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October 31, 2006

Don't Fear The Reaper

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Happy Halloween, everyone.

Posted by john at 06:45 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

The Most Unintentionally Funny Bit of Political Spittle Flinging You'll Read All Day

It's here, via the Fredricksburg Free Lance-Star. It's pretty much exactly like your angry conservative uncle four-fifths of the way through a bottle of Maker's Mark. This fellow was apparently director of foreign-policy speechwriting at the White House from October 2003 to July 2005, which means it's possible he's the genius behind the "Stay the Course" turn of phrase. If so, well. Heckuva job, there, Burgess. Heck of a job.

Posted by john at 09:04 AM | Comments (55) | TrackBack

This Picture Has Got Everything You Need, or, Hey! My Book is Out!

Look! A copy of The Android's Dream AND Bacon taped to a cat! It doesn't get any better than that.

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Christian sent this in. I think Christian had probably better sleep with his head under the covers tonight; that cat does not look altogether pleased.

In other news, it is now Halloween, October 31, 2006, which means that The Android's Dream is now officially and irrevocably out! Yes, yes, go down to your local purveyor of fine readables and request -- nay, demand -- your very own copy. I have it on good authority that the first printing of this particular book is my largest so far, so no longer will you have to shove, fight and eyegouge to get your own copy. There is plenty for all. And if there isn't plenty for all, you'll have made my publisher very happy while they crank out a second printing. And you'll have paid for Athena's college education, provided she goes somewhere in state, and she doesn't go to Oberlin. We'll need four printings for that.

Actually, here's the cool thing about The Android's Dream for me, other than, you know, the fact I really like this book and I think it's the most fun book I've written so far: The book has already earned out its advance. This happened because the book was part of the two book deal I got when Tor bought Old Man's War; OMW was the first book, and this was the second. The way the contract was structured, I wouldn't start collecting royalties on either book until the advances for both books were earned out. But, apparently, I could earn out both advances from what I made off OMW, and that's what happened. So with Android, I earn royalties from the very first book sold.

In other words, this book is nothing but pure profit for me. That's a nice place for an author to be with a book. So, naturally, I hope the book is freakin' huge. Of course, thanks to six-month royalty cycles and reserves against returns and so on and so forth, I'm not actually likely to see royalties from this until sometime next year or so. But it's the thought that counts, at least until the checks arrive.

More seriously, I hope you guys enjoy this book. It's different from the "Old Man" books -- a bit looser, absurd but not surreal, and with a lot more attitude. It's closer to the voice I use around here, actually. I'm really excited to share it with you. I hope you'll let me know what you think of it.

Posted by john at 12:02 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

October 30, 2006

The Occam's Razor Theory of Literary Rejection

Nick Mamatas, who apparently has some preternatural sense when it comes to finding interesting characters online, points us to an aspiring writer who is apparently having difficulty selling his work to publishers, and has come up with a theory to explain his lack of success: There's a conspiracy in publishing against men -- fomented, of course, by women.

The statistics suggest that women purchase 60% to 70% of the books. They read more than men. But why? Are men less literate? Or is it that they are ill-served by the book market because it is dominated—dare I say, controlled?—by women. One look at any list of literary agents will confirm my assertion. There are certainly men among the ranks of agents, but it seems that too little fiction is written that is appealing to men... I guess women prefer not to read about them. Or am I mistaken and is it the feminization of the book business that prevents everyone from reading about them in greater quantity?

Yes, it certainly is difficult to find fiction written by men, and appealing to men.

This conspiracy against men is apparently aided and abetted by the author's belief, expressed in his comment section, that the publishing industry doesn't actually make money, nor apparently is intended to. Leaving aside the fact that this is an assertion which I suspect will come rather as a surprise to most of the editors and publishers I know, I'm not entirely sure I'm following the logic there. Publishing is controlled by women, and therefore it won't publish work for men, and that's why it doesn't make money? Because it's not supposed to make money, publishing is controlled by women, who won't publish work for men? The dark feminist conspiracy won't let men publish their work unless they check their testicles at the door, and enter the room bearing fruity drinks and amusing coupons for foot rubs? Something along those lines. It's kind of confusing to me.

This fellow's argument for a female publishing conspiracy against men is founded on an ignorance of the publishing industry and a clutch of logical fallacies, so it's not terribly surprising that every published author who has come across it seems to get a giggle out of it; it's almost charming how clueless it is. But the argument does serve to illustrate a point, which we might as well call the Occam's Razor Theory of Literary Rejection, which is: All things being equal, the simplest reason that your work has been rejected is usually the correct one.

For example, let's say I am an unpublished male writer whose work is continually rejected by publishers. Which of these two reasons is more likely?

1. There is a vast and grand conspiracy within the publishing industry, engineered by women, to keep men from being published;

2. My work isn't worth being published.

The vast and grand conspiracy, of course, is the more emotionally satisfying answer; it removes the blame for my lack of publication from me and sets it on someone else, and not just someone else, an entire phalanx of clandestine queen bees, working subtly and stealthily to turn literature into a redoubt of femininity, leaving no room for the rough and ready prose of men such as myself. The problem with positing such a conspiracy is that it quickly runs into reality: Men are published all the time, and some rather successfully, writing books that are designed to appeal generally or even wholly to other men. And they're even published by women: Someone should introduce this fellow to Toni Weisskopf, who was the executive editor and is now the publisher of Baen Books, perhaps the single largest stockpile of testosterone in all of genre publishing.

And while we're talking about genre publishing, let's note that of this last year's Campbell nominees, half of them were male, including one guy who wrote military science fiction, the most "manly" of the SF genres; he won the award, too. All the nominees for the Hugo Best Novel award were also men. The winner of this year's Nebula award was also a guy. So was the winner of the other Campbell award, come to think of it. So, all the major awards for novels in science fiction and fantasy this year were won by men, save the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel, which hasn't been awarded yet. However, inasmuch as five of the six nominees for that award are men, I suspect there's a better-than-even chance it's going to a guy, too (go, Hal!).

Basically, if there's a cabal of women in publishing trying to stifle the presence and success of men in the field, they really really suck at it.

Rather more likely, then, that the problem isn't the publishing industry, but what I am writing. All things being equal, it's probably likely that what I'm writing isn't up to snuff, but even if it is, sometimes even that's not enough; as Teresa Nielsen Hayden notes in her justifiably famous "Slushkiller" essay, sometimes a writer can do everything right and still not get their work taken. It surely does suck when that happens, but even in that case it is not necessary to construct the existence of a conspiracy to hold down an entire class of people; it's merely necessary to note that the book is, alas, not right for that particular market at that point in time. The simple explanation is usually the correct one.

Now, there's no point telling this fellow these things; he's already determined that his own writing can't be at fault, so the problem must be elsewhere, and it seems unlikely that any application of logic will dissuade him from that opinion. And, well. Whatever. I hope he has fun with that. However, for the rest of you, it's worth remembering the Occam's Razor Theory of Literary Rejection. It'll keep you out of the tin foil hats, and that's a good thing.

And more than that, it should give you hope. After all, there's very little chance that you could defeat a grand cabal designed to keep writers of your sex, race, age, religion or sports team preference out of the publishing world. They are many, and you are few; their organization is just too damn big, like the Vatican or Mary Kay. But you can work on your writing. Indeed, compared to battling a shadowy conspiracy, improving your writing is a piece of cake. So, you know. Get to it.

Posted by john at 10:53 PM | Comments (60) | TrackBack

TAD Photo Fun

People sending of their Android's Dream photos:

Android photographed at everyone's favorite amusement park: Radium Land!

Android: The choice of discerning cats everywhere. Discerning cats with messy desks, too.

Android has had a hard day. Now it's time for sleep.

Thanks Roger, Terry and Matthew!

Also, someone sent me another infinite repeating TAD picture, but my e-mail ate it. Sorry. So if you sent me an IRAD pic, send it to me again; I'll pop it up later.

Posted by john at 12:16 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Computer and Steve Brust Geekery

For those of you who were wondering what I was doing with myself yesterday instead of hanging out with all y'all online: I went shopping. Specifically, I went shopping for computer parts, because I had finally settled on what I wanted to do with my PC computing life and I drove down to CompUSA (which, as it is on the other side of Dayton from me, was not an insignificant distance) to see if they had everything I needed to build myself a bitchin' PC.

To say I was disappointed upon my arrival is to understate the case rather dramatically: CompUSA's selection of components pretty much sucked. For example, most of their motherboards are for AMD, which was not what I wanted, and those that fit Intel processors were not SLI-capable (or even Crossfire capable). They didn't have any CPUs in stock, either. Basically, just a big fat waste of my time. I understand that people wanting to build their own computers are a relatively small segment of the market, but I would also think that those who do want to do so would want components that are at least up to date, so their home-built computers are not six months obsolete from the first moment they are switched on. This is what I get for wanting to give my business to a brick-and-mortar computer store; I don't know that I'm likely to make the same mistake in the future.

Having thus been disappointed in my quest, I came home and started pricing out what I wanted and realized that for what it would cost me to build my own, I could get a computer maker to do it for me, and then it would come with a three-year warranty, whereas my own experiments would not. So I said screw it and ordered one online. For those of you who want to get your geek on the specs are: Intel Core 2 Duo E6600, 2GB DDR2/800 Dual Channel Memory, 350GB SATA-II 3.0Gb/s 16MB Cache 7200RPM hard drive (remember I have other drives I'll be putting in as well), two SLI-compliant NVIDIA GeForce 7600 GS 512MB PCI Express x16 Video Cards (I went with less than top-of-the line here because as others have noted, DirectX10-compatible cards will be on their way soon; nevertheless, two of these babies working together will do me just fine), Creative X-Fi soundcard and 5.1 speakers, also from Creative, and then the usual bells and whistles as far as optical drives and media readers and so on. All for rather substantially less than I had budgeted to spend, so I'm pretty happy with that.

While I was out and about I also stopped at book stores to see if I could spot Android's Dream in the wild. And lo, it was there: One copy at the Barnes & Noble, where I corrected its spine out presentation, three copies at Borders, where the staff had not only placed it face out but also put it on the top shelf in its own little presentation, so it was right at eye level, and none at my local bookstore, which is fine because, you know, it's not officially out yet. Hopefully it will be there tomorrow. And if it's not I'll burn the place down. Actually, no, I won't. They're nice people and it's a nice store and they have other books of mine, so, you know. Arson is not the answer. Now.

Thwarted though I was in building my own computer, I assuaged my need to contribute to the grinding gears of America's economy by buying every single one of Steven Brust's Vlad Taltos novels save Dzur. The first seven were helpfully compiled into three trade paperback-sized volumes, and Dragon and Issola were stand-alones. This was delightful for me because while I'm a big sloppy fan of Steve's and particularly of the Vlad books, my own copies of the books have mysteriously vaporized over the years, and also a number of books have come out since I read the series, and I was always confused as to how many there were and in what order I should read them (Steve himself is notably unhelpful in this regard; he basically says to read them in whatever order one wants. Gee, thanks, Steve). But now I have them all, save Dzur, and I feel, you know, complete.

Why didn't I also get Dzur, you may ask? Well, come on: I just bought nine novels. It'll take me while to get through them, you know? Also, in buying these nine novels I pretty much depleted the Barnes & Noble's Brust collection; I figured that taking Dzur as well would just be greedy. No worries, though; I'll be getting it soon enough, I imagine. And don't let me stop you from getting your own copy. Please, be my guest.

Now, let me get extra dorky here and say that what's even cooler than buying a store's worth of Steve Brust books is buying a store's worth of books from my pal Steve Brust, because Steve and I have met on a number of occasions now, enjoy each others' company and have a passel of friends in common. I'm still enough of a fanboy to get a hell of a kick out of the fact that I get to meet and spend a little time with some of the writers who were inspirations to me. Steve was certainly one of them and still is, so every time I see him, some part of my brain is still going coooooooooool. What can I say, I'm a geek. And it's extra happy making that I'm now well on my way to catching up with his work. You can't beat that, I say.

Posted by john at 09:05 AM | Comments (36) | TrackBack

October 29, 2006

Sunsets and Open Threads

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My plans today
involve not being on this computer very much -- I know, what the hell is wrong with me -- so here's a picture of yesterday's sunset, the last during daylights savings time -- and also a declaration of an open thread. And to get you started, a topic: How sensitive is your sense of smell?

I ask because yesterday I was reading the LiveJournal of someone whose nose is extraordinarily sensitive and it made me wonder about it. Personally, I figure mine's about average, but I seem to be very sensitive to personal smells, i.e., I don't really have a hard time sorting people I know by how they generally smell.

You?

Posted by john at 09:21 AM | Comments (43) | TrackBack

October 28, 2006

Insta-review

Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds has nice things to say about The Android's Dream:

I thought it was quite good, though it was nothing like Old Man's War or Ghost Brigades, it was more lighthearted and focused on interstellar diplomacy. Not quite in the vein of Keith Laumer's Retief stories, but occasionally I got a bit of that feel.

I think that's about right. It's also not the first time that Laumer and Retief have been namechecked vis a vis Android's Dream. Glenn's right in that the storytelling is rather different than in the Retief series, but inasmuch as that series is science fiction's best-known series involving interstellar diplomacy, SF-oriented reviewers are likely to triangulate off of it when talking about TAD, especially since both have a satirical edge to them. Not counting Baen's 2002 posthumous collection of Retief stories, it's been more than a dozen years since the last novel featuring the character. This particular SF field has laid fallow for a bit, which makes it fun to play in.

Those of you who have not heard of or read the Retief series, the Baen Free Library has the 2002 Retief! compilation for your perusal. Have fun with it.

Posted by john at 02:19 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Some Encouraging News For Fans of the Separation of Powers

According to this CNN poll, "Sixty-seven percent of 1,013 people surveyed by Opinion Research Corp. on behalf of CNN said federal judges -- and the decisions they make -- should not be subject to more control." Yay, Americans! You're getting your sanity back! It does seem like the phrase "activist judges" and much of the demogogic, unconstitutional rabble-rousing that accompanied it has lost some of its savor recently; likewise, I don't think the folks who have been planning to use the recent ruling in New Jersey to pump some life into the phrase are finding it particularly useful at this point in time. I am naturally delighted about this.

Leaving aside the on-the-ground red v. blue politics at the moment, I'll tell you honestly that one of the more heartening things about this political cycle is the felling that I get that people of most political stripes are backing away from the precipice. This is to say they're taking a good look at Constitutional structures like separation of powers and seeing them as features, rather than as bugs, which is how they've been generally labeled over the last few years.

This feeling is entirely anecdotal; I have no proof of it, and what proof we'll get of it will take time to arrive. But let's say I'm cautiously optimistic. I feel like someone with a flooded house, who notices that the water level is two inches off the high water mark and sees blue sky out the window. I'll worry about the flood damage later; just the hopeful thought that the water is coming down is enough for now.

