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January 31, 2006

Anecdotal Evidence of the Long Tail

The Ghost Brigades bumped up into the 2000s in the Amazon rankings today but as far as I could tell no one was actually talking about it -- no new reviews, etc, so I wondered what was going on. I think I figured it out: Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds was pimping his own book An Army of Davids today, and on his Amazon page, TGB is listed as one of the books in the "Customers who bought this book also bought" category (as is Old Man's War). Glenn's book is currently at #66 (up from 23,000 or so yesterday), and all the books in the "also bought" category are also up in their Amazon numbers today as well (save the book Glenn himself co-wrote). It could be mere coincidence all these books are up, but I suspect not.

So, thanks, Glenn, for pimping your own book. It's working out well for me.

I added to Glenn's number, incidentally, by pre-ordering. It's the least I could do. Also pre-ordered: Crystal Rain, by Tobias Buckell. Sure, I could have scammed a free copy off of Tor when I was there. But I believe the best way to support new writers is with actual sales. Call me crazy on this one.

Posted by john at January 31, 2006 07:48 PM

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tobias Buckell | January 31, 2006 09:30 PM

I *like* your brand of crazy! Thanks man :-)

Martin Wagner | January 31, 2006 09:55 PM

I just got Crystal Rain in the mail from Tor yesterday! It looks neato. Hoping to have the review up by next Monday's update.

Michael G. Richard | January 31, 2006 11:04 PM

The paperback of Old Man's War is in my Amazon.ca cart. I just need to figure out some of the other things I want to order before pressing the "order" button :)

WaywardSailorGirl | February 1, 2006 12:55 AM

I picked up "Old Man's War" while browsing Borders a couple of weeks back. While allowing myself a "taste" of OMW when I was supposed to be reading a couple of other books for literary discussion groups, I was hooked. Literature was cast aside while I devoured the entire book in the course of a couple days. I passed it along to a friend who also has become an immediate drooling fanboy. We both recently spent some time reading "Agent to the Stars" online and I was thus spurred to order "Questions for a Soldier" from Subterranean Press (I can't wait for that to show up!)...next on the list--"The Ghost Brigades".

What can I say? Some sailor girls like men in uniform...I'm a sucker for the blogging author.

Daruku | February 1, 2006 05:04 AM

TGB is another taste of OMW. We all want a taste :)

John Irving | February 1, 2006 01:45 PM

I really enjoyed "Old Man's War." Original, but had enough recognizable themes to have the hardcore geek in me jumping up and down happily.

I will be picking up "The Ghost Brigades" as soon as possible. I might pick up Glenn's book while I'm at it, so the interest current flows in both directions.

Gabe | February 1, 2006 01:57 PM

Agree. As an aspiring author myself I think the best way to support new writers is to buy their books. Now if I could just get a link from Glenn...

edh | February 1, 2006 03:30 PM

If Glen in pimping, does that make you his ho?

tobias Buckell | February 1, 2006 03:37 PM

Martin: neat! I look forward to your thoughts on CR.

JD | February 1, 2006 03:53 PM

very cool. The Long Tail is very real indeed.

MarcBoston | February 1, 2006 03:55 PM

Hi John, I just found your site from Instapundit.

I just read _Old Man's War_ and could not put it down, I read it in one day. It's fabulously engaging and interesting book. But I have a serious issue, or question, about the conventions of this genre:

Why, in "futuristic warfare", are female characters always presented as absolutely the equal of males in every aspect of military life? As I recall, there is sometimes a discussion of this situation, sometimes not, but it is always there. Inevitably, the future human race at war is made up of a full complement of warrior women the likes of which the world has never known. Why is this? Is it on purpose? Wish fulfillment? Accidental?

Furthermore, if the needs of a certain subculture-specific aesthetic (geek taste) require weaknesses and strengths to exist in a gender-neutral universe, wouldn't it at least be interesting to have female characters dealing with, or coping with, the uniquely female strains that their warfaring life puts on them. Certainly the male characters deal with their warfaring issues in this genre, such as trust, attachment, loss, fear, etc, in visibly male ways.

It could be something as little, as one of the "Old Women Warriors" commenting on how her new body (and brain, and hormones, clarity of thought patterns, etc) seem to respond well to violent fear and confrontation, where her old body had not had the same sets of reactions at all. Or commenting that her need to nurture, to be safe, to protect and be protected seem to have disappeared when her ovaries did, to have been replaced by simply a slightly more nurturing esprit de corp.

It just feels like a gaping hole in character development and understanding of the human experience in the genre. If you believe, as many in geek culture appear to, that all sex differences are culturally determined, then wouldn't the characters have to deal with adjusting their personalities to a radically different cultural context?

The genetic engineering aspect also brings up a lot of places to go with it - were the bodies made to alter certain personality dispositions? Do the humans notice the differences?

Thanks for such an entertaining and thought provoking book.

Jett-Parmer | February 1, 2006 04:02 PM


Regan provided me a gift of Old Man's War. I loved it! I turned it over to my wife, and she loved it! I am looking forward to picking up Ghost Brigades. Keep writing. As a current military member, I thought the emotion conveyed within the book was right on target.

PS - Not a bad screenplay either....

John Scalzi | February 1, 2006 04:19 PM


"Why, in 'futuristic warfare', are female characters always presented as absolutely the equal of males in every aspect of military life?"

Well, I can't speak to why other authors choose to do it in this way. In my own case, female warriors are equal because their new bodies are designed to be as physically capable as male bodies (or be close enough, given their generally improved status, as to have the differences be generally immaterial). I'm not entirely convinced that many of the remaining gender differences are so significant that they would be an issue in the tasks required general infantry.

In any event there is enough of a range of human response, both male and female, that "uniquely female" or "uniquely male" responses are arguably not all that unique. In my own family, for example, it's my wife you wouldn't want to get into an argument with, because is both physically and mentally intimidating in ways that are generally seen as "male." She is not "mannish," mind you; she just doesn't see why she should take shit because she's a woman. Similarly, I am not particularly effeminate in any way, but I'm less likely to be confrontational in the way she is and can be. If you had to pick one of us to be a solider, I think she would be the first pick.

Now, having said that, I think you'll find in The Ghost Brigades that Jane Sagan, who plays a prominent role, does not necessarily problem-solve like a man does, and some aspects of her femininity come into play, particularly toward the end of the book. She's no less a warrior because of it, which I think is interesting to explore.

Adam | February 1, 2006 05:01 PM

I've decided to do my part. I just went to Amazon and pre-ordered The Ghost Brigades.

After a life of viewing Science Fiction a little bit suspiciously, I finaly broke down and bought Old Man's War about a month ago, after the 10,000th plug at Instapundit. I expected to be amused, and possibly even entertained. I also expected that it would be my least favorite book in the stack I bought that day. I'm very pleased to say that my expectations were totally f#%&ed.

By the end of the first day, I'd finished the book. By the end of day three, I'd finished twice. One week after purchasing it, I'd read it three times. I'm still no Science Fiction fan, but I am a John Scalzi fan now. And I owe it all to Glenn Reynolds.

I have high expectations for TGB. I'm have no doubt they'll be met.

Jim | February 1, 2006 06:06 PM

I just went to Amazon.com and lo and behold, there is John Scalzi to greet me. Right there in the middle of the page is Jim's Plog (TM) and the top entry on my plog is John Scalzi (complete with thumbnail size photo) saying "Well, Howdy."

This must be brand new... author blog entries being served up to readers on Amazion. So new that I got leave the first comment on the Scalzi posting. (Go me!)

The Scalzi post was followed by Dave Freer's Amazon Author Blog. It says I got the Scalzi post because of purchasing Rough Guide to the Universe and the Freer post because of purchasing his novel The Forlorn.

It also says this is a Beta -- I think it is a good idea, connecting readers to author blogs. (But "Plog"??? I suppose if we could get accustomed to blog, we can handle plog, but it is not the most graceful and melodious name they could have used.)

N. O'Brain | February 1, 2006 06:06 PM

Weird coincidence:

Something I posted over at RightWingNews today, about "Starship Troopers":

"*The stupid movie adaptation of one of America's great books.

BTW, I'm reading "Old Man's War" by John Scalzi right now.

Kinda reminds me of Sensei Heinlein.

-N. O'Brain"

Then I find this blog.

Which leads me to my next point, aimed at Adam:

Try reading some Robert A. Heinlein now.

Strange multiverse we live in, ain't it?

Nony Mouse | February 1, 2006 06:59 PM

If you like a taste of a book before you go to buy it, stop by Baen's website (www.baen.com). As a person who constantly needs more bookcases, I like that I can read the first couple of chapters to decide if I want to buy the book. I've found more authors and books that way, and now I need another bookcase...

John Scalzi | February 1, 2006 09:28 PM

Adam -- glad to have exceeded your expectations, and likewise pleased to get you reading a little bit of SF. Hopefully you'll try some more!

tobias Buckell | February 1, 2006 10:00 PM

And demonstrating that I'm just a bit further down the 'long tail,' my own AMZN rank jumped into the 6,000s as a result as well. Thanks John/Instapundit!

John Scalzi | December 11, 2006 06:53 PM

Don't mind this, I'm testing something.

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