Novel of Interest.

Catchy title, no?

Catchy title, no? And how about that cover art?

Chances are, if you emailed me this autumn past you received a terse autoresponse claiming that I was too busy to respond, thanks to some hush-hush project that might implode at any moment. Over in Poland, readers of Nowa Fantastyka might have noticed that my column in that magazine went dark about the same time. A number of you have enquired as to just what I was doing all fall.

As it turns out, the answer is: well, nothing. Nothing at all.

Okay, then. You explain this.

Okay, then. You explain it.

As of yesterday, you could be forgiven for thinking that I’d been hard at work on a new book with the intriguing title Person of Interest Novel #1, release date March 29, that’s just gone live on Amazon websites around the world. Certainly a bunch of people in Japan seem to think so: as of five minutes ago Novel #1 is the #1 best-selling Media Tie-in at Amazon.co.jp and their #31 best-selling title overall. Which means that in Japan at least, it’s kicking the ass of the new Star Wars novelization by Alan Dean Foster (and absolutely whipping the ass of 50 Shades of Grey). I have no idea how to interpret this beyond concluding that someone must have hacked their servers.

In fact, though, the book is not coming out on March 29. Nor is it called Person of Interest Novel #1. I was hoping it would be called Person of Interest: The Hephaestus Iteration but I can’t even swear to that; the same pitch that Warner Brothers enthusiastically approved in October got a pin stuck in it by Bad Robot in November, because they want the story to dovetail with a finale that I haven’t seen yet. I can’t even say for sure the damn thing will even happen, because various suits and higher-ups reserve the right to junk the whole project if they don’t like the detailed outline. And I can’t write said outline until someone tells me what characters I can use, or what shape they’re going to be in when I get them. I would be sworn to silence even now, were it not for the fact that someone jumped the gun and released all those Amazon pages into the wild. As of yesterday, though, mute is moot.

What I can tell you is that this is the risk you run when you write an extended blog post both praising Person of Interest for its smarts and its depth, and critiquing it for clunky writing. There’s always the chance someone might show up at your In Box to say “All right, smart guy: you show us how it’s done.”

The Offending Page, as of 1041EST this morning. Click to embiggen.

The Offending Page, as of 1041EST this morning. Click to embiggen.

Which is what happened to me back in July. Titan Books threw down the gauntlet: how could I not pick it up? A chance to play in that sandbox? A chance to dance with that particular Machine?

Of course, the deadline’s very tight, they told me. We’re talking a spring release, so you’ll have to clear your calendar for the next three months. Done. Done done done. Autoresponder engaged. NF Column hiatused. Intelligent Design and other assorted gigs backburnered or refused outright. There were contractual issues, but I figured we could work those through— because sometimes, as my buddy Mike Skeet opined, you just gotta tell the story.

Don’t get too excited. I haven’t told it yet.

Oh, I’ve plotted the thing out. I’ve written a couple of chapters. I’ve wined and dined computer nerds to pick their brains, lined up an ex NY cop to help me get the LE details right. But it’s not just Titan I’m dealing with here. There’s Warner Brothers. There’s Bad Robot. Every level needs to approve every stage (there’s always a chance this Watts guy could go rogue and turn Reese into a pedophile or something for dramatic purposes). And while you might think that J.J. Abrams would naturally give all his attention to an obscure paperback tie-in for one of his TV shows, turns out Bad Robot has a couple of other irons in the fire these days. Go figure.

So those three months have come and gone, and I’m still pretty much in the dark. I’ve retired the autoresponder for the time being, have started taking other gigs to fill the emptiness. I expect the project is still a go— we finally came to contractual terms at the end of November, so everything’s signed and official— but anyone expecting a March release is in for a world of disappointment.

I’m hoping to retain the basic premise, at least. I’m really excited about it, and it should be portable to a variety of contexts— but it all comes down to the glacial firing speeds of corporate synapses at three different levels. So I’m no longer waiting with bated breath. At some point they’ll give me something I can work with, and I’ll work with it. In the meantime, I’ve taken my life off hold.

After all this, though, it better happen.

Apparently Japan demands it.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Tuesday January 05 2016at 09:01 am , filed under writing news . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

33 Responses to “Novel of Interest.”

  1. This sounds extremely interesting, to put it mildly. Like you, I’m a fan of the show who’s often put out by some of the writing – having you play in that universe sounds like the best possible combination.

  2. welp, time to go 1) watch the show so I’ll be ready to read 2) find the powers that be on twitter and ask them to please let this go ahead so I can get my fix

  3. My head is spinning. BTW, season 5 was cut down to 1/2 the usual size and don’t know when it premieres. If anyone finds out, please alert the rest of us. Cryptic spoiler: Stepford Towns. I mused on Twitter that the network didn’t want a full season of another reality show. 😉

  4. I’m looking forward to you retroactively making sense of every single hand-wavey explanation of the creation and functioning of the Machine. And providing a plausible justification for how a single person managed to create an A.I. And why Reese hates kneecaps.