Posted by john at 10:26 AM | Comments (24) | TrackBack

Infinite Repeating Android's Dreams, 10/28/06

Oh noes! Three IRAD submissions, all at once! Better post them all in the same entry, then:



Thanks Tor, KevenQ and Chang!

Posted by john at 09:51 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 27, 2006

How I'm Voting, or, Abort & Reload

Barring some astounding change of circumstances, here is how I'm voting in the elections on November 7th. As reference for those of you who don't know, I live in Ohio, in Darke County.

Governor: Ted Strickland. Aside from Ken Blackwell and his cronies spending the last couple of weeks trying to suggest that Strickland is a NAMBLA-loving homo in order to prop up "the base," there's also the little matter that given Blackwell's history with elections, I'm not entirely convinced he puts the democratic process above the marching orders of his party. And all that is even before I get into his policy positions. Also, the level of corruption in Ohio Republican politics makes the national GOP look like choirboys. This is one of those "abort, reload" elections 'round these here parts. Ted Strickland doesn't set my political heart aflame, but he's not a bad choice for governor. I feel sorry for him he'll be spending most of his term cleaning out the crap left behind from Bob Taft and the Ohio GOP, but I don't think he doesn't know that'll be part of his job description.

State Executive Undercard (Lt. Gov, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Treasurer, Auditor): Straight Democratic except for Auditor. See the "abort, reload" comment above. The folks running for these positions have tolerable politics as far as I can see, and this being Ohio, having Democrats in the office doesn't mean it'll suddenly become Marin County on Lake Erie. I expect moderate, sensible government, and if I don't get it, there's always 2008 and 2010; hopefully Ohio's GOP will have had a brain transplant by then and will have people in it who aren't corrupt and stupid. As for the Auditor position, Mary Taylor's an actual CPA and has been a state rep, so she probably knows her way around the budget and knows where the bodies (so to speak) are buried. I think that's worth a shot at the job.

Senator: Sherrod Brown. This is actually a close one for me. Mike DeWine is moderate and not a fire-breathing partisan moron, and I strongly suspect that if 2004 had gone the other way and Kerry was in the White House, I'd toss my vote DeWine's way, if for no other reason than I'm a believer in the idea that the US government works best when the Congress and the president aren't of the same political party. But Bush got a second term in '04, and this Congress has done very little to stop his worst abuses of the political system; it's time to switch the leadership in the Congress to people who will actually stomp on Bush's pointy little head. I'm sorry for DeWine that's he's caught in the middle of this; he's occasionally shown some spine when it comes to Bush. Just not when push comes to shove, though. We're well past the "shove" stage now, I think. I've got my problems with Brown, among them the fact that he voted for that damn fool legislation that tossed Habeas Corpus over the side. Believe me, he'll be hearing from me about it. But I do know that if Bush's worst Constitutional abuses are going to be stopped, it's not going to be with GOP. Sorry, DeWine. Hope you have another job lined up somewhere.

Congress: No vote. I've noted this before: I can't imagine voting for John Boehner, but his opponent Mort Meier's got nothing that interests me, and even when I'm in "Abort, Reload" mode, I'd like to have the feeling that the person I'm voting for has something going on other than "I'm not the other guy," and that's all Meier's got. Also, to be blunt about it, Boehner's not great for the rest of you when he's in the majority leadership, but he's not bad for the 8th district, where I live, and maybe in the minority leadership he'll suck less for the rest of you. This is probably one of the safest contested districts in the country -- it's so locked up for Boehner that I'm not aware of anyone even bothering to do a poll here -- but it still would have been nice to have an opposing candidate I felt was worth my vote. I don't think I've got one this time around, so I'm sitting this one out. Ohio Democrats, if you want my vote here, then you should field a candidate I think is worth my time.

State Senate: Tom Roberts. He's the incumbent and seems to have a low-key effectiveness, so far as I can tell. The Dayton Daily News endorsed him (and its endorsements are not especially partisan -- it endorsed Mike DeWine for Senator, for example), which I found useful in this case. As an aside, he's the fellow who apparently got me recognized by the Ohio Assembly for winning the Campbell. This isn't nearly enough to secure my vote, but it makes me feel good about the fact I'm able to vote for him.

State Assemblyperson: Dave Fisher. My current assemblyperson is Diana Fessler, who doesn't seem to be particularly effective or ineffective, save in the latter case for an incident in which she accidentally voted for accepting the closure of a local military base when she meant to vote against it. Whoops. Fisher has an ugly-ass Web site and one of the worst haircuts I've ever seen in my life, and I think his plan to boost education by cutting property taxes has something of a Laffer Curve smell to it. But I like that he's putting a priority on education, and we'll see if he's amenable to plans to get to that goal even if they're not his own.

Bradford School Levy: .75% income tax/5yrs: I'm voting for this, because I know the local school needs it, and I can afford it.

State Issue 1 (Changes to Workers Compensation law): Provisionally I'll vote for it. It appears to make some sensible implementations of workman's comp, although I'm going to do a little more reading on the issue before I vote to make sure the issue says what I think it says. It's fairly complicated.

State Issue 2 (Raises State Minimum Wage to $6.85/hr): I'm for raising the minimum wage, because the current federal minimum wage of $5.15 well and truly sucks, and I don't buy the argument that raising the minimum wage will slaughter businesses by the thousands. However, this state issue will stick the minimum wage into the Ohio Constitution, and I think that's excessive; Constitutions in my opinion are for fundamental rights. There's no reason to put this in Ohio's Constitution; make it a regular law instead. Also, in my opinion, $6.85 is too low for a minimum wage. So, I'll be voting "no," and then badgering my state reps to get on this. It looks like there's going to be a lot of changes in the state house, so a minimum wage increase could be legislatively feasible. And of course the national Democrats are also making noises about it.

State Issue 3 ("Learn and earn"): Allows slot machines at horse tracks and other locations with 30% of revenues to go to college scholarships and grants. There's no way in Hell I'm voting for this. Aside from the fact it's another Constitutional amendment (for the love of God, why?), I find the idea of the slot owners getting to keep their cut of the profits tax-free appalling, and I have a moral issue with funding education through gambling. Call me a crazy fool, but I think the State of Ohio should support higher education without enabling addicts and behavior that disproportionately affects the poor (unless one is under the impression that it's millionaires who spend all their time playing the slots).

State Issues 4 & 5 ("Smoke Less" and "Smoke Free" initiatives): These initiatives offer blanket bans on smoking in various places both public and private; one of these state issues is more stringent than the other. One of these would be slotted into the state Constitution, which just seems plain stupid. I don't smoke and I prefer other people don't, and I'm not opposed to some places being smoke-free by law. But I think both of these are overreaching, and also this seems like one of those things a legislature gets paid for dealing with.

That's where I am with the voting thing.

Posted by john at 03:27 PM | Comments (24) | TrackBack

Mmmm... Rude-osity

You know, there are many things I don't like about solicitors, but one of the really big ones is that they're trained not to listen to you when you deviate from your script. For example, the jackhole who just solicited me on the phone from some veterans' organization or another. Charitable organizations have finally figured out to ask for Krissy first instead of me, but when this guy got me and I told him to call back when Krissy is home, he ignored me and tried to solicit me anyway.

So, of course, I hung up on the fellow while he was still barfing up his talking points. Clearly this solicitor was counting on the bit of psychology that says it's rude to hang up on someone while they're still talking, but you know what? I'm just sociopathic that way. Also, if you've already proven that you're not going to listen to me, I don't especially feel obliged to listen either. I really have no problem being rude with people who are rude to me first, and not actually listening to what I'm saying to you sure counts as rude. Especially when you're calling to ask me to give you some of my money.

What makes it worse is that I'm reasonably sure the fellow talking to me is a reasonably socialized human being -- like most people, if you caught him out in the wild I suspect he would actually listen to what I was saying and respond accordingly. But telemarketers don't have that sort of latitude; they're required to do pretty much anything to keep you from hanging up before they say whatever the hell it is that they're supposed to say. Basically, these telemarketers have be rude or they get fired. I'm not entirely sure how this developed as a winning strategy, other than to note that it does piggyback on the idea that most people are more civil than the telemarketers and will avoid being rude even if it means waiting another 30 seconds while the telemarketer talks, just to say "no."

Thing is, in addition to hanging up on the fellow, I've made a note of his particular charitable organization. Guess what? They're not getting any of our money, ever. It's a shame, too, because we contribute to a number of veterans' organizations, because it's a good way to say thanks to the folks who have served our country. But the simple fact of the matter is that I'm not going to contribute money to people who are under the impression that the best way to get that money is not to listen to me when, for example, I say they really need to call back later and talk to my wife, who is the one who handles our charitable contributions. She's the one who decides who gets our donations in a given year, but I certainly can say who doesn't, and this fellow's organization doesn't. So much for sticking to the telemarketing script.

Posted by john at 01:15 PM | Comments (57) | TrackBack

Infinite Repeating Android's Dreams

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Whatever reader JT found another copy of The Android's Dream out there in the wild, and was kind enough to snap a photo of it, which I show you here (I copied the picture and put it on my site in order to avoid running up his bandwidth -- hey, it could happen). What I particularly like about the photo is that is has an earlier picture of TAD out in the wild on the computer screen, giving the picture the cool infinite regressing thing you generally only see in mirrors or involving cats. If people who get copies of TAD want to keep this up, it certainly would keep me amused.

While we're on the subject of The Android's Dream there's another positive review of the book, from Paul Goat Allen, of Barnes and Noble's Explorations newsletter. The review goes up in the November newsletter, which isn't out yet, but I figure I can show off an excerpt:

An uproarious comedy about an imminent interplanetary war between mankind and a race of manipulative reptilian humanoids that proves once and for all that while Scalzi may have a multitude of bats in his belfry, he is an incomparable storytelling genius... a satirical tour de force.

Nifty.

The official release date is next Tuesday; you can expect I'll do something then to celebrate.

Posted by john at 11:17 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

An Uxorial Portrait

As long as I'm showing off my mad Photoshop skillz, yo, here's a portrait of my wife I made all arty and such. She really likes it, which is an important thing when one is posting a picture of one's spouse: She thinks it captures a certain essence of her personality. I agree entirely; also, and in other news, damn, my wife is hot.

Actually, that's an embarrassingly glib assessment. I think my wife is striking, which is to say she visually arresting in a certain way that transcends mere physical attractiveness. This is why among other things I continually find myself staring at my own wife for long periods of time, especially when she doesn't know I'm looking. She's just interesting to look at. I don't suspect that will be any less the case as we go along in life. Yes, I'm lucky. She's less lucky in this regard, but at the very least I am good for an amusing chuckle or two. She seems to think this is a fair trade, and I intend to let her keep thinking that for as long as possible.

I should note that for the full effect, you should look at it full size; right click the picture and either view image or download it.

Posted by john at 12:33 AM | Comments (34) | TrackBack

October 26, 2006

Black and White

Two Halloween-themed pictures of Athena for you, which, if nothing else, confirm the fact that when I'm not interested in writing I go for the Photoshop action, and that Halloween is a fun excuse to make pictures that are creepy and pictures that are cute:

I like them both, although I have to say the top one creeps me out a little. Which is why I put the bottom one in there. Kind of evens things out.

Posted by john at 10:55 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

You've Been Reaped! Adorably!

I've got nothing for you today -- really, all day long thinking has been just like trying to sprint through molasses -- so here's a picture of Athena as the Grim Reaper, in front of, oh, I don't know, Mount Doom:

I had an even better one of her in front of a Hieronymus Bosch tapestry, but she didn't like it and exercised her veto power. So you get this one. It's still pretty darn cute.

Oh, yes: Open thread. Enjoy yourselves as only you know how.

Posted by john at 05:49 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

October 25, 2006

New Jersey, Being Subtle

New Jersey's Supreme Court said today that same-sex couples are entitled to have the same rights as married couples but also punted to the legislature the issue of whether that collection of rights should be called marriage or could be called something else.

That's interesting to me, and I think a pretty subtle piece of maneuvering by the Supreme Court. It's recognizing the rights of same-sex couples, but allows New Jersey politicians a certain amount of political cover by allowing them to call the same-sex legal relationships something other than marriage. In doing so it may also defuse the conservative boogeyman issue of same-sex couples from other states getting married in New Jersey and then going back to their home states and demanding recognition for their married status, since, after all, if the legal term for their relationship is not "marriage," then other states can possibly argue that they are not enjoined to give full faith and credit to them as might otherwise be the case (DOMA notwithstanding) as they don't have an equivalent relationship status on their own books. In which case the same-sex marriage crowd gets most of what it wants -- legal recognition for same-sex couples on a par with married heterosexual couples -- while the anti-same-sex crowd can possibly take satisfaction in knowing that what happens in Jersey stays in Jersey, at least from a legal point of view.

Mind you, not that I expect the anti-same-sex people to look at it that way. I certainly expect they'll vomit up the same old "activist courts/marriage doomed/pedophilia and bestiality are next" and try to use this ruling to rally the troops to beat back the evil Democrats on election day. But I'm not entirely sure this will work very well: The SCOTSONJ didn't rule for same-sex marriage, it ruled that same-sex couples should have the same rights as married couples. And while most people still are a little twitchy about same-sex marriage, if I remember correctly most Americans think same-sex couples should have some sort of legal recognition for their relationships. And in any event, the SCOTSONJ is leaving it to the legislature to decide what to call this new rights package; if the legislature decides to call it "marriage," that's their decision. So I don't know if this decision will lead to the mainstream America freak-out/Republican voting behavior the anti-same-sex forces are no doubt hoping for.

Personally speaking, I would prefer that marriage be called marriage, regardless of the gender distribution of the two consenting adults within it. But I certainly see the wisdom of how this particular ruling was constructed, particularly so close to an election. This ruling seems to split up the baby pretty adeptly.

To same-sex couples in New Jersey: Congratulations on your new bouncing bundle of legal rights. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoy mine.

Here's a pdf of the ruling, for your reading enjoyment. The relevant paragraph:

HELD: Denying committed same-sex couples the financial and social benefits and privileges given to their married heterosexual counterparts bears no substantial relationship to a legitimate governmental purpose. The Court holds that under the equal protection guarantee of Article I, Paragraph 1 of the New Jersey Constitution, committed same-sex couples must be afforded on equal terms the same rights and benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex couples under the civil marriage statutes. The name to be given to the statutory scheme that provides full rights and benefits to same-sex couples, whether marriage or some other term, is a matter left to the democratic process.

See? Smartly done.

Posted by john at 03:59 PM | Comments (91) | TrackBack

October 24, 2006

What? No Politics?

From the e-mail:

It's been a week since you've written about politics! Are you not feeling well?

Heh. First: I feel fine, thanks.

