Clarkesworld and Peter Watts’ The Things

I spent a large chunk of 2009 working on third volume in my Eclipse series of anthologies. When Eclipse Three was published in October and debuted at World Fantasy in San Jose I had just one regret about the book: that it didn’t include Peter Watts novelette, “The Things”.

I’d invited Peter to write a story for Eclipse Three earlier in the  year, thinking that his kind of intelligent, hard-hitting science fiction would be perfect for the book.  He mentioned that he wanted to do a story riffing on John W. Campbell’s “Who Goes There?” and the movie that followed. I thought that was incredibly cool.  Some months later he sent me a story nominally titled either “The Things” or “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Things”.

It was terrific. I accept it immediately, and sent Peter a contract, and that’s where things stopped being wonderful. Not because of Peter, I should stress — he was a gentleman and wonderful to deal with throughout (I hope to have the opportunity to publish his work for many years to come) — but because of legal complications. It quickly became clear that for various reasons an agreement couldn’t be struck that suited Peter, the book’s publisher and I because of copyright questions that we suspected might possibly hang over the story.

After a lot of discussion, and with enormous reluctance, ultimately it was decided not to include “The Things” in Eclipse Three. I was incredibly disappointed, and every time I looked over the manuscript of the book I felt the absence of its hard edged darkness – something the book needed, I felt, to be really balanced.

A month or so after delivering Eclipse Three to the publisher I heard that “The Things” had been accepted for publication at Clarkesworld, and it’s just appeared in their 40th issue.  As much as I would have loved it to have been in my book, I was delighted the story found a home.  I am confident that Peter’s story would have been in several year’s bests this year, had it appeared in Eclipse Three, and I think that’s still likely to happen (just in next year’s books). However, why wait for next year? If you want to read one of 2010’s best hard SF stories, head over to Clarkesworld now. You won’t regret it. And hats off to Neil and the team for publishing such a terrific story!

7 thoughts on “Clarkesworld and Peter Watts’ The Things”

  1. Another fun fact: “I will have to rape it into them” is the state motto of South Dakota!

  2. I completely agree (as I think Jonathan already knows …) — it’s a first rate story, and would surely have been in one of my books if it had appeared in 2009, and certainly might be again for 2010!

  3. Hi Chris. I’m not trying to be vague about this. Basically I just didn’t want to get into the details of the legal issues. In essence, I wanted to buy the story. The publisher was willing too, but didn’t have the budget to pay for a copyright lawyer to check the story, and time was running out. The best we could guess is that there was some risk in proceeding, and given that we would have been risking having to pulp the print run of the the book if we’d run the story and been challenged, we felt it safest not to proceed. As Peter correctly says, the publisher basically wanted to be indemnified against the risk and Peter wanted to share the risk. The publisher was unwilling to proceed under those circumstances. I do wonder what will happen when year’s bests come looking at “The Things”. It deserves to be included, in my opinion, but a risk remains. I hope it gets clarified soon. – Jonathan

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