Screen Grabs, Blog Jabs

Okay, first up: the whole bench-warrant thing has been resolved. I am no longer a fugitive. I have a good lawyer (thanks, once again, to so many of you: speaking of which, gratitudinal e-mails now 52.8% completed!). Now all we have to worry about is a justice system that criminalizes the flinch response. Should be a cinch.

Even that eagle-eyed blogger who pounced on my no-show has backed off. In fact, he’s done more than back off; he’s scrubbed his blog to a squeaky Wattsless sheen. Within about fifteen minutes of my previous post he’d deleted not only the entry in which he’d called me out for standing up the court, but every other Watts-related post he’d made (and there’ve been a few, all of the smug-elitist-had-it-coming variety). All that remains is an echo on Icerocket…

and thirteen innocuous entries on subjects ranging from Haiti to solar power, stretching back to August 2008. The author describes himself as a lawyer from Indiana, which makes me wonder if he had some legal reason for scrubbing his journal so thoroughly and with such haste. The only time I’ve seen a faster response was when he first made the post that kicked all this off. I don’t know whether he was compulsively refreshing the online docket records every five minutes or someone was feeding him intel; either way, the man has reflexes.

But enough of that. I still hope to publish my screed on Kamazawa’s inoffensively-named “Why Liberals and Atheists are More Intelligent” 1 before too long, but since I’m currently backed up preparing for next week’s trial I’m going to distract you, yet again, with pretty (and undemanding) pictures. First up, another very cool impression of Sunday Ahzmundin and “The Island”, as imagined by Chris Butler for an upcoming audio presentation on Starship Sofa:

And here, the obvious Anglaisishness of the title notwithstanding, is the cover for the upcoming French edition of Starfish, which translates as “Starfish” because “Étoile de Mer” isn’t as catchy:

(The layout people might have to add a subtitle — “Maintenant, en Francais!” — to avoid confusion).

This cover resonates with me. Back in the days before my first novel ever came out — before I’d even sold the damn thing — I spent a fair bit of time fantasising about my ideal cover.  I imagined  a skeletally-enhanced, photophore-studded deep-sea fish on a featureless black background. Of course, I was delighted with the Jensen cover when I saw it (Tor did a really bang-up job with all the rifters covers), and put away my naïve fantasy in favor of the real thing.

Yet here it is again — arising this time from the imagination of Bénédicte Lombardo, my editor at Fleuve Noir (which I would link to here if only they didn’t keep telling me I was Forbidden every time I tried).  Apparently, Benedicté’s original vision was even closer to mine than what you see here — she, too, had imagined a highlit fish on a black background — but apparently a photographic negative looks better on the shelf.

So. Dreams come true.


1No, really! That’s actually the title!

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Wednesday March 10 2010at 10:03 am , filed under art on ink, Squidgate, writing news . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

38 Responses to “Screen Grabs, Blog Jabs”

  1. Pretty hilarious re: smarmy blogger. Why not simply update the post with the facts? I guess the Watts Legal Menace was too much pressure. You might try to go down there and get arrested again for buying a pack of gum, or something.

    That’s an angry looking fish.

  2. first. like. (delurk.)

    which, being decoded, reads.

    “hey, remember this embarrassing
    blog-thread moment?… the first
    one in would shout ‘first’…
    kinda like “shotgun”.

    glad the goonsquad backed down this once
    (and the art looks great).

    i’ve never commented here before…
    now to see if i’m still “first”…

  3. Hmm, I like the new book cover, but I’d like to offer an observation:

    The title of the book is STARFISH, yet the fish pictured on the cover is clearly not a starfish. Now, the content of the book is another thing, as it would help to clarify the title, but in terms of pure marketing, uninitiated buyer, eyeballs-on-the-cover type of thing, it might cause a little confusion.

    Still, this might be a good thing.

    If I saw a book with the title APPLE and a banana was pictured on the cover, I think the discrepancy might make me pick it up.

    Anyway, just my two bits. You still rock.