Second: I haven't been writing about politics because for the last week or so I don't think I have anything particularly constructive to add to the conversation, so anything I'd write here would just end up looking like a smeary mimeograph of DailyKos or Atrios, and I don't want that for myself.

Third: Honestly, at this point, what can one add? I mean, when President Bush is soft-lobbing himself up into the air to be viciously spiked, as he did over the weekend with his "We've never been 'stay the course'" idiocy, I find myself at a loss for words. It's like kicking a vomiting dog, you know? Crap like that makes me pity George Bush, which is a wholly unearned emotion on his part.

What I really want is what I generally really want at this point of any election cycle: For the election to be over, so I know where we all stand with our politics for the next couple of years. I just want it to be done, and that brings with it an almost aggressive apathy regarding all the little twists and turns of the campaigns. This is not the same as saying I am apathetic about voting. You better believe I'm going to vote. It's just that everything else at this point makes me want to crawl into my office and do nothing but play video games between now and November 8th.

This is a known aspect of my personal pathology, so I don't find it problematic. I do suspect it means I'll not actually run for public office, however, since if I get this way about other people's campaigns, just imagine how I'd get about my own; I'd spend the last two weeks on a campaign hiding in my room, and that's just no damn good.

Now, it's entirely possible that something in politics will attract my attention between now and election day, and then I'll write about it. But if it doesn't and I don't, it's not that politics isn't worth commenting about, it's just me want to distract myself from thinking about every single moment of the day for the next two weeks. I do hope you'll understand.

Posted by john at 05:38 PM | Comments (55) | TrackBack

SCI FI Interview re: Android's Dream

The industrious John Joseph Adams has interviewed me about Android's Dream, in which I talk about how Carl Hiaasen and Elmore Leonard were touchstones for the book. The interview is here.

Unrelated: The University of Chicago has the best business school in the country, according to Business Week. Go U of C!

Yes, yes. Look, everyone else in the country can get excited if their stupid college football team is doing well. Excuse me for being excited about my university being recognized for actually teaching people.

Posted by john at 06:38 AM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

October 23, 2006

Thank You Shelley Eshkar

Got my Big Box O' Author Copies of TAD today, which makes me happy. But as I was admiring the box, I remembered that I forgot to do something, which was to thank cover artist Shelley Eshkar in the acknowledgements. I'll correct this in time for the paperback release, but in the interim, let me just say that I think Shelley Eshkar's cover makes the book. When I was chatting about the cover to Tor art director Irene Gallo, I remember saying that I hoped the book would have a cover that communicated the quirkiness of the book itself, and I think Eshkar totally hit that right out of the park. I wouldn't have imagined this as the cover, but once I saw it I knew it was right.

So thank you, Shelley Eshkar. Every author should have a cover that fits their book so well.

Posted by john at 04:31 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

When A Scalzi Sings

Atavismscalzi.jpgGenerally speaking, when you search for "Scalzi" on the Internet, you usually end up with me, because, of course, I'm a raging egomaniac who has spent the better part of the last decade infiltrating every last nook and cranny of the World Wide Web. But occasionally another Scalzi will show up. Such a one is Mike Scalzi -- not related as far as I know -- who is the lead singer of Slough Feg, a band which, according to its Web site, "is an eclectic mix of Celtic Folk and Traditional Metal peppered with buckets of energy and lyrical depth." Because, damn it, Celtic Frost was a total letdown in the Celtic Metal sub-genre, and Slough Feg is here to reclaim and wave that flag.

But don't just take the Web site's word for it: check out "I Will Kill You/You Will Die," a song in which, presumably, somebody kills you, apparently Mike Scalzi, and then you end up dying. That's truth in advertising for sure. It's from Slough Feg's all-to-appropriately-named album Atavism. And if you enjoy that, here's some more music from Slough Feg, from the band's site. Rock on, Slough Feg!

Posted by john at 02:09 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Doomed to Victory!

omwrussia.jpgSo, apparently Old Man's War has now been published in Russia, under the title Обреченные на победу, which as I understand it translates as something like "Doomed to Victory." Which seems, you know, an awfully dour title. "Oh, okay, we'll win, but we won't like it." But, hey, Eksmo (my Russian publisher) knows its market. And now I know definitively how to spell my name in Cyrillic. The cover art is recycled from an interesting place. My first Jim Burns cover! Well, sort of.

I got this picture off the Russian online store linked to above; I don't have my own author copies yet. Come to think of it, I haven't gotten my Hebrew copies of OMW yet either. Hey! I'm the author! Show me some love, foreign publishers!

Posted by john at 12:37 PM | Comments (43) | TrackBack

October 21, 2006

Moving Target

I'm on the road today, so I may not otherwise update. Please to enjoy the following massive violation of copyright while I'm out:

Proposition: Michael Maltese was perhaps the funniest man of the 20th century. Discuss.

Posted by john at 09:07 AM | Comments (31) | TrackBack

October 20, 2006

Another Auction for the John M. Ford Book Endowment

No, not from me this time, but from an up-and-coming writer I think you'll be hearing a lot about, and she goes by the name of Lois McMaster Bujold:

I am auctioning the galleys of Lois McMaster Bujold's upcoming novel The Sharing Knife: Legacy to benefit the John M. Ford Book Endowment, for the Minneapolis Public Library. Part 1, The Sharing Knife: Beguilement just came out in hardcover; the sequel won't be available until next spring.
This is a one-of-a-kind item, and the ONLY way to read the novel prior to its 2007 release. Opening bid is $100; bid increments of no less than $1, whole dollar increments only. Auction closes 11:59:59 pm Central, Friday, October 27.

Here's where to go for all the information and also to bid on the galleys. If the wording on the information looks familiar, it may be because it's been mostly swiped from my own auction. And you know? I'm just fine with that.

This is a pretty damn cool thing, if I do say so myself, and I suspect that there are enough rabid Bujold fans out there for whom this will be irresistable. If you're one of them, go bid, and help fund the Mike Ford Endowment. And remember, you can also just chip in a few bucks yourself.

Posted by john at 05:49 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

The Blessed Gift of Self-Censorship

So I was writing something today about writing, and I realized that as I was writing it I was boring the ever-living crap out of my own self. So I stopped, trashed it and you will never see what it was, for which you should be thankful. I think it's nice that I know when I'm writing boring, annoying crap, because it means I get to spare you the terror of having to read it. I won't say my self-censorship is perfect -- no doubt boring, annoying crap gets through -- but at least it works now and then.

Posted by john at 01:09 PM | Comments (36) | TrackBack

October 19, 2006

Another Question for the Geeks

Can anyone explain to me why the flash media I play on any of my Web browsers on the Mac is suddenly without sound? Everything else works perfectly, sound-wise, including non-flash streaming media. Can anyone suggest how I can get the sound back on? YouTube just isn't the same without sound.

Posted by john at 04:36 PM | Comments (24) | TrackBack

Calling All Geeks

The computer I bought in 2003 finally died yesterday (I'm writing this on my Mac, to forestall any questions). The computer lasted 3 3/4 years, so I can't complain too much, but it means that now thanks to my philosophy of "only buy things when you've run the previous version into the ground," I am now able to justify spending money on a new one.

This time, rather than go typical route of just going to the store and buying what's convenient, I thought I'd try having one custom built. The question now is what should I put into it. This is where you geeks come in. I'm open to suggestions on what I should put in this thing. Here are the parameters:

TYPE: PC, Vista Premium capable
PRICE RANGE: $2000 +/- 10%
PRIMARY USE: Multimedia/Gaming (it'll really be mostly used for typing. You know. But even so)
USEFUL LIFESPAN: At least 2.5 years

To give you a little idea of what I'm looking at as a baseline (i.e., these are guidelines, not things I'm absolutely sold on):

CPU: (Sckt775)Intel® Core™ 2 Duo E6600 CPU @ 2.4GHz 1066FSB 2x2MB L2 Cache

MOTHERBOARD: Intel D975XBX I975X Express CrossFire Chipset LGA775 Supports Core 2 Duo CPU FSB1066 DDR2/800 Mainboard w/GbLAN, USB2.0, IEEE1394, &7.1Audio

MEMORY: (Req.DDR2 MainBoard)2GB (2x1GB) PC6400 DDR2/800 Dual Channel Memory (Corsair XMS2 Xtreme Memory w/ Heat Spreader)

VIDEO CARD: 2 NVIDIA Geforce 7950 GT 512MB 16X PCI Express Video Cards

HARD DRIVE: Single Hard Drive (250GB SATA-II 3.0Gb/s 8MB Cache 7200RPM HDD)

Optical Drive: 16X DVD±R/±RW + CD-R/RW DRIVE DUAL LAYER

SOUND: Creative Labs X-Fi 24-BIT PCI Sound Card

I'm treating the monitor as a separate expense, not to be considered in the price here. Also not considering labor costs at the moment. I have a single hard drive at the moment but will be adding the dead computer's C drive as a slave, which why I have only one in there at the moment.

Any thoughts? Anything I should add, subtract, swap out for a better version. I particularly need help with case, power source and cooling. Please note that as regards cases, I don't need it to look super-bitchin'; functional is a positive. With power source/cooling, quiet is better than not. Also, in terms of gaming/multimedia, I want my performance to be really good, but I'm not going to pay a stupid price premium so that I can crank out 10% more fps.

And one question for the true geeks out there: One reason I'm choosing the 975x motherboard here is that it's my understanding that it'll support the upcoming Intel Quad Core processors that will be coming out later, and I like the idea of being able to swap out the CPU at some point. Does this jibe with what you've heard?

Also, the first person who says "Get a Mac!" gets beaten. I already have a Mac and have decided the for the moment the Mac Pro is not how I want to go.

Okay, there you have it. Let have your thoughts and comments. And if any of you actually do build computers, I'm not opposed to entertaining bids.

Posted by john at 10:25 AM | Comments (77) | TrackBack

Androids in the Wild

androidhentoz.jpg

We have our first spotting of The Android's Dream in the real world: Whatever reader Jeff Hentosz sends along this photo of TAD on his desk (along with his name plate, a Silent Bob figurine, and the US Constitution -- yay!). Jeff reports that he got it at the Barnes & Noble at the Easton Town Center in Columbus, which had six copies (now clearly down to five). So if you're in the Columbus Ohio area and you can't wait for Halloween (the official release date, don't you know), then now you know where to go. Remember also that the Easton Town Center B&N is where I'll be doing a signing/reading/interpretive dance on November 9th, at 7pm.

Thanks, Jeff! Anyone else who spots TAD in the wild prior to the official release is likewise invited to send along a photo. Because I'm hungry for reassurance, you see.

Posted by john at 09:58 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

October 18, 2006

Instabounce: Still Working

See, this is why I keep telling people that Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds is the secret king of online bookselling: He mentions that he received The Android's Dream -- just that it's arrived in the mail, mind you -- and the Amazon ranking shoots up to 1500 (or so) in three hours. Boing, there it goes. Damn, he's good.

Update, 3:00pm: Now it's at 699. All hail the Instabounce!

Update, 4:00pm: 542! Yes, now I'm just being obsessive-compulsive.

Update, 6:00pm: 515. I can quit anytime.

Update, 7:00pm: 504. Oh noes! I'm plateauing!

Update, 8:00pm: 451. Help me! It's a sickness!

Update, 9:00pm: 442. Dude, I just totally passed a Star Wars novel on the Amazon SF bestsellers list. Hah!

Update, 10:00pm: 414. One thing I've noticed about the Amazon SF/F bestseller list, incidentally, is how 1984, Fahrenheit 451 and Brave New World are always lurking about in the top 25. Dystopia never goes out of style.

Update, 11:00pm: 440. Clearly, the sales death spiral has begun. Off to bed before the black depression strikes.

Posted by john at 02:20 PM | Comments (55) | TrackBack

Wednesday Author Interview: Cherie Priest

Hey, if you're not doing anything (and you're not, otherwise why would you be here?), you should click through and catch this week's Author Interview of the fabulous Cherie Priest, whose equally fabulous new novel Wings to the Kingdom officially hit the stores yesterday. I read it in galley -- because I'm just that privileged -- and I loved it; also, I've got Teh M4jur Crush00r on Eden Moore, Cherie's heroine, and not just because my internal casting director has slotted Rosario Dawson into that role, although that doesn't hurt. Mmmmm... Rosario Dawson.

In any event, check out the interview, because Cherie's awesome and you want to get next to that awesomeness in your life. Also remember that Cherie and Subterranean Press are serializing Cherie's novella "The Wreck of the Mary Byrd" online. Because you want to get next to that awesomeness, too.

Author Interviews coming in the next few weeks (in no particular order): Catherynne M. Valente, Sarah Hoyt, Karen Traviss, Charles Stross and Sean Williams. After that things are getting thin, so, authors, if you have books coming out in the the next four months or so, let me know (this is includes the authors who have already pinged me before but who I may have forgetten about. I guess the Mad Cow Disease is finally getting to me). You don't have to be a science fiction/fantasy author, either; I'd love to have folks from other genres, including non-fiction, participate.

Posted by john at 01:47 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

An Observation That Probably Doesn't Merit Its Own Entry, But Damn It, It's My Blog and I Can Do What I Want, So Stop Looking at Me Like That

You know, there are very few things in life that beat a really crisp apple.

And I'm not even that much of an apple person.

This is the type of apple I'm eating, incidentally. On another note, I think it's mildly disturbing that an apple variety has its own Web domain.

Posted by john at 10:44 AM | Comments (60) | TrackBack

An Interesting New Wrinkle in the Ohio Governor's Race

It seems that someone is challenging the residency of Ted Strickland, the Democratic candidate for the Governor's seat here in Ohio. Apparently Strickland has more than one residence, one in Lisbon (Ohio) and one in Columbus, and he votes in Lisbon; however, the complaint says that Columbus is his real address, so he should be disqualified to vote in Lisbon. Thing is, as I understand it, if he's not qualified to vote, then he can't run for governor. The local voting board tied on party lines as to whether Strickland is qualified to vote in Lisbon, and in cases where there's a tie on these matters, the issue gets booted upward to the Secretary of State's office.

Who is the Secretary of State? Kenneth Blackwell, Republican candidate for Governor.

Bwa ha ha ha ha hah ha hah!

Ohio has a law barring Blackwell (or anyone in his seat with a similar situation) from personally adjuctating an issue which affects his campaign, so the issue was handled by one of Blackwell's assistants. That assistant has sent the issue back to the county voting board, telling it that its members failed to conduct proper investigation into Strickland's residency, so they have to do it again. That's where it stands at the moment. Strickland's campaign folks say he has voted in Lisbon before; presumably no one complained then. If after the investigation the voting board takes another 2-2 tie vote on the matter, off it goes again to Blackwell's office, to the same appointee, who will then apparently have to make the call.

All of this, incidentally, transpiring after the deadline for Ohio voters to change their residency.

