Peter D Fisher - writer
My Writing History
My Writing History
During the Cold War I was an engineer making parts for the submarines that carry the British nuclear deterrent. I had always been interested in nature and had learned about evolution, which made me wonder why humanity would so recklessly risk its own survival in a nuclear war. It seemed as if there was something amiss. Could there be something badly wrong with our species?
It was this thought that set me off towards a distinctive way of thinking about what it is to be human. If species are defined by their genes, it means that the problem must be that we have inherited bad genes. This is a bold point of view when popular wisdom has it that we are products of our culture and our environment, and insists that genes have nothing to do with the way we think. That’s when it happened. I came up with the idea for a novel, The God Machine: in the naivety of my young imagination a controversial and challenging blockbuster of a book, and one which needed to be written. A book that would challenge the way its readers felt about what it is to be human.
I bought a battered old typewriter and started to clatter away, but soon realised I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. People from a Northern working class background like me didn’t do this kind of thing; I had no idea about creating an effective novel. There was little support available in those days, and the whole thing was ridiculous. But I still thought the idea of the book was just too strong; I would write it but I would have to put it on ice.
In 1999 it was time to get serious and start writing again. But I had not been idle in the meantime; I had read widely, and expanded my vocabulary so that I would be able to communicate my ideas effectively.
I now needed to learn how to write a novel. I completed an undergraduate certificate in creative writing, and followed this up with an MA in the subject from Lancaster University, graduating in 2007. I later returned to university to successfully complete a BA combined honours in philosophy and English literature from the University of Central Lancashire.
But this was not enough. I needed to feel comfortable that I understood the evolutionary process and how, and why, it had created the species we have become. This was the golden time; I love learning. I read hundreds of books on history, philosophy, palaeontology, palaeoanthropology, primatology, evolutionary biology and evolutionary psychology and many formal papers from scientific journals. I visited conferences and lectures where I met and asked questions of many of the world’s most eminent authorities in their fields, including Richard Dawkins, Dame Jane Goodall (in the drawer of my bedside table is a precious possession: a handwritten letter from Dr. Goodall answering some of my questions about chimpanzee behaviour), A. C. Grayling, Angela Milner (during a private, arranged visit to the Natural History Museum to research the archaeopteryx for a scene in The God Machine), Steven Pinker, Frans de Waal and the late Sir Magnus Magnusson.
During this research, some of my views had to be revised but it was clear that other thinkers, even those of the monumental stature of Richard Dawkins and Steven Pinker, believe that genetic influence in our understanding of human behaviour has not been taken seriously enough. Some, like evolutionary psychologists, John Tooby and Leda Cosmides, even share my concern that human beings are not well fitted for the world we have created for ourselves.
In 2004 I achieved my first and only publishing success when I had an article published in New Humanist Magazine.
The God Machine attracted a lot of interest, but it did not find a publisher. In 2014 I felt I had become too close to the writing, so despite still feeling the book was important, I shelved the project once again and began my second novel Another Kind of Adam. A “Neanderthal” is brought back to life to explore how another kind of human might behave, and compare his behaviour with our own.
I am passionate about the science in my books. I attended the three day ESHE conference on human evolution at the British Museum in September 2015, where I discussed the scientific aspects of Another Kind of Adam with leading experts in palaeoanthropology including Chris Stringer, João Zilhão and Fred Coolidge and I am privileged and honoured that they have agreed to provide continuing help.
At The Natural History Museum with Professor Fred Coolidge
co-author of "How to think like a Neandertal".
I am currently working on my first non fiction book: From Slime Eater to Sapiens, and a series of podcasts called: Not 42, The Real meaning of Life The Universe and Everything.
I am a long standing member of a small exclusive writers’ group which includes Deborah Swift who is a published Macmillan New Writer, and Robert Gibson, a former BBC Mastermind Champion, and self-published novelist. (Deborah has described Another Kind of Adam as: “a brilliant book which I thoroughly enjoyed. It's a cracking, engaging read.")
I live in Barrow-in-Furness with my wife, Suzanne where I work for the Cumbria Library Service. We are also part-time nursemaids to our bouncy young cockapoo, Saffie.