Peter’s Burg: A Fragmentary Reminiscence.

Translations welcome.

This traditional honey cake was about the size, shape, and moistness of a deflated football, until you got to the honey core which was great. Sadly, I only got halfway through before I had to abandon it; it would never had got past Customs.

At 2 a.m., on my last night in St. Petersberg, a small coterie of Russian SF fans pounded on my door and offered me balls of meat on a plate (not to be confused with meatballs, which are minced; these were not). I don’t know where they came from— the language barrier was pretty formidable— but I think there’d been some kind of late-night BBQ happening somewhere on the grounds.  I think they were inviting me to join them.

I couldn’t, sadly. The reason I was up at that hour in the first place was because I had a web site scheduled to go live in less than two weeks and a half-dozen pages yet to build (also because the wedding party across the pond was still belting out “Venus” and “Money for Nothing” at 50db, so it would have been a restless night in any event).

That gesture of carnivorous cross-cultural goodwill kind of epitomizes the whole St.-Petersburg trip for me.  Not quite sure why.

*

As usual, click to embiggen most of these pictures.

*

Google Earth map of The Village: my place was second red blob from the right, upper right quadrant

Google Earth map of The Village: my place was second red blob from the right, upper right quadrant

I had thought this thing was going to happen in St. Petersburg, Russia’s “Gateway to Europe”.  It did not. It happened deep in a forest full of totem poles and sculptures and strange pedestals big enough to accommodate sacrificial offerings. There was a pond stocked with ravenous fish, frequented by a happy couple being photographed on the afternoon of their wedding (and a mere nine hours before the newly wed bride stormed from the honeymoon suite in a rage, telling her friend that her drunken husband was “a complete asshole”).  There was a giant outdoor television embedded in stone; pools and fountains and petting zoos full of small children (none of whom I petted). There was a glorious bar with low ceilings and tree drunks and stuffed animals on the walls; conference halls full of weird angles and steampunk chandeliers.  There was some Lovecraftian variant of the Scandinavian sauna, some new strain that involved beating yourself with dead branches between the scorching air and the freezing water.  I think the concept mutated on its way across the Baltic (Which is not surprising; I read some papers about Baltic heavy-metal levels back in grad school. Nobody crosses that sea without suffering an inversion or two.)

*

This bar was awesome.  Contrary to popular conception, I didn't see a single person drinking vodka the whole time I was in Russia.

This bar was awesome. Contrary to popular conception, I didn’t see a single person drinking vodka the whole time I was in Russia.

 europlus

thevillage2

I swear, I kept expecting Patrick McGoohan to appear around the corner.

 redmedia
Much higher production values than the Blair Witch Project.

Much higher production values than the Blair Witch Project.

*

The KGB was always close at hand, keeping an eye on things.

The KGB was always close at hand, keeping an eye on things.

I’ve only seen two Russian movies in my life. At least, only two stick out in my mind. One of these is Tarkovsky’s 1972 adaptation of Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris (and while it has it’s charms, sorry, I think Soderberg did it better in 2002).  The other was an obscure post-apocalyptic downer called Letters from a Dead Man, which I saw in 1986 at a foreign film festival in Vancouver.  It blew me away. In a decade when nuclear war was being soft-pedaled with rosey-eyed sitcoms like The Day After, Letters had the unflinching balls to deny us any hope whatsoever.

Over in St. Petersberg I got to meet one the screenwriters for that movie, Vyacheslav Rybakov. We sat together on a panel discussing religion and state surveillance.

I think he was in favor of both.

*

There was a 2-hour Q&A. There were interviews: a couple of homegrown Russian magazines, and an iteration of Popular Mechanics that took root on these shores somewhere around the turn of the century. One of the locals asked me a question I’d never heard before, pointed out that I— a notoriously hard-SF writer— was married to a fantasy author. He wanted to know if that caused any discord on the home front; it was almost as though he was asking a card-carrying member of B’Nai Brith what it was like to shack up with the Treasurer of Hamas.

