Sunday, June 10, 2007

Three Times the Scabbery

Today's edition of the Vancouver Province carries a piece by Peter Darbyshire on online fiction giveaways, focusing on three of us Creative Commoners: Cory Doctorow, David Wellington, and me. The layout in the dead tree edition is quite pleasing to the eye, showing one of Blindsight's alternate covers without comment (I love it when that happens, when reviewers just act as though the original jacket didn't even exist...). The online edition contains the same text, but no snazzy graphics. And the longer, director's cut is over on Darbyshire's blog; it contains never-before-seen quotage of me being grumpy and pessimistic (and yet another alternate cover!). It's probably just as well that none of these versions include my take on NIN's This is the Year Zero as a new example of multiformat novel-scale storytelling. (By the way, am I the only one who wonders if the last line on that album is meant to suggest that the whole story was a computer simulation?)

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50 Comments:

Blogger Tim said...

In the interview you suggested that other forms of media will take over written or even online written content. Does that mean you would be open to a movie version of Blindsight? If so how much involvement would you demand as far as the script? Who would you want to direct it? I've thought about this for a while (yes I have no life and am an amateur film geek) and I've been thinking about the best way to pull it off without losing any of the impact or meaning. Thoughts?

June 10, 2007 at 4:23 PM  
Anonymous raymond said...

Somehow the last one choked.

P, it's Year Zero. Short. Sorry to nit. As for the last line, it's not a simulation per se. The working premise is that a bunch of politicized physicists with access to government quantum encryption computers figured out a way to send data back via quantum wormhole, which is the album and related sites. There's a semiplausible explanation, related to the quantum computer they demo'd a few months back (just before the sites popped up). But I think it's probably more the metaphor.

For the novel, well, I don't think anyone's going to invent a solid-state, durable, random-access, zero-bootup, stable firmware, DRM free and easily portable package that will last decades. Not yet. The novel will have to evolve - see manga, see old-fashioned illustrated works, see graphic novels, see pseudo-nonfiction ala Zombie Survival Guide or your (hopefully) upcoming coffee table book.

The only media lifeform in the ecosystem older than the novel is the play. They aren't dead yet, either.

June 11, 2007 at 2:05 AM  
Anonymous Cliff Burns said...

Fascinating stuff, Peter. You've made a believer out of me--I think on-line readers form a faction of people I hadn't previously considered. I didn't think your comments were grouchy, they were a realistic assessment of the situation. The 'net saved BLINDSIGHT from obsolescence. And now I have to go back and listen to YEAR ZERO again (even though it lacked the crunching guitars I loved...and I don't think, after two listens, it's nearly as good as Reznor's WITH TEETH). Your site gives the rest of us something to shoot for and your candour in these mealy-mouthed, politically correct times is refreshing...and fun.

June 11, 2007 at 9:45 AM  
Blogger Nicholas said...

Hooray for online book distribution! I read the Rifters trilogy (except Starfish, which i owned beforehand) as well as Blindsight online, and it was great. All good books, and the format allowed me to neglect work and read instead! According to my doctors, I now have the eyesight of an eighty year old from all that online reading...but it was worth it.

June 11, 2007 at 12:31 PM  
Blogger TheRat said...

South american fans? Is that me?
Year Zero was a great concept album, and the final line sort of means that they sent this (the album, the sites) back in time, to us, in a terminator plot to save the future.
That explains why all the data is so corrupted...

June 11, 2007 at 3:00 PM  
Blogger eileen said...

The Vancouver Province article was good - you came across as decidely un-grumpy.
However. It's sci-fi bloggers like you who have completely messed up my decades long resistance to purchasing books!
I think I'm up to one or two per month now...bastards! :)

June 11, 2007 at 7:53 PM  
Blogger Neal Asher said...

"But after Watts released Blindsight for free online, sales skyrocketed and rave reviews flooded the Internet."

To this I have to say bollocks. Rave reviews were flooding the internet before then.

June 12, 2007 at 9:37 AM  
Blogger Peter Watts said...

First, I would like to announce publicly that I am not quite as dense as my comments re Year Zero may have made me out to be. In fact, I still have not had a chance to actually sit down and read the lyrics from start to finish, or check out many of the online links (although I like the "Survivalism" video), or even (as Ray pointed out) read the album title correctly. I just keep trying to make sense of the lyrics en route from A to B, and what I hear is intriguing.

But, Jesus: quantum wormhole? Message from the future? Chronosynclastic distortion? Man, this whole project is way smarter than I thought at first. This is like Nirvana does Timescape.