I can't even imagine what's going to happen if someone in Blackwell's office, who Blackwell appointed, decides to throw Ted Strickland off the voter rolls and possibily disqualifing him from running for governor. Especially because Blackwell is trailing Strickland by double digits in most polls at the moment. Any Democratic spin doctor worth his or her salt would hold it up as a perfect example of how the GOP can't win in the marketplace of ideas, so it has to resort to dirty tricks. The voters already have trust issues with the GOP this election year; this would be the feculent icing on that particular nasty cake, or, to torture another metaphor, the straw that breaks the elephant's back.

To be clear, I deeply doubt Strickland's going to get disqualified from the gubernatorial race here in Ohio. That just seems nuts. But there's that little paranoid man in my brain, the one that goes Ken Blackwell tried to disallow voter registration cards in 2004 on the basis of paper weight! Of course one of his lackeys is going to do this!!! Anarchy!! Anarchy!!! I'm having a hard time shutting that guy up these days.

Posted by john at 08:23 AM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

October 17, 2006

Posing For the Cover of Her First Punk Rock Album

badgirlnocollege2.jpg

Athena's reaction to this picture when she saw it, incidentally: "Good one. You should post it." It's terrifying how well she knows me.

I think I'll make a t-shirt out of that picture. Then Athena can wear it to school and give her teachers a heart attack. That would be cool.

For those of you worried that my adorable child has irretrievably gone over to the dark side, here's a picture of her posing winsomely with my author copy of TAD, in a Photoshopped field of mutton:

Of course, ask her which of the two pictures is her favorite. Yeah, her teenage years are going to be interesting.

Posted by john at 07:25 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

The (Hopefully) Endless Cycle

TADTLC.jpg

A package arrived today that fairly sums up my creative life: Two finished copies of The Android's Dream and the copy edit of The Last Colony. Android is done and presumably soon to be winging its way to all y'all in the stores; The Last Colony I need to look over and make sure I agree with all the copy edits and return to Tor in just a little over a week. Not pictured: The book after Last Colony, which is in process. Sometime around May of 2007 this picture will likely be repeated, with The Last Colony in the position of the completed book, the the book after that coming back for a copy edit. And thus for as long as I can manage -- and not including the other books and writing projects and what not and so on and etc.

There are worse lives to have.

I'm out of here for the rest of the day -- I have some work piled up I need to get to, and now I'm dropping a big ol' copy edit on top of that. I declare an open thread: you kids have fun. See you tomorrow.

Posted by john at 11:36 AM | Comments (28) | TrackBack

What I'm Up Against

I made a mention a few days ago about the amount of comment spam I get, and I thought you might enjoy some numbers: In the last week, the Whatever received 4,760 pieces of comment spam, as of about 6:20am this morning. I know this because I deleted them all from the junk folder today, because all that crap in the junk folder was slowing down the site refreshes.

For those of you not wishing to do the math, that's 680 spam messages daily. As a comparison, in the last 24 hours I've logged 116 legit comments (i.e., made by real humans), which is pretty much an average day around here. So the spam outpaces the humans by about 6:1.

The vast majority of the spam gets trapped in my moderating and junk queues thanks to my filters, which are updated via a shared blacklist, although from time to time a new purveyor gets through. I woke up this morning and found over 100 spam messages on the site; each had the same keyword. Dropped the keyword into the local junk filter with an instruction to catch all its variants; since I did that 20 more spam comments went right into the junk filter.

I could probably reduce spam comments by entirely closing off comment threads older than a couple of weeks, but some threads are still active by way of real people (the "Writing Tips for Teens" thread is an example of this), and I'm loathe to just seal them off unilaterally. Active spam management is a reasonable compromise at the moment, although if it gets much worse I may have to revisit this idea. I do seal off individual comment threads if I see that the only traffic they get is spam. It's a continual battle between the forces of good and evil, it is.

The fact I get 4700 spam messages a week is the primary reason why I suspect, should direct brain computer interfaces ever become available, I won't be getting one. Does anyone doubt that within weeks, the spammers would have found a way in, and your entire visual field would be riddled with spam advertisements for Tramadol, in Cyrillic lettering? And they would never go away. Yeah, I'll be keeping my brain unwired, I suspect.

Posted by john at 06:42 AM | Comments (31) | TrackBack

October 16, 2006

Two Cool Things

A couple of cool things that have gone down in the last couple of days:

1. I've been invited to be the Toastmaster for the 2008 version of ConFusion, the convention run by the Ann Arbor Science Fiction Association (the link goes to the site for their 2007 convention, which I'll also be attending, as a normal human being). This is exciting for me since it's the first time I've been invited to be a convention Guest of Honor in any capacity, and also because I have a fond place in my heart for ConFusion: it was the first non-Worldcon SF convention I ever attended. It's also the place where, last year, a significant number of the attendees kissed my skull, and one fellow actually licked it. Hopefully, this won't become a tradition. In all, one of my favorite SF conventions, so I'm delighted that it's the first who asked me (and who I've accepted) to be a GoH.

Incidentally, I have no idea what I'm supposed to do as toastmaster. I am, however, an undisputed master of toast. Beware, dried, singed bread! I am your dread lord! Perhaps that will be enough. And I've got, uh, 15 months to figure out the gig.

2. The Android's Dream has been selected as a December 2006 Book Sense Pick. Book Sense, for those of you who are not immersed in the world of bookselling, is an umbrella organization for independent booksellers to help them compete against chains and online stores by way of marketing and Web sites and the like. Book Sense maintains its own bestseller lists (which I've been on before - w00t!) and also a monthly guide to notable books, with the recommendations written by the booksellers themselves. That guide is what Android's been picked for.

I'm pretty pleased. Looking at the picks for the year so far, there's a lot of excellent reading there, and while there are a few fantasy books in the mix (and Julie Philips' Tiptree biography), there's not much in the way of science fiction so far this year, save for Alan DeNiro's short story collection. So it'll be nice to wave the SF flag with Alan to independent booksellers (especially since, to put it mildly, my book and his are very different). And of course, anything that raises awareness of the book with the people who will actually sell the book is a good thing. I'm happy that my book has the opportunity to make that impression.

Posted by john at 09:41 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

The Case For RSS Feeds

Got an e-mail today from a reader letting me know he was taking me off his favorites list because he found that my indulgence in one particular general topic impeded his enjoyment of other topics I write about. There is nothing to be done for the problem of topics, of course; I write about whatever I want to write about here and that's not going to change. Certainly I encourage people to suggest topics for discussion, but the converse is not true, i.e., you don't get to tell what not to write about.

Also, given the number of people who visit the site and the myriad ways they've come here, it's while it's almost entirely the case that most people are less than enthused about any one topic I might discuss, which topic that is will vary by individual. Some people will wish I would shut up about politics, some people will wish I would shut up about writing, some people will get annoyed when I play with Photoshop. No one will be happy with me 100% of the time. Them's the breaks.

However, I do think it's a bit of a shame if my desire to discuss a single topic -- whatever that topic may be -- makes someone want to disappear. For those folks who discover they have an allergy to me when I discuss any one topic, allow me to suggest that you put Whatever into an RSS reader. The RSS excerpts for the site are 150 words long -- usually enough to get an idea about what I'm blathering about this time -- and from there you can decide whether or not it's worth you time to click through and read the whole thing, or roll your eyes and ignore me until something more interesting to you comes along.

Certainly I don't have a problem with people filtering my online blatherations. God knows I sort of skip some of my favorite bloggers' entries when they get particularly screedy about something I disgree with them on, or don't care about, and if I do it I can't complain when someone does it to me. I really and honestly don't expect any of the Whatever readers to enjoy every single thing I write, so please: If I annoy you sometimes, avoid the topics on which I annoy you. Unless you go out of your way to tell me what topics of mine you're filtering out, I'll be none the wiser and will happily putter on obliviously. Everybody wins.

You can find the RSS feed at the bottom of the Whatever sidebar; there's also an Atom feed for those of you who want the full entry sent to your reader. They're there to be used. Use 'em.

Posted by john at 05:25 PM | Comments (42) | TrackBack

Meanwhile, In Ohio...

From today's Dayton Daily News:

Domestic-violence law being challenged (registration required):

Ohio is one of those states that in a haze of gay panic ("OMG WTF! Teh gayz wants the marry!!!!11!!!!ONE!1!!") passed a state constitutional amendment that not only defined marriage as between a man and a woman but went out of its way to make sure no other relationship could ever have the same rights and privileges as marriage. Yes, that sure showed the homos a thing or two -- now they'll have no choice in Ohio but to have the empty personal lives devoid of meaningful relationships that the particularly hateful have always demanded they have.

But it also means that when a straight male jackass beats the crap out of his live-in girlfriend, you know, maybe because she just wouldn't listen, he can argue to the Ohio Supreme Court, as one Michael Carswell is doing after he was indicted on felony domestic violence, that he ought not be charged with the crime in question. Because the law covers "people living as a spouse" -- and as we all know, no one in Ohio can live as a spouse except a spouse.

So go ahead, Ohio jackasses! Beat the crap out of your girlfriends! The worst you can be charged with is misdemeanor assault! You can probably talk your sentencing down to a fine and 15 hours of picking trash off the highway. Plus, it's more difficult for your girlfriend to get a restraining order against you, which makes it easier for you to keep her in line. And remember, guys, nothing sticks it to the fags wishing for the rights and protections marriage provides than a straight man kicking in the ribs of his live-in lady. Yes, that'll show 'em. That'll show them all.

To be fair to Ohio, not every court in the state has determined that the domestic-violence law conflicts with the Ohio State Constitution. However, the 2nd District Court of Appeals, which covers the county in which I live, has ruled that it does. So in my hometown, you can't be charged with felony domestic-violence if you pummel your longtime companion when she gets mouthy. But I suppose if she wanted protection from your fists, the bitch should have married you.

Meanwhile, the Citizens for Community Values, one of the conservative groups that helped pass the anti-gay amendment in Ohio, and "officially Associated with Focus on the Family and Family Research Council as a Family Policy Council in Ohio," has filed an amicus brief supporting the guy who is charged with beating the crap out of his girlfriend. Naturally, the Citizens for Community Values isn't arguing for unmarried men methodically abusing their girlfriends, per se. It's just that the sanctity of marriage is so important to protect that if it means some shameless hussy living outside the sanctifying grace of matrimony has to forgo the full protection of the law when her guy pushes her down the stairs, well. Some sacrifices have to be made. Unless, of course, she was pregnant at the time. In which case I'm sure all these fine folks would be happy to charge the guy with endangering a fetus. One has to prioritize one's community values.

What's really awesome about this is that if the Ohio Supreme Court agrees that the domestic-violence law is unconstitutional, girlfriend thumpers in other states that have similar anti-gay marriage amendments in their constitutions can start to use this strategy in their states as well! It'll be like a renaissance for unmarried abusers. The glory days, as it were, for gut-punching uppity chicks. And they'll owe it all to conservative homophobia. Sure, it's a little weird to get from gay panic to a free ticket for girlfriend abuse. But they'll take it.

Thanks, social conservatives! You guys rock.

Posted by john at 08:53 AM | Comments (74) | TrackBack

TAD Review on SF Signal

Here you go. It has one spoiler in it, but it's easy to miss, so I suppose it's only a semi-spoiler. And it's also a positive review:

The Android's Dream might be what you'd find in an Elmore Leonard novel if he were to write a science fiction story with Keith Laumer in Reteif mode - which is to say that it is equal parts crime story, diplomatic drama, political intrigue and science fiction adventure... This is one of those books that makes science fiction fun.

Groovy. I'm happy with the Leonard comparison, since the way I've been explaining to the book to non-SF readers is that it's sort of what Elmore Leonard or Carl Hiaasen would write, if either wrote SF. So I'm glad that sensibility is coming through.

Also, I'm very pleased that what the reviewer came away with from TAD was that he had fun with it. "Fun" is pretty much the entire point of TAD; it really has no ambition other than just to amuse the hell out of the reader. Is amusing the hell out of the reader the way to critical respect, awards, and piles and piles of willing, nubile groupies? Why, yes. Yes it is. Especially the part about the groupies. Come to me, my wiggly ones!

Oh, all right: No, probably not.

On the other hand, let's not suggest amusing the hell out of readers is not a laudible goal. One of the nice things about science fiction is that you can write with the primary goal of amusing the reader and get away with it, as opposed to most of, say, lit fic, which appears largely designed for the authors to serve notice to their former classmates at Bennington that, indeed, they can write their way out of a paper bag, so ha! Ha! They should have slept with the author after all!

Not that there's anything wrong with lit fic. Or Bennington. I was accepted to Bennington, you know. Heck, a Bennington grad won the Booker Prize this year, for a novel that is praised for "illuminating the pain of exile, the ambiguities of post-colonialism and the blinding desire for a 'better life,' when one person's wealth means another's poverty." Meanwhile, my book starts with a chapter primarily about farting an alien to death. Would I have written a book with farting, had I gone to Bennington? And would it have won the Booker Prize? These are the personal alternate personal histories of my life. Be that as it may, two roads diverged in the woods, and I, well, I took the one in which intestinal emanations were used for humorous effect. And that has made all the difference.

The point is, one of the nice things about genre is that writing simply for the joy of telling a fun story is not necessarily looked upon as entirely wasting one's time or talent. It's fun to have fun, but you've got to know how. Genre still knows how. I think that's a good thing. Or at the very least, it's a good thing for me.

Posted by john at 04:33 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

October 14, 2006

Philcon Update

I just got my plane tickets -- which, as it happens, come to a sum nearly as cheap as the cost of gas and parking and tolls, so that's nice -- so I'll definitely be attending Philcon this year. I'm actually flying in a day early on account I might be doing something education-oriented on the morning of 11/17. I don't have my programming schedule of Philcon yet, but as soon as they send it along, I'll let you know. This is going to be the first convention I'll be after the release of The Android's Dream, so I'm sure I'll be relentlessly flogging that particular work.

Let me know if you'll be attending Philcon -- or just come up to me while you're there and say "hi." I should be about.

Posted by john at 07:58 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Things I Wasn't Expecting to Get in the Mail, Example Number One

ohio1014.jpg

It's a commendation from the Ohio General Assembly for being nominated for the Hugo and for winning the Campbell. I honestly have no idea where this came from (aside from, you know, the Ohio General Assembly). I certainly didn't alert the government. I got a large envelope from State Senator Tom Roberts, and my first thought was that it was just another bit of election detritus, so I'm glad I didn't just trash it.

Anyway, it's lovely to be saluted as one of "Ohio's finest citizens," especially first thing on a Saturday morning. Hopefully the rest of the weekend will be equally surprisingly pleasant.

