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December 23, 2006

On the New York Times Sunday Book Review Piece

The New York Times Sunday Book Review piece on me and my books is now up, so I thought I'd make a few comments on it:

1. As to your first question of how do I feel about it: oh, come on. I just had a full page devoted to me in the New York Times Sunday Book Review. This is the part where I hop, jump and skip. And I think the piece itself was thoughtful and interesting to read; I'm particularly pleased Dave Itzkoff liked The Ghost Brigades more than Old Man's War, because I think TGB is the better-written book, myself. So, yeah, I'm delighted with the piece; I'd be an idiot not to be.

2. I'm sad Itzkoff didn't like The Android's Dream at all, but, you know. If you write a book that starts off with a chapter-long fart joke, you go in knowing not everyone's going to follow where you lead. I'm not going to fault Itzkoff for deciding that it's not his thing. That said, I find it amusing that all the things about the book Itzkoff describes as bugs (the fart jokes, the digressions, the informal style, etc) are the things I would describe as features, because that's the kind of book it is. I've openly called it my "popcorn movie" book -- i.e., lots of actions and explosions and kiss kiss bang bang (as Pauline Kael would say). I suspect Itzkoff may have been expecting something else; he was expecting steak and got a chocolate eclair. And while that eclair might be tasty, if you're wanting steak, you're gonna be disappointed. The good news is he's got more steak coming in 2007, in the form of The Last Colony.

As for Android, the book has its admirers ("His best book yet" -- Entertainment Weekly) and Tor tells me it's selling pretty damn well. And I'll be writing a sequel. Mmmm... more eclair.

3. Am I taking a potshot at Robert Heinlein, as Itzkoff suggests I am in The Ghost Brigades, when I have the Special Forces note that unpacking the philosophical concepts in Starship Troopers takes a lot of effort? Not really. The fuller context has the soldiers also enjoying the Starship Troopers movie more than the book, even though they recognize it's dumber. This is an inside pitch to science fiction fandom, whose general opinion of the movie is that it's a travesty and betrayal of the book. Having people who are for all intents and purposes actual "starship troopers" enjoy the film more is a friendly fannish nose tweak. At conventions I've had fans come up to me, note that particular passage and say, "Dude, that's cold," which of course amuses me greatly. Yes. Yes, it is cold.

Fans seem to enjoy the "Ho, Ender" joke, too, which is hard nearby in the text. Indeed, the whole section in which the Special Forces look at all the "old" science fiction is basically a chunk of fan service, even as it serves the more serious purpose of letting the Special Forces understand where "people like them" fit into the cultural imagination of humanity, a point which has implications for the main character Jared Dirac later in the book. Just because you're doing serious plot work doesn't mean you can't have fun with it.

So no, I'm not actually whacking on Heinlein. However, that part where I give the Special Forces a wish death on the Ewoks? That's all me, baby.

4. Itzkoff appears to have the feeling that I'm straddling the fence politically in my work, walking down the middle to avoid offending one side or the other, and hopes that in The Last Colony that I will "articulate a firm position on the political issues that will inevitably define [his] historical moment, [and] take a stance that considerate readers might potentially disagree with." Heh. My thought about this is that Itzkoff needs to read Nicholas Whyte's delightfully excoriating take on Old Man's War; clearly, considerate readers disagree with me already.

I understand where Itzkoff is coming from, but if I'm reading him correctly, I going to have to disagree with him about the need to change my rhetorical tactics. I think they're working fine; I just don't think they're the usual tactics. To explain this I'm going to have to geek out here, so buckle in.

Ready? Here we go: To the extent that one decides to get into politics in one's science fictional work -- and the question of whether this is a good idea at all is a discussion so immense and knotty and exhausting that I'm not even going to bother with it at the moment -- there are primarily two ways to go about it: You can build a monument or you can build a room (yes, these are metaphors. Work with me). If you build a monument, what you're doing is putting your politics and polemics in the center of your reader's attention and basically making him or her deal with them on your terms. The politics aren't accessible and aren't debatable; as a reader you deal with them or you don't.

If you build a room, what you're doing is inviting people in -- with all their baggage, political or otherwise -- and inviting them to unpack and stay awhile. And they unpack, putting all their stuff on the shelves and tables and walls and floors, all of which (to stretch the metaphor to its absolute breaking point) are your underlying political and social views. As a writer, you make the points you want to make, and because you've let your readers bring something into the book as well, I think you've got a better chance of them being receptive to your points.

