Bullets and Binary

I’m in the middle of one of those extended island writing retreats I’ve mentioned in the past: they didn’t stick me in the women’s washroom this time, but they did stick us in a room with a binary shower. Turn it left, you freeze: turn it right, you scald. Turn the tap in between those extremes and the flow shuts off entirely. To paraphrase Yoda, There is no warm.

The day starts with a run and a swim, in water which has somehow, miraculously, gone from borderline flammable to drinkable in a measly twenty years (that’s right: part of the environment actually getting better, right here on my front porch: who’d’ve thought?). It ends with the raucous nightly consumption of numerous bottles of wine in the commons area. What with the endless writing and reviewing and critiquing in between, there just hasn’t been time to weigh in here on preemptive homicide as a legitimate form of self-defense, or the fascinating way that the popular press — after their awestruck initial descriptions of James Holmes’s “best of the best” intellectual stature — have already begun to rewrite his history as that of a dolt and a hack, as though the premise of a genius-level mass murderer simply Will Not Stand here in the real world (Hannibal Lecter’s popularity notwithstanding in the fake one). Hopefully I’ll get there eventually.

At the moment, though, there’s no time for anything but a bullet list of upcoming appearances and recent nods, which are at least timely insofar as a couple of them have only just been made public by their respective organizers:

  • We start with the pleasing discovery that Blindsight got a slot in Science Fiction: The 101 Best Novels 1985-2010, a collection of essays thumbnailing what Damien Broderick, Paul di Filippo and David Pringle regard as, well, the best 101 SF books of the past quarter-century. They start off by describing Blindsight as “the mature fruit of the tree of Swanwick, Greg Bear, [and] Greg Egan”, but I don’t know how they finish because the Amazon preview feature blocks out those pages. Still. Nice to be in there.
  • On the other hand, Crysis: Legion did not win the Scribe — that honor went to Joan D. Vinge’s Cowboys and Aliens novelization — but I really have nothing to complain about in that regard. The fact that C:L made the finals for an award of any type almost beggars belief.
  • Appearances. I’m one of the GoHs at Kontrast over in Uppsala (Sweden) this coming Oct 5-71, which was actually announced a while back although I myself never really posted it before now.
  • A few months later I’m going to be a GoH at FinConn, July 5-7 2013 (for some reason I seem to be trending in Scandinavia these days).
  • In between those two I’ll be giving yet another lecture at the annual SpecFic Colloquium right here in TO. These guys have invited me every year since the event started running, and I’m a wee bit worried about overexposure— but I’m told they took that into account, and decided that the judicious and ongoing use of pornography in my slides was more than enough to make up for any audience fatigue. Not quite sure what I’ll be talking about this time around, although it’s shaping up to be a diatribe on Hive Minds, Mind Hives, and what a single neuron could possibly know about Beethoven. No promises, though.
  • Finally, a couple of miscellaneous low-profile things. This November I’ll be attending World Fantasy for the first time ever this year, even though I don’t write fantasy, because at least it’s being held in my home province (albeit in much more northerly reaches than the website would have you believe;  claiming that Richmond Hill is “Toronto” is a little like sending out tourist brochures describing Mordor as “The Shire”). And a very nice person on the SFContario concomm has almost convinced me to give SF Contario another chance, despite my misgivings over past missteps. Some new blood appears to be detoxifying the old. But I’m still not quite decided on that one.

Back to the apocalypse. See you next week.

The Post-Apocalyptic Survivors, almost all of whom happen to be writers.

My Post-Apocalyptic Wife, in the throes of incipient zombieism (note the lazy eye).

The Post-Apocalyptic Shower Control.

My Post-Apocalyptic Running Route

The Post-Apocalyptic Beach Path

The Post-Apocalyptic Swimming Beach.

The Pre-Apocalyptic Lighthouse cleverly constructed in an inland location that utterly conceals it from any viewpoint on the water.

Nature Reclaiming the Post-Apocalyptic ruins from which we have fled.

Fiblet

The Imminentest, Most Scary Apocalypse of All.

