Polaris Schedule

If you’ve noticed the new “Coming Attractions” element on the sidebar (which only renders properly if you insert its code into the middle of the calendar elements, for some reason — some day I really gotta figure out this php stuff from scratch instead of just poking it to see what happens), you may have noticed that I’ll be appearing as one of the token literary types at Polaris this weekend.  I’m not doing a whole lot there — Polaris is aimed more at fans of the visual than the verbal — but I am up for a few panels and a reading.  To wit:

  • Silicon vs. Meat: (Sat. 1pm) It’s a knock-down, drag-out, no-holds-barred battle between biological and artificial intelligence — which will prevail, and why? Panelists: Robert J. Sawyer, Peter Watts, David G. Stephenson.
  • Avatar: The Theory of Pandora: (Sat. 5pm) From floating mountain vista, to flora composing a planet wide neural network. What are the scientific truths, and theories behind this? What would lead a planet to evolve an ecosystem of neurologically interlinking flora and fauna? What would make mountains fly? What could Unobtanium be, and what uses does it have?  Panelists: Peter Watts, Karl Schroeder
  • Bigger Guns Or Better Stories? (Sun. 3pm) Video games are becoming more about the story and less about the action. Richard Morgan is writing Crysis 2, and Peter Watts has been cited as an influence on Bioshock 2. What potential do video games have as a delivery platform for legitimate storytelling, as opposed to the shoot-everything-that-moves aesthetic that has historically dominated the field? Can video games be literature? Should they be? Panelists: Peter Watts, Karl Schroeder, Robert Herrera, Cliff Goldstein, Elizabeth Hirst.
  • Reading (Sun 5pm — actually it was slotted at 5:30pm, the last session of the whole con— but I noticed that the 5pm slot was empty so they agreed to move me up a half hour).  I was originally tempted to read an excerpt from “The Island” here as a bit of promo leading up to Worldcon, but since that story’s already crapped out on two of its three noms I figured, fuck it.  No point.  Besides, I’ve got a brand new story that’s scheduled to appear in Jon Strahan’s Engineering Infinity, never before read aloud to human ears (although your lips may have moved when you read the first-draft excerpt here).   And it takes almost exactly thirty minutes to read from end to end.  Normally you don’t want to go over 20, 25 minutes in a half-hour slot, but it’s not as though there’s going to be anyone using the room afterwards.  Hell, if anyone cares enough about “Malak” to show up that late on a Sunday, they probably won’t mind hanging out for a extra five minutes to hear how it ends.

So, those are my panel obligations.  The rest of the time I’ll be on the road or in the bar.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Thursday July 15 2010at 06:07 am , filed under On the Road, public interface . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

22 Responses to “Polaris Schedule”

  1. Well, you have my vote for the Hugo, for what it’s worth. It’s a shame Toronto isn’t closer; I’d like to hear “Malak” – I wonder if I could bribe someone to surreptitiously record it…

    As a side note, something about this particular post causes the standalone thread to render the sidebar stuff at the bottom in Firefox and IE. It’s possible that it’s a corporate nannywall issue, but someone else may be able to confirm.

  2. Damn, I wish I could be there. That lineup for Silicon vs. Meat sounds fun.

  3. Hope someone will film the stuff and make it available online. I’m on the other side of the planet and the stuff you’ll be doing there sounds very interesting.

  4. hopefully an attendee will take notes on interesting panels and post some recaps.

    for Pandora, I hope the discussion tends towards speculation about a planetwide neural network (and not limited to the speculation done for the plot of the movie) because that would be fun (more so than floating mountains). Well, any bio stuff more than floating mountain stuff. oh hell, maybe the floating mountains are what makes it easy to have a planet wide neural network. good thing I’ll not be there. they’ll probably end up talking about floating mountains.

  5. And here I thought unobtanium referred to a Canadian majority government. . .

  6. My favorite Avatar fan theory is that Eywa is a lot like MorningLightMountain from Peter F. Hamilton’s “Pandora’s Star” — an utterly ruthless survival engine, like a planet-wide version of the scramblers and their kin — who’s using the intelligent native population in a long-term power play against humanity.

  7. Whoa…two posts in two days…I need to go lie down for a minute.

  8. Sillycon v. Meaty Things, & Reading~ those would be my top choices to witness.

    The possible scientific truths behind a planet wide neural network is tres intéressant.

    As for bigger guns and stuff, well, I am still only at a kiddie level of gaming thanks to my nephews.

    Peter said: “I was originally tempted to read an excerpt from “The Island” here as a bit of porno leading up to Worldcon, but since that story’s already crapped out on two of its three noms I figured, fuck it. No point…”

    But Peter, you could read that especially “beautiful passage” from your story. You know, the one that I had pointed out, something to do with a “mind-O passage”…

    Peter said: “Besides, I’ve got a brand new story that’s scheduled to appear in Jon Strahan’s Engineering Infinity, never before read aloud to human ears (although your lips may have moved when you read the first-draft excerpt here).”