I think monument-making is fine, if you've got a taste for it. Lord knows there are a lot of monument builders in science fiction, and have been since the early days of the genre. I think I'm a room-builder. I want people to come into the rooms I make and figure out how they best fit into them and can make them their own. I'm happy to let them bring in their own world view; everyone likes a room better once they've put in their own homey touches. But, you know. I'm still the architect.

Working this way suits me because to the extent I want to make political points, they don't really track to the current iteration of "right" and "left," and even if they did, the way I've designed my universe, today's right-left politics have as much relevance to it as, say, the minutiae of the political gamesmanship surrounding the Prime Ministership of William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire, have to do with life in the contemporary USA. Now, the political points I want to make in this universe will happily fit into this real-world historical moment, I think (I suspect this will particularly be the case with The Last Colony). But they'll do so in ways appropriate to the universe I've built up. Likewise I'll be happy to let the readers discover these points as they come across them in the text. This sort of room-building strategy is arguably not as immediately impressive as building a monument; on the other hand a monument is not necessarily a comfortable place in which to live. I want my readers to live in my universes for a good long while.

Geeking out done now. And to get back to the NYT Sunday Book Review piece: Fun stuff, discussed in one of literature's big venues. You bet I'm happy.

Posted by john at December 23, 2006 04:14 AM

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Comments

A.R.Yngve | December 23, 2006 04:24 AM

Congrats! :)

But... careful now, for what Itzkoff may be trying to coax out of you is to simply "choose sides" -- i.e. allow your work to be "appropriated" for political purposes and agendas.

"Build a monument or room" is a great metaphor. I will keep it mind.

Merry Xmas!

Scott Hughes | December 23, 2006 05:07 AM

Congratulation on having a page dedicated to you in the New York Times Sunday Book Review! It was an interesting article too.

Thanks,
Scott Hughes
Books & Reading Forums

Lis Carey | December 23, 2006 07:15 AM

Yeah, what Itzkoff is saying is that you can't be writing Real Literature unless you're a polemicist--and that's just so wrong, on so many levels, I don't know where to begin.

While it's true that writing that has nothing to say tends not to have lasting value, it is sadly true that few things are guaranteed to make a book unreadable except to those who already agree, lock, stock, & barrel, or to give it a very short lifetime, than the writer presenting his story in such a way that the reader must subscribe to his political philosophy in order to go along with the story.

Early Heinlein lets the reader in, and lets ideas flow out of the characters and the story. Starship Troopers would have been unreadable in any lesser writer's hands, and even from Heinlein, it has some challenges.

David Weber puts his politics on parade, in the Honor Harrington books, and while the early ones have some entertainment value, more of the cheese puffs than the popcorn variety (popcorn has some nutritional value), they're not worth shelf space, and I've stopped reading the series.

We're still arguing about Starship Troopers, nearly half a century later, because there's enough story and enough character that we care about the philosophical underpinnings that guide the characters' choices, and the society they live in.

Keep doing what you're doing. Please! :)

Chang, who gets nothing done... | December 23, 2006 07:24 AM

Good on ya, Scalzicce!!!

You're right it's an honor and a major achievement to have a whole page devoted to your work in the NYTBR. All in all it's a pretty even and fair review.

If he didn't like TAD's fart joke as first chapter, what kind of fun is this guy at parties? Sheesh. I think from what you;ve saiid you wanted to do, TAD does.

Again, congratulations!

Chang, who gets nothing done... | December 23, 2006 07:32 AM

Scalzi: My thought about this is that Itzkoff needs to read Nicholas Whyte's delightfully excoriating take on Old Man's War; clearly, considerate readers disagree with me already.

Oh, that was a good one. I remember that. Good times, good times.

Cassie | December 23, 2006 09:13 AM

A thoughtful review of your work, John. I wish he'd included Agent To The Stars. It's my favorite of your books.

I agree with him on TGB being a better book.

Jay Lake | December 23, 2006 10:25 AM

Man, that is some truly awesome coverage. Good for you.

Sarah Monette | December 23, 2006 11:56 AM

You. Are. The. Man.

sxKitten | December 23, 2006 12:01 PM

Congratulations!

I have a question, though - I try to be considerate as often as possible. Does that mean I have to disagree with you? Or is it optional?

I really like your room/monument analogy, although I'm so politically oblivious that I can spend hours admiring your paint scheme/decorative gargoyles and completely miss the underlying message.

