Climbing Mount CanLit.

“An adolescent girl comes to terms with her burgeoning lesbianism on the windswept shores of Canada’s west coast while dealing with her emotionally distant father.”

Thus goes my stock exemplar of that branch of fiction known as “CanLit”. Some of you may find it familiar; I’ve certainly recited it often enough. Others may find it resonant because they’ve, you know, actually read CanLit.

CanLit doesn’t like us genre types much, as many of those who’ve applied for a Canada Council grant might tell you. That’s okay. I don’t like CanLit much, either. (Except for Margaret Atwood, actually. I devoured her early stuff, back before she ascended into Heaven with the gods. Life Before Man, Cat’s Eye— I even liked Surfacing, believe it or not, although I suspect it may not have aged well. The woman’s biology connections really shone through, and this was way before she started stealing gengineered dystopias from the ghetto.)

Anyhow. CanLit and I don’t generally get along, and that’s okay. Like certain people you run into at cons, there’s a kind of unspoken agreement to look past each other when you both end up at the same room parties. But while I take a kind of live-and-let-live attitude to the stuff, I’d certainly speak up were anyone were to try to put my own writing in that camp. Not that that would ever happen in a million years, of course.

At least, that’s what I thought until yesterday, when Amazon.com declared otherwise.

It almost slipped past me. I don’t check my Blindsight ratings all that much any more; I’ve been hitting refresh a lot more often on the Echopraxia page, fighting off the inevitable growing despair that accompanies confirmation of that old rule about 90% of sales happening in the first 6-8 weeks. (My baby is already nine weeks old.) But for the past couple of days I’ve been poking at a retrospective comparison of the Blindoprax titles, weighing their reader reviews, running rudimentary stats on their respective rankings— and it was during such a data-gathering expedition that I encountered the following flag.

CanLit2

Click to embiggen. Because you probably don’t think you’re seeing it right at this scale.

Here are other titles on the list, just to show what odd company I keep.

Here are other titles on the CanList, just to show what weird company I’m keeping.

Yes, you read that right. For a few hours yesterday— at about the same time that a crazed gunman opened up on the steps of Parliament— Blindsight hit #1 on Amazon’s CanLit chart.  Pretty sure that was a coincidence.

Note that this isn’t even Amazon.ca. This is Amazon dot com. If you’d tracked that orange flag back to the .ca site you’d have seen— digging down within this Arkansas-sized market— that Blindsight was not only the #1 CanLit title, but it was also the #1 seller under both “Canadian Short Stories” and “Short Stories, Canadian” (although if anyone can see a meaningful distinction between those categories, I’d love to know what it is). Which, while inaccurate, is nice— although not quite so surrealistic as seeing Firefall sitting at #1 on Amazon.uk’s “Religious and Inspirational” chart a couple of weeks back.

You might also notice that the title most commonly bought together with my novels is Let’s Talk About Love: Why Other People Have Such Bad Taste. I reserve comment on the potential significance of this.

Presented without comment.

From Amazon.ca.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Thursday October 23 2014at 12:10 pm , filed under writing news . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

25 Responses to “Climbing Mount CanLit.”

  1. That Carl Wilson book is also excellent, good company to be keeping.

  2. Your book was included in a reddit thread with those books.

    http://www.reddit.com/r/politics/comments/2k3ihb/chris_christie_just_exposed_his_entire_partys/clhdsoo

  3. “Emotionally distant” — like Lenie Clarke, Siri Keeton, Daniel Brüks, Jim Moore or Ken Lubin, you mean?

    At least that CanLit favorite seems to be alive and well and living in Riftoblindopraxia Land. 😉

    Incidentally, speaking of Moore and Lubin, I’m still waiting for the big reveal in which it turns out that The Colonel is actually a genetically-reincarnated or -life-prolonged Ken Lubin. Granted, their personalities are a little different, and sure, they live in different fictional universes … But aside from _that_ …

  4. Don’t know if this is a good or bad time to make a movie rec. I do so tentatively. The film has issues, but overall I enjoyed it. Sort of ST2 and 3. I hesitate to call it low budget, but it wasn’t blockbuster budget either. Available on Hulu which was able to see on someone’s 30 day trial. It’s called Scavengers and has Sean Patrick Flannery and Jeremy London if you know who they are.

    London at last seems to be starting to succumb to time, ruining my theory that he made some deal with supernatural forces like the one Dick Clark clearly made.

    http://m.imdb.com/title/tt1564369/?ref_=m_nmfmd_act_11

  5. Come on that’s really truly all kinds of awesome, as in the intelligence without conscious self way of Google analytics. Made me chuckle.

