Intersteller Islands, Frozen Frights, and Intimate Oases

I am about to disappear into the dismal Nebraskan winter for a week. There will be few if any postings during that time. I leave you with a few words from our sponsors.

Some of you may remember my recent short story “The Island”, which appeared in Dozois and Strahan’s New Space Opera 2 (and available as a freebie over at HarperCollins). If you missed it the first time around, though, you get a couple more chances; as of this writing I’ve been told that “The Island” has been selected for two, count ’em two, Best-of-Year collections: the fourth volume of Strahan’s The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year (Night Shade), and Rich Horton’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy (Prime). I’m especially pleased to have been selected by this Horton fellow, because he evidently thought I was a complete loon when he overheard me talking at a urinal during Readercon a few years back. [UPDATE: he did not.  I had him mixed up with someone else.  I am a goof.]  It’s also nice to get the repeated exposure given that “The Island” was the only story I published this year.

It was not, however, the only story I wrote, and I am pleased to report that after much wringing of blood from pixels, perryphobia, and a false start or two, “The Things” (aka “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Things”) will be seeing publication early in the new year over at Clarkesworld. (You can also get an advance taste of that story from a couple of fiblets posted during construction back in the spring.)

I’ve also just handed in an introduction to Heyne’s rerelease of Clifford D. Simak’s classic City, but I don’t know when it’ll see print. It’ll be in German anyway, so we’re talking an item that’s only for completists anyway (assuming there even is such a thing as a Watts completist).

All of these little newsy bits, however, are but preliminary throat-clearing for a subject I hesitate to raise, and in hindsight wish I’d had fewer beers on the night I agreed to. That particular evening was spent in the company of someone with a bit of a background in PR. She cuffed me for my aversion to self-promotion (I can only assume she was speaking relative to other authors; anybody who has a blog and a website must have at least a mild case of the me-me-mes almost by definition), in particular my refusal to have autograph sessions at cons and my general reluctance to give readings at same. She suggested setting up a reading at some small local venue just to, you know, “connect with the fans”. A sneak peek at some new piece of fiction available nowhere else, as a treat to the locals.

My response, predictably, was “what fucking locals?”

I mean, I know I have fans in Toronto. I hang out with them all the time. One built me a computer; another introduced me to the music of Amanda Fucking Palmer; a third gave me a whole new way of thinking about God (a favor I intend to return by turning her into a character in Dumbspeech who dies a slow and horrible death). But by that very token, I don’t consider these people fans any more. I consider them friends, and a reading attended by only these folks would be both pointless and demoralizing.

I said as much, and got cuffed again1, and agreed to post the following question in order to avoid further beatings. To Torontonians only:  if I were to give a free reading at some small local venue, would any of you show up?

We’re not talking a con reading here. We’re talking some little hole in the wall with cheap beer and low lighting, and no other entertainment except me. How many would attend?

I’m guessing, not enough to make it worthwhile. My dinner date/assailant disagrees. A threshold number of attendees has been decided upon, and a dinner wagered on the outcome.

Please don’t weigh in just to be nice; an empty comment stream gets me a free meal and told-you-so rights (similar to “bragging rights”, but bitterer). And raised as a good Baptist boy, I know going in that a prophet is without honor in his own land.

Show of hands.


1Honestly, I think she just likes hitting people.  Or maybe she was in a bad mood because our server kept calling her “Kitten”.

This entry was posted on Thursday, December 3rd, 2009 at 9:54 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.

61 Responses to “Intersteller Islands, Frozen Frights, and Intimate Oases”

  1. Sunday

    There are Watts completists out there, though I warn that you might find it more disturbing than flattering. Or maybe not. Maybe its normal that some of us have dirty biological responses thinking of Watts inside an Alien costume.

  2. Oliver

    I’d go….and not because I’m nice. Ask anyone.

    Upstairs at The Victory Cafe can be a good place for a reading too, depending on how many people show.

  3. Dan Davies Brackett

    You once called me a creepy, but erudite, fan; I’d attend, but I’ve moved across the country.

    One thing to note, on the topic of self-promotion, is that you are actually violating a social contract by not promoting yourself and your business. You are a small-business owner, and it is known by most (I think) that small-business owners are continually engaged in self-promotion. When you avoid making overt moves at self-promotion, people assume that the self-promotion is taking a different form rather than being suppressed; this tinges all your efforts at friendship, until your friends realize that you are, in fact, not promoting yourself.