David Louis Edelman | December 23, 2006 12:06 PM

Awesome, awesome, awesome that you got such exposure from this... but it would've been awesomer if Itzkoff could string together a coherent review. It's one of those typical irritating NYT book pieces: lots of meandering summary, a few potshots, and very little in the way of conclusion.

Brent Michael Krupp | December 23, 2006 12:27 PM

I guess there's no such thing as bad publicity but that reviewer is an idiot. He's the classic fool that pans a book because the author didn't write the book that the critic wanted to read. Worse, he makes the stupid mistake of criticizing you because your latest book doesn't follow the imaginary career path he's dreamed up and so now you're a failure or something in his mind.


In any case, super-duper congratulations for the publicity. I love all your books and anything (even that dopey reviewer) that brings them to a wider audience is just wonderful!

CJ-in-Weld | December 23, 2006 12:39 PM

I haven't read The Android’s Dream yet, so I can't fairly have an opinion on the book itself, outside my reasonable expectation based on others of your works, BUT I have a little trouble with Itzkoff's review anyway.

First: I recognize that opinions differ on Starship Troopers, and Itzkoff is certainly entitled to his. However, I don't think it's fair to say ST "has not aged well"—my understanding is, that novel has always been polarizing, from the instant his then-publisher refused it as a juvenile novel.

Second: I have trouble taking seriously anyone who calls The Cat Who Walks Through Walls one of "the old master’s classic novels". It was one Heinlein's second-to-last (I think) and not one of his "classics"; frankly, it was fairly weak, lacking even the "that's kind of cool" value that To Sail Beyond the Sunset had, of looking self-referentially at the author's older works through a modern lens. Anyone whose opinion of Heinlein is formed entirely of "Stranger" and "Cat" would have a pretty distorted view of Heinlein, I think.

I don't know much about Itzkoff, but I have to wonder: is he faking SF street cred here?

Andrew Cory | December 23, 2006 12:40 PM

I think some of your politics are more than a bit evident from the text. For instance: in the Old Man’s War universe, you’ve got a military which is naturally co-ed. It’s unthinkingly co-ed. You’d have to sit down with the characters and explain why there might be another way to do things.
Even so, they may not get it...

Also, in Android’s dream: You’ve got a pair of characters Sam, and (um, I forget the other one’s name). You’re very careful not to reveal Sam’s gender, which means we don’t know if the characters are gay or not. The point you’re making is that it doesn’t matter in the slightest whether or not people are gay, they’re still human. It’s a subtle point, but that’s probably the best way to go about it...
This assumes that you didn’t Genderize Sam between the ARC and the publication of the book...

So, you’ve picked a side. You’re for equal rights among humans. Sadly there really isn’t a modern political party which is entirely consistent on this matter. Obviously I think one side comes closer than the other...

Lis:
Weber seems to have swung a bit leftward after the McVeigh incident. And it is impossible to read War of Honor as anything other than a repudiation of the Bush administration. If you’ve not read the most recent one (At all Costs), it’s a return to the Space Opera romp I’ve come to love. Also: he’s letting Eric Flint run around his universe now. Crown of Slaves is an excellent book that has almost 0 technical discussion...

Tripp | December 23, 2006 01:22 PM

Personally I thought the Dirac comment about 'Starship Troopers' being essentially too 'philosophical was more a statement on Dirac's intellect and not a condemnation of Starship Troopers or Heinlein.

Tim Pratt | December 23, 2006 01:36 PM

Congrats, Scalzi! That's some awesome coverage.

Lisa | December 23, 2006 01:40 PM

Mega-awesome!!! Congratulations! Make sure you get at least one copy to mat & frame!!!

LOL! By now, you've probably got an order in for multiple copies!

Christian | December 23, 2006 01:48 PM

Excellent John - you deserve every last drop of good PR that's coming to you!

Harry Connolly | December 23, 2006 02:33 PM

John, that's awesome. Congratulations on the coverage you're getting.

But is that drawing supposed to be you or one of The Penguin's henchmen?

Jeff Hentosz | December 23, 2006 02:34 PM

OMW movie rights offer by Jan. 15. del Toro directing Eva Green (no pun intended) as Jane Sagan. No preference for either Perry, but it would be fun to see Gene Wilder as old Alan Rosenthal. Premieres July 1, 2009.

What? I got five bucks on it in the pool.

David Blumgart | December 23, 2006 04:22 PM

As others have noted, it's a pity the Times didn't assign a more intelligent and perceptive reviewer. Not necessarily a friendlier one, mind you, but one who could have brought something to the conversation other than he thought your novel should have had more of the politics he approves of. Phui. Talk about missing the point....