Posted by john at 09:45 AM | Comments (40) | TrackBack

October 13, 2006

Quick Auction Update; Answering "Sagan" Questions

Bill Schafer forwarded me a note from the Minneapolis Public Library thanking him for his $5,000 contribution to the John M. Ford Book Endowment, and with that every bit of the auction for The Last Colony is taken care of: Book sent, bills paid, done. So, one last time, I want to thank Bill for his bid, and everyone else for bidding and helping to raise awareness of the Ford Book Endowment. I think we did some good.

Apropos to "The Sagan Diary," and in particular the signed, limited edition with the purchaser's names in the book as members of the 3rd Platoon, Company D, there have been a couple of questions. The first is whether someone buying the book could put someone else's name in there, with the idea being that they'd use the book as a distinctive gift. The answer is that generally this shouldn't be a problem; just drop a note to Subterranean while you're ordering about who you want to have listed, and they'll hook you up. In fact, I recommend this. What lovely gifts for friends, family, and your entire department at work!

Which leads to the next question: All the folks listed are supposed to be members of 3rd Platoon, Company D, but what happens if we end up with more people listed than who are normally in a platoon? Well, in fact, that's already happened: A platoon is usually 30-40 soldiers, and we've gotten more pre-orders than that so far. The solution is pretty simple: Instead of commemorating, 3rd Platoon, Company D, we'll now be commemorating Company D, of the CDF 23rd Infantry Battalion. And if we have to bump it up after that, we'll simply commemorate the fightin' 23rd. And if we have to commemorate a military unit higher than that, well, I imagine I'll be making a down payment on that Mustang I've had my eye on.

Needless to say, I'm delighted we're already up past platoon strength and are filling up company strength pretty handily. I'm working to make sure it's worth your investment. Also, I know my wife will hurt me if I mess this up, on account that Jane is her favorite character of mine. So that's extra incentive for me to get it right. The point is, I think you'll enjoy getting into Jane Sagan's head.

Posted by john at 08:54 AM | Comments (30) | TrackBack

Eternal Spamnation

As an FYI for everyone, the amount of comment spammage this site gets appears to be on the rise over the last couple of weeks. Sometimes I catch it before you notice it, sometimes I don't. However, if I don't catch it before you're aware of it, don't feel that you need to alert me about it; I spend a fair portion of the day staring at the site, and I will catch it. If I'm not cleaning it up immediately, it means I'm away from the computer (usually in the form of sleeping, traveling or having a life that doesn't involve sitting and typing), and you sending me an e-mail about it won't make the spam disappear any more quickly. I do appreciate the thought, however.

Also vaguely related: If you've accidentally made a double post in comments, it's not necessary to add a post apologizing for double posting. I usually go through and delete one of the double posts (usually the earlier one), so when I do that I also have to delete the post apologizing for the double post, since the double post no longer exists and therefore the post apologizing for it is just confusing. Basically, you're just making more work for me. Although again I appreciate the impulse to be polite. Thanks.

Since I know someone will ask, adding a post identifying yourself after you've accidentally posted anonymously is just fine.

Posted by john at 07:16 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

October 12, 2006

"The Android's Dream" Review in Booklist

I've seen it. It's very nice. I don't think I can quote the whole thing yet, but here's the first line:

Scalzi’s third ingenious novel in less than two years speeds his transition from rising star to major player in the sf community.

Somebody better get down here with a whole box of pins, because my head's getting pretty damn big.

Seriously, though, the reviews for Android are making me happy, not necessarily because they're good so far (although I'm glad for that), but because the book is different from the "Old Man" books, and I was wondering (re: worrying) whether folks would want to see something from me other than that particular universe. So far the answer seems to be yes. Excellent.

Posted by john at 01:10 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Server Woes

The server my domain is on has apparantly lost the hamsters that were spinning its discs, so the site has been intermittent today and may be again. If you suddenly can't reach the site, that's why.

For those of you who wonder why I bother to post a note like this when no one can see it if the site is down: RSS feeds.

Posted by john at 12:01 PM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

Lucasphobia

From e-mail, in the aftermath of yesterday's entry on Star Wars as not-entertainment:

As a science fiction writer, don't you ever worry that badmouthing George Lucas is going to hurt your career?

In a word: no. For one thing, let's have some perspective: George Lucas is the billionaire creator of the single most financially successful movie series in the history of the cinema, and I'm a guy with four science fiction books and a blog. I can't imagine Lucas even knows what I've written about him, and if he does, that he could possibly care. And even if he did care -- if Lucas were up there at Skywalker Ranch, stewing bitterly over my words -- he seems to be the sort not to do much about it. Look, people with far more pull in science fiction and outside it have said things as bad or worse about Star Wars and Lucas' involvement with it, with a far wider distribution, and as far as I know none of them have been stalked down by Lucas' stormtroopers and/or lawyers ("Look at these torts! Only Imperial lawyers are this precise!").

I think it's possible that someone at Lucasfilm might read the slagging of Star Wars; the Lucasfilm folks seem pretty well connected to this whole Intarweeb system of tubes, and I know the essay is getting some play in the SW fandom. But I sort of doubt anyone at Lucasfilm is going to run to Lucas and say "Oh noes, George! Someone's saying something bad about you on the Internets!!!". Because, really, when is someone not saying something bad about George Lucas on the Internet? I mean, hell. Someone is always something bad about me on the Internet, and I've got maybe a millionth of the fame that Lucas has. What is the Internet, if not the world's most efficient way to say something bad about someone -- and post pictures of cats? I think George Lucas would need to worry about me if all of a sudden I started climbing the fence at the ranch; short of that I doubt he gives me a second thought, if indeed I was even given a first thought, which seems highly unlikely (for the record: No plans to attack the ranch. Lucas lawyers, please keep your restraining orders sheathed).

I do think my antipathy for how Lucas has handled the Star Wars movies means that I'm unlikely ever to have anything to do with the Star Wars universe in any official capacity, of course. I can't imagine that I'd ever be asked to write a Star Wars novel, for example, since even the slightest of due diligence from Lucasfilm would discover a rather wide paper- and pixel-trail of reviews and commentary from me slagging Lucas for his apparent disinterest in making his Star Wars films entertaining and/or his apparent lack of competence as a writer and a director. If I were a Lucasfilm exec, I wouldn't hire me, especially if I would then have to have any contact with Lucas at all. Now, to some extent the point is moot, because even if I were asked to write a Star Wars novel (which seems, well, unlikely), I don't imagine I would take the job. I'm not interested in doing media tie-ins, personally, and even if I were, I don't think it would be appropriate for me to do so. The Star Wars universe will have to get along without me. I'm sure it will survive the lack.

And anyway, my disregard for Lucas is pretty much limited to his choices for the Star Wars films, particularly the choice to write and direct the prequel films in the absence of anyone who would really tell him that he was doing a crap job at both. Get me away from talking about Lucas as an unsupervised writer and director, and you'll find I have really an immense amount of admiration for the things he's done. I've long and publicly said that I believe he's unquestionably the most significant filmmaker of the last 30 years and possibly ever, because of what he's done for the technical aspects of filmmaking. Special effects, sound production, computer graphics, film editing, post-production, digital filmmaking -- basically if there's a filmmaking process around, there's a damn fine chance that Lucasfilm or one of its subsidiaries or spinoffs was a pioneer in it or refined the process substantially. We watch film the way we do because of George Lucas, end of story, period. The guy's a genius, or knows how to hire them, which is almost as good. Indeed, the only two aspects of filmmaking where he falls down on the job are writing and directing, which is ironic (and not only because he has two Oscar nominations for screenwriting, and another two for directing). But, you know what? No one's good at everything.

Beyond that, I'm fond of many things Lucas has been involved in. Indiana Jones? I dig two out of three immensely (Temple of Doom? Not so much). LucasArts is a videogame house whose output I admire, particularly Grim Fandango (which I wish would be made into an animated movie one day), Sam & Max and most of the first-person Star Wars shooters, because how can you not like wielding a lightsaber? Lucas produced dreck like Howard the Duck, but also interesting films like Tucker and Powaqqatsi, and was significant in helping Akira Kurosawa complete Kagemusha by convincing 20th Century Fox to help finance the film in exchange for foreign distribution rights. I even sort of like Willow, to my shame, because I know it's not good at all (I find it amusing that Lucas named the bad guy in the film after a film critic, and the dragon in the film for two more). So, you know, as much as I dislike what he did to the Star Wars series, I don't think you could say that I despise the man, or Lucas as an overall filmmaker.

Someone once asked me what I would do if I ever met George Lucas. I suspect I would compliment him on all the things I think he's done well as a filmmaker, which is a not inconsiderable list of things, and then avoid talking about the things that I think he's screwed up. And if those came up anyway, I would simply note that he got to do what he wanted to do with the story, and that's something very few filmmakers get to do. And then I'd probably fake a seizure to get away. Unless, of course, Lucas wanted to talk about why I think what I think about him in relation to the Star Wars films. In which case I'd just tell him. Because if he asks, I think I owe him what I owe anyone who asks me what I really think about something: The truth.

However, this is all fairly theoretical. I suspect Lucas will go along blissfully unaware of who I am, which is fine with me. And if he does know of me and wants to get back at me, I suggest he do what he did to Pauline Kael: use my name for an enemy in a future film, who is ignominously slaughtered at the end. Because you know what? I think that would rock.

Also, the following is pretty damn amusing:

It's hard to dislike Lucas after that.

Posted by john at 09:26 AM | Comments (40) | TrackBack

October 11, 2006

The Lie of Star Wars as Entertainment

Pyr Books main man Lou Anders points me in the direction of a call and response discussion on the topic of science fiction and "entertainment," as in, is written science fiction entertaining enough to capture the unwashed masses who watch it on TV and in the movies but don't bother to read the stuff. The first document in this discussion is an essay in Asimov's in which writer Kristine Kathryn Rusch says that the problem with written SF is that it isn't influenced enough by Star Wars, which to her mind is an exempar of good old-fashioned entertainment, and poses it in opposition to much of written SF, which is "jargon-filled limited-access novels that fill the shelves.. dystopian novels that present a world uglier than our own, [and] protagonists who really don’t care about their fellow man/alien/whatever."

This earns a whack from Ian McDonald, who both denies that the rest of SF ever abandoned entertainment ("It's a basic and primary as good grammar and syntax. It's not an end point. It's a beginning point"), and also decries the idea that entertainment is all there is, or that Star Wars is its apex ("Let me say, if that's the highest I can aspire to if everything I have ever hoped for or dreamed of attaining, how I dared to touch hearts and minds, is measured against that; then the only morally consistent action I can take is for me to give up writing.") And then Lou comments on what Ian has to say here.

For the moment I'm not going to go into the issue of whether written SF needs to save itself via being more entertaining, partly because I've discussed it before and partly because at the moment it's not an interesting subject for me. Suffice to say that I write books that are meant to be both entertaining and smart, because that's what I like to read. What I'm going to go into is the fact that much of the debate between Ms. Rusch and Mr. McDonald is irrelevant, because it starts from an erroneous premise. That erroneous premise is that the Star Wars films are entertainment.

Star Wars is not entertainment. Star Wars is George Lucas masturbating to a picture of Joseph Campbell and conning billions of people into watching the money shot.

There is nothing in the least bit "popular" about the Star Wars films. This is true of all of them, but especially of Episodes I, II and III: They are the selfish, ungenerous, onanistic output of a man who has no desire to include others in the internal grammar of his fictional world. They are the ultimate in auteur theory, but this creator has contempt for the people who view his work -- or if not contempt, at the very least a near-austistic lack of concern as to whether anyone else "gets" his vision. The word "entertainer" has as an assumption that the creator/actor is reaching out to his or audience to engage them. George Lucas doesn't bother with this. He won't keep you out of his universe; he just doesn't care that you're in it. To call the Star Wars films "entertainment" is to fundamentally misapprehend the meaning of the world.

Which is not to say that the films can't be entertaining: They can be. George Lucas is an appalling storyteller in himself, but at the very least he has common tastes, or had when he first banged together the original Star Wars film. The original Star Wars is a hydra-headed pastiche of (as I wrote in my Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Movies) 30s adventure serials, 40s war films, 50s Kurosawa films and 60s Eastern mysticism, all jammed into the cinematic crock-pot and simmered in a watery broth made from the marrow of Campbell's thousand-headed hero. With the exception of Kurosawa, all of this was stuff was in the common culture, and Lucas did a decent enough job spooning out the stew. Star Wars also benefitted from the fact that it emerged at the end of a nearly decade-long string of heavy, dystopic SF-themed films, beginning with Planet of the Apes and gliding down toward Logan's Run. After a decade of this (and combined with the film's brain-jammingly brilliant special effects), Star Wars felt like a breath of fresh air.

But even at the outset, Lucas was about something else other than entertaining people. As he noted in a biography of Joseph Campbell:

"I came to the conclusion after American Graffiti that what's valuable for me is to set standards, not to show people the world the way it is...around the period of this realization...it came to me that there really was no modern use of mythology..."

What's interesting about mythology is that it's the residue of a teleological system that's dead; it's what you get after everyone who believed in something has croaked and nothing is left but stories. Building a mythology is necrophilic storytelling; one that implicitly kills off an entire culture and plays with its corpse (or corpus, as the case may be). It's one better than being a God, really. Gods have to deal with the universes they create; mythmakers merely have to say what happened. When Lucas started Star Wars with the words "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..." he was implicitly serving notice to the audience that they weren't participants, they were at best witnesses to events that had already happened, through participants who were long dead.

Why does this matter? It matters because Lucas' intent was to build an overarching mythological structure, not necessarily to make a bunch of movies. If you listen to Lucas blather on in his laconic fashion on the Star Wars DVD commentaries, you'll hear him say about how he wanted everything to make sense in the long view -- that all his films served the mythology. This is fine, but it reinforces the point that the films themselves -- not to mention the scripts and the acting -- are secondary to Lucas' true goal of myth building. Myths can be entertaining -- indeed, they survive because they can entertain, even if they don't brook participation. These films could work as entertainment. But fundamentally they don't, because Lucas doesn't seem to care if the films work as entertainment, as long as they sufficiently conform to his created mythology.

This is especially evident in the prequel trilogy, which is designed for the specific purpose of consecrating the mythology of the Skywalker family; in essence, putting flesh on the bones of the myth, so that the flesh could then turn to dust and the bones could be chopped up for reliquaries. Because they're not designed as entertainment, it's not surprising they're not really all that entertaining; strip out the yeoman work of Industrial Light and Magic and what you have left is a grim Calvinistic stomp toward the creation of Darth Vader. Lucas was so intent to get there that he didn't bother to slow down to write a decent script or to give his cast (riddled though it was with acclaimed actors) an opportunity to do more than solemnly intone its lines. Lucas simply couldn't be bothered to do more; entertainment gave way to scriptual sufficiency.