 

 


1 Probably to be preceded by a quick bounce dive into Norway, but I don’t think that’s your typical public event.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Wednesday July 25 2012at 01:07 pm , filed under On the Road, public interface, writing news . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

16 Responses to “Bullets and Binary”

  1. Yay!! For Finncon. Now I can finally buy you those beers I’ve promised since the late Triassic. Welcome Peter!

  2. Oh my god, SFContario is the same time as pycon Canada. I did not know that. If you go, maybe I can get a book signed or something. If not, maybe you can invite some friends over to learn some python.

  3. “The Post-Apocalyptic Survivors, almost all of whom happen to be writers.”

    Someone should write a novella about that.

  4. Sunspots?

  5. Howdy,
    For no particular reason I thought I’d let you know that I’m reading Blindsight again for the second time. I keep picking up new details that I missed before, prob because you scared me shitless the first time around.
    Funny thing, but I too learned my macroevolution from Dan and Debby at UofT.
    Enjoy the lack of cars and the dirty hippies on the islands.

  6. Don’t beat yourself up too much about C:L. Within the context of videogame adaptation novels, it was certainly the ballsiest and most exciting piece of game-branded literature I’ve ever read.

    Frankly, the fucking game was a gigantic letdown compared to the book. I *wanted* the game to *be* the book, or at least spend more time ruminating about the suit and the loss of agency in one’s own neurons. But hey, it got me to buy the game too, so here’s hoping the good folks at Crisis decide they want to slide kibble fund cheques your way more often. :)

  7. Yay! A visit to Sweden, looks like I’ll have to go to a convention this fall.

    And hate to be one of those, but a small correction: it’s spelled “Uppsala”

  8. Sheila: Sunspots?

    Nope.

  9. Peter Watts: Nope.

    augrhblarg fiblet tease

    and jpg too. next time svg. nice zooming.

  10. Peter Watts: Nope.

    I was with Sheila on that one too…. grrrrr.

  11. Now that I look back, I see that the file itself actually is called “Sunspots”. The working title of the story, though, is “Hotshot”. So far.

  12. I saw the hotshot title, but thought it may have been a chapter name.

  13. Peter Watts:
    Now that I look back, I see that the file itself actually is called “Sunspots”. The working title of the story, though, is “Hotshot”.So far.

    that reminds me, if I ever do go to a book signing you do, I have to remember to bring the “Hello My Name Is” stickers. then you can change titles at will.

    ereader people will have to wait until you hack in to them to change the titles.

  14. @Whoever, who wrote:

    “The Post-Apocalyptic Survivors, almost all of whom happen to be writers.” [ … ] Someone should write a novella about that.

    Actually, it’s sort of been done. Niven and Pournelle’s Footfall. A totally underrated and/or unheard-of work, I thought it to be one of their best… but about the time it would have been released as a paperback, it became that most dreaded thing in the SF publishing business, “past the expiration date”. A major plot element was tension between the US and the Soviets, and when Gorbachev and Yeltsin happened, that plot element was shot right out of the water. Yet, still, there’s something really “special” about the earth being invaded by technologically-superior pink elephants, and with the surviving military effort being guided by whatever SF writers could be found alive after the invasion force does a rather thorough job of “throw big rocks” at the surface earthlings.

    Totally unsubstantiable rumor (wild and unsupported conjecture, really) is that this somehow morphed into that godawful movie “Independence Day”, making shitpiles of money for certain persons who were rightly too embarrassed to allow their names to appear in the credits.

    @Peter Watts: I think that with those shower controls it has to be pulled or pushed or perhaps bashed with a hammer until it’s replaced with something less baffling, if you want the warm.

    Additionally: Congrats on the praise for Blindsight, I certainly can’t disagree. Truth be told, I’d love to see whatever came out of any writing workshop where they had you, Swanwick, and Egan all sitting at the same table for a weekend.

