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

This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014 at 5:05 am and is filed under public interface, writing news. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

40 Responses to “In a World … Where No One Buys Books … Unless they look like Movies…”

  1. Alyx Dellamonica

    W00t! It looks great, Peter!!!

  2. demoval

    It’s amazing what you can do with iMovie nowadays. Also, I find myself wondering if anyone’s done an analysis on convergent evolution in science fiction, because at stolen moments I’m reading a sf/dark fantasy release from yesterday which deeply involves obligate hemophages, as well as another species of occult fauna, “furry egomaniac[s] with brain[s] the size of a walnut”, aka “lap fungus” aka “solitary diurnal ambush hunter[s] with good hearing and binocular vision and a predilection for biting the neck[s] of . . . prey in half while disembowling it with . . . scythe-like claws” *wry*

    Also, I am pleased to see the previous commenter is someone whose most recent story on was rather a good one.

  3. Steve Halter

    That is very cool and shiny. Other than not mentioning winning a Hugo and I don’t see a Nebula nom. Perhaps they mean you have been nominated to be an interstellar cloud of dust, hydrogen, helium and other ionized gases. That would be pretty cool also.

  4. Barry Finn

    I will buy it on sight! Even if I didn’t see the trailer 🙂

  5. Bahumat

    Well, I already had my pre-order in, but I anticipate that trailer should bring in sales. 🙂

  6. Jeremy C

    As book trailers go, this one is tops!

    Now imagine this trailer being played on large flatscreens in every Barnes and Noble around the country, on Amazon’s front page, and anywhere else people go to buy books nowadays.

  7. ken

    Didja know that TOR ran a little contest a few days ago, giving away 18 galleys of Echopraxia? Check it here:

    I assume they went through their copies in a flash, but it’s nice to see them actively promoting your work to the scifi community.

  8. Anthony Cunningham

    Please, take my money now.

  9. Jon Evans
  10. Leona

    I’m with Anthony on this… I am emptying out my purse on the counter right now.

  11. Oge

    Hi Peter, any plans to put up your recent stories in the Backlog under a CC license? If so, when?

  12. Anony mouse

    Given how poorly the publishing industry has been at accepting the 21st century, this isn’t bad. But if they insist on charging more for the kindle version than the hard cover, I will be looking for bootleg ecopies.

    If we ever get together, I will certainly pay for a beer or three, but I refuse to pay more for something that cost less. Except for sex, of course.

  13. Peter D

    I would have preferred they use the “When I find my will to live becoming too strong, I read Peter Watts.” quote, but I guess that probably isn’t as alluring to the average potential trailer-watcher.

  14. matt

    Yes, beautiful production, lousy writing. They should have consulted a professional writer, but who…. hmmmmm…..

  15. Ship of Theseus

    I’m putting bets on Cthulhu for the entity near the sun, yep has to be Cthulhu.

  16. The one scared of scientific monks

    OMG scientific monks! HOW could they not be humanity’s greatest fear!
    I’ve been scared of scientific monks my whole life. I vividly recall my mother taking me to an amusement park one day, and how I was devastated and broke into tears because I saw a scientific monk there. Up until today, I often have nightmarish dreams of those bastards breaking into my house and threatening me with their unholy science.

  17. whoever

    @ the one

    A Canticle for Bicamowitz

    The Name of the Oxydose

  18. Peter Watts

    Hi Peter, any plans to put up your recent stories in the Backlog under a CC license? If so, when?

    Some of them, at least. I’m letting pretty much everything on stagnate except for this ‘crawl, because we’re finally building new pages behind the scenes so there’s not much point in fiddling with the old. But there’ll be a new backlist page in a month or two along with everything else, and it’ll have updated content.

    Anony mouse: If we ever get together, I will certainly pay for a beer or three, but I refuse to pay more for something that cost less. Except for sex, of course.

    I’m curious about how you’ve aged over the past thirty years. We can get together anytime you’re in town.

    Just not for sex.

