But Not the Part Where Everyone Gets Burned Alive.

“The Colonel”, my Echopraxia tie-in, is slotted to go live at Tor.com over the next couple of days.  I thought I’d give you a bit of a preview, in between checking out Snowpiercer and going my sixth round with the Russian bureaucracy.

I don’t know whether Tor’s planning on luring anyone in with a teaser excerpt, but if they do I’m guessing it might highlight the opening action-packed tewwowist-hive-mind-immolating scenes. So, in contrast, I thought I’d serve up something a bit more boring (and more thematically representative).

No points if you can guess who this is:

 

This global survey, this threat-assessment of hived minds: it’s not his only assignment. It’s only his most recent. A dozen others idle in the background, only occasionally warranting examination or update. Realist incursions into the UKapelago; a newly-separatist Baptist Convention, building their armed gyland on the high seas. The occasional court-martial of some antique flesh-and-blood infantry whose cybernetic augments violate the Rules of Engagement. They all sit in his queue, pilot-lit, half-forgotten. They’ll flag him if they need his attention.

But there’s one candle the Colonel has never forgotten, though it hasn’t flickered for the better part of a decade. It, too, is programmed to call out in the event of any change in status. He checks it anyway, daily. Now— back for a couple of days in the large empty apartment he kept even after his wife went to Heaven— he checks it again.

No change.

He puts his inlays to sleep, takes grateful refuge in the silence that fills his head once the overlays and the status reports stop murmuring through his temporal lobe. He grows belatedly aware of a real sensation, the soft tick of claws on the tiles behind him. He turns and glimpses a small furry black-and-white face before it ducks out of sight around the corner.

The Colonel adjourns to the kitchen.

Zephyr’s willing to let the apartment feed him— he pretty much has to be, given the intermittent availability of his human servant— but he doesn’t like it much. He refused outright at first, rendered psychotic by some cross-species dabbler who must have thought it would be enlightening or transcendent or just plain cute to “share consciousness” with a small soul weighing in at one-tenth the synapse count. The Colonel tries to imagine what that kind of forced fusion must have been like: thrust into a maelstrom of incomprehensible thought and sensation, blinding as a naked sun; thrown back into stunned bleeding darkness once some narcissistic god got bored and cut the connection.

Zephyr hid in the closet for weeks after the Colonel brought him home, hissed and spat at the sight of sockets and fiberop and the low-slung housecleaner trundling quietly on its rounds. After two years his furry little brain has at least rejigged the cost/benefit stats for the kibble dispenser in the kitchen but he’s still more phantom than fur, still mostly visible only from the corner of the eye. He can be coaxed into the open if he’s hungry and if the Colonel is very still; he still recoils at physical contact. The Colonel indulges him, and pretends not to notice the ragged fraying of the armrest on the living room couch. He doesn’t even have the heart to get the socket removed from the patch of twisted scar tissue on Zephyr’s head. No telling what post-traumatic nightmares might be reawakened by a trip to the vet.

Now he fills the kibble bowl and stands back the requisite two meters. (This is progress; just six months ago he could never stray closer than three.) Zephyr creeps into the kitchen, nose twitching, eyes darting to every corner.

The Colonel hopes that whoever inflicted that torment went on to try more exotic interfaces once they got bored with mammals. A cephalopod, perhaps. By all accounts, things get a lot less cuddly when you go B2B with a Pacific octopus.

At least Human hives can lay claim to mutual consent. At least its members choose the violence they inflict on themselves, the emergence of some voluntary monster from the pool of all those annihilated identities. If only it stopped there. If only the damage ended where the hive did.

His son’s candle slumbers in its own little corner of his network, a pilot light in purgatory. Zephyr glances around with every second bite, still fearful of some Second Coming.

The Colonel knows how he feels.

Oh, yes.  It's relevant.

Oh, yes. It’s very relevant.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Saturday July 26 2014at 08:07 am , filed under fiblet . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

43 Responses to “But Not the Part Where Everyone Gets Burned Alive.”

  1. What IS that?

  2. Aw. Poor kitty. Now that depresses me seriously, mostly because no doubt someone will eventually do it.

    Nice graphic! Satellite view of the Hive and its pet tornado?

  3. Who would triumph in a battle of wits, a human hive-mind, or a vampire?

  4. Squee, outstanding, and so forth, and so on. Cannot wait for the appetizer and even less for the main course. Thanks for this fiblet amuse bouche to tide us over.

  5. @ShipOfTheseus: the vampire gets its ass handed to it, but not without making its presence felt.

  6. Any idea why Amazon UK says Firefall/Echopraxia’s UK Kindle release date has been pushed back to September? Even though the UK hardcover is out in August?

  7. if only Desjardins was around to avenge kitteh.

  8. Terry,

    I think it’s the Bicamerals’ compound in the desert. That swirly thing is the artificial tornado mentioned in the opening.