Now that the magnum opus of the Star Wars cycle is done, we can see that any entertainment value of the series is either unintentional (Lucas couldn't suck the pure entertainment value out of his pastiche sources), achieved through special effects, or is the work of hired guns, notably Lawrence Kasdan and Leigh Brackett (those two wrote The Empire Strikes Back, the only movie in the series that has a script that evidences much in the way of wit, much less dialogue that ranks above serviceable. Kasdan and Brackett were clearly attempting to entertain as well as serve the mythology, showing it is possible to do both). It's clear that Lucas doesn't much care what people think of the films, and why should he? He got to make the films he wanted to make, the way he wanted to make them. His vision, his mythology, his structure is complete, and he doesn't have to rationalize the means by which the structure was achieved.

Ironically, I don't blame Lucas for this. He is who he is. Personally, I blame whatever jackass at 20th Century Fox agreed to let Lucas have the rights to the sequels and to the merchandising in exchange for Lucas lowering his fee to direct the first Star Wars. I don't know if the films of the Star Wars series would be better overall if there were real studio oversight, but I do know that each individual film would at least try to be entertaining. Because film studios don't actually give a crap about mythology; they give a crap about getting butts into the seats. Perhaps someone could have asked Lucas if maybe he didn't want to hand the script of Episode I over to someone who could, you know, actually write dialogue, or possibly if he might not be content to produce while someone else handled the chore of putting the actors through their paces, since clearly he found that aspect of filmmaking to be a necessary evil at best. In essence, people who would let Lucas fiddle with his myth-making, smile, then turn to a director and screenwriter and say "now, make this entertaining, or by God, we'll feed your testicles to Shamu." Oh, for a time machine.

Now, hold on, you say: If the Star Wars films aren't meant to be entertainment, how come so many people were entertained? It's a fair question; after all, there's not a single film in the series that made less than $200 million at the box office (and those are in 1980 dollars). I'm happy to allow it's entirely possible to be entertained by Episodes IV, V and VI, due to their novelty and the intervention of hired guns who aimed for entertainment even as Lucas was on his holy quest for mythology. Even then, however, Return of the Jedi was pushing it. I defy you to find any person who was genuinely entertained by Episodes I, II and III. Episode I in particular is an airless, joyless slog; in the theater you could actually hear people's expectations deflate -- a whooshing groan -- the moment Jar-Jar showed up. After the first weekend of Episode I, people went to the prequel trilogy films for the same reason so many people go to church on Sunday: It's habit, they know when to stand and when to sit, and they want to see how the preacher will screw up the sermon this week. You know what I felt when Episode III was done? Relief. I was done with the Star Wars films. I was free. I'm not the only one.

But even accounting for the fact that the IV, V and VI could be entertaining, they were still not meant as entertainment. In the final analysis they were means to an end, and an end that only one person -- George Lucas -- desired. This is not entertainment, save for Lucas, and it's wrong to say it is. And it's why saying we should have more entertainment like Star Wars is folly. Do we really need more entertainment that's designed only to make one person happy? Look, I write books that I'd want to read, but I don't pretend I'm not writing for others as well. George Lucas managed to con billions into thinking that he was entertaining them (or alternately, they so desperately needed to believe they were being entertained that they denied they weren't), but honestly. Once is enough. Fool me once, etc.

Look, here's a test for you. I want you to go out and find this movie: Battle Beyond the Stars. It's a piece of crap 1980 B-movie, produced by Roger Corman, that's clearly cashing in on the Star Wars phenomenon. Hell, it's even a pastiche of the same things Star Wars is a pastiche of (it even has a planet Akir, named for Akira Kurosawa), and it was made for $2 million, which is nothing money, even back in 1980. Thing is, its screenplay was written by John Sayles (later twice nominated for the Best Screenplay Academy Award), and it's funny and smart, and the whole movie, rather incredibly, keeps pace. Watch it and then tell me, honestly, that it's not more entertaining than Star Wars Episodes I, II, III and VI. Unless you're so distracted by the cheesy special effects and the fact that John Boy Walton is the star that you simply can't go on, I expect you'll admit you were more entertained by this little flick than all that Star Wars mythology.

The reason: It wants to entertain you. Corman and Sayles, bless their little hearts, probably didn't give a crap about mythology, except to the extent that it served to help them entertain you, the viewer. They cared about giving you 90 minutes of fun so they could make their money back, and that would let them do it again. I'm not suggesting that there should be more SF like Battle Beyond the Stars (though I can think of worse things). I am suggesting that if we're going to talk about the Star Wars series as entertainment, we should note that as entertainment, it gets its ass resolutely kicked by a $2 million piece of crap Roger Corman flick. So let's not pretend that the Star Wars series is this great piece of entertainment.

Instead, let's call it what it is: A monument to George Lucas pleasuring himself. Which, you know, is fine. I'm happy for Lucas; it's nice that he was able to do that for himself. We all like to make ourselves happy. But since he did it all in public, I just wish he'd been a little more entertaining about it.

Posted by john at 12:21 PM | Comments (172) | TrackBack

The Ghost Brigades Currently Sold Out on Amazon

It's been brought to my attention that at the moment Amazon appears to be fresh out of The Ghost Brigades, and folks are wondering if that means it's out of print.

The answer: Not as far as I know. The paperback isn't going to be out until next May, so that's kind of a long time not to have the book out there, and I know Tor does like making money with those books of mine (and I for one heartily endorse this sentiment). And also, you know, if the book had gone out of print, I expect Tor would have told me.

What it means is probably that Amazon went through its stock and is in the process of reordering, and in all likelihood will have the book back on the virtual shelves within a day or so. So don't panic. It's not there now, but it will be back soon. Really.

Also remember that unless you're absolutely dead-set on ordering from Amazon, there are lots of other places to buy the book online: Borderlands Books, Clarkesworld Books (both of which may still have signed copies in their inventories), any other number of specialized SF bookstores, Barnes and Noble, Powell's, Booksense and so on and so forth. Hell, you can even get it from Wal-Mart online, if'n you really wanted, or Tower, while it lasts. Point is, there are lots of places online to buy the book (and indeed, any of my books -- and, indeed, almost any book) that aren't named for a South American river. And while purchasing them elsewhere does not give me the tiny ego bump of watching my Amazon sales rank uptick, it still will show up on my royalty statement, and honestly, that's the number that matters.

Posted by john at 08:43 AM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

October 10, 2006

The Android's Dream Review at SFRevu

Lest I forget to mention the novel I actually have coming out this month, there's another review of The Android's Dream, over at SFRevu. I'll note to you prior to linking that the review has spoilers in it, in the fourth paragraph, so I recommend sort of letting your eye slide past that particular graph. I have a suspicion that these two spoilers are going to crop up in a lot of reviews (one or both have already in the majority of the reviews I've seen), which is a little frustrating since I like pointing to reviews but don't want to give away these plot points, which, you know, I kinda want people to find out on their own. Ah, well. Anyway: Spoilers. Here's the link.

Aside from this, it's a fine review. Here's a quote I like:

What I liked about The Android's Dream, apart from the engaging characters and action that are a hallmark of the author's work, was the way it all built up to its punchline... I'm convinced that this book was written from the punch line backwards to the beginning, which is the only way all the disparate elements could have tied together so well at the end.

I'm delighted that the reviewer (Ernest Lilly) thinks that book is well-designed, since I happen to be of the opinion that structurally it's probably the tightest book I've written; the "Old Man" trilogy of books have deeper themes than this one, but this one is calibrated like a sports car, to go fast and handle the curves. Having said that, in fact I wrote it pretty much like I write all my books, which is that I have some idea of the opening, some idea of the ending, and a couple of neat scenes in the middle, and no idea how I'm going to get from one to the other. One of the nice things about writing this way is that you can retrofit as you go, and at the end it looks fairly seamless. During the production, however: what a mess. But you only have my word for that. If I'm doing my job, it looks like I know what the Hell I was doing from the start.

Posted by john at 11:29 AM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

The Last Colony Auction Winner; Announcing "The Sagan Diary"

All right, now it's official: The winner of the auction for the super-exclusive edition of The Last Colony is Bill Schafer, publisher of Subterranean Press, who bid $5,000 for the book. So that's $5,000 that's going to the John M. Ford Book Endowment. I'm happy and flabbergasted at that amount. Happy because this helps Mike Ford's memory will now be honored in perpetuity in the best way: by funding reading at a public library; flabbergasted because, dude, someone bought something I wrote for $5,000. That's a not insignificant amount of money. So many thanks to Bill for fronting that sort of cash.

Now, it takes nothing from Bill's remarkable generosity to note that in addition to The Last Colony, he was also interested in the fact that I promised that I would write a short story for the winner of the auction if the bids got to $5,000 or above. He's been interested in having me write a story for him in the "Old Man's" universe, not unlike what I did in "Questions for a Soldier," and this was (heh) a fine way to get me to agree to do it. And I have.

So: I'd like to announce pre-ordering is available for "The Sagan Diary," a novelette-length (approx. 12,500 to 15,000 words) tale, told from the view of Jane Sagan, that takes place between the events of The Ghost Brigades and The Last Colony. This novelette marks the first (and only) time I've told a story from the first-person position of Jane Sagan herself, and I can promise that this will be a most interesting view into the "Old Man" universe. I don't think I've made any secret that in many ways I think of the "Old Man" series is about Jane; she's the only character in all three novels, and she grows in each of them. So now having an excuse to get inside her head fills me with glee. I'm looking forward to sharing this with you all.

(For those of you who might be worried that Bill is somehow taking advantage of my generosity by getting a story from me and then turning around and selling it, I'll note Bill is treating the $5k like an advance, and that if that's recouped, he'll be splitting the profits from the sale with me. This strikes me as an entirely fair deal.)

"The Sagan Diary" will be published in February, 2007 but is available for preorder now, and will be available to two editions: A fully bound cloth hardcover for $20 (it says $25 on the announcement page but $20 on the order page, so I'll go with the price on the order page), and a signed, leatherbound edition for $45. Both will also be nicely illustrated and will come to about 100 or so pages; they'll be very attractive little books to add to your official collection.

The signed deluxe edition also comes with a nifty twist: If you pre-order the signed edition, you'll be added into the book itself on a special "In Memoriam" page as a member of 3rd Platoon, Company D, whose fate will play a role "The Sagan Diary." So if you want to officially be a part of the "Old Man" universe, this is how to do it.

One other thing: If you get the signed edition, and you have contributed any amount to the John M. Ford Book Endowment, let Subterranean know; they'll knock $5 off the signed edition. It's Bill's way of saying thanks for supporting the endowment. If you haven't contributed to the endowment yet, you can go here to do so. I do hope you'll contribute regardless.

If you'd like to pre-order "The Sagan Diaries," here's the Subterranean Press order page.

I also want to thank everyone who bid on The Last Colony. I was honored and humbled that so many of you were willing to put down hundreds of dollars, both to get a crack at the novel and to benefit Mike Ford's legacy. For both of these, I do thank you from my heart. You are good people, and I am glad to know you.

Posted by john at 08:28 AM | Comments (28) | TrackBack

October 09, 2006

Sunset, 10/09/06

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You know what I like best about doing the sunset picture entries? I don't have to do anything. I just snap a picture, you know?

Posted by john at 07:34 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Tidbitty Goodness, 10/9/06

Other things I'm thinking about:

* First, hi, I'm back in Ohio, and never more shall I roam, at least not until mid-November, at which point I'll be going to Philcon. My flight back from California was a great deal less dramatic than my flight in, and driving on the way home I did the speed limit all the way there, because this time I could.

My Saturday was very pleasant indeed; my signing went well -- we ran out of books just as my autograph period ended, which was lovely timing, and just before the signing I got spend a couple of moments chatting with Alan Beatts, the owner of Borderlands Books, who was on the board of directors for the Northern California Independent Bookstores Association, which is the group that ran the tradeshow. After that, I went and had coffee with my friends Quinn and Danny, and then headed off to dinner with Spider and Jeannie Robinson, and Tor reps Patty Garica and Kevin Peters, and there was much good conversation to be had. Spider and Jeannie and I talked quite a bit about Robert Heinlein -- who'da thunk? -- but we talked about many other interesting topics as well. You wish you could have been there. As it happens the Robinsons and I will be participating in the Heinlein Centennial next year, so that should be interesting.

So, in all, a very nice time. And when I got back, there was a new alarm clock waiting for me. Perfect.

* Speaking of Alan Beatts and Borderland Books, there's an article about niche bookstores that features some information on him and the store. Here's a version with a good picture of Alan.

* This religious group thinks that good church-going teenagers shouldn't blog. Actually, that's too limited: "Let me emphasize that no one—including adults—should have a blog or personal website (unless it is for legitimate business purposes)." I'm glad I don't go to that church, as its rationales for not having a blog seem a bit thoughtcrimey to me, but more than that it seems counter to the words of Jesus in Matthew 28, 18-20, in which Jesus preached outreach to all nations. I suspect Jesus would be down with preaching to the online nation as well. But this article correctly notes that this inhibition is about the particular church ("blogging is simply not to be done in the Church"), and I suspect this says more about the church in question than it does about the words and intent of Jesus Christ.

* Whoops: Foley warned about his online communication in teens back in 2000. He's been hitting on page boys in two separate millenia! You know, every time the GOP says they've gotten this behind them, out comes another tidbit like this. At this point, the scandal is less about Foley and his taste for one-handed IMing than it is about the persistently incompetent response from the GOP about it. This is like the millipede scandal: the shoes just keep on dropping.

* This woman is going to Hell (warning: If you're a parent, you're probably not going to want to click through).

* Just a reminder that today is the last day to bid in for the super-exclusive pre-release version of The Last Colony, with the proceeds to benefit the John M. Ford Book Endowment for the Minneapolis Public Library. The bidding now stands at $5,000. You know you want to bid more. Here's the thread to make the bid.

And remember, even if you don't make a bid, you can still donate to the John M. Ford Book Endowment. Here's the link to do it.

Posted by john at 11:11 AM | Comments (35) | TrackBack

Who's Next?

Hey, North Korea's got the bomb! But don't worry, Americans, you know that the Bush Administration and their apparatchiks are on the job to do what is undoubtedly the most important thing now for the good of the country and the world: Find a way to blame it on Bill Clinton.

Yeah, I know, cynical of me. But, look: Who among us honestly believes that this is not what the Bushies will try to do? And then Bill Clinton will get on TV somewhere, warm up that pointing finger of his, and note (as my classmate Josh Marshall already has) that the bomb used in the test was probably made with plutonium from a plant his agreement had closed down, and which was opened up again after Bush kicked the Clinton agreement to the curb. And then this will all be about Bush and Clinton again, not about the fact that North Korea has got the friggin' bomb. I would like to think that we might actually focus on that.

