Beasts with Broken Backs

This posting consists of a wadge of a accumulated items, unceremoniously horked onto the ‘crawl with no common thematic underpinnings beyond the fact that it’s all part of the backlog. I have met the major honking deadline which resulted in all these weeks of radio silence (and I’m told I’ll even be able to talk about it by the end of the month). Another equally-major but slightly-less-honking deadline is about to kick in near the end of this week. In between, we leave for France. Nantes, specifically: home of a larger-than-life mechanical elephant, and birthplace of the crepe. Oh, and also of some guy called Jules Verne. I understand he was big in the steampunk community. Kind of a cephalophobe, though.

Starfish:  True Crime

Photo credit: JC Pavon

It continues to surprise me that the Utopiales folks regard me highly enough to pay my way across the Atlantic to rub shoulders with the likes of Larry Niven and China Mieville. Of course, conventional wisdom has it that the French regard Jerry Lewis as a comic genius; so perhaps their vision of me as a master of crime fiction can be regarded in the same light (no, that is not a typo; as you can see, I have proof). For any of you who happen to be in the neighborhood, I seem to be appearing on the following panels:

November 10

  • 6.30 pm: Opening ceremony

November 11

  • 11.00 am: Will we be sailing through the stars? (Carole Ecoffet, Roland Lehoucq, Peter Watts)
  • 2.00 pm: Does the universe have borders? (Roland Lehoucq, Larry Niven, Juan Miguel Aguilera, Peter Watts)
  • 7.30 pm: Communitization: birth of new imaginary borders? (Pierre Bordage, China Mieville, Peter Watts, Dmitri Glukhovski)

November 14

  • 2.30 pm: Transports in future (Gilles Francescano, Alain Boeswillwald, Jean-Claude Dunyach, Peter Watts)

I’m also going to check out that giant elephant at some point, but I don’t know when.

I get back from France on the 14th. Four days later I’m appearing at SFContario, which is the first con ever to be held within easy walking distance of my downtown apartment. (Usually these things are held way out in the boonies, generally somewhere near the airport.) This would be great if I still lived in my apartment. Sadly, I do not; I have recently moved to the boonies, where sf cons are usually held. Sometimes I think these things actively run away at my approach.

Anyway, my schedule at SFContario looks like this:

Friday November 19

  • 8 PM — Ballroom A: Pissing on the Grave of Postmodernism. Does anyone really care about subgenres or literary movements? Does “cyberpunk” really mean anything anymore? How are categories of science fiction used by readers, writers, editors, reviewers, and academics? How can authors associated with certain movements remain relevant when literary fashions change? (Chandler Davis(M), Michael Swanwick, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Fiona Patton, Peter Watts)
  • 9 PM — Ballroom BC: Aurora Pin Ceremony (I have no clue what this is. Maybe we’re supposed to guess each others’ PINs.)

Saturday November 20

  • 10 AM — Courtyard: Is Extinction Really Forever? Given that an extinct form of mouse has been cloned back into existence and dinosaur bone cells have been found in fossils, what are the ethical applications and limits of cloning technology? (Mark Offer, Stephen B. Pearl, Jane Carol Petrovich, Amanda Stock(M), Peter Watts)
  • 3 PM — Ballroom A: Biotech: Friend or Foe? This science holds out the possibility of supplying fuel while removing carbon from industrial emissions, regenerating cartilage restoring mobility to millions, curing human illness, generating plagues that are racially specific, destroying our food supply by killing off bees, converting farm land to deserts. A look at this double-edged sword and where it might take us, good and bad. (Eric Choi(M), Mark Offer, Stephen B Pearl, Alison Sinclair, Peter Watts)

Sunday November 21

  • Noon — Courtyard: Where is Science Now? There have been a lot of political and cultural attacks on the role and value of science in modern society. Are we in danger of killing the goose that lays the golden eggs? What role should science and scientists play in our social and cultural future? (Eric Choi, Julie Czerneda(M), Alison Sinclair, David Stephenson, Peter Watts)

Fading dimly in the rear-view mirror is the SpecFic Colloquium, way back on October 23. I have to say, those guys really pulled it off: the talks were good, the audience enthused, the readings compelling. My only regret: if I’d known that Karl Schroeder, whose talk came immediately after mine, was going to start off by talking about his colonoscopy, I would have taken an extra thirty seconds to add a feces-porn slide to the end of my own presentation, since I did mention the subject during my conclusion and it would have made a great narrative bridge.

