Keep the Creatures Safe from Harm

Busy, postingless weekend. Ad Astra gobbled up most of it, although even there I didn’t get to as much stuff as I’d have liked (there was in particular a room party in 020 that I wanted to check out). An audience member at the self-promotion panel emphasized that biographical, dear-diary-type blog postings are lame, because most of our lives just aren’t that interesting — which makes this post here either meta or a case in point.

Sometime during the weekend the piece went live, as a number of you have already discovered; I’ve only just seen it myself this morning. Feelings are mixed. At times I looked almost cuddlesome. Other times I looked like John Merrick with terminal hepatitis. Once or twice I looked like an Easter Island statue. I flailed sometimes; I really wasn’t as clear as I should have been on the whole intelligence/consciousness thing, and even as I was answering Analee’s sf-is-really-about-today point I remember thinking Jesus, I hope they edit this exchange out. I’m being completely inarticulate. (I was, too.  And they didn’t, sadly.) And I was bemused/slightly saddened to note that the very first commenter characterized me as an antigovernment extremist (which is all well and good, except the poster obviously regarded that as a bad thing), and that less than halfway through the comment thread the remarks had devolved to people calling each other dickheads.

All told, though, it could have been a lot worse. I’d do it again. Maybe with some cheat notes and prepared sound bites next time.

Finished off the weekend with an intimate concert at Hugh’s Room, confirming once again that Oyster Band has got to be one of the tightest bar bands on the planet: the sound was clean enough to eat off of, and even the new tunes were old friends. The night ended on an ominously serendipitous note; the playout of “Put out the Lights”, with its gentle evocation of late-night comfort and nesting amongst the safety of one’s friends and loved ones, got squashed beneath the doppler scream of a police siren speeding past just outside. Everyone laughed at such perfectly ironic timing.

Almost everyone.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Monday April 12 2010at 09:04 am , filed under public interface . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

37 Responses to “Keep the Creatures Safe from Harm”

  1. While I understand that it might help your “image” to develop talking points, as someone who reads/watches most of your interviews, it is nice to see rather different answers to what are often the same basic questions. There’s also the politician’s tendency to respond to a question with a talking point regardless of whether it actually answers the question, though I trust you should be able to avoid that.

  2. we all long for polish when speaking impromptu.

  3. Oh Peter, don’t be so hard on yourself. Of course, any one of us who sees ourself on video, in a picture, etc., are going to be hard on ourself and not necessarily like what we see. We are our own harshest critics, truly. Don’t do that. None of those who matter saw your interview that way.

    I thought your interview was terrific. I also thought you looked great. In light of the hugemongo stress of stuff that has happened to you. (That Canadian accent really came out. 🙂 )

    As for the comments, of which I was going to say something the other day but deleted it because I thought that it was really not worth the time and effort to even acknowledge some of the statements made. Really, those posters, who have the right to their opinion, do not matter in the scheme of things as to your life and who you are, so don’t let that get to you, ok. People just can’t be nice and polite and make commentary that reflects a goodness of heart, instead they have to be the pickers and negativity mongers in order to bloat their self-importance. Some of the commentators don’t even dig science or science fiction. I suspect that some of these blogginheads comment posters are commenting on everything and are like a regular group trying to out-snark one another. Some of them exaggerated, making something out of nothing. I heard no antigovernment rant whatsoever.

    Just remember this, they do not know you, and quite frankly I suspect that they would not bother to care in doing so. They just make remarks without really thinking about just what they are saying.

    Seriously, don’t be so damn hard on yourself. And stop making swipes at yourself! You are really funny. No you do not look like John Merrick, what a funny dude you are. Think about it, you have been through a ton of stress for the past 4 1/2 months, and it will show in ways that is absolutely expected. You look like Peter Watts who has had his life turned into a negative ride for the past few months. Geez, as if you think you should be able to hide it and perform. That is not what it should be and not what you are about.

