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May 15, 2007

So We're Clear On This: No Mob Scenes

The relative wisdom of me noting that Amazon review yesterday is discussed here; naturally I am also taking part in the discussion.

One of the more interesting points in the discussion is the idea that by noting the review on Whatever, I am implicitly hinting to you, the loyal Whatever readers, that you need to berate and abuse this fellow for the temerity of not thinking I (or my work) am super-mega-ultra-wonderful in all respects; and commensurately, that all y'all are just champing at the bit to rain down derision on any one at whom I crook my finger. The reason this is suggest is, because, well, there are lots of other sites where this dynamic is indeed in play.

My general feeling is that Whatever readers are both smart enough to know that when I write on something here that what I don't expect is a monotonous chorus of yes-folk in the comment threads, and savvy enough to in the ways of Scalzi that they would know that I would find a mad insensate rush to pummel and castigate someone I discussing to be in poor taste. I base this general feeling on the fact that Whatever readers are typically made of awesome, and are also real live grown-ups who don't act like idjits. But just in case there are stragglers on these particular points, allow me to note the following:

1. Any assumption that I want all y'all to be yes-folk to every damn fool thing I say is wildly incorrect, and suggests you've not really been paying attention;

2. Acting like a dick to someone, on the Whatever or off it, because you think I would want you to, would in actuality make me a sad little clown. Please, don't make me a sad little clown. I hate the costume and the facepaint gives me hives.

I trust this makes things sufficiently clear.

Posted by john at May 15, 2007 12:13 PM

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Carol Elaine | May 15, 2007 12:22 PM

Being a sad little clown is better than being a sad panda. Those costumes are excruciatingly hot, especially as summer approaches.

Phillip J. Birmingham | May 15, 2007 12:26 PM

1. Any assumption that I want all y'all to be yes-folk to every damn fool thing I say is wildly incorrect, and suggests you've not really been paying attention

Right you are, sir! Couldn't have said it better myself!

(Well, someone had to do it.)

hugh57 | May 15, 2007 12:34 PM

Any assumption that I want all y'all to be yes-folk to every damn fool thing I say is wildly incorrect, and suggests you've not really been paying attention;

I thought you said you wanted groupies? ;-)

RooK | May 15, 2007 12:39 PM

Personally, I'd rather be Jenn Reese's groupie.

John Scalzi | May 15, 2007 12:40 PM

I'm willing to part with you, RooK, for that particular duty.

RooK | May 15, 2007 12:42 PM

Just as long as I don't lose my rank among your flying butt monkey hordes that you covertly deploy to assault those in desperate need of Scalzination.

chang, realer than evar! | May 15, 2007 12:50 PM

Shoot. I just went and peed on someone's Hummer with a Bush?Chenet bumper sticker because I thought you wanted me to. Now I gotta go windex his chrome. Nuts.

Jim Wright, part of the mob | May 15, 2007 12:52 PM

I thought the LJ discussion was interesting, especially this bit, ...it does have a tone of riling the masses to come to Scalzi's defense by smiting his "enemies" on his behalf.

I'm part of Scalzi's masses, and we get to smite people? Smite? Cool, I'm in. Who to you want us to smite first? (flash to a mental image of the scene in The Mummy where the zombified crowd is lurching down the streets of Cairo chanting, Imhotep, Imhotep, Imhotep...)

Acutally, I'm watching the news at the moment: If anybody should be smited (smitten?) this morning it's gotta Tommy Thompson (R-WI) - who said that employers should be allowed to fire somebody for being gay - then tried to bullshit his way out of it by claiming his hearing aid wasn't working. WTF? So, if you're making a list for us masses to smite, Scalzi, he gets my first vote this morning.

Tim of Angle | May 15, 2007 01:08 PM

Apparently everybody in the universe is entitled to comment, in public, on the review (and the book's author), INCLUDING PEOPLE WITH NO CONNECTION TO EITHER, except the person who wrote the book, and who might therefore perhaps have something relevant to say. This is one of the worst examples of arrogant, self-absorbed, narcissistic intrusionism I've come across in decades.

