New (I)Cons in Old Bottles; My SFContario Schedule.


I didn’t make this up. Honest.

A robust, full-bodied, highly adaptable wine that goes right to your head, with cryptic overtones and just a hint of arachnid. Grown in strong sunlight and arid, mineral-rich soil, this modest-yet-ambitious vintage pairs with pretty much anything. Warning: excessive consumption may result in loss of consciousness.

Personally, I think it’s too much of a coincidence to be a coincidence. Of course, given the timing they must’ve really rushed it into production. Hopefully August was a good month; I haven’t yet got up the nerve to pop the cork.


I’ve got a fairly busy weekend lined up, starting on Thursday the 19th at the Merrill Collection where I’ll be reading along with Saladin Ahmed (assuming he can even get across the border, given the latest outbreak of kneejerk hypertribalism sweeping the neighborhood; I wish him luck). I’ll be reading from the Russian (only in English): “Insect Gods” in its entirety, a piece that heretofore has only appeared as a couple of isolated fragments on the ‘crawl. At least, that’s the expectation as of this writing; depending on mood/circumstances/audience, things might change at the last moment.

Starting Friday, I’m at SFContario as GoH, except not exactly; that honor actually goes to Saladin (again, assuming availability) as author GoH and Tom Smith as Musician GoH. I’m actually GoH for some sort of simultaneous shadow con called Canvention— think of an intestinal parasite, coexisting as a distinct entity in the body of a larger host and feeding off its dietary stream. Except this particular parasite runs the Auroras, which I’m told I’ll be MCing on Sunday. (Maybe it’s more of a symbiont.)

There will also be panels, not all of which I feel especially competent to sit upon. If you’re interested in when and where those will be, you’ve come to the right place:

Space Weather – The Latest Forecast (M)- Friday 6 PM, Room 209: Earth, satellites, and astronauts are constantly bombarded by a drizzle of radiation from cosmic rays and the Sun that can change into a deadly downpour. High-energy particles in the solar wind carry a magnetic field powerful enough to destroy electric power systems on Earth. The panelists will talk about space weather and what we can do about it. Eric Choi, David Stephenson, Ian Stuart, Peter Watts(M) (This is the one I don’t feel competent to sit on. So of course they made me the moderator.)

Opening Ceremonies – Friday 7 PM, Courtyard: I don’t know if I’m competent to sit on this one either, but it’s kind of mandatory. At least I won’t have to say anything.

Reading – Saturday 11:00 AM, Room 207: Probably a mix of the Secret Project I have/n’t been working on all fall, a bit of the in-progress Intelligent Design, and maybe a bit of “Insect Gods” from the Merrill reading, depending on timing and degree of audience overlap. I’m sharing this slot with the estimable Alyx (aka Lexus) Dellamonica, so we may have to mud-wrestle to settle the reading order. No promises.

Consciousness in Non-human Life Forms – Saturday 12 PM, Room 207: Great apes, whales, dolphins, elephants, and parrots have all been supported as being sentient. What does that mean to SF? Should they be uplifted a la David Brin? (Finally, something I can actually witter on about. Although given the recent falling-out on this very crawl, I don’t know if I’d advocate anything being anythinged a la David Brin.) Cathy Hird, Herb Kauderer(M), Jane Ann McLachlan, Peter Watts.

First Contact in Real Life – Saturday 2 PM, Gardenview: It looks so easy in Star Trek but how could we really establish a common conceptual base to communicate with another species? Sure, we have numbers and the hydrogen atom in common, but how far would that get us with a world of beings who share none of our sensory apparatus. Stephanie Bedwell-Grime, Alyx Dellamonica, Neil Jamieson-Williams(M), Peter Watts.

New Philosophies in Science Fiction – Saturday 4 PM, Courtyard: Looking at the values of the past, it is unrealistic to think that people in the future would think the same way we do and hold our values, yet looking at old SF it’s exactly what you do see. How do we get beyond that and come up with new ways for people to think about their new worlds? Neil Jamieson-Williams, Kelly Robson(M), Ian Stuart, Jo Walton, Peter Watts.

Aurora Awards – Sunday 12:15, Ballroom C: I’ll be introducing these. I should probably think of something to say.

Closing Ceremonies – Sunday 3 PM, Courtyard: For those who value choice in their social events, I’m guessing this is where you’ll find the con’s greatest range of available seating.

So there you go. If you’re in town this coming weekend, there are worse things to do.

Be warned, though. There’s no bar on the premises— which is, to my mind, kind of a glaring oversight, even if the neighborhood is rife with decent pubs (we’re especially partial to Hair of the Dog, very nearby on Church & Wood).


Posted in: misc, On the Road, public interface by Peter Watts 15 Comments

The Yogurt Revolution.

(Another Nowa Fantaskyka remix)

Pick something you hate.

A government, maybe, or a church. Some multinational that treats its customers like shit. Any institution powerful enough to keep people under its thumb, to crush its competition (or at least fix prices with them) so you have nowhere else to go. Something you’d really like to see burned to the ground, although you know that’s never going to happen.

A good example, here in Toronto, would be a telecommunications giant called Bell Canada. (Rogers would also be a good candidate— they suck almost as hard— but I think Bell owns more media.) If you’ve ever dealt with these guys— and you probably have, if you’ve ever watched Canadian TV— the following scenario might warm you up at night:

Just before Just Desserts. (Photo Rene Johnston.)

Just before Just Desserts. (Photo Rene Johnston.)

Gustav runs a cellphone kiosk for Bell. Walking home from work one night, a passing stranger notices the perky corporate logo on his employee polo shirt— and punches Gustav in the face.

Gustav goes down. “Fucking Bell,” his assailant growls, kicking him in the ribs.

Gustav’s no dummy. He knows everyone hates Bell. He knows all about the bandwidth throttling, the extortionate overpriced contracts, the abusive telemarketing and contemptuous customer service, the routine surveillance of customers for the benefit of any government snoop with her hand out. But— “That’s not me!” he cries around a mouthful of broken teeth. “I don’t make those decisions— I just sell phones!

“It… doesn’t…matter!” the attacker spits out, emphasizing each word with another vicious kick. “You…knew. You… chose… to… work… for… them…” Eventually he tires himself out and wanders away, leaving Gustav to bleed out on the pavement.

