Sunday, February 11, 2007

Peter Watts on Aliens in "Darwin's Universe"

In a recent interview with SFF World, Peter Watts discussed his recent novel Blindsight, and crafting of "realistic" aliens:
Well, I was a little tired of aliens, both literary and cinematic, that basically seem to be humans in rubber suits with one or two cultural knobs cranked to eleven. On the other hand, it's a bit too easy to throw a big black slab at the audience and say "There's no point in even trying to understand the aliens because they're, you know, alien". If something evolved in Darwin's universe, it's damn well going to adhere to certain natural laws, and that makes it tractable. So I wasn't so much breaking a convention as I was treading the razor's edge between two conventions. I tried to ensure that everything was deeply weird-- life without genes, intelligence without conventional cephalisation-- but nothing was unjustifiable.
In Blindsight, Watts introduces "vampires" that have their development rooted in science rather than fantasy:
And of course there are the vampires. That was just a kind of intellectual wank for my own amusement: I wanted to see if I could take one of the most absurd and unjustifiable creatures ever to spring from myth, and plausibly handwave a scientific justification for all those absurd elements. Again, I wasn't really shattering a convention (although I was definitely poking it with a stick and laughing at its discomfort); I was reinforcing the standard mythology using biological rationales. I didn't know if I'd be able to pull it off until I came up with the Crucifix Glitch; after that it was, Hah! Bring it on!
Watts also suggests that he's been thinking of related publications.
I still have novels incubating in my head - I'm even playing with the idea of a faux-documentary coffee-table book called "Proceedings of the First Biennial Conference on the Evolutionary and Biology of Vampires", although Tor has told me they aren't interested.
Read the whole interview. You can download many of Watts books and stories for free, but, if you want to encourage him to publish more, buy one of his books!


  1. I tried to write a story once about a vampire that could only "eat" his own blood type. He was type A-.

  2. rosemerry: that's an interesting idea. It kind of depends on why vampires need the blood, I imagine. If it's a kind of transfusion, I suppose the blood type would have to match.

    There was a kind of similar idea Dr. Who's The Christmas Invasion, where aliens can manipulate people using "blood control", but only in people who matched the controlling blood sample's type.


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