I’ve Just Handed My Pinball Crown To Him

I may have mentioned a fellow by the name of Dave Williams (maybe not here — I know I’ve mentioned him in interviews, at least). The guy came at me out of the blue a few years back via a mutual friend, and asked me to check out some skiffy prose he was working on1. His descriptions were great; his mood and atmosphere were perfect. His pacing kind of sucked, and what’s with these chains on a prison ship on Titan? We can ship our evildoers all the way to the outer solar system but leg-irons are the best we can do for prisoner restraint?

Anyhow, Dave was a diamond in the rough but a diamond nonetheless, so we got to hanging out and mutual critiquing. At the time he was one of those jet-setting corporate whores, and whenever he was in town he’d take me out and get me drunk and expense everything to The Man, which made us both feel good. And he never stopped writing. And he never stopped getting better at it. I really should have seen those signs, and stopped him while I had the chance.

Because then the fucker quit his high-paying job, started writing full-time, and right out of the gate sold a trilogy to Bantam Spectra for a figure that made me stop calling him “Dave” and start calling him “Fucking Bastard” (in the friendliest possible way, of course). The first volume is The Mirrored Heavens, it’s coming out in May, and you’d never know by reading it that ol’ FB ever had any kind of problem with pacing.

But I hate him even more now. Because he always liked the rifters.com approach to book promotion — the whole alternate-reality-fly-on-the-wall approach — and he decided to steal adopt it to serve up the insanely-detailed backstory that informs his own world. (The draft of MH that I read came backloaded with all manner of technical appendices and historical timelines — think Dune, or Lord of the Rings — but apparently they got cut from the final edition.)

Except Dave did it better than me. Hired professional artists and webweavers to implement his ideas, instead of cobbling everything together in self-taught html. I note, a bit defensively, that my interactive geopolitical map offers more in the way of arcane region-specific details than his, at least. And his pages all come with little Amazon links imploring you to buy the book, which kind of compromises the spying-on-reality illusion if you ask me. But man, it’s so much cleaner, so much more professional-looking. The art is outstanding. The military hardware and technical specs take my breath away. And this is only the first incarnation of the damn thing; who knows how deep his world will go when he’s had a decade to build it?

Anyhow, it’s right here. Go and marvel. I am equal parts honored that FB took inspiration from my own efforts, and pissed that he surpassed them so, but the rest of you are more mature than me so you can just stand in awe at the thought and talent that went into that delivery platform.

And who knows? Maybe this is the kick in the ass I need to start contemplating my own upgrades…


1 Note to aspiring writers in search of feedback; the mutual friend was key. I obviously can’t afford to invest time in everyone who might approach me with a manuscript in hand. (The only exceptions to this would involve unsolicited work that’s distinctly better than my own, and then only because I’d appreciate the heads-up; it’ll give me a chance to use my professional connections to crush the competition before it gets too strong.)

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Monday February 25 2008at 11:02 am , filed under fellow liars . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

11 Responses to “I’ve Just Handed My Pinball Crown To Him”

  1. Well, I sure missed a lot. First, my condolences on your former boss at On Spec being a jerkass. Leaving was probably the best call from a practical perspective, though if you had really been principled about it you would have instead wiped Islam from the face of Earth forever, countered her argument by pointing out that there’s really no one left to be offended by it now, leaving only if she refused even then.

    Nice reference to Soul of a New Machine in your last post.

    Also, “webweavers” is a great word. Did you create that?

  2. Military SF isn’t really my thing but I think my hubby is going to go nuts for The Mirrored Heavens. I’m prone to liking English auhors though so more than likely this a book we’ll both end up reading. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I don’t think he bit on yr promotional style, or at least not the key aspect of it, which to me was the ‘real’ Fizer vampire physiology presentation. (which, btw, the way they secured a test population was deep in the heart of sadly funny but true)

    Now if he’d have made an armed forces recruiting ad for his space forces…nah, that’s the poster for Zone Troopers. (IMDB it. Critters-vintage)

    I love stuff like this, was a big fan of those Cowley ‘Terran Trade Federation’ books which as far as I know were just source materials for nonexistent games & universes paired with spare cover art.