  9. Will there be any kind of reading alternative other than e-books for this in future?

  10. Ben,

    Amazon Germany still has 2014-08-26 for the english version.

  11. Martin, that date is for the US English version (Echopraxia). The German listing for the version localised into UK English (in the UK we use the term ‘Firefall’ for what North Americans call ‘Echopraxia’) says September 15th.

    I can buy the UK version in hardback for £17, or the UK ‘airports’ edition (which is a paperback, and apparently you can buy it through Amazon UK even if you’re not in an airport) for £13.51, and get either one on August 14th. But it will take Head of Zeus, the UK publisher, another month to get it onto Kindle.

    I tried to signal my displeasure at the delay of the UK Kindle version by ordering the US print edition instead. Amazon will sell it to me for only £12.95, in hardback, BUT their delivery date is September 17th, even though the US release date is August 26th. It’s almost as if there’s some kind of sinister, anti-competitive cartel at work here trying to maintain an illusion of consumer choice – well, I know there are several in publishing, I just don’t know which one in particular to blame for this.

    I will probably end up buying the US edition through some kind of dodgy ebay only reseller. I think there’s a lesson here about capitalism being bad or good, or something.

  12. I just pre-ordered this a few minutes ago, can’t wait to read the whole thing!

    Kind of off topic, but interesting nonetheless: it looks like Behemoth is getting re-released in ebook form next month. Even more interesting is they’re still keeping it split into two books.

    http://us.macmillan.com/behemothbmax/PeterWatts#buy-the-book

  13. Terry,

    Aerial view of the Bicameral Monks compound, with their ‘pet tornado’, which is their energy generation system.

  14. @Bahumat: Re “pet tornado”

    R.A. Lafferty once wrote a very amusing short story about a fellow who wanted to try to develop an experimental hydroponics farm to be operated in the deep desert under a plastic canopy. However, he mistakenly orders an immense amount of plastic which he wanted in sheet film, but which arrived as 1000-meter by 80-meter tubes neatly folded and wound onto rolls and shipped as such. I seem to recall that he had a stack of 50 or so.

    Unwinding one of the rolls, a bit of air got into it, and developed a hot-air-balloon effect. He pulled one such tube through another, and sealed the ends together so that he had a very elongated torus, which tried to float away until he anchored one end to the ground. Amazingly, heated air from ground level rushed up the center of this strange hot-air balloon, with great force. Eventually he got the idea to put a fan and a generator at the bottom and used that to power his facility, and after ordering even bigger tubes reaching far greater heights, he was able to collect condensation and finally got his hydroponic farm in the desert.

    The Monks’ “vortex engine” immediately reminded me of this story, though clearly the mechanism is quite different. FWIW that was one of Lafferty’s last few stories published in _analog_ or JFSF, don’t recall which, nor the title.

  15. So very short. How much longer do I have to wait for echoprax?

  16. Ben:
    Martin, that date is for the US English version (Echopraxia). The German listing for the version localised into UK English (in the UK we use the term ‘Firefall’ for what North Americans call ‘Echopraxia’) says September 15th.

    I can buy the UK version in hardback for £17, or the UK ‘airports’ edition (which is a paperback, and apparently you can buy it through Amazon UK even if you’re not in an airport) for £13.51, and get either one on August 14th. But it will take Head of Zeus, the UK publisher, another month to get it onto Kindle.

    I tried to signal my displeasure at the delay of the UK Kindle version by ordering the US print edition instead. Amazon will sell it to me for only £12.95, in hardback, BUT their delivery date is September 17th, even though the US release date is August 26th. It’s almost as if there’s some kind of sinister, anti-competitive cartel at work here trying to maintain an illusion of consumer choice – well, I know there are several in publishing, I just don’t know which one in particular to blame for this.

    I will probably end up buying the US edition through some kind of dodgy ebay only reseller. I think there’s a lesson here about capitalism being bad or good, or something.

    Ben,

    You may want to look at thebookdepository.com. They ship worldwide with free shipping, and I think they are based in the UK anyway. I used to order UK versions of books from them all the time. A few UK authors, one in particular (PFH), well his editors would ‘Americanize’ his US editions. Lorry would become truck, boot to trunk, shoppe to shop… that kind of stuff. It realy pissed me off, they were ripping the cultural flavor out of the books. They have stopped doing this, for now, probobly due to increased costs, or maybe common sense kicked in?

  17. Just read the whole thing, feeling super enthusiastic for the novel.

    Imagining I’m Siri Keeton as hard as I can.

  18. The story at Tor.com is online now.

  19. How come Siri Keeton’s father bears the surname Moore?

  20. Matrilineal geneological system.


  21. Matrilineal geneological system.

    Kinda weird. Did Col. Moore let his son be named thus because of the disability .. or something in that vein?