    Yes, beautiful production, lousy writing.They should have consulted a professional writer, but who….hmmmmm…..

    The one scared of scientific monks:
    OMG scientific monks! HOW could they not be humanity’s greatest fear!…

    Um, yeah, I’d just like to take this opportunity to emphasize that I had no input into the actual script, or the visuals, or— actually, anything.

    In my experience it’s just SOP at Tor (and maybe throughout the industry) to actively exclude authors from pretty much any aspect of their books except the actual writing of them. I certainly would have written different text— but then again, it would never have occurred to me to do a book trailer in the first place. And given that Circle of Seven was working entirely off (inaccurate) material from Editorial, with no access to canon, I think they did a great job.

  19. Peter D

    Scientific monks come a distant third for me.

    Scientific monkeys are far scarier. Try to critique one of their papers and they might well throw feces at you.

    And then there’s scientific Monkees. If I ever see Mickey Dolenz in charge of a particle accelerator, I don’t know if there’s a place in the universe I’m ever going to be safe.

  20. Matthew

    Congratulations, Peter. August 26th cannot come soon enough. I know exactly what I’ll be doing over Labor Day weekend.

  21. Greg

    Thanks Peter, now I will be watching SCTV clips all day instead of working.

  22. Peter Watts

    Peter D: Scientific monks come a distant third for me.

    I’ve got to figure out how to get a “Like” button on this thing.

    Thanks Peter, now I will be watching SCTV clips all day instead of working.

    My work here is done.

  23. whoever

    And dead ahead, a handful of rapture-stricken monks takes them all to a meeting with something they will only call “The Angels of the Asteroids.”

    Well, I guess Maria Bamford and I are the only ones afraid of creepy cultists.

  24. Nestor

    Beware of cyborg Gregor Mendel!

    I like the bit with the animated Icarus array (I think that’s what it is). Neat what you can do with a bit of 3d geometry and some layers. I was already gonna buy it, but I guess it might catch some punter’s eyes.

  25. Terry

    Worked on me. I went & pre-ordered it from my local indie bookstore.

  26. Hatchett Nubiles Welshson

    I pre-ordered too, but I wonder if there will be a cutdown version available without the scientific monks. These guys may just prove to be too much for me – I’ve actually never heard anything scarier in my entire life.

  27. whoever

    @ Cyborg Gregor Mendel:

    But what to replace them with? Killer clowns with PhDs? Mimes who are also veterinarians?

    Expect there’s a script for that:

  28. Scientific Monks: the ultimate horror


    Though killer clowns with PhDs would actually be ok, because in the universe of Blindsight everyone has a degree. It does them no good though, because getting a degree strengthens your self-awareness and thus leaves you at an evolutionary disadvantage.

    Look at scramblers: I seriously doubt any of them even got through college, but they build spaceships and all.

    Returning to the trailer, I think the ultimate horror of a Scientific Monk lies in the fact that such a person cannot exist by natural law. I’ve no idea what the hell The One is babbling about – like he’d seen a Scientific Monk when he was a child and all – but to me, it’s clear that such an occurence is beyond the realm of possible. And when faced with something impossible, yet undeniably human, one begins to question whether we ourselves truly exist as persons. Which, in turn, leads us back to the main theme of Blindsight.

  29. Scientific Monk

    Hallo blasphemers

  30. Steve Halter

    On a different note, here’s an interesting article in New Scientist on turning consciousness on/off by electrically stimulating the claustrum:
    Consciousness on-off switch discovered deep in brain

  31. Hatchett Nubiles Welshson

    An incredibly interesting article, though, in my opinion, its subject has nothing to do with “conscious awareness”. If you look closely at the Chinese room, the implication is that to the outside world, a person with or without self-awareness should, for all intents and purposes, appear the same. A living, breathing human being has self-awareness, while an automaton imitating his/her behaviour down to the smallest detail just runs the software.