If the bomb turns out to be the plutonium variety, I think the Bush folks do bear some responsibility in the matter, but let's not be stupid about this: The North Koreans have been gunning for nukes for a long time and I suspect sooner or later would have done this damn fool sort of thing, regardless of treaties and agreements. As much as it would be fun to say this was entirely the fault of the Bush response to North Korea, I think that's a faulty appraisal of the situation, because it's predicated on the notion that North Korea is an honest broker; it's not and never has been. Its plan was always to acquire nukes come hell or high water. What the Clinton agreement did, in my opinion, was simply buy us and the rest of the world some time to figure out what the hell to do with a nuclear North Korea; when Bush scrapped the treaty, he shortened that amount of time.

Well, folks, time's up. What do we do with a nuclear North Korea? Because, see, this is the real problem: Given the total disarray of the US diplomatic response to everything else in the world, I rather seriously doubt we have any sort of coherent plan at all. Now, this Time article suggests that perhaps there's not much that could have been done anyway, and maybe that's correct. But I would at least like the feeling that the US and the current administration had wargamed this scenario beyond "make stern declarations," and I don't have that feeling. I'll be interested to see what happens next, but I'm not actually confident what comes out of our end of this will make any sort of sense.

Bush and his administration aren't to blame for the North Koreans having nukes; that's all about the North Koreans. But unless we see some attempt at a rational reponse from them, like, now, they can be blamed for blowing yet another major foreign diplomatic crisis. That's not going to be good news for him three weeks out from a national election, and no amount of blaming his administration's inadequate response on Boogeyman Clinton will make a difference.

Update, 2:30pm: Or was it a nuclear device at all? There are apparently doubts (or, if it were a device, perhaps it didn't work as planned). If it turns out to have been just a really, really big conventional explosion, that certainly puts a new wrinkle on things, doesn't it -- North Korea would have just shot its wad for no good effect, and the rest of the world won't look too kindly on it for having done so. Yes, this is interesting stuff, indeed.

Posted by john at 10:03 AM | Comments (78) | TrackBack

October 08, 2006

Another Travel Day

I'm going to be busy trying to get home today, so I won't have any time to play around here. But I don't want you to be bored, so here: Play some Bejeweled while I'm out.

See you tomorrow.

Posted by john at 10:39 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

October 07, 2006

Mmmmm... ARCy Goodness.

My reward for signing a big ol' stack of Ghost Brigades for the fine booksellers of Northern California: an ARC of Dan Simmons' new book The Terror.

I mention this for the sole purpose of inspiring insane jealousy in at least a couple of people who I know read the Whatever. Because I am a sad and petty little man, that's why. Oh, yes.

Posted by john at 04:28 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Blatheration for a Saturday

Ahhhh, I feel much better now. Shortly after posting yesterday I went out into the real world, which, as it turned out, had a nearby farmer's market, at which I bought a lot of really amazingly fresh fruit and empanadas, and I had some of each, and then I self-medicated with a Coke, and all of that seemed to help my general demeanor. Then I was off to Locus headquarters, where I had a long and interesting conversation with Charles Brown, and also got to catch up with Amelia Beamer, Karlyn Pratt and Tim Pratt, who aside from being excellent people are also Locus staff and know how to make a guy feel welcome. Then it was back to the hotel, a quick meetup with Whatever commentator Pixelfish (who happens to work a block away from the hotel I'm staying at, which made it easy to say hello), and then dinner with Kevin Stampfl and his gal Monica. The Android's Dream is dedicated to Kevin, so I slipped him the ARC for it; he'll get a real copy as soon as I get one. And then, you know, I went and collapsed, because I had a long day.

Just in case you were wondering, the major stress-inducing issue I had yesterday was that I came to within about three minutes of missing my flight to California -- My alarm clock didn't go off and I woke up two hours later than I had wanted to, which was no good because my flight was out of Cincinnati's airport, which was 90 miles and an entirely different state away, and now I would have to drive through Cincy's morning rush hour traffic to get there. So I ended up doing 90 miles an hour, interspersed with several long stretches of doing about 5 miles an hour. I got to my gate literally as they were boarding the flight. It took me until I actually got into my hotel room before I realized I hadn't actually unclenched. When I called Krissy, I told her she needed to get us a new alarm clock before I got back, because if I saw the old one again I was going to beat it to death with a hammer. So, yay! We'll be getting a new alarm clock!

Today's schedule: Signing and then later dinner with the Tor/Holtzbrinck reps and also Spider and Jeannie Robinson. Very excited about that -- I haven't met either of them yet and they seem like they would be fun dinner companions. Inbetween that I have some other business to attend to, which sounds all very mysterious but isn't really.

I do have to say I'm a little depressed that so many people want to see me and I'm scheduled enough this time out that I'm not able to spend any good amount of time with them. I think what I need to do at some point is schedule a "hang out" tour, where all I do is fly to a city, find a central location, and then just hang out there all day and let people find me. That would be a lot of fun, I think, and God knows I want to have an excuse to hang out with some particular folks. I'll have to mull on the logistics of doing something like that. And of getting a corporate sponsor.

Posted by john at 11:22 AM | Comments (24) | TrackBack

October 06, 2006

Gaaaah, Redux

Just in to Oakland. Bad morning. Crushing headache. Need caffeine. Talk later.

And how are you?

Posted by john at 03:28 PM | Comments (35) | TrackBack

October 05, 2006

Gaaaaaah: An Open Thread

My internet connection is not playing nice today, and I have too many other things to do today to spend a lot of time on it. So, here, have an open thread. To get the conversation rolling, consider one (or both) of these two topics:

1. Should there be a corollary to Godwin's Law that says that whenever a Republican apparatchik brings up Clinton to excuse/justify/distract from whatever damn fool thing the GOP is doing, that they've lost the debate?

2. Tell me what good new music you're listening to, "new" being "come out since January 1, 2006." If you find yourself typing "Well, this came out before 2006, but..." or some variation thereof, please self-administer a tasering. New music, people.

I'm listening to the new Jet album myself. It's pretty good so far.

You can also talk about other things too. That's why it's an "open thread."

Posted by john at 12:50 PM | Comments (138) | TrackBack

October 04, 2006

Wednesday Author Interview: Mark Budz

minitlc.jpg Make your bid for The Last Colony, to benefit the John M. Ford Book Endowment. Learn more!

My Wednesday Author Interview is up over at By the Way: This week it's Mark Budz, author of the highly praised science fiction novel Idolon. I had a signing session with Mark during Worldcon this year; he's a great guy and a damn fine author. Enjoy the interview.

I've done enough of these interviews now that I should make an link archive of them somewhere, so that people who are interested in them can find a quick way to link to them. I'll add this to the agenda.


Posted by john at 03:23 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

A Significant Event in the "Last Colony" Auction

As those of you who are participating in the Last Colony auction know, one of the rules I've set for the auction is that no bid can exceed a previous bid by more than $20. The reason for this is simple: This keeps the fakers from bidding up the price to unreasonable levels they never intend to pay, thus messing with the people who making legitimate bids. I thought putting a cap on each maximum bid would keep the auction on an even keel, and so far it has -- we're at $520 dollars in the bidding, which is really far beyond what I expected. I am humbled and gratified. Thank you.

Here's the thing: The limit was set to make sure there would be only legitimate bids. And now I have I have someone who I know is a legitimate bidder, who wants to raise the bid to $5,000. The bidder is Bill Schafer, who is the publisher of Subterranean Press. I've done quite a lot of business with Bill over the last couple of years, so I know he's good for the bid.

After much thought on the subject, I'm going to allow this bid. The goal here is to raise money for the John M. Ford Book Endowment, after all. $5,000 will go a long way in allowing the endowment to get where it needs to start buying books. For me to ignore a bid that does that, and that I know is legitimate, would make me, well, kind of stupid.

So: The current bid in the auction for The Last Colony is now $5,000. If anyone cares to bid above that amount, you can improve on it (and subsequent amounts) by up to $250 each turn. All other previous rules apply. Bid in the auction thread, not here. Again, please don't bid unless it's a serious bid; don't waste my time, or the time of the other bidders. Thanks!

Posted by john at 07:20 AM | Comments (38) | TrackBack

Mark Foley's Upcoming Personal Disclosures

While I don't wish to appear unsympathetic to the plight of former representative Mark Foley, who I hope receives all the counseling and care he needs, I can't help but notice that Foley's now-daily disclosures of terrible personal secrets, genuine as they may be, also look very much like the performance of a politician dramatically and publicly falling on his sword in order to provide his former (and now somewhat panicked) colleagues the evidence they need to suggest that he was so darn screwed up that people should focus on that, rather than, say, the moral poverty of a Congressional leadership that allowed a man IMing sexually-charged messages to teen pages to remain the co-chair of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children.

As effective as these personal disclosures of Foley have been in drawing attention to his own screwed-uppedness, however, the media still seems to show an annoying tendency to ask the house leadership about its role in the mess. This is not optimal, particularly with the election so close at hand. Clearly, what needs to happen is a continual stream of poignant revelations from former representative Foley, on the pace of one a day or so, in order to keep the focus on him, not on Hastert, Boehner, Reynolds or any other prominent House Republican that one may care to name.

And as it just so happens, one of my sources on Capitol Hill has slipped me the following information: The next ten heart-rending personal disclosures from Mark Foley. This list of tragedies will keep the media busy through at least next week, which is more than enough time to concoct some mass hysteria-causing fake crisis that can be fed to the public via Fox News allow congressional leaders to effectively address the public's concerns.

Mark Foley's Next Ten Heart-Rending Personal Disclosures

1. Functionally illiterate, which explains his IM grammar

2. Is a "transmelinaed" -- a badger trapped in a human's body

3. Previously undisclosed kleptomania caused him to steal IM transcripts from Denny Hastert's desk

4. Psychologically scarred at the age of eight when his cat perished in a horrible bacon-taping incident

5. Bedwetter? Bedsaturater

6. Never got over not being related to Axel Foley

7. Naturally smells of jasmine and lilacs -- not a good thing in gym class

8. Not only unable to solve a Rubik's Cube, but also deeply flummoxed by the Pyraminx

9. Pathological fear of toast

10. Shameful addiction to New Wave of British Heavy Metal; has entire discography of Judas Priest, but oddly, nothing from Girlschool

There! Now you're ahead of the news cycle.

Get well, Mark Foley. Privately, if you please.

Posted by john at 12:54 AM | Comments (77) | TrackBack

October 03, 2006

Steal This Auction Idea

In the auction discussion thread, I'm asked a question about the auction by Jo Walton, the author of the entirely excellent Farthing, Tooth and Claw and other stupendous work. She says:

This is such a brilliant idea I want to steal it -- would you be OK with that?

My response: Are you kidding? I would be delighted if other science fiction and fantasy writers also offered up some tasty piece of their work life as an enticement for people to donate to the John M. Ford Book Endowment. I think it's a fine way to make sure his name and legacy live on in a vital and useful way.

I want to be very careful about overstating my relationship either to Mr. Ford or to this endowment -- I know Mike Ford mostly through the quality of his friends and the quality of his writing, both of which are ridiculously high, and my only involvement with the endowment in his name is that I hope to be able to direct a nice chunk of money its way. That said, literacy is important to me, and the ability to help direct money into an endownment that will directly and perpetually buy books seems like the sort of thing I can get behind, and something I hope other writers could get behind as well.

So, other science fiction/fantasy writers: Yes, please, steal this idea. Offer up something others that your fans would kill to get, and make them pay for it, and then give all the money to the John M. Ford Book Endowment, and encourage your fans to pitch in a few bucks to the endowment even if they don't win the auction. Because libraries rock, literacy beats the alternative, and the science fiction and fantasy community could use an excellent philanthropical hobby.

(Practical note: I do suggest using a legitimate auctioning site, however, like eBay, which is probably something I should have done if I had given this thing due thought before posting it. I've taken on a lot of administrative headaches to assure a legit auction -- eBay would handle most of that for you. What can I say, enthusiasm got the better of me.)

If authors do decide to create auctions to benefit the John M. Ford Book Endowment, I'll be happy to link to them here. Just drop me an e-mail with a link to let me know. Maybe that will help. It would be nice, in any event.

Update: On that note, Jo Walton has her enticements to donate up on her LiveJournal. Depending how much you donate, you can get unpublished stories, get yourself tuckerized or even (!) get an original poem. And she has books to auction off as well. Excellent.

Posted by john at 02:00 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Fiddly Bits, 10/3/06

Various things I'm kicking about my head today:

* Oh, dear. You know it's a bad scandal for the Republicans when the Washington Times is calling for Denny Hastert's resignation. It also suggests that Hastert's Colonel Clink Sergeant Schultz defense of clasping his hands to his head and declaiming "I know nothink!" isn't going to be as effective as he may have hoped it was going to be.

Along the same line, however, this tantalizing line from Brian Ross about how other former pages are coming forward with dirt on other congressional folks has some lefties just about exploding with joy; I think it's sweet how these folks seem to be under the impression that only conservatives can get hopped up on thoughts of young and tender teenage flesh. Got news for you, folks: If indeed there are more congresscritters mashing out lust notes in IM form to their teenage pages, the chances that all of them are going to be on the same side of the aisle quickly approaches zero. Creeps come in all political orientations.

What's relevant in this particular case, to my mind, is how long leadership knew Foley was crushing on teen pages, and why he was allowed to continue co-chairing a caucus charged with protecting kids and teens when it was clear his interest in teens was not entirely one of compassion.

* Charlie Stross is talking about book covers, and how much input an author has, by noting his own involvement in his various book covers with various publishers. My experience on this is close to Charlie's: With my Tor books I was basically presented with artwork and allowed to comment and make suggestions, whereas with my Subterranean Books I had considerable more leeway (as, interestingly enough, I did with my Rough Guide to the Universe book, in which the picture I suggested for the cover ended up there).

I feel fortunate that I've been pleased with nearly all the covers of all my books, and those ones I wasn't thrilled about are an object example of why author's shouldn't necessarily drive the art design: I don't think the covers of the Book of the Dumb books are brilliant, personally, but as those books are my bestsellers so far, clearly the covers speak to their market segment. So there is that. I don't mind being wrong in this case, incidentally, because it's worked out well for me. But I am glad my input does seem to matter to my other publishers.

* The auction for The Last Colony seems to be coming along swimmingly; at the moment I'm writing this, it's up to $350, which thrills me to no end. Thanks to everyone who has bid so far.

You'll notice that I put a line about the auction at the top of this entry; I'll probably cut and paste that line into each new entry (taking it off the old entries as I do so) until the auction has run its course. I want to keep the auctino top of mind, but I'm going to try not to be obnoxious about it, especially as the bids are already at a level I consider a success.

* Do bloggers write better than high school students? Chad Orzel and Dave Munger asked bloggers to take the same writing test teenagers take on the newly updated SATs, and see how they fared. The results are fairly gruesome. I didn't take up the challenge myself; after presuming to give teenagers writing advice, I would dread discovering I hosed the SAT essay challenge. I'd have to go back to high school and start all over. And that's just wrong.