It was a good question, because it let me answer a different one; it let me air my thoughts on Fantasy in relation to SF in general. To my mind, there are two kinds of fantasy: the kind that uses the all-bets-off aspect of the genre as an excuse to be lazy, because everything’s just magic anyway; and the kind that regards that same element as a challenge to build new worlds rigorously and from scratch, without even the pre-existing scaffold of real-world science to help them out. I look down on the one with contempt; I look up at the other with awe. Basically— if you scale quality/merit along the vertical axis—  I regard SF as the filling in a fantasy sandwich.

It was during the Popular Mechanics interview, however, that I discovered that Russian chairs have it in for me.

It’s not just that they were defective blobs of cheap molded plastic.  That’s what I assumed when the first one collapsed under me. Nikolai, who must weigh at least as much as I do, offered me his, thinking that I must have simply chosen a defective unit. Except his collapsed under me too, after about ten seconds, despite the fact that it had been bracing his ass against the force of gravity without any trouble. As did the next. It was like some kind of antiCanadian autoimmune response.

I suspect smart matter, gene-locked against use by all but specific ethnic haplotypes.

*

It turned out okay, though.

It turned out okay, though.

Blindsight got my translator fired.

I learned this over a potato latte in the airport Starbucks, on my way back to London.  Apparently Astrel got sold on Blindsight solely on the strength of Nikolai’s own rabid enthusiasm; only after it had been bought and translated and put irrevocably into production did his bosses (who didn’t read English) have a chance to read for themselves what they’d bought.

Apparently they fired him on the spot. What the hell did you do to us? People will hate this book! It’s too complicated! Nobody will be able to make any sense of it unless they’re logged into a bunch of science journals at the same time! We’re completely screwed! Begone!

*

How To Make Friends By Insulting Them: My keynote speech was an updated iteration of Hive Minds, Mind Hives from a few years back, which incorporated my usual derogation of economics. You know the spiel: Dungeons & Dragons for geeks with MBAs, a beautiful model with little connection to the real world, There’s no such thing as Klingon and no matter how fluent you are, eventually the Laws of Physics are still going to beat the crap out of you and steal your lunch money. Followed by the token admission that A real economist would probably accuse me of horrendously mischaracterizing their profession

At which point a very pleasant gentleman with whom I’d been conversing prior to the talk stood up wearing a faint smile and said “Actually, I’m an economist…” Which is something that had never happened before, although I probably should have been expecting it.

It all worked out for the best, though. I even got his email, so I can run ideas past him while writing my next (economics-related) novel.  It’s an unexpectedly effective way of getting actual experts to help you out.

During my next talk, perhaps I’ll describe all neuroscientists as a bunch of New-Age witch doctors.

*

Breakfast, lunch, dinner.  Not necessarily in that order.

Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Not necessarily in that order. As I may have mentioned on facebook, the Russians are a stoic people.

The holding pen. The proximity of this picture to that of those nourishing meat dishes above is purely coincidental.

The holding pen. The proximity of this picture to that of those hearty and nourishing meat dishes above is purely coincidental.

Blindsight got my translator hired back.

It didn’t tank after all.  Turns out there were lots of people willing to hit the science journals. Turns out Blindsight actually became something of a cult hit, to Astrel’s astonishment— and after the numbers came back, Nikolai gets a phone call: So, how’s it going? Good, good— say, we’ve been thinking that maybe we were a little hasty before, we were thinking that maybe if you wanted to come back…

And Nikolai says Well, maybe, okay … but only if you publish this book about a bunch of misfits at the bottom of the sea…

I’m told that Blindsight‘s completely unexpected success opened a door for other N’Am authors, on whom Russian publishers wouldn’t previously have taken a chance: Cory Doctorow and Rob Wilson, among others.  Which would inspire me to gloat over the fact that Cory now owed me one, were it not for the fact that he’s already pimped my work and saved my ass so many times that this really doesn’t do anything but reduce the debt I owe him by some fractional amount.

