Worldcon Reading Poll

Quick informal survey here.  I’m a bit undecided about what to choose for my Worldcon reading, and since I’ve only got twenty minutes in the spotlight I don’t want to spend a chunk of it polling those attended (especially since the majority of them probably aren’t there for me anyway).  So I thought I might poll you guys instead.

I’m currently contemplating three options:

  1. The two supershorts from Nature: one funny (“Hillcrest v. Velikovsky”), one tragic (“Repeating the Past”), but both old.  Still, this is the only option that would let me finish an entire story (let alone two), although it’ll leave me five or six minutes shy of my allotted time.
  2. An excerpt from “The Island”, bits and pieces of which regulars may remember from in-progress postings last year.  Its parent anthology, the just-released New Space Opera 2, is getting some kind of launch dealio this weekend as well, so the timing would be good.  And it’s a good story but it’s long, so I’d be reading a fragment at best.
  3. Finally, an excerpt from “The Things”— that reinvention of John Carpenter’s more singularly-titled movie— from which I also posted bits and pieces a few months back.  That one might never actually see the light of day, because while both editor and publisher are happy to run the damn thing, they’ve also told me I’m on my own if Universal’s lawyers happen to notice and take their usual hard-ass stance on transformative works.  I’m happy to take my share of such risk but I sure as shit ain’t taking all of it, so “The Things” might not see publication, at least not in its current form.  Which would make this particular reading something special— the equivalent of a private collector’s edition.  The twofold drawback to going this route is that 1) once again, I’d only have time to read a piece of the story, and 2) that piece might well be completely inaccessible to anyone who isn’t familiar with the Carpenter movie.

So.  If you were going to be in attendance, which of those options would not unturn your crank the least?  Thoughts?

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Monday August 03 2009at 03:08 pm , filed under On the Road, public interface . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

23 Responses to “Worldcon Reading Poll”

  1. It depends. If you have satisfying fragments from 2 or 3, go with them; otherwise, go with the Nature shorts. “Satisfying” meaning it’s interesting enough without needing the whole, and in the case of 3, with knowing you might never see the whole.

    Not much help, I know…

  2. What the heck, go for broke. Go with what is behind curtain number three, and it won’t be the Wizard of Oz. Go with something that YOU personally are interested in and therefore have the desire and passion for – you know that John Carpenter Thingy…damn the torpedoes and batten down the hatches, come hell or high water, you gotta go with what makes your heart sing or your head spin with sci fi delights….

  3. …and another thing, since I am onto this idea of “Things”, anyone who is not even familiar with John Carpenters “The Thing” is not worthy of being near a Worldcon reading about any-thing :)

  4. I always thought Repeating The Past was dark and a little unnerving – perfect candidate to be balanced out by something a little lighter (Hillcrest v. Velikovsky, which I actually haven’t read, so…)

    I don’t know how helpful this suggestion will be, but I have to say, after reading all of your books and about half of the short stories on your site, the most emotionally effective and thought provoking piece was actually that little bit after Sarasti beats the shit out of Siri: When it is explained that self awareness is a parasite and just gets in the way of the brains ability to process data. Doesn’t require much in the way of background from the book (Character wise, anyway) and only lasts a few pages (From 301-304 in my hardback copy.) It definitely stuck with me for a while.

  5. I’m voting The Island. It fascinated me while the bits were being posted.
    Only drawback I see is that you could get a riot for it being just a fragment with no good conclusion.

  6. Things…all the way.

    There’s no doubt in my mind that a reading of this material will make an impact. I think your goal should be to emotionally scar some of the Worldcon attendees for life.

    Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead.

  7. I say 2. Maybe 3. I hope to god I am there to hear them!

  8. FWIW

    Can you have a plan A and plan B, depending on the audience mix?

    If the group looks mostly male and/or computer or science geeky, the Hillcrest article from Nature sounds impressive (SF in a real science journal! Watts must be smart!) You can just mention “The Thing” before you read and they’ll get it; no need to explain the movie to that group.. If you have it whipped into shape enough to make sense without reading the whole thing, I say go for it. I’d like to hear that.

    If there are more chicks, literary types, a more general audience, people less familiar with your work,
    you might want to go with Repeating the Past – it’s, short, strong, and it will make an interesting contrast when you stand up there all tall and goyish reading from the point of view of what I imagine is a short bent Jewish man with white hair. A general audience is familiar with the Holocaust story idea, and this take on it could be really powerful if read with feeling, which you don’t suck at.