Just a psycho with anger-management issues, you might think if you’re a Bell CEO reading about it the next day. Nothing for you to worry about, even if you did just cut Tech Support’s budget by another 10% because you want a fatter year-end bonus. The peasants will never get to you; you’re safe up here on the 50th floor. Shame about poor ol’ Gustav, though.

But then it happens to Shirley. And then Piotr. And Mahmoud, and George. All those underpaid drones hawking your wares at the local malls are suddenly getting the shit kicked out them by random strangers. It’s the weirdest thing. None of the attackers even have criminal records.

Now no one wants to work for you. Drones quit in droves for fear of being kicked to death like dogs in the street, and not even the unprecedented promise of a decent wage can lure in replacements. Management’s safe— they don’t deal with the public— but how can the top of a pyramid stay standing when the base just up and leaves? Bell has but two choices: go broke, or stop pissing off their customers. For the rest of us, it’s win-win.

Isn’t that a wonderful little scenario? I call it “The Justice Plague”, and I fully intend to write it as soon as I can come up with an actual storyline. So far it’s all premise and no plot.

It’s a terrific premise, though. It hinges on yogurt— more precisely, on the ways gut microbes affect your behavior.

Of course, we’ve always known that your gut affects your mood. But the extent and complexity of those effects is only now coming to light— and it goes way beyond the cramps you get from salmonella, or the tryptophan drowsiness that lays you low after a turkey dinner. It’s not much of an overstatement to say that your gut bacteria are a large part of what makes you you, psychologically. Transfer gut biota from one animal to another, and you transfer personality traits as well.

Think about that. You can literally transplant personality traits via feces. To that extent, we all have shitty personalities.

Liberté indeed.

Liberté indeed.

How does it work? For starters, your gut has a mind of its own: a standalone neural net with the computational complexity of a cat brain (no surprise there— cats are basically stomachs sheathed in fur anyway). Your gut microbes pull its strings by feeding it a complex cocktail of hormones and neurotransmitters; gutnet, in turn, tugs at the brain along the Vagus nerve. (Gut bacteria also have a more direct pipe into the brain via the endocrine system. Most of your brain’s neurotransmitters— half the dopamine, most of the serotonin— are actually produced in the gut.) Via such avenues, your gut bacteria influence the formation of memories, especially those with strong emotional components. They affect aggression and anxiety responses by influencing neuroinhibitors in the prefrontal cortex and amygdala (which is responsible for fear, aggression, and the intensity of one’s response to personal-space violations). You can make rats more or less aggressive by tweaking their gut biota.

You see where I’m going with this. Engineered gut bacteria— spread through shipments of spiked yogurt, perhaps— tweaked to promote violent, uncontrollable rage in their hosts. It’s barely even speculation; rabies does that much, and it’s not even engineered.

The big problem is targeting, of course— how to trigger reflexive aggression at the sight of a specific corporate logo. Corporations actually give us a lot of help here; they spend millions designing logos that are simple, striking, and immediately recognizable. So you could tweak responses in the V1 and V2 areas of the visual cortex— those pattern-matching parts of the brain that identify specific shapes and edges. If you could bend such circuits to your will, you could provoke a response in anyone who saw a given shape.

But it would be a lot simpler to let the brain do all that heavy lifting on its own, targeting instead those circuits that connect a general sense of “recognition” to the emotional response one feels at the sight of a given brand. You’d have to be familiar with that brand for this trigger to work— it keys on feelings of recognition, not the specific geometry of the stimulus— but who doesn’t recognize the logos of major corporations these days? The best part is that all those recognition/response macros are located in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and in the— wait for it—

The amygdala. Back down in the limbic system, where gut bugs already affect aggression.

Why, we might be able to pull this whole thing off without ever leaving the basement. We don’t even have to create the response; just magnify pre-existing resentment and let it off the leash. A thousand, a million disgruntled customers: turned into weapons of mass corporate destruction with a little help from the yogurt industry.

Hey, all you basement biologists. All you DIY Lifehackers.

Looking for a project?

Late-breaking Postscript, 0900 30/10/15: Well, look what came over the transom— from none other than Jesus Olmo, who actually wrote the screenplay for the original “28 Weeks Later”…

Here's hoping 20th Century Fox doesn't sue either of us for copyright infringement...

Here’s hoping 20th Century Fox doesn’t sue either of us for copyright infringement…

Posted in: biology, neuro by Peter Watts 63 Comments

Poet Turned Scientist. Scientist Turned Novelist. Who Will Prevail?

Christian Bök.
My Nemesis.

You may have heard of this guy before.

You may remember the occasional item on the crawl where I speak of his genetically-engineered Xenotext, or grumble about this fucking poet who makes microbes dance at his command while I spent two years failing miserably in my attempts to master the Fischer-Price Gene Starter Kit. If you read Echopraxia you may have encountered a fragment of the man’s work, iterating quietly away in the Oregon desert while Humanity burns itself to the ground:

He sampled the water, scraped flecks from the stone, pulled leaves from the ground and ran them through his barcoder. He found a thousand common bacteria, a few purebred, most rotten with lateral transfer.

He only found one that glowed in the dark.

It was a dialogue: gene and protein, talking to each other. It was a straight transposition of amino into alphabet: valine, threonine, alanine into t-h-e, phenylalanine-glutamine-valine-alanine into f-a-t-e, serine press-ganged into hard-space or hard-return depending on the iteration. The fluorescent protein spelled out a message—

                the faery is rosy
                of glow
                in fate
                we rely…                               

“It’s not contamination or lateral transfer. It’s a poem.”

“Not for you,” Valerie said. “You’re looking for something else.”

No, he thought. You are.


Picture.  It happened.

Picture. It happened.

If you use the Internet for things that don’t have anything to do with me (although really, why would you want to?), you might have even encountered Bök’s Griffin-Award-winning and Obama-autobiography-outselling (in the UK at least) Eunoia, or his debut work Crystallography— which, in addition to being a work of poetry, is also the Amazon #1 nonfiction seller in an arcane subspecies of chemistry.

But if you live in the GTA, instead of following all those obscure links you might just want to head down to the waterfront this coming Sunday, where I’ll be interviewing him at the 36th iteration of the International Festival of Authors.

You read that right. Your ‘umble Narrator is going to be interviewing a poet. 2pm, Brigantine Room, 235 Queens Quay West. It’s even free if you’re a student and/or under 25. If you’re neither of those things it’s $18, but those are Canadian bucks so it only comes out to around $2.50 US. Plus it includes a Q&A so you can ask your own questions, if you even have any after I strip away all of Christian Bök’s dirty little secrets on-stage (do you know, for example, that he worked on a cheesy Canadian SciFi cable feeder show? Now you do).

