Thursday, November 27, 2008


Thank you all, for your thoughts on the best Hollywood faces to graft onto my characters. There are some great suggestions there; some head-slappingly perfect, some popular but utterly mysterious (Ellen Page as Lenie? What am I missing?), and some of limited utility but nonetheless entertaining. I will steal shamelessly from you all.

But in the meantime there's this other thing I have to do for the greater good. Stephanie Svan and Peggy Kolm (she of "Biology in Science Fiction" fame) are attending ScienceOnline09, where they'll be running a session on science fiction as a tool for science communication. To that end they've been circulating two sets of generic questions: one for science Bloggers, the other for sf writers. Participants post answers on their own blogs, link those answers to BiSF, and hilarity ensues. And because I both write science fiction and post real science commentary on the 'crawl, I get to answer both sets.

So basically, you can stop reading here. If you've been coming here for more than a couple of weeks you already know who I wanted to be when I grew up, the role that science plays in my fiction, and why I think the Mundanistas have their heads up their asses. What follows is homework, pure and simple; your time will be better spent watching the latest episode of Sarah Connor Chronicles, or posting an online picture of your naked belly in support of Amanda Palmer's ongoing battle with Roadrunner Records. Or even Googling around to try and figure out what the fuck I was talking about right there.

You there, Pegster? This is for you:

Questions for Science Bloggers

What is your relationship to science fiction? Do you read it? Watch it?
Watch, write. And play. Mustn't forget play, even though the scientific verisimilitude in even the best computer games is still pretty abysmal. Give it time.

Still read the stuff, slowly, and after a fashion. More often I simply let it pile up on the shelf and promise myself I'll get to it any day now, honestly, just as soon as I finish the goddamn outline.
What/who do you like and why?
Most influenced, growing up, by John Brunner, Samuel Delany, Robert Silverberg. Tried to imitate William Gibson and Neal Stephenson while breaking into the field. It's probably just as well I didn't succeed.
What do you see as science fiction's role in promoting science, if any? Can it do more than make people excited about science?
I believe the genre can slip a little real science under the reader's guard, but more importantly I think it can help instill scientific attitudes. The best science fiction carries the subtext that the universe works according to consistent rules, dammit, and if you're smart enough you can pop the hood and figure them out. (Contrast this with fantasy, a largely faith-based genre in which one simply accepts magic or "the force" as given, with no explanation required.) Good science fiction consists of thought experiments: given this stimulus, how will society respond? If this physical law were to change, what would happen to the cosmos? Whether the models described in these stories are founded in real-world science is almost irrelevant; after all, even in the real world the models keep changing. (Fifteen years ago we didn’t even know that dark matter existed; in another fifteen we'll probably figure out that it actually doesn't). SF doesn't say "this is the truth", but rather, "suppose this were true; what then?" And if there was ever a time when we were in dire need of people able to look more than two inches beyond their own noses, that time is—

Actually, I guess that time is most of recorded history. Never mind.
Can it harm the cause of science?
Sure, especially if it's anti-science polemic tarted up in sf tropes. Did Michael Crichton ever write a novel in which there weren't Some Things Man Was Not Meant To Know?
Have you used science fiction as a starting point to talk about science?
All the time.
Is it easier to talk about people doing it right or getting it wrong?
That first thing. There's far, far fewer examples to keep track of.
Are there any specific science or science fiction blogs you would recommend to interested readers or writers? carries a combined RSS feed for all the coolest science blogs, from heavy hitters like Pharyngula all the way down to personal grad-student journals. There's Slashdot, of course, and the online sites for the journals Science and Nature (not blogs, but still a good source of cutting-edge science coverage). Same for New Scientist; and KurzweilAI is a decent clearing house for stuff you may have missed at the other spots.

In terms of science fiction blogs, I have a soft spot for GalacticMu; they're small, but have a cranky attitude that I find very endearing. Futurismic and the Velcro City Tourist Board are both definitely worth bookmarking, as is . io9 is flashy (albeit a bit heavy on the puff pieces), but I think they hate me for some reason. And Biology in Science Fiction has carved out its own little niche straddling the biology/sf interface.

Of course, any or all of these sites could be dead by now for all I know. I've been so snowed under by other things that I've barely had a chance to glance at any of them in the past couple of weeks.