“Gods, Jackboots, and Rule 34: How Pornography Could Save the World” seems to have gone over really well. (Either that or everyone was sucking up to me for no apparent reason — which would have been nice, if unprecedented.)   A couple of folks have asked if transcripts or recordings might be available. I’ll probably post a transcript myself on the backlist page, once I have the time (i.e., sometime in 2019), but all the SpecFic talks were video’d. My understanding is that the Chizine folks are posting them all on their own Youtube channel, although I don’t think they’re up there yet. (If anyone can provide a link, I’d appreciate it.)

Finally, to steal a page from Stephen Colbert’s Look Who’s Honoring Me Now, apparently the Spanish translation of Blindsight (Visión ciega, from Bibliopolis) has just won the Xatafi-Cyberdark award for Best Foreign Novel. I don’t know much about this award. It’s juried, which is good. It “aims to recognize the best works of fantasy literature, fantasy, science fiction, foresight and edited terror” according to Google Translate, which is also kind of good. But nobody’s officially informed me that I won anything — I just ego-surfed my way to the announcement via mentions that started sprouting up on various Spanish blogs — so I don’t know if the award comes with a trophy or a complementary Porsche or something. That would be even better.

Okay. Back to the grind now. I continue to be snowed, but unless things go seriously south over the next few days I’ve broken the back of this thing. I expect to be bringing the ‘crawl gradually out of coma over the next week or two.

Hope to see you all here.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Monday November 08 2010at 09:11 am , filed under On the Road, public interface, writing news . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

24 Responses to “Beasts with Broken Backs”

  1. Go, man, go! Work like a fiend! We’ll wait.

  2. Right on! ‘grats on another award. 🙂

  3. I’m looking forward to hearing about this project you’ve been working on. 🙂 I’ve already engaged my baseless-speculation generator.

  4. Squee on everything. Including Utopiales. There’s this critic named Annaïg Houesnard you really ought to meet . . .

    I wish I could see that elephant. Looking forward to hopefully meeting you for the first time at SFContario.

  5. Welcome back from silent running.

    I’m still looking forward to that “neurological argument for the existence of god” you mentioned…

  6. Yay!

    and yay for recordings. I get overly obsessive about that because I wish information could be accessible to everyone everywhere.

    thought I was thinking about recordings in the context of cons not focused on teaching technical stuff and then wondered if recording would stifle conversations. which would suck. so in that case, I think I’d get obsessive about wishing a con could assign reporters to panels so that they’d write detailed blog posts about events. (if this already happens, then I am missing out. are there planet blogs like we have over in programmer land?)

    unless video doesn’t stifle conversation. does it?

  7. arg. s/thought/though

    I get older and I make more typos and thinkos and syntax errors. it distresses me. omg I even do they’re their etc these days.

  8. (In my old age I’ve even evolved into a descriptivist from being a prescriptivist. I’m not sure that’s the order things are supposed to happen.)

  9. This would be great if I still lived in my apartment. Sadly, I do not; I have recently moved to the boonies, where sf cons are usually held.

    Oh dear. Bugs: 1 Peter: 0

    Sometimes I think these things actively run away at my approach.

    Nothing personal; they’re just skiddish. Leave out some dry convention-chow in a bowl, maybe a toy, and try to look disinterested.

  10. Sheila said: more typos and thinkos and syntax errors.

    I had thinkos for breakfast. A little cold milk, and you don’t even need to add sugar.

  11. “Gods, Jackboots, and Rule 34: How Pornography Could Save the World” sounds interesting. Looking forward to the transcript or video

  12. I require links, either for youtube or the ftps, respectfully.
    Also I hope this comment doesn’t get modded, again.