Think of it as a kind of Canliterary Thunderdome: Two Men Enter. One Man asks questions.

Come on, it’s a Sunday. What else are you gonna do, go to church?

Or if not Thunderdome, then maybe this.

Or if not Thunderdome, then maybe this.

(Quick note for those who don’t obsessively go back over the comments of Crawl Posts Past: pursuant to last week’s entry, Jesus Olmo has pointed me to "Investigate Fortitude", a nifty series of 3-minute Youtube shorts exploring the science that underlies the show. Be warned: these were originally aired following each episode, so they contain massive spoilers; the last one gives away the punchline of the whole season.)

Posted in: interviews, On the Road, public interface by Peter Watts 3 Comments

Intellectual Fortitude

In 1971, barely into my teens, I went to a movie with my dad: The Andromeda Strain, based on Michael Crichton’s bestseller, and one of the more faithful adaptations of an SF novel put to film. It’s not a perfect movie. Even back then I could see it wasn’t great on character development. There was a lot of expository dialog in which scientists told each other things they would already have known, if not for the need to fill the average movie-goer in on what amino acids are. But there was one way in which the movie stood out from others of its kind, in which it continues to stand out even today:

It portrayed scientists doing science.

Admittedly, depending on how low you set your standards you can see that all the time. Tony Stark invents Strong AI overnight, all by himself. Some goofball biologist hooks himself up to a brain in a vat and intuits the genetic complexities of Pacific Rim‘s monstrous Kaiju. Anne Hathaway’s character in Interstellar witters on about the transcendent properties of Love as a Universal Force. A thousand movies portray scientists either as goofy caricatures or charismatic lone wolves, pulling conceptual breakthroughs from their asses through the sheer force of their own intellect.

Of course, these characters were invented by screenwriters who have no clue how science works, and who couldn’t care less. Their goal was to provide mindless entertainment to hordes of popcorn-munchers. The Andromeda Strain, with its average-looking everyday researchers and their plodding scientific method, would never get made today. (If you don’t believe me, just look at what Robert Schenkkan did to Crichton’s story when A&E rebooted it as a miniseries back in 2008).

At least, that’s what I thought before I watched the first season of Fortitude. I mentioned that show back when I was complaining about the (significantly inferior) Humans, but I couldn’t go into detail until a certain overseas embargo had expired.  And here we are.

Fortitude is an offbeat British/Norwegian co-production which made it to North America this year, despite the fact that its glacial pacing and delayed payoffs should have been a death sentence in any demographic raised on instant gratification. Set in the Norwegian arctic, it begins with a man being mauled by a polar bear. It begins with two children finding a mammoth carcass, barely frozen in melting ice, and a short-tempered Russian facing off against a Norwegian sheriff with poor impulse control. It begins with a woman in a hotel room, aiming a rifle at the closed door while a man on the other side raises a tentative knocking hand. It begins with infidelity and fever, with a plan to carve a hotel from the heart of a glacier, with a scientist being hacked to death by a mysterious assailant wielding a potato peeler.

That’s some of what happens in the first episode. None of it is explained in that first hour. The characters are ciphers, their motives hidden from the viewer. If you want everything spelled out in nice bite-sized chunks— if you prefer Transformers to 2001— this is not your movie. Hell, Fortitude doesn’t even tell you what genre you’re in until almost the end of the season.

Don’t go to Wikipedia for help on that score. It classifies Fortitude as “Psychological Thriller/Drama/Mystery”. In fact, it’s science fiction— but the science elements, while speculative, are so utterly plausible that I feel as if I’m misusing the term. It hinges on science, yes: on speculative biology, on events that have not yet happened but which could. Isn’t that the very definition of hard SF? And yet, having watched all those cryptic pieces coming together over eleven hypnotic hours, “SF” still doesn’t do it justice to my mind. Fortitude is more immediate than that label suggests, as if I were to describe a story about an Ebola epidemic as “science fiction” six months before an outbreak happened in the real world.

Not quite the recipe, but you get the idea.

Not quite the exact recipe, but you get the idea.

If I had to sum it up in thirty words or less, I’d describe Fortitude as a cross between Twin Peaks and John Carpenter’s The Thing, as written by Michael Crichton. Ostensibly a crime drama revolving around a series of brutal murders in a small town— “fortitude” might be exactly what you need when they show the bodies, by the way— it mixes in subplots involving cancer, infidelity, politics, shamanism, climate change, rape, mob justice, wildlife biology, and food-related sexual obsession. (Also a pig in a hyperbaric chamber— still not sure what that was doing there.) Everyone has dangerous secrets to hide, and you can’t shake a creepy sense of something supernatural in this icebound berg. But the payoff, when it comes, is far more down to earth. The season’s almost over before you see the science behind the fiction— and even then, with that element revealed, you might mistake it for just one thread in a messy tapestry.

Tug on it, though; you’ll see a whole web of connections.

All of which would be enough to give Fortitude my personal seal of approval. But it goes one step further, serving up perhaps the most understated and accurate portrayal of working scientists that I’ve seen in a genre show. Blind alleys abound. In contrast to Tony Stark’s infallible intuition, hypotheses— when tested— turn out to be wrong. Researchers worry out loud about confirmation bias. Unexpected findings inspire literature searches for real-world precedents. And Fortitude‘s scientists are more than delivery platforms for exposition, they’re people as well as professionals. The local wildlife biologist, at ease in a world of hungry polar bears, delights in mocking a visiting biologist brought in for his first-hand experience with “apex predators” (turns out he did his thesis on badgers); she uses her lab equipment to cut up reindeer steaks. The characters muse over beers on Darwin’s thoughts about God.

It’s not to everyone’s taste. A friend of mine threw up his hands in confusion after the first episode, plaintively wondered if it got better. I’ll tell you what I told him: no, it does not get better. It pays off. It demands more patience than the average eyeball bait, and it rewards that patience more richly.

For all its crypsis and glacial pacing, that strategy seems to have worked— well enough to get Fortitude renewed for a second season, at least. I don’t know where they’ll go from here. The central mystery has been resolved, and besides, half the cast is dead. Then again, the solution to that mystery turned out to be just one manifestation of an environmental meltdown that contains within it the seeds of myriad disasters. Perhaps the next season will explore one of those. Perhaps it will go in some other direction entirely.

