A Bauble for Blindsight, a Drum Roll for Dumbspeech

It’s been posted, so now it can be told: Blindsight won this year’s Seiun for best translated novel in Japan. Which means that as of now, that book has won two or three more awards in other languages than it was even nominated for in English.  Maybe I should take a hint from that. Maybe I should just give up on you Anglophones and start writing in Polish.

This disparity over domestic vs. imported awards makes it pretty obvious that I owe a big debt to translators in half a dozen countries. (In this particular case I think I also owe a big debt to China Miéville, who had the audacity to get two of his novels nominated in the same category. I suspect he would have taken home the prize easily if the China vote hadn’t thus been split, allowing Blindsight to cruise up the middle.) If you’ve bothered to click the link, you’ll note that acknowledgment of this debt takes up a good chunk of my acceptance speech. The remainder consists of me setting up my translators to take half the blame if Echopraxia crashes and burns.

But I’m starting to suspect, my usual depressive realism notwithstanding, that Echopraxia might not tank after all. I’ve already bragged about the Publisher’s Weekly review; since then, Library Journal and Kirkus have also weighed in. The LJ verdict is rosy enough—

…Watts welds philosophy and science in original ways. His novels are interested in not only the possibilities of technology but the nature of sentience and humanity. This is not an easy read, but just as you think it will be another discussion of religion and postsingularity intelligences in the ship’s galley, action breaks out. VERDICT The danger of hard sf is that the writing can sometimes seem clinical and dry, but Watts manages to keep his prose lush even when serving high-concept science. This book is quite an achievement and should appeal to those who enjoy the works of Ian MacDonald and Hannu Rajaniemi.

—but the Kirkus review— man, Kirkus just raves:

A paranoid tale that would make Philip K. Dick proud, told in a literary style that should seduce readers who don’t typically enjoy science fiction.

… Watts’ nihilistic meditation on evolution and adaptation is by turns disturbing and gorgeous, with a biologist’s understanding of nature’s indifference. If at times it’s hard to separate what is part of the vampire’s or monks’ plans and what is simply horrifying catastrophe, that also feels thematically appropriate.

This scientifically literate thriller’s tight prose and plot create an existential uneasiness that lingers long after the book’s end.

This is the nicest thing Kirkus has ever said about any of my books. Even when Kirkus likes my stuff (and they don’t always, in case I have to remind you about their “horrific porn” assessment of behemoth: Seppuku), they generally find something to complain about: Starfish‘s “poor organization [and] drifting points of view”, or Blindsight‘s “several complications too many”. But for Echopraxia, they have nothing but praise.

I feel a fall coming on.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Saturday July 19 2014at 03:07 pm , filed under Dumbspeech, writing news . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

16 Responses to “A Bauble for Blindsight, a Drum Roll for Dumbspeech

  1. I think you may have actually freaked out the Kirkus reviewer. “… disturbing and gorgeous…” and a close comparison to Philip K Dick? I guess that’s the sound of gushing praise bubbling up from a very dark cave you took then into. Congratulations from all over! Looking forward to buying a hardcopy.

  2. Hooray for you, Peter. As an author I feel one should take whatever praise is offered, irrespective of origin, and shout it as loudly as possible.

  3. Re: closing sentence, play on Rorschach’s Watchmen monologue:

    Author goes to doctor. Says he’s feeling giddy. Says reviews are raving. Says he feels sense of accomplishment, doesn’t trust it. Doctor says, “Treatment is simple. There’s a new dystopian novel coming out tonight by Peter Watts. Go read it if your will to live is too strong. That should bring you down.” Man bursts into laughter. Says, “But doctor… I am Peter Watts.”

  4. Congratu-well-earned-lations! Can’t wait to read it!

  5. Who chooses these translators?

    There probably are good ones out there, but mostly I’ve learned to dread opening translated books, as very often the translation is shoddy.

  6. @whoever:
    Curse you! My keyboard now has a mouthful of coffee sprayed over it.