Nikolai (translator/guide-dude), Vlad (translator), Елена (photographer).
Nikolai (translator/guide-dude), Vlad (translator), Елена (photographer).

 *

I was planning on writing much less— impressionistically— about this trip.  In fact, I’d jotted down extensive notes both during the con and on the flight thereafter, so I’d have a solid basis for the narrative. I’ve been trying for the past week and a half to find any trace of those notes, on any of my laptops, or on any of the external hard drives we keep as backups (one always physically offsite), because no one in this house is stupid enough to trust The Cloud.

But I can’t find so much as a word. This is all from memory.  Draw whatever moral you can from that.

*

There was this war with the Swedes. I learned a little bit about it during a walking tour during  my last morning in Russia, between four hours of sleep the night before and three hours of jetlag induced after.  (Details are fuzzy. I think I remember a Burger King in the shape of a flying saucer.) But beyond the armories, the immortalized microcephalics, and the bronze mutant rabbits, the waterfront of St. Petersberg is decorated by these, well, totem poles: studded by the stylized bows of vanquished warships, each memorializing Russia’s triumph over the dastardly Swedes.

Such monuments seem fairly common in St. Petersberg. I asked if Russia ever built monuments  commemorating its defeats.

“The Poles commemorate defeat,” they told me. “Russians commemorate tragedies.”

The Petersberglians do seem to have a thing for rabbits, though.

The Petersberglians do seem to have a thing for rabbits, though.

 thedanes

This is The Hermitage Museum, one of the biggest cultural repositories on the planet:

Click to embiggen

Actually just the left-hand side, but it’s still pretty big. That column in the square is not fastened to its plinth by anything except weight and gravity. Pray that Bruce Banner doesn’t take the St. Petersburg walking tour. Click to embiggen.

The building itself is massive, the size of city blocks. We didn’t dare go inside; it would have taken days just to find our way out again.  But I knew about this place. It’s famous. I’d read an article in the New Yorker:  it’s the home of a colony of feral cats down in the basement with its own staff of feeders and veterinarians, charged with keeping the seventy-odd furballs in good shape.

“This is the place with the cats?” I asked.

My guide shook his head. “This is one of the largest museums in the world. It was founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great, and it’s got more da Vinci’s in its collection than any—”

“Yeah, but it’s famous for the cats, right?”

“No, it’s famous for being one of the largest galleries in the wor—

“But aside from that—”

Ultimately, we agreed to disagree.

 

The Petersburglians do like their cats, though. I’m given to understand that during and after the Siege of Leningrad they literally shipped them in by the truckload, as a vital anti-vermin strategy. They like their spiders, too.  Spiders are considered good luck here.  It’s nice to see arachnids getting a break.  I approve.

I do not approve of the (apparently Russia-wide) superstitious hatred of snakes, on the other hand. Snakes get demonized in Russian culture, much as they do elsewhere throughout the world. I blame the fucking Christians and their idiotic serpentophobic creation myth.

I’m pretty sure the Russians blame the Swedes.

This deeply disturbing piece of public art  commemorates either a famous Russian microcephalic or a sculptor raised on the early films of David Lynch.

This deeply disturbing piece of public art commemorates either a famous Russian microcephalic or a sculptor raised on the early films of David Lynch.

This is a bookstore. It sells actual paper books, and it's proud of the fact. Can you imagine anyone in North America gilding their bookstores so elaborately?Hell, can you imagine anyone in North America having a bookstore?

This is a bookstore. It sells actual paper books, and it’s proud of the fact. Can you imagine anyone in North America gilding their bookstores so elaborately?

Hell, it’s getting increasingly difficult to even  imagine anyone in North America having a bookstore.