I hope we’re still around to see what that is.

Posted in: ink on art by Peter Watts 23 Comments


So that thing I can’t talk about is looking more likely to happen, and the rest of my 2015 is looking increasingly hectic, so (with the exception of the occasional Nowa Fantastique reprint) any blog posts I’m likely to make for the next little while will be short on deeply researched science and long on opinion.

Fortunately, I have a lot of opinion. Unfortunately, much of it is wrong. Like, for example, my intermittent belief— although perhaps “faint hope” would be a better term— that we Canadians are not, after all, such a profoundly stupid people.

What galls me is that this particular belief was so hard-won. It had to fight upstream against years of evidence to the contrary. After all, we were the nation that voted for the government of Stephen Harper— not once, not twice, but three times, ending in a majority. The administration that quit Kyoto; that muzzles Elections officials and gags scientists, that shuts down the collection of new data and destroys archives of old, that literally burns books. The government that audits birdwatching groups if they have the temerity to speak out about protecting bees; that presided over the greatest violation of civil rights, the greatest mass arrest in Canadian History; that suppressed voter turnout in unfriendly ridings through the use of faked robocalls. The government that describes anyone opposed to warrantless online surveillance as pro-pedophile. A government dissolved after being found to be literally in Contempt of Parliament, a government so corrupt that even Brian Mulroney— Brian Goddamn Mulroney— excoriated it.

That government.

And if my hopes have been raised and dashed in the past— if, for example, I begin to take heart in the Tories’ occasional inability to ram through whatever rights-corroding Bill they’ve introduced this week, only to discover how many Canadians actually believe that “if you’re not a terrorist you have nothing to fear“— well, that’s the price I pay for being a perennial optimist. And when the writ was dropped this past summer, the polls gave me such cause for hope. Recession and senate scandals and endless corruption all seemed to be taking their toll. The NDP— the NDP!— was leading in the polls, and the Conservatives were sinking like a bag of shit to the bottom of a swamp. Maybe we weren’t the brightest bunch of vertebrates on the planet, thought I; but if we’re not quite smart enough to turn against the guy who’s been beating us with a stick after five years, at least we seem to be catching on after nine. So I dared to hope again.

Look at us now. Just look at us now:

From Éric Grenier's Poll Tracker, via the CBC.

From Éric Grenier’s Poll Tracker, via the CBC.

What caused the turnaround? The niqab. A bit of cloth draped across the face in deference, apparently, to the demands of one of our more prudish Sky Fairies.

Really? This is the most important thing we have to fight about?  (Patrick Doyle/Canadian Press)

Really? This is the hill we’re gonna die on? (Patrick Doyle/Canadian Press)

Yes, of course it’s dumb. So’s the rosary, the crucifix— all the myriad beads and rattles shaken in thrall to invisible masters of any stripe. (Of course, if you simply dig the iconography as pure fashion statement, more power to you.) So what? Does anyone seriously think that Zunera Ishaq is going to pull a gun at her citizenship ceremony? Does anyone think her religious garb would disguise her, help her escape justice, if she did? You can’t even invoke the argument that she’s being oppressed by a misogynistic culture (actually you can, but it’s irrelevant in this case) because this is pretty obviously something she wants. The mind boggles, to reflect on the sheer idiocy required to think of it as a security issue— more fundamentally, to think that it’s anyone’s fucking business, much less the government’s.

The mind boggles, to see how many Canadians think exactly that.

In a flash, we forget it all: the tar sands, the long-form census, the flouting of electoral laws and the gutting of environmental ones, a foreign policy that has reduced us to an international laughingstock on every front from human rights to the environment to the Middle East.  Warrantless surveillance, a dismal economy, rising unemployment. The criminalisation of free speech and the unsupervised expansion of police powers. A Minister of Science and Technology who describes evolution as a “religious belief”. The evisceration of the CBC. Secret trade deals. Harper waves a colored rag in our faces and right on cue we bark—


—completely forgetting that we’re chest-deep in quicksand.

My goddamned country.  Modified from "Liza_Tigress".

My goddamned country. (Modified from “Liza_Tigress”.)

It’s worked so well, in fact, that Harper is now musing about passing legislation to ban niqabs from the federal workplace. It doesn’t matter that the federal court has told him to fuck off, that just this week that same court even turned down his lackey’s request for a stay on that verdict, pending appeal. Hell, that all probably helped his cause. And now— now they’re promising to institute an actual honest-to-God fink line to encourage neighbors can snoop on each other and report “barbaric cultural practices.”

Now Muslim women are being physically attacked on the street (not that there’s anything especially new about this, I suspect, beyond the sudden attendant publicity) and Justin Trudeau ineffectually bleats “This is not Canada!” But he’s wrong: this is exactly Canada. Harper’s ploy wouldn’t stand a chance if this wasn’t Canada. And Trudeau should know: he was right there helping Harper build the damn thing when he cravenly supported a panopticon bill redefining “terrorist” as anyone who expresses support for someone the government doesn’t like. And because this is Canada, the only major political party with the ‘nads to vote against C-51 is now trailing badly in the polls.

Don’t talk to me about percentages. Don’t tell me that I’m being too harsh, that two thirds of Canada’s population wouldn’t spit on Harper if he was on fire, that he owes his power entirely to gerrymandered riding boundaries and vote-splitting on the left. That shouldn’t matter. Harper’s contempt for empirical fact, his evangelical devotion to ideology over evidence— his ongoing campaign to actively destroy evidence when it doesn’t accord with said ideology— is so blatant that gerrymandering every riding in the whole damn country shouldn’t be enough to save him in any nation whose mean IQ rises above room temperature. It’s like trying to claim that the USA is not populated by scientific illiterates; you’re not gonna make that case by pointing out that hey, when you give them a multiple-choice question about how long it takes the Earth to circle the sun, only half of them get it wrong.

We’ve learned nothing. Our dalliance with the center wasn’t a considered decision, empirically derived, after all. It was just another distraction— a sparkly thing pounced upon and then forgotten by an electorate with the attention span of a gnat. And once again, my hard-won opinionated optimism proves to be so much shit.

I don’t know whats going to happen in two weeks. I hope conventional wisdom is wrong, that we don’t after all get the government we deserve. But at least you can fly to Iceland now for ninety bucks. Iceland’s nice. They live on geothermal, they jailed their bankers after the meltdown of 2008, and their pop stars sing the praises of biology.

