« Taxes | Main | All-American Girl »

April 17, 2006

Pointlessly Wasting Money: A Quiz

All right, a question for the crowd. Let's say I have about $2,500 to spend --

(which is not to say that I do have $2.5K spend. It's to say, let's say I do)

-- and that you're me. Which would you rather spend that chunk of cash on:

a) The "Virginia Edition" of the collected works of Robert A. Heinlein, which features all of his novels and shorts stories plus most of the interviews and commentaries, speeches and articles he's given, printed on heavy, acid-free paper, put in protective slipcases and each with a cover featuring the work of Donato Giancola (who, as you recall, did the hardcover artwork for Old Man's War), all in a special, limited, never-to-be replicated series,


b) An Alienware Area 51 5500 computer with a 3.2 GHz Pentium dual core processor, 256MB PCI-Express x16 NVIDIA® GeForce™ 7900 GT graphics card, 2GB Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 533MHz, 250GB Serial ATA 3Gb/s 7,200 RPM w/ NCQ & 8MB Cache and Creative Sound Blaster® X-Fi® XtremeMusic High Definition 7.1 Surround Sound


I mean, theoretically. And no, you can't have both. You have to choose one.

What would you, as me, get?

Posted by john at April 17, 2006 05:13 PM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


Scott Janssens | April 17, 2006 05:21 PM

Are you nuts? Get the books.

Bryan | April 17, 2006 05:24 PM

Heinlein. No question.

Radical Bender | April 17, 2006 05:28 PM

Computer. Definitely. I'd get more mileage out of it. One year from now, the books, while abudantly nice, would be sitting on the shelf looking pretty, while the computer would still be doing all sorts of things (and, because it's Alienware, it would still be on a desk looking pretty as well).

Marcus | April 17, 2006 05:31 PM

Books. The computer's gonna be obsolete in a year. :-P

Timothy McClanahan | April 17, 2006 05:34 PM

Don't be a dope - go for the RAH. Spending that kind of money on a Pentium D machine is just stupid, really, especially with a major performance increase in the Merom/Conroe generation coming so soon (that will be a platform to stick with for quite some time, unlike the lame duck Pentium D).

Plus, think how much that RAH set will cost later. *shudder*

Also, DDR2-533 is already obsolete; DDR2-800 is where it's at, baby, and let's face it, only a tool or a die-hard gamer who can't put together his own machine would ever buy an _Alienware_. The 2GB of RAM is nice, but the 250GB HD is kinda small; 400GB seems to be the sweet spot these days, depending on manufacturer.

Either get the RAH or build your own machine (but wait for Conroe).

Jason Broander | April 17, 2006 05:34 PM

The books. Computer tech is about to shift over to DX10 for graphics in the next year. That mobo and card will be completely obsolete then, and won't be able to run any new games (and if you aren't running games, why are you buying a card with that graphical punch?). So, get the books, and put off buying a computer for a year at least. And, build the computer yourself. You could build that system for about a grand cheaper if you wished (and the parts come with warranties, so if they break it's no issue--you just send them back for a replacement).

Mark J Musante | April 17, 2006 05:35 PM

No question, go for the books. They'll last. The computer won't.

Miles | April 17, 2006 05:39 PM

Computers come and go as the technology shifts. I'd get the books.

Jimmy | April 17, 2006 05:52 PM

You might be able to add the Heinlein to the list of things you can write off on your taxes. Hmm, I have to start writing.

Mike Kozlowski | April 17, 2006 05:53 PM

Years ago, I bought a computer, but passed up the chance to buy the Vance Integral Edition. The computer is forgotten, but I still wish I'd bought that VIE.

jason | April 17, 2006 05:58 PM

Books. Because paper will never become obsolete, no matter what the e-book proponents keep trying to tell us.

Ohako | April 17, 2006 05:58 PM

Hmm...the techno-luddites have a point. So, here's a question for you:

Which will happen first, the computer becoming obsolete, or Heinlein's complete works passing into the public domain?

Me personally, I say split the difference. Buy paperback copies of Heinlein's works, a cheap computer, a nice printer, and then download a bunch of Giancola-illustrated Magic cards (available via this link, give or take), print them out, and paste them to your new books' covers. Done deal.

There is the issue of the books not lasting as long as the fancy versions.

1. That's what duct tape is for.

2. Old, yellowing books smell neat.

christina h | April 17, 2006 06:00 PM

I wouldn't buy anything from Alienware. I was looking at their laptops a couple months ago until I discovered their service seems to have gone downhill. That, on top it being hard to get your money back if things go south, kept me from buying one. Check out http://www.epinions.com/Alienware_PC_Systems_Online_Stores_Services and then sort by date.

As a tax accountant, I think it would be very sketchy to write off the Heinlein collection.

