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November 30, 2006

Cover Me: A Musical Open Thread

I owe somebody something and they're getting justifiably twitchy about, so I'm off to my sea-side writing bungalow to get it done. Or maybe my mountain writing bungalow! Possibly the African veldt writing bungalow. So many writing bungalows.

Oh, wait, I don't actually have any writing bungalows. I'm just going to sit here at my desk and unplug the DSL. Crap.

Anyway, that's all for today. Have an open thread. To get you started, a topic:

You can hire any band/singer/music artist in the world to cover any song you want -- Who is the singer and what is the song? Difficulties: band/singer/artist must be alive and working; also, the cover version must not currently exist in the real world. Also, make it something you'd actually want to listen to -- don't make it wacky just for wacky's sake. That's too easy, you know? "Fields of the Nephelim doing 'MmmBop' by Hanson!" Yes, yes, very clever. But to listen to it would be madness.

I have two:

1. Alison Moyet covering the Waterboys' "This is the Sea"

2. The Cure covering Rick Springfield's "Jessie's Girl"

Your turn.

Posted by john at 10:11 AM | Comments (123) | TrackBack

November 29, 2006

Oh My God! It's the Zombie Patrick Henry!

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Oh, don't look so shocked. You knew this was coming.

Also, the target of Zombie Patrick Henry's ire would in fact be Newt Gingrich, for being yet another schmoe promoting the "terrorists hate our freedoms, and that's why we have to ditch the freedoms" mindset. Note to Gingrich: The expiration date on that particular school of thought was last election day. You've just performed the policy wonk version of wearing white shoes after Labor Day. Good job.

I hadn't heard of the Dennis Praeger thing, actually, before the thread on the last entry, but having read it now, it's so clear that the man is so jam-full of ignorance about the Constitution of the United States that once the Zombie Patrick Henry has finished his beatdown on Newty, he'll shuffle over to Prager's place and chew on his spine as well.

However, in neither circumstance will the Zombie Patrick Henry eat their brains. He may be a zombie, but he has standards.

Posted by john at 07:22 PM | Comments (42) | TrackBack

Must. Not. Destroy. Computer.

I just had one of those "You're writing a long entry and then the computer freezes up and eats it all" moments, about which the less said the better for my blood pressure. I could re-write the thing, but I think I'd rather tongue-bathe the crap I pulled out of the sink earlier today.

Instead, let's make it a game: I'll give you the title of the entry I was writing; you tell me if you can identify who I was writing about and why. If you get it right, oh, I don't know, I'll give you a shiny penny.

Here's the title:

Yet Another Fat-Assed Coward For the Zombie Patrick Henry to Totally Kick the Shit Out of When He Rouses Himself From His Virginia Grave

Got it? Now: Who was I writing about, and why?

Go!

Posted by john at 04:18 PM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

A Small and Disturbing Moment in Home Maintenance

I snaked one of the bathroom drains.

I may never. Stop. Screaming.

I mean, honestly. Hideous monsters must be shedding into our sinks, because what came out of that drain had nothing to do with any of the humans who live here. I doubt it was even mammalian.

To reiterate: Gaaaaaaaah.

The tub drain needs snaking, too.

Somebody hold me.

Posted by john at 11:50 AM | Comments (41) | TrackBack

November 28, 2006

Some Good Advice

My pal Joe Rybicki is moving on from his job as editor at Official US PlayStation Magazine (in no small part due to the fact the magazine is closing up shop on Thursday), but before he saunters off into the editorial sunset, he's posted some thoughts about business, gaming and life in general over at his blog. It's good stuff and worth checking out. So, you know. Check it out.

Posted by john at 08:09 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

That Tinkling Sound You Hear is the Sound of a TV Advertising Executive Earning Her Wings, and Then Plummeting Straight Into Hell

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Athena, today, as she watched TV:

"The only reason I'm watching this is to get ideas for things I want."

On one hand, I'm proud Athena's twigged to what TV is really about. On the other hand, I am, of course, utterly terrified.

Posted by john at 05:23 PM | Comments (27) | TrackBack

For When You're Shopping Your Brains Out: A Bookseller Pimp Thread

I'm not saying that you're planning on putting The Android's Dream on your holiday shopping lists, or even that you should, although, clearly, if you don't, we'll have to sell Athena to the salt mines, and with her bad neck and all, how long will she last? Really? However. If you are thinking of putting TAD on your holiday lists, it may interest you to know that Mysterious Galaxy Books and Clarkesworld Books both have signed copies of the book, awaiting purchase.

This will save you the hassle of trying to track me down and/or fending off a large hunting dog when you step onto our premises to get an autograph. Mind you, Kodi doesn't want to tear out the soft flesh of your neck, but what choice to you give her, when you step onto her lawn? You see how it is. I'm trying to protect you, is what I'm saying.

As long as I'm doing shoutouts to booksellers, I'll note Borderlands Books also has the book in stock (albeit not signed), and I think they rock, so if you're in the Bay area, or just want your book to come from people who love the books they sell like darling, living things, then you know where to shop.

Since I've pimped a three booksellers, and three is the magic number, I hereby declare this a bookseller pimp thread. Surely there are other totally awesome booksellers that you like and enjoy on a regular basis, wherever it is that you are, so tell us about them. If they have a Web site, link away, although remember more than one link per comment and your entry will get shunted into moderation and will have to be released by me (and of course, if you are a bookseller, feel free to self-pimp). Heck, the bookseller doesn't even have to have any of my books in stock, although if they don't, that's just one more step toward the salt mines for Athena. You know what I'm saying, here.