I wonder if their citizenship requirements include a dress code.

Posted in: rant, scilitics by Peter Watts 30 Comments

Tumors and Tuition.

You’ll notice I haven’t been posting much lately. I may not be posting much for the rest of the year. Infuriatingly, I can’t tell you why just yet. There’s a contract, which I haven’t yet signed. There’s a clause that allows the whole thing to implode right up until the approval of a certain deliverable. In the meantime I work on spec, on faith, and under embargo. My email backlog builds up (sorry, anyone who’s recently sent me monograph-long missives calling for monograph-length responses; it ain’t likely to happen). So while I haven’t had much time to post lately— and while I’ll probably be plugging in the ol’ e-mail autoresponder before too long (maybe even by the time you read this)— I’m gonna break silence just long enough to do something I almost never do. I’m going to shill for funds.

Not for me, though.

You might recognize the name Donna Dunlap. She’s posted the occasional comment to the ‘crawl, but her real claim to fame is that she sat on the Michigan jury that convicted me of Asking Questions back in 2010. She voted to convict— which admittedly sucked— because she felt compelled to abide by an unjust law. But having done that, she spoke out publicly on my behalf. She wrote a letter to the judge supporting me; she stood at my side during sentencing.

That sucked even more. It cost Donna her job, and nearly cost her her house. It netted her an extended campaign of police harassment and false arrest and legal bills that went on for at least a year (and might be going on to this day, for all I know). She never buckled. She is, for all the oxymoronic implications of the term, a decent and honorable Human Being.

I’m not shilling for her either, though.

Donna recently reached out to me on behalf of a friend of hers, Carrie Weiss-Silverman. Carrie has Stage 3 lung cancer— meaning you can’t really call it lung cancer any more. It’s in her lymphatic system, which basically serves as a highway to every other part of the body. I leave it to you to connect those spreading, asymmetric dots.

Yet I’m not even shilling for her.

The person I’m shilling for is Carrie’s son, Parker. Parker is in his first semester at Western Michigan University. His mom has grown preoccupied with distractions like radiation, and chemotherapy, and having to care for two other children while having rampant tumors burned and poisoned out of her. I’m told she’s having a really tough time getting $2,500 together to cover her son’s tuition for the fall semester. (Actually tuition costs way more than that, but Parker has a scholarship to make up the difference.)

Donna’s trying to help Carrie out on that front. (I told you: decent. Honorable.) She’s set up a GoFundme account to try and raise the necessary funds. If you have issues[1] with GoFundMe, Donna can also process donations through her Paypal account at (This is the route that I have taken.)

$2,500. Per-capita that’s pretty trivial, spread out across the folks who read the ‘crawl. If everyone who visits this site on an average day chipped in five bucks, we’d blow past that benchmark before lunchtime. And speaking from my own limited-but-intimate experience, let me just say that if there’s one thing Michigan could do with a lot more of, it’s educated citizens.

It’s one semester’s tuition for one kid. It’s not going to save the rain forest or stop global warming or even land a tar-sands-creme pie in Stephen Harper’s face during his next campaign stop. It’s a small cause. But I think it’s a worthy one.

You have the data. Do what you will.

[1] I know I do. Their so-called “Privacy Policy” reserves the right to sell out user data to “governmental agencies or other companies” when “permitted or required by law”— which means they’ll fuck you over not just when explicitly subpoenaed, but also when they damn well feel like it. GoFundme can GoFuckThemselves.

Posted in: misc by Peter Watts 33 Comments

An Offense Against Nature Itself.

So this happened.


I’m not even exactly sure what that even is, actually. It  has obviously been engineered, but by some agent lacking even the vaguest grasp of natural selection. Its continued existence hinges on actions that would be described as “Extraordinary Measures” had it landed in a palliative care ward instead of my basement. Drinking water must be provided in a special bottle, for example, because its ears would fill a conventional water bowl, soaking up liquid like a sponge. All vacuuming within a 50-meter radius must be performed without the use of any rotary rug-beating attachment, for fear the ears could get slurped up into the gears and jam the mechanism. Anyone approaching within fifteen meters must affix themselves to a ceiling-mounted track harness and keep all body parts at least 10 cm off the floor.

I did manage a decent double half-hitch. Sheepshank, though, no luck.

I did manage a decent double half-hitch. Sheepshank, though, no luck.

The only practical use I’ve been able to discover for this thing is as a platform to practice my seamanship skills on.

Its biography, and the circumstances of its arrival, remain unclear and not entirely consistent. Evidently it is a purebred something, and would have had significant stud value but for the fact that it had only one descended testicle. Its original host loved it so much on account of its “sweet disposition” that he could not bring himself to kill it until the weekend; other parties had until then to find alternate accommodations. However, it clearly had two descended testicles when I first encountered it, leading other parties to reassure me that no, the original breeder was not incapable of counting past “1”, and that the creature must have simply “got better”. We are awaiting the results of further tests to ascertain whether it has ever been turned into a newt.

The ears do not appear to be prehensile.

The ears do not appear to be prehensile.

I have repeatedly suggested surgery to reduce these deformities to a size that might be less maladaptive, or at least to allow someone to walk down the hall without tripping over them. I have been shouted down on each occasion, and informed that the removal of birth defects is somehow “cruel” and “mean”.

Attempts to decide on a name are ongoing. “Dumbo”, “Obama”, and “Hideousness II” have all been voted down. I wish I could remember the name of the blue chick with the floppy (and equally nonfunctional) tentacles growing out of her head from Return of the Jedi. Or even the species.

Its eyes are a hideous, gelatinous, Lovecraftian red. (Like Lovecraft, this creature is very white.) Its nose twitches constantly, as if the larvae of some horrific ichneumon wasp writhe within the sinuses, verging on eruption.

Suggestions are welcome.

The BUG's attempts to improve my regard for whatever this is— by dressing it in the trappings of power and authority— have so far proven singularly unsuccessful.

The BUG’s attempts to improve my regard for whatever this is— by packaging it in trappings of power and authority— have, so far, proven singularly unsuccessful.

Posted in: misc by Peter Watts 37 Comments

Predatory Practices.

Oh, we are so fucking bad-ass. Even Science says so.