  13. The elephant is just wonderful – I use to drive people there between two panels 🙂

  14. Glad you’re back, somewhat. Congrats on the award, and will be looking for those links! Hope to be reading more from you in the future. Missed ya, big guy!

  15. Hey Peter, I’m Manuel de los Reyes, the translator responsible for turning “Blindsight” into “Visión ciega” for the benefit of all your Spanish readers out there.

    I actually thought about dropping you a letter to congratulate you on the Xatafi-Cyberdark Prize when I found out about the winners, but then I decided Luis would probably like to give you the good news himself. My fellow Spaniards have been enjoying some bank holidays lately (not me, alas, since I’ve been living in Germany for some years now, and, anyway – a translator? holidays? c’mon), which I’m sure explains why Luis hasn’t gotten in touch with you yet.

    There’re no trophies to show for the award, I’m afraid, and only the winners in the category of Best Novel and Best Short-Story originally written in Spanish see some cash, courtesy of the online shop which sponsors the competition. But, hey, at least your name is right there, next to the book title – unlike mine, which is nowhere to be seen. That must be why they were so nice and gave *me* the Porsche, I guess.

    Seriously, I’m glad I’ve had the chance to share this prize with you, however vicariously, and I’m looking forward to working on another of your awesome novels any time soon.



  16. I found chizine’s youtube channel. no vids of the event yet.

  17. …and the event site has a place for vids, but they are from before the event. maybe they’ll update when they get new stuff?

  18. “Nothing personal; they’re just skiddish. Leave out some dry convention-chow in a bowl, maybe a toy, and try to look disinterested.” Snrrk!

    I have been on the committees of Torque 4 [1985, Bathurst and King], Ditto 1 [1988, Yonge and Charles], Ditto 14 [2002, Yonge and Carlton], Torcon III [2003, Front and Bay] and Corflu 23 [2006, Yonge and Charles again]. I guess you just picked the wrong time to live there. Alternately, thanks for making it possible to hold cons downtown again, your sacrifice is appreciated!

    Peter, the Aurora Pin Ceremony invite means that at some point, you were nominated for an Aurora Award. The Aurora committee has decided to start giving pins to all nominees, and are working on the thirty-year backlog by handing out one each to any prior nominee at a whole slew of Canadian conventions this year.

    V, I hope this means you got your transport sorted to your satisfaction. [Else, I think Bob Webber is driving in from your direction.]

    Very much looking forward to the con. Peter, thanks for the signal boost. [And we’re abso-fucking-lutely fine with your use of language. Keeps the prudes out of our hair.]

    That reminds me, I found an exception to Rule 34.

  19. BTW, Chandler Davis is listed as moderating one of PW’s panels at SFContario. If he was Japanese, he’d be a living cultural treasure. Meeting him would be worth going, all by itself. Golden age SF writer and fan, run out of the US by HUAC, accomplished mathematician, and a very sweet man. [Also the oldest feminist and oldest red-diaper baby I’ve met.] I get to interview him at-con, along with Colin Hinz. I’m feeling somewhat intimidated.

  20. You’re invited to the Aurora Pin Ceremony because [presumably] you were nominated for an Aurora at some time. The Aurora committee decided to start giving pins to nominees and are giving one each to all past nominees this year.

  21. That anonymous post was me. I’m not sure how I managed that, I thought it just hadn’t posted at all. Oh well, sorry for the repetetive bits.

  22. Dear Peter,

    Congratulations on the Spanish award, and I’m sorry I wasn’t able to let you know about it before you found out for yourself, but I was on holiday for the past two weeks.

    Nevertheless, Manuel summed it up quite aptly: no cash, no trophy, just the glory!

    I’ll write to you soon with some more information about how the Spanish edition of Blindsight is faring.



  23. That reminds me, I found an exception to Rule 34.

    Can you share with the group?
    Or will that cause someone to go create some kind of crappy deviantart pencil drawing of it, thereby ruining it as an exception?

  24. @Catherine: You’re intimidated! I’m just grateful he’s moderating a humanities panel. If I was sitting next to him on a science panel I’d be too scared to open my mouth…