Posted by john at 11:19 AM | Comments (58) | TrackBack

"The Last Colony" Auction: To Benefit the John M Ford Book Endowment

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The Short Version: I am auctioning ONE bound copy of the manuscript of my upcoming novel The Last Colony to benefit the John M. Ford Book Endowment, for the Minneapolis Public Library. This is an EXTREMELY RARE version of the manuscript, one of only four, and the ONLY way to read the novel prior to its May 2007 release. Opening bid is $50; bid increments of no less than $1, whole dollar increments only. Auction closes 11:59:59 pm eastern, Monday October 9th. Please read the long version for more details and on how to bid.

The Long Version

I read in Elise Matthesen's LiveJournal today that the Friends of the Minneapolis Public Library have inaugurated a John M. Ford Book Endowment, to allow Mike Ford's memory to live on through the acquisition of books for the public's enjoyment. As a writer and as a fan of libraries, this is a thought that I can get behind, and I thought about what I could do to help the endowment along.

Well, as it happens, today I received four bound copies of my manuscript for The Last Colony, the third and (for now, at least) final novel in the "Old Man" series. The copies were printed via Lulu, the print-on-demand house, and look and feel like your standard trade paperbacks. One copy is for my own reference, one copy is for my wife, and I printed two additional copies as well. After receiving permission from my editor, I am now offering one of these copies for auction, to benefit the John M. Ford Book Endowment.

Since this auction may bring new folks to my site, allow me to introduce myself and The Last Colony to you.

Who Am I?

I'm John Scalzi and I write science fiction. I'm the 2006 winner of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. My first science fiction novel, Old Man's War, was nominated for the Hugo award. Its sequel The Ghost Brigades is currently available in hardcover. The Last Colony is the third book in this series.

What is The Last Colony About?

Here's a description:

Former soldier John Perry has found peace in a violent universe, living a quiet life with his wife Jane on one of humanity's many colonies. It's a good life, and yet there's something... missing. When John and Jane are asked to lead a new colony world, he jumps at the chance to the explore the universe once more.
But Perry quickly finds out that nothing is what it seems. He and his new colony are pawns in an interstellar game of diplomacy and war, between humanity's Colonial Union and a new, seemingly unstoppable alien alliance that has ordered an end to all human colonization. As this grand gambit rages above, on the ground Perry struggles to keep his colonists alive in the face of threats both alien and familiar, on a planet that keeps its own fatal secrets.
For the survival of his colony, Perry must unravel the web of lies, half-truths and deception spun around him and uncover the shocking true purpose of his colony -- and fight to prevent a war that not only threatens to engulf his new home, but promises the destruction of the Colonial Union. There are few options, and no margin for error, for Perry to keep his colony from becoming the last colony of the human race.


Why You Want This Edition of The Last Colony:

1. It's the only way you'll be able to read this novel prior to its release in May of 2007 (unless you're a reviewer, but even then you'll only get it in April 2007. It's still a long wait). As of this writing, the number of people who have read the book can be counted on my fingers; you'll be in exclusive company.

(Please note that the edition you're receiving is an uncorrected version; it'll still have all my idiot spelling, grammar and plot errors in it. However, I assure you, any plot variances from the finished book will be minor indeed, and my spelling and grammar are reasonably decent.)

2. This is an extremely rare edition of the book -- only four copies of this edition exist, or ever will exist -- I deleted the template for the book after I ordered these copies. This makes this version of the novel the ultimate in collector's editions.

3. I will of course sign and (if desired) personalize the novel for you, adding to its collector's value.

4. You'll be helping to advance the cause of literacy: Every penny of your bid will go directly to the John M. Ford Book Endowment, benefitting the Minneapolis Public Library. There it will work in perpetuity to purchase books for general use.

5. You'll be honoring the memory of a good man and a damn fine writer.

6. As an extra added bonus, as the bidding increases, I'll add to the pot:

If the bidding gets above $200, I'll throw in a copy of my signed, limited-edition chapbook "Questions for a Soldier."

At $500, I'll put in a signed Advance Reader Copy of Agent to the Stars.

At $1,000, a signed ARC of The Ghost Brigades.

At $2,000, a signed copy of Old Man's War.

At $3,000, I'll make you a character in an upcoming book (note: I may kill you off. Hey, it happens).

And at $5,000, I'll write you your own short story. Because, damn, if you're paying $5K, you deserve it.

So the more you bid, the more you'll get. And remember, all of it goes to the John M. Ford Book Endowment.

How to Bid on The Last Colony (READ ALL OF THIS):

Easy: Place your bid in the comment thread attached to this entry. Do this by entering the dollar amount of your bid in the comment field. US dollar amounts only. Please put your bid amount at the top of your comment, away from any additional comment, so other bidders may easily see the amount of the bid.

You MUST input your real name and a valid e-mail address on their respective lines in the comment form. This will allow me to contact you if I have to, and also help me make sure bids are valid (do not put your e-mail in the body of your message). Bids without this information are not valid.

Please do not use this comment thread for anything other than making bids; it'll get cluttered. I'll be deleting non-bid messages. If you want to make a non-bid comment on this entry, use this entry for discussion and questions.

Bidding starts at $50. Which is to say, I'm not parting company with this copy for any less.

Additional bids must increase the previous bid by no less than $1. No penny ante crap, please. Additionally, all bids must be in whole dollar amounts: $2, for example, not $1.99 (or $1.50, or $1.25, or whatever). This will keep the math relatively simple.

To avoid pranking, the maximum bid increase is $20 a turn. This is to say that if the previous bid is $60, your bid can raise the total bid to no more than $80 ($60 + $20). Once someone else has bid more, you may of course bid again. You must wait until someone else has bid in order to bid again; no sequential bids.

If the auction exceeds $1000, the maximum bid increase will bump up to $50 a turn. Also, I'll be very happy.

(Update, 10/4 8:18am: Bidding has reached $5,000. Whoo-hoo! New maximum bid increase is $250.)

In the case where two people enter the same bid amount, the earliest bid is the valid one. As the second bid is invalid, that bidder may immediately bid again if he or she chooses.

The auction begins the moment this entry is posted; it ends at 11:59:59 pm Eastern, Monday, October 9, 2006. At that point the highest bidder will be declared the winner. Bids posted after that time will not be considered valid. I am the timekeeper, which is to say my clock is the legitimate clock for this auction.

I reserve the right to declare a bid void, and remove it from the comment queue, if in my opinion it is not a legitimate bid; declaring a bid void may also declare bids subsequent to it void, based on my discretion (if your bid has been declared void and removed because of this, feel free to resubmit your bid). I reserve the right to ban specific bidders if I feel they are bidding in bad faith. Likewise, I reserve the right to cancel the auction. If I cancel the auction, I will contribute no less than $50 (i.e., the opening bid price) to the John M. Ford Book Endowment. So matter what happens, the Endowment's getting paid.

Please note that I fully expect that people will indeed bid fairly and honestly; I'm just trying to lay down ground rules. Having said that, please don't bid if you don't have the money or don't have any intention of honoring your bid at the end of the auction. Save us all the aggravation, please.

What Happens If You Win

I'll send you an e-mail confirming your win. I'll need a reply in no more than 24 hours after I sent you the e-mail, confirming that you intend to honor your bid, and an address I can mail the book to.

Once I get that, you'll have the option of either paying your bid amount to me through Paypal, or mailing me a check/money order. If you send your amount via PayPal, I'll stuff the book into an envelope the instant I get the money. If you mail a check/money order, you'll need to wait for the payment to clear.

If I don't hear back from you in 24 hours after I've e-mailed you, I'll make the executive decision your bid wasn't serious and I'll move down the list to the next highest bidder. Sorry. Note my decisions are final.

Again, if you have any questions or comments, don't put them in this comment thread, put them in this one. This thread is for bids only.

Incidentally, if you want to donate to the John M. Ford Book Endowment without making a bid here -- and of course I encourage all of you to do so -- go here to do it.

Good luck!

Posted by john at 12:26 AM | Comments (38) | TrackBack

"The Last Colony" Auction Comment and Discussion Thread

This is the place where comment and discussion about the Last Colony auction goes. What say you?

Posted by john at 12:24 AM | Comments (42) | TrackBack

October 02, 2006

Just to Taunt All Y'all

athenatlc1002.jpg

What is it that Athena is looking at so interestedly-like? Why it's a bound copy of The Last Colony. One of four that exist in the whole wide world, which I had run off on Lulu.

No, you can't have one. One copy is for me, as a reference. One is for Krissy, who doesn't want to read the book off a computer screen. The other two I have, because, well. It's nice to have spares. The point is: personal copies. They're not leaving the house. If you try to break into the house to get one, the dog may have to eat you. And I don't think you want that. Also, don't bother checking Lulu. I ran off the copies and then deleted the book. Even before that I had the entry accessible to me only. Sorry. Anyway, it's just seven months until the book comes out. You can wait.

This was also a test for me to see how Lulu works for me -- I don't really plan to do any major projects using the service, but as noted Krissy prefers to read what I write in printed form, and I wanted to see how Lulu did with that. My determination: Not too bad. To my eye it's clear it's not a professionally printed and typeset book, but for what I want and need, it's perfectly fine. And reasonably cheap: A single paprback copy was less than $11, which is perfectly reasonable for a print-on-demand project. And the process of setting up the document to print was pretty simple as well. I have used CafePress before for a couple of previous POD things I've done, but Lulu does it better and more simply, so I suspect in the future if I do something like this again, I'll come back to Lulu.

Posted by john at 03:38 PM | Comments (43) | TrackBack

Expect a Homeland Security Threat Level Ramp-Up Sometime Today

So, in recap: Mark Foley, the Republican co-chair of the Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus is an aspiring ephebophile, knew all about the online predator behaviors he was legislating against because he was practicing some of them himself, the Republican House leadership knew their man on kid's issues was awfully chummy with the pages but appeared to think the way to deal with it was just to suggest to him that, you know, maybe he shouldn't send personal messages to the boys anymore, and while the House leadership seems shocked, shocked that Foley might possibly be enjoying the company of teen pages (although not so shocked that they removed him from his kid-protecting post) the GOP staffers themselves knew back to 2001, at least, to tell the pages to avoid getting too close to the guy.

This just in: Someone tried to sneak a bomb on an airplane! Inside a schnauzer!

The good news in all this, however, is now that Foley's going into rehab for alcoholism, everything will be okay. Because nothing clears up an attraction to teen boys like rehab for booze.

Mmmm... pie.

I particularly like the spin Brit Hume is putting on this, along the lines of well, you know, Bill Clinton did sort of the same thing, too. But you know what, I think I'm going to go out among the people in my very conservative, very Republican rural Ohio county -- whose representative is in some hot water about this whole thing, incidentally -- and ask them if there's a difference between a male politican getting a hummer from an adult female staffer, and a male politician, charged with the job of keeping kids safe, asking one of his underage male pages to get out a ruler and measure the length of his wang and to essay his favorite techniques for jerking off.

Hmmm. Adult female, underage teenage boy. Consensual adult heterosexual sex, homosexual pedophile cybersex. Hmmm. Maybe it's just me, but I think my conservative, Republican neighbors might be able to parse the difference between the two that appears to elude Mr. Hume.

This just in: Al-Qaeda's #2 man killed!

Look, here's the deal: If the House Republican leadership knew they had a teen-loving, nasty-IM-writing middle-aged man heading up their child-protection caucus, and they hushed it up and let him keep the job, how can they not be removed from their posts? Can you imagine if something like this happened if the House leadership were Democratic, and it was a Democrat asking a teen boy how often he polished Flipper? Rupert Murdoch would personally head up the lynch mob. Of course, having this happen so close to an election might just solve the problem for them. It's one thing to support throwing out habeas corpus, because it's not like the average voter knows how to spell it, much knows what it means. But most voters know how to spell "man-teen cybersex cover-up," and they know what it means, too. November just got a little more interesting.

This just in: Al-Qaeda's #2 man has risen from the dead! It's Bill Clinton!!! And he's got a schnauzer! On a plane! While getting a blow job!

Fellated undead liberal former president terrorist airborne with a dog bomb!

Red alert! Red alert!

Posted by john at 11:13 AM | Comments (103) | TrackBack

October 01, 2006

Pimping Cherie Priest and Clarkesworld Magazine

As most of you know, I'm a big fan of Cherie Priest, both as a human (she's everything you could want in a carbon-based lifeform -- and more!) and as a writer. Cherie's next novel Wings to the Kingdom will be out in just a couple of weeks, and you're going to love it. But if you're like me, you have impulse control issues, and the thought of waiting a couple of weeks for new writing is just so very not on your agenda.

You're in luck -- the industrious Ms. Priest has also been working on a collection of novellas, called Dreadful Skin, which will be published by Subterranean Press. Dreadful Skin will be available in February -- BUT Subterranean is doing something really cool as well: Serializing the first novella, "The Wreck of the Mary Byrd" on the Subterranean Press website through the month of October. The first chapter went up today. More chapters are coming, cliffhanger style, as the month goes along.

If you're already a Cherie Priest fan, this is a way to stop twitching and spasming until Wings hits on the 17th, and the rest of Dreadful Skin shows up in February. If you're not yet a Cherie Priest fan, here's a chance to get the taste that will make you one. I think you'll like her stuff as much as I do.

Today also marks the debut of Clarkesworld Magazine, the new science fiction/fantasy magazine edited by Nick Mamatas and published by Neil Clarke, of Clarkesworld Books, the online SF/F/H bookstore. The magazine as I understand it spotlights two stories per issue, one from a well-known author and one from the submissions pile (so if you're looking for a new market, here you go, although I really suggest you pay close attention to the submission guidelines). The debut issue features a story from Sarah Monette, who I adore and who was a member of my Campbell nomination class, and the story, "A Light in Troy," is lovely. So already Clarkesworld is on my good side.

The online version is free to read; for collectors Clarkesworld will also be publishing the magazine in a small-number chapbook printing. You'll want to snag those before they're all gone.

All this good, free reading! Man, I like October already, and it's hardly past noon.

Having performed two significant acts of pimpage, I hereby declare this comment thread an open pimp thread: If you or someone you like/love/owe money to have something to pimp, then pimp, baby, pimp. This thread is all about the sharing.

Posted by john at 12:27 PM | Comments (29) | TrackBack

News From the World of Scalzis

My sympathies go to another of the John Scalzis out there, the one who is a meteorologist down in Florida, whose father passed away the other day. Jerry Scalzi was apparently a crackerjack magician who performed magic shows with his son as his sidekick (the link includes a picture of them doing their magic act together). That's a pretty neat relationship to have with your dad, I have to say.

Posted by john at 11:54 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack