Press your spaceface close to mine

I Have a Neurochemical Partiality to You, Peter Watts

Posted by Sunday on Mar 16, 2008 at 10:25 am in Literature

When I am at my most pessimistic and feel that even the grocery checkers dead faux-smile might send me into rampage over the mockery that is “hopefulness,” I find the best thing to do is indulge the feelings*. The primary way of doing this – like the primary way of waking up consists of coffee and Sudafed shooters – is to visit Peter Watt’s blog, No Moods, Ads or Cutesy Fucking Icons.

Peter Watts is the author of some of the best science fiction writing of the last decade, namely the Rifters Trilogy (just to be confusing, against Watts’ wishes the publisher split the last book in the trilogy, Behemoth, into two separate books, bringing the “trilogy” count to four) and the Hugo-nominated Blindsight.

Watts is lumped together in my mind with people like Anthony Bourdain: crusty, self-damagingly intelligent, pessimistic and the exact sort of person you want at the bar with you. I can identify with Anthony Bourdain not because I appreciate his chain-smoking while eating blood sausage, but because he recognizes his own Schadenfreude. Watts is very much the same way; to not be drawn into his visceral delight of the broken, the flawed and the messy is to not be a thoughtful human.

Much is explained by Watts’ training as a marine biologist. It also helps me to think of him at home, in some kind of tatty, aged robe, ignoring the fetid litterbox of his deranged and hostile cats by writing an exegesis on the neurological functionality of zombies. I find it a much more sane than thinking of Stephen King, each morning mechanically propped up at his immense oak desk overlooking all of Maine, drinking Diet Pepsi and smashing out an entire novel before noon. A biologist, I can imagine, is doing the same kind of things I am: burning one’s self of hot frying pans in the kitchen and then going into stuporous reveries about the biological nature of pain (and then disregarding them in favor of eating something comprised largely of whipped cream for breakfast). Not that I am in the same intellectual ballpark as Watts, but I imagine that I would be allowed to… uh… wax his balls? Grease his bats? I don’t know anything about baseball but I know a fair amount about double entendres, and I fear I’ve ventured into the wrong territory.


Halcyon and I were just the other evening discussing the possibility that Asperger Syndrome is an evolutionary specialism designed to combat the uncategorizable mass input of modern human existence. Why? Peter Watts is to blame.

* While in this state I am still capable of recognizing beauty (generally in the form of cake) I just don’t believe it to be the transcendent, hand-that-beats-all that the luckier among us do. The existence of cake in the universe does not make me believe that cake is the prevailing force. Entropy and chaos are still the prevailing forces. I’ve dealt with chaos cake before, and it is not pleasurable.

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March 16th, 2008 | Literature

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