  4. Glad to hear there is no Dog-the-Bounty-hunter scenario to have to contemplate.

  5. Ooo! That piece of art for the Island looks awesome. The Starfish one is good too, but I still prefer the original a little better.

    Funny story actually. I got my girlfriend to start picking me out books purely based on the cover and she ended up grabbing Starfish off the shelf. Q.E.D. judging books on their cover works!

  6. The starfish cover brings back some memories of some Guelph course (I’m thinking Ichthyology, but I am probably wrong) where we had to clear and stain a small fish. I probably will suffer from the exposure to xylene.

  7. Ichthyology. Noakes was the prof. I’ve still got my cleared, stained fish. Hell, I’ve probably got yours too; I thought they were so cool I scooped up about three other fish that people had discarded. They’re sitting on my brag shelf in a little jar of glycerine, sealed with a rubber stopper.

  8. And shouldn’t that be “Etoile de poisson?”

  9. Ken: the obvious solution would be to add “Ceci n’est pas une étoile de mer” just below the fish…

  10. “Ichthyology. Noakes was the prof..” Noaks was the guy. Should it worry me that I can still remember all of the scientific names I learned from back then but forget a person’s name right after being introduced?

    Regardless, good luck with that legal thing.

  11. Pisaster ochraceus was always my favorite.
    And much les prickly than their urchin cousins.
    I remember there was a big campaign to start calling them
    Sea Stars. Because they were not actually fish.
    Bored housewives out picketing in the street; twas a madhouse.
    Never seen such acrimony between picketers and sea scabs.
    That campaign fizzled with the beta max, the Edsel and Esperanto.
    True story.

  12. Michael: you beat me to it.

  13. Yeah. Good old Noakes. “Smiles’n’Chuckles”, we used to call him.

    I used one of his jokes in lecture once. My students didn’t laugh either.

  14. Looking forward to the Kanazawa beat down. I note from the start that liberal and conservative aren’t antonyms, that general intelligence is meaningless, that evolution only rewards novelty when the environment permits, and that “atheist” is as meaningless a term as “theist” (with both belonging to a bankrupt philosophy).

    Disappointing, really. You’d think that a school with a Marxian reputation would do better at cost-benefit analysis wrt the construction of individual identity in a social context.

  15. Well, glad to see that issue is resolved, Mr. Watts.
    That’s what lawyers are for 🙂

    As a random bit of unrelated amusement, I offer you and the kind company gathering here this little bit of (likely unintentional) Watts-related humor which I found while lurking on internet forums:

  16. Anyone or anything who says in effect “think, damn you, think like your life depends on it”, is a friend of mine. 🙂

  17. “I note from the start that liberal and conservative aren’t antonyms, that general intelligence is meaningless, that evolution only rewards novelty when the environment permits, and that “atheist” is as meaningless a term as “theist” (with both belonging to a bankrupt philosophy).”

    Not sure what the policies for religious debate are on here, but if Atheist and theist are both bankrupt philosophies, what holds all the cash so to speak?

  18. Anyone or anything who says in effect “think, damn you, think like your life depends on it”, is a friend of mine.

    okay, sure, me too i guess though it smacks a bit of (firesign theatre)
    (gym coach voice:)
    “okay! today we’re gonna *meditate*! ready?… *meditate*!

    what holds all the cash? “mu”.

  19. How can I not love your books when you name one after me! I do like Starfish for other reasons too:)

    Btw, I’m glad your situation was resolved speedily. Good luck with the next hurdle.

  20. Not on this topic, but it looks like physicists have discovered a way to teleport energy similar to the method you describe in Blindsight:

  21. Not sure what the policies for religious debate are on here, but if Atheist and theist are both bankrupt philosophies, what holds all the cash so to speak?

    The agnostic knows he can’t know, and accepts and acknowledges same. That seems pretty bankable.

  22. The agnostic is either atheist or theist…

    Either he or she belives (theism) but does not know or he or she lacks belief (atheism) and does not know.

    You cant ‘just’ be agnostic, you either believe or you dont. You can be intellectually honost about certainty in theism too, hence you can be an agnostic theist.