    I found your interview to be real, down to earth, your brain was firing on all pistons, sometimes like a gee wiz kid talking about stuff that was so very cool, and you were excited and interested in the stuff you are engaged in and thinking about. (I suspect that you, like so many other humans, myself included, may not really like to be in front of cameras etc. unless we have to.) You had to think on your toes and had to thusly go from thought to thought and be able to answer questions with as much meaning and fleshing out as you could under the circumstances.

    As for cheat sheets and sound bytes, well, I was thinking that this interview was really a naturalistic talk story interview without any preparedness because it was just about talking to you about your stuff and not a trying to sell Peter Watts for president of some SciFi Committee or something when spin doctoring and teleprompters are necessary to fool the audience that you are not actually a real, down to earth human being, but a celebrity-borg cylon perfectionist… 🙂

    I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, although I suspect not, but I like when people just have to pick stuff from their brain and speak on the fly like humans should, without all of the stress and worries of how we look, sound, appear and come across.

  4. You know how blunt I can be, so I am not blowing sunshine up your bumbershoot when I say:

    1. You’re dead wrong about coming off as inarticulate. You were marvelous. You managed to pluralize the word “data,” and you came off as thoughtful, literate and intelligent. Whatever scramble you remember inside your brain when you spoke the words, the audience only saw what you actually said. You also didn’t come off like a boring self-important jerk, which is Job#1 in these things.

    2. The camera flattered your apartment, but not you. The changing lighting, including places where, yeah, you look suddenly kinda yellow, was a distraction. Most of the bloggingheads looked unwell on their videos, if you notice, so you’re in good company. But who cares? Being a writer is not a beauty contest. You needed to come off human, credible, and literate, and you did.

    This was a win, man.

  5. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by torforgeauthors. torforgeauthors said: Peter Watts: Keep the Creatures Safe from Harm […]

  6. You thought at times you looked like a Moai of Rapa Nui? Those mysterious Polynesian rock head dude living faces of ancestors and a silent testament of a long ago island culture? Why do you think you looked like a rock head on blogging-heads?

    Hmm, actually those Moai have quite strong and sharpened features, wise ones, looking off into the vastness of space. Is that what it could be?

    (But ya gotta purse your lips out boojee kind to get the total look)

    ~Here are some dancers to your head~ under the Hawaiian name are Cook Islanders 🙂

  7. Glad you had fun.

    I long for the days when sirens and flashing lights were merely followed by a highpitched wail of “Rooooxanne…” 🙂

    BTW, saw an article last week… Apparently several white, male Minneapolis PD strip-searched a young black woman last September and it only recently got to the courts and the media. In her mind she was raped (video of them peeling off her clothing), in theirs… Well, who gives a shit, right? Anyway, turns out the manual said all strip searches should be done by same-sex officers.

    But, they got a slap on the wrist. Judge even agreed that the young lady sincerely thought she was raped, but that the evidence said otherwise.

    The bonus point: she was a criminal justice major (or whatever they call that field of study now) at one of the local colleges. Not anymore of course.

  8. Oysterband? I hate you now. Because it’s been quite a while since I’ve seen them live. Something like 10 years, probably.

  9. Aren’t those dudes like on Social Security by now?

  10. i basically let the video play in the background and just listen on the audio, so i didnt notice any appearance issues. Not that i know if i would pick up on them anyways, thanks to aspie issues…

    anyways, the part where you talk about speaking in tongues as a kind of programming language seems similar to what shows up in snow crash.

  11. If you really want to look like Polynesian Rock Head, I have a theme song for you (

    I am a man with an ordinary head
    I am a man with a typical life
    I am a man with an ordinary job
    I am a man with a typical wife

    But i saw a postcard,
    It meant a lot to me.
    It had a picture of
    How i want my life to be…

    I want a head like the heads you see on Easter Island, Easter Island
    I want a big strong forhead
    I want to stand up tall
    I want a head like the heads you see on Easter Island, Easter Island.
    I want to stare at the seaside and do nothing at all.

    I am a man of unenstemied statue
    I am a man with conventional ways.
    I am a man of mediocre intellect.
    I am a man of uneventful days.