Posted by john at 02:34 PM | Comments (41) | TrackBack

Your GNR Report

Before it all fades back into a haze of memory and pot smoke, thoughts on the Guns N' Roses concert I went to Saturday night:

* First, it was really good. I had heard that the aborted 2002 series of concerts had been a big fat mess, but this time around, at least, the band was very sharp, very loud, and very tight. Axl Rose has apparently buffed out; indeed you might say he's beefy these days, compared to the scrawny, meth-thin thing he used to be. Beefy but fit, since he hopped around and ran about and did his now-somewhat-less-effective snake thing and never ran out of breath while he did it.

Now, to be clear, this Guns N' Roses is not the Guns N' Roses, since Axl was the only original member of the band left (Dizzy Reed, longtime keyboardist but not original member, is the only other link to the glory days). That said, this Guns N' Roses doesn't make one feel like it's just the Axl Rose traveling circus, either. Also, you know. The band features former members of Nine Inch Nails, the Replacements and the Psychedelic Furs. These guys don't suck. And now, having said that, I do think it's notable it takes three guitarists to handle Slash's guitar parts.

What's going to be interesting is how this version of GNR will sound like on record. It's one thing to be a tight and hot performance band when you're mostly rehashing tried and true tunes. I want to know what they sound like with the new stuff. The band played some new stuff at the concert, but honestly I couldn't tell if it was much good or not; it seemed fine. But hearing a song for the first time in an arena setting when you're wearing earplugs to keep your ears from ringing for a week is not an optimal first taste experience.

* And yes, I did need those earplugs. I left them out for the opener ("Welcome to the Jungle," naturally) because I wanted the full sonic blast; once I had that (and it was worth it!), I jammed those earplugs in, and a damn good thing, because shortly thereafter GNR let fly with some flashbang pyrotechnics that were so loud I can't imagine how the people up on stage can still actually hear themselves play with those going off every night. Even with the earplugs in, GNR was plenty loud, but since I came out of that concert without the cilia in my ears harmonizing their pain, I'm happy to say that I didn't have to sacrifice a little of my high-end hearing for the experience.

* What was really notable was that the audience for the concert skewed young; it was definitely mostly folks under 25, which means the vast majority of these folks were going to their very first GNR concert ever. Which meant, of course, that they were all insane and that the vibe for the show was one that was, very amenable to the band. GNR could have come out and totally blown the gig, and these people wouldn't have cared; being there was what mattered. So it was nice for them that the band didn't blow the gig, and indeed turned in one of the best shows I've seen in a while.

* Former Skid Row lead singer Sebastian Bach opened the show, and man, he was flabby, both in his personal appearance and in his performance. He jumped around as much as Axl Rose, but he didn't own the stage like his pal did. Now some of this is due to being the opening slot; people aren't there to see him. And it's pretty clear that Bach's backlog of tunage has not aged as well as GNRs. And then there was the actually sad spectacle of Bach pimping his YouTube video and his MySpace page, and then stopping and saying "Did I just say 'go visit my MySpace page?" like an old fart tickled that he's figured out that whole set of tubes called Teh Intarweebs. You go, Sebastian Bach! He's only a year older than I am, you know. Kill me now, man. Kill me now.

* Prior to Sebastian Bach's performance, the crowd as entertained by a burlesque show featuring members of Suicide Girls, the Web site which features tattooed and pierced women in various stages of undress. It was your basic semi-nekkid girls hopping around and being limber sort of thing. Interestingly, I was sitting next to what I figured was a 14-year-old boy and his dad (who looked none-too-pleased to be at the show, actually; must have been a birthday present for the kid), and you could see the dad and kid look at each other and sort of agree, in an unspoken sort of way, not to tell mom about this part of the show. Prior to the Suicide Girls, there was some other band, but who cares? I wasn't there for that.

* The most amusing tidbit of the night: The Palace at Auburn Hills apparently makes everyone in general admission sign a "Mosh Pit Waiver" in which the signatory indemnifies the Palace against all claims if, say, someone bashes in their eye socket with an elbow or what have you. I think when future archeologists look to find the moment our society truly began its irreversible slide into the cesspool of history, it will be the moment that someone thought to require a legal document in order to join a mosh pit. In Detroit, for God's sake. Or Auburn Hills, which is close enough.

Posted by john at 09:41 AM | Comments (33) | TrackBack

November 27, 2006

John Scalzi's Culinary Discovery of the Day

It's not rocket science: Three scoops vanilla ice cream, a handful of Rice Krispies and a spiral of Dulce de Leche dessert topping. In a word: Yum.

I was gonna take a picture, but then I ate it. Sorry.

Posted by john at 10:25 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

A Special Edition of The Ghost Brigades

Last year, I and Tor Books made a special electronic edition of Old Man's War available for free to the folks serving in Iraq and Afghanistan; here in 2006, we're doing it with The Ghost Brigades. TGB is a follow-up to OMW but it's a stand-alone book; you don't need to have read Old Man's War to be able to read The Ghost Brigades.