Questions for Science Fiction Writers

Why are you writing science fiction in particular?
Because it's the only genre big enough to wonder where we're headed and what we're doing to ourselves as a species. In fact, any story that shoots for that goal, that explores the impact of science on flesh, becomes a work of science fiction pretty much by definition.
What does the science add?
Wrong question. The science is what you start with. What you add after that is up to you.
What is your relationship to science? Do you have a favorite field?
I'm a marine biologist in a former life; I tried to revisit molecular genetics in the current one, but sucked at it.
Have you studied or worked in it, or do you just find it cool?
It's all cool until you actually have to learn the nuts and bolts, at which point it becomes drudgery. While my field of (former) expertise is the behavioral ecophysics of marine mammals, my current favorite field is neuroscience— partly because it really puts that arrogant little homunculus in its place, and partly because it's easy to pan for sf gold in that stream without actually knowing very much.
How important is it to you that the science be right?
More important than it should be; my formal training has left me scarred with the usual need to cover my ass against nitpickers and professional rivals. That said, though, I think too strict an adherence to the known scientific state-of-the-art is a straitjacket that constrains the imagination. There's a reason they call it science fiction; to keep all your stories within the realm of today's established science is to suggest that there are no more breakthroughs to be made, that we pretty much know everything already. That's a profoundly antiscientific attitude.
What kind of resources do you use for accuracy?
I can access pretty much any scientific journal I want, thanks to some connections in the University community. Also I get telepathic messages from my cats. But again, too much obsessing over "accuracy" turns literature into essay, and the last thing I want is to end up associated with the Mundanistas.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I'm teaching a course on Writing Science Fiction at the University of Toronto

Or at least, I might be. Depends on how many people sign up. We're talking Wednesday evenings, between October 1 and November 19: eight two-and-a-half hour sessions covering the hallmarks of the genre, tips and techniques on research and world-building, plot construction, character development— you know the list. It will be hands-on. You will write. I will read your writing, and provide all manner of pithy insight and constructive feedback. Finally, I shall pass judgment upon you (in what I suspect may be my most favourite part of the exercise).

The course will focus on science fiction, not fantasy (which is being offered as a separate course). The only exception to this will be a brief digression into the horror genre, as I share with you my personal experiences with marketing, publishing, and promotion. Regular visitors to this crawl probably know what to expect on that front.

Right now, we're on the bubble; whether the course goes ahead depends on how many additional folks sign up over the next week or so. It's short notice, I know. I didn't know I was going to be teaching this thing myself until yesterday. Karl Schroeder — who was originally slotted for the gig — had to back out for health reasons, so I'm stepping up to the plate at the last minute.

Anyway, if you live in Toronto and your Wednesday evenings are free; if you have a yen to write science fiction; if you crave the kind of House-lite attitude and cat-laden asides you can only get at, plus a big helping of practical, customized nuts-and-bolts on the how-tos of the genre— and, most importantly, if you have $570 you're not especially attached to— why not surf on over to Continuing Ed's "Writing Science Fiction" listing and sign up? Online evidence notwithstanding, I really can be quite charming and informative in person.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

A Duality of Dysfunction at DragonCon

I was not at DragonCon this year. Actually, I have never been to DragonCon. But Aaron Douglas (aka deck chief Galen Tyrol*) was. And I'll have you know that he actually requested, nay, even demanded the books you see in his hands, thanks to some subtle psychological manipulation by one adrienne everitt the week before when he was up here in TO. So she brought him the books, and I believe they may have had some beers.

I do not know if ol' Aaron will ever get around to reading either novel, but perhaps that's just as well; evidently he's hoping that his next acting gig will be a little "less dark" than Galactica, in which case Starfish and Blindsight would not be a step in the desired direction anyway. But at least my own dysfunctional characters now share a documented point of intersection with the most gloriously dyfunctional cast o' characters in televised sf, and that is cool.

BTW, just to head off any misunderstandings, I did not put adi up to this. In fact, I kinda cringed to learn that she was doing it on my behalf; we're all familiar with those tub-thumping authors who shout ME ME ME at every opportunity, and, well, ewwww. But while I would never pimp my stuff so brazenly to anyone — much less to a prominent community figure who probably gets accosted with this kind of shit all the time — I gotta say, I'm squeeed into the stratosphere that adi did.

