A Maelstrom of Replication: Peter Watts’s Glitching Textual Source Codes

  • Ben Eldridge
Part of the Studies in Global Science Fiction book series (SGSF)


This chapter analyzes Peter Watts’s problematizing of the human and the sentient in the Rifters trilogy (1999–2004). Watts’s not merely postcolonial but, indeed, posthuman world challenges human dominance, as prehistoric and technologically based lifeforms compete with humans, blurring the lines between the biological and the technological, the physical and the virtual, the literal and the figurative. Divisions are artificially imposed, and Watts ruptures the biocentric fallacy that life will be forever confined to elements arising from organic chemistry: life, the text stresses, is nothing more than an expression of code.


Peter Watts Rifters trilogy Biocentrism Artificial intelligence Sexuality Virology 


  1. Bono, James J. 1990. “Science, Discourse, and Literature: The Role/Rule of Metaphor in Science.” In Literature and Science, edited by Stuart Peterfreund, 59–89. Boston: Northeastern University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Braun, Michele. 2019. “Two Solitudes, Two Cultures: Building and Burning Bridges in Peter Watts’s Novels.” In Bridging the Solitudes: Essays in Canadian Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, edited by Amy J. Ransom and Dominick Grace, 67–82. London: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  3. Davies, Paul. 2003. The Origin of Life. London: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  4. Dawkins, Richard. 2006. The Selfish Gene, 30th Anniversary Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Dawkins, Richard, J. Craig Venter, and John Brockman. 2016. “The Gene-Centric View: A Conversation.” In Life, edited by John Brockman, 189–212. New York: Harper Perennial.Google Scholar
  6. de Man, Paul. 1996. Aesthetic Ideology. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  7. Frow, John. 1986. “Spectacle, Binding: On Character.” Poetics Today 7 (2): 227–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Giles, Paul. 2002. Virtual Americas. Durham: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Haraway, Donna J. 1991. Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  10. Hofstadter, Douglas R. 1980. Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  11. Nietzsche, Friedrich. 2000. Friedrich Nietzsche on Rhetoric and Language. Translated and edited by Sander L. Gilman, Carole Blair and David J. Parent. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Orwell, George. [1949] 2008. Nineteen Eighty-Four. London: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  13. Paxson, James. 1994. The Poetics of Personification. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Stewart, Susan. 1993. On Longing. Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Toomey, David. 2013. Weird Life. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.Google Scholar
  16. Trask, R. L. 2004. Language: The Basics, 2nd ed. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  17. Turkle, Sherry. 2011. Life on Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  18. van Regenmortel, Marc H. V. 2010. “Nature of Viruses.” In Desk Encyclopedia of General Virology, edited by Brian W. J. Mahy and Marc H. V. van Regenmortel, 19–22. Oxford: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  19. Wall, Clare. 2015. “Here Be Monsters: Posthuman Adaptation and Subjectivity in Peter Watts’ Starfish.” In The Canadian Fantastic in Focus: New Perspectives, edited by Allan Weiss, 67–80. Jefferson: McFarland.Google Scholar
  20. Watts, Peter. 1997. “Reluctant Praise.” On Spec 9 (1) (Spring): 17–19.Google Scholar
  21. ———. n.d. “Starfish Original Ending.” Unpublished Manuscript, Received November 17, 2017. Microsoft Word file.Google Scholar
  22. ———. 1999. Starfish. New York: Tor Publishing.Google Scholar
  23. ———. 2001. Maelstrom. New York: Tor Publishing.Google Scholar
  24. ———. 2004a. βehemoth: β-Max. New York: Tor Publishing.Google Scholar
  25. ———. 2004b. βehemoth: Seppuku. New York: Tor Publishing.Google Scholar
  26. ———. 2013. Beyond the Rift. San Francisco: Tachyon Publications.Google Scholar
  27. Zimmer, Carl. 2011. A Planet of Viruses. Chicago: Chicago University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ben Eldridge
    • 1
  1. 1.University of SydneySydneyAustralia

Personalised recommendations