    Re: Theater Shooter: Not to digress into gun control or lack thereof, the press here in the States have been all over the map on this one. I’m about certain that it’s going to sort out as yet-another case of Jared Loughner, but this time without the extensive internet/WWW/social-media trail. A really rather late case of initial psychotic break into paranoid schizophrenia, in my humble opinion. One might hazard the guess that as a neurology student of some long standing and certainly knowledgeable, he might have recognized symptoms, self-medicated, and still the disorder got the better of him. I do not wish to seem overly sympathetic as a dozen people are dead and dozens more are injured. Yet somehow he made it past all of the checks-and-balances society has placed to identify and sequester persons emerging into that disorder, perhaps because (if this is indeed the case) onset was atypically late. So much for the idea that “no college graduate can be insane because if they go insane, it happens in college and they don’t graduate”.

    Crap, I need to take this to my own blog and not be starting stuff here.

  15. Mr Non-Entity:

    Actually, it’s sort of been done. Niven and Pournelle’s Footfall. A totally underrated and/or unheard-of work, I thought it to be one of their best… but about the time it would have been released as a paperback, it became that most dreaded thing in the SF publishing business, “past the expiration date”. A major plot element was tension between the US and the Soviets, and when Gorbachev and Yeltsin happened, that plot element was shot right out of the water. Yet, still, there’s something really “special” about the earth being invaded by technologically-superior pink elephants, and with the surviving military effort being guided by whatever SF writers could be found alive after the invasion force does a rather thorough job of “throw big rocks” at the surface earthlings.

    I’ll take your word for it, but it sounds like it’s trying to be too many things at once. Maybe that was it’s charm. Guess they could do a rewrite like the reshoot they did with Spiderman 2.

    Totally unsubstantiable rumor (wild and unsupported conjecture, really) is that this somehow morphed into that godawful movie “Independence Day”, making shitpiles of money for certain persons who were rightly too embarrassed to allow their names to appear in the credits.

    There are things that I am sometimes reminded of that make me happy that memory fades. “I belong in the air,” “Up yours!!!” and “DIE!” are three of them. Guess it doesn’t fade fast enough.

  16. @Whoever: the story that Niven & Pournelle tell is that they started writing “Footfall” fairly early on in their collaboration. Then they ran it past their agent, who ran it past the publisher, who latched onto the idea of the aliens dropping a big rock. “Hold everything, that’s the idea. Run with that,” is more or less the word that came back to them. So, they dropped what they were doing, and the result was “Lucifer’s Hammer” which is widely ranked along with “A Canticle for Leibowitz” as one of the works that brought classic SF out of the niche and into the mainstream. For those who hadn’t read it, “Lucifer’s Hammer” was a very straightforward comet-hits-earth story, with a cubic mile of slushy striking at about 25 KMPH, survivable on most of the planet but civilization is, of course, pretty much knocked flat. Much nasty badness ensues. Yet if there was an announcement of an actual impending comet strike, “Lucifer’s Hammer” would be on my “read it right now” bucket list.

    “Footfall” is much the same, except the Big Rock isn’t a really fast comet, but rather a middling-fast asteroid, and it’s not random, it’s a weapon controlled by invading ETs. Still, it reads at least as straight-forwardly as any of the James Bond novels or any of Eric Lustbader’s early work. It’s mainstream fiction for the greater part and while the aliens are alien, they aren’t all that alien other than looking like baby elephants with eight trunks, and having customs that aren’t much more incomprehensible than the Japanese or the French or Canadians or Americans. They make sense, or are made to make sense. The aliens in “Independence Day” don’t make a lot of sense. Nor, for that matter, do the humans. 😉 It’s not really the least bit of a work for intellectuals, it’s more like something written for people who did two enlistments as technicians in the military. Brief explanations, easily absorbed, and then the story moves right along to the next section of might-as-well-be-mainstream exposition.

    I just saw “the Amazing Spiderman” in 3D and while it was worth the $12 US it wasn’t exactly groundbreaking. The final “Dark Knight” release was far better in my opinion, but that might be because I’m a big fan of both Christian Bale and Anne Hathaway as well as of the Batman. People should run right out and see that one. Michael Caine is superlative as always but gives us a few minutes of really exceptional above-and-beyond and probably brings the most star power to the film.