*And if any of you have to be told who that is, you have no business on this crawl.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I Talk Too Little

So the folks over at SF Signal approached me to answer their latest Mind Meld question, to wit, "Which science fiction or fantasy novels, past and present, do you consider to be the most controversial? Why?" And I answered, but I composed my answer during a couple of spare moments during Polaris, sitting cross-legged on the floor of the Doubletree Hotel while that leashed slave chick I mentioned last entry paraded back and forth. So I was a bit distracted, and misread the question so I thought they were asking us to focus on a single book — and while I cited several I ended up going with Delany's Dhalgren, praising its lyricism, its plotlessness, and all that explicit gay porn.

And now I'm a wee bit embarrassed because the other respondents provided answers with far more depth than mine, citing obvious examples I'd missed (The Satanic Verses. The Iron Dream. A Clockwork Orange. Duh.), and occasionally making a good case for less-obvious ones (Sawyer's The Terminal Experiment never struck me as especially "controversial", but evidently its Nebula win provoked a certain amount of outrage back before my time). So if you want some really thoughtful commentary, skip the first paragraph and go from there. (My eye was especially drawn to Tim Holman's shrewd observation that these days, the most controversial element in science fiction is the lack of controversial works it's producing. Amen.)

Anyhow, I'll try to be more verbose in future. Promise.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A guy with a light saber. And his slave girlfriend on a leash.

One guess as to which of those elements I found hotter.

Yup, there's a whole different clientele that shows up at these Polaris things compared to, say, the more literary (those red-staters among us might say "effete") affairs like Readercon. Out of the ten panels I sat on, only three had a literary focus; the rest were all media. And because books is what I do, I'm guessing that such panels figured far more heavily on my schedule than they did on most. (And even most of the literary panels dealt with authors whose books had been adapted for the screen: Tanya Huff, Jim Butcher, that Reeves-Stevens couple. Oh, and some chick called Rowling.)

So, not exactly the joyous reunion of rarely-seen friends that characterizes the usual cons I attend, although there were a few familiar faces: Christian Sauvé, Doug Smith, Derwin Mak (who for some reason spent Friday night dressed up in some kind of historical naval garb, which I strangely found more disquieting than the usual retinue of droids, Daleks, and Klingons wandering the halls). Dave Nickle of course, but hell, I seem him pretty much every day; we clung to each other for comfort over by the marshmallow fondue, when nobody paid any attention to us at the blast-off party.

And there were new faces to scrutinize: the statuesque adrienne everitt, who lives just up the street from my dad, and who rode shotgun on our vampire panel dressed like Milla Jovovich from the Resident Evil flicks (she pulled it off, too). Timothy Carter, who wasn't a completely new face because he did beat up a six-year-old to bring me a can of Coke back in 2002, when he was but a fan and I was a Mighty Author. (He's a mighty author in his own right, now). Declan Dennehy, who hasn't been able to get past the first chapter on Maelstrom in seven years of trying. And Shelly Li from Nebraska, a teenage wunderkind who, despite not having actually published anything yet, is beating off agents with a stick (including a certain former, unlamented agent of mine). I've been in intermittent e-mail contact with her for a few months now, and was just relieved to find that she was pretty much who she claimed to be online (albeit with the social skills of someone fifteen years older); I'd been half-expecting some 43-year-old chain-smoking potbellied dude with a fetish for role-playing.

I met her parents too, briefly. They didn't seem in a great mood for some reason.

And the panels, for all their geeky obsession over the significance of Giaus Baltar's nosebleed in S04E04*, were a lot of fun, and actually got better as the weekend progressed. I do remain mystified, however, by the unconscionable fact that a panel on The Starlost — easily the Plan 9 of televised sf — somehow drew twice the audience of one on The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

Someone's going to pay for that.

*Admittedly, it was me who introduced that particular element into the mix…


Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Smell of Fear

So. A mere four days before Polaris is scheduled to begin, I drop them a line to ask what events I'm scheduled for. Oops, say they, I guess we forgot to tell you. You're scheduled for ten events. You're moderating five of them. Guess you'd better start preparing, huh?

It gets better. Some of the panels I'm moderating only have one other panelist. Normally, you'd think that any subject that couldn't reel in at least three enthused geeks would get taken off the table. Not at Polaris. So now, as things stand, looks like I'm gonna be the main guy responsible for an hour's worth of free-for-all on subjects as diverse as the Sarah Connor Chronicles, BSG, and the plausibility of vampires.