The fact is that you specifically, and science fiction in general, are only going get so much coverage in America's paper of record, and it would have been nice to not have the opportunity wasted by a dullard.

If you haven't already, you really should read Paul Fussell's essay on being reviewed, which, I believe, is helpfully titled "On Being Reviewed" (in The Boy Scout Handbook and Other Observations. I think.) It's great fun, and also useful for any writer. And among the points he makes is that the length of a prominant review is far more important than how favorable it is. In six months all anyone will remember is that you got the better part of a page in the Sunday Times Book section.

John Scalzi | December 23, 2006 04:27 PM

David Blumgart:

"In six months all anyone will remember is that you got the better part of a page in the Sunday Times Book section."

The better part? I got the whole page! Well, I guess I did sort of share it with Bob Heinlein. There are worse people to share a page with.

I generally handle reviews very well, I think, regardless of their skew. Part of the reason for that is that I've been a professional critic and reviewer for most of 15 years. I know how this all works.

David Blumgart | December 23, 2006 05:12 PM

Sorry, sorry, just saw the online verstion. But I do absolutely recommend the Fussell essay, even if you're well past needing its vocational advice. YMMV, of course, and here you can get a sense of his critical voice (particulary his hatred of cant - something I suspect you share) and style and whether it's to your taste:

http://www.ux1.eiu.edu/~cfib/courses/Fussell.pdf

and here

http://www.slate.com/id/114810/

CaseyL | December 23, 2006 05:56 PM

Just popping in to add my "Way to go!" to the rest.

I get the Sunday Times, and eagerly look forward to reading the review while nestled in my Official Sunday Times comfy chair, with my Official Sunday Times cuppa in hand. ("Reading the Sunday Times" is a prolonged ritual, since I get both the local and the NYT, lasting many cuppas and ending with the area around the comfy chair ankle-deep in newspaper.)

mythago | December 23, 2006 05:57 PM

It is a nice review but....

there is still a position less commendable than having dangerous ideas, and that is having no position at all

WTF? This line was spoken as a defense of some of Heinlein's dumber philosophy, which the reviewer himself just got done savaging; then apparently feels compelled to defend by grumping that at LEAST he had SOME opinion. Whatever.

htom | December 23, 2006 06:20 PM

I have never, ever, understood the "Starship Troopers is fascist" meme. I have become convinced that those who spout it, heard it before they read the book, and it somehow destroyed their reading comprehension.

Congratulations on your coverage; you deserve the space, and a better reviewer.

Sarah Monette | December 23, 2006 07:37 PM

Hey, John, if you're interested, a tangential thought here:
http://truepenny.livejournal.com/482813.html

John Scalzi | December 23, 2006 09:06 PM

Thanks, Sarah. Very interesting. And as it happens, "Calvinball" almost precisely describes my writing style.

Andrew Wheeler | December 23, 2006 09:35 PM

As I recall, Itzkoff's initial column (where he berated the wonderful Counting Heads by David Marusek for being "geeky") shot that book up the Amazon sales ranking the next day -- there's nothing like a free full-page about your book in the Times even if the reviewer doesn't get it.

Along those lines, I've been picking on ol' Dave Itzkoff from the beginning, and I posted today about his review of Android's Dream, which I thought was wrong-headed in more ways than usual. (I sure hope it increases your sales, though -- maybe we can get him to pick on Peter Watts's Blindsight next? He'd never get that book.)

John Scalzi | December 23, 2006 09:44 PM

Andrew Wheeler:

"As I recall, Itzkoff's initial column (where he berated the wonderful Counting Heads by David Marusek for being 'geeky') shot that book up the Amazon sales ranking the next day -- there's nothing like a free full-page about your book in the Times even if the reviewer doesn't get it."

Well, I wouldn't mind a sales boost, although the day after for me is Christmas Day, and people may be otherwise occupied. However, yes, things like this are good for keeping top of mind.

Josh Jasper | December 24, 2006 07:56 AM

John, it's been the general opinion of every pro / semi pro S&SF reviewer and critict I've met that Itzkoff is a potificating twit who's only job qualifications are that he's close to the Salon.com style for reviewing.

I mean, he talks *around* the political philosophy in Starship Toopers without *actually* describing it, and it's one of the most contentious subjects in the history of SF.

A better sign of his lack of deep knowledge of the genre need not be given.