    So start acting more normal, and everything will fall into place.

  4. Hljóðlegur


  5. Ian j.

    Do it in Halifax. You’ve got fans here ever since the foe-nihilistic semi-goth hipster students discovered your “In Progress” vampire presentation and it was briefly rumored to be true. (The rumor was probably known to be false by everyone involved.)

  6. Robert

    I’d go, if it was in Toronto or somewhere else I could reasonably get to, and at a time I could attend.

  7. Finster Mushwell

    “Kitten ” is wrong. You build brand desirability by NOT being available. Salinger is a good example.

  8. Chris in NY

    Torontonian, no. Watts-Completist, yes. Looking forward to “The Things”.

    And loved “The Island”, BTW. A friend and I are breaking down short stories in a Google Wave to learn about story structure and I plan to use that one (or I might go with one of the shorter ones for simplicity’s sake) for my contribution.

  9. chris

    Hey, you have german fans too, you bastard! 😉

  10. Brandy

    As someone who had to build a reputation for a music venue from the ground up, the most important decision I ever made was to think of how I wanted it to grow. Honestly in the beginning you want word of mouth to spread and for it to travel from person to person. Well, you wrote Blindsight, and that is what happened (because believe me all the press blurbs in the world do not get people to part with their money- but press blurbs AND my sci-fi BFF telling me the book rules= I am buying your book).

    So what about this- what if you only ever do these things at “some little hole in the wall with cheap beer and low lighting, and no other entertainment”? It could become a nice tradition for fans and then you wouldn’t have to sit in and do a reading/signing at a convention with weird fluorescent lighting and a beerless hand. You could still do it during convention times, but maybe share the news with your fanbase on who could bring their friends. People like things to feel secret and special. Even if it starts to grow into big audiences, all you do differently is give less notice before it happens, kinda like Thurston Moore from Sonic Youth popping in and playing at a weird art space somewhere (which he does often). It keeps it manageable and frankly, makes it more fun…

  11. Ken

    Do it in Boston. It was 69 degrees here today.

    Plus, it’s a big college town – lots of scifi crazy students and little hole in the wall places to drink and get chowda.

    Seriously though, I’d be there in a minute if it were in my backyard. I’m wondering if you’re going to get alot of comments like mine (“Do it in “.)

    Although it’s a drastically different venue than aforementioned hole-in-the-wall, what about a live webcast or something? Just setup a webcam in your own batcave and spend an hour spouting obscenities at us (as is the internet custom).

    Hell, I’d tune in for that.

  12. Madeline

    I think Ken’s got the right idea; with your snazzy new mic you could take live questions from Facebook, or read stuff aloud, or whatever. There are a bunch of free services that will assist you with this; if the people here have recs for live streaming services, now might be the time.

  13. Sebastian

    Dude, thanks to the intarwebs you have fan(atic)s in places you don’t even publish (Belgrade calling here). If you were in the neighborhood, I’d hit the event, and if you do like Ken suggested, I’ll certainly tune in regularly.

  14. Jeff

    I’m a good couple hours by train to get to TO, and I’d give serious consideration to attending if I was able to make the time.

    I caught your reading in London at Fanshawe and enjoyed it.

  15. Matt

    I would definitely go. Especially if it’s somewhere with good beer (like the above-mentioned Victory Cafe).

  16. jackv

    I’m in Vancouver and I won’t be in Toronto anytime soon but if I was I’d go. (And yes I know you said Torontoians only but I still answered.) And if you are listening to AFP’s music you might want to listen to her thoughts on self-promotion 🙂

  17. Ilya

    If you follow Ken’s suggestion and do it in Boston, I will definitely come! 🙂

  18. redindiangirl

    Beer, check; hole in the wall, check; a reading given by one of my fav authors — only if it’s new stuff. Then I’m in. AND it has to be downtown. Or I’ll get a nosebleed and we wouldn’t want that.

  19. Chris McLaren

    Hey, I just moved back to the (loosely-defined) GTA after almost a decade out East, and I’d certainly come to something like this.

    Of course, if you don’t meet the threshold, I may just ask you to sign something on April 11th at Hugh’s Room, since I’m going to be there and I suspect you will be as well.