"The Bronze Horseman", a tribute to Peter the so-called Great (although "great" is not the word that springs to my mind when I contemplate someone who deliberately crushes the skull of an innocent and utterly undeserving reptile beneath the hooves of his horse).

“The Bronze Horseman”, a tribute to Peter the so-called Great (although “great” is not the word that springs to my mind when I contemplate someone who deliberately crushes the skull of an innocent and utterly undeserving reptile beneath the hooves of his horse).

In St. Petersburg's Field of Mars gutters this "Eternal Flame", which I'm told has been burning continuously since the year before I was born. Having been raised by a Baptist minister in the heart of Alberta's Bible Belt, I've long been familiar with the prospect of eternal flames. I have to say, when you actually encounter them they're a lot less intimidating than their rep would have you believe.

In St. Petersburg’s Field of Mars gutters this “Eternal Flame”, which I’m told has been burning continuously since before I was born. Having been raised by a Baptist minister in the heart of Alberta’s Bible Belt, I’ve long been familiar with the prospect of eternal flames. I have to say, when you actually encounter them they’re a lot less intimidating than their rep would have you believe.

This is Nataly, who got me there and back again. I wish I spoke Russian.  Or she spoke English.

This is Nataly, who got me there and back again. I wish I spoke Russian. Or that she spoke English.

And finally, St. Petersberg Cathedral. I could not stop taking pictures of this, it was so amazing. It just about broke my camera. It's as if a Greek Orthodoc Church fucked a Fabergé Egg.

And finally, St. Petersberg Cathedral. I could not stop taking pictures of this, it was so amazing. It just about broke my camera. It’s as if a Greek Orthodox Church fucked a Fabergé Egg.
Posted in: On the Road, public interface by Peter Watts 18 Comments

Sunrise.

sunflowers-onassorted-onFor those who haven’t been checking the Updates Link to your right, The Shorts Gallery went up a few days ago; it gathers assorted illustrations (of varying quality) based on a number of my stories (likewise) which have appeared in various publications around the world.

The one popularly-reprinted story which is not represented in that gallery is “The Island“, which gets a wing all to itself. That gallery just went live today: a motley collection of “The Island” illos and concept art deriving not just from the story, but from occasional aborted attempts to translate it from print into the digital-interactive realms.  I haven’t heard anything new about any of those projects for at least a year now, so I’m assuming they’re all dead. Still, for all I know some ragtag fugitive fleet of indie designers is yet working away in a cave somewhere.  That’s the dream, anyway.

Someone emailed me the other day to ask if I could stick an rss feed into the Updates page.  Which I probably could, but having looked over the online tutorials and taken a quick stab at reverse-engineering the relevant files from this blog, I figure it’d take about a day for my obsolete squidly brain to work out the kinks and get it running properly.  And that is a day that will not arrive before 1) my e-mail backlog is significantly smaller; 2) I have fewer PRy things hanging over my head, and 3) I don’t jam out on running quite so often as I seem to be now. In the meantime, though, the rss feed for the ‘crawl works just fine, so I’ll post updates here instead.  Much as I’m doing now.

Next post will be more substantive.  Promise.  Probably I’ll do Russia at last.

Posted in: Uncategorized by Peter Watts 16 Comments

Casting Call

rifters-onYeah, I’ve been quiet lately.

Still working on the site, for one thing; finally got the Rifters and Blindopraxia galleries up and populated (Sunflowers and Shorts still to go): it’s a much cleaner layout than the old Gallery, and there’s a bunch of new material, so you might want to check them out. (Also, it’s worth keeping an eye on the “Updates” page linked to the right; I’ll announce any significant site developments there, which comes in handy if you want to keep up even though I can’t be bothered wasting crawlspace on every new bit of chrome that gets bolted into place.)

