The Turgid-Cat Tapes: English Transcript

I’ve just been informed that the original English exchange between myself and Marcin Zwierzchowski has been posted as a pdf over at Poltergeist; previously, only the Polish translation was online. You may find some nuggets there you haven’t seen before. Marcin didn’t quite manage to coax any confessions from me about my closet animal-snuff fetish, but at least you’ll find out why I don’t write fantasy.

In the meantime, I’m still working on Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Things.  I’m at the stage of having realised that my first draft was utter crap (which I knew anyway), why it was crap (which I had a vague, maddeningly-unspecific sense of before, but no schematics), and how to fix it (which I figured out yesterday).  Only one nagging question remains:

How many of you wondered exactly why misshapen dogs would sprout from the thorax of Big Honking Monster-Thing during its attack on MacReady at the end of the film?  How many of you care?

Because I’ve got an answer to that.  I really do.  I just don’t know if it’s worth a whole scene just to get it out there.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Friday May 29 2009at 06:05 am , filed under ink on art, interviews, public interface . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

23 Responses to “The Turgid-Cat Tapes: English Transcript”

  1. Re: The Thing that is a good question. When they burn them earlier in the film it made more sense (the creature is attempting to find the correct form to avoid death and pain or simply losing control of itself as it dies). At the end attack, no idea.

    Re: Dandelions. That is interesting. I was watching History Channel two nights ago (the channel formerly known as the Hitler channel, now known as the disaster/UFO/monster channel) and there was a show on jellyfish. The most deadly of these (also the most poisonous known creature on the planet they said), the Australian Box Jellyfish, has eyes but no brain to speak of. The top researcher on the breed has used colored poles and they can apparently discern color. It immediately made me think of the scramblers and I assumed you based them off of it. 😉 Link to the episode playlist at History.com:

    http://www.history.com/video.do?name=monsterquest&bcpid=1541043106&bclid=1740033140&bctid=1740029343

  2. “But the main focus, this time through, is on the neurological underpinnings of religious belief. State Of Grace endeavors to do to God (and to the Singularity, I suppose) what Blindsight did to self-awareness.”

    A very interesting topic! If I remember correctly, Sam Harris (author of The End of Faith) is doing research on finding a neurological basis for religion/god(s). And, since reading about it, I have kind of become fascinated by it. Which is why I’m looking forward to your new book coming out! Maybe this book will do what 250 years of overwhelming evidence couldn’t: kill god (in all of its 2850 forms). Well, one can only hope!

  3. “In the meantime, I’m still working on Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Things.”

    Tom Stoppard and Peter Watts together… how dare you tease!

  4. I think an explanation of the dog bit at the end is worth it. Now I’ll spend the rest of the morning trying to guess what your explanation is.

  5. Why do you want me to beg, for the love of god man publish. I hunger for more good reads.

  6. Additionally, I am confused.
    Aren’t you working on something like three projects?
    The vampire post-blindsight thing,
    The blue collar workers for the posthuman future ftl thing,
    and the thing thing?


  7. Peter Watts:
    Marcin didn’t quite manage to coax any confessions from me about my closet animal-snuff fetish, but at least you’ll find out why I don’t write fantasy.
    .

    Now, we know there is no such thing as animal-snuff fetish. Snuff is about death, more human is better, right ?

    I’ve read (and enjoyed) Rifters trilogy, and Blindsight. I haven’t particularly enjoyed bits of snuff porn in it, though I did enjoy Desjardins’ quite rational chain of thought explaining why him being a sadist was not his fault. There’s not much evidence we choose our fetishes.

    Thus I came to believe that Mr.Watts knows lot more about sadism than average male, and his knowledge is hardly just academic.
    Then there’s the air he exudes, that demeanour of his … and the beings into whose heads he tries to get in his fiction..

    There is a pattern there. We write about what interests us.
    Greg Egan writes about fictional physics, biochemistry, computing, Iain M.Banks has his fairytale communist neverwhere, Morgan has his noir setting, tough guy protagonists and omnipresent corporations. But I’ve never encountered such extensive description of paraphilia in another sf book.
    It could’ve all been Mr.Watts preparing fertile ground for more sermons about conscience, but why then he wrote about learning a few interesting knots at some sort of pervert meeting on his site?

    But it doesn’t really matter, unless cleaning up after his hobbies involves discreet corpse disposal.

    I’m disappointed I can’t confirm or overturn suspicions of mine without a felony or two..unless abucting midlist sf writers at sawed-off shotgun point, tying them to chairs and interrogating them gently but persistently is legal in Canada.

    Anyway, I wish Peter good luck with his writing, I can’t wait for State of Grace.

  8. Speaking of Poles and Blindsight… I’d like to offer a book recommendation to readers of this blog: Stanislaw Lem’s _The Invincible_. Written in 1964, it tells a story of a first encounter with what I can only compare to Stargate-style replicators: a breed of machine intelligence composed of self-assembling networks of insect-like microbots with no consciousness and debatable intelligence (they exhibit emergent behaviors that depend on the size of the swarms). The insect swarms even use electromagnetic pulses to influence the minds of the human crew. I think it can be viewed as a proto-Blindsight, although the main emphasis of the work is different. the style and characterization seemed a bit flat to me but it’s s till en engrossing read if only for being so ahead of its time in terms of speculation.

