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A New Year's post-mortem

Cover of Self-Loathing Comics #1, by R. Crumb. Click image for more information.
Image from the cover of Self-Loathing Comics #1, by R. Crumb. Published by Fantagraphics Books. Click image for full cover.

It's a sobering fact that Neil Young manages to make records faster than I can absorb them, and that Kristine Kathryn Rusch writes books faster than I can fucking read them.

As John Lennon put it, "And so happy Christmas, and what have you done? Another year over ..."

Am I going to manage to do something with the new year just begun?

A look at what Young Geoffrey has left undone. If you're not interested, just skip to the video below. Emmy the Great is exactly what Emma-Lee Moss wrote on the tin when she was young and un-selfconscious. )

"You say you love me like a sister
Then you walk me to the cafe
where the drinks cost more than music ..."

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As you might know, I've been serially reviewing the latest Torchwood series, a work that (I presume) is as much the product of Russell T Davies' personal vision as is possible in an inherently collaborative medium.

So it is rather difficult to ignore the irony, that there is more credible social commentary, more humour and more excitement in Peter Watts' 300 page adaptation of a first-person-shooter video game, which (again, I presume) was written strictly for the money, than there has been in the first five hours of Davies' brain-child.

Watts' story, about a an accidental cybernetic soldier's brief campaign on a ruined island of Manhattan a scant 12 years in our future is also fairly rigorous science fiction, as one might expect from the "reformed marine biologist", but probably not from a novel about a super-soldier and his mysterious battle-armour.

If Crysis: Legion is not quite the follow-up to his 2006 hard-SF masterpiece, Blindsight one might have wished for, it's a better book than one has any reason to expect of a media tie-in.

Click here for "Strange bed-fellows". Some spoilers may occur.

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Young Geoffrey basks in Watts of praise

Accepts correction from a tabby
(and apologizes for the really second-rate word-play two lines up)

"I'm not generally given to flattery. That was just one damned eloquent piece of commentary." — Peter Watts, to me. (Yes, that Peter Watts.)

Yes, I feel flattered again and am struggling with the urge to tell him so. Probably best to keep silent, yes?

Meanwhile, the LJ blogger [personal profile] sabotabby answered the question I had about this meme's Question #20, "What are your favourite character interactions to write?"

I had blocked on what the question meant, wondering in essence whether it inquired as to whether I prefer to write sex scenes or fight scenes. [personal profile] sabotabby suggested, quite rightly I think,

I took it as meaning that sometimes characters are interesting in particular combinations. So I might prefer writing scenes where Aisha and Boris interact, because they have such a complicated relationship, over writing scenes where Clarissa and Darshika interact. Everyone else took it to mean "do you like writing fighting scenes or fucking scenes?"

So, and without further adoo and with no desire to be like 'everyone else', Young Geoffrey tries again. 'What are your favorite character interactions to write?' )

But I'll put it behind a cut anyway. )

Well. There wasn't a of wit in that dialogue, but I think it holds up pretty well anyway. And those are the kind of character interactions I enjoy writing. Interactions that hint at the nature of the characters, that suggest motivations and threats and emotions that may not be explicit, and dialogue that moves the story along and also makes me want to find out what happens next.

Even an hour a day would see me re-write this thing pretty quick, wouldn't it?

Click to see all the questions )

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Peter Watts, arguably the best hard science fiction writer in the game today, thinks my analysis of the recent G20 imbroglio "makes a scary kind of sense" and quotes me fairly extensively to explain why he does.

I don't know that I should admit to being more pleased by this recognition than I was when I received a cheque from the Globe and Mail last year, but the truth is, I am.

(Now I need to figure out why Google Alerts didn't let me know about it.)

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In the long and storied SF tradition that sees such devices as Ursula K. le Guin's ansible become, in effect, an open-source idea, free to be modified, played with, argued about or even just used as a word to indicate "faster-than-light communication", rather than locked-down and copyrighted as le Guin's personal play-thing, "The Things" is Peter Watts' re-telling of John W. Campbell Jr.'s classic story, "Who Goes There?" and of John Carpenter's 1982 movie adaptation, The Thing.

Using the same plot and even the same character names, Watts, the author of the excellent novel, Blindsight (among others, all of which are available on his site under a Creative Commons license) re-tells the story from the monster's point of view. Or rather, from the (very alien) alien's point of view.

A biologist by training, in 7,000 words Watts has created what I suspect will be long regarded as a classic hard SF tale. There would be no story here (or at least, it would not be the same story) if this narrative was not about the shape-shifting alien's gradual discovery of the very strange way that life on Earth is organized.

Those who know neither the original story nor the movie adaptation might find "The Things" a little confusing, but anyone who knows the source material as something more than just a horror story will find it fascinating — and one of those rare, successful attempts in science fiction to depict an alien as genuinely, really, alien, not just in what in can do and what it physically is, but in terms of how those differences affect how it perceives the world.

A very good story from a very good writer. And happily, it is online at ClarkesWorldMagazine.com.
ed_rex: (Default)
In the long and storied SF tradition that sees such devices as Ursula K. le Guin's ansible become, in effect, an open-source idea, free to be modified, played with, argued about or even just used as a word to indicate "faster-than-light communication", rather than locked-down and copyrighted as le Guin's personal play-thing, "The Things" is Peter Watts' re-telling of John W. Campbell Jr.'s classic story, "Who Goes There?" and of John Carpenter's 1982 movie adaptation, The Thing.

Using the same plot and even the same character names, Watts, the author of the excellent novel, Blindsight (among others, all of which are available on his site under a Creative Commons license) re-tells the story from the monster's point of view. Or rather, from the (very alien) alien's point of view.

A biologist by training, in 7,000 words Watts has created what I suspect will be long regarded as a classic hard SF tale. There would be no story here (or at least, it would not be the same story) if this narrative was not about the shape-shifting alien's gradual discovery of the very strange way that life on Earth is organized.

Those who know neither the original story nor the movie adaptation might find "The Things" a little confusing, but anyone who knows the source material as something more than just a horror story will find it fascinating — and one of those rare, successful attempts in science fiction to depict an alien as genuinely, really, alien, not just in what in can do and what it physically is, but in terms of how those differences affect how it perceives the world.

A very good story from a very good writer. And happily, it is online at ClarkesWorldMagazine.com.

Cross-posted from Edifice Rex Online.
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"In some other universe I am warm and content and not looking at spending two years in jail for the crime of having been punched in the face." — Peter Watts, December 11, 2009

Peter Watts, one of my favourite writers — and possibly the best hard SF writer on the scene today — was beaten up and arrested by U.S. border guards while attempting to cross back into Canada on Tuesday. He says (and I believe him) that he was punched, kicked and pepper-sprayed and (of course) has now been charged with "assaulting a federal officer" and faces two years in prison. He's back home in Toronto right now but looking at humongous legal fees.

Cory Doctor at BoingBoing appears to have broken the story, and it includes links both to Watt's own blog and to a Paypal donation address, donate@rifters.com.

Incidentally, Watts has released all of his work under a creative commons license, so if you're not familiar with his stuff you can get yourself all caught up via his site. And I highly recommend that you do.
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Vampires! Big Pharma!

The horror! The horror!

Anyone who is interested in science fiction, dead-pan satire, the evils of "big pharma" or, well, actually plausible vampires really ought to check out this slide-show. (But be warned, it's 15 or 20 minutes long.)

Peter Watts' fiction is arguably a little bleaker than the tongue-in-cheek presentation might suggest, but all of his novels are available on his site, so sample away. But buy his actual books if you find yourself liking what you read.

July 2017

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