So: If you're currently serving in Iraq or Afghanistan and would like to receive an electronic edition of The Ghost Brigades to read and (hopefully) enjoy, all you have to do is send an e-mail from your .mil account to omw@scalzi.com and ask for it. As soon as I get your request, I'll send you an .rtf document (about 584kb in size), which you can format as you please for whatever you read things on.

Your cost: not a thing. You've earned some recreational reading, I expect.

In case you're wondering: The reason I ask for a .mil address is to confirm that you are currently serving. We'd like these electronic editions to go to the folks who are currently serving away from home and don't have ready access to things like bookstores. But aside from the .mil addresses, we're on the honor system here. I figure most people understand what we're doing here and will honor that. For the rest of you, the book is in the stores, waiting for your tender caress.

If you're not in the military but know someone who is stationed in Iraq/Afghanistan and who might want to know about this, by all means cut and paste the information here or send them a link. Also, of course, feel free to mention this in your own blogs and journals and link back here. I don't mind this getting around.

Once again, I owe a big thank you to Patrick Nielsen Hayden and Tor Books for allowing me to do this; it feels good to be with a publishing house that's willing to do something like this from time to time. I means a lot to me to be able to do it.

Posted by john at 08:00 PM | Comments (39) | TrackBack

Head Trauma Can Be Fun!

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Yesterday I was going to do a write-up on the Guns N' Roses concert I attended Saturday night/Sunday morning (GNR didn't take the stage until after 11), but then I got home and in circumstances rather too annoying to discuss but which were not her fault (or, for that matter, mine or Krissy's), Athena found herself the proud possessor of some minor head trauma. Once she started being sleepy and then vomited, we decided to take a fun family outing to the emergency room, where, among other things, Athena was given a delightful souvenir neck brace, which you see her modeling here. Don't worry; Athena is fine, and the neck brace was only a temporary measure while they were checking her out. She's wearing it in this particular picture because she finds it a unique fashion accessory. I've already told her she can't wear it on a regular basis. Isolating your neck for no good reason is not really a good thing to do.

Thence follows an interview with Athena about her magical trip to the emergency room:

So, did you enjoy your trip to the emergency room?

I guess. I got a Popsicle, and apple juice, and I got a blankie.

And you got a CAT scan! What did you think of that?

It's neat. It's neat because the camera was going around and around really fast and then it was flashing. And then when I went to the next room --

That was the X-Ray room --

The camera was kind of weird because it moved all around and you could change the way it looked, you could make it taller, all from the room in the back. It was really weird.

And what did the doctor say?

That I was fine, and the good part was that the doctor said I should be watched for 24 hours, so I don't have to go to school today, no I don't, no I don't, la la la la la!

See? Head trauma is fun!

NO IT'S NOT!!! (Note: Athena typed that part herself)

It's not? But you got a Popsicle and a CAT scan and you get to stay home! What's not fun about that?

I threw up, for crying out loud! And I fell down.

Well, I guess it's true that those parts of it weren't a whole lot of fun. But you're feeling better now, right?

Yeah. I guess. Bye bye!

And at this point the interviewee, clearly bored with the whole interview process, got up to watch more cartoons. She's got attitude! Which means that she's just fine.

Posted by john at 09:33 AM | Comments (54) | TrackBack

November 25, 2006

Do you Know Where You Are? You're In Middle Age, Baby. And You're Gonna Die

So, a friend said to me: Hey, I got tickets to Guns N' Roses. You want to come? And I said, I wouldn't miss a chance to see Axl Rose implode live! Mind you, if we actually get to see him onstage at all; he can be capricious that way. And so I'm off to Detroit for the G'n'R concert, and I think I can say with some confidence that if Axl and his pals don't take the stage, there will be a riot. But inasmuch much as most of the Gun's fans are now my age, the riot will be brief, and then all the rioters will have to crouch with their hands on their knees and take an oxygen break before the second wave of carnage. Or maybe they'll take it in shifts. Who can say. I can guarantee I won't riot, however. I'm not the rioting type, I'm more of the "I'll watch other people riot and then write something snarky about it on my blog" type. Yes, that seems the route to go.

Anyway, I'm off. You kids try not to riot here while I'm away. To keep you all busy, consider this an open thread with the following topic: Bands from your misspent youth you've not seen live, but really wish you could. Go!

Posted by john at 12:00 PM | Comments (54) | TrackBack

A Little Respect for Pierce Brosnan

Krissy and I got out to see Casino Royale this evening and as advertised, it's pretty damn good: It's got a rougher and more realistic edge than previous Bond flicks (I mean, within reason; it's still a Bond flick) and Daniel Craig is, in a word, terrific, and puts a great new spin on Bond that I'll be excited to see play out over the next couple of movies. If you're a Bond fan, you'll want to see it.

Having said that, I find myself unaccountably annoyed at the reviews I've seen of the film, many of which seem to praise Daniel Craig in part by taking a smack at Pierce Brosnan, Craig's predecessor in the role. Apparently Brosnan was too light and fluffy, his smooth good looks and terrific head of hair sapping the series of its life and vitality by his last turn in the tux, Die Another Day.