All of which I'm more than happy to tangle over with a decent-sized panel, or hash out over beers with one or two confidants. Not so pleased at the prospect of trying to keep things going for a solid hour at the front of an empty room, with one other conscript. So if any of you folks are gonna be showing up at these festivities, you might want to drop by and liven things up. Especially since I'm not going to inflict a reading or a signing on anyone this time around. (If you're really into masochistic appeasement, you might even show up for the BSG:Razor panel, which is scheduled for one fucking a.m. on Sunday morning!)

Anyhow. This is my current Polaris schedule, which might be subject to change but is probably pretty solid at least in its broad outlines. I'm moderating the panels with the enboldened titles. Titles in red are those for which there are presently only two panelists scheduled — that's over half of mine, if you're counting — and which will probably end badly.


  • Minimum 400 Pages (07/11/08 07:00 PM)
    The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress is not a long book. A World of Ptavvs is not a long book. Today, it's not certain that a book under 400 pages can even get published. What has changed? Is it us, or the publishing industry? Panelists: Douglas Smith, Peter Watts, Tanya Huff (M), Shannon Butcher, David Nickle
  • Blast Off Party (07/11/08 08:30 PM)
  • Battlestar Galactica: The New Series (07/11/08 11:00 PM)
    What makes Battlestar Galactica so great? How do we feel about it coming to an end? Panelists: Brian Kierans, Geoffrey Gard, Peter Watts (M), David Nickle


  • Battlestar Galactica Season 4.0 Review (07/12/08 10:00 AM)
    A look back at the first half of the last season. How will everything wrap up? Where could the franchise go after it's all over? Panelists: Diane Lacey, Janet Embury (M), Peter Watts, Sheena Callighen
  • The Sarah Connor Chronicles (07/12/08 04:00 PM)
    While far from a perfect show (and in some cases downright dumb), T:SCC has a surprising depth and literacy to it. It routinely riffs off various literary, historical, and scientific precedents ("The Turk", "Lord of the Flies", The Manhattan Project, and even Vinge's Singularity, which is astonishing more for the fact that other shows *haven't* done this than for the fact that this one has.) They're also smart enough to have subtly worked solutions to some really arcane technical problems in a way that makes us geeks go "Cool!", yet avoiding the kind of infodump delivery that would kill the pacing for everyone else. Come and discuss this spinoff from the hugely popular Terminator films. Panelists: Peter Watts (M), Declan Dennehy.
  • The Slow Apocalypse (07/12/08 08:00 PM)
    20th century stories often had the world ending with a big bang and a mushroom cloud. Global warming, over population, crop/fuel failures and diseases are slow catastrophes. How might our world slowly crumble during the 21st century? Panelists: Peter Watts (M), Ian Stuart
  • Plausible Vampires (07/12/08 11:00 PM)
    This one doesn't seem to be on the official program list yet, so let's just hunker down and hope no one notices. If you're reading this blog, you pretty much know what it's gonna be about anyway. Panelists: Peter Watts (M), adrienne everitt.

  • Battlestar Galactica: Razor (07/13/08 01:00 AM)
    The TV movie filled in the gaps from the series, introduced new characters and fleshed out minor ones, and showed a different perspective on humanity's reaction to a Cylon attack. Were you satisfied with the film's contribution to the story? Did Razor raise more questions than it answered? Panelists: Geoffrey Gard, Justin O'Donnell (M), Peter Watts
  • BSG: For the Greater Good (07/13/08 11:00 AM)
    Battlestar Galactica has always been about making decisions for the benefit of humanity that may be to the detriment of individuals' rights. Use of bioweapons, seizure of supplies for military needs, torture of prisoners, the Circle — is it really for the greater good? Panelists: Diane Lacey (M), Peter Watts
  • Science Fantasy? (07/13/08 12:00 PM)
    Arthur C. Clarke said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Has cutting edge science gotten so far beyond the understanding of most readers, and writers, that any story is essentially science fantasy? What makes something "Science Fiction" and how much science does it have to contain to qualify? How have attitudes toward the field changed? Panelists: Peter Watts (M), Timothy Carter


Friday, April 25, 2008

For Those Who Could Not Be With Us Last Night...

First, I am pleased and proud to announce that the Toronto Public Library does not overtly censor its public-access Internet terminals. True, if you enter "doggie snuff porn" or "bukkake" into the library's default search engine you get only a single hit — which, when clicked on, boots you into an endless log-in loop that keeps asking for password and ID until you get tired and go away. However, if you simply enter Google's URL directly into the nav bar you can bypass that entirely and wallow in all the sploogy, sour-cream-dip Asian wonderfulness that you desire. (I should mention for the record that I didn't even know what "bukkake" was until introduced to the term last night by a buddy who, perhaps wisely, does not appear to have an online presence I can link to.)

