Upgraded to Lightspeed.

It’s not often you get a second chance, after your writing’s hit the market.

You predicate a whole subspecies on a genetic glitch that, as it turns out, only occurs in males. A character dramatically closes her eyes while wearing corneal overlays that prevent the closing of eyes. You use a friend’s name as a placeholder for a violent borderline personality in one of your novels, fully intending to swap it out it before it goes to press— then totally forget about it until you receive an email from said friend, wondering what he ever did to piss you off.

Oops.

Where Version 1.0 appeared.

Where Version 1.0 appeared.

Once in a blue moon, though, you get a do-over. And I am pleased to announce that as of this past midnight, the eZine Lightspeed has reposted my story “Collateral”, which originally appeared in Neil Clarke’s cyborg anthology Upgraded. And they didn’t just reprint it; they let me upgrade it in its own right.

Not that I didn’t like the original “Collateral”, mind you. It played with some interesting ideas about ethics vs. morality, collateral damage, the culpability of augmentation. But while the themes were solid, the execution was a bit lacking. A gun on the mantelpiece got used in the last act (which is exactly what’s supposed to happen with guns on mantelpieces), but it was also introduced in the last act— which made part of the climax look kind of shoehorned and contrived. I always wanted to take another run at that story, but deadlines are deadlines and the ship sailed.

When John Adams approached me for the reprint rights, I asked if I could take that second run— and he said Sure. (He even agreed that it would improve the story.) So what you’ll find over at Lightspeed is “Collateral, the Director’s Cut“: same story, same payoff, but you notice the critical gun a lot earlier in the story. The payoff unfolds more organically now. Plus, the need to relocate that element also gave me the opportunity to tune up some dialog, coax a little more tension out of the exchanges between Becker and Sabrie.

V1.2. I do not know why this woman is literally tossing her cookies, but I can only hope the rest of you react more favorably.

V1.2. I do not know why this woman is literally tossing her cookies. I can only hope the rest of you react more favorably.

It’s not a radically different story, by any means. But I think it’s a better one. I’m grateful to Lightspeed for letting me tune it up.

I’m also grateful that they threw their “Author Spotlight” on me in the same issue. Interviewer Sandra Odell hit me with a nice mix of questions, ranging from the familiar (who do you like to read) to some finely-focussed probing into the specifics of this particular story (the manipulation of identity to military and propagandistic ends). About the only thing she got wrong was her allegation that I write “fully realized and complex” characters, but I corrected her on that score.

Anyway, check it out. If you’ve already read the story, see if you can spot the differences. If you haven’t, I hope you like it.

Also I really like the author pic they used.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Tuesday April 19 2016at 07:04 am , filed under interviews, writing news . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

23 Responses to “Upgraded to Lightspeed.”

  1. Heh, reading it now. Is the Michael Harris that shot up the daycare a reference to the journalist or the former Premier of Ontario?

  2. That second one. Unless the journalist was somehow responsible for cutting social services to the bone…

  3. Nice story, it would be interesting to depict wingman as a kind of impressionistic phantom image flailing and reacting in a visual medium adaptation. Peter Chung kind of visuals would look great for this one.

  4. I think I may have that anthology. I’m looking forwarding to comparing versions. (I wish I could diff the text).

    The story seems a natural progression towards the soldiers in Echopraxia where consciousness was turned off. It’s easier for me to be squicked in this story due to the fact that the protaganist still has personhood and agency of sorts. I guess?

    The spoiler where the spoiler technician is spoilering the spoiler is wonderfully uncomfortable.

    update: is this in the same setting?

  5. And by buying this we can get the story without having to support Benjanun Sriduangkaew in the process!

  6. Mister_DK:
    And by buying this we can get the story without having to support Benjanun Sriduangkaew in the process!

    Now that you mention it, that too is a worthy reason!

    Except it’s a freebie. You don’t even have to buy it.

  7. Now that the LIghtspeed link is live, it might be a good time to update the entry for “Collateral” on your Backlist Web page.

  8. How many magazines do you submit your short stories to, Mr Watts? Do you send to multiple places and hope they’re accepted by one, or do you target specific magazines?

  9. OldMiser:
    Now that the LIghtspeed link is live, it might be a good time to update the entry for “Collateral” on your Backlist Web page.

    Oooh, good point.

    Trent:
    How many magazines do you submit your short stories to, Mr Watts? Do you send to multiple places and hope they’re accepted by one, or do you target specific magazines?

    Actually, back in the days when I submitted shorts, nobody ever bought them. (Well, nobody but On Spec, but that was a little dick-ass Canadian magazine nobody had ever heard of.) To this day, I’ve never sold a story to Analog, Asimov’s, or F&SF. In fact, you know those stories writers like to tell about how many times they’ve been rejected from the places they’ve submitted to? I’ve got ’em all beat: I once received a rejection from a magazine I hadn’t even submitted anything to. (Asimov’s, if you’re interested.)

    Somewhere along the line I hit some kind of fulcrum, and people started approaching me instead of the other way around. It’s been like that for a while now. I can’t remember the last time I actually cold-subbed a story that hadn’t already been solicited. These days, I get to turn down the editors. It’s a nice change.

    If only the short stuff paid more…

  10. Great story, really enjoyed it.

    One thing I’m curious about in your stories is the complete absence of autonomous killer drone (Malak excepted).