  9. Yep. Recommendation seconded. Great read.

  10. Quick question: Could you recommend some good references on “cognitive subspecies”? Thanks!

    PS Dark energy is not really a new idea – in its most basic (and hence, by Occam’s razor, today’s preferred) implementation it is just a rebranding of Einstein’s cosmological constant.

  11. Lem is always worth recommending;]

  12. Questions I have about the thing – when the thing is being one of the crew, how does it tell if anyone else is another thing?

    While Blair is locked away building the escape saucer, do the things in the common area know what he/it’s doing? Are they linked? Are they running interference and cooperating – since “each part is a whole” where does self sacrifice come into it protecting the greater objective of reaching civilization?

    If one thing is captured and burns, then it seems likely another undiscovered thing would join in in its immolation to retain its cover. While Palmer is sitting tied to the chair waiting for MacReady to still the hot wire into his blood sample, is he trying to “pheramonally” negotiate with the cells in the dish to convince them not to flee from the needle? Is that why he waits until the absolute last moment to transform into his defensive/aggressive mode?

  13. I apologize for my earlier posting.
    I need some sort of breathalyzer linked to my internet connection device to prevent this sort of thing from happening.

    Kicking deathmatch drinking games wouldn’t hurt either.

  14. Outsider sighs heavily and says: I need some sort of breathalyzer linked to my internet connection device

    Well, internet posting IS the drunk dial of the 21st century.

  15. Outsiderremarks:

    I came to believe that Mr.Watts knows lot more about sadism than average male, and his knowledge is hardly just academic.

    Dude, sadism is academic. I spent ten years in grad school; you will be hard-pressed to find a purer domain of S&M than at the average thesis defense.

  16. Seruko Said:

    Aren’t you working on something like three projects? The vampire post-blindsight thing,
    The blue collar workers for the posthuman future ftl thing, and the thing thing?

    Those first two projects are novels. They’ve been outlined and partially written. There’s also a third novel, “Intelligent Design”, which is outlined but unwritten to any degree. The Thing thing is just a short story, and the toughest fucking slog of a short story I’ve ever undertaken (I am taking a 10-minute break from it right now, in fact, to write this comment).

    There is also a fourth potential chunk of work coming down the pike which I cannot talk about yet, but it’s different from all the above.

    I don’t know yet if any of these proposed/outlined/partially-written novels will ever see print. Only one of them has been officially pitched so far, and it doesn’t look good at this point; apparently there are some nasty politics involved in which a potential offer by one party is being actively squashed by another. But it’s been a while since I’ve heard anything, and I’m too busy at the moment to pursue it.

  17. Michael Grosberg Said:

    Speaking of Poles and Blindsight… I’d like to offer a book recommendation to readers of this blog: Stanislaw Lem’s _The Invincible_.

    I haven’t read nearly as much Lem as I should have. I discovered Solaris back when I was 13 years old and it blew me away. The Cyberiad was pretty damn cool as well. But I keep hearing people talk about various Lem stories that sound way ahead of their time (One in particular: a woman obsessing on the man she’s romantically pursuing, only it turns out she’s actually some kind of killer cyborg who conceptualises the extermination of her targets in romantic terms?)

  18. John Henning asked a lot of questions about Thingian Headspace.

    And I can answer them! I can answer them all! I have written over ten thousand words so far, dealing with exactly these issues! (Palmer, for example, willingly sacrificed himself to give the Humans a false sense of security regarding the effectiveness of MacReady’s blood test; in fact, it doesn’t always work, and I’m postulating a couple of new Thing takeovers that the movie doesn’t really address.)

    But none of that may show up in the final draft, because just yesterday I threw everything out and started off yet again.

    This is a tough mother of a story to compose. I may never get it right.

  19. Peter Watts wrote:
    This is a tough mother of a story to compose. I may never get it right.

    It’s sounds very good already.

    Peter Watts wrote:
    (One in particular: a woman obsessing on the man she’s romantically pursuing, only it turns out she’s actually some kind of killer cyborg who conceptualises the extermination of her targets in romantic terms?)

    I wonder if Coppola (the son) was inspired by this to add it to his movie CQ?

  20. Many thanks for your above reply.


  21. Dude, sadism is academic. I spent ten years in grad school; you will be hard-pressed to find a purer domain of S&M than at the average thesis defense.

    I don’t believe so. What about these venues
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BDSM#Parties_and_clubs ?

  22. Not related to anything else on this page, but delightfully reminiscient of Rowan’s contacts: http://gizmodo.com/5276163/eyeglass+mounted-display-tracks-eye-movements-to-manipulate-data.

  23. Peter revealed: “…about my closet animal-snuff fetish, but at least you’ll find out why I don’t write fantasy.”

    “Animal-snuff” fetish? Hmm. Well, I have seen road kill, but I suppose that is not the same thing though.

    Peter asked: “How many of you wondered exactly why misshapen dogs would sprout from the thorax of Big Honking Monster-Thing during its attack on MacReady at the end of the film?”

    I knew Snake Plissken could handle himself, eye patch or not…those poor Husky and Malamute dogs got stuck in the cage with the “weird behaving Norwegian dog” that looked like a black and white Alaskan Malamute, but anyway, that is one of my favorite movies by John Carpenter (The Fog is another one)-what a crazy shapeshifting life form. Speaking of crazy shapeshifting “life forms” taking over other life forms, I recently watched a movie called “Splinter”, and that thing was some sort of heat seeking fungus life form that reanimated animals and humans, as well as metabolized and reshaped the body, usually to extremely painful and opposite directional physicality…