Blurbs and Bufo

Blurbs are Reborn.  Looking at about a dozen advance reviews so far, all pretty glowy except for the Register piece which found Echopraxia plotless.  Even they used the word “brilliant”, though.  Fingers crossed.

Just last night, the LA Review of Books posted an insanely detailed review— more of an essay, really, the kind of thing you might find in the NY Review of Science Fiction if that’s still around— by Steven Shaviro. I think he may have coined the phrase “ferociously intellectual pulp”, but even if he stole it, it’s gold.

Also Alyx Dellamonica sings the Hallelujah Chorus over at Tor.com.  There’s mastodon-sized conflict-of-interest when Tor.com reviews Tor releases, and it swells to cachalot-sized when the Tor.com reviewer is bound to the Tor author by years of friendship and a mutual love of cats, so I felt obligated to point out the relationship on the Blurbs page where I posted the quote. And yet, the synopsis Lexus lays out is so engagingly wry that I can’t read it without seeing her sitting across the barroom table from me, drink in hand, one corner of her mouth tugged into a sarcastic little half-smile. Her précis might be better than the book.

Anyway: off now for a shave and shower, well-deserved after all these days of nonstop motion, and time to catch a breath before the AMA starts over on Reddit. Let me just leave you with his:

 seiun

It’s my Seiun for Blindsight, collected at Worldcon on my behalf by Patrick Neilson-Hayden and Caitlin Sweet. The certificate is pretty self-evident.  But it came equipped with that little vial in the box— which, I am told, is “toad grease”.  Apparently it’s a product of the local economy in the Japanese town hosting the con at which the award was originally bestowed. I believe it’s supposed to have medicinal properties.

It is definitely grease of some kind. I do not know if it actually contains toad, or if it is truly medicinal. Perhaps, the next time we have uninvited guests, we can try it out.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Tuesday August 26 2014at 02:08 pm , filed under public interface, reviews, writing news . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

57 Responses to “Blurbs and Bufo

  1. You have some very cool fans. Beyond the folks here, I mean.

    As for your global namesakes here’s also Swindon UK’s “Coun Peter Watts” who I think showed up on the FreeTheSquid Google search widget so often that I had to add some excluded words, and I imagine being on the same island as Upper Dicker {what a name} probably had some choice words for the disgraced coach himself.

    http://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/NEWS/10960186.West_Swindon_bus_route_gripes_raised_by_council_at_meeting/?action=complain&cid=12391255

  2. Just ordered my copy (my main delay being trying to decide what other novel to order to qualify for free shipping)! Can’t wait to crack it open and feast on the delicious insides!

  3. After reading that review by Steven Shaviro on L.A. Book Review, especially that bit as follows: “Daniel [Brüks] provides an anchoring point for the novel, precisely because he does not quite understand most of what happens to him.”

    I look forward to the mail — any day now — containing a book in which the protagonist has roughly the same experience as I do here among all of the heavyweights and professionals, “not quite ‘getting it’ but having one heck of a ride”.

  4. Ah, it wasn’t the Swindon guy, it was Peter Watt, no s, former secretary of the Labour Party who apparently tattled on Gordon Brown in early ’10.

    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/blog/2010/jan/11/peter-watt-donorgate-gordon-brown

    By the way, loving this MetaFilter thing. Been reading some of the comments on the Holiday zombie pigeon post. Hilarious.

  5. Great follow up to Blindsight, I basically ate Echopraxia yesterday and I’m still digesting.

    Amazing read.

  6. Just ordered my copy today. I look forward to see how this connects with Blindsight, and where it goes.

    Hey, make sure that toad grease isn’t from Bufo Marinus. That be rather unpleasant if you come in contact with it.

    Apparently, in Ancient Japan, warriors would smear themselves in toad grease in the belief that it would make them puncture proof. Maybe it will lessen the stings of the harsher critics, that is, if you do choose to adorn yourself with it.

    In the meantime, I’m looking forward to reading the latest book!

  7. Re: AMA: Who are these people who can blow through a Watts novel in a few hours or even a day? Wow.

  8. ferociously intellectual pulp

    Have you seen Neal Stephenson’s Gresham College lecture on SF? It’s also in his collection Some Remarks. You should read it for the last paragraph and last lines in particular. I want to quote, but to get the full effect one has to enjoy the windup. You’ll see why I put it in the context of the LARB quote.

