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

But Not the Part Where Everyone Gets Burned Alive.

“The Colonel”, my Echopraxia tie-in, is slotted to go live at Tor.com over the next couple of days.  I thought I’d give you a bit of a preview, in between checking out Snowpiercer and going my sixth round with the Russian bureaucracy.

I don’t know whether Tor’s planning on luring anyone in with a teaser excerpt, but if they do I’m guessing it might highlight the opening action-packed tewwowist-hive-mind-immolating scenes. So, in contrast, I thought I’d serve up something a bit more boring (and more thematically representative).

No points if you can guess who this is:

 

This global survey, this threat-assessment of hived minds: it’s not his only assignment. It’s only his most recent. A dozen others idle in the background, only occasionally warranting examination or update. Realist incursions into the UKapelago; a newly-separatist Baptist Convention, building their armed gyland on the high seas. The occasional court-martial of some antique flesh-and-blood infantry whose cybernetic augments violate the Rules of Engagement. They all sit in his queue, pilot-lit, half-forgotten. They’ll flag him if they need his attention.

But there’s one candle the Colonel has never forgotten, though it hasn’t flickered for the better part of a decade. It, too, is programmed to call out in the event of any change in status. He checks it anyway, daily. Now— back for a couple of days in the large empty apartment he kept even after his wife went to Heaven— he checks it again.

No change.

He puts his inlays to sleep, takes grateful refuge in the silence that fills his head once the overlays and the status reports stop murmuring through his temporal lobe. He grows belatedly aware of a real sensation, the soft tick of claws on the tiles behind him. He turns and glimpses a small furry black-and-white face before it ducks out of sight around the corner.

The Colonel adjourns to the kitchen.

Zephyr’s willing to let the apartment feed him— he pretty much has to be, given the intermittent availability of his human servant— but he doesn’t like it much. He refused outright at first, rendered psychotic by some cross-species dabbler who must have thought it would be enlightening or transcendent or just plain cute to “share consciousness” with a small soul weighing in at one-tenth the synapse count. The Colonel tries to imagine what that kind of forced fusion must have been like: thrust into a maelstrom of incomprehensible thought and sensation, blinding as a naked sun; thrown back into stunned bleeding darkness once some narcissistic god got bored and cut the connection.

Zephyr hid in the closet for weeks after the Colonel brought him home, hissed and spat at the sight of sockets and fiberop and the low-slung housecleaner trundling quietly on its rounds. After two years his furry little brain has at least rejigged the cost/benefit stats for the kibble dispenser in the kitchen but he’s still more phantom than fur, still mostly visible only from the corner of the eye. He can be coaxed into the open if he’s hungry and if the Colonel is very still; he still recoils at physical contact. The Colonel indulges him, and pretends not to notice the ragged fraying of the armrest on the living room couch. He doesn’t even have the heart to get the socket removed from the patch of twisted scar tissue on Zephyr’s head. No telling what post-traumatic nightmares might be reawakened by a trip to the vet.

Now he fills the kibble bowl and stands back the requisite two meters. (This is progress; just six months ago he could never stray closer than three.) Zephyr creeps into the kitchen, nose twitching, eyes darting to every corner.

The Colonel hopes that whoever inflicted that torment went on to try more exotic interfaces once they got bored with mammals. A cephalopod, perhaps. By all accounts, things get a lot less cuddly when you go B2B with a Pacific octopus.

At least Human hives can lay claim to mutual consent. At least its members choose the violence they inflict on themselves, the emergence of some voluntary monster from the pool of all those annihilated identities. If only it stopped there. If only the damage ended where the hive did.

His son’s candle slumbers in its own little corner of his network, a pilot light in purgatory. Zephyr glances around with every second bite, still fearful of some Second Coming.

The Colonel knows how he feels.

Oh, yes.  It's relevant.

Oh, yes. It’s very relevant.

Posted in: fiblet by Peter Watts 43 Comments

I Go Through a Lot of Pants

A number of years ago— I’m hazy on the details— I made the online acquaintance of one Henry Gee, author of numerous science and fake science books and an editor at Nature. Maybe it was through his role as the wrangler for “Futures”, the series of SF supershorts that finish off each issue in that otherwise august journal— and to which I’ve made a couple of sales myself, hopefully to the chagrin of all those former colleagues who turned up their noses when I left academia to write about ray guns and talking squids in outer space (and who then spent endless years trying desperately to get a paper into Nature). Maybe it was over an early draft of Henry’s Siege of Stars, an SF novel combining some terrific ideas with some rookie mistakes (the latter of which seem to have since been fixed, given all the Big Names lining up to praise the published version). Maybe it started with that interview Nature did with biologists who write science fiction.

