A Hot Time in the Ol’ Town Tonight.

Going over the galleys for Beyond the Rift. Most of these stories I haven’t read since I first wrote them— which means I’m revisiting some of them for the first time in almost a quarter century. Some stand up.  Others, not so much.

“Flesh Made Word”, for example. Third story I ever got published. Got nominated for some dickass Canadian literary award. My earliest neuropunk, and not a bad thematic punchline in principle— but yuck. Overwrought and emo. Like Lisa Simpson’s Meditations on Turning Eight, but without the funny or endearing bits. And the neuro elements were — clunky, to say the least. Anyone interested in tracking my development as a writer through the years might find it valuable as a kind of Wattsian proto-story, containing the crudeiments of themes later explored with greater sophistication.  Revisiting it after all these years, though, I have to wonder why Tachyon chose to include it in a collection presumably meant to be read for pleasure.  I console myself with the thought that Everyone’s gotta start somewhere. (“Nimbus”, on the other hand, dates from about the same time and is also kinda emo— but fares a lot better, IMO.)

In contrast with the past, the future is somewhat brighter. Behold the cover art for Echopraxia, courtesy of one Richard Anderson:

Echocomp

I could quibble over matters of technical consistency— whether a guy in a spacesuit could survive that close to the sun without frying, whether the ship in the painting looks like the ship in the book— but you know what? The ship in this painting looks better than the ship in the book. And I couldn’t care less about anal-retentive nuts and bolts when the overall aesthetic of the cover works so well. We are going to the Sun, rs and Ks.  Whereas the last time out we froze in the infinite Lovecraftian darkness of the Oort, now we are diving into the very heart of the solar system— and man, there’s gonna be a hot time in the ol’ town tonight. That’s what this cover says.

I love it.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Friday September 27 2013at 04:09 pm , filed under Dumbspeech, ink on art . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

39 Responses to “A Hot Time in the Ol’ Town Tonight.”

  1. Much, much better than Blindsight, Peter. That cover sucked so much. Love this one; reminds me of the harder type of New Wave science fiction art of the 60s and 70s, when there was a Cambrian explosion of ideas in writing and in illustration. Yeah, there are some technical issues with this, but it tries; it shoots for some originality and thoughtfulness, not cliche and pop culture. Excellent.

  2. But does it have a space tintinnid? I thought not. Even the original Star Trek had a space tintinnid.

  3. Oh man. This is torture. We have another year to wait until its release?

    Are you willing to part with any of your advance reading copies, or uncorrected proofs? I’m sure there would be quite the bidding war amongst the folks who frequent these boards.

  4. Very cool cover. Is that WaPo review snippet in existence on the Interwebs?

  5. And speaking of “Flesh Made Word”:

    http://www.kurzweilai.net/hawking-predicts-uploading-the-brain-into-a-computer

    Of course I don’t really get what he’s saying. Kurzweil’s book makes it pretty clear what some of the differences are and taking out the neurochem portion sounds like a real bore of an artificial mind.

    Was going to add that emo might not be a bad submarket. I suspect they grow up to be scifi geeks.

  6. Whoever,

    It’s from a capsule review of Blindsight available here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/15/AR2007021501542.html

  7. Dear Mr. Peter Watts,

    Shutup and take my money already. -Sheesh-

    Sincerely,
    Loyal Wattsian subject

  8. ECHOPRAXIA! woo!

    I like the fontface and the kerning in your name and title.

    take with grain of salt. I don’t know about typography don’t ask me about typography.

  9. ken,

    there’s the in progress snippet. it’s not long enough, but mabye it helps.

  10. Mmm, pretty.

    As for ‘guy in a space suit’, I’ll just pretend it’s a ConSensus view of something, I’m not generally too picky on technical accuracy on book covers.

    I’m both relieved and strangely disappointed that the cover wasn’t some kind of depiction of Val the vampire in an improbably sexy spacesuit and some kind of even more improbable big space gun leering over the body of a comrade while fighting an alien beast.

  11. Kevin L.:
    Dear Mr. Peter Watts,

    Shutup and take my money already. -Sheesh-

    Sincerely,
    Loyal Wattsian subject

    What he said.

  12. Peter,

    I am so excited for the new book.

    Seeing the post got me thinking about something.
    I’ve been reading the printsf subreddit a lot lately
    http://www.reddit.com/r/printsf
    (A link to your blog post is actually at the top of the page at the time of this writing).

