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.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Friday April 25 2008at 11:04 am , filed under public interface . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

18 Responses to “For Those Who Could Not Be With Us Last Night…”

  1. Daddy Does Me Best

    Oh the pain.

    Shit, if anything, Behemoth would be the most translatable to film. It even climaxes with the heroes attacking the bad guy’s stronghold and everything :)

  2. Whad they think of Eyes of God? Were they impressed, or horrified or what?

  3. Okay, in Canada, is there any excursion from one’s home that does not involve grabbing a beer or two at some point?

  4. Did anyone record the talk?

  5. If I were not broke and one thousand six hundred and sixteen miles away, I would have been there. Dumbspeech and State of Grace are the same? Color me jealous. I second Al’s motion – anyone record the talk?

    Hey, you’re right next to Waterloo! I have a blood feud with them.

  6. Yes! A recording would be grand. I couldn’t drive halfway across the continent, so …

    Also, in a display of my ignorance, I had to double-check that the RCMP was an organization that didn’t ride around on horses as a matter of course. Though a cavalry charge onto any corrupt governing body would be a pretty awesome sight.

  7. I took a little self convincing, but decided flying from Alberta wouldn’t accomplish much aside from breaking the bank, and making me look a bit too much like a rabid-arm-waving fan.

  8. Aside from the Jasmine Fitzgerald reading and the vampire talk I can’t find any online video or audio of Mr. Watts.

    Can anyone link to recordings of interviews? Readings? Con appearances?

  9. Razorsmile said…

    Shit, if anything, Behemoth would be the most translatable to film. It even climaxes with the heroes attacking the bad guy’s stronghold and everything :)

    Yeah, and they wouldn’t even have to worry about fan outrage if the screenplay diverged from the book, because nobody read the fucking thing…

    bec-87rb said…

    Whad they think of Eyes of God? Were they impressed, or horrified or what?

    I think they liked the way I read, it, at least. A couple of people came up afterwards, totally ignoring the lady who was selling lime-green copies of Blindsight, to ask me where they could get the anthology that “Eyes” appeared in. That sounded promising. It might be my reading voice; I don a kind of Alvin-and-the-Chipmunks affect whenever I read stories about holocaust or child abuse. You know, to mask the harshness of the content. (Although, in light of some recent comments, I might try an Elmer Fudd impression next time…)

    John Henning said…

    Okay, in Canada, is there any excursion from one’s home that does not involve grabbing a beer or two at some point?

    Not for me, alas. I can’t afford more expensive drugs, or less-expensive hookers (plus they scare me), and I don’t like hockey. (Although, no, scratch that last; there’s no such thing as a hockey game that doesn’t involve beer, either.)

    Al said…

    Did anyone record the talk?

    Don’t think so. Not officially, anyway.

    oliverdyas said…

    Can anyone link to recordings of interviews? Readings? Con appearances?

    I handed another podcast reading off to the Starship Sofa guys a while back, but as far as I know they haven’t done anything with it. And I’ll be passing the occasional spoken rant/essay off to them as well, as I have time, and as paying gigs let me. Other than that, I showed up on TV Ontario back on March 1 and pontificated learnedly on the subject of Ray Bradbury. I’m told that went over pretty well, although I don’t have a print of the final broadcast (I do have a DVD of the unedited interview, but that goes on for over an hour and ventures into some pretty nonBradburian realms). Other than that you might have to go back to the eighties, when CBC radio interviewed me once or twice on the subject of my marine mammalogy research. One interesting interview in particular, I remember, was when they interviewed me in the city of St. John on the subject of harbour porpoises. I described harbour porpoises as a kind of fat, not-very-smart dolphin that resembled a thalidomide inner-tube when it rolled at the surface. They asked me if the fact that it was called a “harbour porpoise” meant that they might be found in St. John harbour; “I said they weren’t especially smart but I didn’t say they were stupid,” I told them. Which was a completely legitimate thing to say, given what a cesspool the harbour was. Still. I don’t think they liked me very much. The interview that aired was much shorter and not nearly as funny as the one I gave.

  10. Peter replies:

    I think they liked the way I read, it, at least. A couple of people came up afterwards, totally ignoring the lady who was selling lime-green copies of Blindsight, to ask me where they could get the anthology that “Eyes” appeared in. That sounded promising. It might be my reading voice;

    Or it could be that Eyes of God is just a strong piece? It’s tightly done, literary, and uncluttered. They probably liked the story.

    Thinking about it as a consumer, Blindsight is a novel, which is a commitment in time and thought; short stories are easier to read. That might be another factor.

    I don’t know if this plagues it, either, but don’t you find that hard sci fi type readers are less interested in vampires, that vampire afficiondos are another type of audience?