They were good times, all of them; I just can’t remember which one came first.

Anyhow, a couple weeks back Henry tagged me in something called “The Writing Process Blog Tour“. It’s kind of an authorial chain letter. An author receives a series of questions (presumably of interest to the reading public); answers them on their blog; passes them on in turn to three other authors downstream.  It’s a geometric progression which, if accommodated by all tagged targets, would rapidly swamp every cat picture on the internet.

Reluctant to be part of such a fission reaction, I asked Henry if I could maybe just pass the questions on to one other writer when I was done with them, to keep the proliferation cone a bit narrower. Henry had no problem with that; the rules are neither hard nor fast, and besides, I never signed anything.

So here they are.

What Am I Working On?

I can’t tell you.  Really. It might not even go anywhere.  But I just started, and it’s unconventional.

How Does My Work Differ From Others In Its Genre?

It is significantly more insecure, emotionally. Scarred by a past life in academia, I feel compelled to try and cover my ass against any manner of nitpickers. You may have noticed my habit of sticking lengthy technical appendices on the end of my novels. You may have even admired me for the effort, thinking I do this to Educate the Masses or to Share My Excitement about Real Science.

Wrong.

Why Do I Write What I Do?

Because nobody wanted to buy my children’s novel, Pancake, Snookums, and the Balance of Nature— in which the eponymous leopard frog and garter snake, trapped in the same terrarium, work together to effect their escape.  (Then Snookums eats Pancake.)

Denied my dream of writing Children’s Literature, I’ve settled for a sandbox big enough to explore the ideas that interest me. That’s science fiction, almost by definition. I suppose that technically it would be possible to explore the relationship between Theology and Digital Physics in a western or a historical romance, but that would take someone with considerably greater skill than I have.

How Does My Writing Process Work?

By cutting corners. For example, should I be presented with a question in a Blog Tour that’s identical to a question I’ve already answered in a previous interviews, I’m likely to just cut-and-paste in order to save time. Here comes an example right now:

Something gives me an idea: Hey, if that’s true, then what would happen if…?  (Or sometimes:  what utter bullshit. If that were true, then…)

I sketch out a plan to embed that question in a story. There follows a variable period spent writing and cursing, from which emerges a product that looks like a half-assed Rubik’s Cube badly wrapped in pages taped together from a paperback novel.  Then I go running, to give my subconscious time to crunch the numbers and serve up a fix. If that doesn’t work I go drinking with friends or take a shower with my wife, and use them as sounding boards to whinge about all the parts that won’t fit. I listen for ideas to steal, rewrite until the wrapping looks prettier and put it away, vaguely unsatisfied but resigned.

Three days before deadline I wake up in the middle of the night with a whole new angle fully-formed in my head. I throw out most of what I’ve done prior and start from scratch; I am frequently unaware of the passage of time at this point, even though time is now most pressing.

I hand it in.

The whole process generally consumes 30-60 hours for a short story. With novels you can stretch that out over a year or more, and bolt a detailed outline onto the front end (20-40 single-spaced pages— Cory Doctorow once described them as “not so much outlines as novels without dialog”).  Then, at the two-thirds mark, insert the sudden realization that some element I hadn’t considered in the outline totally destroys the plot logic of everything I’ve written, which forces me to go back, throw away the outline, and write by the seat of my pants after all.

I go through a lot of pants.

 

So now I get to stick someone else with these questions— and the person I tag is Caitlin Sweet, even though I know her answers to some of them. I tag her because she has taught me so much about our shared craft (sparing the lot of you from more clunky writing than you’ll ever know, by the way), that I can’t imagine not learning something new when she sits down to hammer out her own answers. Also because she’s more likely to forgive me for sticking her with a chain letter.

Take it away, BUG.

Posted in: interviews by Peter Watts 16 Comments

A Bauble for Blindsight, a Drum Roll for Dumbspeech

It’s been posted, so now it can be told: Blindsight won this year’s Seiun for best translated novel in Japan. Which means that as of now, that book has won two or three more awards in other languages than it was even nominated for in English.  Maybe I should take a hint from that. Maybe I should just give up on you Anglophones and start writing in Polish.

