Peter Watts, Hugo nominated author of Blindsight

If you buy into the Many Worlds Intepretation of quantum physics, there must be a parallel universe in which I crossed the US/Canada border without incident last Tuesday. In some other dimension, I was not waved over by a cluster of border guards who swarmed my car like army ants for no apparent reason; or perhaps they did, and I simply kept my eyes downcast and refrained from asking questions.

Along some other timeline, I did not get out of the car to ask what was going on. I did not repeat that question when refused an answer and told to get back into the vehicle. In that other timeline I was not punched in the face, pepper-sprayed, shit-kicked, handcuffed, thrown wet and half-naked into a holding cell for three fucking hours, thrown into an even colder jail cell overnight, arraigned, and charged with assaulting a federal officer, all without access to legal representation (although they did try to get me to waive my Miranda rights. Twice.). Nor was I finally dumped across the border in shirtsleeves: computer seized, flash drive confiscated, even my fucking paper notepad withheld until they could find someone among their number literate enough to distinguish between handwritten notes on story ideas and, I suppose, nefarious terrorist plots. I was not left without my jacket in the face of Ontario’s first winter storm, after all buses and intercity shuttles had shut down for the night.

In some other universe I am warm and content and not looking at spending two years in jail for the crime of having been punched in the face.

But that is not this universe.

Stay tuned.


I’ve crossed the US/Canada border many times. Sometimes I’ve breezed through, sometimes I’ve been made to feel guilty as fuck despite having done nothing even close to illegal. But, I’ve obviously never faced what Watts is now dealing with. Of course, there are two sides to every story, but give what friends of Peter have said (Cory Doctorow and John Scalzi, for instance), and the exceedingly forceful measures taken with visitors travelling into and out of the United States, I’m inclined to believe Watt’s side of the story. It’s not the first time we’ve heard a story like this.

If you’re so inclined, Boing Boing has all the details on how you might be able to help Peter fight against the (seemingly absurd) charges.

  • jake December 12, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    Why don’t Peter just take it like a man? Both sides of our border, Canada and U.S. just don’t go around beating people. I have crossed a thousand plus times and you just do what they ask and you go on your way. They are trying to keep us all safe from dangerous drugs and dangerous people. For God sakes let them do their job!!!

  • aidan December 12, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    Until we find out the whole story (which we probably never will), it’s always easier to side with someone in our community, especially when there are numerous reports of Watts being a non-violent man and only questioning the motives of the officers involved, something that’s fully within his rights as a citizen of Canada or the United States.

  • M. Mouse December 12, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    They should beat all the Canucks that try to sneak across our border!
    Should give those Border agents a medal.

  • aidan December 12, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    Well, first of all, Watts was crossing back into Canada when the incident happened.

    Second, you can’t be serious.

  • Adam Whitehead December 12, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    “They should beat all the Canucks that try to sneak across our border!”

    In this case, ‘sneak’ meaning ‘lawfully driving across a public crossing point’ and ‘across our border’ of course meaning ‘travelling from the USA into Canada having spent the previous week in Nebraska’.

  • CrazYoda December 12, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    He has a right to question the people who make the policy. The border agents follow protocol, bottom line is he got out of the car and that’s a no-no. Also, no matter how supposedly nonviolent a person he is, he got offended enough to get out of the car when he knew he shouldn’t, what could he have done when they decided to cuff him. I say “could” because we don’t know whose story is true but he could have fought back when they wanted to restrain him when he stepped out of the car. 

  • […] Watts might be best known these days for his altercation with a border agent on the US-Canada border. More importantly, […]