Thanks to all who clued me in.

June 12, 2007 at 2:00 PM  
Blogger Peter Watts said...

Does that mean you would be open to a movie version of Blindsight?

Hey, I'd be open to a movie version of Blindsight whether written books are on the way out or not (and actually, there was some nuance lost in the cuts made during that quote — I'll clear those up later). I just don't think, given the themes and the punchline, that Will Smith or James Cameron will be lining up at my doorstep any time soon. This is a problem with pretty much all my work, of course. A couple of folks did register an interest in making a movie out of Starfish, but one of them worked on South Park and the other represented some guy whose last screenplay had been "Wing Commander".

Given the choice, I would have defintiely gone with the former.

June 12, 2007 at 2:35 PM  
Blogger Peter Watts said...

Neal said

To this I have to say bollocks. Rave reviews were flooding the internet before then.

Damn right, and yours was one of the first. For which I still owe you at least a pitcher or two. Assuming we ever end up on the same continent at the same time.

June 12, 2007 at 2:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Blindsight would make an interesting movie, albiet expensive methinks and *probably* wouldn't so much appeal to the Spider-Man 3 crowd as much as film execs would want it to. However, to save time and money on an art/casting department I took the liberty of handling much of the casting/design already:
Theseus:
http://www.aboutfilm.com/movies/e/eventhorizon-a.jpg
Sarasti: http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/40118000/jpg/_40118789_dracula203.jpg
Scramblers:
http://www.cs.princeton.edu/~aahobor/Lucy-Day/Images/Covers-50/A-Wind-in-the-Door.jpg switch the wings for arms, plus a bit of this:
http://techepics.com/files/invisibility_485.jpg
Rorschach:
take this http://www.waquarium.org/MLP/root/html/MarineLife/Invertebrates/Echinoderms/Image20.gif multiply by http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/1/14/Deuxexmachina.jpg and then apply a randomizer.

Also, Sarasti might look good with some C.H.U.D. thrown in there too.

See? Making Blindsight into a movie would be easy.

Stop looking at me like that...

June 12, 2007 at 3:22 PM  
Blogger TheBrummell said...

I have heard from several people that short stories or novellas are easier to adapt to movies than are novels, due to length restrictions - novels usually get lots of things cut out in the transfer to 120 minutes, whereas a short story gets to keep everything in.

Therefore, rather than Starfish or Blindsight, I think the first Watts (and Channer) movie adaptation should be Bulk Food. I doubt you'd get permission to film it on-location, sadly.

June 13, 2007 at 11:39 AM  
Blogger Mario said...

Far be it from me to tell anyone else how to run their blog, but I gotta say, reading white text on a black background is a real chore. Makes me dizzy and the after images are highly disconcerting and annoying. I'm reading Blindsight now and came here to check out your blog. I want to keep reading the blog. Please, would you maybe consider an alternative color scheme?

June 16, 2007 at 10:09 AM  
Blogger Brenda said...

No, no BlindSight movie please. They'd just cast Will Smith as Siri and Bridget Moynahan as Susan James.

Besides, don't we already have Threshold?

;)

June 17, 2007 at 5:55 AM  
Blogger Brenda said...

Oh, sorry for the double post but I want to give a heads up for a physics blog, Physics and Physicists. I like it because it explains QM so that even I can understand it, sort of. Kind of sparse comments though.

June 17, 2007 at 6:06 AM  
Anonymous david ellis said...

Speaking of casting, I have a habit of casting the major characters in novels with actual people (usually but not always film or tv actors---it can be fun to cast friends and family as well).

Who do you think would be best for the roles of the major characters in the Rifters novels and Blindsight? I had quite a hard time deciding and tended to change my mind as I went along several times.

June 17, 2007 at 3:24 PM  
Blogger Scott C. said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

June 17, 2007 at 7:54 PM  
Blogger Peter Watts said...

Reply Orgy! Reply Orgy!


Anonymous said...
I took the liberty of handling much of the casting/design already:
< snippage >

Stop looking at me like that...


No way. I'm never turning my back on you again. But if you want my idea of what a scrambler looks like, here's an image from a page of the web site that I never got around to finishing:

TheBrummell said...
Therefore, rather than Starfish or Blindsight, I think the first Watts (and Channer) movie adaptation should be Bulk Food. I doubt you'd get permission to film it on-location, sadly.

I dunno. I think those guys would anything for a buck, frankly.