    Anyways, in my reading of /r/printsf I am seeing Blindsight come up a lot
    when people there are discussing contemporary scifi or making recommendations for more recent novels. Your name consistently is mentioned in the same list as the likes of Stross, Banks, MacLeod, and Reynolds. That is to say: you are consistently mentioned along with what I would consider the top tier of modern scifi writers.

    And that makes me wonder if Blindsight, though met with poor sales initially, might be starting to see some significant growth as more scifi readers get turned on to your work though word of mouth.

    I would guess that Echopraxia will be met with much greater success in terms of sales than Blindsight originally was due to the burgeoning ranks of scifi fans who have been turned on to your work over the last 7 years or so.

    Any thoughts about this? Are more copies of Blindsight selling now-a-days?
    I have bought many copies of this book to give to people, since it is one of my favorites.

    Anyways, I hope the book does well, especially here in America, where I don’t think you get as much respect as your work warrants (a lot IMHO).

  13. I wonder, why there is no back and forth between cover artists and authors. The artist would begin by making a few thumbnail sketches in any case; how hard would it be to have the writer vet them?

    Sheila: I like the fontface and the kerning in your name and title.

    I have to admit, I find the gradient across WATTS somehow fascinating.

  14. Seems to me there’s too much red in there. So, view from a camera running some sort of red filter?


    I wonder, why there is no back and forth between cover artists and authors. The artist would begin by making a few thumbnail sketches in any case; how hard would it be to have the writer vet them?

    Stross explained many publishing mysteries on his blog.
    Basically, usually the writers don’t have much input into covers. It’s something of a privilege to have a say..

  15. geoffrey wall: And that makes me wonder if Blindsight, though met with poor sales initially, might be starting to see some significant growth as more scifi readers get turned on to your work though word of mouth.

    I would guess that Echopraxia will be met with much greater success in terms of sales than Blindsight originally was due to the burgeoning ranks of scifi fans who have been turned on to your work over the last 7 years or so.

    Any thoughts about this?

    My expectation is that Echopraxia will see initial sales way higher than Blindsight‘s were, due to all those years of pent-up anticipation and the strength of Blindsight as a precursor. Then the grumbles will start — It’s okay, but Blindsight was better — and the numbers will decline precipitously.

    Alexey: I have to admit, I find the gradient across WATTS somehow fascinating.

    I don’t think that is a gradient. I bet it’s the same color all the way across, but contrast with the background makes the brain perceive a color shift where none exists. Yet another example of why we can’t trust our senses.

    Which is a theme common to both Blindsight and Echopraxia.

  16. Peter Watts: I don’t think that is a gradient. I bet it’s the same color all the way across, but contrast with the background makes the brain perceive a color shift where none exists. Yet another example of why we can’t trust our senses.

    Which is a theme common to both Blindsight and Echopraxia.

    It is definitely a gradient, but the interaction with the background makes it look very interesting.

    http://i.imgur.com/XGP3HST.png

  17. Peter Watts:I don’t think that is a gradient.I bet it’s the same color all the way across, but contrast with the background makes the brain perceive a color shift where none exists. Yet another example of why we can’t trust our senses.

    Which is a theme common to both Blindsight and Echopraxia.

    MS Paint just confirmed, it is a gradient. However, I took the dark grey from the P in Peter and filled in all of the WATTS letters, it still looks like it has a gradient due to the contrast perception thingy. So I think the artist was just trying to exaggerate the effect. Either way it looks pretty cool.

  18. Y.: Stross explained many publishing mysteries on his blog.
    Basically, usually the writers don’t have much input into covers. It’s something of a privilege to have a say..

    Thanks for the pointer. I found the article. This seems to be the reason writers are not consulted:

    It is a well-understood constant of the publishing world that authors frequently hate their book covers so much that they feel compelled to bring Western Civilization to a crashing halt until they can get a minor detail — the heroine’s hair colour, for example — changed. Ways of coping with this common problem have therefore been developed.

  19. [...] Echopraxia by Peter Watts (2014) — “We are going to the Sun, rs and Ks.  Whereas the last time out we froze in the infinite Lovecraftian darkness of the Oort, now we are diving into the very heart of the solar system— and man, there’s gonna be a hot time in the ol’ town tonight.” [...]

  20. Alexey:
    I have to admit, I find the gradient across WATTS somehow fascinating.

    I missed that at first. It makes the text show up against a dark background. Maybe it was a pragmatic choice.

    Given the fun of pulling out the text to examine, I wonder if the artist would ever release the design file and allow remixes.