    But i saw a travel log
    It meant a lot to me
    It had a picture of
    How i want my life to be…

    I want a head like the heads you see on Easter Island, Easter Island
    I want a three-ton nose job
    I want to stand up tall
    I want a head like the heads you see on Easter Island, Easter Island.
    I want to stare at the seaside and do nothing at all.

    I want to be rock hard
    I want to be stone
    I want to be mysterious
    And always left alone!

    I want a head like the heads you see on Easter Island.
    Bop bop bodabopbopbadabopbop bada baa!

    I want a head like the heads you see on Easter Island, Easter Island
    I want prominent features
    I want to stand up tall
    I want a head like the heads you see on Easter Island, Easter Island.
    I want to stare at the seaside and do nothing…

  12. Alright SpeakerToManagers 🙂 ~ here is a video that goes with the rock head song:

  13. Your new role model is obviously Papa Moai:

    Oysterband, huh? And Jethro Tull too? I knew there was a reason why I enjoy your fiction.

  14. I watched the video. YOU ROCKED, DUDE!!! You came across as a very real human being. Quit dumping on yourself.

  15. Peter: “biographical, dear-diary-type blog postings are lame, because most of our lives just aren’t that interesting”.

    Except lately you are having a pretty interesting life, for better or worse. Hoping for the better of course.

    Off to see the video….

  16. Cool interview, watching recordings of oneself is always excruciating, but that’s normal. I imagine people working on TV or film get desensitized to it.

    Regarding Vinge, the interstellar communication in the medium intellect zone was very low bandwitdth which explains the usenet-like nature of it, but there were other aspects of computer technology that were fairly forward looking, like the laptop/personal computer the human girl has, it had an adaptive user interface that reconfigured itself to be easier to use based on user input. I imagine it’ll take windows a couple hundred years to achieve that kind of usability based on their current progress 🙂

  17. Peter, I am impressed.
    That was very good… good indeed.

    Congrats 🙂

  18. Oyster Band! I heard them at last year’s Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival and immediately bought their latest CD. “Dancing As Fast As I Can” is such a great song. I love the line “It’s only the white’s of our knuckles that’s keeping this plane in the air.”

    It was great chatting with you, Caitlin, and the gang at Ad Astra.

  19. Life is more real and funny when we can just be ourselves ~ expressing freely and naturally.

    Non-humans do not have much of a choice as to being videotaped and put on the internet for all to see.

    The poor little dog in this video may or may not have something wrong with it, but he/she is awfully cute, and I would adopt such a pupster.

    Still, this pups’ way of behaving and barking does go well with the song:

    Imperfection is beauty in and of itself.

  20. Looking good Peter. This interview was completely enjoyable and I think you pulled it off quite well.

    The trial questions were unfortunately necessary, but I was especially pleased to hear you talk about your upcoming work. I’m more eager than ever to read State of Grace. Care to share a snippet of two for those of us on Team Squid?

    Finally, I am sorry that we didn’t get a chance to see your cat, Banana paraded in front of the screen. Or was that Banana we saw speaking the whole time? Hmmm, I think you’re trying to pull a fast one on us. You repeat offender types are all alike.

  21. Oh yeah, good point, Ken. I was actually looking forward to seeing Banana and hearing how his ears got that way! Maybe next time..

  22. @Chris J

    “My friend Banana is obviously …Chinese…um.. I see you’ve noticed the ears. They’re actually quite easy to explain…”

    “Perhaps the unfortunate accident I had as a child..

    “The unfortunate accident he had as a child… He got his head caught .. in a mechanical … rice-picker…”

  23. The only people who don’t look like total dickheads when interviewed live are the people who have perfected a cartoonish two-dimensional personality construct to sell, and who then repeat clichéd phrases. Think of Andy Warhol – say what you may about him, there was little heartfelt authenticity and responsiveness to the moment there.