Mario said...
Far be it from me to tell anyone else how to run their blog, but I gotta say, reading white text on a black background is a real chore. Makes me dizzy and the after images are highly disconcerting and annoying. I'm reading Blindsight now and came here to check out your blog. I want to keep reading the blog. Please, would you maybe consider an alternative color scheme?

Maybe get some feedback from the rest of you on this? I've been keeping the light-on-dark for thematic consistency with the rest of the website, but if, say, three of you side with Mario I'll switch to a gentler aesthetic (in fact, maybe I should make this a separate post...)

Brenda said...
No, no BlindSight movie please. They'd just cast Will Smith as Siri and Bridget Moynahan as Susan James.

Besides, don't we already have Threshold?

Not any more. Thank God.

Brenda said...
Oh, sorry for the double post but I want to give a heads up for a physics blog, Physics and Physicists. I like it because it explains QM so that even I can understand it, sort of. Kind of sparse comments though.

Bookmarked for later reference, thanks. And as far as I can tell, "sort of" is as much as anyone can understand that stuff...

david ellis said...
Who do you think would be best for the roles of the major characters in the Rifters novels and Blindsight?

Back when Starfish first came out, I thought Carrie-Anne Moss would be perfect as Lenie. I'm guessing she'd be too old now, though, since Lenie's late-twenties. Grave Park would make a good Alice Jovellanos. And who was it who played the ugly motherfucker with the dead hooker in Sin City again? Lubin potential there, if you strip away some of the gratuitous neanderthal makeaup.

Haven't thought so much about Hollywood casting Blindsight, since a fair number of those characters are taken (physically, at least) from people I actually know. I think Paris Hilton would make a great Bates, though.

Just kidding.

Scott C. said...
More likely scenario, Blindsight wins the Hugo,

Huh. Wouldn't that be nice.

gets optioned after someone mentions the phrase "vampires in space" to Uwe Boll or Paul W.S. Anderson, or Len Wiseman. We end up with vampires in absurdly tight black latex suits fighting aliens with assault rifles....title is changed to "BloodStar" because blindsight no longer has any relevance. Which, actually sounds moderately cool and I might be into, except it would only get a 30 mil budget, and wouldnt even be all that appealing on the action movie front. Plus, you know, Uwe Boll or Paul W.S. Anderson.

So we all cry ourselves to sleep and Watts doesn't care, because he gets a paycheck.

Oh no. I too would cry myself to sleep. Anyone who'd turn Blindsight into Bloodstar wouldn't think twice of stopping payment on the check anyway...

June 18, 2007 at 11:14 AM  
Blogger Scott C. said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

June 18, 2007 at 12:28 PM  
Blogger Nicholas said...

Good lord, keep Uwe Boll away from Blindsight by any means necessary, be it a dart of Carfentanil or sea wasp venom.

I think Bill Nighy would make a good Sarasti; he's already played a vampire in the (poorly done) Underworld films, and he's a great actor in general. While we're not being creative with casting, Alan Rickman would be another interesting Sarasti.

As for Bates...I always sort of envisioned her as a less-evil-but-similarly-built version of the Trunchbull from Matilda.

From Starfish, ever since I saw The Office I have been unable to envision Rowan as anyone else but Jan http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/f/f9/Jan.PNG

June 18, 2007 at 2:47 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Good lord, keep Uwe Boll away from Blindsight by any means necessary, be it a dart of Carfentanil or sea wasp venom.

Good lord, please keep Uwe Boll away from a movie camera in general.

Lets see, casting. How about Crispin Glover as Sarasti? He certainly has that creepy look to him and is a very good actor.

http://www.nndb.com/people/016/000023944/willard-sized.jpg

As far as Susan James...here is a relatively unknown actress that was in Day Night Day Night recently and was amazing. Luisa Williams.

http://www.luisawilliams.com/images/05.jpg

As for the rest...I dunno, I'd have to think about it a bit more. Director? How about Adrian Lyne (Jacob's Ladder)?

June 18, 2007 at 3:58 PM  
Blogger Nicholas said...

Jacob's Ladder...good call. Although that movie did spawn the exhorbitant use of that irritating use-low-FPS-then-speed-it-up-to-create-freaky-spasms technique we see all too often in horror.