    BUT. Not to give you two compliments and backhand him an equal amount, the supra-book stuff on Blindsight is just enough. I think if there were more, the book would sadly occupy a lower level of SF appreciation in my mind. And you don’t really want to be grokked in the way someone does a Robotech novelization they can never remember if they’ve already read, right? (if Foster & DelRey had tried to sell me consciousness not being all it’s been purported to be I’da just said ‘fuckin hippies’. but YOU’SA marine biologist, so I’ll entertain the idea…)

    Seriously though, I came across the webpage way after reading the Rifter books, so I was already used to the back where you reveal the wizard, or perhaps what he’d use. So for you to expand and speculate a bit more for the innards of the Blindsight universe…just right. Piqued the interest without deluging it. I’ll be looking for his book anyways. I suppose I leave all this for any other authors out there to see in case they were thinking of making this some clade of your squidpunk idea.

  4. Looks neat – I’ve added it to my coming soon list. The _biggest_ problem with the site is its lack of cove copy or its equivalent.

    BTW, thinking of new authors – what ever happened to the guy that was dealing with the same issues in _Blindsight_ (and touched on in the Rifters trilogy) in a mystery? I didn’t add that one to the coming soon list and I’ll be dipped if I can find it in the old newscrawl.

  5. No ebook yet? Don’t get me wrong, I’ll pay money, but paper books are big and heavy.

  6. I like the look of that beanstalk!

  7. Yours is better, it has a layer of black humor that appeals to my inner “kink”. Especially the vampire powerpoint presentation, fooking hilarious.
    I will read his books though.

  8. is this the right time to ask when a big ben page will be added? (that dead link has been bothering me for a while now.)

    also, i think his site looks more like a promo site for a computer game than a book dito. i’m almost looking for a System Requirements list when browsing the site. i am struggling with the words a little, but, like, rifters.com feels like it was made by the author of the books. the mirrored heavens looks corporate.

  9. AR said…

    Nice reference to Soul of a New Machine in your last post.

    I wondered if anyopne would catch that.

    Also, “webweavers” is a great word. Did you create that?

    Probably not. I didn’t knowingly cadge it from anywhere, but it’s too intuitive a word not to be in common use somewhere…

    personalmathgenius said…

    I love stuff like this, was a big fan of those Cowley ‘Terran Trade Federation’ books which as far as I know were just source materials for nonexistent games & universes paired with spare cover art.

    I loved those! I’ve still got them somewhere. (And you know, the design of the ships in the Homeworld game were directly inspired by the art in those books.)

    Trey said…

    BTW, thinking of new authors – what ever happened to the guy that was dealing with the same issues in _Blindsight_ (and touched on in the Rifters trilogy) in a mystery?

    Neuropath, by R. Scott Bakker. I can’t find it on Amazon, but it seems to be in the pipe.

    emrex said…

    is this the right time to ask when a big ben page will be added? (that dead link has been bothering me for a while now.)

    And the Necropsy link. I know, I know. I basically gave up on building the website when I found out how small Blindsight‘s print run was going to be, and how few stores were actually carrying it. I mean, what was the point, right? Fortunately I turned out to be dead wrong about that, but then other stuff came up and I never did finish off the damn thing.

    At this point there’s not much commercial reason to go back and do those, but I probably will anyway, just to be completist about it. Probably the next website upgrade will start with finishing off the Blindsight wing. But, you know. Paying gigs have to come first. (And blogging, I suppose…)

    i am struggling with the words a little, but, like, rifters.com feels like it was made by the author of the books. the mirrored heavens looks corporate.

    That’s kind of the point. My site rocks in concept, but the execution is kind of patched together with duct take and KY-jelly; a labour of love with no promotional budget. Dave’s took bucks, and looks it.

  10. Neuropath doesn’t show on Amazon.com. Amazon UK on the other hand

    anonypost by razorsmile

  11. Reminds me of M. John Harrison’s (apparently infamous) blog post about “worldbuilding” is “the great clomping foot of nerdism.”

    “It is the attempt to exhaustively survey a place that isn’t there. A good writer would never try to do that, even with a place that is there,” he writes.

    Nevertheless, I have to admit that as a reader, I love worldbuilding and always have ever since reading the Hobbit and superhero comics.

    With “speculative fiction” of the sort we get with Watts and Stross, where they are actually trying to describe things that might conceivably exist in the world someday, isn’t some detailed thought about the world in which these characters exist required?

    I can see that it often gets overdone. I really didn’t need to know so much about the universes of Frank Herbert’s DUNE and all the tangential STAR WARS madness that’s out there (Trek is crazy, too, but I can forgive it).

    I also get the feeling that the influence of RPG games since D&D have also contributed greatly to the worldbuilding urge (or Demiurge, as it might be more accurately described), but I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. Surveying “a place that isn’t there” can sometimes lead writers to places in their imagination that they never would have found otherwise.