Tuesday, July 31, 2007

This. Is. The. Real. Peter. Watts. Speaking. This. Is. Not. An. Android. Imposter. No. Way.

Okay, the comments were touching enough, but I'm starting to get emails now. Even a phone message. Time to put these ugly rumours to rest.

First of all, I didn't know you cared. I am touched.

Second of all, I am still alive and reasonably healthy. There have just been a number of deadlines keeping me busy lately, the most imminent now of which is this damn story I promised Solaris I'd have ready by Aug 6. It is not going well. The words are coming readily enough, and the prose is even pretty smooth considering my writing muscles have been rusting out for the better part of two years now — but it's currently lying around in pieces all over the floor, and it's bloated and ugly and all character-driven, and while the sf elements seemed shiny enough for a 1000-word short-short (this was originally intended for Nature), the current 7,000-word version reads like a half-assed porridge of Total Recall and Glasshouse and Neuropath and a third-season episode of Red Dwarf without Arnold J. Rimmer or Arnold Schwarzenneger. I have five days to add the final bits, stitch it all together, and hammer it into shape. So bottom line, if you're hoping for another posting from me this week, dream on.

I have been able to squeeze a couple of other things in around the margins, though. Got interviewed for two hours by TVO (kind of a provincial PBS, for those of you stateside) on the subject of Ray Bradbury in general and Fahrenheit 451 (both movie and book) in particular. (Speaking of which, has anyone else out there heard Bradbury admit that he just made up 451 as the temperature at which paper burns, after the guys at the local Fire Hall weren't able to tell him?). I've just signed a contract for a Polish edition of Blindsight, and have contacts for Spanish and Russian editions sitting on my desk as well. (Counting everything from "done deals" to "enthusiastic butt-sniffings", we're talking somewhere around a half-dozen languages so far).

Oh, and there's this: I'm going to be participating in a live online chat with Charlie Stross and Vernor Vinge on August 13th, hosted by XFire (which, I'm led to understand, is MTV's online gaming subdivision). They're going to be giving away multiple signed copies of our Hugo-nominated novels during the chat, and I'm pleased to note that not only are more copies of my book going to be given away (15) than of Charlie's (12) or Prof. Vinge's (10), but judging by the author photos, I also have more hair.

Oh, and I saw "Sunshine", which I'd really been looking forward to since I hold "Shallow Grave" and "Trainspotting" in high esteem. My God, what a silly, vacuous, inconsistent, scientifically absurd, and derivative movie. I am honestly mystified at the number of good reviews it has received. The Internet itself is not big enough to hold a complete list of the narrative inconsistencies. Suffice to say that when you're shown a ship containing twice the airspace of the Skydome, any claim that four people are in imminent danger of asphyxiation is bound to be met with some skepticism. And when one of the crew discovers that a homicidal, batshit-crazy Freddy Krueger knock-off has stowed away in the Observation lounge, and doesn't inform anyone else on board before rushing to confront himand who, when finding himself blinded by bright sunlight in said lounge, chooses to remain blinded during Freddy's minutes-long crazy-man rant about Sun Gods and Human Sacrifice instead of oh, I don't know, telling the ship's AI to dial down the brightness like every other crew member has done onscreen up to this point, just so he can see clearly when Freddy stops ranting and comes at him with a knife — well, let's just say that you end up wishing that imminent asphyxiation of the whole cast was not so far-fetched.

I'm going to go back to work now. You may speak amongst yourselves.

Labels: ,

Monday, July 16, 2007

Guest Stars

Today we take time to honour the works of others, especially when such works reflect well on me in some way. First up is this cool rendition of Lenie Clarke, rendered by one Brian Prince (who quite needlessly apologises for its "hastiness"). I love the look and the apocalyptic mood of this piece. I even like the not-exactly-according-to-canon cleavage, and have given it a permanent home over in the gallery.

Next up, a very effective short-short from my journo/horrorfic buddy Dave Nickle, to whom I have commended you all in the past: "The Mayor Will Make A Brief Statement And Then Take Questions". Go read it; it's barely longer than the title, but it packs a nice little icepick just the same.

Finally, to any Toronto readers waiting for a copy of Blindsight to become available at the local library (and I was surprised to hear how many people have it on hold): if you should open your long-awaited loaner only to find the words

Thanks for reading my words the sweat of my brow without paying anything, you cheap and heartless bastards.
Best, Peter Watts

Well, yes, that really was me, and no, I don't really mean it. It just seemed like a clever thing to write at the Jersey Giant last night, when someone slipped the book between me and my Rickards. (And in my own defense, the rest of the beer-swilling crowd seemed to think it was pretty clever at the time, too.)

