Saturday, September 1, 2007

The End of the Rainbow

Rainbows End took home the Hugo, coming from behind to unseat Novik's Dragon opus in the fourth round. Congratulations to Vernor Vinge; the first story I ever read by the man was "Bookworm, Run!", back in the mid seventies — it actually first ran in 1966, from Analog — and after forty years in the business, the dude still has it. If my stuff proves to have half the legs, I'll have done well.

Judging by these results, though, that may be doubtful. It wasn't even close; Blindsight started in last place and suffered a quick and violent death. I was not surprised that it didn't win, but I was surprised at how poorly it did. I thought it would at least come in ahead of the Flynn — not because I thought it was a better book by any means, but simply because I haven't seen much Eifelheim-related buzz online. But Blindsight did even worse than I expected. In future I should probably dial down that sunny optimism for which I am so well-known.

It's a shame from a pure story perspective, though. After the difficult pregnancy, the painful birth, the neglected childhood — wouldn't it have been cool if my stunted baby could've come from behind and scaled the heights in true Hollywood fashion? Wouldn't that have made a heartwarming little in-your-face, bitch! kinda story?

Ah well. At least I kicked "No Award"'s Ass.

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Blogger Bryan Allen said...

Annoyingly, another two people I've insisted read Blindsight have found it to be totally awesome. Gushingly so.

So while we may all hope the awards people have been optically enhanced so as directly observing their colons is not a wasted effort, Blindsight certainly has legs on the ground.

But still, some props would be pretty freakin' nice. :\

September 1, 2007 10:13 AM  
Blogger HannuB said...

A travesty. That's what the whole Hugo award thingy was. Blindsight was easily the best and most original book of the bunch and this is what it gets??
I have to say I'm hugely disappointed.

Sod the stupid Hugos anyway...


September 1, 2007 10:34 AM  
Blogger Scott C. said...

This post has been removed by the author.

September 1, 2007 11:12 AM  
Blogger Armchair Anarchist said...

Don't sweat it, Peter - the nomination still looks fine on the CV, surely? And surely a man of your standing in rationality and the sciences knows that the appeal to popularity is a logical fallacy ... ;)

(That said, Vinge's novel is bloody good too, and it was the only other proper sf novel in the running - but as you say, he's had years in the biz. And having read some of his other early stuff, well, I think you're showing stronger potential earlier on, if my opinion counts for anything.)

Seriously, condolences, but don't take it too hard. Just write another novel that's even better than Blindsight ... in your own time, of course! ;)

September 1, 2007 11:58 AM  
Blogger Peter Watts said...

Guys, I appreciate the commiserations, but let's not go overboard. This was a strong ballot; Vinge and Stross are no slouches, and while I haven't read Eifelheim yet, the reviews describe it as beautifully written, brilliantly character-driven, and meticulously researched. Even Novik's dragon book has been unanimously hailed as loads of fun. Really, there wasn't a loser in the bunch (well, actually, there were four losers, but you know what I mean).

While Blindsight did get loads of ground-level buzz, most of those people didn't vote. And don't forget there was also a significant contingent out there who just fucking hated the thing. So, yeah, I'm a bit bummed. The advance polls hinted at happier results. But I was up against extremely worthy contenders, and while I love the gerbil/rectum reference I can't agree with it. Far as I can see, it was a fair call in a tough year.

Besides, remember what an unloved runt Blindsight was when it first limped out of the gate? Just making it this far is a bloody triumph.

September 1, 2007 2:21 PM  
Blogger Scott C. said...

This post has been removed by the author.

September 1, 2007 3:25 PM  
Blogger Derryl Murphy said...

Good attitude, Peter. This is the book that showed certain people how wrong they can be. Good on you.


September 1, 2007 3:42 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

I still say you were robbed.

September 1, 2007 4:03 PM  
Anonymous Raymond said...

Rendezvous With Rama beat out Dahlgren on the 1974 ballot. Vernor Vinge already won in 1993 with A Fire Upon the Deep, which I guess doesn't count because it tied with Connie Willis (who, frankly, probably deserved it more).

We can pick the Hugos to shreds without much effort. Frankly, the fact it was nominated and lost so badly is probably the best indication possible that it was the most deserving.

Blindsight wasn't fun. Fun is good. Change-your-world is remembered for much longer.

September 1, 2007 8:28 PM  
Blogger Teresa said...

No Worries, Peter.

How seriously can you take an award that votes Harry Potter as the best novel...

Not that I have anything against Harry but given the other nominees that year...

And to be fair to the other side of the coin as well, I confess I've not read the other nominees for this year so I really can't speak to their worthiness.

2001 Hugo Awards
Presented at: The Millennium Philcon, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, August 30 - September 3, 2001

Best Novel

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling [Bloomsbury, 2000; Scholastic, 2000]
A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin [HarperCollins Voyager, 2000; Bantam Spectra, 2000]
Calculating God by Robert J. Sawyer [Tor, 2000]
The Sky Road by Ken MacLeod [Orbit, 1999; Tor, 2000]
Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson [Warner Aspect, 2000]

September 1, 2007 8:38 PM  
Blogger Luís Filipe Silva said...