Am I taking a potshot at Robert Heinlein, as Itzkoff suggests I am in The Ghost Brigades, when I have the Special Forces note that unpacking the philosophical concepts in Starship Troopers takes a lot of effort?

It was too much effort for Itzkoff.

Lis Carey | December 24, 2006 09:45 AM

Weber seems to have swung a bit leftward after the McVeigh incident. And it is impossible to read War of Honor as anything other than a repudiation of the Bush administration. If you’ve not read the most recent one (At all Costs), it’s a return to the Space Opera romp I’ve come to love.

That's interesting to hear, Andrew. Thanks for the tip. I'll have to take a look--especially if the latest one is proper Space Opera romp!

The thing is, though, if the politics are too heavy-handed, it doesn't much matter if they're politics I agree with or disagree with. Although I suspect that my definition of "too heavy-handed" varies at least a bit, depending on how strongly I agree or disagree.:)

But on the main topic here, yes, it's too bad the review wasn't more intelligent, but, hey, a review in the NY Times Sunday Book Review! That can't be bad!

Jody the Librarian | December 24, 2006 11:35 AM

As a librarian who relies on heavily on reviews to make purchases for my collection, Whee! The NYT is one of our major sources and now other librarians and members of the public will discover you! As a former English major, I also appreciate your metaphor about building a room. I definitely feel like I move into your universes easily, and happily focus on the facets that make me think harder, whether I agree or disagree. Cheers, John.

Cathy | December 24, 2006 11:49 AM

Having now read the review, I have to say, what's with the obsession about your politics? Should this have been cross-posted to The Week in Review as well? I found his inability to actually deal with the books themselves a bit annoying as well as his demand that every book be like the last one, therefore dismissing TAD because it didn't fit in the right box. Back to Christmas prep, have a happy one!

The Monster | December 24, 2006 01:25 PM

How Itzkoff can describe Heinlein's idea of Federal Service as a prerequisite for the franchise as 'dangerous' escapes me.

One of the things I loved about the great SF writers I grew up on (Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke) was that they explored how technology influences societies. In The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, the severe gender imbalance of the Lunar population causes novel family forms to spring up. In Starship Troopers, civilian control of the military leads to the latter feeling mistreated, then effectively to coups d'etat worldwide. Given the historical frequency of similar events on a smaller scale, I don't find the scenario at all farfetched.

If the idea of limiting the franchise to those who have completed a term of service is so repugnant, then the book could be seen as a challenge to make sure that the conditions that give rise to a junta do not come about.


Your warriors earn a different prize from their service; superhuman bodies and estates on the colonial worlds. Again, history is replete with examples of noblemen being awarded land, and the legal monopoly on the use of certain arms (the Middle Ages equivalent of personal enhancement technology), in exchange for military service.


It has often been said that those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat its mistakes. That is equally true of 'future history'. My grandchildren may have to deal with things far worse than having to earn some benefit from service, because of ignorant people not even being willing to contemplate something they find distasteful.


Thanks for giving us something to think about. We need as much of that as we can get.

Josh Jasper | December 24, 2006 03:31 PM

My main objection the 'service buys franchise' concept is that it makes the military industrial complex even more of a potential money drain than it already is. It has the potential to create situations in which one's graduation from the service is (in an unspoken sense) contingent on one's political ideology. Imagine getting fluned out of the military and denied the franchise because of some political ideology that one espoused before the service.

Heinlein's movers and shakers (and Rand's coincidentely) are not greedy rat bastards who'd rather lie than work for a day. People who seek politcal power frequently are greedy rat bastards.

It's possible that Heinlen's system could lend its self to abuse. As any system can. Rand's endgame in Atlas Shrugged is absurd. The world of Snow Crash is more likley, from a cynic's point of view.

But the thing about Heinlen is tha the leaves the political system *unmapped*. So who knows. perhaps it's even better designed and foolproff (or rat bastard proof) than what we've got now in the USA. No one will ever know.

Ron Hogan | December 24, 2006 08:24 PM

"How Itzkoff can describe Heinlein's idea of Federal Service as a prerequisite for the franchise as 'dangerous' escapes me."

Especially since, although Troopers clearly privileges the military options, there's at least some vague sense that at its broadest levels Federal Service could include Americorps-type jobs as well as military ones. Well, Americorps as re-imagined by the Army Corps of Engineering, perhaps.