    My lips don’t move when I am reading. They don’t even move when I talk to myself. Am I missing out on something in the reading experience? :)

  9. I cannot come to Polaris but am tentatively planning to come to SFContario. I truly hope you will be there . . .

  10. Also, given how much I enjoy and admire your work and that of Karl Schroeder, I am sad I can’t go see that panel on Avatar, even given that I was so annoyed by the very concept behind the movie that I could not bring myself to see it. Having suffered through a few minutes at Keycon, I can see that was the right choice. But if anyone could weave silk purses out of minced pig’s ear thread, that would be you and KS. ( :

  11. facepalm. And now I actually manage to read the sidebar. Can you delete my comment about SFContario. And this comment.

    Some bonehead (me) needs to read more slowly. But I’m so used to sidebars being ads, so I just don’t even SEE them anymore. Imagine what that tendency, carried on a few generations, might mean . . .

  12. You’ll have to tell us about the experience afterward, as many of us will not be able to go. As for Avatar, I believe the explanation was that there was a tremendous amount of naturally occurring super conductors. Then something had to do with the electromagnetic field of a large moon or nearby planet? I guess I don’t remember very well, but it sounded like it deserved to actually be in the movie.

  13. It’s a shame there’s no linguist on the Pandoran science panel since the work that Paul Frommer did was pretty spot-on; Na’vi is one of the few languages constructed for artistic purposes that has the roughed-up feeling of the real thing. *cough, cough*

    I’m sure it’ll be great fun, though!

  14. Hrm, times like these I wish there were webcams/recordings at all such events =P Whatever happened to the wired future?

    Good luck with the panels though! =)

  15. Okay, I have to say thanks to you blog people, especially Kai and RandomJ for the lovely article citations on the blood brain barrier question, Peter for blog posting and kindly trying to figure out what the heck I was asking, and Sheila for agreeing with me that it would be tricky to turn everyone into mindless oxytocin zombies by dosing them.

    Seriously, guys, thanks. I love to learn new stuff, to fill in areas of missing info – if nobody else remembered to tell you today “You’re fricking great,” then the world was remiss.

  16. @Hljóðlegur

    The warm fuzzies, I has them. ;P Happy to be of service. And kind/appreciated are the thanks. =)

  17. My favorite Avatar fan theory is that Eywa is a lot like MorningLightMountain from Peter F. Hamilton’s “Pandora’s Star” — an utterly ruthless survival engine, like a planet-wide version of the scramblers and their kin — who’s using the intelligent native population in a long-term power play against humanity.

    I prefer to think of Eywa and Navi as parallels to Gaia and Titanides in John Varley’s “Titan” trilogy: Navi are biotools, a purpose-built species Eywa created specifically to interact with humans and to push humans’ emotional buttons.

    That’s the only way it makes sense.

    Heck, first thing my 15-year old daughter said after seeing Avatar was: “How do you get humanoids on a world where everything else has six limbs?”

  18. My lips don’t move when I am reading. They don’t even move when I talk to myself. Am I missing out on something in the reading experience?

    I often wonder what happens differently when reading with and without subvocalizing. Would not subvocalizing mean that the reader picks up less on rhymes and consonance and such? and trading off on absorbing the material faster.

    sometimes I make a conscious effort to subvocalize because I started wondering about all that, and wondering whether I’m missing exercising a part of my brain by not doing so. and not experiencing part of the experience of reading a story &tc.

    would appreciate thoughts from people who know more about brain stuff than I do. plus, I have the same reaction as above where I love it when people follow up with meaty comments. warm freaky regards all around

  19. Hrm, times like these I wish there were webcams/recordings at all such events =P Whatever happened to the wired future?

    things are a little more advanced in the fan-run programming conferences than in the fan-run science fiction conferences. :) (do a search on ruby and python conferences for example)

    I keep wishing the sf cons would catch up with those guys.

  20. I keep wishing the sf cons would catch up with those guys.

    It seems a natural fit, sci fi and webcams, given how written sci fi has given way and embraced the idea of sci fi tv – no longer just reading the page, but acting it out.

    Besides, cons are faaascinating to see – the costumes, the sincerity of the fandoms, the feeling of joy the conventioneers have when all bunched together in some critical mass – look, you can see them thinking, THERE’S ANOTHER KLINGON, just like me – let us drink, brother Klingon, and sing!

    I love it. Nothing better than seeing people roll down their mental defenses and play for a while, be who they fantasize about being. What man doesn’t have lurking within a Wolverine, a Capt. Kirk, or a Brock Sampson? It’s life-affirming to see people feel free in that way.

    I’d watch a sci fi convention webcam.

  21. @Ilya- the Navi have six limbs- don’t forget the tails 😛

  22. I can see one of a few possible explanations for Avatar’s workd dynamics

    1) The Navi are an emisary species intended to interface with sentient visitors as a representitive of a planetary sentience( Eywa which possesses uncertian motivations)

    2) The Navi are the fallen remains of an extraplanetary Biotech culture that engineered the symbiotic link as a contagion across the planet( this explains their differing biostructure) with Eywa as their creation/ original planetay network, and the neual link symbiosis across the planet( survival benefit for infected species being assistance from the overmind, downside being that you are subject to brain jacking by the Navi — provided Navi numbers are low this is probably a net survival benefit for an individual member of a species.

    Though in both cases my question is this — where are the epidemics and/or vermiform infestations… Large animals are much slower and less adaptable than the simple and fast evolving stuff….