  20. Lyn

    Yes, I’ll be there! I went all the way to the Beaches to hear you read once…

  21. Rich Horton

    I must say I was surprised to see that you thought I had called you a complete loon. For one thing, though I would love to go to one sometime, I have never been to a Readercon. And when I checked the entry you linked to, it’s certainly not by me. I thought maybe it was by another Rich Horton (there are a couple with fairly prominent online presences, one of whom is even a native of St. Louis, where I live), but as far as I can tell, the post was written by William Lexner.

    So, no, I don’t think you’re a loon, and I never did. I loved BLINDSIGHT, and I loved “The Island”, and for that matter I also love “The Things” …

  22. Rich Horton

    [sorry, the last post had the wrong email address (a mixture of two of mine]. This one is corrected.

    I must say I was surprised to see that you thought I had called you a complete loon. For one thing, though I would love to go to one sometime, I have never been to a Readercon. And when I checked the entry you linked to, it’s certainly not by me. I thought maybe it was by another Rich Horton (there are a couple with fairly prominent online presences, one of whom is even a native of St. Louis, where I live), but as far as I can tell, the post was written by William Lexner.

    So, no, I don’t think you’re a loon, and I never did. I loved BLINDSIGHT, and I loved “The Island”, and for that matter I also love “The Things” …

  23. Peter Watts

    You are absolutely right. I have no idea why I mixed you up with Lexner. My apologies.

    OTOH, some would say that if you had encountered me at Readercon, it’s even money you’d \have agreed with Lexner.

  24. Horatius

    “We’re talking some little hole in the wall with cheap beer and low lighting”

    I’m in.
    I bought a signed hardcover copy of Blindsight years back, with the shitty cover and all, simply based on a recommendation from someone who seemed to know what she was talking about.
    I’m sure it would be an interesting evening, and I’d like to meet the guy that signed my book.

  25. Michael Atlin

    I’m in Toronto, and, schedule permitting, I’d attend. Hell, I’m going to read a selection of Blindsight for a voiceover demo, with your permission =P

  26. Madeline

    Amanda Palmer is doing this right this minute.

  27. Leona

    You should do it.
    A roomful of all your fans *is* scary though. If they all have as much zeal about your stuff as I do… omg… all that refracted energy in one room… Not to mention the blazing wit and the intelligent repartee and references to things I will know next to nothing about and jokes that’ll totally go over my head…

    **whizz** **zzingg!!**

    If I’m having a day when I’m not being a big fat chicken, I’ll come…

  28. TheAntipodean

    Victory cafe is good. Or the Tranzac club? Really enjoy your writing and it’s about time I returned the favour and gave you the enjoyment of some beer or cash that can be turned into beer at a later date.

  29. Michael Behm

    I think that such an event would be worth the drive from Waterloo, so add two to the list of potential attendees.

  30. PR Assailant


    So. I win this round, Squid.
    Let me know there where/when and we’ll make this happen. <3

  31. y

    I’ll attend if in GTA

  32. Pearson

    I would go to a Seattle reading and bring proselyte fodder/feedstock.

  33. Cal

    You’re going to have to do a Grand Canadian Tour eventually… however I agree with the posts that say that physical attendance is not as important as being omnipresent in print.

    oh, and I would attend anything west of Regina., given sufficient notice.

  34. Sheila

    Dear PR person, get on his case to to give hole in the wall readings when he goes on trips.

  35. Greyjoy

    What Sheila said.

  36. PR Assailant

    Sheila – working on it, m’dear. Keep on his ass about it as well, and it might actually get through that thick skull of his. 😉

  37. Ken

    PR Assailant – while you’re at it, please consider some kind of streaming video webcast so those of us geographically challenged fans can join in.

    If that’s too tall of an order, perhaps the event can be simply recorded for broadcast later?

    Failing that, maybe you could post some pics?

    Ok, ok. Just have Watts scribble a dirty limmerick on a paper napkin and scan it for us.

  38. Jon Smith

    If you plan a reading in T.O. and my schedule fits, I’ll even try and drag other potentially interested Hamiltonians along with me to make it worth your while. It would also be nice if it were somewhere in downtown Toronto for those of us who rely on the good services of GO.

  39. Brandy

    PR Assailant- success!

