaking tour, evangelizing about free speech/intellectual freedom/civil discourse, including the many specific controversies that have arisen since then, all over the US and in many other countries.  I have been making about 200 public presentations per year before diverse audiences.  Although I also continue to write (including having published another book about free speech this fall), speaking is my favorite medium.  All of my presentations are in the form of interviews/discussions, and I never tire of listening to and learning from interviewers’ and audience members’  questions – even questions that I have heard and answered countless prior times.  I welcome each question as an opportunity not only to increase the questioner’s understanding of/support for free speech, but also to deepen my own understanding.  (This pattern shows no sign of slackening, with my 2024 calendar including a speaking tour of Australia, as well as engagements in Canada, Portugal, and South Africa.)

Q: Why are you throwing your support behind Heresy Press?
A: For the last couple of years, I have been concerned about the subterranean suppression of excellent books due to the unwillingness of mainstream publishers to publish them, for fear of cancellation attacks  due to factors other than the books’ quality (my awareness of this problem was heightened thanks to a pathbreaking New York Times column by Pamela Paul in July 2022).  As an omnivorous reader who had an early, formative  experience with lack of access to reading materials of my choice (due to age restrictions enforced by the public library I the town where I grew up), I have always fervently supported the free speech rights of readers, as well as those of writers.  Since publishers (appropriately) can’t be forced to publish anything, Heresy Press constitutes an essential alternative outlet for voices and views that are not available  via the existing, established outlets.

Q: Hypothetical: If you had a wish that would magically come true, what would it be?
A: I would love to come into possession of Hermione Granger’s magic hourglass from the Harry Potter series (which I still enthusiastically celebrate, along with other writings by J.K. Rowling, notwithstanding her statements about feminist/transgender issues that many people consider controversial or worse), so that I could be in two places at the same time.  Then I could  redouble my free speech evangelism!