    Too bad the story about the orcas and the aquarium is longish – that has *everything* – it’s accessible, scientific, darkly funny, and with pathos at the end for the new baby orca. I think you could read that to just about anyone and it would go over well.

    How about the first chapter of Blindsight ? That kind of hooks you. Also too long, I guess.

  9. Ooo, just read Chris J’s suggestion about self-awareness is a parasite. Me like!

    Sells the book, includes the wampires, the main interesting idea.

    The more I think about it, the more I like it.

  10. Hljóðlegur said: “If the group looks mostly male and/or computer or science geeky…”

    Hey, geekiness, whether science, computer, or some other area of geekdom is not gender based….chicks can be just as geeky as the best of them. :) How many chicks found Ripley, dealing with that Alien in her panties a Heroine of Female Geekiness and Courage?

  11. What about bits from more than one source? Can’t we have our cake and eat it too? After all, what good is a cake if one can’t eat it? Heh.

    I might have to haul my lazy ass out of bed on Saturday morning for this one.

  12. If Universal gave you any BS about “The Things”, maybe it could ‘accidentally’ find its way onto the internet. 😉

  13. Y’know, both “The Things” and “The Island” need the entirety, or else they either don’t make sense or feel rushed, and both suffer for it. Go with option A.

  14. Well, I still want a reading of ‘Starfish,’ or at very least ‘Home,’ or ‘A Niche.’

    Whichever you choose, can those unable to attend hope for a clip (or two) to show up online?

  15. I’d go with the Prologue and then the paragraphs starting with “Imagine… ” from Blindsight. They contain some spoilers, but convey the mood of the novel very well.

  16. Things.
    If I were going to be in attendance I’d be most pleased by something that may come out in the future and hasn’t been previously published. It feels like a bonus for attending the convention in person. If I’m already familiar with your work, there’s a good chance I’ve read the others; if I’m not familiar, I’ll look you up on the Net when I get back home and find the others.

  17. Keanani says:
    Hey, geekiness, whether science, computer, or some other area of geekdom is not gender based

    A point well taken. I retract that part and apologize.

    What I should have said, if I had been thinking, is:

    The reading(s) should be calibrated to whom we want to appeal.

    – To bring in new readers, one might read something easily accessible, short, with fewer inside references.
    – To give a treat to the dire hard fans who came specifically to see Peter, excerpts that need set-up, new writing, or bits that rely on the audience having the same pop culture knowledge as the author are better.

    Wow, I’d be really torn. Selfishly, I’d love to get in on new material! But I’d also like to see new readers get caught up in the poetry and the imagery. “Niche” would be good for that, although it’s a downer.

    Alehkhs asks:
    can those unable to attend hope for a clip (or two) to show up online?

    *raises hand* I’d like to vote for someone recording it, too?

  18. Things. After all this might be the only time it sees the light of day before it gets all lawyered upon.

  19. Hey, geekiness, whether science, computer, or some other area of geekdom is not gender based

    A point well taken. I retract that part and apologize.

    Thanks for that from another of PW’s fangirls 😉

    ‘A Niche’ was the first story of yours I read and it made a big impression on me. It may be good for drawing in other newbie readers. OTOH Blindsight was Hugo-nominated and people would make the connection.

    By and large, I’m happier with whole stories or self-contained excerpts when going to author readings, especially when the rest of the material isn’t accessible (as in ‘Things’), so I’d go with either option 1 or 2 from the list (given that NSO2 should be on sale during the con or shortly after).

  20. If you don’t publish The Things I am going to be more than a little upset after all that Beta Reading.

    The island is probably the most interesting of the choices but I am biased as hell on the subject. I get a little tweaked just thinking about it.

  21. I have a huge hungry hardon for “The Island” as long as your asking for feedback, and I belive you are. Also please stop sending us your forest fire smoke. Thank you.

  22. I thought this was a no-brainer, but, obviously, I was wrong. Most of the people who’ll be in your audience are probably fans. If I were there, as a fan, I’d want to hear from your most recent fiction. Preferably, a tantalizing reading from your newest novel.

  23. […] of not-really-discussed-in-public stuff with lawyers worried about copyrights (although, as usual, Watts was pretty forthright in explaining his take on the issue, and Strahan is only slightly more elliptic about the details of what couldn’t be worked out […]