So site work is ongoing.  I’m also keeping my eyes on my feet as I haltingly try to relearn the steps of the New Release Rumba: the essays and interviews and what-if scenarios that come your way when you’ve just delivered. (One such interview just appeared in the latest issue of Albedo, in fact). It’s one of these what-ifs that I could use your help with, again.

blindopraxia-onSome of you know about this “My Book, the Movie” thing; as I recall there was some serious love on these pages for Ellen Page in the role of Lenie Clarke, back when I did it for the rifters books. I’m doing it again. The idea is to propose a dream team— mainly cast, but feel free to nominate a director or screenwriter if so inclined— for a hypothetical movie production of Echopraxia. Someone once suggested that Billy Bob Thornton  would make a decent Brüks, and I could see Edward James Olmos as Jim Moore if he lost a few kilos. Maybe Andy Serkis in a mocap suit as Portia.  Beyond that, I am bereft of clue; do you guys have any ideas?

Oh, and anyone who nominates Ridley Scott for director is banned for a week.  I still haven’t forgiven him for “Prometheus“.

Posted in: interviews, writing news by Peter Watts 94 Comments

Mote-turbation.

Oh, so many things I want to rattle on about with you people. The potential critical relevance of leaky cell membranes down in deep-sea vents, back when life was just getting started (and the resonance that might have for a certain fictional doomsday bug which will be trapped in such vents for another few decades because of the osmotic consequences of having inordinately leaky membranes).  The latest news in telepathy through technology (overhyped, IMO— in the same way the last big “breakthrough” was— but we’re getting there, we’re getting there).  The ongoing tale of Patrick McLaw, school-teacher, who was disappeared, held at an undisclosed location,  and forced to undergo psychiatric evaluation because of a couple of dystopian SF novels he self-pubbed on Amazon— no, wait, it wasn’t those books at all, it was a four-page letter that some thought might be a “cry for help”— no, no, it was really those books and the letter and the fact that he’d built a scale model of a high school that might have tewwowist implications (nothing said at first about McLaw’s background in architecture, or the fact that he’d also built models of a cruise ship and a house).  Oh, and while we haven’t actually got around to charging him with anything, we’re also investigating allegations that he had a relationship with a 16-year-old-boy in Delmarva

Riiight. When  they start yanking the gay-pedophile-won’t-someone-think-of-the-children routine out of their asses (never mind that 16 is the age of consent in Maryland)— more tellingly, when they don’t even lead with that, but only bring it up after days of being held up to global outrage and ridicule— you can probably tune out with a high degree of confidence that once again, the assholes are just making it up as they go along. Is it any wonder that over the course of my recent reddit AMA, the comment that won by far the greatest number of upvotes was my suggestion to a resident of Fergusen that maybe we should start randomly killing cops for a change? (I should do a post on that too, now that I think of it…)

All this and more, all infinitely more worthy of attention than what I’m actually here to talk about. Because I have this new book out, and the sink/swim window is only a few weeks, and we’re already into week two and I haven’t done any of the essays or quizzes or promo interviews I told everyone I’d get around to once August was out of the way. Hell, I’m still working on the fucking website (Gallery’s looking good, btw; soon, now), and answering e-mail (backlog holding steady around 80), and hitting the refresh button every five minutes over at Amazon while wondering why I’ve only got a dozen reviews up there while Scalzi has 57 for a book that came out the same day. (Wondering rhetorically, mind you; there’s no need for any of you to wade in and helpfully point out any of the two or three dozen reasons why The Scalz kicks my ass at selling books.)

All of which is just a long-winded way of saying that while the world continues to wobble from impacts that turn my own trivial concerns to dust motes, it’s my job for the next little while to be small-minded and mercenary and to nurture those fucking motes until either Echopraxia succeeds or I throw in the towel. If it’s any consolation, I do it grudgingly.

Today’s nugget of self-promotion comes via Clarkesworld, which has been kind enough to reprint “Giants”, from the Sunflowers cycle.  While “Giants” came out earlier this year, chances are you never read that first release because the publishers pooched the roll-out, buried the title, and didn’t get around to paying their authors our contracted pittance until months later.