This disparity over domestic vs. imported awards makes it pretty obvious that I owe a big debt to translators in half a dozen countries. (In this particular case I think I also owe a big debt to China Miéville, who had the audacity to get two of his novels nominated in the same category. I suspect he would have taken home the prize easily if the China vote hadn’t thus been split, allowing Blindsight to cruise up the middle.) If you’ve bothered to click the link, you’ll note that acknowledgment of this debt takes up a good chunk of my acceptance speech. The remainder consists of me setting up my translators to take half the blame if Echopraxia crashes and burns.

But I’m starting to suspect, my usual depressive realism notwithstanding, that Echopraxia might not tank after all. I’ve already bragged about the Publisher’s Weekly review; since then, Library Journal and Kirkus have also weighed in. The LJ verdict is rosy enough—

…Watts welds philosophy and science in original ways. His novels are interested in not only the possibilities of technology but the nature of sentience and humanity. This is not an easy read, but just as you think it will be another discussion of religion and postsingularity intelligences in the ship’s galley, action breaks out. VERDICT The danger of hard sf is that the writing can sometimes seem clinical and dry, but Watts manages to keep his prose lush even when serving high-concept science. This book is quite an achievement and should appeal to those who enjoy the works of Ian MacDonald and Hannu Rajaniemi.

—but the Kirkus review— man, Kirkus just raves:

A paranoid tale that would make Philip K. Dick proud, told in a literary style that should seduce readers who don’t typically enjoy science fiction.

… Watts’ nihilistic meditation on evolution and adaptation is by turns disturbing and gorgeous, with a biologist’s understanding of nature’s indifference. If at times it’s hard to separate what is part of the vampire’s or monks’ plans and what is simply horrifying catastrophe, that also feels thematically appropriate.

This scientifically literate thriller’s tight prose and plot create an existential uneasiness that lingers long after the book’s end.

This is the nicest thing Kirkus has ever said about any of my books. Even when Kirkus likes my stuff (and they don’t always, in case I have to remind you about their “horrific porn” assessment of behemoth: Seppuku), they generally find something to complain about: Starfish‘s “poor organization [and] drifting points of view”, or Blindsight‘s “several complications too many”. But for Echopraxia, they have nothing but praise.

I feel a fall coming on.

Posted in: Dumbspeech, writing news by Peter Watts 16 Comments

Sleepwalk to Enlightenment

Illo credit "Anatomist90", over at Wikipedia

Illo credit “Anatomist90″, over at Wikipedia

Judging by the number of links I’ve received, a lot of you are already familiar with this paper on consciousness and the claustrum. Or at least you’re familiar with the tsunami of popsci coverage it’s received.

For the rest of you, the tale goes something like this:  54-year old female epileptic, seizure-free for four years at the cost of her left hippocampus. Now that reprieve has expired; the seizures have returned, and a team of neurologists led by Mohamad Z. Koubeissi have sown electrodes throughout her head to get the lay of the land and figure out what to do next. One of those electrodes edges up against the claustrum, a filamentous tangle of neurons thought to play a role in coordinating crosstalk between different parts of the brain.

When Koubeissi et al juice that particular electrode with 14mA of current, consciousness stops.

At least, that’s the way a thousand newsfeeds put it. More precisely, the body stops moving. The voice, which has been repeating the word “house” as a kind of baseline metric of awareness, trails off after a few seconds. The fingers, which have been snapping rhythmically, grow motionless. The patient sits glassy-eyed, to all appearances unaware and insensate. Inside her skull, the frontal and parietal lobes fall into mindless synchrony; not the synchronized call-and response of the consciousness state, but a mirrored lockstep incompatible with the operation of the global workspace.

Kill the current and everything return to normal. The patient reanimates, with no recollection of what happened during the down time.

The press is calling it a breakthrough.  An off-switch for consciousness, never before discovered. The Daily Mail, CBS, a myriad others have weighed in on the findings (although most of them seem to have mainly siphoned the bullet points off the New Scientist article that got there first). “…only a matter of time when we can create computers and machines that also contain a form of consciousness,” opines the Washington Post. “Their accidental discovery could lead to a deeper understanding of … how conscious awareness arises,” Discovery.com chimes in.

They keep using that word. I don’t think it means what they think it means.

No, the caption doesn't say what those asterisks are. I'm guessing, statistical significance?

No, the caption doesn’t say what those asterisks are. I’m guessing, statistical significance?