  21. Peter: “I could quibble over matters of technical consistency— whether a guy in a spacesuit could survive that close to the sun without frying, whether the ship in the painting looks like the ship in the book— ”

    SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY, BITCH!

    (Tonight the role of Fry was voiced by Aaron Paul)

  22. Although, taking a second look… are we sure that big thing is actually the sun? I mean, despite the curvature, the disc doesn’t extend below the ship (or it it does, the sun gets remarkably dark down there for a big ball of flaming gas).

    Perhaps it’s meant to illustrate some kind of solar flare type effect, coming from the sun (the brightest point) in front of the ship, and it just has a weirdly smooth curve at the point that connects the A and the X. Given some of the stuff in Blindsight, somebody deliberately causing one of those to discourage a ship headed their way doesn’t seem to be out of the question.

    Or maybe the tiny brightest spot was what you meant by the sun all along and I’m the only one who thought you meant the whole big ball of brightness.

  23. We wait in Russian)

  24. Cover art noted. Siezing the associated volume is now a purely spinal relex.
    Waiting for it to show up in $BOOKSHOP is going to be more tedious.

    If you can get your paws on the art for “Beyond the Rift,” we can organise a raiding party for that, too. November is only ’round the corner.

  25. Peter D:
    Although, taking a second look… are we sure that big thing is actually the sun?I mean, despite the curvature, the disc doesn’t extend below the ship (or it it does, the sun gets remarkably dark down there for a big ball of flaming gas).

    Perhaps it’s meant to illustrate some kind of solar flare type effect, coming from the sun (the brightest point) in front of the ship, and it just has a weirdly smooth curve at the point that connects the A and the X.Given some of the stuff in Blindsight, somebody deliberately causing one of those to discourage a ship headed their way doesn’t seem to be out of the question.

    Or maybe the tiny brightest spot was what you meant by the sun all along and I’m the only one who thought you meant the whole big ball of brightness.

    I don’t think there is any question that it is the sun. We know from various snippets Peter has released that there is a mission out to Icarus that is very close to it.

    But I do see your point about the curvature not extending down all the way. To me its looks like something is blocking it though, some part of the ship or station, definatly something is down there.

  26. Oh hey, I just found a higher resolution image on google, 1000×1495 instead of the above 601×908. You can more clrearly what is down in the lower right area.

    And there is a second suited figure in front of the first one, falling down towards some larger structure that is partially covering the sun.

    I had assumed that the cover depicted a ship and in front of that was Icarus. But now I think it is either one long ship through the middle of the image, or 2 seperate ships. And Icarus is some massive structure behind the ship(s) and covering the lower part of the sun.

  27. In ten months, this will be the most deeply analyzed book cover ever.

  28. [...] Echopraxia by Peter Watts (2014) — “We are going to the Sun, rs and Ks.  Whereas the last time out we froze in the infinite Lovecraftian darkness of the Oort, now we are diving into the very heart of the solar system— and man, there’s gonna be a hot time in the ol’ town tonight.” [...]

  29. Awesome! cant wait for dumb spee.. i mean echopraxia :-)

  30. You know — and this is not a complaint — I think you are posting now more that you are officially dark. Then again, contrariness does seem to be a foundational part of your character :-)

  31. Yeah, but look at the kind of posts I’m making: short throwaway bits about artwork or public appearances. No science, no analysis, nothing crunchy. (Like, for example, these recent studies on the effect of gaming and fiction on brain activity, which hopefully I’ll get around to talking about before the end of the month). To do a proper post — more than tub-thumping or show-and-tell — generally takes me about eight hours, once you factor in time to read the papers, time to read the commentaries on papers (to ensure I’m actually adding something to the conversation), and the usual insecure hand-wringing. That’s a solid day, and you don’t see me with that kind of time when I’m under a deadline.

    Let alone four of them.

  32. Off-topic coolness

    Dancing zombie squid dinner dish:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dxQmOR_QLfQ

  33. Whoever,

    Too bad, it is not a dancing zombie vampire squid.

  34. Whoever,

    woohoo, off-topic sea creature time.

    You wanna see some jellies getting their shit fucked up? Yeah. You do.

  35. I’m a little surprised there’s no mention of Phol’s death.

  36. Yep, Pohl is gone.

    Canadian Alice Munro wins Literary Pulitzer. Congrats Big White North:

    http://www.montrealgazette.com/touch/story.html?id=9020517

  37. (Guess that should have been Great White North, but you know, Harper and whatnot).

  38. Holy shit! How did I miss this?

  39. [...] ~ Peter Watts [...]