  6. Daniel:
    Your book was included in a reddit thread with those books.

    http://www.reddit.com/r/politics/comments/2k3ihb/chris_christie_just_exposed_his_entire_partys/clhdsoo

    Where? That page’s gone and even uneddit doesn’t show anything even vaguely relevant to books.

  7. That ‘Lets talk about love’ book was probably from someones SO using their Amazon account to order it. My wife and I do not have seperate accounts, so we can share that Prime membership :)

  8. I love both Old Man’s War and Starfish, but I’d be hard pressed to name two modern science fiction titles that were more different.

    Just finished Beyond the Rift, and holding off on buying Echopraxia because that’s my last bit of unread Peter Watts fiction and I am trying to make it last. So I’ll be among those weird 10% who wait more than 8 weeks.


  9. Just finished Beyond the Rift, and holding off on buying Echopraxia because that’s my last bit of unread Peter Watts fiction and I am trying to make it last.So I’ll be among those weird 10% who wait more than 8 weeks.

    Don’t wait too long, at least not if you like Hardback First editions. I’ve waited on some books and the prices on Amazon can skyrocket. Look at a 1st edition Harback of ‘The Quantum Thief’ by Hannu Rajaniemi; $35 used is the cheapest, $100 for a new one. There are alot of sellers who buy a few of each new release, and resell them later on for insane prices.

    Like I said, this only pertains for weirdos like me who just have to have the hardback, and have a strong preference for a 1st edition. I’m not hellbent on a 1st… but they usually are printed on better paper (I have some bookclub editions that you can see the text bleeding through from the other side of the page!), and also it seemd like the artwork is usually just cooler.

  10. Jeremy C,

    I used to be a hardcover aficionado like yourself, and I still love them, but due to a combination of price, convenience, and strongly-worded suggestions from my wife about how much of our house I can dedicate to book storage, I have mostly hopped onto the e-book train.

    Bookclub editions, by and large, suck.

  11. If you need more CanLit jokes, http://the-toast.net/2014/07/22/every-canadian-novel-ever/

  12. That “why other people have such bad taste” book is probably AmazonMind’s way of making a joke about Wattsian vampires.

  13. Probably not much consolation, but your books rank MUCH higher than any of my other favorite authors (Reed, McAuley, Rajaniemi, etc.).

    Now curious, I looked at the top 10 in science fiction and …who are these authors? Looks like a lot of bad military sci-fi… but I’m sure it must be great stuff…

  14. Haha! That’s freakin’ great!

    I wonder how many CanLit fans bought your book in those two hours, and how many of them were shocked into wide-eyed quivering right off the bat by:

    “His [Robert Pagilano’s misfortune] was genetic: an uncontrolled genotype that left him prediposed to nearsightedness, acne, and (as it later turned out) a susceptibility to narcotics. His parents had never had him optimized. Those few TwenCen relics who still believed in God also held that one shouldn’t try to improve upon His handiwork.”

    Hey, but if tons more readers bought your book, more power to you, Pete. Maybe you even converted a few of them to the dark side.

  15. Apologies for the completely off-topic nature of this post, but I found out recently that online troll acrackedmoon aka RequiresOnlyThatYouHate has been outed. Since Peter and his wife defended R. Scott Bakker against ACM’s attacks, thought they might be interested:

    http://forum.malazanempire.com/topic/27853-prominent-sf-troll-has-been-outed/

  16. guildenstern42,

    Some info recently posted over here as well:

    http://www.rifters.com/crawl/?p=5276#comment-42852

    That seems a good summary you linked up.

  17. whoever,

    Thanks!

    I notice it has already shown up on R. Scott Bakker’s blog comments as well.

  18. guildenstern42: I love both Old Man’s War and Starfish, but I’d be hard pressed to name two modern science fiction titles that were more different.

    I see you’re making no comment on the Bad Taste title. Well played.

    Just finished Beyond the Rift, and holding off on buying Echopraxia because that’s my last bit of unread Peter Watts fiction and I am trying to make it last. So I’ll be among those weird 10% who wait more than 8 weeks.

    Fine. But then you have to buy two copies.

    Sheila:
    If you need more CanLit jokes, http://the-toast.net/2014/07/22/every-canadian-novel-ever/

    Damn. 7,8, 15, and 23 were going to be my next four novels.

    guildenstern42: I found out recently that online troll acrackedmoon aka RequiresOnlyThatYouHate has been outed.