Brent Michael Krupp | December 24, 2006 09:10 PM

Regarding Ron Hogan's comment above, there is quite a bit to say about the degree to which that is true. Visit http://www.nitrosyncretic.com/rah/ftp/fedrlsvc.pdf and read a very thoughtful 11 page essay on the subject.

Stealing just the concluding sentence: "By the text of the novel, Federal Service is entirely military in nature. But if any reader chooses to
take Heinlein’s separate comment as evidence of his intent to make Federal Service ninety-five percent
“civil service,” they will get no argument from me."

Ron Hogan | December 24, 2006 10:51 PM

Great essay--and, yeah, what I had in mind with that "Americorps as re-imagined by the Army Corps of Engineering" line was a very specific type of non-combat but also non-bureaucratic (since Juan is told that civilians are behind nearly every desk) job, based largely on an inference that the "make-work" positions mentioned during the recruitment speech wouldn't ALL be drudge work, but could also be designed with some sort of social utility in mind.

Josh Jasper | December 25, 2006 10:20 PM

Especially since, although Troopers clearly privileges the military options

Not really, that was just the books focus. As I said, the politics is lagley unmapped. It's stated that there are research stations, etc...

For all we know, there's a Ballet Corps. It's just not gone into.

Andrew Kantor | December 26, 2006 09:32 AM

Long time reader, first time writer (I always wanted to say that).

Not that anyone cares, but my issue with Android's Dream -- something Itzkoff didn't touch on -- was the huge number of gods in that machine. The Nidu rules of succession got so specific and so convoluted that it finally crossed the line from being something the characters worked with, to something that worked with the characters.

"But wait! If the Sheep doesn't walk on two feet with five toes on the left side of the carpet that has to be a particular shade of green -- and did we mention the Nidu were color blind? -- then the choice of new Fehen goes to whomever is sitting in the fourth seat in the third row, and we have taken great pains to make sure one of our people is there."

Or something like that. :)

Meantime, of course, Old Man's War and Ghost Brigades kicked butt similar to the way Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead did -- same universe, completely different stories.

And (since I'm here), I was ticked at the Times piece. Now everyone's gonna know about this Scalzi guy and I won't be able to introduce folks to him. "Oh, yeah, the guy in the Times." Feh.

John Scalzi | December 26, 2006 09:50 AM

Andrew Kantor:

"Not that anyone cares, but my issue with Android's Dream -- something Itzkoff didn't touch on -- was the huge number of gods in that machine."

The irony there being that this particular coronation ceremony was noted in the book as being exceptionally streamlined because it only required a sheep, as opposed to various and sundry (and easily forgettable) incantations and motions as previous coronation ceremonies required. It's certainly less convoluted than the coronation ceremonies of monarchs here on earth, that's for sure.

I think a lot depends on what you're willing to buy and what you're not. You note that OMW didn't seem to have too many gods out of the machine, but I've noted in some criticisms people thought it was oddly convenient that John Perry met who he did when his troop transport cracked up over Coral.

One of my jobs as a writer is to distract the audience from the implausibilities with the lights and the mirrors and such. But ultimately you never know where everyone is looking. C'est la vie.

Bob Metcalfe | December 27, 2006 05:14 PM

I enjoyed your book largely because of the idea contained in it, that is using old people to fight wars. It would make sense even today, even on earth. If there were politics in it did I didn't notice. I read Starship Troopers when it first came out, and I wouldn't have known a fascist from a hole in the ground. Your column prompted me to do some research on the Internet. I still don't think he's fascist, militaristic yes. I think what upsets me is that some science-fiction writers today use their work to promote ideas rather than speculate about them. John Ringo's Into the Looking Glass is an example that offended me so much I wrote a review of it for Amazon, something I hadn't done before. I don't know if this is a monument in your terms, but it is awful writing. I have always thought that science-fiction's main job was speculation about the future, and on the whole I think science-fiction writers have done a better job than futurists. But the politics should be incidental not central.

Andy Freeman | January 10, 2007 11:03 AM

> The fuller context has the soldiers also enjoying the Starship Troopers movie more than the book, even though they recognize it's dumber.

The movie also has boobs, which many male soldiers like.

Carl V. | January 10, 2007 11:13 PM

Coming into the game pretty late, but great review in the Times article, even if I, like many of your fans, disagreed with much of it. Yours was a very intelligent, gracious 'rebuttal', if that is the word for it. I honestly have enjoyed each book better than the last and having just devoured The Android's Dream (with a bit of mint jelly) I am excited about the Sagan Diary and The Last Colony.