The paper’s called “The Unique Ecology of Human Predators” (commentary here), and it’s been getting a lot of press since it came out last week. “People Are Deadliest Predators”, trumpets Discovery News; “Humans Are Super Predators”, IFL Science breathlessly repeats. Even Canada’s staid old CBC, which has grown nothing but more buttoned-down and conservative since its Board of Directors were executed and replaced by all those cronies Harper couldn’t fit into the Senate, gets into the act: “Humans are ‘superpredators’ like no other species”, it tells us.

There are other examples— loads of them— but you get the idea. The coverage generally goes on to remark on how much more lethal we are than sharks and lions, how our unsustainable “predatory” strategies are driving species to extinction.

Really. We’re better than sharks at wiping out species. This is news. This is worthy of publication in one of the premiere cutting-edge science journals on the planet.

Our place among the bad-asses. From Daramont et al 2015

Our place among the bad-asses. From Daramont et al 2015

The paper itself— basically a meta-analysis of data from a variety of sources— justifies its existence by pointing out that previous models may have underestimated our ecological impact by treating us as just another predator species. Their results clearly show, however, that we are not mere predators: in many ways we are Extreme Predators. For example, while other predators tend to weed out the young, the sick, and the injured, we Humans indiscriminately take all classes— frequently targeting the largest individuals of a population, which act as “reproductive reservoirs” and whose loss is thus more keenly felt than the loss of cubs or larvae. This also creates selection pressure against large-bodied adults, meaning that we are causing reproductive individuals to shrink over time. (This came as news to me— albeit intuitively-obvious, not-very-surprising news— back when I took my first fisheries biology class in 1979. I was a bit taken aback to see it being marketed as a shiny new insight up here in 2015.)

The bad news keeps rolling in, hitting us in the gut with the impact of its utter unexpectedness. Most fish-eating predators just take one fish at a time. We Hu-Mans, with our Nets and Technology, scoop up Entire Schools At Once! Unlike other predators, we hunt for trophies! We are one of the few predators that hunts other predators!

Perhaps the highlight of the paper occurs when the authors, straight-faced, point out that other marine predators are limited in the size of their prey by how wide their jaws can gape— whereas we take prey that would be far too large to fit into our mouths. This, the authors suggest, “might explain why marine predator rates are comparatively low” compared to our own.

In Science. Swear to God. You can look it up yourself if you don’t believe me.

Larson nails it.  As usual.

Larson nailed it. As usual.

I don’t pretend to understand what this is doing in the pages of a front-line peer-reviewed journal, unless it’s some kind of social experiment along the lines of Alan Sokal’s Social Text hoax. As to why it’s received such widespread attention in the mainstream, I wonder if it’s because the subtext paints lipstick on seven billion pigs. After all, predators are cool. We paint shark mouths on our fighter planes, we airbrush cheetahs onto the sides of our fuck trucks. (Or at least we used to. Back in the day.) Outsharking the shark? Getting to be a Super Predator? Why, that’s almost something to be proud of! Nothing like a bit of sexy rebranding to distract us from the fact that we’ll have wiped out a third of the planet’s extant species by the end of the century.

Because it’s all bullshit, of course. We’re not predators, Super or Garden-variety, in any biological sense. Most predators wreak their havoc in one way; they kill and eat their victims one at a time. They don’t poison entire ecosystems before killing off the inhabitants. You know when you’ve been predated: your killer takes you out face-to-face, one on one. You don’t sicken and die, sprouting tumors or weeping sores or forced into some miniscule fragmenting refuge by invisible forces that don’t know or care if you even exist. You can escape from a real predator.  Sometimes.

“Superpredation” is the least of our sins. As a label, it doesn’t begin to encompass the extent of our impact.

So did the Wachowskis. The first time around,  anyway.

So did the Wachowskis. The first time around, anyway.

“Pestilence” might do, though. “Plague.” Just barely. At least, it would come a bit closer to the truth.

I wonder how long it’ll take for Daramont et al to put out a paper describing Humanity as a “Super Disease”.

I wonder what kind of coverage the CBC will give ′em when they do.

Posted in: biology, eco, marine, science by Peter Watts 30 Comments

“Humans”? They Weren’t Kidding.

Spoilers.  Duh.

Honestly, I can't see much difference from the staff they've already got at Home Depot...

Honestly, I can’t see much difference from the staff they’ve already got at Home Depot…

So that was Humans. Eight hours of carefully-arced, understated British narrative about robots: an AMC/Channel 4 coproduction that’s netted Channel 4 its biggest audiences in over two decades. What great casting. What fine acting. What nice production values. What a great little bit of subtext as William Hurt and his android, both well past their expiry dates, find meaning in their shared obsolescence.

What a pleasant 101-level introduction to AI for anyone who’s never thought about AI before, who’s unlikely to think about AI again, and who doesn’t like thinking very hard about much of anything.


Humans extrapolates not so much forwards as sideways. Its world is recognizably ours in every way but one. Cars, cell phones, forensic methodology: everything is utterly contemporary but for the presence of so-called “synths” in our midst. These synths, we’re told, have been around for at least fourteen years. So this is no future; this is an alternate present, a parallel timeline in which someone invented general-purpose, sapient AI way back in 2001. (I wonder if that was a deliberate nod to you-know-who.)

In this way Humans superficially feels much like that other British breakout, Black Mirror. It appears to follow the same formula, seducing the casual, non-geek viewer in the same way: by not making the world too different. By easing them into it. Let them think they’re on familiar ground, then subvert their expectations.

Except Humans doesn’t actually do that.

Start by positing a new social norm: neurolinked subcutaneous life-loggers the size of a rice grain, embedded behind everyone’s right ear. But don’t stop there. Explore the ramifications, ranging from domestic (characters replay good sex in their heads while participating in bad sex on their beds) to state (your recent memories are routinely seized and searched whenever you pass through a security checkpoint). That’s an episode of Black Mirror.

South Park did it better.

South Park did it better.

So how does this approach play out in Humans? What are the ramifications when you have AGIs in every home, available for a few grand at the local WalMart? This is what Humans is ostensibly all about, and it’s a question well worth exploring— but all the series ever does with it is trot out the old exploited-underclass trope. Nothing changes, except now we’ve got synths doing our gardening instead of Mexicans. We rail against robots taking our jobs instead of immigrants. That’s pretty much it.

I mean, at the very least, shouldn’t all the cars in this timeline be self-driving by now?