  9. whoever,

    I got so excited when I first got a copy that I read it that night. I read it over again, since I’m sure I missed things the first time around due to all the suspense. I’ll probably read it again since I rushed that too.

  10. At last Amazon has shipped!

    Of course, having had to wait all of this time, I will try as best I can to read through Echopraxia with calm dignity and thoughtful rumination on all of the philosophical detail and scientific speculation.

    I’m pretty sure I’ll fail at that and wind up doing it like everyone else, speed-reading it a few times in a row, making cat-like nom nom nom noises through most of the first go. 😉

  11. Copy came in the mail today! Though I need to finish my Blindsight reread and one of the two other books I have in progress before I start.

  12. Ever feel like you’ve just ended a five-year mission? :)

    http://cknall.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/wpid-img_20140829_174934.jpg

  13. I read Blindsight only recently. It was given very high praise by Richard Morgan and that was enough convincing for me. Since then, I’ve been waiting with much anticipation for Echopraxia.
    When the release date came, I jumped on a device to buy the ebook but it seems that some publishing lawyers have decided to keep the Australians waiting just a little longer. No Kindle, Google Play or iBook or Kobo.
    What’s up with that?

  14. whoever:
    Re: AMA: Who are these people who can blow through a Watts novel in a few hours or even a day? Wow.

    Basically everyone who reads book and is either very smart or not disciplined enough to read slowly.

    Echopraxia is pretty short, I finished it a week ago in about ten hours, over two days. Refreshingly bleak, but again, imo, it’d benefit from being not-so-condensed.

    It’s written in a very pithy style and the various transhuman mindfucks in it necessitate reading it very slowly, take notes and so on to really get what’s going on, so that’s what I’m doing now.

    And I’m halfway convinced even a close reading won’t get rid of the ambiguities, as there are multiple agendas at work and figuring out what really went down is possible only by tying the author to a chair and being very insistent.

    Too bad there’s not a separate thread with spoilers warnings.. I keep wondering about a few things in the novel but wouldn’t want to spoil it for anyone..

  15. Pat D: I jumped on a device to buy the ebook but it seems that some publishing lawyers have decided to keep the Australians waiting just a little longer. No Kindle, Google Play or iBook or Kobo.
    What’s up with that?

    I think it may have something to do with the deal Head of Zeus cut with Tor. HoZ has the rights throughout the Commonwealth (except for Canada, which Tor regards as basically another state), and I’m guessing they’re going for simultaneous release throughout the realm.

  16. Haven’t even made it half way yet, but felt compelled to do some Valerie the vampire fan art:

    http://brianprince.squarespace.com/storage/forumimages/BrianPrince_VtV.jpg

    Don’t know if it will line up with your vision, but it’s how I’ve pictured the Blindsight-universe vamps since reading about Sarasti. Just inhuman enough in posture and proportion to be immediately unsettling.

  17. If the grease is genuinely made from any member of the genus Bufo, the active ingredient is a serotonin analogue that depresses breathing and respiration if it gets into the bloodstream. I doubt that it would get through your skin in any serious dose, and it doesn’t cross the blood-brain barrier without some help from the placebo effect. Of course, there are many other things in a toad!

  18. just finished the book… simply put, it is indeed brilliant. thank you.
    write more, and then some more :)

  19. Hey Peter, wanted to remind you that The Eyes of God doesn’t show up on your backlist page yet. Also, I’ve heard something about Valerie’s escape being expanded into a short story in some kind of vampire horror anthology? Is that one published yet?

  20. Brian Prince:
    Haven’t even made it half way yet, but felt compelled to do some Valerie the vampire fan art:

    http://brianprince.squarespace.com/storage/forumimages/BrianPrince_VtV.jpg

    Don’t know if it will line up with your vision, but it’s how I’ve pictured the Blindsight-universe vamps since reading about Sarasti. Just inhuman enough in posture and proportion to be immediately unsettling.

    That’s really good, I hadn’t been able to picture her before, now I can’t stop.