If I wanted to be glib I’d point out that a rock to the head serves as a perfectly effective off-switch for consciousness, and I’m pretty sure we stumbled across that result long before the latest issue of Epilepsy & Behavior hit the stands. It would admittedly be a cheap shot; after all, the claustrum effect is somewhat subtler. The victim didn’t keel over like a puppet with severed strings; she remained upright, eyes open, “awake but not conscious”.  That’s kind of cool.  And the claustrum’s involvement is nicely consistent with the whole Global Workspace model, the idea that consciousness somehow emerges from the integration of different brain processes talking to one another. It’s a good paper. The stats are solid, even conservative (although it would have been nice if they’d told us what those asterisks were supposed to represent in Fig. 1).

But closer to understanding “how conscious awareness arises”? I don’t think so.

What we have here is another neural correlate. Those are useful things to have, but all they tell us is that consciousness doesn’t manifest unless the machinery is ticking a certain way. They don’t get us any closer at all to the Hard Problem, which is: why does that particular flavor of ticking machinery wake up? When all those subcortical structures— the brain stem, the thalamus and hypothalamus, the ACG— start talking to the frontal lobes just so, why does it feel like this? It’s just computation, after all. Circuits in meat. Why does it feel like anything?

I don’t know if we’ll ever figure that one out.

I have other reservations. Prior to flipping the switch, Koubeissi et al got their patient to start repeating the word “house”, and to snap her fingers. They did this, we are told, to ensure that it really was consciousness that was being interrupted— that those milliamps hadn’t just induced some kind of motor paralysis that stilled the body even though the mind was active. K et al‘s reasoning was that paralysis would kick in instantly when the current hit; the fact that the speech and the finger-snaps trailed off gradually is supposed to take the paralysis confound off the table.

Yet there’s nothing in the paper to explain why this “off switch” couldn’t also activate instantaneously (once again, I cite my rock to the head). It seems a significant omission in the rationale, especially given that this “switch” has never been documented before. Besides, if the results had hailed from a conscious-but-paralyzed individual, wouldn’t she have been able to report as much after the fact?

Speaking of confounds, here’s another one. It wasn’t just “conscious awareness” that went down for the count; it was cognition.  The patient showed no response to stimuli during the vacant intervals; Koubessi’s team may not have induced unconsciousness so much as catatonia. (Interestingly, they also reported a “slowing of spontaneous respiratory movements” during the tereatment. This would seem to suggest that autonomic— i.e., nonconscious— processes were also affected. Unless the procedure itself was so stressful that the patient was breathing hard to begin with.)

Koubeissi et al unleashed a shotgun blast, insufficiently precise for high-resolution insights. This is no criticism; they weren’t performing a controlled experiment, just a routine diagnostic procedure that happened to yield valuable and unexpected results. But by that same token we should be careful about the conclusions we draw. (The fact that the patient’s brain was atypical— having lost half its hippocampus to a previous operation— has been dutifully noted in most of the coverage I’ve seen.)

What I’d really like to see would be a stimulus which shut down consciousness but left the cognitive and reactive circuits intact: a scenario in which the patient continued to repeat “house” while the current flowed,  until— still unconscious— she processed and accommodated a new request to start saying “yoga” instead. I’d like to see her wake up when the current stopped, look around, and ask in a puzzled voice, “Why am I saying yoga? I thought I was saying house.” Now that would tell us something.

What, you don’t think that’s realistic? You think consciousness and volition go hand in hand, that the body can’t parse the house-to-yoga transition without some little guy behind the eyes to make sense of it all?

I’ve got one word for you: sleepwalkers.

It’s possible to sleepwalk your way though a repeated series of sexual encounters with complete strangers (note to philanderers: don’t try this at home). It’s possible to drive across town and stab your  mother-in-law to death, unconscious the whole time.  “Homicidal somnabulism” is enough of a thing to warrant its own Wikipedia page.

So forget epileptics with pieces cut out of their brains. You want to find an off-switch for consciousness? Reserve the departmental MRI for the graveyard shift and put out ads for sleeping automatons. Some of them, short of spare cash, might just see the flyer some 3 a.m. and call you up.

Even if they don’t know they’re doing it.

FinnCon-05

Posted in: neuro, sentience/cognition by Peter Watts 21 Comments

In a World … Where No One Buys Books … Unless they look like Movies

So, this kind of came out of the blue yesterday:
 

Ardi Alspach, my publicist at Tor, commissioned a book trailer for Echopraxia (you can even play it at 720p).  I get the sense I stumbled across it about two minutes after it went live, which gives you a pretty sad indication of my ego-surfing frequency.

