Subtitle: The Pluckiest Piece of Writing



Meaning in the Multiverse has always been the title of my book detailing the all-natural universal meanings on offer from different ontological conceptions of the universe–but what is the right subtitle? I have tried many on for size, stretching and sucking in to try and make them fit, before discarding them. For the first edition, I am going with: “A Skeptic’s Guide to a Loving Cosmos”… unless you think I should change it!?


A subtitle should offer the potential reader a glimpse of what they are likely to get out of your book. It is more copy than content. There are some tried and true formats: a countdown like “3 Ways the Universe Could Work to Add Meaning to Life;” a DIY call to action like “How to Align to Universal Meaning Through Flow or Mindfulness;” or stating the audience and the benefit directly (with some irony) and unabashadly like, “A Skeptic’s Guide to a Loving Cosmos.”


It helps to have creative friends who have a) read your book and 2) like a cleaver turn of phrase. You spring ideas on them, like “what do you think about a reprise to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’s concept of The Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything…” and see what sticks (or what metaphors get mixed in the process). This is a fun way to give your beta readers something to contribute to the writing process.


The subtitle is the pluckiest piece of writing and rewriting. Creativity is the order of the day. As the author, you want to give the reader a reason to believe that the rest of the writing will speak to them like these few words and challenge them like this brief opening idea.


I am not sure how you could write a subtitle early on and stick with it to the end, it seems like the cheery on top. I also understand the publisher’s desire to begin the branding of the book with their own flare for associating your book with the market. This time around, as a self-publishing author, I invested effort late and just with my beta readers and friends.


The subtitle is the pluckiest piece of writing and rewriting. Creativity is the order of the day.

I like what we came up with. Meaning in the Multiverse was written by me, for people like me–people whose scientific disposition makes them skeptical of spurious claims. However, awe and appreciation for mystery infects even the most skeptical. Don’t think so? What of the reverence the scientist has for future discoveries, not those of a mere generation hence, but the untold wonders to be discovered when scientific inquiry is longer than religious inability? Science and the spinoff technologies three thousand years into the future will be more magical than our five hundred years of starter science would seem to someone from the Paleolithic.


And one of those discoveries could be of a loving universe. This could come about in many ways. Our study of our own mind and of consciousness may well discover what Thomas Nagel deemed a neutral interlocutor–something responsible for the emergence of consciousness from neural activity–something like a many-minds theory of consciousness. Or, with greater understanding of quantum computation, we could discover an optimization computation running across parallel universes, responsible for directing our scientific inquiry or conscious experience for universal purpose.


In essence, we could find that what we framed as a cosmos of “point” particles was actually a complex quantum computer running parallel processes on our experience and on existence. We could find that consciousness, like the flow of time, is best understood considering interference from other conscious entities in a parallel-psychic multiverse.


Tomorrow’s science will no doubt investigate some of these speculations. Quantum computational neuroscience is likely to have more ability to understand the nature of consciousness than any mode of inquiry yet imagined. Many-worlds conceptions of more than just the interference of wavefunctions should be investigated as mechanisms to explain other physical laws as well as computational and mental mechanisms.


Our make-believe stories of gods and goddesses and our delineation of a personal meaning separate from all other parts of existence fail to appreciate the awesomeness of our universe, framing it as a collection of things and their reactions. I am more skeptical of this framing than I am of one that places the computation as the fundamental component of a dynamic multiverse. In this frame, even a skeptic can convince themselves that an optimization routine is possible and persuassion toward adherence to its outcomes is the act of a loving entity.


This is the challenge my subtitle sets.