Monday, June 18, 2007

A Motley Mosaic of Miscellaneous Minutiae

Sorry for the recent radio silence; been a lot going on lately, events to plan, agents to approach, interviewers to charm (not easy when you're me), awards to lose (somewhat easier). Also, I was hoping to get back to some cool science postings, since a lot of cutting-edge stuff has been coming down the pike and I don't want the crawl to revert to all-me-all-the-time mode. But that would have involved having time to actually read about the research, and time has been short these past few days.

So today, despite my best intentions, it's a diffuse cloud of unrelated particles centering on me me me. I'll try not to let it happen too often.

First up: I have passed the giddy peak of being a multi-award finalist and begun the long ignoble slide into multi-award loser. The Locus went to Vinge's Rainbows End, which I really should read one of these days. Not entirely unexpected; one does not (one should not) easily topple someone of Prof. Vinge's stature. (I just hope he chokes in all the other awards I'm about to get an ass-kicking in...)

For those interested in catching sight of me in the wild, it looks like I'm going to be Guest of Honour at Pure Speculation, this upcoming October 13-14. It's in Edmonton. It's in the Masonic Hall in Edmonton. This could be really interesting. Also, as usual, I'll be your regular garden-variety writer at Readercon this July 5-8 (just outside Boston), where they're trying to talk me into giving a Blindsight-related talk (I'm considering it) and an autograph session (not bloody likely: I gave a reading last year and a leprous woodworker could have counted the attendees on the remaining fingers of one hand).

Here's something cool: I'm getting interviewed tomorrow by Nature, in a kind of teleconferenced roundtable with fellow bioskiffs Paul McAuley, Ken MacLeod, and Joan Slonczewski. We're going to be talking about everything from the sublime (H.G. Wells) to the ridiculous (Michael Crichton), and it's going to end up both in their print journal and on their website (plans to also release the event as a podcast may be aborted depending on Skype's sound quality that day). In slightly staler news, I was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal's online edition a week or so ago, in relation to the whole Creative Commons thing. (I gotta say, publicity wise, that CC decision of mine was at least the luckiest move I ever made, if not necessarily the smartest). I don't know if that story will ever run, but the guy who interviewed me seemed hopeful at the time.

Oh, and this Marc Andreessen guy who included me amongst the top ten sf writers of the decade? I don't often mention personal blog entries here — it makes the frequency of my own insecure egosurfing all too apparent — but evidently this dude co-invented Mosaic and cofounded Netscape. This guy is huge in the real world. The fact that he puts me in the same league with guys like Stross, Asher, Reynolds, Scalzi et al — on the basis of a single book, no less — shit, that almost makes up for Marvin Minsky calling Blindsight "stupid" (Update: Marvin Minsky did not call Blindsight stupid after all! It was all just a cruel hoax!)(Meta-update: okay, not a hoax, then. A misunderstanding. But hoax still sounds better.)

Now I'm gonna go answer some of the comments you've been leaving.



Blogger Neal Asher said...

I see there's an update to that Minsky thing. The question is, have you done any essays on synaesthesia, Peter?

June 18, 2007 11:12 AM  
Blogger Nicholas said...

You're getting interviewed by NATURE!?!?! that's awesome!

Also, depressing news about the awards...but I'm happy that it went to Vinge if it couldn't go to you. Between his "Tines" and your "Scramblers" you guys are about the only people coming up with aliens that are not repacked greys.

June 18, 2007 11:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Follow your link again--the blogger checked with Minsky and found out he had it wrong--Minsky was calling something else stupid.

I keep wondering what I would do in a given situation if I didn't have that self-awareness thing going on. It's like I'm trying to cross my eyes so I can see the back of my head....

June 18, 2007 12:30 PM  
Anonymous Matt Jarpe said...

So, yeah, what happened with the Minsky thing is I brought up "Blindsight" at the panel as a perfect example of the compartmentalization of conciousness that Minsky was talking about. And Minsky said "Oh, I read that, it was stupid." Which left me speechless for a couple of minutes. And not until after I'd read "The Emotion Machine" did I figure out that couldn't have been right.

After I wrote the post Minsky wrote me and appologized for calling the book stupid, he hadn't read it, and he thought I was talking about an essay on synesthesia:
"I do remember being annoyed at some essay that regarded
synesthesia as a special condition, instead of seeing it as a
(possibly pathological) extension of normal perception."

But in any case the whole purpose behind writing that was to recommend two books on the same topic, one fiction and one non-fiction. And now that I find out people are actually reading the damn blog (and not just my wife and my father) I'll be more careful what I put in there.

I'll see you at Readercon.

June 18, 2007 1:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A Minsky story which may be apposite (lifted off

In the days when Sussman was a novice, Minsky once came to him as he sat hacking at the PDP-6.
"What are you doing?" asked Minsky.
"I am training a randomly wired neural net to play Tic-tac-toe," Sussman replied.
"Why is the net wired randomly?", asked Minsky.
"I do not want it to have any preconceptions of how to play," Sussman said.
Minsky then shut his eyes.
"Why do you close your eyes?" Sussman asked his teacher.
"So that the room will be empty."
At that moment, Sussman achieved enlightenment.

June 18, 2007 9:18 PM  
Blogger Bahumat said...

Edmonton? Awesome. I do believe I have a standing offer of beer for you that's still valid.

Definitely see you at the con, at the very least, and haul along books for signing.

June 19, 2007 6:34 PM  
Anonymous nas said...

This comment is not exactly on point for this post, but might be of interest as a sideline. If anyone is actually interested in synesthesia, I reccoment "The Mind of a Mnemonist" by A.R. Luria. It is easily readable for the lay person, but Luria is (or was.. he might be dead by now) a legitimate scientist as far as I can tell, who specialized in the subject, so it should be satisfying to just about any reader. Ok, irrelevant comment over, back to the main topic.

June 19, 2007 10:24 PM  
Blogger Nicholas said...

Luria is quite a famous neurologist or neurophsychologist, i can't remember exactly which. but yes, he's a legit scientist.

He's cited repeatedly by Sacks in The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (which I would recommend as a companion to Blindsight).

While his status as a scientist is legit, much of his theory has now been discredited. However he remains known for the enormous acuity of his observations and his compassion and humanity towards his patients.

June 20, 2007 10:49 AM  
Blogger Peggy said...

Wow, that's an excellent lineup for the Nature roundtable. I'm looking forward to reading/listening to it.

June 20, 2007 2:01 PM  
Blogger Peter Watts said...

Peggy said...

Wow, that's an excellent lineup for the Nature roundtable. I'm looking forward to reading/listening to it.

Yeah, if only we could get the telephones to link up. We couldn't get everyone connected on Tuesday-- trying again on Friday.

June 20, 2007 6:40 PM  
Anonymous Ken said...

I hope you are still considering giving the Blindsight talk at Readercon. It's one of the primary reasons I'm going to attend!

I'd love the opportunity to get my copy of the book signed and to say hello - Blindsight was one of those novels that I just couldn't put down.

June 21, 2007 1:35 PM  
Blogger Peter Watts said...

I hope you are still considering giving the Blindsight talk at Readercon.

I just caved and agreed the other day. Now I've gotta make up some, er, think of something to say.

June 22, 2007 9:28 PM  
Blogger Anthony said...

when yr in edmonton, i'll buy you a beverage.

September 3, 2007 2:17 AM  

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