  7. It could be easier going English->other languages than the reverse. Not due to any special ease of the languages themselves, but due to the overall media saturation of the English language. In plenty of countries, you’re going to find native speakers of the language who also speak English pretty well flawlessly and idiomatically, not just among people who study to be translators, but also people who are themselves writers with a feel for the flow of the language and so writing equivalent passages in their own tongue that still read like a writer wrote them. You’ll find the same combination of skills going other languages->English as well, but… not as many.

  8. Damn. Those are some upbeat reviews, Peter. You’re going to have to go brutally nihilistic in your next novel or readers might start smiling, whistling Disney tunes, and having nice, sunny days.

    Don’t let it happen!

    Human evolution itself might be affected.

    Congratulations, though. I can’t wait to get my hardcover copy.

  9. I feel a fall coming on.

    And here I thought you weren’t into magical thinking. :-)

  10. I usually think of my fellow Polish people in the lowest terms possible. But somehow, when I’ve read in a preface to Starfish that You got better reception in Poland, than in English-speaking world, it makes me proud.

    But perhaps it is not as surprising. People in Poland got a lot of shitty years of governmental attempts at total control over people. Perhaps dark S-F has a familiar vibe for us… And You are amazing in depicting such worlds.

  11. Didn’t realize that there even was an ISFDB. Found it searching out info on this Hannu Rajaniemi fellow:

    http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?6411

  12. ^

    Maybe I should go and check Blindsight’s translation.
    Should be pretty good, as it was translated by a published and pretty accomplished(parochially speaking) writer. Who has a day job as a neurologist.

    Interesting to note that after translating the book she came down with leukemia, but is now apparently doing better, following bone marrow transplantation.

    Still tempted to track down the dude who translated Game of Thrones and was so.. distracted that he translated ‘league’, the unit of length as if it meant the organisational kind.. it’s as if no one even bothered to proof-read the translation.

  13. whoever: Re: closing sentence, play on Rorschach’s Watchmen monologue:

    Very meta. But my face isn’t quite as symmetrical as Rorschach’s.

    Doubter: And here I thought you weren’t into magical thinking.

    Dude, you’re talking to a guy who got flesh-eating disease from a medical biopsy. In my case, expecting the worse isn’t magical thinking; it’s empiricism.

    Grzegorz…somehow, when I’ve read in a preface to Starfish that You got better reception in Poland, than in English-speaking world, it makes me proud.

    Seriously, my stuff has found favor in more jurisdictions than I ever expected— but the Poles have been the kindest of the lot, no question. (The Germans, now… I tremble with fear every time I get a royalty statement from those guys. Given my numbers over there, I’m surprised they even bought Echopraxia.)

    Y.: Maybe I should go and check Blindsight’s translation.
    Should be pretty good, as it was translated by a published and pretty accomplished(parochially speaking) writer. Who has a day job as a neurologist.

    What, my Polish translator? I had no idea. Where did you dig that up?

  14. Peter Watts: Very meta.But my face isn’t quite as symmetrical as Rorschach’s.

    Well, in the original it’s Rorschach telling a joke about a hopeless sad clown who can cheer anyone up but himself. Most definitely not intending to compare you to either.

    Just glad I my no-articles, single verb tense, 3rd person writing phase is over. ;)

  15. Peter Watts,

    What, my Polish translator? I had no idea. Where did you dig that up?

    No, your Czech* translator – Mudr. Jana Řečková.

    I’ve never seen the translation, but as you mentioned the awesome work the translators have done in other countries, I was interested in checking who translated Blindsight..

    *of Blindsight. Crysis: Legion was translated and published by someone else.

  16. “Blindsight” is AWESOME. Just because some people don’t get it doesn’t change that it is an amazing piece of writing, sci-fi, and art. The awards from other countries only prove my opinion. Remember, the audience tried to stone Stravinsky for The Rite of Spring.

    My husband and I have only managed to finish 4 podcasts on Science Fiction but 2 of them were devoted to Blindsight. They are at wwww.sciencefictionfirst.com if you want to hear us bitch about how underrated Blindsight is.