Clarkesworld, in contrast, rocks.  And people read them.  So if you missed “Giants” last time around, now’s your chance.

It’s even free.

Posted in: misc, writing news by Peter Watts 70 Comments

Blurbs and Bufo

Blurbs are Reborn.  Looking at about a dozen advance reviews so far, all pretty glowy except for the Register piece which found Echopraxia plotless.  Even they used the word “brilliant”, though.  Fingers crossed.

Just last night, the LA Review of Books posted an insanely detailed review— more of an essay, really, the kind of thing you might find in the NY Review of Science Fiction if that’s still around— by Steven Shaviro. I think he may have coined the phrase “ferociously intellectual pulp”, but even if he stole it, it’s gold.

Also Alyx Dellamonica sings the Hallelujah Chorus over at Tor.com.  There’s mastodon-sized conflict-of-interest when Tor.com reviews Tor releases, and it swells to cachalot-sized when the Tor.com reviewer is bound to the Tor author by years of friendship and a mutual love of cats, so I felt obligated to point out the relationship on the Blurbs page where I posted the quote. And yet, the synopsis Lexus lays out is so engagingly wry that I can’t read it without seeing her sitting across the barroom table from me, drink in hand, one corner of her mouth tugged into a sarcastic little half-smile. Her précis might be better than the book.

Anyway: off now for a shave and shower, well-deserved after all these days of nonstop motion, and time to catch a breath before the AMA starts over on Reddit. Let me just leave you with his:

 seiun

It’s my Seiun for Blindsight, collected at Worldcon on my behalf by Patrick Neilson-Hayden and Caitlin Sweet. The certificate is pretty self-evident.  But it came equipped with that little vial in the box— which, I am told, is “toad grease”.  Apparently it’s a product of the local economy in the Japanese town hosting the con at which the award was originally bestowed. I believe it’s supposed to have medicinal properties.

It is definitely grease of some kind. I do not know if it actually contains toad, or if it is truly medicinal. Perhaps, the next time we have uninvited guests, we can try it out.

Posted in: public interface, reviews, writing news by Peter Watts 57 Comments

Facelift

Sotala-staticI owe a couple of travelogues. Russia and London. But given the whole down-to-the-wire thing on Echopraxia‘s release (officially tomorrow, just in case anyone’s counting), perhaps you can forgive me for putting those off for a week or so. More imminent items could spoil in the meantime.

First off, a reminder that I’m appearing on reddit for an AMA tomorrow at 7pm EDT. I think I’m supposed to sign in earlier and fire some kind of starting pistol though. Also there was a book giveaway. I’m sure I’ll be more clued in on the details after I’ve had a chance to go back over these 116 outstanding emails, and after a few more time zones have had a chance to diffuse out through my ears.

Even more imminently, the new site is up. Most of it, anyway; you won’t notice much difference here on the ‘crawl, or over in Blurbs or the Gallery (Blurbs may or may not be reno’ed later today). But Backlist, Author, and Kibble Fund pages are all sparkly and new.  More importantly, all the new Echopraxia-related content is live. Go click on that splash page none of you ever go to because it’s too confusing, and revel in the newness.  Follow the links. Tell me what’s broken; there hasn’t been a lot of time for cross-platform testing.

The rest of the renovations will roll out in the near future. (I’m especially looking forward to uploading a whole bunch of new material into the Gallery.) It’s been kind of a frantic slog even to get this much up and running in time for the 26th— both I and Łukasz Fedorowicz, my estimable web designer, ended up working on this thing in the wee hours and during our respective vacations, so you’re lucky to get this much.

That said, though— well, to these eyes, “this much” looks pretty damn spiffy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in: ink on art, writing news by Peter Watts 74 Comments

Prexels.

