Monday, December 10, 2007

A Lack of Focus

Been a while since I posted, I know. Not for lack of material. I've been meaning to post a few more I, Robot-type findings — more hardwired-aesthetics, this time centering around the "Golden Ratio"; more unsurprising evidence of a developmental basis for pedophilia, along with the (even-less surprising) preemptive disclaimers by the researchers that oh no, this shouldn't let pedophiles off the hook, no sirree. (I can't shake a certain sympathy for the kiddy-diddlers on this score. Biology seems to let everyone else off the hook: teenage brains are wired differently than adults, so we have a Young Offender's Act with different standards of culpability; jealous lovers are blinded by fight/fuck circuitry, so "crimes of passion" tend to carry lighter penalties than those that come precalculated. There's no end to the shit we're expected to put up with from victims of dementia, because hey, they "really can't help themselves". But pedophiles? Societal revulsion for those poor bastards is so strong that we don't even wait for the peasants to grab their pitchforks, we trip over ourselves insisting that no, the neurology doesn't matter for these monsters, they just need to exercise more self-control...)

Then there's this godsend from the University of Colorado — batteries, built from kidney cells! — that fits perfectly into a hole I've been trying to plug for the SquidNet novel. A seriously-overhyped item suggesting that a chatroom spam sex-bot has passed the Turing Test (I dunno— didn't Turing specify some minimal intelligence for the person the AI is supposed to be fooling?) I'm also reading this book, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence For Belief, by one of the leading lights of the Human Genome Project, and you can be damn sure that's gonna get it's very own extensive posting over the next little while. (Current opinion, at the ¼ mark: this guy is the Harriet Miers of gel jocks. How the hell can a top-flight geneticist be so abysmally ill-informed about basic biology? How can he be so utterly unfamiliar with basic logic?).

But it's fucking Christmastime, don't you know, and the obligations of this season eat at one's waking hours like a cancer. And I have four or five pitches/outlines, all in various states of (in)completion, that I gotta get done before my new agent writes me off for dead and eaten by cats. So for now, I'll just hand off with another excerpt from the imminent Szeman/Whiteman interview " Wildlife, Natural and Artificial: An Interview with Peter Watts ":

IS/MW: Dark, troubled, disturbed, heroic: Lenie Clark is one of the great characters of contemporary science fiction writing. A sympathetic protagonist despite her outward coldness—and the fact that her rage at the Grid Authority leads her to seed βehemoth across North America. Ken Lubin, too: a character about whom we know almost nothing beyond his capacity to expertly assess situations and to act on the results, but whom readers nevertheless see as on their side against the threats of the world. How did you come to create Lenie? What are the special challenges (if any) of writing about characters like these?

PW: Lenie Clarke was my attempt to imagine what was going on inside a woman I was briefly involved with back in grad school. It was one of those relationships that lasts maybe two months, tops, tosses you around like a pebble in a cement mixer full of broken glass, and then spits you out in the certain knowledge you’ll never see your partner again. You know all this going in, of course. You know the relationship has no future. And you do it anyway, because hey: what does have a future, these days? And at least you know you’re alive in the meantime.

The special challenge, of course, is that I probably got her completely wrong. But I rather suspect she’s been dead for some time, so she’s not likely to contradict me. And other people, who hail from similarly dark places, tell me that Lenie feels real to them. This honours me. I haven’t been fucked over nearly as much as these people have, I’m basically a pampered poser playing let’s-pretend-we’ve-been-sexually-abused. But if my prose can convince people who’ve actually been there, that’s something.

Unless, of course, they were just sucking up to me. That happens too. Not as much as it should, sadly.

The whole interview (which I've previously excerpted here, when I was first muddling through the questions — just scroll down to April 5) weighs in at well over 7,000 words and is slated to appear in the journal Extrapolation 48(3): 603-619. (And I mean really appear, which is not so common as I might have expected. Regular visitors may remember my mention of extensive interviews with the likes of Locus and the online editions of The Wall Street Journal, way back in spring/summer of this year. Don't know what's up with those, but I grow increasingly skeptical of either's appearance.)

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Blogger personalmathgenius said...

This study adds to previous research from this team that found pedophiles have lower IQs, are three times more likely to be left-handed, failed school grades significantly more frequently, and suffered more head injuries as children.

Oh yeah, and pedophiles have more DNA in common with a crab than an ordinary person (“there’s no real evidence for this, but it is still scientific fact”)

December 10, 2007 4:59 PM  
Blogger Peter Watts said...

Pervert mechanics building robotic exoskeletons for parapalegic pedophiles! You can't make this stuff up!

Oh, wait...

December 10, 2007 5:45 PM  
Anonymous brian said...

"Later, we learn that a man in one town has disguised himself as a schoolhouse in order to capture children"

I hope they included visual aids for this.

December 11, 2007 12:37 AM  
Blogger oliverdyas said...

Youtube has a copy, in 3 parts: one / two / three.

December 11, 2007 3:14 AM  
Anonymous Tim Pratt said...

Locus interviews have really long lead times (your interview was just transcribed a few weeks ago, so it's in the queue). Don't give up on us yet.

December 11, 2007 3:55 PM  
Blogger personalmathgenius said...

p.s. I clicked on the link for the interview and ended up skimming some of Clute's review. I would just like to say that I actually ENJOYED having to find out what a Rayleigh Limit was, what Plage effects are, and the difference between measuring radiation in rads, grays, Roentgens, and Sieverts. Also, I am not alone. Just about everyone I've passed Blindsight onto has said the same thing, and what's more, without prompting.
So keep dishing the terminology, it is not mutually exclusive with a well written, well characterized novel.

December 12, 2007 7:44 PM  
Blogger Peter Watts said...

Tim said...

Locus interviews have really long lead times (your interview was just transcribed a few weeks ago, so it's in the queue). Don't give up on us yet.

Oh. OK, then. That's good to hear.

I didn't even know you guys dropped around this place. Cool.

December 12, 2007 9:30 PM  
Blogger Peter Watts said...

personalmathgenius said...
I would just like to say that I actually ENJOYED having to find out what a Rayleigh Limit was, what Plage effects are, and the difference between measuring radiation in rads, grays, Roentgens, and Sieverts.

Well, me too. Which is one reason I did all that. The problem is, after writing the book, I forgot what all that stuff was again. Writing a novel is a bit like cramming for finals that way...

December 14, 2007 11:04 PM  

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