Well. I'm not going to argue whether it was time for a new Bond or not -- I suspect Brosnan would have been good for one more film, personally, but cashing him out after the last one was fine, too -- but I will say this sort of revisionism at the expense of Brosnan is a little mean-spirited. It's worth remembering that Brosnan's turn as Bond saved the franchise, rescuing the series from the embarrassing aesthetic and financial train wreck it had become with the two Timothy Dalton films, The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill. Daylights did a fair amount of business (about as much as A View to a Kill, the last Roger Moore outing) but it was a flatly terrible flick, and Licence, which was even worse, was an outright flop, the first one the series ever suffered -- it made $34 million in 1989; to find another Bond film that made less, you have to back fifteen years from there, to The Man With the Golden Gun, which when adjusted for inflation made rather more than Licence. Indeed, adjusted for inflation, Licence is easily the dog of the Bonds (to be fair, it did rather better internationally).

(Let me take a moment here to say: Poor Timothy Dalton. People like to blame him for the awfulness of this Bond flicks, but Dalton is a more than credible actor who had a great look, too. If we're going to lay blame for the pure craptacularity of the Dalton Bonds, let's put the blame where it deserves to be placed: First on director John Glen, a longtime Bond hand who had basically inherited the director's chair beginning with For Your Eyes Only (he'd been a second unit director on previous Bond flicks, beginning with On Her Majesty's Secret Service) and whose directorial style was workman like at best and borderline incompetent at worst (Licence and his post-Bond gigs Aces: Iron Eagle III and the appallingly bad Christopher Columbus: The Discovery). Second, on writers Michael G. Wilson and Richard Maibaum, both also long-time Bond hands (Wilson still is; he's exec producer now) who didn't give Dalton anything useful to work with. If Dalton hadn't been given crap to recite and a hack director, he'd probably have been a fine Bond. But he was given crap in both cases, so there you have it.)

It's worth remembering that GoldenEye, the first of the Brosnan Bonds, was as much of a reboot of the series as Casino Royale is touted as being. The producers shockingly went outside the Bond camp to find a new director (Martin Campbell, who, as it happens, also directs Royale) and new screenwriters (Jeffrey Caine, who was nominated for an Oscar just last year for his screenplay for The Constant Gardener, and Bruce Feirstein, better known as a humorist, and who gave the Bond dialog some real kick). The story also recognized that Bond had become an anachronism (you'll recall M's dressing down of Bond as a misogynist dinosaur) and thus allowed him to get over it and get on with being Bond for the 90s.

In no uncertain terms, the reboot saved the series: GoldenEye became the first Bond flick to gross over $100 million domestically and more than doubled the international take of Licence; what's more, each subsequent Brosnan Bond film made more, both domestically and internationally, than the one before it. Die Another Day took in $431 million worldwide. We can certainly argue whether the Brosnan Bonds didn't eventually get silly -- I think casting Denise Richards as a nuclear scientist in The World is Not Enough was asking the audience to swallow one whopper too many -- but let's not pretend they didn't deliver the goods, both in terms of profitability and what people come to Bond films for: guns, girls and gadgets.

Let's also note that Brosnan was a damn fine Bond. For one thing, he could act, which is more than you could say of, say, Roger Moore. For another thing, he had a great look, which does matter. And finally, he gave Bond something new: A bit (just a bit) of world-weariness, to contrast with Connery's off-the-cuff sadism and Moore's it's-all-a-lark-ness. If you look, you can actually catch the Brosnan Bond thinking from time to time, which was a refreshing change.

Taking as given, as one must, that Sean Connery is the Bond archetype, I feel confident in saying that Brosnan was a better Bond by far than Roger Moore, who while showing some semblance of menace early on quickly degenerated into the effete creakiness that makes his later Bond turns all but unwatchable. He's also rather better than poor Timothy Dalton, hobbled as he was by the hacktacularity of his films. He's probably better than George Lazenby, too although it's so hard to tell from only one film (and of course many Bond folks think Majesty is the best of the Bond films, story-wise). Daniel Craig, as noted earlier, is terrific, but we need at least one more film from him before we can really see if he deserves to settle into the "at the right hand of Connery" position. For now, Brosnan's got it, and he's earned it.

So: By all means, enjoy Casino Royale and Daniel Craig and the new direction the Bond series seems to be heading toward. But try not to dump all over Brosnan as you do so, even if you're inclined to. If it wasn't for him saving the series, the only Casino Royale you'd be watching is the one with David Niven and Woody Allen, and that's just not the same. Trust me.

Posted by john at 12:52 AM | Comments (53) | TrackBack

November 24, 2006

A Delightful Holiday Reheat

As it's now officially the holiday season, God help us all, and as the piece no longer appears to be up at the National Lampoon Web site, allow me to re-present a holiday favorite here at the Whatever: The 10 Least Successful Holiday Specials of All Time. Revel in Ayn Rand's "A Selfish Christmas," Star Trek's "A Most Illogical Holiday," "A Muppet Christmas with Zbigniew Brzezinski" and many more. You'll laugh! you'll cry! You'll experience severe intestinal distress! And isn't that what the holidays are all about?

Posted by john at 09:08 AM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

November 23, 2006

New Book Announcement

In the previous entry I hinted that I had a little something that would help me replace the income I lost when Official US Playstation Magazine went down the tubes, but said I couldn't discuss it yet. Well, the person who can give me clearance to discuss it happens to read the Whatever, and he's given me permission. So:

Tor's asked me to write a follow-up to The Android's Dream, and I've said oh my, yes. We're aiming for an early 2008 release, which means I will have to start writing it, oh, probably tomorrow. At the moment I can't share much in the way of title and plot, because I'm still thinking of all of that. But I will share with you the very first sentence of the novel, which should have some added amusement for those of you who have already read the TAD:

"Judge Sn's assassination was really getting in the way of his golf game."