I’m leaving now.  For Russia. I’ll spend one day in London with Caitlin, where I’ll wallow briefly in the musk of a myriad peers and pals converging for Worldcon— and then it’s on to St Petersberg for the weekend (or maybe somewhere less picturesque, if they think I’m trying to smuggle sanctioned pork across the border).

But I haven’t just been whining and falling behind on my emails these past few weeks. I’ve been working with a very talented dude over in Poland to try and drag rifters.com kicking and screaming into the 21rst century. Maybe we’ll be able to unveil the upgrade in time for Echopraxia’s official release date; or maybe we’re not going to make it quite in under that wire. But the prototypes are advanced, and almost ready for prime time— so I thought I’d leave you with some lo-rez screen grabs to whet your appetites. And maybe, depending on how things go, leave you with something to remember me by.

Wish me luck.

  prexel2  

prexel4

 prexel3

 prexel1
Posted in: ink on art, On the Road, public interface by Peter Watts 22 Comments

The Giant Georgia-O’Keefe-Like Vagina of Flame!

Not quite sure why MAG would use this cover for Echopraxia. It's basically the cover for Blindsight with tweaked gamma.

Not quite sure why MAG would use this cover for Echopraxia. It’s basically Blindsight with tweaked gamma.

Ah.  That's more like it.

Ah. That’s more like it.

So Echopraxia isn’t just coming out in North America, from Tor. It’s also coming out from Astrel/AST (in Russian), Fleuve Noir (in French), Heyne (German), MAG (Polish), and Tokyo Sogen (Japanese).  Hopefully it’ll eventually come out in other jurisdictions as well, but these are the guys who signed up sight unseen.  I can only hope the book justifies their faith.

It’s also coming out in English. Not US English, but English English.  The Queen’s fucking English.  It’s being released in the UK (and other Commonwealth nations, if a certain bit of Australian  cover art is anything to go on) by London’s Head of Zeus.  This is a first for me— not just because I’ve never had a separate English-language release outside of N’Am, but because this is the first time I’ve actually had a hand in the cover art.

I’m not just talking about being allowed to provide input on someone else’s art. I’m not talking about being handed a sketch and asked What do you think?, and saying Cool but this detail isn’t accurate, and them saying Well tough this is how we’re doing it.  I’m talking about actually being one of the cover artists.  Because if you look at the big beautiful cover at the bottom of this post, you might recognize that model of the Crown of Thorns I cobbled together in an obsolete version of Photoshop.

A vote for verisimilitude.

One vote for verisimilitude.

Firefall-Australia

I think this is how it looks in Australia.

You might ask why the Crown is in orbit around Big Ben, when everyone knows that it was Theseus that went out there? Well, that was one of the iterations we tried out— one I still prefer very slightly, just because I have a stick up my ass about narrative consistency. Aesthetically, though, Nic Cheetham at Zeus points out that the Crown is easier to see against the background. Mesopone, offered the same choice, opts for “the fat one”. And Caitlin, most eloquent of us all, opines that the Crown of Thorns constitutes “a more significant presence next to the giant, Georgia O’Keefe-like Vagina of Flame.”

You can see why I married her.

FIREFALL-ensmallened

Three for aesthetics.

You might also ask why Echopraxia is coming out as Firefall in the UK, and the answer is: it isn’t. Firefall ≠  Echopraxia. Firefall = Blindsight + Echopraxia, released as an omnibus volume in celebration of its UK debut. Echopraxia will be getting its own standalone release a few months down the road, so nobody’s forcing you to shell out hard-earned bucks for words you’ve already read just to get a crack at words you haven’t. (In fact, Nick actually asked me to write an introductory note for the omnibus, warning potential re-readers up front that they’d be paying for  two books instead of one. It’s a nice change from βehemoth days.)

