What I am working on

Peter Turchin

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Readers of this blog have, no doubt, noticed that over the past year, or more, my posts here have been few and far in between. I have also been turning down 99% of requests for interviews and public lectures. The reason is that I have taken on too many projects—more than I can deal with. No time left for social media and speaking. This situation will change over the next six months, and I expect to become active on social media again, hopefully from the early Fall on. There are a lot of things happening in the US and in the world that Cliodynamics could help us understand.

The first of two major reasons why I’ve been overwhelmed is that I currently have two jobs. I continue as Professor at the University of Connecticut (this semester I teach Cultural Evolution). At the same time I am Project Leader of Social Complexity and Collapse at the Complexity Science Hub, Vienna, where I supervise a great transdisciplinary crew, which includes a humanities scholar, a data scientist, and a modeler. And that’s just the core group in Vienna; I continue coordinating the research network associated with the Seshat Databank, which has grown beyond hundred members. The past year was a particularly busy period for Seshat, because we have published, or are nearing the publication of about half a dozen major articles reporting the results of analyzing the data we have collected over the past 10 years.

And if it wasn’t enough to keep me busy, I’ve also been working on two major books.

The Scribe (Arthur Szyk) Source

The first one is called The Great Holocene Transformation (GHT). This is an academic book with an ambitious goal: a review of major theories about the evolution of large-scale complex human societies during the Holocene and a systematic test of them against each other using data from Seshat and several other recent databases. I finished a rough draft of this book in early Fall of last year, and asked a number of my colleagues for their critiques. Right now it’s on the back-burner, however, because starting in the Fall I’ve been working on another book. Actually, in the retrospect, it was the right decision to wait with finishing the GHT, because, as the major articles I mentioned above have been going through the journal review process, we have been running additional analyses and finding new insights. It will be good for the GHT to reflect all those developments.

The other book is a trade book (meaning it’s popular, not academic). It is tentatively titled A History of the Near Future, HNF (a title that is almost certainly going to change).

The genesis of this book is an interesting story. After I have acquired not a small amount of notoriety in 2020, when my prediction of the “Turbulent Twenties” had, rather disastrously, turned out to be right, I was approached by several publishers and literary agents. This was an interesting and new experience. For the background, 8 or 9 years ago I tried to sign up with an agent to help me with marketing a popular science book that eventually was published as Ultrasociety. I talked with three agents, but they all turned me down in the end. So I decided to start my own Indy publishing house, see here:

My Venture into the World of Indie Publishing

This was one of the best decisions I ever made. So far Beresta Books (the name of my imprint) has published four books (three authored by me, and one by the Seshat team). Two more books are in the development stage. Foreign language rights for books published by Beresta have been acquired by publishers working in the Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Italian, and French markets. In fact, this week the Italian translation of Ultrasociety will be published under the title La Scimmia Armata (“The Armed Ape” — the publisher thought this would be a better title for Italian readers).

So, now I have an agent (not the one who turned me down in 2014) and a publisher. Actually, several publishers, because my agent has sold the rights to the (yet unwritten) book in the US, UK, Spain, China, and Japan. This is playing in the big leagues… The main publisher is Penguin Random House US. Yes, “random penguins,” as they are affectionately known in the Indy publishing community. The advantages of publishing with one of the Big Five are clear. First and foremost, my publisher has been doing a great job as a macro-editor, helping me to shape the book so that it would have the greatest possible impact. And the market power of Penguin RH to promote the book and get it to the broadest possible audience is humongous.

At the same time, I have no plans to abandon my own imprint, Beresta Books. I will continue publishing academic books (including GHT), books developed by the Seshat project, and perhaps even trade books, if no established publisher is interested yet I feel the book is worth publishing. Beresta Books gives me the freedom to do what I think is best. To reiterate, launching it was one of the best decisions I made in my life, and I have no plans to abandon this venture.

So this is why my life is so busy right now. Why do I think I will have more time for social media later this year? First, I decided to retire from UConn and shift my center of gravity to Vienna. Second, the deadline for turning HNF in to Penguin RH is June (I am about 85% done with the first rough draft, so I seem to be on schedule so far). After that I’ll go back to the GHT and will try to publish it by the end of the year (inshallah). In any case, the main crunch should be over by the end of the year. If things go according to the plan, HNF will be published at some point in 2023. And this concludes my progress report. I’ll be back!

P.S. Whatever happens in this world, life must go on – goals need to be achieved, commitments fulfilled.

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Antonia Baur

Thank you so much for this update! I’ll be thinking of you and envisioning the best for you and continuing to read your already published works until I’ve read them all. In short, I wish to become an unlikely expert of you work by 2023 (I’m just an educated, midwestern Grandma who lives to talk to the youngsters.

Good luck!

Antonia

Augusto Dalla Ragione

Regarding the Italian title The Armed Ape: in 2017, singer Francesco Gabbani won the Sanremo festival (the most important pop music event/competition in Italy) with a song that makes explicit reference to The Naked Ape by Desmond Morris. Because of that, the 1967 book strangely became a bestseller again in Italy. The publisher probably wanted to make it sound appealing to Italian readers by following this fashion.

Paolo Ghirri

Agree Augusto. But i hope that this Is the only poetical licence in the translation.

Charlie

Good to hear your news and look forward to your next Beresta book and even a random penguin. Congratulations by the way. Time your ideas were spread to a wider audience.

Paul Canosa

Thank you for the post
You certainly have quite a lot on your plate. So shifting the center to Vienna, does this mean moving to the EU ? If so that is very exciting news.
Best wishes on your projects

Colin

Very exciting update – looking forward to reading both of these projects. Congratulations!

Enrique Gómez Rubio

Mr. Turchin should give his opinion on the Third World War in the making!

Yves-Marie Stranger

Greetings Mr. Turchin,

For myself, I would be curious to hear your thoughts on the ongoing conflict in the Horn of Africa.

A war, seldom mentioned, continues to date, with a recent estimate putting the death toll at 500 000.

I have just published (self-published that is!), a book about Ethiopia, and where the country presently finds itself (and why): A Gallop in Ethiopia, Wax, Gold & the Abyssinian Pony (it’s available on Amazon).

It’s a very short book, but I thought you may be interested to know that your ideas get a mention, as they explain very well many of the underlying reasons for the Ethiopian civil war.

I gave my ‘publishing imprint the name Uthiopia.

Kind regards,

Yves-Marie Stranger

Stephen StJohn

Thanks for the update.
Looking forward to the new books.

True Fezer Wolff

Given your origins, I have been anticipating an interpretation of the recent events in Ukraine and Russia. I very much value your perspective.Thank you for all the profoundly important work you are doing.

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