    Oh, and I wouldn’t have even noticed if I hadn’t seen a discussion on it again recently, but “baited breath”? The smell would explain why people are limiting their communication with you…

  5. Damn, I was going to get to Person of Interest sooner or later, now I’m going to have to watch it all before whenever the book comes out.

  6. Awesome. The dream of every fanfiction author come true 😉

  7. Wowzers! Now I might have to watch the show, besides the pilot.

    But whoever’s comment above is completely correct–season 6 is up in the air. More experienced analysts than I believe that season 5 will be the last for the show.

    The only thing I can say to the TV Grim Reapers and Cancel Bears out there is that I inadvertently saw the books for a prior collaboration between CBS and WB–one that did not include packaged media for various IP reasons–and that tells me that the profit potential is ENORMOUS for a long-running show with the kind of SF bonafides of Person of Interest. Not MCU, HP or SW shared-universe profit potential, but nothing for Moonves, Tsujihara et al to sniff at.

  8. Congratulations, and I think you should win an award for Unintended Consequences.

    I daresay you may have found a new career strategy for mid-list Canadian sci-fi authors.

    1: Write an essay contradicting another author’s too-rosy description of the sous-veillance society and become internet famous when he loses his mind.

    2: Write an essay critiquing an sf television series and get a deal from it.

    Trolling for dollars!

    Congratulations, again.

    P.S. I realize that trolling is a mischaracterizition of reasoned critique, but I’m sure the recipients don’t feel that way.

  9. Oh, and I think going with a greek god is the best way to go, Vulcan is sooooo overdone.

  10. As much as I hate J. J. Abrams and Bad Robot, I guess I have to watch Person of Interest now.

  11. I’ll have to check out this series if they’re drawing you into it. Thanks for the reply when your time was stretched. Here’s hoping it is again soon.

  12. So *that’s* why you write so many TV reviews 😉

  13. This is bloody hilarious :) Even more so now, that I’ve started watching the series in question thanks for your recommendation (and _only_ thanks to the recommendation – I wouldn’t have watched past the 15 minutes mark of the 1st episode)
    I hope you’ll get to publish this thing. I’m gonna read it. I’m gonna freaking read it.

  14. I read this with great anticipation which has not abated just because the March 29 deadline is dead. There is so much STORY to be told for Person of Interest it amazes me that we may very well be seeing its last gasp on TV with S5. To think someone with your credentials writing a book(s) to continue the story does my heart good. Please know that you have a very enthusiastic group of readers waiting ‘with baited breath’ to see where and when you take us.

  15. I have heard rumors Season 5 might be delayed to Summer, which if true, is basically saying the show is finished. But I also assume that Peter would know better than some anonymous goon on the inter-Web.

  16. Nick N.: Oh, and I wouldn’t have even noticed if I hadn’t seen a discussion on it again recently, but “baited breath”? The smell would explain why people are limiting their communication with you…

    Actually that’s a perfectly legitimate spelling. It finds its origins in the fact that human breath, when held for an inordinately long time, becomes stale, and hence “fishy”.

    But I have replaced it with the more common, vulgar spelling to avoid further mockery from the peanut gallery.

    Nestor:
    Awesome. The dream of every fanfiction author come true ;)

    Not exactly. You haven’t seen what they’re paying me.

  17. I need more Person of Interest in my life! I hope this happens!

  18. I tried watching PoI at first but quickly gave up because it felt like crap. Then I read your post on it, and decided that it deserved a second chance. It did.

    I just got to Season 4 yesterday, accidentally getting my SO hooked on the way. I’ve been meaning to get her to read Starfish, since she used to be a biology major and loves deep sea stuff. But this might be an even better way to introduce her to your writing.

    Very much looking forward to this!

  19. After reading your POI critique blog entry and the back-and-forth in the comments thereto, I am very interested in seeing your take on the POI-verse.

    But it’s not just Titan I’m dealing with here. There’s Warner Brothers. There’s Bad Robot. Every level needs to approve every stage….

    I make my living writing (nonfiction) things to other people’s specifications, so I hear you, brother! Here’s hoping you will successfully navigate these rocks and shoals and bring in a winner.

    in Japan at least, it’s kicking the ass of the new Star Wars novelization by Alan Dean Foster (and absolutely whipping the ass of 50 Shades of Grey).

    I see what you did there.

  20. Baby M: I see what you did there.

    I’m glad someone did. People just don’t appreciate the little things any more…

  21. I’m of two minds about PoI, as I mentioned in the long ago discussion of your critique here : on the one hand, the premise is good and they’ve done a lot within the confines of what network TV will allow, but on the other, I feel it’s a bit of a waste and too ill-fitted to the no-offense-allowed limitations of network TV for the series to live up to its potential — plus, yeah, writing is hit’n’miss.