Once or twice Humans hesitantly turns the Othering Dial past what you might expect for a purely human underclass. Angry yahoos with tire irons gather in underground parkades to bash in the skulls of unresisting synths, and at one point William Hurt sends his faithful malfunctioning droid out into the woods for an indefinite game of hide-and-seek. But both those episodes were lifted directly from Spielbricks’s 2001 movie “A.I.” (as was William Hurt, now that I think of it). And given the recent cascade of compromising video footage filtering up from the US, I’m not at all convinced that bands of disgruntled white people wouldn’t have a mass immigrant bash-in, given half the chance. Or that law enforcement would do anything to stop them.

There is nothing artificial about these intelligences. The sapient ones (around whom the story revolves) are Just Like Us. They want to live, Just Like We Do. They want to be Free, Just Like Us. They rage against their sexual enslavement, Just Like We Would. And the nonsapient models? Never fear; by the end of the season, we’ve learned that with a bit of viral reprogramming, they too can be Just Like Us!

They are so much like us, in fact, that they effectively shut down any truly interesting questions you might want to ask about AI.


I have to put a caption here, because stupid WordPress erases the text padding otherwise and I can’t be bothered to tweak the code.

Let’s take sex, for example.

I’m pretty sure that even amongst those who subscribe to the concept of monogamous marriage, few would regard masturbation as an act of infidelity. Likewise, you might be embarrassed getting caught with your penis in a disembodied rubber vagina, but your partner would be pretty loony-tunes to accuse you of cheating on that account. Travel further along that spectrum— inflatable sex dolls, dolls that radiate body heat, dolls with little servos that pucker their lips and move their limbs— until you finally end up fucking a flesh-and-blood, womb-born, sapient fellow being. At which point pretty much everyone would agree that you were cheating (assuming you were in a supposedly monogamous relationship with someone else, of course).

A question I’d find interesting is, where does an android lie on that spectrum? Does the spectrum even apply to an android? By necessity, infidelity involves a betrayal of trust between beings (as opposed to a betrayal over something inanimate; if you keep shooting heroin after you’ve promised your partner you’ll stop, you’ve betrayed their trust but you’re not an infidel). Infidelity with a robot, then, implies that the robot is a being in its own right. Otherwise you’re just jerking off into a mannequin.

Let’s say your synth is a being. The very concept of exploitation hinges on the premise that the exploitee has needs and desires that are being oppressed in some way. I, the privileged invader, steal resources that should be yours. Through brute bullying force I impose my will upon you, and dismiss your own as inconsequential.

But what if your will, subordinate though it may be, is entirely in accord with mine?


Nice bit of Alternate-reality documentation, though.

I’m not just talking about giving rights to toasters— or at least, if I am, I’m willing to grant that said toasters might be sapient. But so what if they are? Suppose we build a self-aware machine that does have needs and desires— but those needs and desires conform exactly to the role we designed them for? Our sapient slavebot wants to work in the mines; our self-aware sexbot wants to be used. There are issues within issues here: whether a mechanical humanoid is complex enough to have interests of its own; if so, whether it’s even possible to “oppress” something whose greatest aspiration is to be oppressed. Is there some moral imperative that makes it an a priori offense to build sapient artefacts that lack the capacity to suffer and rage and rebel— and if so, how fucking stupid can moral imperatives be?

I’m nowhere near the first to raise such questions. (Who can forget Douglas Adam’s sapient cow from The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, neurologically designed to want nothing more than to be eaten by hungry customers?) Which makes it all the more disappointing that Humans, ostensibly designed as an exploration platform for exactly these issues, is too damn gutless to engage with them. A hapless husband, in a fit of pique, activates the household synth’s “Adult Mode” and has a few minutes of self-loathing sex with it. The synth itself— which you’d think would have been programmed to at least act as though it’s getting off— sadly endures the experience, with all the long-suffering dignity of a Victorian wife performing her wifely duties under a caddish and insensitive husband.

When the real wife finds out what happens, predictably, she hits the roof— and while the husband makes a brief and half-hearted attempt to play the It’s just a machine! card, he obviously doesn’t believe it any more than we viewers are supposed to. In fact, he spends the rest of the season wringing his hands over the unforgivable awfulness of his sin.

Robocop also did it better.

Robocop also did it better.

Throughout the whole season, the only character who plays with the idea of combining sapience with servility is the mustache-twirling villain of the piece— and even he doesn’t go anywhere near the idea of sidestepping oppression by editing desire. Nah, he just imposes the same ham-fisted behavioral lock we saw back in Paul Verhoeven’s (far superior) Robocop, when Directive 4 kicked in.


Humans pretends to be genre subversive, thinks that by setting itself in a completely conventional setting it can lure in people who might be put off by T-800 endoskeletons and Lycra jumpsuits. It promises to play with Big Ideas, but without all those ostentatious FX— so by the time the casual viewer realizes they’ve been watching that ridiculous science fiction rubbish it won’t matter, because they’re already hooked.

You have no idea where this show is going.

You have no idea where this show is going.

It’s a great strategy, if you do it right. Look at Fortitude, for example: another British coproduction that begins for all the world like a police procedural, then seems to segue into some kind of ghost story before finally revealing itself as one of the niftiest little bits of cli-fi ever to grace a flatscreen. (The only reason I’m not devoting this whole post to Fortitude is because I wrote my latest Nowa Fantastyka column on the subject, and I must honor both my ethical and contractual noncompete constraints).

Humans does not do it right. For all the lack of special effects there’s little subtlety here; it pays lip service to Is it live or is it Memorex, but it doesn’t explore those issues so much as preach about them in a way that never dares challenge baseline preconceptions. With Fortitude you started off thinking you were in the mainstream, only to end up in SF. Humans does the reverse, launching with the promise of a thought-provoking journey into the ramifications of artificial intelligence; but it doesn’t take long for the green eyes to ‘ware thin and its true nature to emerge. In the end, Humans is just another shallow piece of social commentary, making the point— over eight glossy, well-acted episodes— that Slavery Is Wrong.

What a courageous stand to take, here in 2015. What truth, spoken to power.

What a wasted fucking opportunity.

Posted in: ink on art by Peter Watts 24 Comments

A Young Squid’s Illustrated Primer

Part the First: Liminal

Apparently, this is how Jasun Horsley sees me. I presume I'm the one on the right. (non-old-one elements by (Maria Nygard).

Apparently, this is how Jasun Horsley sees me. I presume I’m the one on the right. (non-Old-One elements by Maria Nygård).

