OK, I stole the title. I confess. But I stole it in tribute to a great thinker. Full credit: Conjectures and Refutations is the the title of a collection of essays by Karl Popper, the great philosopher of the open society (and critic of its many and persistent enemies). Why slap this highfalutin’ title on a modest genre writer’s blog? Because I think Popper was one of the great heroes of modern thought, and because conjectures and refutations are pretty much what I hope to lay out there on this blog. My conjectures, your refutations, my refutations of your conjectures—hey, we can all have fun with this. And we may learn something in the process. Popper taught us that that’s how knowledge advances—I throw up a theory, and you try to knock it down. It’s an approach that demands intellectual humility, something in short supply in most talking shops.
Not that I set this up to do a whole lot of philosophizing. I’m a novelist, to be more precise a genre novelist. I write crime novels, under two pseudonyms. As Sam Reaves I’ve published six novels set in Chicago, that quintessential American city, boisterous and corrupt and endlessly dynamic. As Dominic Martell I’ve published three suspense novels set in Europe, exploring other cities that have intrigued me, particularly Barcelona, my favorite city on the face of the earth. By birth I’m a middle American with my feet planted solidly in the corn, but by choice I was an expatriate for several years. Two poles orienting my life, two pen names and two very different kinds of novels. Why crime fiction? Partly because that’s what I grew up reading and partly because novelists need drama and crime has built-in drama. I’m not going to get involved in arguments about the merit of genre vs. serious fiction. Of course there’s a distinction, and of course the borders are fuzzy. And if genre fiction is a lesser art than serious fiction, it can at least display all the literary virtues.
So this page isn’t for philosophy, certainly not in the academic sense. I’m just borrowing Popper’s approach to learning. All I hope to do on this page is talk about things that interest me and see if anyone has anything interesting to say in response. A novelist has to be a generalist. I’m not an expert in anything, but I know a little about a lot of different things. I’ll be talking about books, politics, culture, history, sports (OK, I’ll try to keep that to a minimum), pretty much anything that comes down the pike. I’ll run my conjectures up the flagpole and see who salutes. Maybe I’ll learn something. Or maybe you will. Anyway, I hope we’ll have a good time.