Yeah, I'm going to have fun with this one. Which is, incidentally, one of the reasons I was really happy to hear that Tor wanted a follow-on to TAD. This is a universe that is a kick to write in.

Some of you who follow my career with stalker obsessiveness will note that my agreement to write a TAD follow-up in an expedited fashion means that The Secret Project I Can't Tell You About gets bumped back until after I finish this book. I'm fine with this because with TSPICTYA, more research time is not a bad thing. This isn't the first time that a novel of mine has gotten bumped back for another; The Android's Dream was originally slated to be my second book from Tor, but had its release date bumped back after OMW took off and Tor wanted another book in that universe. These things happen. The important thing is that I'm getting paid to make things up. The order in which they're released is a small matter after that.

Surveying my next twelve months (which is not the same as the next calendar year, by about 8% or so), this means I am writing two novels, a novella, a novelette, an as-yet-undetermined number of short stories, and an update to one of my non-fiction books (on top of whatever other ephemeral writing I'm doing online and in print). 2007 should also see the release of one novel, one novelette, two and a half non-fiction books, and an as-yet-undetermined number of short stories. Some of the latter group are in the former group; some are not. Also, of course, this being the writing/publishing field, all of this is subject to change instantly and randomly. However, it certainly beats working.

Among the things I am thankful for this Thanksgiving day: That I get to write, that I get to support my family through that writing, that I get to write things that are fun for me, and that when I'm done writing it I get to share all of it with other folks. It's a good life, and I'd be an idiot not to realize how lucky I am. I'm not an idiot. I'm thankful, and the people to whom I'm thankful for all of this includes you guys. So: Thank you. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day.

Posted by john at 10:07 AM | Comments (28) | TrackBack

Random Thoughts Early on a Thanksgiving Morning

In no particular order:

* I just got my final four contributor copies of Official US Playstation Magazine in the mail today. They look great, and I'm sad not to be writing for the magazine anymore, and even more sad that it will stop existing at the end of the year. A reminder, as I've noted before, that everything passes, even the really sweet jobs that allow you to write off all your video game, DVD and music purchases.

The good news here is that I've already managed to replace that income, and then some. But I can't go into detail about that yet. Don't worry, I'll explain it later.

* My father-in-law put down some mulch in the garden to prepare it for next year, and it's apparently some pig-based mulch; not only pig manure but also some actual chunks of pig carcass, or something. Naturally, the dog is all over that, and I do mean all over that; she comes into the house smelling like a slaughterhouse. I let her in the house not ten minutes ago and she stank so bad I actually sprayed her down with Fabreeze. Now, I deeply suspect that Febreeze is not meant to be applied to live animals, but, look, you don't have to smell the dog. Now she's got a delightful clean linen scent, which is somewhat better than the rotting pig smell she had before.

* So, if any of you out there actually play in Second Life, you really need to tell me what the big deal is about that place. I've been wandering around in there for the last couple of days and as far as I can see its major attraction is that it gives you something to look at while you're performing IRC. I mean, sure, that's nice and all, but is that all there is? Am I missing something? Someone please explain this to me.

Oddly, Athena finds Second Life far more compelling than I do -- aside from the flying around thing, she eager to explore and poke around odd corners. I'm ambivalent about this since there are lots of places in Second Life that aren't suitable for a seven-year-old, so I haven't let her play on her own. Second Life does have a teen version that I might let her wander around in, however. I would find it deeply amusing if she got in there and passed for a thirteen year old. Although I'm not entirely sure the Linden Labs folks would be happy with me if I let her do that. I'll have to think about it some more.

* I've found or was sent three additional reviews of The Android's Dream: First, a four-star review of the book from Romantic Times Book Review ("A fantastically funny caper... fast paces and dazzlingly inventive"); second, a good review from the San Diego Union Tribune ("The pace is quick-to-breakneck, and Scalzi's obviously had a great deal of fun spinning a light, romping tale"); and third, a review at Fantasybookspot.com ("It is the quintessential page-turner"). This stuff makes me happy. And makes my editor and publicist happy. And makes my mortgage bank happy, hopefully.

* I think I've hinted at this before, but let me come out and say it: having a monitor that flips to portrait mode is Teh Crack. Finally, a computer monitor orientation that fits my need for having a crapload of reading material on the screen at one time without having to scroll the damn article. It makes the Internet the "drinking from the firehose" experience it always should have been. No, it's not perfect for video games or watching movie or whatever, but for those I can just flip the screen back into landscape. Honestly, I'm simply appalled I didn't get a portrait-mode monitor before. I may never be able to forgive myself for wasting all those years. Writers, save your pennies for one of these things. It is so totally worth it.

* Finally, your Geek Envy moment for the day: Last night, I interviewed Jonathan Coulton and you didn't. So ha! Ha on you, I say! The interview is for the Dayton Daily News, because he's coming to town in the first week of December, but there's a good possibility I'll post the interview here as well, at some point. Because even though you didn't get to interview him, you still want and need to see the interview. Admit it, you do.