Anyway, you might wonder what I was doing testing the limits of the TPL's nannyware in the first place. I was killing time in the hope that more people might show up to my fucking reading if I gave it a few more minutes. It actually worked, kind of. The room was small but reasonably full — maybe, what, 20? 25? or am I flattering myself? — and not counting Bakkanalia and library staff I'd only met four of the attendees before. Of course, when I asked up front how many of the audience had even heard of me, a good chunk of the room put their hands up; I'm guessing that my hosts might have rounded them up with tasers for a spot of the ol' community service. On the other hand, most of the rest not only knew who I was, but had read most of my stuff. To reward them for their loyalty I read a previously unreleased bit of Dumbspeech. Then, since this was after all part of a larger, federally-funded effort promoting Canadian speculative fiction, I threw in "The Eyes of God". It has all the explicit Canadiana anyone would want: priests, pedophilia, a trip to the Northwest Territories, Westjet pimping the intrusive mindreading technology of multinational conglomerates, and the kind of if - you - don't - have - anything - to - hide - you - shouldn't - mind - this - camera - in - your - bathroom mindset that our current lawnorder government was so fond of before the RCMP busted them for cheating on the last election.

Afterwards a few of us went for beer, during which part of the discussion centered around whether Starfish or Maelstrom would translate better to film. I'm still of the opinion that a faithful Maelstrom movie might be a bit like watching a Terminator film in which every one of the stats and tactical overlays shown from the T-eye's view is essential to the plot. One of my companions mentioned the late Stanley Kubrick's opinion that the best movie adaptations are based on books with the least amount of actual plot, and suggested that Starfish would therefore be an ideal candidate. I decided then and there that I would not be paying my share of the tab that night.

Then there was the cab drive home, in which it was decided that the best way to present Starfish would be as "Starfish! The Musical!", featuring the hit dance numbers "Cold Fish" and "Daddy Does Me Best".

This morning I woke up sick. I'm sure there's no connection.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

One Down, One to Go

The Toronto Public Library's Big Honking Series On Speculative Fiction kicked off last night, as promised, with a panel discussion between Jim Gardiner, Karl Schroeder, and myself, with Mike Skeet proving more than up to the task as moderator. It was pretty well-attended, if I do say so myself. And it was fun. We kicked around many ideas, we took many questions from the audience, and — best of all — we did it all at the expense of the Canada Council, whose disdain (nay, even hatred) for skiffy is the stuff of legend. I don't know how the TPL managed to slip this one under their radar — maybe the Council was lulled by the strategic use of the word "heritage" in the series title — but when they find out I bet they'll be spinning in their elbow-patched tweeds.

Afterwards a bunch of us adjourned to a nearby faux-Irish pub that had a Monday special on hamburgers and karaoke (although when challenged, they could not provide the track for Thick as a Brick. I sang it anyway.) I reconnected with some folks I'd met at SciBarCamp the month before (although, sadly, not Leona Lutterodt, who took this picture:)

It was a good night, and I shall cling to its memory, for my next appearance is unlikely to be quite so popular. It is way out in the boonies, you see ("The Bitches", as we in TO refer to them), and it is not a Grand Opening but only a reading, and the stage will not be festooned with four skiffy authors but only with me. I shall read. (The vampire-domestication talk is off the table, because it's been a couple of years since I've given it and I've been too busy to dust it off and rehearse.)

Just what I end up reading is up to the audience. I have a meaty little excerpt from a novel-in-progress, never before posted, never before seen by human eyes. I could premiere it out in the Beaches, if enough people in the audience already know my other stuff and want to hear something new. Or, in the more likely event that the audience is only there because they mistakenly thought that Avril Lavigne was going to be signing autographs and who is this Watts doofus anyway, I might just stick with old standards from my other novels because it'll all be new to them anyway. In either case I'll probably round out the evening with a recent short story or two.

So, for those of you who are a) local, and b) suckers for the obvious low-status manipulation I went for in the previous paragraph, here are the details:

Thursday, April 24, 7pm
Beaches Branch, Toronto Public Library
2161 Queen St. East, Toronto, ON, M4L 1J1
(northeast corner of Kew Gardens: map and further details here)

Come. There will be cake.