  32. Steve Halter

    Hatchett:No, the Chinese room is an example of a possible simulation without conscious intent behind it. This paper is about a finding relating to how a human brain actually functions. The hypothesis here is that the claustrum is acting as a messaging bus/coordinator between various regions of the brain. Interfering with it causes the consensus to go belly up.
    The study doesn’t say that another being (ala Blindsight) couldn’t make do without the emergent reality simulation of consciousness.

    It is interesting to note that the test subject was not entirely neural typical. They had severe epilepsy and some damage to the hippocampus. Finding a more neural typical subject who doesn’t mind invasive brain surgery to further test the hypothesis may be a while off.

  33. Jeff B

    I dig the trailer, Pete! It does gleam.

    At its conclusion, I was hoping to see an image of your face ghost from large to small into the burning star. Old school Doctor Who-style, you know? But I showed the trailer to a decidedly non-scifi friend of mine, and her eyes widened when she saw “Genetically Altered Vampires.” She asked, “Like True Blood?”

    To which I replied, “Yep, just like True Blood.”

    To which she smiled, “Cool!”

    So I think I sold you another book. And I now can’t wait to ask my buddy what she thought after she reads it. That’ll be a fun conversation.

  34. Nestor

    I find today’s smbc somewhat Wattsian

  35. tl;dr

    Steve Halter,

    I was thinking a bit (against reasonable recommendation) around the Chinese Room interpretation in Blindsight. Searle’s original interpretation doesn’t ring true to me, as I feel that the system as a whole does indeed “understand”, or more likely that it runs a “software” layer which “understands”, regardless of the substrate on which it runs. If this is to be believed, then Rorschach’s Chinese Room was not simply a mimetic subroutine; by learning to respond to human communication and language, it would effectively create an isolated “partition” running something between a chatbot and a human consciousness, able to interpret questions and come up with some contextually appropriate answers. Sure, limited access to the complete human experience made it feel stunted and occasionally absurd. But saying (like in the book) that “it doesn’t have a clue [about what’s being said]” would be incorrect: the chatting subroutine would “understand”, but it would be completely cut off from its own substrate. There would be no way for it to transmit its insights to a deeper level, as this was not even intended. Rorschach would not expect valuable information to result from the Chinese Room interaction with the humans; it would have deployed it as an active countermeasure, or as a stalling tactic. It would have no idea that its subroutine is making conversation, as the deeper layers would not have been aware of the concept of conversation. Therefore it’s conceivable that, given sufficient time, input (from humans) and resources (from Rorschach), the conversational subroutine would evolve into something akin to a human-level consciousness running on alien substrate, forever unable to communicate with its own makers. In this case, consciousness would appear, but it would be a by-product and not related to the underlying non-conscious agenda which spawned it.

    *looks back* Holy jeebus wall of text! Sorry, feel free to tl;dr…

  36. whoever


    Right. Issue is CR is not conscious of how unconscious subroutine works. Robotic/computerized attempts at emulating golden retriever catching moving ball over water requires some serious math and physics functions to perform by old computing methods.

    Used to be a critic of the “artistic” don’t-know-how-I-work mode of creativity. Not so much anymore. Once heard a German children’s book writer say he puts one word on a sheet of paper and swallows it. Months later, this ritual provides ample ideas grown from the single concept.

    Of course, conscious “craft” is probably still required for an end product unless you have a very good editor.

  37. Thallid

    I just ordered two copies on amazon for me and my roommate. I cant wait.

  38. Hljóðlegur

    In a world…

    Love that trailer. Haha, a book trailer.

  39. Merkator

    Great… trailer. I am eagerly waiting for this book. Next one to the collection.

    Just single question. Any plans about publishing in other countries like in Poland?

  40. ajay

    I would have preferred they use the “When I find my will to live becoming too strong, I read Peter Watts.” quote, but I guess that probably isn’t as alluring to the average potential trailer-watcher.

    That quote is the main reason I bought Blindsight, and is possibly the finest cover quote ever written by anyone on any book ever.