    You can stream it on U-Stream and even take questions from the audience via a chat feed on the channel you make. Filming it could be a challenge though. To film you need light of course, and light is the antithesis of a dimly lit hole-in-the-wall, good beer, anti-reading reading feels (please don’t hurt me fellow posters!). It could ruin the whole “Peter Watts is the Greta Garbo of science fiction” line I’ve been working on since originally reading this blog post.

  40. Keippernicus

    To me the idea of trying to convey some meaningful sci-fi in a little gig would be like trying to perform opera at a starbucks. Not enough opportunity for depth and concentration necessary to really grasp the fine tendrils of implication necessary for the ‘oh holy fuck that’s terrifying’ moments we all know and love.

  41. Bella

    I would be there and I can bet I could drag several others with me. PLEASE do this!

  42. PK Hume

    Another vote for the webcast idea. Or coming to Boston. Or both.

  43. Craig

    In Toronto and I would love to come. Just leave the pepper spray at home.

  44. D

    Of course I’d go. I’d also bring new converts — er, fans.
    This goes without saying.

  45. Raymond

    Dude, you don’t even need to ask. Then again, we remember the last reading of yours I went to…

  46. ClaytonR

    “oh, and I would attend anything west of Regina., given sufficient notice.”

    What about north of Regina? We never get any scifi authors in the Saskatoon area… I don’t think even Karl Schroeder has been through here and he’s more or less right next door.

  47. ClaytonR

    *born next door rather…Toronto is down the street

  48. Jeff

    I’d be interested, always up for an excuse to combine drinks and books

  49. Will

    Peter, another vote for Boston – and I can bring along at least 3 others as well. I’ll even spot you a couple of rounds of your choice of beverage.

    I have to say I just finished Blindsight (awesome airplane reading even though I should have been working instead) and the most erudite comment I can muster is ‘Wow!’ I thought the Rifters series was amazing, but Blindsight blew them away – I can’t wait for more from you.

  50. Robert

    What about north of Regina? We never get any scifi authors in the Saskatoon area… I don’t think even Karl Schroeder has been through here and he’s more or less right next door.

    You had Robert Sawyer:

  51. Chimaera

    I’m there. I just got turned on to “Blindsight”, swallowed it whole, passed it on to a whole bunch of people, and narfled “Starfish” online. So. Pick a place and post a time — I will totally show up. I’ll even bring folks.

  52. tomintokyo

    I would definitely go if it were even remotely possible to do so. You must come to Tokyo — your books haven’t been translated into Japanese yet, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have fans (yes, that’s in the plural) here in the Land of the Setting Sun.

  53. Jeff

    Peter – I just heard about your ordeal this week via boingboing – dear christ! I hope it goes well. I’ve just donated to the feed the cat fund (Jeff from Montreal) – please use the funds for your defense (unless those cats are seriously hungry)…
    While I’m commenting – absolutely love your work, especially blindsight.
    Good luck,

  54. Chris in NY

    As some of you may have heard, Peter was beaten and arrested in Michigan on his way back to Canada:

    Please, if you can, contribute via PayPal to:

    to help pay for his legal defense fund. And get the word out!

  55. DavidK

    It’s also been picked up by John Scalzi – here’s a link to his Whatever blog:

    As someone who’s had border issues in the past, although nothing to this extent, you have my best wishes for a speedy and just resolution to the incident. I’ve sent some money to the kitty kitty…

  56. Arnon

    I’d be in, and i know several other TO area fans who’d love to.

  57. adicat

    i would go. i might even bring some people. (mostly cause i do not go out alone anymore)

    (and as i said in email to you, i have sent the boingboing link out on various places, hug)

  58. John Harrison

    Count me in for a Toronto reading. Just discovered your work through reading about your border ordeal on /. Currently devouring Blindsight and looking forward to enjoying the rest of your work.

  59. Eric

    Count me in for any TO reading.

    Hell, Booze, Behemoth, and Blather. Sounds like a good evening.

  60. Chris in NY

    The Island made The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume 4

  61. Claire

    Count me in for your Toronto reading (and whoever above suggested Victory? genius!)

    Count me in for a donation too. I knew you were a great writer–I didn’t know until now that you help cats. You do good things. You deserve every opportunity to keep doing them and not have your time and energy tied up with all this other stuff.