But we all know what that means.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Gospel According to St. Peter

Oooh, lookey here: Extrapolation doesn't embargo. So, for any who actually want to read even more of my opinions, a pdf of Szeman and Whiteman's whole damn interview is available here, at Imre Szeman's web page out of McMaster University. It's a rifters-heavy piece, but it also goes into my childhood plagiarism, the inadvisability of letting scientists write science fiction, and the reasons for my arms-length distance from the Canadian Science-Fiction Community. (Hint: air quotes around that last word).

Go. Read. Wallow. Even if boingboing and Icanhascheezeburger are vastly more infortaining.


Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Lost Chat: Gaming Edition

  1. LightSol: Have you ever larped or role played any other way in your life? Got into AD&D in a big way during grad school.
  2. LightSol: Has one of your novels made into a game? Not professionally. Once, a long time ago, some fan made an online Starfish sexual-abuse role-playing game with rules like "No character shall rape or kill another character without approval from the CEO or the victim's player." I don't think it ever went anywhere, though.
  3. LightSol: Do you hate the managers of homeworld for scrapping your sequel? Nah. There was so much turnover during that time that the guys who scrapped the sequel were a whole different crew than the ones who took me on board in the first place. And while there were certain internal politics that I could have done without, I really had a blast overall. I'd do it again in a second.
  4. Quinion: What level is your girlfirend in wow Last I checked, she was high-forties. Must be over fifty by now.
  5. [Xfire] Artaxs: Yeah, and what race / class does she play? Blood elf. Paladin. She tanks a lot.
  6. AnThRaX: i like the wow questions
  7. █▓▒ ShoTDeaD ▒▓█: yeah artaxs
  8. Cynosure EPR: and whats her name In-game, Khevvren, or Kevlar, or something.
  9. Cynosure EPR: lol
  10. Quinion: and number I don't know any more. I suspect she had it changed when the restraining order came down.
  11. MÖטζєя: Do you support the horde or the alliance Horde.
  12. Quinion: I wish my gf played wow tho. No you don't. Believe me. You really don't.
  13. Hirmetrium: When its crunch time - Sex or writing? Depends on whether it's with someone or — nah, who am I kidding. It's sex. It's always sex.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Back in the Saddle

I guess it's kind of official — my short story "The Eyes of God" is going to appear in that Solaris anthology I was cringeing about the other day. Dave Nickle thinks it comes a wee bit close to being pro-pedophile, but hey — at least I'm officially writing again. I wonder if NAAMBLA publishes fiction...

More Questions from the Queue:

  1. romripper: have you ever written a book, and at the end thought it was rubbish and started again? I always think a book is rubbish when I'm finished. Except for Starfish. Unfortunately, I've never had time to start again, because every book (except, again, Starfish) has been written under deadline. There's a famous quote — offhand, I can't remember the attribution — to the effect that we writers never finish a story. We only abandon them.
  2. ^*(ĞØã+)*^Ħ€ΛΛЇ~┌╦╤─: have you ever gotten sort of "attatched" to some of your characters and not wanted to end the story? I got kind of attached to Lenie Clarke. That was Tor's fault, actually; I had originally killed her off at the end of Starfish, but my editor thought that was too much of a downer ending for an American audience, so I had to keep her going. Which led to two sequels. I rather like the way Lenie's arc progressed throughout the course of those books, although I know at least one guy who laments her metamorphosis from bad-ass to pussy in Behemoth.
  3. Quinion: What profession did you want to be in when you were growing up? Marine biologist, and science fiction writer. I kid you not. I even remember the moments at which those ambitions sunk in: I was five when I decided I wanted to be a marine biologist, and I was seven when I decided I wanted to be a writer. In hindsight, given my obvious ability to stick with goals long-term, I probably should have just decided to be rich. But noooooo.
  4. .:>TN<:MüÐVª¥Ñê9³™: has a dream u've had at night given u an idea for a book ? Once, long ago, I dreamed of a perfect engineering solution to the problem of putting feet on beachballs so that they could walk autonomously. I still remember that solution to this day. Sadly, I have been unable to interest anyone in any story in which beachballs with feet play any kind of role. Prejudice and intolerance still thrive, even in these supposedly enlightened times.

Next time, maybe some gaming questions. And no, I will not be handing out her phone number.


