research * the future * culture

The crossroads.

Peter Watts has been convicted of a felony.

Since Tuesday morning when the trial started, my week has felt like the moment between feeling the pain of cutting yourself, and looking down to see how bad the bleeding is. Well, now we know. Sort of. Sentencing isn’t until late April.

I haven’t felt this same anxious ache since my immigration experience — the waiting, the wondering, the knowledge that I might not see my family for years. Even after obtaining my Permanent Residency card, I was afraid that my newfound country might for some reason close her doors to me, that I might be forced out, pushed away from everything and everyone I’d come to love here. In customs lines, I could barely breathe. Shopping at an IKEA, I felt anxiety triggers fluttering across my heart. Why are you so afraid? I asked myself. Oh, that’s right. The lines. The numbers. The herding.

I was such a fucking wuss. I was so worried about myself. My fears. My needs. My inconveniences. They seem so little, now. Now Peter is facing a possible jail sentence, and I’d give anything — anything — to keep that from happening. “There’s always the Devil,” Dave told me, this afternoon. “Yeah.” I nodded. “One thing you can say about that motherfucker. He gets the job done.”

I wish I could tell the Devil about Peter. Actually, I wish I could tell his jury: “You don’t get it. It’s bad enough that you don’t understand the concept of jury nullification. But what’s worse is that you don’t know the person you’ve done this to. The person who dropped everything when I fainted at a blood donation clinic. The person who rescues cats. The person who fixed the strap of my dress with a safety pin and his teeth. The person who stands up for me in critiques even when he thinks I’ve fucked up the ending (because I always do), who talked me through the ideas of my novel. The person who gives the best hugs. That guy. My brother.”

And I wish I knew how to feel about my country, too. Somewhere, there’s video of me crying on the day of Obama’s inauguration. Dave shot it. I wish I could grab the person in that footage and shake her. I wish I could slap her in the face and tell her not to let her guard down, not for a minute, not ever. I wish she’d known. I wish everyone knew.

6 ResponsesLeave one →

  1. Very sorry to hear this.

    I hope Peter will appeal: I sent some cash his way. I wish I could do more.

    Hugs to Peter and my hearfelt commiserations to all of you.

  2. Tamara

     /  March 20, 2010

    This really is dreadful news. I hope he appeals. This is a terrible and terrifying outcome.

  3. Steve the Astronomer

     /  April 28, 2010

    Madeline, I read your post on TOR about the day of sentencing and the hell that Peter went through. My family and I had the pleasure of meeting him at one of Dave Nickle’s BBQ’s a number of years ago. I remember my daughter who was six years old at the time, debating with Peter on the relative merits of the school system. I think he enjoyed the process -as did she- and the memory stayed with me. I think he’s a good person who got caught in a crappy situation and all of us are relieved that it came to a reasonable close.

    Thank you for illustrating the day and making it real for us. When a friend goes through hell, so do we all. When he comes out the other side, so do we as well.

    • Hi Steve. If that barbecue was within the last four years, it’s possible we’ve met each other! (Although that debate sounds riveting; I think I’d remember that if I’d been there to witness it.)

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I really did want to bring the situation to life and share a little bit of what I was feeling in that moment. There’s a story behind every name on the docket, and I think it’s important that people recognize that fact.

      • Steve the Astronomer

         /  April 29, 2010

        Hi Madeline,
        I’m thinking it was about six or seven years ago. Dave’s been a good friend of mine since highschool but we live about an hours drive away so I don’t get down there as often as I’d like. I hope we get the chance soon to see Peter, Dave and of course yourself in the near future. First round is on me.

  1. / Science fiction and fantasy / Blog posts / Sometimes, we win.
  • Madeline Ashby… a science fiction writer, futurist, speaker, and immigrant living in Toronto. She writes a column for the Ottawa Citizen. She is represented by Anne McDermid & Associates, and Jason Richman at UTA. You can buy her books here.

    She has worked with Intel Labs, the Institute for the Future, SciFutures, Nesta, Data & Society, The Atlantic Council, the ASU Center for Science and the Imagination, and others. Her short fiction has appeared in Nature, FLURB, Tesseracts, Imaginarium, and Escape Pod. Her other essays and criticism have appeared at BoingBoing, io9, WorldChanging, Creators Project, Arcfinity,, MISC Magazine, FutureNow, and elsewhere.

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