Your novel is wonderful. It's a brilliant SF piece. Don't stop doing this kind of writing just because of this affair. The genre is too full of light fantasy and kids fiction, we need the good old stuff.

I haven't read Vinge's novel yet, but from what I've heard it was also a major contender. A worthy one. I mean: you were both playing in the same league. At least (if this is any consolation) you didn't loose to that fluffy Novik's novel, that shoudn't have made the final nominee list in the first place...

September 1, 2007 9:16 PM  
Anonymous robf said...

I recommend Blindsight in the same breath to the same people as Neuromancer. That is a high compliment in my world.

You write your words like a fist.

Bryan recommended it to me, I guess I was one of those gushingly people.

As for awards, all I can say is;

Even at my lowest times, I can feel the words bubbling inside of me. And I had to get the words down or be overcome by something worse than death. Words not as precious things, but as necessary things. Yet when I begin to doubt my ability to work the word, I simply read another writer, and then I know I have nothing to worry about. My contest is only with myself to do it right, with power and force and delight and gamble. --Bukowski

September 2, 2007 12:55 AM  
Blogger Mac said...

OK, now I gotta read "Rainbow's End." It better be pretty damned good.

September 2, 2007 1:54 AM  
Blogger personalmathgenius said...

Blindsight's going to be like Wilco's Whiskey Tango Foxtrot album. To wit, grassroots will eventually fill in the rest of the world that it's even better than typical channels of media and public acclaim will allow. Take it as high praise that I've recommended it to people not into hard sci-fi and they've fallen for it like something from the bottom of the ocean that doesn't use DNA to perpetuate itself.

September 2, 2007 2:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Hugos are incredibly variable - I think the last Hugo-winner I enjoyed was _Cyteen_. I was hoping I'd be able to say _Blindsight_ from now on.

September 2, 2007 3:33 AM  
Anonymous Soon Lee said...

Commiserations on BLINDSIGHT not winning. If it's any consolation, my HC of BLINDSIGHT just got loaned to a friend; as bryan said, it's got legs on the ground.

This year's novel category was IMO strong. The only one I haven't read is Eifelheim and I had trouble separating BLINDSIGHT from RAINBOWS END and GLASSHOUSE. In all, it's not shabby company to be in.

I find the Hugos to be a bit of a popularity contest voted for as it is by Worldcon attendees. Though BLINDSIGHT is a challenging read I would have expected that as you've made it available online, it would have garnered more votes than it did; everyone I know who has read it, has been able to appreciate what a tremendous work it is.

September 2, 2007 3:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Guys, trashing other nominees is the most inappropriate thing. I'm a die-hard Japanese supporter of Blindsight, but I've found all of the novel nominees this year are well deserving, particularly Eifelheim and Rainbows End.

Also blaming the result for the convention being held in Japan is rather insulting Japanese readers (if it's not a joke). I've got many friends who refrained from voting in novel and novela categories since the translations were available only for novelettes and short stories at the time of voting. They all wanted to avoid skewing the results just choosing favorite names. Note that the total numbers of voters have considerably dropped from previous years.

The thing everyone should do is not blaming the award and voters, but letting the readers to know about Blindsight. I do continue to promote it in Japan till I see the Japanese edition.

Well, sorry that I was a bit carried away; I'm just back from Worldcon and I sincerely hoped for Blindsight to win.

- hayato

September 2, 2007 10:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I should tone down a bit but Japan would have been the most likely place Blindsight would have won if all the novel nominees were available in translation. Note that Greg Egan and Ted Chiang are the regular winners of Seiun, the Japanese fan awards equivalent to Hugo.

- hayato

September 2, 2007 11:04 AM  
Blogger Scott C. said...

This post has been removed by the author.

September 2, 2007 1:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you can take heart that you were a heavy favorite to win early on - even if it didn't turn out to be fact, it does say something.

The only nominated book I've read was Rainbows End, although both Blindsight and Glasshouse are on my to-read list (Blindsight seemed to vanish from the bookstores the same week I finally decided to break down and buy it in HC, so it'll have to wait until I find it next).

September 2, 2007 1:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"(Blindsight seemed to vanish from the bookstores the same week I finally decided to break down and buy it in HC, so it'll have to wait until I find it next)."

Blindsight is freely available online in a variety of formats at .

September 2, 2007 6:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree - trashing the award is not cool.

Blindsight is cool and a brilliant book. It is not just for hardcore scifi readers - but for anyone wanting to read a great book.

The nomination as I see is a victory on one level - an acknowledgement that the book is recognized for excellence and that recognition IMO is deserved in the case of Blindsight.

Hopefully all niminees and not just the winners will be read by many and do further credit to the authors.

September 2, 2007 10:12 PM  
Blogger Jena said...

Commiserations, darlin'. Blindsight is and always will be a brilliant and tremendously powerful book, with or without a Hugo.

September 2, 2007 10:30 PM  
Blogger Peter Watts said...

