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July 15, 2006

Bits and Pieces 7/15/06

Little things:

* A literary notable named Nancy Pearl has plugged Old Man's War, which I think is awfully nice of her. I regret to say I'm not entirely sure who she is (curse me and my non-listening-to-NPR ways), but I've been assured this is a good thing, and she has nice things to say about the book, and I'm delighted to be read and recommended by people who are outside the usual circles of SF reader. So thanks, Nancy Pearl.

* I've been asked by folks if I have any thoughts about the latest round of fighting in the mideast; I don't, other than general worry. Anyone who knows me knows I've long been a supporter of the right of Israel to exist and defend itself; they also know I wish that the modern state of Israel had been founded in, say, Nebraska. I do wonder if there's a deeper strategy here that I'm not seeing; Hezbollah has been funded and armed by Iran, or so I've been led to understand, and I wonder if this recent action is not some sort of sock puppet action to draw attention away from Iran's own agenda and also a long-term attempt to sap US military strength (the US is obliged to help defend Israel but it's already fairly extended, as we all know, in Iraq and Afghanistan). This is the curse of knowing just enough about a situation to make one paranoid.

* Earlier this week Joseph Tranfo called me out to discuss same-sex marriage one his own blog Benedict; unfortunately I've been too busy writing and editing to discuss the issue substantively, but those readers who are interested in having a serious discussion with him on the subject should go over. Here's the first entry he did on the subject (with my quick and cowardly "I'm too busy!" response), and he's followed it up with a second right after it. I don't need to tell you this, but if you go over, please play nice. Ironically, this comment thread is still active; the recent comments have some folks trying to convince me that same-sex marriage isn't really marriage, and attempting to sell me the whole "there's still a debate!" line that I decry in the original entry. Needless to say I'm not buying.

* Book updates: My edit of Coffee Shop is back to Subterranean Press; hopefully we'll have ARCs to give out to folks. Most of the edits were due to my abominable speeeling and gremmar, although in a couple of places I needed to root out phrases like "you can click here to see more on this," because, after all, clicking on a book doesn't actually let you follow a hyperlink. Damn old-school media. The Last Colony proceeds apace. Did I mention it's got Mennonites? Well, it does.

Posted by john at July 15, 2006 12:58 PM

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Comments

Bill Marcy | July 15, 2006 01:43 PM

I would assure you that Iran is sweating bullets right about now, they are very close to their dream of offensive nuclear technology and the current dustup in Israel rightnow can and very well draw Israel into taking care of the Iran nuclear problem.

Another 6 to 9 months and Iran would have been sitting in the catbird seat, able to do jkust about anything it wanted to, and no one could say a thing about it.

As to the US having to defend Israel, please, don't make me laugh. Seriously. Israel could easily take on all of the other countries in the middle east and win, handily. Have no worries about that situation.

John Scalzi | July 15, 2006 01:49 PM

Bill Marcy:

"Israel could easily take on all of the other countries in the middle east and win, handily."

I have no illusions regarding the effectiveness of the IDF, I assure you. I just wonder if trying to get the US involved was part of a strategy.

Emily | July 15, 2006 01:54 PM

Mennonites, you say? Yes, you did get at least one person to sit up and take notice with that line. :) Of course, I need to read your other books before this one comes out. My excuse is that my local library doesn't have OMW. It has a copy of "Agent to the Stars", but no "Old Man's War". (Strangest sci-fi/fantasy collection; numerous special editions and autographed copies, but tons of holes in "normal" stuff)

Cathy | July 15, 2006 02:20 PM

Nancy Perl is a librarian who has her own action figure. She's famous in the library community for doing reader's advisory (which is the fine art of helping people find interesting books to read, as opposed to just answering questions, which is much easier.)

She's a big deal in my world, congratulations!

Mary Kay | July 15, 2006 03:23 PM

And Nancy Pearl hails from Seattle! Which is also one of the readingest cities in the nation. (Ya gotta do something during all that rain.)

MKK== who, yes, lives in Seattle

CoolBlue | July 15, 2006 06:12 PM

John Scalzi

I just wonder if trying to get the US involved was part of a strategy.

I personally believe that is the case.

But part of the Iranian President's messianic vision, I believe, was to draw other ME countires, like Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, to take up Hezbollah's cause and create one big mother of an apocalypse.

And that just ain't happenin'.

Sure there's still time, but it must be making Iran and Syria very nervous to know they are systematically being surrounded with nobody attacking the enemy's flanks.

Look at it: Syria now sits with Israel on one side and the US on the other. Iran has the US (and other coalition forces) on either side.

Not a strong military position to be in.

John H | July 15, 2006 07:03 PM

CoolBlue

Syria now sits with Israel on one side and the US on the other. Iran has the US (and other coalition forces) on either side.

Except, the U.S. military is in no position to start invading either country. We are bogged down in Iraq and losing ground in Afghanistan. Yes, we could pack our shit up and go invade one or the other. But we won't be doing that anytime soon.