    Is this a stylistic choice, in order to highlight the issue of individual agency in rapidly developing technologies or do you see structural/social/technological barriers to this type of development?

  11. Thank you – that was another interesting slice through your pet themes.
    And – sweaty palms OMIGOD OMIGOD – there IS going to be another book in the Blindsight sequence – maybe I don’t follow closely enough, maybe you confirmed it elsewhere already, but things in Echopraxia suggested a third instalment and I’ve been wanting for that to happen.
    I know I’ve said this before, but Blindsight rekindled my faith in the existence of Science Fiction, which seemed to have been swamped by Space Opera.
    If you do a GoFundMe or whatever the thing is these days for Omniscience I will give you all my money.

  12. Great story!

    I thought naming a town “Red Deer” was a little far-fetched, and the political references to a “House of Commons” and the behaviour of its representatives seemed more like something out of Alice in Wonderland or a surrealist Tolkien than a story of the near future, but otherwise the terrain seems worryingly plausible.

    I’m not sure how I feel about Kant being gutted like a fish, but I sense from the accompanying interview that that’s a compliment.

    Hope the swelling evident in your previous post has subsided, btw…

  13. Phil Targon,

    Exactly what about the House of Commons and Red Deer do you consider to be surrealist? Both are facts of life in Canada.

  14. http://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/apr/26/hugo-awards-shortlist-rightwing-campaign-sad-rabid-puppies

    Anyone seen this?

  15. Pirmin,

    Red Deer – would that be Bambi’s mom? (or just another European mistranslation…)

    I’m Canadian myself, so I was happy to see these things mentioned in a story that wasn’t about farmers suffering through another brutal prairie winter. In retrospect, though, it was stupid to joke like that because the implication might have been that I was also being facetious in my praise for the story, which was not the case at all.

    I’d like to add that while there was nothing surrealist in Watt’s description, there are certainly surreal aspects to our House of Commons, and our system of government in general, but this is probably not the place…

  16. oops… Watts’

  17. Tim Slade: If you do a GoFundMe or whatever the thing is these days for Omniscience I will give you all my money.

    Why do I have to start a GoFundMe account? Just cut out the middleman and give me all your money directly.

    Phil Targon: I’d like to add that while there was nothing surrealist in Watt’s description,

    Oh yes there is. Red is quite surreal. I once found a beetle there the size of a Volvo. In November.

  18. Peter, just wanted to tell you that I loved this story when it was first published, and it’s even better now. Great job. You are truly one of our most creative thinkers about the future of ethics!

    I found your logic about babies being “potential” without much value, as compared to a grown person, to be surprisingly convincing. Perhaps people will think differently about this in the future.

  19. Peter Watts: Why do I have to start a GoFundMe account? Just cut out the middleman and give me all your money directly.

    Cat food fund? That might even be something one could write off on one’s taxes.

    Do you ever find yourself thinking “well, perhaps a little editing will improve the flow and not change the story much” and the next thing you know you’re doing a re-write so thorough that it might as well be a new story… and so you start writing a new story? And if so… do the original re-writes ever get finished?

  20. Peter Watts: Why do I have to start a GoFundMe account?Just cut out the middleman and give me all your money directly.

    Done.

  21. Mr Non-Entity: Do you ever find yourself thinking “well, perhaps a little editing will improve the flow and not change the story much” and the next thing you know you’re doing a re-write so thorough that it might as well be a new story… and so you start writing a new story?

    Nope. Not yet.

    Anonymous: Done.

    Dude, wait. I was kidding. No.

    Ah Jeez. Here it comes…

  22. Tyler Simmons: I found your logic about babies being “potential” without much value, as compared to a grown person, to be surprisingly convincing. Perhaps people will think differently about this in the future.

    Actually, I stole that idea from a paper that appeared in Science. They came up with a metric for deciding value-of-life in lifeboat situations. I’m pretty sure I even blogged about it a few years back, but for the life of me I can’t find the post…

  23. @Peter Watts:

    For those who haven’t read the piece, SPOILERS may be in this.

    I just read “Collateral”, and discovered that it’s the first time that I have read it, though I do recall quite a lot of concepts and thinking that went into it, which had been discussed here on the ‘Crawl. I’m surprised you didn’t expostulate a bit on the topic of the trolley paradox, though I can see that it might have tipped off the first-time reader as to what might have been the clincher at the end. It seems at first read to be almost two partial stories spliced together to form a final version, but hell, who doesn’t do that? Then on a quick re-read, I see that what gave me this idea was the change of viewpoint in the narrative, towards the end. Really, quite good as are all of your stories which I’ve read… and this one is fairly close to layman-friendly.

    As I am, after all, a trifle dim, it will probably take me a little while (and certainly another “cold” reading) to discern the motivations of the people ultimately responsible for the denouement.

    But you open up a real can of worms there and I don’t know if it’s been discussed here, yet, or if we should discuss it here or if it would be okay so long as we put a big all-caps spoiler alert. There’s quite a lot of discussion here in the States and presumably elsewhere regarding “Michael Harris”, so to speak. You write this as science-fiction… but how sure can we be, how sure could we be, that there isn’t some variation on that ongoing? Or attempts in that direction? And again, wow is that a thorny problem in ethics. Again, kudos on the great piece.