  21. @Brian Prince: That’s very good stuff! About close to “superlative”, at least it matches the descriptions from Blindsight, it’s roughly how I was imagining it, as well. Definitely not going to fall into the teen-heartthrob category, “PTL”. Nor do I imagine anyone doing her in the style of Vargas.

    I’m having a bit of a fixation on Blender, no doubt it will get worse once my copy of Echopraxia arrives after the weekend. I think Brian Prince’s image will haunt me, both as I read and later as I try to toy around with some modeling in MakeHuman . If only I had this sort of talent in Character Design and Rigging. Probably I am not the first one to suggest that there may be some heavy talent out there in the CGI community who are also Peter Watts fans, or would be if only someone gave them a nice promotional copy…

    Also: Peter Watts and/or his site manager may need to set up a “fan-art” directory.

  22. Just read Blindsight, after reading glowing recommendations of Echopraxia by Richard Morgan. Can’t claim to have grasped many of the concepts, and will have to re-read a few times I suspect. I was however left wondering whether you’d ever come across Julian Jaynes’ theories on the evolution of consciousness; described by Dawkins as either the work of a madman or a genius?

  23. Taking my sweet time and enjoying it. Mind blown repeatedly. Especially fond of future of timesaving entertainment bit. Has to happen.

    No more, spoiler territory.

  24. Re: timesaving, there was a cocktail–for those not familiar, it has become science-heavy, and though many participants objected to the term, NYT used “cocktail geek”–in NYC at one bar called Saturday Matinee. First take: cola. Then sort of a Twizzler or some kind of cherry candy taste followed. Bubbly drink. Burp: taste popcorn infused gas. Plus, it’ll get you drunk.

    It’s a thing.

  25. Long Labor day weekend/ Read Blindsight, Echopraxia, The Colonel, and rifters shorts……and the Journal of Neurocritical care- makes sense to me and some it howlingly funny. And not one fucking Elf, sword or magic dragon in the lot. Most satisfactory.

  26. Speaking of Elf, there needs to be VLF t-shirts, even if, you know {spoilers}.

  27. I read it last week. Bought it at the American Bookstore in Amsterdam, and read it on the 8 hour flight back to God’s Country.

    I will need to reread it to attempt to untangle all the transhuman plots. I do note that this book raises the possibility of a sequel/new plot possibility:

    1) Consciousness is useful in the universe, as it allows the use of Scientific Faith-Based Initiatives. (actually, this might not be true- I am not sure if the Bicamerals are conscious, or if consciousness is needed for them to perform their voodoo).

    2) Rorschach, although not conscious itself, was constructed by conscious aliens. It’s a Von Neuman machine, and doesn’t need to be sentient.

    3) Rorschach has a secondary function as a weapon to be used against other emergent conscious beings- one way is to make sure that aconscious intelligence wins out, since that leads to a much lower rate of technological development.

    So, you could end up with a galaxy-wide holy war between crypto-conscious entities using their intelligent but non-sentient allied species.

  28. Whacky mental masturbation of the day, was thinking, hey, it’s possible to be conscious and not have empathy, but not possible to have empathy and not be conscious. But then realized, “Just because I don’t exist/don’t realize I exist, doesn’t mean I can’t aid other organisms” could work unconsciously, I suppose. Kind of does for beneficial evolutionary cross-species cooperation, ie ants/trees, gut bugs, etc. So, either requires more vocab, tightening of definitions, or back to drawing board.

  29. Just finished it. Mind-blowing is an understatement. My brain wilI need some days to recover, if ever does, just like when I read Blindsight.

    Although I love sci-fi, I probably know only a fraction of the books of this genre. Even so I dare say that Peter Watts is one of the best. Please keep writing stories like this!

    By the way, is there a forum where people are discussing Echopraxia (and Blindsight)? I don’t think I’ll ever understand everything going on in these books. I’d love to see what other people think.

  30. James Dickey’s To The White Sea. Was going to be a Coen Brothers film with Brad Pitt, but I think that’s fallen through.

    Perhaps additionally, there’s Herzog’s Rescue Dawn and, not sure, Coen/Jolie’s Unbroken, but with the latter I think I’m straying from the point.

    My memory on this is a little mushy, but what I recall, TTWS has almost no dialogue at all. An escape/survival book and potential film where the main character does not speak the local language in any case.