Posted by john at 12:53 AM | Comments (36) | TrackBack

November 22, 2006

The Really Incredibly Clueless Opinion Column of the Day...

It's here, where Los Angeles Times columnist Erin Aubry Kaplan is apparently under the impression it says something about race relations in America that people are more outraged about the recent OJ Simpson If I Did It thing than they are about Michael Richards calling his comedy club hecklers niggers. She writes:

I'm not equating racist invective with charges of double homicide. But the reality is that there is far more tolerance for a white person's unseemly behavior than for similar behavior of somebody who isn't white, especially if the unseemliness involves race. Richards' "racist rant" has been described as a terrible but isolated incident. O.J., meanwhile, is condemned for his character.

Leaving out the fact that for the last few days you can't go to a news site or read a newspaper without finding out the latest on Cosmo-gate -- i.e., Michael Richards is being well and truly pilloried for his racist idiocy, and rightly so -- let's note that Ms. Kaplan is pretty much lying through her teeth here: she is clearly making an equivalence between racist invective and charges of double homicide, or at least bringing the two within shouting distance of each other so she can make a pretzel-logic point about race. But this isn't the right comparison anyway. If any comparison in this case is valid, it should be the one between racist invective and exploiting the murder of one's ex-wife, which one is accused of performing, by writing a recounting of the murder as the murderer. Both are repugnant; the difference the latter is repugnant without the need to bring race into it at all.

I can't speak for anyone else, but for my money, the truly pertinent thing about the recent Simpson event has nothing to do with Simpson's race or the ramifications of such; it has to do with the fact that he is sociopathically clueless, and his sociopathic cluelessness was at least temporarily enabled by one of the largest media conglomerates in the world. Even if one assumes that Simpson is innocent of slaughtering his former wife and the poor guy who happened to be with her when the knives came down, the fact that Simpson apparently thought it would be a neat idea to write a fictional account of murdering the mother of his children -- and that various arms of News Corp. thought such an account would be a perfect thing to get up on the bestseller lists and garner some nice ratings during a sweeps month -- is, in a word, monstrous.

This is depraved behavior, pure and simple, and if you believe that Simpson did kill his wife and her friend and got away with it, it's just that much worse. There's really no circumstance where such a memoir, fictional or not, is even plausibly morally acceptable. It's nice that Fox and HarperCollins have come to their senses and apologized for their part in this fiasco; to date I'm not aware of Simpson doing so, but then why would he. I'm not going to bother to argue whether there is a racial component to the public perception of OJ Simpson, since there is, and it'd be foolish not to recognize it. I am going to argue, however, that everything else about this If I Did it episode is so morally repugnant that the race-based element of the story is, at best and at this point in the Simpson saga, a minor consideration indeed.

I'm also not going bother to rationalize Richard's outburst, since I find it appalling, and the reaction to it both gratifying and unsurprising: When a white guy calls a black man a nigger, he ought to find himself in a deep pile of crap, and when he does so as an insult, that pile of crap should increase by another six feet, piled up directly on top of that white man's head. I do think Richards' response of "stop, drop, and abase" was the correct one. Only Richards knows what's in his own heart, but at least he (or at least his advisers) understood that the smartest thing to do was recognize publicly that he'd done something wrong and apologize for it in a big way; starting by apologizing on the David Letterman show last Monday was a good start to that.

And I think that rather than race has to do with Richards' getting a "better" end of things than Simpson, inasmuch as either of them is in a "better" situation. Richards recognized that what he did was wrong and moved in a timely fashion to apologize; Simpson has yet to apologize for crassly exploiting the murders he was accused of performing, and it seems unlikely that he ever will. Or to put it more bluntly, Richards' showed he had a conscience; Simpson didn't.

That's not an issue of race. It's an issue of character. In that regard, at least, Ms. Kaplan is entirely correct.

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November 21, 2006

Reviews and Etc

While I wasn't paying attention, some nice things have happened, review-wise, for some of my books:

* The Android's Dream got a good review from the good graces of Paul Di Filippo over at SciFi Weekly, who writes:

[T]he SF ancestors of Scalzi's newest book are masters like Keith Laumer, Christopher Anvil, Eric Frank Russell and Gordon Dickson—humorists who contemplated mankind's role as underdog or newcomer among self-serving alien races who were often goofy, nasty, aesthetically repellent or some combination of all three traits. Think of Harris Creek as Jame Retief updated for 2006, and you won't be far astray. And I have to affirm most heartily that Scalzi has the craft and chops to pull off his homage, upgrading and reimagining what might have seemed a tired subgenre to full-strength comedic relevance and un-put-downability.

Filippo also namechecks Donald Westlake, Elmore Leonard, Carl Hiaasen and Christopher Moore in describing the book. And he gave the book an "A". As the kids say: w00t! The review is here, but be warned that there are a couple of fairly meaty spoilers.

* Over at The Agony Column, Rick Kleffel has nice things to say about both The Android's Dream ("[The book], which should have long ago been on your auto-buy list, is another combination of intelligent humor, clever world-building and sparkling prose") and my upcoming book on writing, You're Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop Into a Coffeeshop: Scalzi on Writing, of which he says, " Scalzi's advice on writing is filled with the same humor and intelligence that makes his fiction so entertaining. And it's not just about writing fiction, but about all the kinds of writing you might end up doing." Indeed. Lord knows I'm still writing other things besides fiction. His column on both is here. Coffee Shop is still on track for a February 2007 release, incidentally.