So that’s the story. Except for the fact that I’ll also be providing HoZ with an illustration of Theseus for the Blindsight half of the omnibus (no, not the LEO picture from my last post— although both are based around the incredibly cool model work of  Andrew Chase. So if you’re into that kind of thing, the omnibus might be up your alley even if you have read the first half.

Also, that tag line: is it awesome, or what?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Posted in: ink on art, writing news by Peter Watts 24 Comments

Assorted Interrogatives.

Theseus under construction in LEO, six weeks  prior to launch.

Theseus under construction in LEO, six weeks prior to launch.

Coming up to breathe for a moment in between web site renovations (going well, thank you) and attempts to burrow through a tangled morass of Russian bureaucracy (not so much— in fact, that whole trip just might go tits-up over the next couple of days), I see a couple of interviews have gone live.  In one of them— the last of Clay Dugger’s epic 5-part series Watching the Skies: From “Who Goes There?” to THE THING — I basically jam with Mr. Dugger on the subject of “The Things”, and how it fits into the greater Campbellian canon. I also seem to remember having some unkind words for the 2011 prequel, and some thoughts on Lamarckian biology, and differences between the movie and the Alan Dean Foster novelization, and that time when Dog-Kennel-Thing split into two halves and one half punched its way up through the ceiling and nobody seemed to worry about where it went or what it might be doing up there. I’m not really sure. The episode goes on for almost two hours (I don’t think a single part of the five weighs in at less than one), and we recorded it a while ago— so while I dimly remember having a blast on Skype, I’m kinda fuzzy on the content. For all I know at this point, I could’ve spent half the time giggling and making farting noises with my armpit.

Still, if you have several hours to kill and you’re at all interested in a certain misunderstood shape-shifting alien, you could do worse than head over to the Chronic Rift Network and avail yourself of the wisdom of such folks as Dave Robison, Paul K. Bisson, Paul Elard Cooley, and, well, me.

The other interview is of more recent vintage— it just went live on Friday, courtesy of our friends over at Clarkesworld— and is more conventionally formatted in text instead of tones. It will take you significantly less than one hour forty five minutes to get through it all, and while a couple of the questions may have a familiar ring (Do you write from an outline? Does it scare you how fast reality catches up to your lame-ass predictions?), there are others that, perhaps surprisingly, no one has asked me before (How hard is it to imagine you’re Siri Keeton?) Also I change my long-held position about Scientists As Communicators. In fact, I turn 180° on the subject.

Which doesn’t mean that I’m any happier about it, of course.

Posted in: interviews by Peter Watts 15 Comments

You Could Save This Man’s Life.

Or at least, you could if the names LaFrance, Harton, Champetier, or Deidier appear in your family tree.

Some of you may know, or know of, Joël Champetier. He’s an author and editor, very active in Quebec’s SF community. I’ve met the man a few times myself, perhaps most notably during a group-orgy of a book launch back in ’99 during which both us gave birth to novels sired by Tor.

He’s a nice guy. He’s a smart guy. He’s about my age. And a bunch of rogue cells in his bone marrow are trying to kill him.

This is what he needs, straight from his wife, Valérie Bédard:

“We are looking for stem cell donors, age 18 to 35, in good health. Four names are crucial: people with ancestors named LAFRANCE, HARTON (especially the colony east of Quebec, along the saint-Laurence, but the original ancestor is from Germany ) and CHAMPETIER from the south of France, also DEIDIER, south of France, Belgium but may be somewhere else in Europe.

If you have ancestors by those names, please contact Héma-québec or your local blood bank to have your ADN tested. STEM CELL DONATION is PAINLESS and does not require surgery nor hospitalisation.

In the province of Québec, you must be between 18 and 35 years old and in good health. But in some countries, the limit of age is upper. So, if you want to help, even if you are in other countries than Canada, please contact the closest organization for stem cells donation. The data base is international, so…”

Spread the word.  Make it happen.

Posted in: misc by Peter Watts 4 Comments