    I don a kind of Alvin-and-the-Chipmunks affect whenever I read stories about holocaust or child abuse. You know, to mask the harshness of the content. (Although, in light of some recent comments, I might try an Elmer Fudd impression next time…)

    You and I have such problems reading each other’s humor. You didn’t really talk like Alvin the Chipmunk?
    *imagining*
    *imagining*
    *imagining*
    *imagination failure*

    Anything is funnier if Elmer Fudd says it, though. That and Henry Kissinger, but I don’t understand how that works – a Kissinger accent is funny no matter the actual words.

  11. After you read “Eyes of God”, I went home and had a dream/nightmare about some pedophile uncle and a homicidal little girl. I’m inclined to blame you!

    You are an excellent reader; I was surprised actually.

    As to ignoring the lime green books.. well. I didn’t believe I’d be near Bakka for a while, so I (horrifically) preordered my copy of “Blindsight” from Amazon.

  12. @ Bec- I know I had absolutely no time for anything involving vampires before Blindsight. I thought that no matter how the mythos started, that in 2008 they were part and parcel of the ‘overactive, but unoriginal’ fevered goth fantasy of otherness.
    And PW done blown than perception out of the water…now I’m wondering if the man can’t make me like zombie & werewolf movies too now. (sorry y’all, I have a level of boredom for zombies only rivaled by how dull I find the pirate/ninja debate)

  13. tredecimal said…
    @ Bec- I know I had absolutely no time for anything involving vampires before Blindsight.

    I read it because I thought it was a deep-space hard sci fi novel. And it was FREE. I had my fill of the soapy gothic vampire book after a friend of mine got me to read a few Anne Rice novels.

    I don’t regret them, actually, some of them were a ripping good read, very engaging, but vampires hold the most intense enduring fascination in people for whom sex and fear are somehow cojoined. The basic idea being that the object of desire is powerful, seductive and deadly. Long term married sex pretty much de-mythologizes desire.

    Not that the vampire in Blindsight is sexualized; the intense emotion characters feel in its presence is fear of being overpowered nad killed. That could be sexual, in some people, I suppose, but it doesn’t feel that way in the novel to me.

    You know what would have made Blindsight perfect in my mind?

    If it were somehow split into two novels – the gothic space vampire story it wanted to be on one hand, and the hard sci fi deep space tragedy it mostly was on the other.

    The treatment of the vampire myth was an interesting enough idea to stand on its own, as a full-fledged novel. That would have left the drama and puzzle aspect of figuring out the alien ship feeling less crammed in, and reduced the science exposition flow rate to a more manageable level.

    I’m a little dim, so what do I know, but it left me wishing the vampires had their own book.

    I think I posted the above before in some form, so those of you who are not tredecimal, forgive the retread?

  14. John-of course there excursions not involving beer…and I’m sure, given a room full of opium addicted genius monkies from a leftover science experiment, chained to terminals and chewing the keyboards randomly, that given a few million years, they’ll come up with something.

    But I wouldn’t bet on it. Which reminds me of the alcohol theory of civilization, and how early hominids developed it. Goes something like this: starving cave dudes stumble on some fermented barley, one autumn day, eat it anyway, have themselves a right decent time. Do the nomad thing for a few thousand, decide to stay there and wait for it. Another few thousand, start growing it, and realizing that other stuff works too. Then along comes agriculture, and, because booze is something kind of in demand, well, gotta pertect them crops…eventually, you get the whole range of chemistry, engineering (stills, natch), farming, law, politics, and whatnot. This was proposed as aserious theory, probably by a drunken scientist.

    Information is neat. I like information.

  15. Crap, I forgot to mention the whole love angle-you know, beer goggle effect, marriages to chicks you meet at a dingy club, and reams and reams of bad poetry.

    Thesis complete! I think.

    Oh yeah, here in Vancouver, on the way back from the main island, I finally saw me a pod of killer whales. Damn, those animals am big, and cool bad asses of the sea, to boot. They passed diagonally, just across the bow of the ferry, presumably heading towards a good feeding place. Dorsal fins and backs gently slicing through the water, at pretty good speed. No idea how smart they are, but with teeth like that, who cares? They was just dang cool.

  16. rather dissapointed, I didn’t realize you had a blog =/ would have made the trek just for that reading.

    Oh well, hope there might be a next time.

  17. 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.

    That would be awesome. I actually like the fake GUI’s and computer screens from movies sometimes, at least for the campiness alone. They should do a coffee table pictorial book on those sometime.

    Of course, you can always turn the Maelstrom film into a 21st-century version of Angelina Jolie’s Hackers.

  18. Oh yeah, here in Vancouver, on the way back from the main island, I finally saw me a pod of killer whales.

    eh hem.. Orcas. And they’re not stupid, and have big sharp teeth, and are known for some especially cruel antics with their dinner items.. but ya, they are pretty cool :)