Labels: ,

Friday, July 13, 2007

We're Number Three! We're Number Three!

..."We", of course, being Jo Walton and myself, who (as you all must know by now even though I'm only getting around to posting it now) tied for third on the Campbells. We came in just behind Morrow's The Last Witchfinder in second place, while the lot of us lost to Ben Bova's Titan, the winner.

It would be technically inaccurate to describe these results as "controversial"; reactions seem pretty consistent wherever you go (here, here, and here, for example). Nobody seems to have a problem with the relative rankings of the runners-up (although I've seen more than one regret that Karl's Sun of Suns didn't make the cut), but Bova's win appears to be a source of widespread disgruntlement, and — so far, at least — none of the jurors have gone public with the rationale for their decision. I myself have not read Titan (although I read a lot of Bova's novels back in high school), so I'm in no position to pass judgment. I am, however, following the discussion with considerable interest.

Anyway, third is a nice Canadian kind of ranking (Jo Walton's Canadian too, I note); politely accomplished and not the bottom of the heap, but not quite world class. In fact, I've been told that Blindsight also came in third for the Locus Award a few weeks back, although I haven't been able to track that down. Can anyone out there confirm or deny?

Labels: ,

Thursday, July 12, 2007

ReaderCon Report

Okay, Catch-Up Post #1: Ode to the Domestic Shorthair Cat.

Just kidding.

Readercon, the Good: met cool people. David Edelman, author of Infoquake , and shared commiseratory we-didn't-win-the-Campbell beers. Jenny Rappaport, agent to a friend of mine who started out merely as a talented wannabe in search of advice — and whom I should have destroyed when I had the chance, because this Rappaport woman has now turned him into a serious rival with a lucrative three-book deal under his belt. (Dave Williams. Remember that name.) Ted Chiang, whom I only managed to talk to briefly at checkout, my copy of Stories of Your Life and Others locked away in a car whose keys were in the possession of someone who was avoiding me. (I was probably too effusive for coolness even so. In fact, I know I was. Stupid fucking Inner Fanboy.) George Mann, of Solaris (whom I also didn't get as much time with as I would have liked.) Laura-Ann Gellman.

Reignited old friendships, even though the Heinlein Ceremony bled off many of the usual suspects: Ursabelle (that's Ms . Elizabeth Bear to you, Mister), The Montreal Mafia (oh, all right: Glenn Grant, Yves Meynard, Christian Sauve, maybe Jean-Louis Trudel if my brain isn't fudging with memories of the previous year), Judy Klein-Dial (think a shorter Joni Mitchell, in a bookstore). David Hartwell's wife. (Actually, that doesn't sound quite right; would have been David Hartwell too, except there was a miscommunication over dinner plans so I only got to see him for a few minutes outside the bar. Kathryn spent time planted in the bar, which was much more conducive to quality time.) To name but a few.

Got interviewed by Locus for a couple of hours. Spent far too much on seafood in Boston. Gave a talk which, while it went over time, also went over well. Signed many books (I'm told the dealer's room sold out of Blindsight , but without knowing how many they'd stocked I don't know how good to feel about that). Had some really nice chats with some really nice fans, about everything from Jethro Tull to "Hard-Character sf" (whatever that is, although I'm told I'm a prime exemplar). Met some of the regulars here in fact, and none of 'em — not a one — bought me a beer. And I was proud of them, one and all, because haven't I told you time and again how maladaptive altruism is?

I met Charles aka Chang, who is I swear to God even taller than me. I met AsYouKnowBob, and we strangled each other on film. I would have met this Tim character, and he would perhaps have bought me a beer, but I got hustled away. To name but a few.

Readercon, the Bad: The fucking Marriot, and the naked avarice they display in charging $10US per day, per laptop , for internet access that every Motel-6 on the planet gives away for free. (I did, however, find an unsecured network with leaky access over at one corner of the building, and I announced it to all and sundry at an early panel so that as many as possible might cadge free bandwidth and deny those bastards their pound of flesh.) Marriot Security shutting down a room party consisting of twenty people eating carrot cake and quietly conversing — I mean, there wasn't even any music — because of "noise complaints". Panel topics not quite as edgy this year as they've been others (and while we're at it, Readercon's wussiness in not pushing the whole wireless issue with the Marriot— I mean, at the very least they could have set up a temporary wireless network outside the salons for the duration, even if they didn't want to tell the Marriot to take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut and move to some other more reasonable venue). And sadly, I didn't get a chance to meet as many folks as I would have liked to, and who were evidently there. Wasn't able to stay an extra night, which would have mitigated that somewhat.