    Of course, a Wattsian spin on this material has me excited, but it begs the question : do you have to stick to the same broad-appeal design docs, or are you allowed to make it more grownup and biting than the on-screen version ?

    Secondly, about the Japanese Amazon numbers : are we talking about the same book, and are those pre-order figures, then ?

    In any case, congrats and fingers crossed : seeing what you managed to spin from Crysis, I can’t wait to read your take on the PoI mythos.

  22. One of my favorite authors writing a book based on one of my favorite shows. 2016 is looking to suck a great deal less than it’s immediate predecessor.

  23. Peter Watts: Not exactly. You haven’t seen what they’re paying me.

    Man, being paid at all would be icing on the cake for most fanfic writers. Having the finger of god descend from the heavens and nominate them to add to official canon because of something they wrote on their blog would be enough to have them gibbering.

    I’m getting the urge to troll the relevant fanfiction.net forums now…

  24. Congratulations, I hope it works out. Actually, to be 100% honest, I kind of hope it collapses in such a way that you both get to keep the money and recycle and develop the research and ideas into a completely separate, non-tie-in novel because as much as I love your work I probably won’t pick this up as I never got past the first few episodes of the show and, despite the many recommendations that it gets better, I don’t realistically see myself investing the time and effort to catch up. But as that hope I suspect is unrealistic, I hope it works out, it’d be a shame for something that made you put off everything else to come to nothing.

    Speaking of putting off everything else, I just want to check and make sure… did you release anything in short fiction in 2015 that may be nominatable for the various awards? Lately I’ve been going through the Eligibility Lists of the Auroras, adding anything that I feel’s been left out, and, right now as far as I can tell, aside from the things you put in the fiblet tag, and I’m not sure whether they’d count, there isn’t anything, but I want to make sure I’m not missing something. (Although technically, your columns in NF might count under ‘related work’)

  25. @ Peter D.

    ***SPOILERS***


    Opener for S3-E10, “The Devil’s Share”
    . Character-focused episode overall, but I confess to liking it and E9 for some reason.

  26. I hope you get to do it. You did a great job stepping into the Crysis universe and telling a very Peter Watts story within it. I saw this today: http://io9.gizmodo.com/j-j-abrams-person-of-interest-is-likely-in-its-final-1752102258. If they’re currently breaking the last season’s story arc, I can understand why they’d want to wait and tell you how it’s all going to wrap up next year on the show to avoid major incongruities.

  27. And what rough code, its teraflops come at last, dithers toward the JPL to be booted?

    Quantum Computing and the Dawn of the Quantum Tyranny.

  28. whoever:
    And what rough code, its teraflops come at last, dithers toward the JPL to be booted?

    Quantum Computing and the Dawn of the Quantum Tyranny.

    I don’t believe and old, fat guy with a goatee who started out covering sheep-fucking for newspapers in the outback is the go-to guy to ask on ramifications of quantum computing.

    It’s sort of very unclear how you’d go from quantum computing to an infinite number of intelligent virtual slaves which the sort of scary, intimate surveillance would require.

  29. He is a bit emphatic without fine detail, isn’t he?

    Smart homes, appliances, next gen portable stuff are the spies, I assume. He doesn’t much connect the dots, but viewing it like RAM doubling in the 90s, he is probably correct about the surveillance with or without the qupers barring something major impacting the trend. Hilariously, means those extra constables watching screens may be out of a job.

    Makes some sense, Gates has been talking a severe reduction in programmers as computers begin to program themselves, though maybe if the architecture is different enough, maybe qupers could rejuvenate some of that temporarily.

  30. Seeing October 2016 as release date on US sites. Is that new, or was March only for certain markets?

  31. whoever:
    He is a bit emphatic without fine detail, isn’t he?

    He seems to be somewhat hampered by the fact that he seems to know next to nothing about the computional theory of quantum computers.

    Here is the wikipedia page for the complexity class,
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BQP

    And the “prominent problems” that page lists as ones where a quantum computer would shine are,
    *Integer factorization (see Shor’s algorithm)
    *Discrete logarithm
    *Simulation of quantum systems (see universal quantum simulator)
    *Computing the Jones polynomial at certain roots of unity

    So I’m not sure where this “Quantum Tyranny” is hiding.

    Looking at, what I assume, is his Amazon-author page
    http://www.amazon.com/Julian-Cribb/e/B0034OZXHY
    it seems technobabble fear mongering might be his niche.

  32. Peter Watts wrote: What I can tell you is that this is the risk you run when you write an extended blog post both praising Person of Interest for its smarts and its depth, and critiquing it for clunky writing. There’s always the chance someone might show up at your In Box to say “All right, smart guy: you show us how it’s done.”

    I can only hope that my relentless pimping of you, anywhere and everywhere I could find a space to type it, has had some small influence in helping big media types figure out that they need to find or make some way to pay you.

  33. […] scifi author Peter Watts had a writing job to write the first tie-in novel, which I think was partly to pad the ending since season 5, which […]