    Yeah, I’ve been keeping half an eye on that. I find the timing suspicious— RequiresMed’s “apologies” read more like damage control than repentance (I wonder how much Navigator’s Thai franchise charges)— but I’m more interested to see how her allies reframe their past perspectives. Where does this leave the apologists who defended ACM as a “vibrant” participant in the sf community, speaking truth to power, when the very person they’ve been defending repudiates her own tactics (disingenuously or not) as abusive? Valente must be woozy with cognitive dissonance these days.

    Anyway. Whatever RequiresHate is calling herself this year, whatever new persona she’s adopted, she’s still not worth scraping off the sole of the average boot. I have better things to occupy my time. Let her reap the whirlwind; I’ll raise a glass when it drops her out of the jet stream at ten thousand meters.

  19. Brian H:
    Probably not much consolation, but your books rank MUCH higher than any of my other favorite authors (Reed, McAuley, Rajaniemi, etc.).

    Now curious, I looked at the top 10 in science fiction and …who are these authors? Looks like a lot of bad military sci-fi… but I’m sure it must be great stuff…

    In literature, just like in politics, winning popularity contest is only very tangentially related to quality. Hugo awards are pretty much meaningless. I mean, Scalzi has won one but no novel or short story by Greg Egan has ever even been nominated. Not saying here Scalzi can’t write, but everything by him I’ve read was mildly enjoyable but utterly derivative…

  20. What I find remarkably hilarious with regards to the whole acrack fiasco is that the uppity, craniorectally complicated critter known as Ryan Oakley (who was exceptionally vicious in his pro-crackedmoon diatribes and generally subscribes to most preposterous of second-waver views straight out of the eighties) has purged all his posts pertaining to ackrackedmoon ( http://thegrumpyowl.com/2012/02/28/a-non-vicarious-straight-up-stfu/ ) and seems to have gone actually insane (judging from weird delirium now filling his blawg)

  21. Y.: I mean,Scalzi has won one but no novel or short story by Greg Egan has ever even been nominated. Not saying here Scalzi can’t write, but everything by him I’ve read was mildly enjoyable but utterly derivative…

    Scalzi writes science fiction with the broadest appeal possible, and he does it very well. If you read his blog, he pretty openly states that commercial appeal (i.e. writing what will sell) is one of his primary goals. I think of his work as sort of popcorn sci-fi: lots of fun, not too deep. Although his latest (Lock-In) had some well-integrated, non-preachy social commentary relevance to it.

    I’ve not read any of Egan’s novels, but I love his short fiction. I think he’s one of the best out there at intelligent, hard science fiction short stories. I’m saddened to learn that he’s never even been nominated for a Hugo.

  22. 01:
    What I find remarkably hilarious with regards to the whole acrack fiasco is that the uppity, craniorectally complicated critter known as Ryan Oakley (who was exceptionally vicious in his pro-crackedmoon diatribes and generally subscribes to most preposterous of second-waver views straight out of the eighties) has purged all his posts pertaining to ackrackedmoon ( http://thegrumpyowl.com/2012/02/28/a-non-vicarious-straight-up-stfu/ ) and seems to have gone actually insane (judging from weird delirium now filling his blawg)

    Oh yeah, that guy. Never met him, although I saw him chumming around with Madeline Ashby back when all this shit was happening. (Madeline later sidled up in private to say she actually agreed with me, but didn’t want to be unfriendly to Oakley because he followed her on twitter. Or something).

    Those are remarkably disjointed blog posts. Either it’s an over-the-top attempt to be edgy or he’s suffering from some kind of myelin deficit. Either way, I guess fame and adulation wasn’t all he thought it would be.

  23. @ Peter Watts

    Maybe his brain got damaged by too much irony.

    It may be a rare case of irony poisoning 😀

  24. guildenstern42,

    Egan won a hugo for Oceanic.

    Googling is fun. I tried a search in chrome for egan and awards and it showed a list of all his awards above the search results.

    Btw, I like following John Baez on google+ because he is often posting mathematical animations from him.

  25. and I posted the comment about Egan from a touchpad so I didn’t have a handy way to share links. Here’s an example of the mathematical animations Baez has been sharing: Rolling smoothed octagons (via g+), and you can see many more groofy animations in the A Packing Pessimization Problem post.

    and if you don’t know about Greg Egan’s website, you should. http://gregegan.net/ He has many more animations and applets along with links to works online.

    so, the “greg egan never got nominated” claim may have been a troll, but it made for a fun excuse to post links.