Readercon, the Ambiguous: "Cuddlier"? "Canadianer"? "Reach of an orangutan"? "Swearier"? "Energy of a mongoose"? Do these terms really apply to me? I don't even think they're all even real words .

And how do you sign someone's uvula anyway?

Labels: ,

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Best Piece of Prose I Ever Wrote.

Oh, so much to report. Readercon (at which I met some of you, who did not buy me nearly as many beers as I had hoped). The Campbell Decision (which one might normally call "controversial", except as far as I can tell, reaction has been unanimous). The mysterious disappearance of 22 of the 30 reader reviews from Blindsight's Amazon page. Fan art (fan art!) Sciency stuff.

But in the meantime my bed frame split open and spilled several hundred bedbug exoskeletons across the floor. The Canadian Wildlife Service needs some stuff done yesterday. The apartment is a bloody mess, and I have a million e-mails to answer. So instead, as a kind of placeholder, I am going to take Chelsea's advice and go completely off-topic, posting The Best Goddamned Piece of Prose I Ever Wrote. I wrote it while fostering for Annex Cat Rescue, a worthy collection of cat-crazy people who spend all hours of the night laying live traps under box cars and abducting ferals into better lives. I wrote this to help place a cat I was "temporarily" keeping until he could find a more permanent home:

Are You Worthy?

Here's where we separate the superficial kitty-huggers from the serious lovers of real cats. Banana has had a really rough life. It shows. His ears are disfigured by frostbite, and by wounds sustained during the course of the world's worst ear-mite infection. Several of his teeth have broken against the hard life of the street. He drools sometimes. He hides a lot. Scars and scabs and shaved veterinary clear-cuts range across his body.

The fur will grow back, of course. The scabs are healing even now. And he's a solid cat. Everything that isn't scar tissue is muscle. His ears will be forever twisted, though. He is doomed to pad through the rest of his life being mistaken for a Scottish Fold.

But what a heart he has. Oh, what a heart.

Dragged from his refuge in the linen closet, he purrs instantly upon contact. Once you have begun scritching those twisted ears, he firmly and insistently head-butts you should your rhythm falter. Sometimes he will not eat unless he is being scritched; then he snarfs for a regiment (pausing now and then to glance around, as if fearful of the reappearance of old ghosts). When he comes to trust you he will lie on your bed with his belly to the sun and all four limbs stretched in ecstacy.

This cat is a goddamned hero. If you're looking for some cute and symmetrical plaything to go ga-ga over, something with the depth of Paris Hilton and brains to match, move along. You don't deserve this one. But if you can provide a safe haven to a bruised and stoic predator, and treat him with the respect he deserves— if you ask not what Banana can offer you, but what you can offer Banana— then give us a call.

Maybe— just maybe— you have what it takes.

The calls started almost immediately afterwards. I told them all to piss off.


Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Going South

Scant posts for the next little while: I'm heading off to Readercon, just outside Boston, at the crack of dawn tomorrow. I may even see some of you down there, assuming I don't end up the token white guy in the little room at the border because some slack-jawed imbecile at Customs doesn't like the way I answered his inane questions. It's happened before.

I may get a chance to post from down there; don't count on it. In the meantime, I see the director's cut of the Nature piece has gone live (click on the pdf link for "supplementary materials); it does contain substantially more bits than the printed version did. (For one thing, my comment about farting human seals in Vonnegut's "Galapagos" has a little more context to back it up. Sadly, the Paris Hilton enema remark remains lost for all time.)

You may have noticed a paucity of real science postings lately. I'll try to rectify that upon my return. But seriously, the deadlines just keep on fucking coming, and no matter how short they are, when you're living gig to gig you don't feel comfortable turning any of 'em down. It's just a question of finding the time to read the source material.


Sunday, July 1, 2007

Banana Does Not Look Like This

Banana's a brown tabby with gloriously misshapen ears. This actually looks more like my first-ever cat, The Cate. (Except for the nose. The Cate had 63 dots on an otherwise flawlessly-pink nose.)

But there are many good things about the illustrations for this Nature interview. For one thing, Banana makes two appearances, the second in the pull quote (which contains a typo, but then again, cats always were agents of chaos). For another, I alone of the four of us retain some semblance of humanoid/porcine ancestry. And last but not least, I'm the only one who isn't naked.

Here's the article itself. URL for the director's cut is contained therein — it's not up yet as of this writing.

Labels: ,