    Theism/atheism is on belief. A belief or lack there of.
    Agnostcism/gnostcism is about knowledge. Knowledge of god (revelation, mystical experience) or a lack of this knowledge and hence no certitude.

    Theoretically one can be an atheist gnostic i suppose. Experiencing the divine but not believing. You would be that if you had no concept of god but did have mystical experiences through drugs or otherwhilse induced delusion. (or the real thing one could ironically suppose).

    Seems to be a lot of confusion about this. An anti-theist would be actually opposed to religion and profess an absolute belief that there is no god.

    Its not even in the same league of absurdism of claiming there is of course. Irony being that the religious are most vehemently opposed to others religions and fantasy themselves.

    Intolerance truly begets intolerance! But intolerance of something that is not there isnt really being intolerant now is it? Or its also intolerant to tell kids theres no monsters under the bed?

  23. I think Mirik is on to something here. Not believing in a thing is not the same as disbelieving in that thing.

    There’s a quote (I forget the attribution) along the lines of “Atheism is a belief in the same way that not playing chess is a hobby.” Atheism is not the absolute belief that gods don’t exist; it is only an absence of belief in gods. It is a subset of empiricism, the general principle that “I do not believe in things for which there is no evidence.”

    At least, that’s my understanding. I could be wrong.

  24. Not believing in a thing is not the same as disbelieving in that thing.

    I totally see that. Disbelief is active.

    I have to disagree with you, Mirik, on The agnostic is either atheist or theist because it’s an unnecessary strict dichotomy. It’s like being bi – if someone tells you they’re bisexual, you have to go with their self-labeling. If someone thinks they are agnostic, regardless of definitions, I have to go with that.

    The labels “atheist,” “theist,” “agnostic,” are complex, man-made ideas with sliding definitions, ’cause if they didn’t slide around a little, we wouldn’t be having this conversation? If you see what I mean, M.

    Atheism is not the absolute belief that gods don’t exist; it is only an absence of belief in gods.

    Depends on the atheist, don’t you find?

    I have met agnostics who experience an absence of belief, but the absence is not troublesome to them. It’s not an issue for them, yet they would not call themselves atheists. I have met atheists who look like the agnostic I just described. I mean, who gets to decide with absolutism who “qualifies,” given all the slipperiness of definition. It’s sort of the same problem with the words “socialist” or “conservative.” Language is always in flux, so creating absolute definitions for complex belief sets is like nailing jello to the wall.

    At least, that’s my understanding. I could be wrong.


  25. BTW, the “eagle-eyed blogger” on Livejournal may have just friends-locked his posts about you, and not deleted them. Still way better than having them generally readable.

  26. That may amount to the same thing; according to his user info he has no friends. And the only person to ever leave a comment on any of his postings, stretching back to the beginning of the blog, was me.

  27. I can’t imagine why he wouldn’t have any friends…

  28. @ Hljóðlegur:

    I understand your point. I dont wish to make the terms absolutist. I think they are only valid in a context, such as “i am hungry” or “I am nog hungry”. Atheism or theism make no sense when talking about food… They don’t apply generally like “I am human” or “I am white/black”. Those are rather absolutist terms unless you are Michael Jackson.

    So in context you either believe or dont, agnostics simply are the ones who are intellectually honost about their atheism or theism: “I sort of believe but dont know for sure”.

    If someone just doesnt know. Doesn’t that claik natural state? Which is obviously atheism. Baby’s dont know god or gods, right?

    So lacking belief -because- you dont know, is still atheism. You can harsly not lack something with replacing it with doubt. Doubt doesn’t seem to be a defining value of theism or atheism, the two states one would in context automatically refer to even if you dont want to pass judgement of certitude.

    Of course that may also be wrong, but it seems clear cut when viewed non-absolutist. I may feel more peckish or religous one day then the next, in theory, ignoring the fact that I dont have a religous bone in my body. Stranger things have happened, after all. Point in case this puppetshow of a courtcase.

    What i find more interesting is the comparisson of claims and the incomprehensible cognitive dissonance that makes people take wishful thinking to their utter and fatal extremes over physical evidence and overwheling logic.