* I'm especially delighted to note the presence of The Ghost Brigades on the San Francisco Chronicle's "Best Of" list for science fiction this year, sharing the list with work by Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Ian McDonald, Jeff VanderMeer and others. Hey, that's nice company to be in.

There, we're all up to date with that stuff.

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Bright Red Clouds

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I was going to write a piece on what you need on your Web site if you're a writer, but ironically it just doesn't seem to be coming at the moment, and I have other things to do. So: Here, have a sunset. Not as spectacular as some I've posted before, but I like how the sun is setting those low clouds on fire.

Also, damn, Thanksgiving is barreling up on me. I'm so not ready for it, even though "being ready" largely equates to "opening my gullet and letting my mother-in-law slide food down it." It still takes preparation, you know?

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Robert Altman, RIP

Nuts. Robert Altman has passed away. I interviewed him once when I was full-time movie critic, and I'm here to tell you he's probably one of the smartest people I ever interviewed in the film industry, as well as disarmingly practical and modest about what he was doing with his films and his life. He was 81, so you can't exactly say he was taken too soon. You can say that the film industry is not likely to see a director like him again.

For those of you who don't know too much about him, a Wikipedia article. He'd be remembered for M*A*S*H* alone; that there was also McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Nashville, The Player and Gosford Park (among many others) is a hell of a bonus.

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November 20, 2006

New Link for Subterranean Magazine #4

Bill Schaefer has changed the content on the Subterranean Press main page, so the previous link to Subterranean Magazine #4 is no longer there. If you want the link (or want to update it in your archives, use this link instead. It links directly to the .pdf and will be a permanent link. Enoy it, love it, share it with your friends.

Posted by john at 09:42 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

One of Those Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus Sorts of Things

Here at the Scalzi Compound, both Krissy and I recently spent just about the same amount of money on different things entirely, and they both arrived here at the homestead today:



Krissy got this lovely sofa set, with a big sofa in the foreground and the loveseat/ottoman combo in the background. See, prior to this we had a fairly inexpensive sofa set that we decided to keep until Rex the random vomiting cat expired, and Athena became old enough to trust not to spill grape juice in difficult-to-clean places. Both of these milestones have since occurred, and so here we are.



I got this lovely new dual-core, SLI-enabled super-bitchin' computer complete with possibly the most awesome thing ever: A 24-inch 1900x1200 resolution monitor that can -- as you see here -- pivot 90 degrees into portrait mode, which I suspect will be perfect for me when I'm writing. And then I can pivot it 90 degrees into landscape mode, and it will be perfect when I kill things in pixel form. Seriously, though, portrait mode is six different kinds of awesome. I didn't know it was this possible to be so geeked out about something. But there it is.

What's really funny about this is just how ridiculously our purchases conform to sexual norms -- the woman bought nice furniture, the guy bought tech toys -- and it's even more funny when you consider that one recent Christmas, my major gift to Krissy was a 120-piece tool set, which she loved. But what can I say. I'm colorblind in the furniture range, so frankly if Krissy hadn't wanted a new sofa, I probably would have kept the old sofa until it mouldered into sawdust. Conversely, Krissy would probably be content with a 386-era computer, which, frankly, I find sick and wrong. What can I say? Sometimes the stereotypes work.

Upon the arrival of both of our new purchases, we both looked at each other and said "Merry Christmas," which is to say that we've pretty much spent everything we're going spend for the rest of the year, because, strangely, we're not actually shooting money out of every orifice. Which is fine; I'm horrible to shop for anyway, and this way everyone gets what they wants. Except Athena, who still wants her Christmas gifts at Christmas time. Kids. They're just wacky that way.

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Phun With Philcon

I'm back from Philcon, and relatively unscathed by the return travel -- unlike the flight in, my trip back was not appreciably delayed by weather and/or airline incompetence and/or mysterious creatures on the wing at 20,000 feet, so that's all to the good. It's nice to be back home, however; four days is enough time away from the family, I think.

I had a pretty good time at Philcon. Organizationally the con had some challenges this year -- there was some confusion regarding a number of program items, mostly relating to when and where they were -- but I thought the quality of the panels that I participated in or attended was pretty high (independent of my own involvement), and I got to see a number of folks who I had hoped to spend a bit of time with. Primary among them was Charlie Stross, who you see above having a rare moment when he was not programmed to the gills with panels or appearances or whatnot, because Charlie was the convention's "Principal Speaker" -- i.e., Guest of Honor. Charlie's always a big ball of fun to hang with, because he's always doing something interesting and is very enthusiastic about telling you about it. We should all be having as much fun. Also, as an aside, it's interesting to be in a community of people whose most celebrated individuals can walk around in a "Spongebob Cthulhupants" T-shirt and no one thinks twice about it.

