You invest so much in it, don't you? It's what elevates you above the beasts of the field, it's what makes you special. Homo sapiens, you call yourself. Wise Man. Do you even know what it is, this consciousness you cite in your own exaltation? Do you even know what it's for?
Dr. Peter Watts
is no stranger to MetaFilter. But look past his sardonic nuptials
, heartbreaking eulogies
, and agonizing run-ins with fascists
) and you'll find one of the most brilliant, compelling, and disquieting
science fiction authors at work today. A marine biologist skilled at deep background research, his acclaimed
2006 novel Blindsight [full text]
-- a cerebral "first contact" tale led by a diverse crew of bleeding-edge post-humans -- is diamond-hard and deeply horrifying, wringing profound existential dread from such abstruse concepts as the Chinese Room
, the Philosophical Zombie
, Chernoff faces
, and the myriad quirks and blind spots
that haunt the human mind.
's last, shattering insight is not the end of the story -- along with crew
, a blackly funny in-universe lecture on resurrecting sociopathic vampirism
), and a rigorously-cited (and spoiler-laden) reference section
, tomorrow will see the release of
Dumbspeech State of Grace Echopraxia [website]
, the long-delayed
"sidequel" depicting parallel events on Earth. Want more? Look inside for a guide to the rest of Watts' award-winning (and provocative) body of work.[Note:
Watts has made most of his work freely available in multiple formats on his website's Backlist page
. His blog, The Crawl
, has current info.]
Apart from Blindsight
, Watts' best-known work is the "Rifters" trilogy
, a grim epic about various bio-engineered anti-heroes struggling against lethal computer viruses
and an ancient microbe
that threatens to destroy a rapidly deteriorating world
. Originally inspired by the short story "Home" [PDF]
, the completed trilogy is available in three free installments:
MeFites may also be familiar with some of his more successful short fiction, including:
- "The Island" [PDF] (previously) - A Hugo-winning 2009 novelette about the jaded human architects of cosmic gateways and their hopeful encounter with a vast and exotic intelligence. Also available as an audio podcast [.mp3] (@0:49:44).
- "The Things" (previously) - A brilliant 2010 reinterpretation of John Carpenter's cult horror classic The Thing as told from the perspective of the film's shapeshifting alien. Likewise available as a full .mp3.
- "Nimbus" [PDF] - (1994) A father tries to reconnect with his daughter in a world where the very atmosphere has become a sentient force bent on destroying humanity. Available as a full .mp3 (@0:31:42)
- "Malak" [pdf] - The ethics of remote warfare are explored through a smart drone that develops its own agenda. Available as a full .mp3 (@0:35:12)
Other stories to dive into (all PDFs)
"Ambassador" - "Bethlehem" - "A Niche" - "Flesh Made Word" - "Bulk Food" - "Fractals" - "The Second Coming of Jasmine Fitzgerald" - "A Word for Heathens" - "Mayfly" - "Repeating the Past" - "Hillcrest V. Velikovsky"
You can also pick up one of his collections if you want several of his stories in one place: Ten Monkeys, Ten Minutes
, The Island and Other Stories
, and Beyond the Rift
. You can also donate to his Niblet Memorial Kibble Fund
to support his work (and cats).
Beyond novels and stories, his non-fiction forays (including several lectures) are equally worthwhile:
Can't wait for Echopraxia
? Here are some "fiblets" from the book, as collected in this post
See also "The Colonel,"
a free tie-in story hosted on Tor. The newly-redesigned Watts website
features a number of background material teasers, as well:
Hive Minds - The Theseus Mission - Military Zombies - The Crown of Thorns - The Bicameral Threat
Bonus: Blindsight artwork
, including downloadable dust jackets!
Also, don't forget that Watts will be doing a Reddit AMA at 7PM EST on August 26th!
You can check his user page
for responses if you happen to miss it.