But, Wow.

I was surprised to learn that I’m a Nebula nominee; I wonder what I was nominated for.  And Tor Editorial apparently doesn’t know that I actually won a Hugo once upon a time.  But putting that aside (along with, maybe, Spiraling into an Evolution of Horror), I gotta say this is very shiny indeed.  Back when Ardi first raised the subject of a trailer, I imagined a static book cover zooming in and out in the faux-3D style of Count Floyd’s Monster Chiller Horror Theater. Maybe some stock music from “The Love Boat” playing in the background.  But this— this has actual Production Values.  This gleams.

My own personal jury is still out on how effective book trailers are in terms of boosting sales; I didn’t even realize they were still a thing.  But as things go, this strikes me as a really fine example. In fact, I think I’ll cut this post short and go watch it again in hi-def.

I especially like the part about being one of the very best alive… icarus-small

Posted in: public interface, writing news by Peter Watts 40 Comments

Collateral.

colonel_cov1upgraded-mockup5-600Daniel might like this. A couple of posts back (in a thread of comments I still haven’t had time to answer), he asked if I’d be willing to write military SF unconstrained by the limits of  video games.  As it turns out, I already have: “The Colonel“, upcoming from Tor.com, is sorta-military— although the only actual combat takes place at the top of the tale—  insofar as the protagonist is Siri Keeton’s dad, the career soldier. A more pure-blooded example, however, might be “Collateral”, from Neil Clarke’s upcoming cyborg-themed anthology Upgraded.  As you can tell from the table of contents, Neil has lined up some pretty impressive names.

 

Anyhow, it’s been a while since I posted a fiblet.  So here:

They got Becker out in eight minutes flat, left the bodies on the sand for whatever scavengers the Sixth Extinction hadn’t yet managed to take out. Munsin hauled her into the Sikorsky and tried to yank the augments manually, right on the spot; Wingman swung and locked and went hot in the pants-pissing half-second before its threat-recognition macros, booted late to the party, calmed it down. Someone jammed the plug-in home between Becker’s shoulders; wireless gates unlocked in her head and Blanch, way up in the cockpit, put her prosthetics to sleep from a safe distance. The miniguns sagged on her shoulders like anesthetized limbs, threads of smoke still wafting from the barrels.

“Corporal.” Fingers snapped in her face. “Corporal, you with me?”

Becker blinked. “They— they were human…” She thought they were, anyway. All she’d been able to see were the heat signatures: bright primary colors against the darkness. They’d started out with arms and legs but then they’d spread like dimming rainbows, like iridescent oil slicks.

Munson said nothing.

Abemama receded to stern, a strip of baked coral suffused in a glow of infrared: yesterday’s blackbodied sunshine bleeding back into the sky. Blanch hit a control and the halo vanished: night-eyes blinded, ears deafened to any wavelength past the range of human hearing, all senses crippled back down to flesh and blood.

The bearing, though. Before the darkness had closed in. It had seemed wrong.

“We’re not going to Bonriki?”

We are,” the Sergeant said. “You’re going home. We’re getting you out before this thing explodes.”

She could feel Blanch playing around in the back of her brain, draining the op logs from her head. She tried to access the stream but he’d locked her out. No telling what those machines were sucking out of her brain. No telling if any of it would still be there when he let her back in.

Not that it mattered. She wouldn’t have been able to scrub those images from her head if she tried.

“They had to be hostiles,” she muttered. “How could they have just been there, I mean—what else could they be?” And then, a moment later: “Did any of them…?”

“You wouldn’t be much of a superhuman killing machine if they had,” Okoro said from across the cabin. “They weren’t even armed.”

“Private Okoro,” the Sergeant said mildly. “Shut your fucking mouth.”

They were all sitting across the cabin from her, in defiance of optimal in-flight weight distribution: Okoro, Perry, Flannery, Cole. None of them augged yet. There weren’t enough Beckers to go around, one every three or four companies if the budget was up for it and the politics were hot enough. Becker was used to the bitching whenever the subject came up, everyone playing the hard-ass, rolling their eyes at the cosmic injustice that out of all of them it was the farmer’s daughter from fucking Red Deer who’d won the lottery. It had never really bothered her. For all their trash-talking bullshit, she’d never seen anything but good-natured envy in their eyes.

She wasn’t sure what she saw there now.

 

 

Posted in: fiblet by Peter Watts 29 Comments