Bill Marcy

they are very close to their dream of offensive nuclear technology

Not exactly. I've heard it said that the amount of uranium they have been able to enrich would be enough to make a glow-in-the-dark wristwatch. And that it would take them about ten years to have enough material to make one working bomb.

cisko | July 15, 2006 07:05 PM

Ha, I'm leaving in 10 minutes or so to go have dinner with friends who happen to be Mennonites.

Man, those Mennonites can drink.

CoolBlue | July 15, 2006 07:19 PM

John H

Except, the U.S. military is in no position to start invading either country. We are bogged down in Iraq and losing ground in Afghanistan.

Invasion isn't required. Assad's regume is in a precarious position to begin with. A reduction of it's security forces by only 10% would likely bring the regime down. And you don't need a ground force to accomplish that.

Also, the simple act of bombing Syria's runways and roads would effectively cut it off from income and supplies. Already Israel has impacted this by blockading Lebanon's ports where Syria gets most of its products in and out of country.

Just the fact that the US is where it is means that both Syria and Iran's supply lines can be interdicted at will while our supply lines are short and can not be interdicted by Syria and Iran. And that's what war is really all about; supply. This while scenario would be completely different if we were not already sey up in the area with secure logisitcs.

We've had this ability for a very long time. Like since the fall of Saddam, and we have never taken advantage of it. But that could change in an instant.

Jon H | July 15, 2006 09:25 PM

The Nancy Pearl action figure is here.

Jon Marcus | July 15, 2006 09:39 PM

Cool Blue

Our supply lines can't be interdicted by Iran? Iran likely has launchers all along the Persian gulf. They could play hell with our supply lines, not to mention any oil tankers trying to get through.

Not to mention that Iraq is not exactly a secure base for us to be operating from.

Finally, let's say you're absolutely right, and we can do the regime change in Syria. Then what?

Bill Marcy
Six to nine months until Iran has nukes? Got anything to back up that claim? The soonest estimates I've seen are about 3 years, ranging up to 15.

Jude | July 15, 2006 09:52 PM

Every librarian I know owns a Nancy Pearl action figure: http://www.mcphee.com/laf/

She also has an American Libraries Association poster: http://www.alastore.ala.org/SiteSolution.taf?_sn=catalog&_pn=product_detail&_op=1297

I'm glad she liked your book.

Harry Connolly | July 15, 2006 10:16 PM

She's also the author of Book Lust.

Nancy Pearl! Man, that's incredibly cool. I saw her name and skipped the rest of your post. I have a Nancy Pearl action figure on my fridge, although the shhhing action doesn't work as well as it used to.

Reading the rest of your post now.

Cassie | July 15, 2006 10:29 PM

You don't listen to NPR? Here I had you pegged as a regular listener.

Bobarino | July 15, 2006 10:32 PM

Finally, let's say you're absolutely right, and we can do the regime change in Syria. Then what?

This is the Bush Administration we're talking about; they don't do "then what."

John Scalzi | July 15, 2006 10:41 PM

Cassie:

"You don't listen to NPR? Here I had you pegged as a regular listener."

Nah. I like my radio to have music on it.

Anne C. | July 15, 2006 11:15 PM

As one from good ol' Mennonite stock, I look forward to seeing them in TLC.

Harvey | July 16, 2006 02:19 AM

John, did you know that during WWII that the Mennonite were the Medics and the ones who were the Mental Health hospitals replacement staff?

John Scalzi | July 16, 2006 02:35 AM

In fact, I did. Lots of Mennonites in the WWII civil service as well.

CoolBlue | July 16, 2006 08:30 AM

John H

Our supply lines can't be interdicted by Iran? Iran likely has launchers all along the Persian gulf. They could play hell with our supply lines, not to mention any oil tankers trying to get through.

They likely do. But we have air superiority in the region and while they would likely be able to do some damage, it would be disproportionate in the extreme.

Not to mention that Iraq is not exactly a secure base for us to be operating from.

From a military standpoint, it is quite secure. The attacks of the "insurgents" are not militarily significant. They simply are not a militarily significant force.

Finally, let's say you're absolutely right, and we can do the regime change in Syria. Then what?

Ah. There's the rub.

Implicit in your comment though is the assumption that there is a "then what". For most other nations on Earth, this is not part of the calculus. But you are right, it is for us.

But there are a number of things going on here: First is that we are not likely to get involved unless it comes to pass that other nations in the ME join in.

That's looking unlikely at the moment.

Second, Israel may very well bring down the Assad regime because they have stated that they will not stop until Hezbollah is militarily insignificant. That may very well include Syria. It has to include Syria in some way. Those rockets Hezbollah are firing came from somewhere and everybody knows where. You can not get rid of Hezbollah permanantly without doing something about either Syria or Iran.

And if they indirectly bring down Assad. The UN may feel they have to step in as a peacekeeping entity with political advisors.