Scott C ranted, among other things,

Fuck the Hugos. Fuck the organizers, the judges, the other nominees, everyone who voted (wrongly), their immediate families, and their gerbils. Fuck them, fuck them hard.


If you were really fanboys, you'd be helping me cut up all these little mixed-font individual letter squares from assorted print publications to paste into harassing letters for Vinge and the WorldCon organizers.

OMG. It's like my own id has been freed from its brain stem by ancient Krell machinery and is now running around madly smashing the furniture. It may be misguided and way over the top, but you gotta love the take-no-prisoners attitude.

Besides, he may have a bit of a point with that last bit. The guys over at SF Awards Watch — whose advance poll had me way out in front right up to the end &mdash point out that more people voted for Blindsight in their poll than voted for it on the actual Hugo ballot. There's gotta be a moral in there.

September 2, 2007 11:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

SF's comment to Peter Watts fans acknowledged - freed ids aside, Krell machinery aside.

September 3, 2007 12:09 AM  
Blogger Peter Watts said...

Soon Lee opined...

Though BLINDSIGHT is a challenging read I would have expected that as you've made it available online, it would have garnered more votes than it did...

I actually wonder if putting it online might not have worked against it, at least in terms of the Hugos.

At least one big-name author, well-connected at Tor, was willing to bet money on Blindsight not even getting nominated because I'd pissed Tor off with my reaction to its cover art. I was mystified — the Hugos are a fan award, so why would a peevish publisher make any difference? — but this guy knows the industry way better than me, and in retrospect, there are of course any number of ways that a publisher could influence fan opinion. And if they were pissed off by my reaction to the cover art, they'd most likely have also been pissed off by the creative-commons release (which was at least equally controversial, judging by bits and pieces I read in the blogosphere). Together that might manifest as a bit of foot-dragging on the promotional end of things (for example). Hence, Blindsight's online availability might have hurt its chances.

This is all purely speculative, of course. It's someone else's theory — what's more, it failed its testable prediction (i.e., that BS wouldn't even make the finals). I myself have no idea how much or how little Tor promoted Blindsight. I haven't really had much contact with them since before the nomination was announced.

September 3, 2007 12:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As much as I dispise it - it goes against the grain and I suck at it - political bullshit - "playing the game" or in this case - not - by being honest and innovative can get risky.

You did beat out Rainbow's End for the Sunburt John W. Campbell Award for best science fiction novel of 2006 in July though.

I am not trashing that book - I have not read it - just making a point.

Whatever you are doing or not doing - the negative result influence is limited.

September 3, 2007 12:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Clarification - you tied for 3rd - point being - the other book was not second or first and it should have been despise not dispise.

You do keep getting nominated - and 3rd is still a win.

September 3, 2007 1:09 AM  
Anonymous David Ellis said...

At least one big-name author, well-connected at Tor, was willing to bet money on Blindsight not even getting nominated because I'd pissed Tor off with my reaction to its cover art.

Your reaction was totally justified. Cover art is HUGELY important to the success of SF books. I can't begin to count the number of science fiction books I've bought by writers I was unfamiliar with because it had an amazing cover painting by one of my favorite illustrators.

Where's Martiniere or Donato when you need 'em.

September 3, 2007 12:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>>"(Blindsight seemed to vanish >>from the bookstores the same >>week I finally decided to break >>down and buy it in HC, so it'll >>have to wait until I find it >>next)."

>Blindsight is freely available >online in a variety of formats at > .

Oh, I realize that - it was only when it became available online and I read the first chapter that I first heard about the book and decided I really wanted to get it. But I prefer to do my reading in book form. I'll get it sooner or later, certainly.

September 3, 2007 1:52 PM  
Anonymous Soon Lee said...

Peter Watts said:
I actually wonder if putting it online might not have worked against it, at least in terms of the Hugos.

Have to disagree there. I only found out about BLINDSIGHT after it got nominated, then I saw that it was available online, read the beginning, and went out & acquired my own HC.

I suspect that having BLINDSIGHT online raised its profile by a lot & made it available to Hugo voters; they're not going to vote for books they haven't read. Having it out there (at least) improved its chances.

It is with good reason that in recent years, there has been a trend for nominees, especially shorter works, to be made available online, the equivalent of the Oscars' preview copies "For Your Consideration".

Charles Stross reckons that having his novella "Concrete Jungle" available online was instrumental in it getting the Hugo; it was originally published in a (IIRC) 3000 copy HC print run.

My suspicion is that BLINDSIGHT proved too challenging for Hugo voters, which I think is a damn shame. It's brilliant and not winning a Hugo doesn't make it less so.

September 5, 2007 3:01 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Bummer, Peter. I didn't think "Blindsight" would win the Hugo but, like you, was hoping the story would climb into second place. The fat old white men with thick glasses (you know who I'm referring to) tend to frown on anything R-rated, which sucks. Sex, graphic violence, and uncomfortable gender issues turn them all into church-going old ladies. F them.

I bestow "Blindsight" with my personal award for best science fiction novel of the year. Bravo, Herr Watts!

September 14, 2007 5:37 PM  

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