Peter Watts (www.rifters.com) is an awkward hybrid of biologist, science-fiction author, and (according to the US Department of Homeland Security) tewwowist.  Described by the Globe & Mail as one of the best hard-sf authors alive, his work has been translated into a dozen languages.  His first novel (Starfish) was a NY Times Notable Book, while his sixth (Blindsight)— a philosophical rumination on the nature of consciousness with an unhealthy focus on space vampires — has become a core text in such diverse undergraduate courses as “The Philosophy of Mind” and “Introduction to Neuropsychology”.  It also made the final ballot for a shitload of domestic genre awards including the Hugo, winning exactly none of them (although it has, for some reason, won multiple awards overseas).  This may reflect a certain critical divide regarding Watts’ work in general; his bipartite novel behemoth, for example, was praised by Publisher’s Weekly as an “adrenaline-charged fusion of Clarke’s The Deep Range and Gibson’s Neuromancer” and simultaneously decried by Kirkus as “utterly repellent … horrific porn”.  Watts happily embraces the truth of both views.

Watts’ 2009 novelette “The Island” was reprinted a dozen times and finally won the damn Hugo, possibly because fandom wanted to give DHS the finger. Â  “The Things” seems to be racking up the hits as well: an unabashed piece of fanfic which is nonetheless sitting in several Best-of-Year collections, and has already won a couple of awards.  His most recent novel (Crysis: Legion) once again transcends boundaries, elevating the Video Game Tie-In to the giddy status of “not-horrible potboiler”.  (His sidequel to Blindsight is currently overdue.)  Both Watts and his cat have appeared in the prestigious journal Nature.

[photo credit: Dan Brooks]