But the situation in play is way too complex for me to analyze. Who knows what things will look like there a year from now.

But I'm pretty sure of a few things: One is that Israel is intent on seriously kicking Hezbollah's ass along with Hamas. I'm pretty sure they will succeed.

And despite their bluster, I think that if Israel attacks inside Syria, our presence in Iraq and Afghanistan will mitigate Iran's response especially if it's clear that Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia won't support them.

So the question truly is, at least with regards to Syria: What then?

I don't know enough about the latent political forces within the country to be able to guess as to what will emerge.

KL | July 16, 2006 02:27 PM

"The purpose of marriage"?

I'm interested to see where Benedict is going with this.

Jon H | July 16, 2006 04:39 PM

CoolBlue writes: "Assad's regume is in a precarious position to begin with. A reduction of it's security forces by only 10% would likely bring the regime down. And you don't need a ground force to accomplish that."

Yeah, they said that about Saddam too, all through the 1990s.

I doubt your estimation is any closer to reality.

The real world isn't as easy as a hawk's pipe dreams.

Josh Jasper | July 16, 2006 07:42 PM

Oh christ. The marriage thread attracted the usual gang of bigots.

I wonder if they're stalking Mythago. I wouldn't doubt it.

John Scalzi | July 16, 2006 07:52 PM

I suspect Mythago can handle herself. And anyway, they're amusing, in that "let me impress you with my pretzel logic" sort of way.

Josh Jasper | July 16, 2006 11:24 PM

'Handling' ones self around trolls like that involves not feeeding them.

John Scalzi | July 16, 2006 11:41 PM

No, no. You taunt them to see them dance like monkeys. What's really cool is when they think they're actually in charge of the conversation. That's fun.

Haplo Peart | July 17, 2006 10:59 AM

Its wonderful to see that your books are getting good plugs from so many people.

If only people could buy them!

I am sad to report that for the last 6 weeks or so I have seen nary a copy of either Old man's war or Ghost Brigades at the Barnes and Noble or Borders stores in my area.

This by the way is 5 BN and 3 Borders stores in the area of Worcester, MA and Framingham, MA.

CoolBlue | July 17, 2006 12:28 PM

I am sad to report that for the last 6 weeks or so I have seen nary a copy of either Old man's war or Ghost Brigades at the Barnes and Noble or Borders stores in my area.

I saw the Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Movies at my local B&N this weekend.

--Frank

John Scalzi | July 17, 2006 12:31 PM

Oddly enough, I saw my SF movie book at my local bookstore, which was a first. Made me happy.

Haplo, from what I understand TGB is selling fairly briskly. I do believe they are doing another printing of it, so it may show up yet.

Haplo Peart | July 17, 2006 04:05 PM

I've read them, but I keep telling friends about them, and they come back saying...nope not there, book must not exist. Sad really geeks who are so privacy freaked that they won't order from Amazon!

Anyway just doing my part hope the stores get somemore soon.

John H | July 17, 2006 04:54 PM

Haplo: You could always act as a go-between for them - they pay you up-front and you order from Amazon. You would probably even qualify for free shipping that way...

Tammy | July 17, 2006 06:23 PM

Hey John! I just finished Old Man's War. Yea, I'm behind. I loved it! Starting The Ghost Brigades. Can't wait for more so hurry up!

Jon Marcus | July 19, 2006 02:13 PM

Cool Blue

Sorry for the delayed response. I missed your post.

Re Persian Gulf: Yes, we have air superiority over Iran. And Israel has even more complete air superiority over Hezbollah. That didn't protect their ship from a single Silkworm. Now imagine hundreds of missiles (including dozens of Silkworms) launched from hidden positions along the Persian Gulf. Or imagine just a few sinking a tanker or two in the Straits of Hormuz. Air superiority would be fairly useless.

Re Iraq as base: Insurgent attacks are *currently* insignificant against US forces. That's because US forces operate out of secure bases, venturing out to make patrols in strength. Out of those bases and stretched across hundreds of miles, supply lines become vulnerable to those "insignificant" insurgents. (Ask Jessica Lynch about that...) And you've just made a large reduction in our forces in Iraq (sending them off to the next war), while attacking a Shiite regime. What do you suppose happens to our efforts there. Iraq is already losing a 9/11's worth of civilians every month. Look at what's happening in Afghanistan when we jumped to Iraq. Maybe ADHD isn't the best model for military policy?

I'm less sure than you are about Israel kicking Hezbollah's ass. They gave it a good shot last time they were in Lebanon, and here we are again. I guess it depends on how you define ass-kicking. If they intend to destroy ammo supplies to limit the number of rockets and missiles flying at Israel, that may be doable. But much more than that seems unlikely, if history is any indication.

And I'd also argue that considering consequences of overthrowing a regime is more a necessity than a moral strength. I suppose we could just choose to blow everything to bits and go home. But Israel sure can't. They'll have to live next door to whatever remains. Failed states make pretty awful neighbors.

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