    Military men are rarely feminists. The few I know are all pretty right-wing.

  22. Ben,

    Interesting – I wasn’t aware that there are UK- and US-english versions of english eBooks. The price difference is notable: €9,99 and €6,01. And it’s 384 or 720 pages. %-|

  23. Martin Schröder,

    Different publishers for the UK (Head of Zeus) and US (Tor), though I’ve read comments (by Charles Stross?) that the basic files for books may sometimes be shared. In this case, though, I think the UK edition “Firefall” is an omnibus of Blindsight and Echopraxia.
    I suppose they feel they are rebooting Peter’s profile in the UK, and don’t want to sell a stand-alone Echopraxia without Blindsight being available in print. But I wonder if by changing the title they’re missing out on some of the internet buzz and failing to piggyback on the Echopraxia promotion campaign.

    As an Australian, I’m in the UK market part of the world. The amazon.com website knows where I live, so if I’m logged in I can buy the US hardcover of Echopraxia but, due to regional restrictions, not the US ebook. This American website will sell me the UK ebook of Firefall. I can get Firefall in paper from amazon.co.uk, but can’t get any ebooks from there.

  24. ShipOfTheseus:
    Who would triumph in a battle of wits, a human hive-mind, or a vampire?

    It depends on the size and latency of the hive. Some are conscious. Some are not.

    Red Scharlach:
    Will there be any kind of reading alternative other than e-books for this in future?

    I do not know. There was some interest in bundling it with the UK omnibus, but Tor owns the rights for a solid year and Tor is a jealous bitch.

    Seruko:
    So very short. How much longer do I have to wait for echoprax?

    As of this comment? Twenty-seven days. But there will be lots of copies available; everyone else will be lining up to buy “Lock In”.

    Chris J.: Kind of off topic, but interesting nonetheless: it looks like Behemoth is getting re-released in ebook form next month. Even more interesting is they’re still keeping it split into two books.

    I had no idea.

    Those people never tell me anything.

    Sheila:
    if only Desjardins was around to avenge kitteh.

    Yes! If only!

    Y.: Kinda weird. Did Col. Moore let his son be named thus because of the disability .. or something in that vein?

    Military men are rarely feminists. The few I know are all pretty right-wing.

    Nah, this isn’t a personal-choice thing. By the 2090s, the WestHem societal default for such things is matrilineal. There’s a quote in Blindsight, something like “Mothers love their children more than fathers because they are more sure they are their own.” Of course, genetic testing renders that pretty much moot, but in the absence of biotech matrilineal record-keeping has always made more sense.

  25. Chris J.:
    I just pre-ordered this a few minutes ago, can’t wait to read the whole thing!

    Kind of off topic, but interesting nonetheless: it looks like Behemoth is getting re-released in ebook form next month. Even more interesting is they’re still keeping it split into two books.

    http://us.macmillan.com/behemothbmax/PeterWatts#buy-the-book

    Looking at Amazon it seems they are still split, and Starfish is coming out for Kindle in September.

  26. Of course, genetic testing renders that pretty much moot, but in the absence of biotech matrilineal record-keeping has always made more sense.

    Paternity testing is illegal in France and Germany.. and certain feminists claim that that is a good thing, as paternity tests supposedly ‘take away women’s choice’.

    Also, I note that matrilineality, is more of an exception. Quite uncommon. Some tribes practice it, but it’s worth noting that many more societies which were once matrilineal (Han, for example ceased using it 3000 years ago) have moved on from that.

  27. The Tor-MacMillan shop is a mess, and I’m not crazy in love with Amazon.
    Any viable source to buy Echopraxia in DRM-free ebook anyone cares to recommend ?

  28. Mr Non-Entity,

    That Wikipedia reference is so very sad. $70K bid, for a life’s work.

    “In March 2011, it was announced in Locus that the copyrights to 29 Lafferty novels and 225 short stories were up for sale. A bid of $US 70,000 has been received, per the Lafferty Estate”

    There a couple of titles available at Gutenburg
    http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/search/?query=r.+a.+lafferty
    I should read them just to get a sense of his work. Before, say, someone in film buys the lot out of pocket change, and creates something that in no way resembles his work.

  29. AcD: When I bought books from tor/macmilan (like john scalzi) via google play store and from kobo I have gotten unencrypted epubs. The play store does state weather a book is drm free or not, so It’s hard to know in advance. Kobo states the format as drm-free epub, but they doesn’t have any peter watts (or I can’t find them, their search is ridiculously bad).

    Does anyone know if you get unencrypted mobi’s from amazon if they are from tor?

    The price of Echopraxia as ebook varies widely, from $11.5 for firefall kindle, $13.3 Echopraxia kindle to $22 for a google play epub (via SEK for me). I have no idea if peter gets more from the $22 than he does from the $11.