    Like i said, atheism + anti-theism are not on the same level, nay, dimensional plane of existence compared to the assumptions needed for theism. Deism i can comprehend, its just god in all his irrelevance, not obstructing physical laws or observations, just being there for the beginning and pissing off to where ever, never to be heard from again. It could make a twisted kind of sense if it didnt make more sense to invoke nothing except physical law at all. Theism is a can of worms with no end. The amount of ridiculoia superstitions one must actively engage in leaves often no rational decision untouched or befouled. Atheism or anti-theism seem to either ignore or spit in the face of the nonsense respectively. Agnostic or not, atheism is the responsible choice for yourself and others. Theism the egotistical violent and oppressive one. No rules agreed on, but mandated. Your not doing it for other, but for god and a place in heaven. By holy scripture you must kill the enemies of your particular taste of god.

    Anyways ranting now, pardon me. Also typing on iPhone, sausage finger typing errors must be forgiven, i beg.

  29. Also, afraid to offend believers with hars words; I’m sketching differences non absolutist too. I full well understand most theists are devout atheists except om holy days. Its not the theisticus domesticus i fear. Its the theist with the political or divine agenda that crashes planes, wants to teach kids nonsense in school etc. that threatens positive human development.

    I think a little offense is probably healthy though, get the old noggin’ buzzing!

  30. That is a very pretty cover, my goodness.

  31. @Mirik: “Baby’s dont know god or gods, right?”

    Well, they do seem to believe in ghosts and a lot of other things. I used to believe in somebody watching from behind me when I was six, and I used to believe that when my parents left things started moving in the room. Given how little power most “gods” or deities in politheistic religions seem to have (basically immortal humans, or ghosts, that’s all), I think it’s safe to say most children do believe in some kind of gods.

    Also most humans seem to believe in a kind of Fate, with a capital F, even nonreligious people, which they only notice when they are out of luck. (Like you only notice you need oxygen when you don’t have it.) I’m not sure if this belief is not something a priori, which we might or might not erase later on.

    So the assumption that we come nonbelieving might turn out to be just wrong.

  32. Good point Gabor!

    For imaginary friends there is a clear cut explanation and ‘cure’, but for other random manifestations of fantasy, as we all experience when young, the only thing to say for sure is that we outgrow most of them when knowledge becomes available or we simply grow older.

    I do see an obvious evolutionary benefit for children’s extended paranoia when alone. They are more likely to be alert and screaming for help, possibly preventing death in prehistoric settings.

    There may be a religious aspect to this through mismatch of causation/correlation on part of the child too i imagine (as seen in animals randomly fed, who started to patterize their behaviors to just before they got fed in a positive feedback loop common in religious practice).

    Anyway it’s interesting and you may be right. Still seems a far cry to believe in gnomes to believe in god with all that it stands for. Impossible for a child to understand the implications of most religions fully. Most believing adults can conceive of it all and all interpret or dismiss randomly.

  33. Mirik,

    True, children are incapable to understand the implications of most religions (although I think it’s safe to say most grown-ups are incapable of the same thing :D), but then still there’s this problem with Fate. Most of us (including me, I confess) believes that when we are unlucky for an extended period, we are entitled to a bit more luck later on, or that our unlucky periods might be the righteous consequences of previous lucky periods, and we consciously have to unlearn this knowledge. And even once we’ve unlearned it (as is the case with me), sometimes we still wonder why we couldn’t be a bit lucky after such an extended period of no luck, or we fear the consequences of being too lucky for too long a time…

    This always balancing, omnipotent and omnipresent, and somehow even personal (you could, after all, kinda talk to it, curse it, etc.), yet for mere mortals enigmatic Fate seems to be as close to the one God of the monotheistic religions as possible. At least, that’s how I see it.

    Of course, it might not be a priori, it might be just seeing patterns where there’s none, but still I wouldn’t dismiss the idea that people come hardwired with such a belief. I’d need some evidence that we acquire this belief sometime when we’re very young. (I don’t remember when I had picked up that belief, but must have been very early.)

