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Peter Watts

Peter Watts is a marine-mammal biologist. He has received the Aurora, Hugo, and Shirley Jackson awards. His science fiction has been used as a core text in science and philosophy courses as well as the usual gamut of sf electives; he only wishes his actual science had been taken half as seriously, back in the day. Both he and his cat have appeared in the prestigious journal Nature. Watts lives in Toronto. Click here for more stories by Peter Watts.

Blindsight: Mind-blowing hard SF about first contact, consciousness

Blindsight by Peter Watts

This is ‘hard science fiction’ in the truest sense of the term — hard science concepts, hard-to-understand writing at times, and hard-edged philosophy of mind and consciousness. Peter Watts aggressively tackles weighty subjects like artificial intelligence, evolutionary biology, genetic modification, sentience vs intelligence, first contact with aliens utterly different from humanity, and a dystopian future where humans are almost superfluous and would rather retreat into VR. Blindsight (2006) is also a tightly-told story of an exploration vessel manned by five heavily-modified post-humans commanded by a super-intelligent vampire, and a very tense and claustrophobic narrative that demands a lot from readers. If that sounds like your kind of book, you’ll find this is one of the best hard science fiction books in the last 10 years.

I try to avoid using the... Read More

Echopraxia: Nowhere near as good as Blindsight

Echopraxia by Peter Watts

I was extremely impressed by Peter WattsBlindsight (2006), a diamond-hard sci-fi novel about first contact, AIs, evolutionary biology, genetically-engineered vampires, sentience vs intelligence, and virtual reality. It is an intense experience, relentless in its demands on the reader, but makes you think very hard about whether humanity’s sentience (as we understand it) is really as great as we generally think it is.

The short answer, according to Watts, is no. It’s an evolutionary fluke, was never necessary for survival, and will actually be a hindrance when we encounter more advanced alien species, most of which may have developed high levels of intelligence without wasting any precious brain capacity on sentience, self-awareness, or “navel-gazing.” It’s a very depressing id... Read More

The Freeze-Frame Revolution: Doesn’t feel complete

The Freeze-Frame Revolution by Peter Watts

Having never read one of Peter Watts’ novels before, I thought a short novel like The Freeze-Frame Revolution (2018) would be a good place for me to start. After all, I like science fiction, generation-style ships, rogue AIs, and solid narratives about mutinous crews. Watts delivers on those elements and many more, but the story never really coalesced for me, and I had trouble connecting with the narrator.

Over the last sixty million years, Sunday Ahzmundin and the rest of the Eriophora’s crew have been traveling the galaxy, harvesting usable materials from asteroids and whatnot and turning those materials into wormhole gates. The ship’s AI, known as Chimp, wakes... Read More

Magazine Monday: Theodore Sturgeon Award Nominees

The Theodore Sturgeon Award will be given to one lucky author at next weekend’s Campbell Conference Awards Banquet in Lawrence, Kansas. The banquet caps both the Writers Workshop in Science Fiction and the Novel Writers Workshop in Science fiction, and is the kick-off event for the Intensive English Institute on the Teaching of Science Fiction. Writers mingle with academics, which must make gathering that a studious reader would find pretty lively. I wish I were going to be there myself.

Instead, I’m doing the next best thing and reviewing all of the nominees for the Sturgeon Award. This award is granted to the best science fiction short story, though the length of the “short” story varies widely in this year’s field, from Eleanor Arnason’s “Mammoths of the Great Plains, a long novella, to the tidbit that is Yoon Ha Lee’s “Flower, Mercy, Needle, Cha... Read More

SHORTS: Baker, Chatham, Watts, Fawver, Liu

Sharing our finds in free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet.

“The Likely Lad” by Kage Baker (2002, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Starship Sofa podcast #23)

Kage Baker is one of my favorite authors. I love her sense of humor and sardonic voice. She’s at it again in “The Likely Lad,” a funny novelette that you can find in print in Asimov’s Volume 26(9) or free in audio format from Starship Sofa’s podcast #23 (which I listened to and recommend... Read More

The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2014: An enjoyable collection

The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2014 edited by Rich Horton

I've been reading a lot of anthologies lately, including another of the several "Year's Best" collections (the Jonathan Strahan one). I was pleased to find that, unlike some of the others, this one matched my tastes fairly well for the most part.

I enjoy stories in which capable, likeable or sympathetic characters, confronted by challenges, confront them right back and bring the situation to some sort of meaningful conclusion. I was worried when I read the editor's introduction and saw him praising Lightspeed and Clarkesworld magazines, because they can often be the home of another kind of story, in which alienated, passive characters are battered by tragedy until the story stops ... Read More