  30. Just downloaded and read the full story. It’s great to be back in the world of Blindsight, and it’s an exciting teaser all the way around. Really looking forward to the impending release of the full book. Thanks!

  31. I bought Blindsight (I got it from rifters.com when I read it) from google play just to test and that one was unencrypted at least. Immediately afterwards I felt bad for the price (20sek!), so I put a more reasonable amount to the cat (the donation thing is very hard to find on this page, I had to google it).

  32. I know Echopraxia is touted as a sidequel to Blindsight, but is the book in the same timeframe as Blindsight? Blindsight happens in 2082, does Echopraxia take place in the same year?

    If so I wonder if you could read the 2 books at the same time? read a few chapters from Blindsight, then a few from Echopraxia, then…

    I was planning on re-reading Blindsight a couple of weeks before Echopraxia comes out, I’m not fresh on the characters or detailed events anymore.

  33. Thanks for the info, “tornado,” check. I just read the story at Tor and don’t remember any tornado…do you mean in the opening of Echopraxia? Nebre mind, I’ve pre-ordered it already, I will check it out then!

  34. I believe the events take place after the actiony events related in Blindsight, but the end of the book reveals that events in Blindsight are told in short periods over gaps of several years as Siri is briefly woken to repair cell damage… so it might technically take place during Siri’s narration.

    Even so, I don’t think the “alternate chapters” strategy completely works. Judging by this excerpt, it’s possible a “every time the book mentions a specific part of Siri’s narration, read up till that point” strategy might work.

  35. Markus: The price of Echopraxia as ebook varies widely, from $11.5 for firefall kindle, $13.3 Echopraxia kindle to $22 for a google play epub (via SEK for me). I have no idea if peter gets more from the $22 than he does from the $11.

    “Firefall” is an omnibus of both Blindsight and Echopraxia, for the UK market. With, as far as I know, spaceship art by yours truly.

    Jeremy C: If so I wonder if you could read the 2 books at the same time? read a few chapters from Blindsight, then a few from Echopraxia, then…

    No no no! Echopraxia takes up 14 years after Firefall, maybe 12 after Theseus launches. So at least seven years after the events in Blindsight take place (also Siri is presumably still narrating Blindsight in fits and starts during the course of this tale, and after). And while Echopraxia stands on its own, you’ll get a lot more out of it if you’ve read Blindsight all the way through first.

    Try alternating chapters and you’re in for a world o’hurt.

  36. What’s a gyland? I can’t figure it out from the context, and Google thinks it’s a village in Norway.

  37. I am a little confused. In “Colonel” Moore is shocked to receive bits and pieces of Siri’s transmission because this seem to be the first news he got from Thesius. Looks like the transmission is the text of “Blindsight”, that Siri started dictating on his way back.
    But during the events of “Blindsight”, when they were first meeting the aliens, wasn’t Siri supposed to regularly write and send reports to keep the Earth up to date on their whole misadventure, wasn’t that his entire job? Did the Earth never receive those reports? Were they kept so secret that even Moore knew nothing about them? It this something that will be explained in Echoh… Echophra… in the new book?

  38. Re: the taming of a tornado. Not for the sake of generating energy, and not sure if it works or is just an artsy joke, but maybe worth mentioning anyway:

    http://we-make-money-not-art.com/archives/2014/07/the-weather-war.php#.U9uF46Pzmlo

  39. Popping in to make sure people know that they can strip DRM off of amazon books using Calibre.

  40. Sheila,

    That’s right (and a good point, everybody might not know), adobe encrypted epubs are easily cleaned as well. Even so I strongly prefer buying unencrypted stuff to support the right sellers/publishers/authors. It’s technically illegal to provide tools and/or tell people how to remove drm in most countries, even if I’m not aware of it being actively enforced anywhere for ebooks. I don’t mean that the legality should stop anyone, but I rather give money to people not using lock-in techniques “protected” with thoughtcrimes. But now I’m getting awfully of track.

  41. On not derailed comment, yet without much content:

    I love that animated gif. it is kick-ass.

    I wish the book was available to everyone already so that I can talk about it with people.

    Markus,

    I am guilty of going off track. it is something that really gets under my skin though. There are some curated lists of ebook storefronts without drm, and I try to find versions of books from places other than amazon when I’m looking for stuff.

    http://wiki.mobileread.com/wiki/E-book_stores
    http://www.defectivebydesign.org/guide/ebooks

    I’ll stop on the derail. apologies, folks. but I felt sorry for people who didn’t know. It’s unfair that technical digerati get all these advantages that should be available to everyone.

  42. Markus:
    Does anyone know if you get unencrypted mobi’s from amazon if they are from tor?

    They claim to be without DRM, but alfing with Calibre works anyway.

  43. And the prize for best animated gif ever goes to…
    :-)

    Can’t believe I’m only just seeing this. Sigh…