Proof of Principle

Dateline Munich. Scribbled in a near-coma while sitting in a chair which has been designed by aliens who obviously never looked at a human body.

Which is to say, at an airport…

 

 

Something slipped under my radar last week. I was nose-deep in “Freeze-Frame Revolution” and the upcoming Ratio talk, and when I looked up to find my way to the airport, “Fish To Mars” had hatched.

It’s still larval, mind you. Eighty percent yolk sac and 10% big round eyes. But there it was, wriggling in the current for an hour on the evening of May 31: a live trailer-for/excerpt-from next year’s (hopefully) full-blown production “Fish To Mars” belted out— appropriately enough— amongst the seals and lumpfish of the Bergen Aquarium.

I’m writing the story. It involves terrorist vegan gengineering and academic hierarchies and marbled lungfish and autocannibalism.  Also terraforming and First Contact with aliens who showed up on Earth long before Kubrick’s transcendent monolith-makers, and who— being not very bright— bet on an utterly wrong horse. There’s a lot of story, a lot of backstory, and yet the story almost seems to be the least of it. It’s an actual opera, you see; a fusion of classic high-pitched arias and growling distorted black-metal grunge. There’s music, and a libretto. There are singers and sets and costumes— relatively primitive at this stage, the event was basically a proof-of-principle exercise after all— and scientific fact-checking courtesy of  a number of real authorities, not the least being the co-discoverer of Dark Energy. We’re after verisimilitude, here. This aims to be the most scientifically-rigorous opera about alien lungfish on Mars ever written.

It is a high bar to clear.

The production is so multifaceted that the story itself is really more seed than structure; the actual production was built by people from a half-dozen institutions and I-don’t-know how many independent agents and artists.  It was an orgy of musical collaboration between Oded Ben-Horin (on the classical side) and Arild Brakstad (on the black-metal side), all of us herded by the award-winning jet-setting Karin Pittman of the University of Bergen (and who honestly seems way too connected for your average marine biologist— I’m starting to think that’s a cover identity or something).

Really, it shouldn’t have worked. But I’ve heard some tunes, and I’ve seen the pics, and…well, yes. It really seems to have turned out nicely. Wish I could’ve been there.

All the following photos are by Jarle Hovda Moe.

The set was really cool.

The set was really cool.

...although admittedly, some of the props could have used a bit more work.admittedly have

…although admittedly, some of the props could have used a bit more work.

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I think those were scientists on the left. And the guy with the bowling ball on his head is an engineer.

I think those were scientists on the left. And the guy with the bowling ball on his head is either an engineer or the most overqualified post-doc in the solar system.

I think this might be kind of a post-apocalyptic Greek Chorus.

I think this might be kind of a post-apocalyptic Greek Chorus.

I don't actually now if this is part of the performance or not, but it looks cool.

I don’t actually now if this is part of the performance or not, but it looks cool.

This is Karin, who set the whole thing up. And something else I got a PhD in once, but I've forgotten the details

This is Karin, who set the whole thing up. And something else I got a PhD in once, but I’ve forgotten the details

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Wednesday June 07 2017at 03:06 am , filed under ink on art, On the Road, writing news . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

11 Responses to “Proof of Principle”

  1. Looks absolutely facinating! Dammit! Why can’t America have cool stuff like this? Oo! Oo! Is it eventually going on the road?!

  2. Well, setting it to music might be one way to get people to actually sit through a necessary info dump. Perhaps all writers should be required to deliver the backstory to their handcrafted worlds in rock opera format.

  3. “fact-checking courtesy of a number of real authorities, not the least being the co-discoverer of Dark Energy. […] This aims to be the most scientifically-rigorous opera about alien lungfish on Mars ever written.”

    Things I never thought I’d read!

  4. Is this a stunt? Did you throw together a mad mix of styles and genres and tropes just to see what would happen, or was the mix of classical opera, black metal, hard sf, and ichthyology simply the best way to tell the story?

  5. Johan Larson:
    Is this a stunt? Did you throw together a mad mix of styles and genres and tropes just to see what would happen, or was the mix of classical opera, black metal, hard sf, and ichthyology simply the best way to tell the story?

    It’s a Science Opera. Science Opera is officially a thing now. Got a wikipedia page and everything.

  6. DA:
    Perhaps all writers should be required to deliver the backstory to their handcrafted worlds in rock opera format.

    This would work well, especially with audiobooks. Movies have been doing the reverse since forever.

  7. Glad to see that the Peter Watts and Deeply Bizarre relationship is still strong. Not that I could ever really doubt it, after the flesh-eating bacteria thing.

    If I lived in or around Bergen, I’d be looking forward to this. Even though my tastes are too limitted to appreciate opera or death metal. If nothing else, I’m curious as to whether or not those are, as you suspect, scientists. They can be difficult to identify unless they’re standing such that their slide rules can be seen.

    But mostly because it would almost certainly be the weirdest thing I did all week. That has to count for something, even though I’m not sure of exactly what.

  8. JESUS JUST FINISH WRITING OMNISCIENCE ALREADY AGHHHHHHHHHHHHH!@!@!#!@@!

  9. Whaddya mean, “finish”?

  10. So cool…my kid will be duly impressed…she has been trying to make her drama program musical theatre productions more sciency/science fictiony, to no avail, so far..if someone filmed this and uploaded it, it would be awesome if you provided a link to that here…

  11. .
    There’s veeeeeeeeery little info about the Fish to Mars project out there. I could only find a Facebook post about it from the aquarium. Here it is: https://www.facebook.com/Akvariet/posts/10156151767383521

    Hope it gets shared on the internets for the rest of the world to know more about it!