    What has this to do with anything?

    Let’s call it the Earth-altering event in Echopraxia. Noticed the hurdle you mentioned for a sequel in the AMA. While reading I thought, “Hey, there’s a simple way out,” but then you backed off of that later when it was explained that it wouldn’t be as big of a change as it might seem on its face. I figure that’s you setting hard problems for yourself, not taking the easy route that a lazier writer like myself would not be able to resist.

    But the point, extreme chaos coupled with “These things around me in the twilight of the 21st are so alien I can’t tell what they are doing, merely describe what I see, have things happen to me,” is a potential partial solution. Of course there is some of that already in Echopraxia at points when Brüks is out of his depth.

    But as you also mention, the writer has to at least have some idea what’s happening even when trying to describe beings more advanced, intelligent than herself/himself.

    Or does he at that point? Can almost envision “WTF?” as a feature, not a bug if handled that way. Probably someone here knows of better SciFi specific attempts at this.

    My three CR.

  31. Aaaand just finished, including end notes. Suppose if I were to compose a nonspoilery summary it would be “Unbelievably ambitious subject matter, masterfully handled.”

    Had begun to think that reading it slower might mitigate the mind blowing that JTPS references above. Don’t think it did.

    Here’s a note I typed in a few days ago, somewhere halfway.

    Potential evolutionary benefits of being unaware and/or one’s own existence/reality:

    1} Overcoming hardwired, evolutionarily instilled paranoia and fear. So what if there’s a tiger in the grass? It’s all simulation.

    2} Enables potential thought experiments with individual as no longer part of the system being pondered. Though might also leave them out as a factor, incomplete system being examined.

    My kingdom for a grad party and a keg to discuss.

    No, thank *you*. :)

    PS: Depressing and out of your hands, I know, unless/until CCL time, but typos on 330 and 360.

  32. So, there I was, depressed over the fact that it was the end of the summer and I had finished the last Ian M. Banks novel there will ever be, when I stumbled across Blindsight. Read it and found it compelling, not least for the fact that a family member has just been diagnosed with Aspergers — the Brontosaurus of autism — so brain function is suddenly a topic that has certain hooks for me.

    Intrigued, I pre-ordered Echopraxia.

    And, wow! Echopraxia was a great follow-up to Blindsight. Topped it, I thought. Not sure if it has killed my will to live yet, nor do I know who I could recommend it to who would still talk to me, but kudos to you, Mr. Watts for a bunker-buster of a novel.

    What do we call this genre of yours? Psy Fi? (God no!)

    Of course, as a new fan, I feel I can make unreasonable demands! Specifically, will there be a sequel? Who cares if you just obliterated homo sapiens? (Stupid red shirts; had it coming.) I want to know if Kiri falls to Earth into the loving embrace of his dad, now a wholly-owned subsidiary of PortiaCo. I want to know if Brüks gets mechanical hands and a laser-beam eyeball as he staggers across America spreading the Gospel. I want to know more about vampires: threat or menacing last hope for “humanity”?

    I express these wants knowing full well that you are on to the next novel and that these issues will probably be resolved about the time a new Ian M. Banks comes out. Sigh.

    Anyway, thanks for some great reads.

  33. Aiee. Siri, not Kiri! Pardon my dysgraphia.

  34. I finished reading Echopraxia in two sittings each of about 6 hours. I said I meant to pace myself and I actually did it. A review is forthcoming probably tomorrow night but I have sensibly forwarded a copy to the author in case I said something incredibly stupid, which isn’t too impossible. (See Anna Rosanna Annadanna on her legendary SNL rant on “Busting Schoolchildren”. Oh, Never Mind.) Aside from the review in which I basically say “this needs to be on your bookshelf”, I have one gripe which is rather minor as it doesn’t affect much of anything in the novel. I thought we discussed this one to death, here, a few months ago… From page 223:

    […] Bruks had never been entirely clear on what an omniscient being
    would need a computer for. Computation, after all,
    implied a problem not yet solved, insights not yet achieved.

