Promo: Class Title: The Force of Star Wars: Examining the Epic
Main Fiction: “Bethlemen” by Peter Watts
Peter Watts is a (former) scientist, author, and convicted felon who spent the first two decades of his adult life as a marine biologist. After fleeing academia for science fiction he became known for the habit of appending extensive technical bibliographies onto his novels; this both confers a veneer of credibility and covers his ass against nitpickers. Described by the Globe & Mail as “one of the very best [hard-sf writers] alive”, the overall effect of his prose is perhaps best summed up by critic James Nicoll: “Whenever I find my will to live becoming too powerful, I read Peter Watts”.
His debut novel (Starfish) was a NY Times Notable Book, while his most-recent-but-one (Blindsight)— a rumination on the utility of consciousness which, despite an unhealthy focus on space vampires, has become a required text in undergraduate courses ranging from philosophy to neuroscience— made the final ballot for numerous North American genre awards, winning exactly none of them. (It does, however, continue to win awards overseas, seven years later.) His shorter work has also picked up trophies in a variety of jurisdictions, notably a Hugo (possibly due to fan outrage over an altercation with US border guards in 2009) and a Shirley Jackson (possibly due to fan sympathy over nearly dying of flesh-eating disease in 2011).
Echopraxia, a sort-of sequel to Blindsight, is only just out. History has not yet made its judgment.
Watts’s work is available in 18 languages. A few years back he briefly returned to science with a postdoc in molecular genetics, but he really sucked at it.
Narrated by: Mark Levinthal
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