  34. “children’s extended paranoia when alone”

    Most parents in most cultures never leave their children alone, not until they reach the age of three or four. So it’s possible that children are less paranoid in our culture (they have to unlearn the existence of daemons the hard way – staying alone, and then experiencing that nothing happens), than in other cultures (where they don’t have much empirical evidence about daemons who are only present when their parents aren’t…)

  35. @Gabor:

    (first forgive my previous typing, was on iPhone, which is a bitch to type on if you don’t have baby fingers, I meant to say “Can’t” when talking about the adults conceiving religion also! We definitely agree on that!)

    You may very well be right!

    There is some fascinating debate on that subject, I do believe Daniel Dennett wrote a fine book about this subject (natural origins of religion) called “Breaking the Spell” finding the evolutionary process of aquiring religiously ‘hardwired’ behaviors. I have read it and it’s compelling enough in itself and it does touch on children some.

    My experiences where where more self induced (that I remember). I was always off in flights of fancy about gnomes, monsters, or whatnot, all very Narnia or Middle Earth.

    I think I misunderstood before, this form of ‘Faith’ you speak of seems inherent to humanity, indeed. I was thinking specifically on religion I guess, since your “Faith” is akin to Deism, Pantheism, etc.

    I think that kind of ‘direct’ faith is incompatible or at least, different than purposely believing incredible claims in a positive feedback loop, but is more a ‘logical’ onflow of faith from environtmental feedback and fantasy, which may very well be the origins of current religion, as I tried to illustrate with the pigeon training.

    Let’s say for example, thunder rolls over the plains in pre-history. I could see how without any knowledge, one may come to ritual. Like the pigeon came to ritual when his food was dropped randomly, and he tried to emulate what he did just before in some kind of absurd causation/correlation game, so he can get it again, which them causes it to reinforce itself, because do it long enough and it will happen again. So you’re dancing, the god’s are displeased, thunder and rain comes. Next time you need rain, start dancing! Do it enough and it will happen. If no, you probably did it wrong.

    So although I think your kids faith is fundamental and instrumental to what makes our religions such a pervasive cultural unit (meme?), I think fundamentally we are talking proto-faith and advanced cultured (often) hand-shaped cultural faith differences.

    Coming back to the current point, therefore I would still suggest a child is not inherently theistic. Possible Deistic, Pantheistic, or Fairy/Unicorn/Gnome/Hobbit-istic, but I don’t think those qualify as fully fledged advanced absurdities.

    So I am basically saying that an atheist could be (safely, not credibly) a believer in bigfoot or UFO’s. Unless there is some reformed church if Bigfoot dogma (religion).

    But I think probably we agree on that! :o)

    A non-believer in the randomly supernatural a rationalist maybe? There you go, another ‘agnostic’ term. You could be a rationalist atheist. Impossibly a rationalist theist. One could be a rationalist and agnostic atheist, very well, in fact. :o) I do consider muself as such!

  36. Point being that Atheism is, by definition, nothing more than the negation of Theism.

    And since the framework of interpretation of Theism is stupid, Atheism is also stupid, because it chooses to play on the same pitch by the same rules.

    Corrext praxis is Empiricism and Popper’s rules for scientific investigation. The question of some nonsensical Thomist God doesn’t even come into it.

  37. Ladies and gentleman, the JURY has reached VERDICT:
    We, the jury, find Peter W—&^%$,,,4
    Uh oh…damn solar flares…

    fatal error in line 36
    fatal error in line 36
    fatal error in line 36
    fatal error in line 36
    fatal error in line 36

  38. @ Paul McEnery:

    Not so. I didn’t make the word up, but lacking Theism (not having it…) doesn’t seem to play by the same pitch to me.

    I also lack belief in Unicorns, etc. We don’t have a specific a-unicornism word for that. We just call that person a rationalist with regards to unicorns.

    Atheism is rationalism with regards to religion. It’s not believing something, it’s lacking belief in/for religion.

    A Christian is an atheist in regards with Hinduism and Islam.