Godzillapods & Mrs. Watts

Peter’s new book came out a couple of days ago. It’s been lauded in Publishers Weekly, Locus, the Los Angeles Review of Books; accrued a slew of multi-starred reviews on Amazon and Goodreads; inspired incredibly detailed renderings of its featured spacecraft, by fans who must have devoured the book in a matter of hours. He’s still responding to the questions that poured in during his Reddit “appearance,” the other night.

And then there’s me.

*

I’m in tears. I hate the tears, and the useless, hurt silence that preceded them.

He asks me what’s wrong, but I know he already knows. We’ve been through this before, albeit somewhat less damply. Jesus, I think, stop fucking crying; let him enjoy his first book in eight years… But I can’t. I snivel and stammer, and he puts his hand on my leg and listens.

“When you gripe about a blog post getting only 15 responses, I try to remember the last time I had one. You had thousands of hits on your website today; the only time I came close was after we got married and you linked to the post I made about my vows. About 90% of the people who find my website came from yours! [I see this on my stats page, in the “Came from” section.] You talk about how your publisher lowballs authors; I think about how I once had a big publisher and two big advances, and how that changed, so drastically. When I was in London, Joe Abercrombie [whom I adore and respect] introduced me to another writer as ‘Caitlin, Peter Watts’ wife.’ Now, when you were in the hospital, recovering from almost dying, and I was by your bed every day for two weeks, the nurses all called me ‘Mrs. Watts.’ We weren’t even married then! But I didn’t mind the Mrs. thing at all. The London thing, though? I laughed, because I love being your wife—and also because Joe was so adorably embarrassed when the person he was introducing me to said, ‘And is she perhaps something other than Peter Watts’ wife?’ But it would be really nice if someone knew me as a writer. It would be really fucking nice. I have so many petty, envious moments when it comes to author friends or acquaintances: the ones who get three-book deals or sell film rights or complain because they can’t keep up with the fan mail. But I don’t live with them. I don’t watch them check Amazon rankings and Twitter, or come across amazing new reviews….”

I feel like an amoeba. I feel like Godzilla. Peter’s hand is still on my leg. He’s quiet. Listening.

“You make your living at writing. I don’t. So why does it matter to me—the advances, the reviews, the Amazon rankings and ratings? Okay, so that’s a stupid question. But it’s the receding horizons thing: all I want is an agent/no: an editor/no: another book/no: a trilogy/wait: now a TV series…. [Once upon a time, a very successful fantasy author explained this concept to me, after he’d been complaining about movie deal discussions he was having with Hollywood types. “I know,” he said, with patronizing accuracy, “you only wish you had my problems.”]

“So here’s the thing. [There were, in fact, many ‘things’ in this monologue.] I landed with a fabulous small press when commercial houses refused to take me on. I get to write the kinds of books I want; I don’t have to box myself into formula or a sub-genre-du-jour that doesn’t do anything for me. I don’t need to make money from my writing; it can be my passion, not my livelihood. All of which should make me feel liberated and lucky. Right? But my latest book is…what? I don’t know. It’s nowhere. No one likes it. [I’m fully aware that this isn’t true, but there’s no stopping me.] I don’t even want to finish the sequel. I hate everything. I want more. I AM SO DUMB.”

Godzilla subsides into the sea (though we both know he’ll re-emerge: he’s a franchise monster). The amoeba extends a pseudopod that happens to be shaped like a human hand. Peter takes it and puts his forehead against it. He says some things that are careful, loving, understanding. I smile, damply. He smiles. He lets me go, but only to head for the kitchen—because it’s his turn to make dinner. Feta pasta, with, perhaps, a chaser of green ginger wine brought from London.

Maybe I’ll finish the sequel, after all.

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Photo by Rebecca Springett

Release Date - October 2015

Published by: ChiZine Publications

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