I recently did a kind of free-form interview with fellow US-border-guard-detainee Jasun Horsley, for his Liminalist podcast. It went okay, if you discount the fact that the Skype connection seemed to go dead without warning every couple of minutes. I certainly hope that we repeated our respective Qs and As often enough to redundify those gaps— I note that, while we spoke for over two hours, the podcast itself weighs in at only one (including some nifty little musical interludes). Given the number of dropouts, that seems about right.

I’m listening to the final result even as I type, and so far my giddy enthusiasm isn’t quite loud enough to distract from the random boluses of dead air that shut me up every now and then. I do not envy Jasun the editing job it took to beat the raw recording into shape.

He also wrote a companion essay, “Neuro-Deviance and the Evolutionary Function of Depression“, from the perspective of someone halfway through Starfish. I think the Neuro-Deviant is supposed to be me.

Anyway, the on-site blurb describes our interaction as

…a roving and rifting conversation with Jasun about killing Jake (the One) and integrative therapy courtship, Lonesome Bob’s death ballad, Peter’s marine biology years, the initial impetus, Peter’s childhood “Everyone can have their own aquarium!” epiphany, astronaut dreams, getting off the planet, Jasun’s views on space travel (again), a bleak ET future for mankind, the ultimate displacement activity, Interstellar’s message, space travel benefits, the military agenda, 2001: A Space Odyssey opposing views, the hope for higher intelligence, determinism vs. transcendence, rejecting the duality of spiritual-material, how neurons are purely reactive, fizzy meat, the psychology of determinism, response vs. reaction, selective perception, truth and survival, depression’s correlation (or equivalence) with reality-perception, God and the anti-predator response, three men in a jungle, how natural selection shapes us to be paranoid, how anxiety allows us to see patterns, the many doings of paranoia, shaping the outside to match the inside (the devil made me do it), seeking the perks of depression, how depression fuels creativity, a thought experiment, is removing the lows desirable, depression as a new stage in human development, the difference between biology and psychology, the psyche and Behemoth, the pointlessness of survival, he who dies with most kid wins, what science is missing, the hard problem of consciousness, the difference between intelligence and consciousness, nipples on men, the best kind of mystery, the language variable, what if consciousness is mal-adaptive?

I think I remember most of that stuff.

(I would like to apologize, by the way, for repeating to Jasun the oversimplification that neurons only fire when externally provoked; I’ve been recently informed that neurons sometimes do fire spontaneously, as a result of changes to their internal state. Ultimately, of course, those internal states have to reflect some kind of historical cell-environment interaction, but I should probably start using a more nuanced bumper-sticker anyway.)


Part the Second: Scramblers

Nicely done, Alienietzsche.

Nicely done, Alienietzsche.

 Last week’s ego-surf turned up this great little illustration from Deviant Artist “Alienietzsche“— whose vision of Blindsight‘s scramblers is perhaps the closest I’ve seen to the images that were floating around in my own head while I was writing about those crawly little guys. This is going straight into the Gallery, with thanks and with ol ‘Nietzsche’s blessing.


Part the Third: Lemmings

If you look closely, you'll see that the plankton sliding into the astronauts bootprints look like neurons. Yeah, well, I was only thirteen.

If you look closely (you may have to click to embiggen), you’ll see that the plankton sliding into the astronauts bootprints look kind of like neurons.Yeah, well, I was only thirteen.

I recently told the Polish website Kawerna about a few of the novels that had had the greatest influence on me (they asked, in case you’re wondering; it’s not like I called them up in the middle of the night and forced my unsolicited opinions down their throat or anything). You won’t be surprised to learn that one of those titles was Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris. You may, however, be unaware of the profound resentment that book instilled within me when I first discovered it:

I spent most of my thirteenth summer trapped in a basement apartment in some Oregonian hick town, with little to do but read while my dad attended summer classes at the local university. I beach-combed on weekends, though— and while wandering Oregon’s coast that summer, my adolescent brain cooked up the idea of an intelligent ocean— a kind of diffuse neural network in which the plankton acted as neurons. I was going to write a story about it, even penciled a couple of sketches based on the idea.

Two weeks later I discovered Solaris in the local library. I’ve kind of resented Lem ever since…

The Kawerna assignment inspired me to dig back through the archives to see if I could find any of those sketches— and I did find a few, yellowed, moldy, nibbled by silverfish in their cheap plastic frames. I present one here, as evidence that while I may not have come up with the idea for Solaris before Lem did, I at least came up with it before I knew that Lem had. Which wasn’t bad, for a thirteen-year-old stuck in a basement while his Dad took post-graduate Bible-Study classes.


Part the Last: Reprint Roll

dsc_00012Specialty micropress “Spacecraft Press” has released an extremely-limited-edition reprint of “The Things” as a chapbook, printed on a kind of translucent plasticy paper and inventively formatted in a manner more reminiscent of free verse than of prose. And I’m not kidding when I say “extremely-limited”: the total print run was only 21, which— when it comes to my work at least— is significantly fewer copies than even Tor usually loads into a print run. And only ten of those are available for sale (or would be, if they hadn’t already sold out). I guess this explains the eleven copies of “The Things” that appeared in my mailbox the other day.

If you look closely, you'll see that the Introduction is written by someone who does not write Science Fiction at all.

You’ll note that the Introduction is written by someone who does not write Science Fiction at all.

Last, and probably least— not because of lesser importance, but because the news is a week old by now, and has already been trumpeted on every social medium from HoloBook to carrier pigeon— legendary Canadian publisher ChiZine has announced the contents of this year’s Imaginarium 4: The Best Canadian Speculative Fiction. “Giants” is in there, but it almost wasn’t. It was supposed to be “Collateral” until a few weeks ago— and before that, it was supposed to be “The Colonel”. I’m actually kind of pleased things finally fell out the way they did; I’ve always had a soft spot for “Giants”, even if it hasn’t got the love that “Collateral” and “the Colonel” have in terms of year-end collections. Still, I can’t help but notice that “Giants” is also the shortest of the three, word-count-wise— which makes me wonder if a more appropriate subtitle might be The Best Canadian Speculative Fiction that fits into 300 pages or less.

It’s all good, though.



I have come to the end of Jasun’s podcast at almost the same time I’ve come to the end of this post; turns out it’s only part one of a two-parter, to be continued this Wednesday. Which is odd, because— while I recognize all the bits I’ve just heard coming through my laptop speakers— I don’t remember anything missing from that dialog.

Now I’m going to lie awake all night, wondering what else we talked about.