John H | April 17, 2006 06:00 PM

A year from now the computer will be worth roughly $500 while the Heinlein collection will probably still be worth the $2500. Ten years from now the computer will be scrap while the Heinlein will be worth more than the $2500.

I'm just sayin'...

Bethany | April 17, 2006 06:09 PM

If I were me with those options, I'd go for the computer, but mine is 5 years old and hasn't had much of any upgrades since then, while I am happy to read paperbacks from the library.

If I were you, I would get the books. You're a SF writer with how many computers now? Plus, you seem to prefer buying hardback books to own.

Mary | April 17, 2006 06:12 PM

The books, of course.

Bill Marcy | April 17, 2006 06:14 PM

Computers are transitory, The Master will always be The Master.

I am just suprised that there is a question...

Paul | April 17, 2006 06:16 PM

All those guys sure seem to know what they're talking about when it comes to computers. I gotta say, though, that the book, well, it's a book. I mean, it's all prettified, and everything, but the words in it are all exactly the same as they are in the five dollar paperbacks of the same works. You can replace a heck of a lot of worn out paperbacks for twenty-five hundred dollars.

The computer you'd get use out of. And, you could write it off, you know? The book, well, it's just a thing to have.

Consider this future interview scenario...

John Scalzi: "This is The "Virginia Edition" of the collected works of Robert A. Heinlein, which features all of his novels and shorts stories plus most of the interviews and commentaries, speeches and articles he's given, printed on heavy, acid-free paper, put in protective slipcases and each with a cover featuring the work of Donato Giancola (who, as you recall, did the hardcover artwork for Old Man's War), all in a special, limited, never-to-be replicated series.

When you read it, you can feel the import of Heinlein's words lifting off the page and into the heavens. Do you feel them?

Documentary Film Maker: No, I don't feel anything. The book is closed. Can I open it and have a look?

JS: No, you can't read it.

DFM: I can't read it? OK.

JS: Don't touch it.

DFM: I'm not touching it. I'm not going to touch it. I'm just looking at it.

JS: Don't even look at it.

Is that what you want, John? Is it?

Kevin | April 17, 2006 06:19 PM

What is the point of the RAH collection? Is it to have for the pure book geek lustiness of it? Is it as an investment? Is it to read? I think the answer to that question makes answering the original question easier.

Me, I'd go for the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 18 - 200 mm f/3.5-5.6G DX ED VR lens and put the rest toward something else. Maybe a good tripod set up.

critter42 | April 17, 2006 06:20 PM

You can hand the books down to your daughter as an heirloom many years hence. Try that with the computer and all you would get in return is a consultation with the nice men in the white jackets in the comfy room...

Richard Campbell | April 17, 2006 06:40 PM


| April 17, 2006 06:43 PM

If it were me, I'd be thinking about the computer I had just now. How good is it, how long will it last? What do I really need the power of the new one for? Might I not be better, since it's a windows machine, waiting for Vista? 7.1 surround is really overkill. 5.1 is better in most cases, says me.

The books are a one time deal, but the computer isn't, it'll be around for a while. It sounds to me like if you were in that position you would want the books but would have a hard time justifying the price tag for something that, for long periods, would be an ornament, when you would feel that you should be spending money on something you will get use of every day.

If you spent the theoretical money and worked hard enough you would have it again at some point, but only one of the options would still be viable. So, if I definitely wanted them both and knew I wouldn't feel bad spending that money on such a luxury as $2000 books (and why not), I would get the books first, and then put them on a desk with a keyboard in front of them, to confuse visitors.

Anonymous | April 17, 2006 06:51 PM



Justin Johnson | April 17, 2006 07:24 PM

Right. SO I build computers. I work for Geek Squad. I have a long-established love of technology, especially computers and specifically all-powerful, near-sentient gaming rigs. So I'd say buy the books.


Because computers depreciate faster than cars and NEVER become Classics. Books, espeically the limited editions, will only increase in value. Plus, I've had a love of reading and literature and books that outdates even my knowledge of what a computer is! I've seen here that you love technology and nifty neat-o gadgets, but you've got two computers right now. And you've said before that some neat-o toys aren't worth the money, ie. cellphones.

I think you'd be happier with the books. You could upgrade your current box for a third of the price of that Alienware junk. I also think it's better to buy a complete system like that from a physical store. That means there's a physical place to return to with problems and a physical manager to cuss out. See it every day. People buy their Dells online and retailers can't help them with services because Dell doesn't like to let other people work on their computers. Alienware doesn't have that kind of proprietary mindset, I don't think, but a retail location is still much more likely to have better service PLUS face-to-face service.

Books. BOOooooOOOOoooooooOOOOOkkks.

Codrus | April 17, 2006 07:32 PM

I and at least one friend experienced bad service with Alienware, enough that I went to another vendor when I wanted my next desktop machine. YMMV.

If it were me, I'd buy the computer, but then I don't tend to buy collectable versions of books. I buy books to read, not sit on shelves. :D

If I can cop out, I'd say buy a computer and immediately turn around and find a way to make it pay for itself so you can buy the books. :)

Anonymous | April 17, 2006 07:36 PM

Computers are great. Why, I'm using one right now. But the fact of the matter is, that computer will last about three years, at which point you will be considering buying another one and maybe giving this one to Athena.

Properly taken care of, the books will be an item that you leave to Athena's SF-loving child in your will.

PeterP | April 17, 2006 07:53 PM

I would go with the computer. As it sits, you could almost certainly buy the collected works of Heinlen in a format that you could actually read without putting gloves on. I'm not a huge fan of buying "collectors edition" anything, except perhaps if it is signed by the author. Failing that, its just an expensive anthology, with little value beyond someone packaging it all together for you.

All that said, I wouldnt go with the Alienware. The intel Macs are looking quite nice, and I assume their uber desktop will be out soon enough. Might make sense to wait for that...

Lady M | April 17, 2006 08:23 PM

Didn't Alienware just get purchased by Dell? I'd check how their support model will work in the future, if you go that route.

Scott S. | April 17, 2006 08:28 PM

I will first state I am an eternal bachelor with no kids or pets. Have you thought about spending the money on wife, daughter, dog, cat, or even the crawdad?


Lanna Lee Maheux-Quinn | April 17, 2006 08:31 PM

I would buy the Books. For all the reasons more eloquently said above.

Oh, and books are cool. (And you already have a couple of computers.) And it's Heinlein.

(My Husband says computer though...

Jas | April 17, 2006 08:34 PM

IF I had the money, and if I HAVE to buy one of those two options, I'm going for the books. It's all about resale value, and I would absolutely not buy an Alienware PC.

Violating the rules, I'd sink those $2,500 into the hot new MacBook and triple-boot that son of a gun...

Tim Walters | April 17, 2006 08:51 PM

If you need the computer to make stuff, get the computer. I do computer music, and by upgrading every three years I get a big jump in the quality of what I can do live (with my next machine I can start thinking about doing live video as well). That's cooler to me than a collectible.

If it's just for entertainment, I vote for the books. But you might want to see a sample volume first; I was excited about the VIE until I bought the teaser, which turned out to be one of the ugliest books I've ever seen.

Cassie | April 17, 2006 09:05 PM

I already own all the Heinleins I care to own. The whole concept of "collectability" and books is oxymoronic, unless you're talking library collection.

If you daren't open it for fear of reducing its value, it's not worth owning.

I would love to read the interviews, however. How about you get the books, scan the interviews and email them to me?

Stephen G | April 17, 2006 09:27 PM

Like other people who are you, I-as-you would get the books.

I-as-you would then ship them to me-as-me-and-not-you. Because I-as-you am just that kind of guy.

Scott | April 17, 2006 09:32 PM

Only buy the pieces of the computer you need. How the hell are you going to actually buy $2500 of computer components?

And... do you realllllly want to give $2500 to Dell? I mean... reaaaaaaaalllllly?

After you spend about $1000 to refurnish your computer's insides from power-supply to graphics card, you'll still have $1500 to spend on heavy, acid-free toilet paper.

I'm not talking about the RAH books, I'm talking about luxurious toilet paper! The only thing better than a good book before bedtime is... not suitable language.

Greg | April 17, 2006 09:34 PM

How about: "None of the above."

I'm with Cassie- when I buy something I expect to *use* it. To me the concept of collectables is an abomination. So that "heirloom quality" Heinlein collection is right out. Buy paperbacks and read them.

Has Alienware experienced some kind of coolness infusion in the past few years? I've always known their boxes as badly overpriced hype modules, in embarrassingly ugly cases. Build your own? It's fun.

diddidit | April 17, 2006 09:34 PM

$2500 gets you a pretty dang nice bike. The computer will make you fat and twitchy, the books will make you smart but still fat. A nice 20-speed carbon road bike, though, will make you smart AND thin.


Darkhawk | April 17, 2006 09:37 PM

Heh. Of those choices, I'd get the books, because I don't use the computer for much other than reading usenet, writing, and playing solitaire.

If I were me rather than you, I'd get a parrot.

Dr. Phil | April 17, 2006 09:39 PM

Given the restricted choice, this is obviously an "extra" $2500. I use all sorts of computers, new and old -- I still do my main writing on 166MHz Pentiums and Dual 200MHz Pentium Pros, trust me, they can still keep up with a fast typist. So I've cobbled together whole computers for a couple of hundred dollars, but I just don't have the spare bucks for the Virginia edition of Heinlein. I may have grown up with the paperbacks, but reading a really well made book is a pleasure in itself.

I hafta vote for the books.

Dr. Phil

Harry Connolly | April 17, 2006 09:45 PM

$2.5K for gussied up Heinlein? That's like going to Le Cirque and ordering a grilled cheese. I love grilled cheese as much as the next guy, but it doesn't need to be made into a fetish object.

Frankly, neither one seems like a good choice to me.

Tim Walters | April 17, 2006 09:46 PM

Why are people assuming that the books aren't for reading? Did John say somewhere that he was a white-glove collector type, and I just missed it?

Cassie | April 17, 2006 09:51 PM

If you go to the link, the publisher describes the edition as collectibles. It's possible that John would risk his investment of $2.5K and actually open the books...

Byron | April 17, 2006 09:53 PM

A grilled cheese sandwich fetish sounds pretty messy. On the other hand, grilled cheese sandwiches ARE good.

I go with Neither, followed by the Books. Alienware has historically done little impress me and now that they're "Dell! But Cool!" even less so.

Mike B | April 17, 2006 10:05 PM

For myself, I'm _going_ to order the books. Yes, I know I can't really afford them but I am a bona-fide book nut and can go another year without a new computer, or a new car for that matter, in exchange for this. And, for what it's worth, I don't really care about "collectable" either. At last count I had 5,347 books and have no intention of selling any of them.

Kevin Q | April 17, 2006 10:06 PM

Some thoughts:

1. Two things you will never say on your deathbed: "I wish I'd spent more time at the office," and "I wish I'd bought just one more computer in my lifetime."

2. This time next year Apple will have the Intel equivalent of the Power Mac out. That will be the computer to get.

3. Dude, you don't want to buy anything Dell has touched.

4. Everybody needs more Heinlein in their life.

That being said, I could only recommend the books if they were actually going to be opened and read. Even if it's only once. If they were going to sit in their plastic on your shelf, then I'd say buy the computer.


Tim Walters | April 17, 2006 10:16 PM

If I may derail a bit... what's all the Dell hate about? That's a non-rhetorical question--I'm thinking of buying a Dell laptop. If I did this, though, I'd be running Linux, so it doesn't matter if they install bloatware, or if their Windows tech support is lousy.

Jim | April 17, 2006 10:17 PM

For the same price you could put together a MUCH better machine: http://www.sharkyextreme.com/guides/MHGSBG/article.php/3595906

It is an example of a guide for a $2500 computer (with monitor), many sites have similar guides for all price points ($1k, 2k, $7k+). Putting a computer together is easy, plus you are a sci fi writer, find some nerd fan to do it if you have problems.

Get the books I guess, but whatever you do, don't buy from alienware.

Jim | April 17, 2006 10:20 PM

Also, am I the only one turned off by that publishers website? Like, different tiers of books, the potential for a "super-duper" version of like only 30 printed. Plus, they are going to serialize it - you get one book a month or something?

It seems to me to be a naked money making function for the trust/family. I would rather invest in first editions then this. I've never really understood these special editions, I wouldn't pay more for it.

marty | April 17, 2006 10:28 PM


I'll assume you already have everything Heinlein wrote. And a computer.

I'd go the books. You can never have too many books. ;)

Mike Kozlowski | April 17, 2006 10:28 PM

It's shocking to me how unanimous people are about several wrong propositions. So, just to set things straight:

1. Dell is perfectly fine. Their customer service isn't amazingly awesome, but hey, welcome to the world of low-margin commodity goods. (And comparing them to self-assembled computers is apples to oranges unless you have fun building computers.)

2. Enjoying aesthetically pleasing objects isn't some deranged fetish, it's perfectly reasonable. I love reading books, and have never bought anything as an investment piece -- but some of my favorite books are those that are put together really well, with thought to the design and quality in the binding. This is blindingly obvious when the subject is an iPod, so why is it baffling so many people when the subject is books?

Tim Walters | April 17, 2006 10:29 PM

$2,500 sounds like a lot--it is a lot--but it's only $54.35 per volume. I have a few books that I've paid more than that for, just to read them. I probably wouldn't throw one in my backpack... but I just realized that the book in my backpack right now cost $33.00 (because I had to import it from the UK), so maybe I would after all.

William Lexner | April 17, 2006 10:40 PM

Here's something you need to take into consideration: The publisher.


(sorry...... cutting and pasting f-ed up the article. I'm not trying to get hits...the blog isn't even really launched yet.)

Tim Walters | April 17, 2006 10:44 PM

Mike K.:

"How long most people would look at the best book before they would give the price of a large turbot for it!"

--John Ruskin

Richard Bennett | April 17, 2006 10:52 PM

Given that Heinlein wasn't much of a writer - he recycled the same couple of stories about a million times - and that's not much of a computer, I'd say what's behind door number three?

$2500 will buy you a nice LCD TV set, get you started with a decent carpentry shop or a good reef aquarium setup. There are many choices in life, my son, and you don't need to compromise.

Jason Broander | April 17, 2006 11:07 PM

If we're going to suggest a third option, the choice is clear--hi-fidelity audio. You could get a good starter speaker system for that amount, or for a bit less a dream headphone setup, plus a load of CDs. Then, you can listen to some glorious Brahms while reading your favorite Heinlein paperback.

Scott | April 17, 2006 11:09 PM

My "Dell Hating" was really shorthand for a whole mess of stuff.

Obviously, I'm a proponent of build-it-yourself computers. All-of-a-piece computers are worth it, in general, if you have at most 1 piece of computer equipment that still serves your purposes.

Also, computers respect only their builder. This cannot be extended to their owner, even by contract. Which is why Apple is big on service-plans, IBM used to be, and Dell puts up with that arm of their business.
If obedience in your machinery is unimportant, then I suppose Dell is fine... I guess... sort of.

When Alienware was some dudes who liked building computers and putting them in funny colored cases it was... well... the way you can pretend you belong at a LAN party without producing and indicating an unhygenic facade. Now that it's Dell the LAN party people aren't even falling for the trick any more.

William Lexner | April 17, 2006 11:32 PM

Sorry........ should have read the rules. About the publisher of the Virginia Edition:

Meisha Merlin Publishing is the absolute worst small press in publishing today.

Now I'm sure it's not their intent -- no one sets out to be the worst there is what they do. In fact, I think they had and still do have high aspirations. I've seen some of their Janny Wurts novels in Borders, and any small press breaking into the chain stores is a positive thing.

I just wish it were happening for a press that deserved it.

Meisha Merlin purchased the right to print George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series in the late 90's. (I'm not sure of the date, it's so far back in the mists of memory.) They announced that the series would be beautiful matching limited editions, crafted with acid-free paper and gilting, with satin bookmarks, in matching slip cases. The editions were to be sold for 250 dollars each -- hardly a drop in the bucket. Each customer had a right to expect a finely crafted book.

What we got was a decent book, but it was two years later than promised.

Ok, I can accept that. Shit happens. Do better next time.

The next volume was also two years later than promised. You don't read such expensive and collectible books, you place them on the shelf and wait patiently for the next volume. As soon as I placed A Clash of Kings on the shelf next to A Game of Thrones, I noticed that they did not match. A Game of Thrones was noticably taller and A Clash of Kings was vastly thicker, despite there being only 60-something pages difference in length. The slip cases were made of a different material. The font in the writing did not match.

I had spent 500 dollars on two books, and they did not even match.

So what next? I decided to look for other problems with this years-later-than-promised and unmatching tome. Upon looking at the signed limitation page, I noticed an editing slip-up that a drooling troglodyte would have caught while surfing for porn.

They never bothered to change the name of the book on the second volume.

If you'll notice in the picture, it says This edition of A Game of Thrones is limited to 500 copies.

This is not an edition of a Game of Thrones.

It is a 250 dollar copy of a Clash of Kings that was never glanced at by an editor.

Hell! They didn't even have to edit the actual text of the book -- the limitation page and the art are the only new additions.

Thankfully Subterranean Press has swooped in and saved all the GRRM collectors of the world from having to suffer through another Meisha Merlin travesty. They purchased the rights to the series from Meisha Merlin.

I don't know if George had anything to do with change, but honestly I could not be happier. Subterranean Press is the polar opposite of Meisha Merlin; they offer some of the finest books being made anywhere today, and they practice remarkable attention to detail.

So that's it, of course. I'd never be stupid enough to buy from such an incompetent publisher again, right?

You'd think so.

Then came the complete works of Robert A. Heinlein: The Virginia Edition from Meisha Merlin. I had mentioned it offhand to my wife, being a big Heinlein fan and lamenting the identity of the publisher, and sometime last year (2005) she went and subscribed to it for me as a Christmas gift. the first volume was to be out in plenty of time to have under the tree, they told her.

As I write this, it is April 11th, 2006, and the first volume has not yet arrived.

To add insult to injury, in December Meisha Merlin double charged my wife's debit card for mythical books that have not yet arrived. So during the holiday season, we had 300 dollars less than we had figured on. We made it through, but that is hardly the point.

Their solution to their unauthorized theft from my wife's card? "We'll credit it to next month. You won't have to make a payment until February."

Oh. Well. That makes everything better.

Tim Walters | April 18, 2006 12:04 AM

Obviously, I'm a proponent of build-it-yourself computers.

I happily built my rackmount computer. I have no interest in building a laptop. Life's too short.

Nathan Sharfi | April 18, 2006 12:24 AM

I enjoyed RAH's Starship Troopers, but haven't read anything else of his. So I'd go with (c), which is to hand the hypothetical money over to The Missus and have her do something sensible with it, like stuff it into an account that the IRS won't be able to get to easily. Or maybe into an 18-month CD for when the newfangled Intel-based Power Macs come out, if you're feeling frivolous in 18 months' time.

Scott | April 18, 2006 12:32 AM

I happily built my rackmount computer. I have no interest in building a laptop. Life's too short.
Okay, laptops are a totally different story.

I also don't own one, so that tells you just how different in my book.

Which is to say, I totally empathize with anybody who thinks they'd rather have somebody else build their laptop. But I'd rather not own one. (The fact that I have abused wrists hovering constantly on the edge of RSI also plays heavily into my preference against laptop ownership.)

Timothy McClanahan | April 18, 2006 12:44 AM


Nathan Nathan Nathan, my MAN, hie thee hence to yon bookstore and get yourself a copy of "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress."


Okay, sorry, haddabedone. That's like someone saying they haven't seen 'Star Wars.' (Though the ones who say that proudly just make me want to smack the smug look off their face.)

Timothy McClanahan | April 18, 2006 12:49 AM

Okay, now that I'm thinking more clearly, the rest of Nathan's post makes sense (except for the timeframe) - get the Intel-based PowerMac replacement, which should be out 3rd or 4th quarter of this year (they're WAY ahead of their originally-announced schedule from last year). It'll likely be based on that Conroe processor I mentioned above.

And the camera equipment post up there - brilliant. Though I'd go for a combo of the new Canon EOS 30D with the upcoming 18-55mm f/2.8 IS lens. Yum.

Anyway, whatever you do, just stay away from the Alienware, okay? :)

Lisa | April 18, 2006 12:53 AM

Everyone has already said what I'd say, so I'll just add my vote for the books. Appreciation of a collectors item vs. depreciation of computer crap, the fact that you already have like, how many computers?, and that next year or so you will have another $2500 burning a hole in your pocket and you'll be able to get an even niftier peice of technology vs. a collection that may never come again.

Bruce Arthurs | April 18, 2006 01:02 AM

Nathan Sharfi beat me to it: I'd either put the money into some kind of investment that would EARN money, or I'd apply it to debt-reduction.

(My goal for retirement -- in about 4 years if all goes well -- is to be totally debt-free. Putting $2500 on the mortgage principal would let me retire 3-4 months earlier.)

Hibryd | April 18, 2006 01:20 AM

Okay, as long as we're talking Heinlein, can someone reccomend a book that would get the taste of "Stranger in a Strange Land" out of my mouth? I couldn't stand his most famous tome; what started out as a perfectly enjoyable sc-fi book and dissolved into the author's wet dream. I mean, one of the characters is a writer who has three incredibly hot live-in "secretaries" who not only flounce around but *do his writing for him*. The alien culture exists just to set up an orgy-happy commune where the women get control over their own physiologies so they can all turn themselves into supervixens. It's like he stopped writing and started masturbating.

wil | April 18, 2006 01:46 AM

I don't know what the tally is up to at this point, but I vote for the "Virginia Edition." You and I have loved RAH since the first time we read him; if you have the coin to spare, the books make a great investment for the future and a joy to behold on your shelves. Besides, I suspect Athena will be up to devouring his magnus opus (opii?) in just a few more years.

Tim Walters | April 18, 2006 02:53 AM

Okay, as long as we're talking Heinlein, can someone reccomend a book that would get the taste of "Stranger in a Strange Land" out of my mouth?

The Unpleasant Profession Of Jonathan Hoag. I'm not a fan of late Heinlein, but in the Forties he was the boss.

Djscman | April 18, 2006 02:56 AM

Is this one of those odd binary questions that are secretly personality quizzes? "Are you a Beatles fan or an Elvis fan?" You might enjoy both but you definitely prefer one over the other. And your answer reveals terrible hidden facets of your soul....

Or is it a lateral-thinking puzzle, one that encourages finding ways to have your cake and eat it too? If it's one of those, you should get the computer, then download an eBook version of the Heinlein from some peer-to-peer network. Sure, that would illegal, and if I were you, John, I'd be ashamed I posited such a question to the crowd.

If the money is there to be pointlessly wasted, it doesn't matter if what you're buying will soon be obsolete. I've found more entertainment from the computer I bought two years ago than the Complete Calvin and Hobbes (in a beautiful slipcase edition printed on low-acid paper) I bought last winter. Get the computer, hypothetical John. Then, possibly, buy a game to install on that computer.

Ted Lemon | April 18, 2006 03:51 AM

Er. Why would you want either of those?

Seriously, if you want a gaming machine, I guess the Alienware might be cool. Otherwise, probably not. I guess you are a bit of a hardcover fan, because, well, you release your books first in hardcover (which, by the way, probably costs you a lot of sales, although maybe you get a higher payout on the hardcover, so it makes up for it?).

Anyway, my point is, Heinlein is just bits (as in, binary digits). Get the books on Amazon, in the cheapest form possible. By the time they crumble, you'll be able to get them in e-form and read them on an e-reader that doesn't suck (that is, basically works just like a book, only you can carry the entire contents of the library of congress in your hip pocket). Sort of a Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy, I guess.

And then spend the money you have left on a nice computer that isn't overdone. I outfitted a really nice game machine from Shuttle for about $1.25k, including a pretty decent 19" LCD monitor. I did have to put it together myself, which might sound like a drag, but it's actually quite fun.

Ted Lemon | April 18, 2006 03:54 AM

Er, to the Dell Laptop guy, if you're still following this comment thread: I just bought a Dell Laptop, and installed Ubuntu on it. Getting it to probe the WXGA properly was a bit of a pain, but otherwise it worked like a charm. If you need help with the WXGA, you know where to find me.

Oh, and except for weighing about a pound and a half too much, which is the price you pay for a cheaper computer, it seems like a very nice machine.

Peter | April 18, 2006 04:59 AM

I vote for Option C, "put it in something that will generate more $ down the road".

I've read four Heinleins (Starship Troopers, Stranger, Red Planet, and Have Spacesuit, Will Travel), and I'm not an especially huge fan of the guy. Even if I were, I'd be leery in light of Meisha Merlin's record.

OTOH, my present gaming computer, an Acer Aspire 1690-series (1.6 GHz Pentium M, 512 MB RAM, Mobility X700), serves my needs just right -- granted, I'd like something able to do more than just barely run Oblivion with all the settings turned down (I haven't got the game yet, but I HAVE looked up the requirements), but it's far from essential.

Brandon | April 18, 2006 08:16 AM

If the PC is for gaming, skip it and buy a 360 and a copy of Oblivion and a DS and a copy of Metroid Prime: Hunters, Tetris DS and Brain Training. That's about $650 right there and more gaming than you'll be able to finish in quite some time.

If it's not for gaming, I have no idea what to tell you other than buying an Alienware PC for general PC use seems like overkill.

I have no good advice for the books. When I buy books, I try to get them from the used bookstores because I like how old books smell, and I like thinking about the people who read it before me. Plus, I'm cheap. I can certainly see the appeal of having all of his work in a nice collected edition, I just don't think I'd be comfortable spending $2500 on it. I got the Collected Calvin and Hobbes for Christmas and every time I read it I'm afraid a glass of grape juice is going to pop in from some alternate, book hating dimension and defile my beautiful copies.

I have problems. I see that now.

rick mcginnis | April 18, 2006 09:19 AM

Oh, I get it. This is your tax refund, right?

I'd say neither. If you don't have a flat panel TV, at least 32", I'd put the money there.

Or give it to Krissy to spend/invest. Wives tend to be much smarter about this shit.

Kate Nepveu | April 18, 2006 09:25 AM

Ted Lemon: an author's personal preference for hardcover or paperback means pretty much zilch to the publisher's decision whether to first release books in hardcover (which is a complicated market-based decision that factors in the target audience, expected sales, prestige, and many other things I'm sure I'm not thinking of).

If I were John I'd get the books, but if I were me (which I am, thankfully) I'd bank the money for our trip to Japan next year.

JonathanMoeller | April 18, 2006 09:28 AM

I'd say neither. If the PC's just for writing, then it's serious overkill. If it's for gaming, or vid editing, then several of the components are nearing the mid-to-end range of their lifecycles, and it'd be cheaper to either buy the parts and build it yourself, or wait till Windows Vista comes out (assuming it manages to defy all odds and not suck) or Mac Leopard and then dual-booting with XP.

The books...eh. Collectors' editions are nice, but you can't read them while eating or on the can, so what's the point?


Anonymous | April 18, 2006 09:50 AM

Books of course--limited, never to be replicated, awesome collection. Tricked out computers will still be there next time you have $2500.

MisterStinky | April 18, 2006 09:53 AM

MisterStinky agrees with the other people. I would as you get the book. That computer in a year will be worth a grand and the book will either still be 2.5K or even more

Justfred | April 18, 2006 11:19 AM

c) hookers and blow.

Erin Hartshorn | April 18, 2006 11:52 AM

I'd go for the books, no question. Of course, I'm a Mac person, so the PC isn't even vaguely tempting. :-)

Tim Walters | April 18, 2006 11:59 AM

Ted: thanks for the info and the offer! I would actually be getting the WSXGA+ display, which might be even more pesky. I should do some research on it.

Anonymous | April 18, 2006 12:19 PM

My immediate reaction is Heinlein and then I read JustFred's suggestion of Hookers and Blow and now I'm on the fence.

No, it's still Heinlein, but a celebratory hooker wouldn't be out of order.

Wan Zafran | April 18, 2006 12:26 PM

Me is a geek, who is very much tempted by anything technological and flashy, so it's the Mac for me.

That, and the fact that those specs you posted are delicious.

Scot B. | April 18, 2006 12:34 PM

The Heinlein collection will be fun long after that computer is a doorstop. And it will probably increase in value, whereas we KNOW computers don't.

Anne KG Murphy | April 18, 2006 12:52 PM

ok, so I'm a Heinlein fan. I'd get the books, mainly for the articles...

And also because my copy of The Past Through Tomorrow has gone wandering... (looks suspiciously around at people to see if they have it).

Bill Schjelderup | April 18, 2006 02:07 PM

Get the books. Spend time writing on your existing computer, lots of time. If you feel like buying a new computer to celibrate release of another novel, wait until the end of the year and get the latest Apple hardware that looks good to you. Did I mention working on your next novel?

Smurf | April 18, 2006 07:29 PM

I'd spend the whole lot on cocaine.... bang out a book in like 7 hours.... then have this same problem again when THAT check came in.

Ted Lemon | April 19, 2006 02:29 AM

The fix for the WXGA and the WSXGA is the same, actually. :') It probably will Just Work if you install the forthcoming Dapper Drake; it works with some hacks with the current one.

I guess the comment about hardcover versus paperback was a bit snarky - sorry about that. My publisher gave me the choice - they said it didn't make any difference to them. I went with hardcover. For the second edition, they didn't give me the option - it came out in paperback. But this is in the techpub space, where the actual form factor of the book didn't really change - just the amount of cardboard in the covers.

It is frustrating that so many books now are coming out in hardcover first. My wife gets really unhappy when I buy hardcovers, because they take up so much space, and our bookshelves are already packed three layers deep with books crammed sideways on top of each row. Personally I find paperbacks easier to lie in bed with and read.

On the topic of Alienware, I have to agree with the several people who said to just wait for the new Pentium G5 from Apple. I have a regular old G5, and I Really Like It. The upcoming new one is going to seriously kick ass, because you'll be able to use nice Mac apps on it for work, and then boot into windows and run Matrix Online with really high resolution. There are still several people playing Matrix Online.


Tim Walters | April 19, 2006 10:15 PM

I would have to use Fedora rather than Ubuntu if I went the Linux route, since I would want the Planet CCRMA kernel.

But I'm waiting for the new iBooks to come out before deciding anything...

Hao Ye | April 20, 2006 07:21 AM

Um, the books. (What are you, an idiot?)

I would never spend more than 1.5k on a pre-built computer, unless it came from Apple, because beyond the mid-end range of machines, it's much more cost-effective and enjoyable to build your own. The argument doesn't apply to Apple machines or laptops in general, since you can't build those without great difficulty. Also, maybe if you didn't know what you're doing, but as a SF writer, I'm sure you have more than enough technical ability to connect the parts that are colored the same and which fit together.

I also doubt you spend enough time playing fancy computer games to justify spending that much money on a computer. Otherwise, all that extra hardware is put to waste. (I recently plopped a little over 2k on a new machine, but about half of that was for a big-ass monitor, and I justify the rest saying I need the performance to run badly implemented graphics algorithms.)

I also like how people suggested downloading the books, because they're "just" information... If that were truly the case, then we wouldn't even be talking about a limited edition collection of works.

Clearmoon | April 20, 2006 11:00 PM

NATURALLY you would go for the books, because as everyone has said, you could build 2x the computer for half the $$$. Besides, it IS Heinlein.

Way to go -- in contemplating me-as-you, I am now also contemplating how me-as-me is going to come up with $2500.

Riccardo | April 21, 2006 02:00 AM

Many years ago I saw a issue of Astounding for sale in a used book store. Price tag: $ 300 (it was signed by RAH and dedicated to either A.E. Van Vogt ot Clifford D. Simak - I don't really remember which of the two).
It was in pretty bad conditions, and 300 bucks was big money, so I passed on it.

I'm still kicking myself. Go for the books... however, I wouldn't spend the money on that set: I'd look at the antiquarian bookshops online and I would try to get some signed RAH first edition in good condition... preferably his Scribner's juveniles (still the best writing he ever did).

Curious | July 17, 2006 12:50 PM

Ok, it's now July. Does anyone know if MM has shipped any of the promised Heinlein books? Their website hasn't been updated; still says "June."

Doc Scortia | September 19, 2006 03:33 AM

Yes, Virginia Edition #1 (I Will Fear No Evil) was received around 22 July, and #2 (Time Enough for Love) just after Labor Day. #3 (Starship Troopers) should ship soon. Whether MM will revise its website to display interiors and exteriors of these books remains a mystery, although I understand that MM people at recent conventions including WorldCon had the first two on display.

Post a comment.

Comments are moderated to stop spam; if your comment goes into moderation, it may take a couple of hours to be released. Please read this for my comment moderation policies.
Preview will not show paragraph breaks. Trust me, they're there.
The proprietor generally responds to commenters in kind. If you're polite, he'll be polite. If you're a jackass, he'll be a jackass. If you are ignorant, he may correct you.
When in doubt, read the comment thread rules.

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)