John Scalzi | May 15, 2007 01:11 PM

Well, Tim, there is a larger and relevant point that authors who respond regularly to negative reviews end up looking a little pissy (particularly when they're Amazon reviews). And it's certainly true I generally don't respond to every review, positive or negative. I pointed this one out not because it was negative but because I found it amusing.

Tim of Angle | May 15, 2007 01:16 PM

And the amusing aspect (What is this guy doing reading SF in the first place, if he's unwilling to entertain any idea at odds with the ones he already has?) has apparently escaped those who just assume that it's All About You. I think that rather proves my point -- unless somebody can point to the huge volume of responses you've done to reviews in the past, and which have somehow unaccountably escaped me.

Emily | May 15, 2007 01:21 PM

Like this site, its commenters are not a representative sample of the entire internet. Not to be "I'm so great," but, well, we're so great.

So yes, you don't expect us to all fawn over you and scurry over to Amazon to fight the good fight for you, but surely you can understand that you are in the minority in that, right?

You've seen the flame wars that erupt and end up with one participant telling his side of the story in his journal and all the commenters sighing in unison and saying, "Oh, you poor thing! Who would be so rude to you? Other people are such JERKS!"

Syncophants are annoying.

chang, realer than evar! | May 15, 2007 01:31 PM

Wow. You're putting some major blabbage into that woman's LJ comments. Glad to see how concerned people are with your character. Sheesh.

Jon | May 15, 2007 01:32 PM

Hi. Could you do a post wrapping up your book tour? What I am really interested in hearing is what your highest and lowest turnouts were.


John Scalzi | May 15, 2007 01:37 PM


I documented the entire tour over at the Ficlets Blog.

Miscellaneous Steve | May 15, 2007 01:53 PM

You mean we're not supposed to go mindlessly off with fangs bared and spittle flying whenever anyone posts a negative review of one of John's books and rip them to bloody chunks?


Guess I'll just have to go back to yelling at the kids to get the hell off my lawn. Not that that isn't satisfying and fulfilling...but, you know, variety is the spice of life.

John Scalzi | May 15, 2007 01:56 PM

Well, you can, Miscellaneous Steve. Just don't work under the assumption that I've given you the nod and wink. It's your own karma you're messing with, basically.

Dave is aw4some | May 15, 2007 01:59 PM

I read this blog because I like to root for John. Perhaps it is way with words, his plot devices, or maybe his shiny pate, but I found the initial post and this follow-up one to be interesting. I also enjoy his listing of his reviews; I get the sense that if they were all bad, he would post some of them and muse on what changes he could make.

The discussion Jenn generated was not very interesting to me. Taking the high moral ground on the internet, in a blog, rarely is - again, to me. I'm sure many of her readers found it interesting, and enjoyed chatting away about it.

Fundamentally, the point of this post is a good lesson: we are here for entertainment and to converse. To attempt enact revenge is foolish, as is to continue a 'conversation' that is past sense and into a cacophony of ravings. I come here to learn a few things and to relax in my limited breaks. Keep up the interesting work.

PS I also like my name. I am aw4some. I do not like to take myself seriously but I do take other issues seriously. Scalzi, if you do start taking yourself too seriously, that could be a problem (e.g., no longer entertaining). It seems unlikely, though.

Nikitta | May 15, 2007 02:01 PM

*sigh* Okay - I'll just put down the torches and pitchforks I just had gathered for this.

Do you know how much work it was to find those things on that amount? There's no respect for the good old fashioned mob anymore, is there? Everything has to be so modern, with no room for the old, decent values such as torches and pitchforks!


What is the world coming to?!

Jim Wright, acolyte smiter | May 15, 2007 02:12 PM

Well, you can, Miscellaneous Steve. Just don't work under the assumption that I've given you the nod and wink. It's your own karma you're messing with, basically.

Yeah, but it's still OK to smite people, right? In an "every man for himself" sort of way? Dammit, Scalzi, if you're going to establish your own religion, you've got to be more specific.

Anne C. | May 15, 2007 02:23 PM

"What is this guy doing reading SF in the first place, if he's unwilling to entertain any idea at odds with the ones he already has?"

It doesn't seem to me that any group is exempt from having close-minded people in it. People are human beings, after all.


I have to admit that it made me a little sad that some commentors (not Scalzi) felt like putting the guy down simply because the guy jumped to a conclusion. I think granting latitude for sensitivities would be a better response in light of the fact most of us have our own sensitivities for which we would like to be granted latitude.

Heh. I just realized -- maybe sensitivities to negative reviews by thier favorite author are the ones the commentors need latitude for. Very well, granted. Carry on.

Tim of Angle | May 15, 2007 02:49 PM

"It doesn't seem to me that any group is exempt from having close-minded people in it."

Perhaps true. But that wasn't my point. What could possibly persuade such a person to spend money on a book from a field that is all about stuff that will almost certainly yank his chain in the first chapter? I would be similarly puzzled by an asthmatic complaining that the cigarettes he just bought didn't use completely organic materials.

Jeri | May 15, 2007 02:57 PM

There is some serious irony to your post proximity here --

Posts 1 & 2 about a guy complaining of religious proselytizing and your request for your Scalzinators to not go all torch-and-pitchfork upon him.

And Post 3 about Jerry Falwell's departure from this plane. Speaking of smiting.

I'm just saying. ;)


Steve Buchheit | May 15, 2007 03:28 PM

Nikitta, so you're the one that caused the run on torches and pitchforks. After that all I could round up was some plastic leaf-rakes and a few citronella candles.

Jon | May 15, 2007 03:38 PM

I read the book tour diary on ficlets (and I very much enjoyed it) but I only saw generalities for numbers. If you don't mind sharing, I would be interested to hear what your largest turnout was (and where) and what your smallest turnout was.

Jim Wright | May 15, 2007 03:40 PM

Steve, yeah but using citronella candles for mob-operations is better. I mean who wants to be bothered by mosquitoes when you're storming the castle?

(man, I just had a flashback to Billie Crystal and Carol Kane in The Princess Bride:
Miracle Max: Have fun stormin' da castle.
Valerie: Think it'll work?
Miracle Max: It would take a miracle.

John Scalzi | May 15, 2007 03:44 PM

Jon: I suspect my smallest turnout was at Dark Carnival, which had a couple dozen people show up while I was there (I was just signing at that) and the biggest turnout was in LA (for the panel I was on, a couple hundred people) and at Google (about 115 people). Everything else was somewhere inbetween.

Kate | May 15, 2007 04:18 PM

Can I ask a question that might get my head bitten off?

First and foremost, John, I love you. You know I do. We go way back (around 6 months, which in the interweebs is the equivalent to like a lifetime). However, I'm just curious...

I don't have any qualms with you posting a bad review because you found amusement in it, or responding the guy either. That's totally your prerogative.

What I'm curious about is that you've been at this blogging thing for a number of years and pretty much can predict how your devoted public will act, save for a few asshole who can't hold their tongues.

I found myself on the original post kinda laughing because of the number of yes-men/women who come to your defense and wondered if in the end it boosted your ego. I've seen this happen numerous times on different posts throughout the times I've visited.

Even though I would probably snatch up a Scalzi produce football jersey wearing plastic bobble head doll in a heartbeat because that's just the type of fan I am, I also found it funny that you had to 'gently remind' your webgroupies for getting your back and coming to your defense.

Obviously the more dedicated of us are going to be like, "Well, that reviewer had NO idea what he was talking about! Let's all go and kick his electronic ass!" just like Paris Hilton was able to secure 25,000 signatures asking a judge to overturn his verdict.

I'm not saying you're ANYTHING like Miss Hilton, but with the price of fame or high readership or whatever draws people towards the light that is Scalzi, you're going to have a response such as what you saw when you ran for president of the SFWA, or open a topic on abortion, or post a negative review.

So to come back and write the second post reminding us all to play nice after the post is akin to not initially acknowledging there was an elephant in your living room and then complaining that he's crapped all over your newly polished floor.

Just like how I know I'm probably going to get slammed for coming into your house(blog) for posting this, I will probably get upset when a member of your crusade will nonchalantly rip out my throat. :)

My point: Your house or not, if you tend to overlook the elephant, you're gonna step in pooh.

Dr. Phil | May 15, 2007 05:13 PM

I was gonna stay out of this one, the last one and the next on a JF -- but the bits about gathering torches and pitchforks, etc., was just making me smile. And I'm all for any enterprise where a quote from The Princess Bride is appopriate. (grin)

So my question is -- if you've got elephants in your living room, just how much a citronella candle do you need?

(sorry -- I'll go mumble off in a corner now) (snerk!)
Dr. Phil

Nikitta | May 15, 2007 05:15 PM

Obviously I got the pitchforks and torches for The Scalzi Mob. There would simply be no style in plastic leaf-rakes and Citronella candles for an angry mob, but now I arrive to find that not only does John Scalzi not want a lynching of this Obviously Evil Man as a belated birthday present, I also find that some people would prefer Citronella candles! Some people have no sense of Proper Style And Decency! It's an outrage!

It's a thankless job working for an angry mob, even if you do get them pitchforks and torches.


Ian Mathers | May 15, 2007 05:15 PM

Maybe it's been because I've been reading for years at this point, but I didn't get the faintest whiff of "Monkeys! Attack!" from the last post. I guess if you don't know how things usually work around here you might take offense, but really. I've seen bloggers calling on their hordes, and it looks a lot different from "When Amazon Reviews Amuse Me."

Ron | May 15, 2007 05:37 PM

Quick poll:

  • Minions?
  • Groupies?
  • Lackies?
  • Scoobies?
  • Toadies?
  • Henchman?
  • Disciples?
  • Lickspittles?
  • Flying Monkeys?
I mean, if you had to choose?

Gillian | May 15, 2007 06:34 PM

I keep thinking that someone is tangling the word 'mob.' There's mob behaviour as in unthinking crowd daftness, and there's mob beahviour as in 'you belong to that mob' which is probably an Australianism. The second sums up 'Whatever' readers better than the first, because our brains tend to stay engaged (mostly). Having said that, I would have opted for 'henchman' but it requires a sex change and I'm teaching today and don't have time for one.

You know, if writers are not allowed to engage directly in discourse about them (I've been hanging out to use that word all morning) then I volunteer to invent useful answers for all Scalzi interviews.

mark | May 15, 2007 06:37 PM

Ron you left out "angry spider monkeys."

Of course I've always wanted to be a Disciple.

Disciples of the Scalzi Spider Monkey Battalion!
We fling poo because we care!

glinda | May 15, 2007 06:43 PM


Minions, please?

Soren | May 15, 2007 06:44 PM

You haven't seen a mob until you've seen 4chan's /b/ go after someone. That's what I call Extreme Trolling.

The people here are smarter than to try to outdo them.

Anne C. | May 15, 2007 06:55 PM

Gillian: We would have to go with the more PC "henchpeople" (or "henchperson" for the singular)

Tim of Angle: "What could possibly persuade such a person to spend money on a book from a field that is all about stuff that will almost certainly yank his chain in the first chapter?"

True, but I'm guessing this particular person's sensitivity is to Christianity (hence the proselytizing) and you don't often run across Biblical references in SF (at least, I haven't). Enlarge that to include religious references in general and you still don't have a high level of it. I wouldn't say "almost certainly."
Great analogy though. :)

Jon | May 15, 2007 06:56 PM


Miscellaneous Steve | May 15, 2007 07:09 PM


I like "Attack Monkeys"...but that isn't on the list.

If I can't be an Attack Monkey, I vote for Toady. Because, you know, frogs are cool.

Ron | May 15, 2007 07:39 PM

The Only Good Author? Ursula K. Le Guin in Dancing At the Edge of the World: Thoughs on Words, Women, Places has thoughts on the relationship between critics and live authors, circa 1985. I wonder what she thinks of the internet's effect on all this.

Steve Buchheit | May 15, 2007 08:19 PM

Dr. Phil, "if you've got elephants in your living room, just how much a citronella candle do you need?"

Well, to keep from stepping in poo, you need a sh*t load of them.

Nikitta, I'm glad you're willing to share, and I was hoping in the dark of night that many people may not notice the green plastic leaf rakes in with the other pitchforks. And as Jim Wright pointed out, who wants to be bothered by mosquitoes and other flying insects while we're storming the castle?

And I guess Kate must have missed the whole "Furries stalking John" episodes.

Jim Wright, acolyte smiter | May 15, 2007 08:47 PM

Can I ask a question that might get my head bitten off?

Ohhhh, noooow you've done it, Kate. Come on, Flying Hordes of Rabid Monkey Minion Henchmen Todies, let's smite her! Smite! Smite! Actually I'm not really sure what a smite is, I think it involves lightning or something, whatever, let's get her!

And I suggest that we call ourselves "bobbleheads" instead of Henchmen et al. You know, in keeping with the spirit of this conversation and all.

Kate | May 15, 2007 10:23 PM

Furries were attacking John?

Are there any pictures? ;)

Chuck J | May 16, 2007 12:22 AM

I've gotta say I agree with Tim of Angle on this one. To tell an author, "You've done your part, now run along and let us talk about it," is just condescending and presumptuous.

I was under the impression that the optimistic view of all this Web 2.0 nonsense was to do exactly this type of thing: to keep all information flowing in multiple directions, and to let knowledgeable people discuss things. And who's more knowledgeable about a book than its author?

But apparently, it's gauche to do that, and a writer is obligated to let his work "speak for itself." What a crock. Getting into a pissing match with somebody leaving a cranky comment is one thing, but that's hardly the case here.

What's doubly ridiculous about that LiveJournal criticism is that it's about John Scalzi. Being open with the readers, discussing the work, opening it for analysis and re-analysis and commentary -- I thought that was his whole thing, this blog being a prime example. And then to imply that Scalzi is somehow responsible for the actions of his readers is also silly.

So my point should be clear: forget the torches and pitchforks for that Amazon reviewer; I say everybody attack that LiveJournal! To the fight!

Steve Buchheit | May 16, 2007 08:06 AM

Kate, well, there was this one instance of a mass licking, no photos exist of that. The rest of the action was limited to stalking the compound, so any photos would just be of John.

John Scalzi | May 16, 2007 08:37 AM

Personally I find this running gag involving me and furries profoundly disturbing. I'm just not a cuddlepile sort of fellow.

Jeremiah | May 16, 2007 11:22 AM

You all are hilarious. Wow. I really can't think of anything else to say. You've covered pitchforks and citronela (however you spell it?) and elephants and bobble head dolls and even the princess bride. Wow.

Scott Elyard | May 16, 2007 03:55 PM

"Ron you left out "angry spider monkeys.""

Angry spider monkeys with nail guns.

Poo is for amateurs.

Jim Wright (off storming da castle) | May 16, 2007 04:49 PM

You've covered pitchforks and citronela (however you spell it?) and elephants and bobble head dolls and even the princess bride. Wow.

Well, Jeremiah, it appears that there are a lot of us with nothing better to do than camp out on the Whatever and be smartasses. Of course, that's what good minions do. - except for Kate, she's a heretic, but then again every new religion needs heretics. :-)

Steve Buchheit | May 17, 2007 11:02 AM

John Scalzi, "Personally I find this running gag involving me and furries profoundly disturbing"

Well, John, I did try to swear off keeping the gag going (I can quit anytime I want), but Kate asked. Plus, you know, it's not like I'm the guy that used the behavior as a major plot point in a recent novel, like someone else on this blog. :)

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