    NB: I haven’t watched the interview due to technical restrictions – for all I know, you come across like Elvis mind-melded with James Dean. Just saying! 😉

  24. “My friend Banana is obviously …Chinese…um.. ” How come he’s Chinese? 🙂

    I am partly, fractionally Chinese, maybe I am related to him?

    When I was in Ireland, years ago, some of the local folk asked if I was part Chinese…they did not say I can see your Irish though. Hmm, but in Hawaii, some people say ~ you look Irish, but I do not see any Chinese.

    Perception and relativity, perhaps. Looking but not seeing? Seeing but blinded?

    “I see you’ve noticed the ears.” Ah, the beauty of imperfection…

    The beauty of uninhibited self expression…who is watching? Who is really seeing? Does it matter? Whom are we really?

  25. Just found the time to watch the whole thing. Enjoyed every bit of it. Thanks for taking the time. <3

  26. @keanani-

    “My friend is obviously Chinese” is a Trekkie joke. Cap’n Kirk experiences epic fail in trying to explain to 20th century humans the odd appearance of Science Officer Spock, an alien.

    Sorry for the confusion. Lotta Trekkies here. Didn’t realize how obscure this was.

  27. That’s a fairly wellknown scene, yup.

  28. I just now read about the conviction. I am not certain of what to say. I’ve come to read your blog entries sporadically, enjoying them, ever since I heard about the initial incident… I had assumed that the evidence would show the truth and it would be acted on in some sense of justice… It seems I was naive too.

    I do not understand it. I grew up in Africa… I left, I came here because these sorts of things are not supposed to happen here. Having a gun, or a badge is not supposed to give you free reign to do or hurt whomever you please…

    What is the purpose of a law system, or a jury, or a judge if they can all agree that some have acted as rabid dogs, yet throw up their hands and say “But, we are powerless, so it is written.” If it is a system that is meant for control alone, not justice, why obey it? Why can no one say, “this is wrong and so I will not render judgement,” or “I will not participate.” Is there a threat preventing it? If there is, is that not be a further distortion of the system?

    Even when in Africa it was constantly said and shown, “This is the first world! The developed world, where all are free and justice prevails. Here we do not live in fear, our citizens are safe, our government accountable.” If I watch T.V. now, or read the newspaper, the message is still much the same. It is only on the Internet that there is more information, that there is real dissent against this message.

    I mention these things, because your story leaves me will a cold pit of despair and rigid fear. Because it reminds me of my homeland, of my time under Apartheid.

    Then and there, a gun or a badge meant you could do as you pleased. They could turn innocent citizen into guilty criminal at their whim. There the law was simply as it was, you participated or became it’s next target. And there, the media spoke of the greatness of the society and the only dissent was in hushed circles and eventually the Internet.

    I sit here, wondering and sleepless, what is truly different? If this is the truth here (and this story only one of many… and I have read others), is the only difference the number of victims, the body count? How can the educated citizens of a society not care, or worse, defend this? Perhaps it is in the motivation behind the power, there it was mostly racial… but, what is the reason here? It makes me wonder, in confusion wonder, was the reasoning there just a guise, if I can find the “why” here will that let me understand. Is the reason more insidious and will I be more terrified than I was of what came before if I know it.

    Perhaps these thoughts and questions are over reacting, I do not know for certain. Do you, after all this, have the same feeling I do? Is it only an over reaction to those who have not tasted it? Is there anywhere to feel safe? Even when the memories taunt you.

    In Africa, we fought, it made me tired, but it meant something and it brought change. Here, I do not know how to fight, or even how to have it mean something. I try and am told “it is how it is”, “accept it”, “it cannot be changed.” The words of others who have spoken on your situation would seem to echo that. I did not think there would be these things to fight anymore. I thought there would be some peace. It makes me more tired than I have ever been.

    I am sorry that you must know this experience. Though I hope it does not diminish you, but temper you. I hope even if it tires you, you will continue on. I hope you will not ever travel the road alone, I am glad it seems you will not. And I hope my meager words of rant, ramble and question give of anything to you… as such was the intent of sharing. To me, it has been that even if there are no answers, that others ask has meaning… that others shall remember it in their thoughts does. I shall remember, I shall tell others. And in this, I thank you for sharing what has been, as even in despair and exhaustion are the fires of passion stoked.

    And it would seem, that for being so uncertain… I had much to say. May you find rest when it is needed and strength when in dark silences. And may you be well.

  29. Kind Sir,

    Great interview. Very entertaining and interesting.

    But SIR. Please, find a way to make your Behemoth books more available on- of offline, there is money to be made here by a publisher that does right by your work and doesn’t abondon it!

    (for reasonable price of course, not the 50 dollar copies that are flying around on amazon…)

  30. hmm, can law become religion? I am inclined to say yes, with the bible as a perfect example. How much of the stuff in there was originally written as law, to make things like inheritance easier to manage, and have now become something passed from some divine parent to never be questioned? Will US law take on a similar “property”?

  31. @Kai
    May you find rest when it is needed and strength when in dark silences. And may you be well.>

    Now there’s what our earnest prayers should go for, I feel.

    your story leaves me will a cold pit of despair and rigid fear… Here, I do not know how to fight, or even how to have it mean something.

    Don’t despair, if you can help it! Don’t give up.

    If you want to help, write letters to your government. You’re very eloquent – write to your representatives at different levels and tell them you feel this a miscarriage of justice, that the law needs to be changed, and Dr. Watts needs a lenient sentence.

    And it makes sense.

    He pays taxes, is employed, hardly a danger to society – he doesn’t rob, rape, vandalize, pursesnatch, start fires, drive drunk, brawl in bars, defraud pensioners, sell heroin, housebreak, car-jack, or knife and shoot fellow citizens.

    Sweet Jesus, if all the lawbreaking a man ever does in his life is question the officers of the law about why they are detaining him, that’s a pretty good man. We want more of these citizens out and about, not fewer.

    Don’t you feel we should be limiting incarceration to those engaged in crime that endangers the rest of us? I would feel perfectly safe in a city where all the lawbreakers confined their crimes to asking the police, “What’s the problem, officer?”

    Peter’s friend Madeline has an EZ cut-n-paste way to offer your opinion to the Governor of Michigan, where he was tried:

    Additionally, your representative may have electronic ways to write them a short letter, and a short letter is all they need to register the fact that a VOTER of theirs is upset and wants action. You might even write a paper letter.

    I cannot speak for the Canadian system, but in the U.S., your letters are always read. Congressmen and Senators have staff dedicated to doing nothing but reading letters from voters. On contentious issues, they keep tallies of voter letters – how many for, how many against. Seriously. When the Member of Congress is deciding how to vote, how the letter-writers feel factors in, because these folks want to be re-elected. If you don’t speak up, you don’t get heard until the next election.

    If any Americans here, especially those Michiganites among us, have had an itch to do something about this mess, go here to let your rep know your feelings. (Short and to the point is best.)

    You will need your 9-digit zip code:

    If you are from the great state of Michigan, even better!

    You can contact your Senators at:

  32. What a nice surprise that one of our favourite bloggers listens to one of our favourite bands . Last year they came down off the stage and sang ‘put out the lights’ amongst the audience at a gig here in Warrington (UK) and blew everyone away.

  33. Thank you for your response Hljóðlegur. I will pass on the information to those I know as well.

    I have not been able to cease thinking of this today, one thing that struck me as well, was the new warning sign they’ve erected. I thought it lacked certain vital information. And so I present the following:

    The spread of words and images both, are perhaps a way to be heard.

    Be well.

  34. Finally got around to the interview. You did well, nothing to be ashamed of in the least.

  35. Updated version based on feedback:

  36. You’ve been boingboing’d, Kai:

    Nice work.

  37. I’ve been living in a short attention low bandwidth world but finally managed to watch the interview anyway. It wasn’t bad.

    anyway, looking forward to what comes from the pattern matching crazy religious ideas. speaking as someone who grew up speaking in tongues until I got sin and escaped.