Why not Wes Anderson? Then we'd get quirky, silly aliens with deep character flaws. :P

June 18, 2007 at 4:03 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Why not Wes Anderson? Then we'd get quirky, silly aliens with deep character flaws. :P

Haha. Wow, now that would be an interesting matchup. Blindsight meets The Royal Tenenbaums. Adrian Lyne popped into my head mostly because of his talent for creating mood and images that are dark/disturbing but beautifully done. Of course I am a bit biased since Jacob's Ladder is one of my favorite all time movies. However, I think he would have a pretty good chance of hitting the nail on the head with Blindsight.

Or we could just go with Michael Bay if we want to see lots of explosions, vapid dialogue, and airbrushed characters with vacant expressions. :D

June 18, 2007 at 4:32 PM  
Blogger Nicholas said...

Michael Bay? Eh...although Transformers looks cool. And we would have to get Industrial Light and Magic to do the VFX...and Bay does work well with them. But his movies are always so hollow!

June 18, 2007 at 4:41 PM  
Blogger Scott C. said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

June 18, 2007 at 5:16 PM  
Blogger Peter Watts said...

It's a shame Ed Wood has passed on. Plan 9 was, I'm sure we'll all agree, the seminal space-vampires movie.

June 18, 2007 at 5:26 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

It's a shame Ed Wood has passed on. Plan 9 was, I'm sure we'll all agree, the seminal space-vampires movie.

Wasn't that actually Zombies? I think you still have a corner on the space vampire market.

June 18, 2007 at 5:36 PM  
Blogger Scott C. said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

June 18, 2007 at 5:58 PM  
Blogger Scott C. said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

June 18, 2007 at 6:48 PM  
Blogger Scott C. said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

June 18, 2007 at 7:02 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

I have to agree with the "minimalist" argument here, at least in terms of over the top CGI use (some is ok or even necessary, but come on...having your actors working entirely in front of a green screen?) Ridley Scott would obviously be a pretty nice choice but it would draw immediate Alien comparisons. I'm not so much of a fan of James Cameron, though I do like his older work. Christopher Nolan would also get a vote from me.

Solaris was a great movie, especially if you are a fan of well made cinema. I suppose the main complaint some had was the pacing. However, I agree that the tone and atmosphere were extremely well done.

June 18, 2007 at 7:18 PM  
Blogger Peter Watts said...

Yes. That "Solaris" guy, Soderbergh. Beautiful film, total commercial tankage. That's what I want.

Well, that's the best I can realistically hope for.

I think you guys are all on the wrong track trying to cast Sarasti, btw. Sarasti does not move the way a normal human does; Sarasti moves like a mantis. Plus his allometry is slightly askew; he falls into that creepy valley — what's it called, when you get those animated "Polar Express" people that almost look real but are off just enough to creep you out in a way that more caricatured "Incredibles" characters don't? Anyhow, that's kind of where Sarasti fits.

So the way I see it, he's either got to be cgi, or you don't hire an actor at all; you hire a professional dancer.

But not tap. Anybody mentions that Hines character as Sarasti, I'll punch their other nipple.

June 18, 2007 at 8:10 PM  
Blogger Scott C. said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

June 18, 2007 at 8:21 PM  
Blogger Scott C. said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

June 18, 2007 at 8:36 PM  
Blogger Nicholas said...

Uncanny valley i think you mean.

In the Polar Express, characters suffered from a lack of eye movement known as "dead eye syndrome." I always pictured Sarasti as having overly alert eyes, not the dead / waxy eyes from Polar. Ironically, new techniques that capture eye-saccades (scramblers, anyone?) are used to eliminate the syndrome.

Also, if you like the idea of Dancers being cast as the non-human or psuedo-human characters, you can look to the film version of "Silent Hill" wherein the director cast dancers as the zombies or demons or whatever the hell the antagonists were.

Similarly, the problem with a CGI Sarasti is that you'd need someone for motion capture anyway, lest you hand-animate things--you get the bizarre not-quite-right motion, only it's not the animalistic, fluid subtly-superhuman that Sarasti deserves--it's a rubberized, flexible-long bones type thing.

June 18, 2007 at 8:39 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

So the way I see it, he's either got to be cgi, or you don't hire an actor at all; you hire a professional dancer.

The dancer idea is pretty good. They used mostly dancers in the Silent Hill movie to create that sense of "just not right" movement. The movie wasn't that great, but the effect of that was pretty well done. The only problem is that they didn't really have speaking parts. They didn't have to act or interact. So you'd have to find a dancer who could also act. Then again, it isn't like Sarasti talks all that much.

June 18, 2007 at 8:41 PM  
Blogger Nicholas said...