Sunday, August 19, 2007

You Take What You Can Get

Snagged from some online promotional pdf from Tor; looks like the trade paper is officially set for March '08. The lurid red border seems to be absent this time around, and the title font actually looks quite cool; one can only hope they gave it a different colour than the split-pea soup tint of the hardback. Unfortunately the Buck Rogers spaceship is still in evidence, but I'll take what I can get.

XFire has posted last week's official chat transcript here; you don't even need to be a member to check it out. I apologise for the various misspellings. My fingers were going a mile a minute and haste made me sloppy. (It's supposed to be "trouser eel", for example, not "trouser ell".)

Here's a few more questions that didn't make it on there:
  1. MÖטζєя: Peter Watts, in your book Blindsight, you wrote I really liked that opening sentence, were you inspired by someone to write this ? I was, actually. Someone I was involved with for a few months during the copyedit stage: a very smart, possibly-borderline sociopath pharmawhore (I mean, let's face it, you pretty much have to have sociopathic tendencies to thrive in the biotech industry these days) who happened to be a masochist. It was one of those things you know are doomed going in — you know you're going to destroy the friendship you had for the sake of a few electric moments — but you do it anyway because those moments are worth it. (They were, too. Ah well.)
  2. Vanderdecken: Peter Watts, what provoked you to describe yourself as a 'reformed' marine biologist? "Reformed" sounded better than "failed".
  3. LightSol: Do you get high or drunk to get ideas?
  4. LightSol: Do you get blanks while writing a book and feel a need for marijuana or any other mind affecting drug?
  5. Xfire Moderator: Lightsol, please refrain from asking those questions. No, no, that's okay, really. Being drunk or high has never given me ideas — or at least, they never gave me any ideas that proved worth putting in a story after the hangover had cleared. However, it's given me lots of experiences, so that I can write about being drunk or high with a certain amount of authority if the story calls for it. (For similar reasons, when reading certain unnamed sf writers, I sometimes wish they had had more sex.)

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007


In between not doing the paying stuff I'm supposed to be doing and checking out the various articles and links you folks have sent my way over the altruism essay (thanks for all of that, btw — there was a lot of good stuff in there and it actually changed my thinking somewhat), I managed to add a few bits of chrome to the ol' website: three Blindsight blurbs (one from Challenging Destiny — complete review here — and the others from SFRA Review, thanks to Prof. Dom Grace) and a late-breaking blurb for ßehemoth: ß-Max (also from SFRA Review). More importantly, though, one Brian Gilbert has very kindly converted all of my online novels into Mobipocket format. You can download them at the appropriate sub-pages over on my Backlist

And now, a couple of questions that never got answered over on XFire the other day:

  1. Peter Watts i have read one of your short stories last night, the flesh made word, what inspired you to do such an immersful script ? I had this cat, dying of a liver tumour. Everyone was telling me how much suffering she was going through, how euthenasia would be the most merciful option, how horrendously-expensive and most-likely ineffective surgery would be. And I would have killed her in a second if I'd known that was true — but the fact is, organisms are programmed to want to survive, right? How much pain would you have to be in before you'd rather be dead? And when you're deciding whether to kill a friend, how do you decide what she wants if she can't tell you? These were the questions that inspired that story. (I got off easy, btw: I committed to the surgery even though I couldn't afford it, but Zombie died two hours before the operation was scheduled to begin. I got to feel as though I'd passed the test without having to pay the price.)
  2. Do you support gay marraige? Dude, I don't even support straight marriage.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

XFire PrePostMortem

I'm just decompressing after one hellaciously frenetic hour answering questions, along with Mssrs. Vinge and Stross, on XFire. The way it worked was, attendees asked questions in one chatroom; XFire staff selected some to paste in a separate room; we authors selected the ones we wanted to answer from that room, and posted said answers in a third room. Plus there was a separate room for "unofficial chatter". The questions were flying thickly enough in the high-graded zone that I never once got a chance to look in on Unofficial Chatter or The Raw Question Room (Charlie did — just once — and caught sight of a question about whether we supported gay marriage, which sadly never got high-graded.) So I grabbed everything in all four before logging off, to glance at later.

Man, there were a lot of questions directed at me that I never even saw, either because I just didn't notice them in the hi-graded blizzard or because they never got hi-graded in the first place. And some of those questions were pretty damn good, and I feel bad for having not answered them. The official transcript will be posted back on XFire before too long, but because those won't include unanswered questions, I will be answering those here in dribs and drabs over the next little while.

So if any of you guys have come over from XFire and didn't get your questions answered, watch this space; I'll rectify that shortly.

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