    I could easily push this aside as a clue to the nature of Bruks himself, and the times in which he lived, where the computers think for themselves and do it better, far better, than people can. Clearly, he isn’t thinking of the fact that computers have to be programmed, and the programmer has to have a very good grasp of the problem, full insight indeed, to write code that produces the intended results. That being done, what a computer is good for is for doing the same math the coder had to know to write the code, but very fast.

    Thus, we might conclude that the almighty created and uses the universe as its computer because the almighty is super duper slow. Or maybe the “physical” universe is the almighty’s swap-space, where it stores its results when calculations get too large for the almighty’s memory. Maybe we’re where the thoughts of the almighty go when it’s time-sharing to something else. 😉 In that case, the almighty isn’t just slow, but rather dim, however can create entire universes as additional memory and/or calculation space.

    Additionally, I agree: we need someplace to discuss *spoiler* topics.

  35. Welcome to the Hive, DaddyJ.

    Link someone should have sent Peter:

    http://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2011-05/onr-taps-crowdsourcing-power-online-gaming-tackle-somali-pirate-problem

  36. whoever: Or does he at that point? Can almost envision “WTF?” as a feature, not a bug if handled that way. Probably someone here knows of better SciFi specific attempts at this.

    Some first contact novels attempt this but there are usually human foils. I can’t think of one off the top of my head that doesn’t have a human foil. Anyway, the two wtf novels off the top of my head are Solaris and Fiasco by Stanislaw Lem. It’s been an incredibly long time since I’ve read Fiasco so I may be misremembering how surreal I found the encounters with the aliens.

  37. SPOILERISH avert your eyes.

    DaddyJ: I want to know if Brüks gets mechanical hands and a laser-beam eyeball as he staggers across America spreading the Gospel. I want to know more about vampires: threat or menacing last hope for “humanity”?

    I picture him iterating towards bethleham sloughing off cancerous cells that infect vampires so that they are more effective at cooperating.

  38. Just finished the new book. Congrats on finally getting Echopraxia out there. A fascinating read and Big Idea clearinghouse as always. A lot to process on a single pass. I might quibble with some. The “I remember art” throwaway sticks in my craw as a gross oversimplification of what artistic expression is (it’s a problem solving exercise akin to conceptual engineering in a book where all the characters are content to solve problems for their own satisfaction, as much or more so as it is an attempt to evoke emotion), but I won’t address that here. Probably because I’d be wrong.

    As much as I hate to admit it, I think you finally succeeded in producing something that was, at points, opaque enough that I couldn’t penetrate it with repeated attempts. I tracked the broad strokes well enough until the ending, which I’m a bit fuzzy on.

    So there you go. I’ll be sulking for the rest of the day in my “dumb guy” dunce cap. I hope you’re happy, cruising around the beach with your big post-singular brain, kicking sand in the face of the baselines.

    Congrats again, and I hope your life proves crisis-free now to the extent that we won’t have to eagerly wait as long for the next one!

  39. Sheila: Some first contact novels attempt this but there are usually human foils. I can’t think of one off the top of my head that doesn’t have a human foil.

    Assumed there would be one but…Sudden image of shorter past work popping into head.

    Anyway, the two wtf novels off the top of my head are Solaris and Fiasco by Stanislaw Lem.

    Need to borrow the original Solaris again and read the darn book. Saw the US remake several times. Thanks, will add those to my growing try-to-catch up with 1980 SciFi list. Was reading a PKD short collection while awaiting delivery.

  40. Mr Non-Entity: computers have to be programmed, and the programmer has to have a very good grasp of the problem, full insight indeed, to write code that produces the intended results. That being done, what a computer is good for is for doing the same math the coder had to know to write the code, but very fast.

    Remember how they ended up with head cheese computing in the Rifters books? They evolved computing substrate and gardened and

    oh hell whatever, I hang out in an irc channel where a friend has a bot and you can type !catgif and it will paste a link to a kitty cat gif. It also does !pug. that’s not a problem to solve, that is fun.

  41. whoever: Assumed there would be one but…Sudden image of shorter past work popping into head.

    If you manage to remember what’s on the tip of your brain, please share. I’ve been trying to find more first-contact weird-pov novels. I tried creating a first-contact shelf on goodreads to see whether the recommendation algorithm could cut it and it does not.

    Need to borrow the original Solaris again and read the darn book. Saw the US remake several times. Thanks, will add those to my growing try-to-catch up with 1980 SciFi list. Was reading a PKD short collection while awaiting delivery.

    I haven’t seen the US Solaris yet. It has been on my watchlist for a while. I read Solaris quiet a while ago, and a new translation came out recently. Got that one, got the audio book for it. Haven’t listened through the whole thing yet. I like having multiple translations for these things.

    bd (two thumbs up) on PKD short story collections.
    I used to have scads of PKD books, including the big short story editions with blue covers.

  42. Sheila,

    Sheila: If you manage to remember what’s on the tip of your brain, please share. I’ve been trying to find more first-contact weird-pov novels. I tried creating a first-contact shelf on goodreads to see whether the recommendation algorithm could cut it and it does not.

    Ringworld and Revelation Space are a couple that spring to mind that don’t seem to be on your list.

  43. Sheila,

    To expand upon my last after reading more of your previous conversation, Sheila, I don’t know if those two really qualify enough under your “WTF” descriptor, though Rev Space has a shot. They both have transhumans, and attempt to render “alien” viewpoints.

    The problem with any post-singularity speculation is that by the very nature of the concept, predictive models fail after the advent of greater than human intelligence. These beings would be inscrutable, and so you need an audience surrogate, or “human foil” as you say, to translate into relatable literary elements. Hence Siri Keeton and Daniel Bruks (umlaut sequence not working for some reason).

    Further complicating things, no matter how truly alien we might be capable of rendering a being on the page, the author is still telling a story, and a story needs characters. In order to become an effective character, a being needs desires, ambitions, and feelings about things. No matter how exotic they might be, they still have to be drawn in a manner that is comprehensibly human on some level. We might lament the number of butt-headed humanoid aliens running around in popular sci-fi, but the sad truth is that a show with nothing but Portias and Scramblers wouldn’t make for very good drama.

    I remember an interesting discussion on the ‘Crawl a few years ago where Peter remarked how odd it was that the space craft in science fiction movies are frequently rendered with peeling paint and rust, when it all likelihood we would have invented reliable rustproofing and impossibly durable paint by then, or some equivalent. It’s the sad truth that much like a science fiction writer who takes blocks of what is known and familiar, and rearranges them to speculate about that which is unknown, artists never really create anything. We too are trying to communicate ideas with building blocks which known and familiar. A ship with peeling paint and rust to communicate a worn industrial quality. “Aerial” dogfights in space fighter craft with ww2 sound effects.

    Likewise, no matter how alien a creature, it must be designed with building blocks of the familiar, or it will look “wrong”. A dragon may not exist as a real creature, but it is going to be designed with recognizable musculature and features from other animals, or the human eye will reject it. If a creature has a hundred arms, those arms have to look like they function accurately according to what we are familiar with. Even Peter’s Scramblers had brittle stars as a descriptive base.

    Sadly, it’s the same with writing and characterization, design, or any speculative venture. Humans cannot convincingly dream of something that we know nothing about, because we cannot truly create. No matter how lucid a dream, we can only rearrange, manipulate, and re-assemble things out of the familiar. Sort of a Law of Conservation of Thought.

    Sorry to ramble on. It’s a subject that I think about frequently. I also apologize if I’m just retreading territory you’ve already covered. It was difficult to follow your conversation across multiple posts.

  44. Sheila: If you manage to remember what’s on the tip of your brain, please share.

    Was being intentionally vague. :)

    http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/watts_01_10/

    Wrote a AI/satellite POV short during my Prisoner phase:

    http://cknall.wordpress.com/2010/12/04/on-the-precipice-of-eternity/

  45. I’d also like to apologize for the overuse of the term “sad truth” in my previous text monolith. I did, however, just read Echopraxia after all.

  46. whoever,

    Yep, The Thing is on my list (though goodreads seems to have mutated it to some foreign language edition).

    I also think I sort of remember a short story that sounds like it is told from a point of view of a missionary sharing communion but maybe SPOILER the missionary is some alien that disolves in to a bunch of organizes that eat all the organic material around it in a ceremony of communion? My memory is really vague on that one, so I could be confabulating the whole thing.

  47. Sheila,

    I see Vernor Vinge is on your list there, but not with the correct book. The Children of the Sky is actually a sequel to A Fire Upon the Deep, which seems to be exactly what you’re talking about. Half the story is told from the P.O.V of a fascinating race of hive-minded mammals who share a single consciousness among the pack. In that story, the humans are the bizarre aliens in the first contact scenario.

    Sorry if that’s already been covered, or I’m tossing out overly obvious suggestions here. Always tough to know what’s on someone’s bookshelf.

  48. ScottC.,

    Thanks, I’d forgotton to categorize FUtD because it’s so far back in my memory. Right, tagging/bookshelving is idiosyncratic at best, since it’s not necessarily social*. I categorize CotS in first-contact because of the new experience with the downlifted critters (can’t remember what they are called) and because things are still going on as a result from first-contact even though the initial contact happened in another book.

    * haven’t used goodreads much as a social platform.

  49. Brian Prince: Haven’t even made it half way yet, but felt compelled to do some Valerie the vampire fan art:

    Say, can I stick this up on the gallery? I’m updating even now (still working on the rifters subgallery, but it’s looking pretty good—and your apocalyptic Lenie pic is up on display there).

    Mr Non-Entity: Also: Peter Watts and/or his site manager may need to set up a “fan-art” directory.

    Already on it (see above). Not a separate fan-art directory, but fan-art incorporated into the other galleries thematically.

    Steve Comfort: I was however left wondering whether you’d ever come across Julian Jaynes’ theories on the evolution of consciousness; described by Dawkins as either the work of a madman or a genius?

    I have. (In fact, the monks in Echopraxia are called “Bicamerals”, although for parallel rather than serial reasons.)

    Jaynes’ theory, right or wrong, is still deeply cool. But whether he’s a madman or a genius (or both), he’s not a great writer. His use of the phrase “mounding fullness” just about killed me.

  50. Deb Wedick: And not one fucking Elf, sword or magic dragon in the lot. Most satisfactory.

    What, you missed the part where Bruks finds the magical Elven sword with the dragon carved into the handle, down in the monastery’s basement? For shame.

    Go back and read it again.

    whoever: VLF

    ?

    JPTS: By the way, is there a forum where people are discussing Echopraxia (and Blindsight)? I don’t think I’ll ever understand everything going on in these books. I’d love to see what other people think.

    There used to be a dedicated Wattsian forum that someone set up a few years back, when I was too busy meeting deadlines to post regularly. But they shut it down when tumbleweeds started blowing.

    Every now and then someone starts a thread on reddit or metafilter, though. Perhaps that would do.

    whoever: Potential evolutionary benefits of being unaware and/or one’s own existence/reality:

    I think there’s an implicit fallacy in this statement. The idea that “you” can be either conscious or non.

    The fact, though, is that you are the homunculus behind the eyes, the conscious self riding the subconscious chassis. A nonconscious chassis is not you being nonconscious; you don’t even exist in that scenario. We’re the tapeworm in the body; if the body flushes us, we haven’t “lost tapewormity”— the body has.

    That said, speaking as a tapeworm, I have no desire or intention of getting flushed anytime soon. The optimization of my host is no good to me if I’m not inside it.

  51. DaddyJ: Specifically, will there be a sequel?

    I didn’t write it with one in mind, but taken together with Blindsight there do seem to be two trajectories aiming at intersection down the road. A long way down the road, at a time when (if current trends continue) conditions would be utterly incomprehensible to baseline humans and beyond my capacity to even describe, much less explain.

    There’s a story there, I suppose. But fucked if I have any idea how to tell it.

    Oh, and you’re more than welcome.

    Mr Non-Entity: That being done, what a computer is good for is for doing the same math the coder had to know to write the code, but very fast.

    Yeah, but that’s not as funny. or as potentially offensive to believers.

    Sheila: It’s been an incredibly long time since I’ve read Fiasco so I may be misremembering how surreal I found the encounters with the aliens.

    I read Solaris when I was 13 or 14 (which may explain part of my disgust for so-called YA as a marketing category). Fiasco I just started a few months back, only got as far as the catastrophic end of the giant-mecha-rescue-attempt before, right on schedule, a whole new fucking swarm of deadlines devoured my reading-for-pleasure time. But, yeah. Lem and aliens.

    I think that may be why I go over so well in Poland.

    ScottC.: The “I remember art” throwaway sticks in my craw as a gross oversimplification of what artistic expression is

    It was a throwaway— and I remember writing that and wondering if it might not be one of those lines that wouldn’t stand up to a second look. All the cascading implications of that line might smash a lot of the other societal elements described in the book to smithereens if you followed them through. But I wanted to make at least some kind of reference to how art might have been impacted by the neurotech revolution— I didn’t want to be one of those authors who posits all these New Developments and yet leaves humanity remarkably unchanged by them (looking at you, Star Trek). I didn’t want to fall into that trap, so I patched it with a band-aid that, looking back, wasn’t all that well thought-out.

    Sheila: I haven’t seen the US Solaris yet.

    Saw it for the third time just the other day. vastly underrated, IMO. Actual thoughtful SF, without all that Hollywood shit blowing up. A movie that both hangs together narratively and credits its audience with some intelligence.

    The fact that it tanked, while a movie like “Snowpiercer” gets all the hype, makes me weep for the genre.

  52. Peter Watts:
    ?

    Bad first attempt:

    VLF T

  53. Peter Watts:

    It was a throwaway— and I remember writing that and wondering if it might not be one of those lines that wouldn’t stand up to a second look.

    It’s ok. I didn’t mean my nitpick with any seriousness. Obviously as an artist I tend to go from zero to scoff in nothing flat whenever someone suggests we’re not the special snowflakes we tend to think we are.

    I do, however, find it frustrating when non-artists see art as some sort of effortless expression of creative intuition. As a writer, you know it’s an act of deliberation, highly mechanical problem solving, and a hell of a lot of work that we pursue primarily for our own interests. It seems to me that if Sengupta can pursue her own problem solving exercise for her own private agenda, artistic expression would still be alive and well, though perhaps radically different.

    Peter Watts:

    Saw it for the third time just the other day. vastly underrated, IMO. Actual thoughtful SF, without all that Hollywood shit blowing up. A movie that both hangs together narratively and credits its audience with some intelligence.

    The fact that it tanked, while a movie like “Snowpiercer” gets all the hype, makes me weep for the genre.

    I haven’t seen Snowpiercer, but I agree about Solaris. I thought it was a beautiful movie, and Soderbergh’s cinematography gorgeous as always. You never really expect mainstream audiences to go ape over contemplative science fiction, or contemplatively paced movies in general, but the lukewarm critical response was especially disappointing. I think the original Solyaris is just too much of a sacred cow for film hipsters.

    .

  54. Peter Watts: The fact, though, is that you are the homunculus behind the eyes, the conscious self riding the subconscious chassis. A nonconscious chassis is not you being nonconscious; you don’t even exist in that scenario. We’re the tapeworm in the body; if the body flushes us, we haven’t “lost tapewormity”— the body has.

    Speaking of worms, was wondering how you squared the AMA and other similar comment about neurons firing on their own being proof of free will and the disembodied vermin seeming to do just that. Should probably reread that old post.

  55. Peter Watts: The fact that it tanked, while a movie like “Snowpiercer” gets all the hype, makes me weep for the genre

    I want to see “Snowpiercer” because it is directed by “The Host” (Korean monstor film). I loved that movie. It is weird, funny, campy, sad, bitter. If Snowpiercer is not a sorrowful deconstruction of the disaster thriller genre then I don’t want to see it.

  56. Peter Watts: I read Solaris when I was 13 or 14 (which may explain part of my disgust for so-called YA as a marketing category). Fiasco I just started a few months back, only got as far as the catastrophic end of the giant-mecha-rescue-attempt before, right on schedule, a whole new fucking swarm of deadlines devoured my reading-for-pleasure time. But, yeah. Lem and aliens.

    I should reread both. Anyway, I put you and Lem in the category of people who do good alien.

    I am going to dissent on YA. I coming-of-age novels and these get marketted as YA. It’s too bad that dystopian YA is invariably poorly thought out but there are good ones. Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi is pretty excellent. (same setting as Windup Girl).

  57. Peter Watts: Say, can I stick this up on the gallery?

    It’d be an honor. Go for it.