Also, as for a nationality for Sarasti, the vampire sub-clade of humans sort of predates a lot of that i'd guess. remember, (spoilers i guess, although you can read them on the rifters site if i'm not mistaken) the vampires were undone by euclidean geometry...so and we've been using that for quite some time now, well before nationalities differentiated. at least i thought as much.

June 18, 2007 at 8:43 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Nicholas said...

Also, if you like the idea of Dancers being cast as the non-human or psuedo-human characters, you can look to the film version of "Silent Hill" wherein the director cast dancers as the zombies or demons or whatever the hell the antagonists were.

Damnit. 2 minutes too late. :P

June 18, 2007 at 8:43 PM  
Blogger Nicholas said...

Also, way to copy my comment about Silent Hill tim!!!

Mr. Watts, please set up a damn forum. It would be easier than endless comment trails. This set of comments is beating out even the infamous "Motherhood issues" post.

June 18, 2007 at 8:44 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Ok, I'm sorry but I simply had to make this an even 40. I can't asymmetry and 40 is such a nice round number. Hopefully nobody will hold it against me.

June 19, 2007 at 12:21 AM  
Blogger Scott C. said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

June 19, 2007 at 1:00 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

Agreed. Minimalist, minimalist, minimalist. Inciting subtle panic in the viewer without actually showing them that much. Panic builds on it's own (trust me). Their own minds fill in the blanks and there is a general subconscious sense of unease. That is the main reason I like Adrian Lyne. He is the only I can think of who can take the wheel of a gurney and turn it into an incredibly disconcerting piece of cinema. One wheel. It was during the "descent into hell" scene in Jacob's Ladder. Possibly one of the most disturbing sequences in movie history, IMO.

June 19, 2007 at 1:18 AM  
Blogger Scott C. said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

June 19, 2007 at 9:25 AM  
Blogger Nicholas said...

The vampires aren't supposed to look decomposed. They're alive. They're biological. The whole THING about Vampires in Blindsight is that they're a legitimate subspecies of humanity that are fully realized biologically. The crucifix glitch, the bizarre enzyme activity, and the hyper-analytical brain are all attributes of real vampires (at least in Blindsight) that have led to the embellishment of the creatures in human legend.

I mean, I realize that you were kidding when you said that the "undead vibe" would be a benefit, to the character, but still I think the last thing we want is to get our wires crossed between the undead crew, in the sense that they are "dead" during transit to Ben, and Sarasti being a vampire that's quite alive and real.

I think Tim is on to something when he talked about Jacob's Ladder. The technique used in the film of filming actors at a low framerate then speeding it up to create impossibly rapid, seizure-like motion was highly effective. The director I believed used a 1:6 fast-forward ratio, which would be a bit much for Sarasti. But maybe filming him at a few FPS lower than the film is going to be played at would be effective in giving him an ataxic, superhumanly-rapid (but only just) motion that is plausible (not the bone-breaking speed of Jacob's Ladder) while still eerie and would convey a sense of physical wrongness.

But hey, those are just my thoughts. As for minimalism with CGI, if CGI is done correctly you may not even notice it. One film that had a CGI effects shot in nearly every scene was Children of Men, but most people don't even realize it because it was done so well.

June 19, 2007 at 10:27 AM  
Blogger Scott C. said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

June 19, 2007 at 11:04 AM  
Blogger Nicholas said...

I dunno...was Jar Jar not popular because he was CGI or because he had insufferably irritating "cutesy" lines? I think it was more the writing than it was the CGI itself.

June 19, 2007 at 11:11 AM  
Blogger Scott C. said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

June 19, 2007 at 11:15 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

Well you may not necessarily have to go pure actor or pure CGI for Sarasti. With CG technology nowadays you can take an actor and slightly change their appearance very convincingly. That is what they did to remove Ralph Fiennes' nose and replace it with slits in Harry Potter, and it looked very convincing. They could probably take an actor and make slight changes to their physiology (slightly elongated limbs, etc) but keep it realistic. That along with what Nicholas was saying regarding using a slightly different FPS ratio with Sarasti could do the trick. The only part remaining would be the actor/dancer getting the movement down (Mantis-like, as Peter mentioned).

June 19, 2007 at 2:51 PM  
Blogger razorsmile said...

I can't wait for the sequel when invisible cross-bred scrambler-zombies with assault weapons fight the latex clad vampire babes for control of earth. That would be sweet.

I think this officially makes me a Philistine but I kinda like this idea It makes me feel really dirty though.

June 22, 2007 at 6:11 PM  
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October 26, 2007 at 3:10 AM  

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