At this point I'm wary of doing the namedrop thing because I inevitably forget people who I had fun talking to (or remember them but totally space out on their names, which I hate), but some of the folks I hung with include the mentioned-in-a-previous-entry MaryAnn Johansen and Bonnie-Ann Black, the SF Editor Mafia, which includes John Joseph Adams, Doug Cohen and Chris Cevasco, agent Jenny Rappaport and her excellent boyfriend (whose name I'm blanking on at the moment but I think is Chris), Diane Turnshek, David Louis Edelman, Ellen Asher and Andrew Wheeler from SFBC, Nathan Lilly, Ernest Lilley, Bud Sparrowhawk, Neil Clarke and Joshua Palmatier. I saw and/or was on panels with and/or spoke at parties to lots of other obscenely fascinating folks, too, but as I mentioned before, my brain is Swiss cheese at the moment. I would note that the con folks were lovely to me as well, particularly Suzanne Rosin, Hugh Casey and Alex Jay Berman.

One interesting thing about Philcon was that the hotel it was at had a number of other very interesting organizations there over the course of the weekend as well. There was a large contingent of runners there for the Philadelphia Marathon, which was apparently on Sunday, there was a Mayoral fundraiser on Saturday, and there were not one but two major religious gatherings as well, one apparently for black women, and the other for the Knights of Columbus. For the latter of these, I saw a man in a cardinal get-up; it took me just a fraction of a second to remember he wasn't in costume for the con. For the former, the singing and music just about drowned out one of the panels I was on; it was occasionally hard to concentrate on the subject of whether SF has swung to the political right when "Hallalujah!" was being bellowed in gospel tones a couple doors down. But aside from that, all the groups seem to have co-existed peacefully. Truly, a lesson for us all.

Naturally, since I was away from Athena for a couple of days, I had to get her something from the con; I decided on a cute little stuffed bunny, based on the rabbit from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I think Athena liked it:

Honestly, my kid's a riot.

In any event, Philcon: Good people and a fun time.

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November 18, 2006

Checking In, 11/18/06

Hello. I've been running about like an idiot today at Philcon and generally having a good time, and I'm about to go out and about and have dinner and whatnot. But I want you all to know that I talked about you today and about how one of the interesting things about the Whatever is how it pretty much has gotten to the point where it hums along nicely without me, thanks to the community here and its penchant for posting and keeping the comment threads active. I mean, I like to think you guys want me around, you know, just for kicks and giggles. But I do like that there are folks here who keep it interesting even when I'm busy doing other things.

For those of you sending along e-mail on this particular subject: Yes, I know there's an Entertainment Weekly review of The Android's Dream; no, I haven't seen it yet, but yes, I know it's a good review (for those of you who don't know, EW gave the book an "A-"). I'll try to track down the magazine and see what it has to say.

So, hey, how is your weekend so far?

Update, 9:06pm: Found a copy of EW in the hotel gift shop. Here's an excerpt:

Scalzi's hilarious political thriller, filled with war heroes, hackers, religious cults, and AI, is so absurd that it becomes believable. His best book yet.

That works for me.

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November 17, 2006

In Philly

Briefly: Traveling yesterday was an unremitting vortex of suck thanks to the weather -- I got into Philly six hours late and rather more jostled than I would have liked to have been -- but once I got here things picked up, and I had dinner with Charlie Stross and then hung out with a bar with Charlie, MaryAnn Johanson, and MaryAnn's next door neighboor whose name my brain steadfastly refuses to offer up, possibly under protest that it's almost 10am and I've not caffeinated yet. You're about to get a paddlin' for that, brain.

I'm off to get ready for a lunch-time chat at a local high school -- that's right, I'm going to spew "wisdom" to Teh Kidz -- and then maybe I'll, oh, I don't know, sight see or something. Anyway, I'll be back later.

Posted by john at 09:38 AM | Comments (32) | TrackBack

November 16, 2006

Ha on You: An Open Pimp Thread

Two things:

1. I have an advance readers copy of Hal Duncan's upcoming book Ink and you don't, so neener neener neener;

2. I'm about to spend most of my day traveling, so unless I'm able to sign on to the airport's wireless hub, which I never seem to be able to do, I'll probably be out of communication for a while. While I'm gone, why not talk about you? Which is to say I declare this an "open pimp" thread, in which you can share and promote what's going on with you. New books? New music? New baby? Tell the class! Also feel free to pimp others who are doing stuff you think is cool and exciting. Pimping is love, people. Pimping is love.

One procedural note: Remember that I've got the site set so that comments with more than two URLs in them get sent to the moderation queue, so unless you want your comment to cool its heels while I flit about the nation, don't overdo the links. I'm just sayin'.

Posted by john at 08:01 AM | Comments (91) | TrackBack

November 15, 2006

Two Book Thingies Of Possibly Passing Interest

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First, here's a picture of the flat for the upcoming mass market paperback of The Ghost Brigades which will be out in May, just prior to the release of The Last Colony. Note the Campbell shout-out in the corner; my guess is that will be on the next couple three books.

Second, here's a nice bit of news: Apparently Old Man's War is one of Amazon's 2006 Top 10 Customers' Favorites in Science Fiction & Fantasy. This is to say that OMW was one of the ten best-selling SF/F titles on Amazon this year, that was released in 2006 (apparently OMW manages this because it's counting the trade pb release as a "new" release, and a December 27, 2005 release date counts as "2006").

What I find really interesting about this list is that out of the 10 titles on the list, only two (OMW and Hunters of Dune are SF; the rest are fantasy, and of those five of them are paranormal fantasy (i.e., werewolves and vampires and whatnot). I don't know that this list has any correlation to what's selling in SF/F outside Amazon, but in terms of what's selling online, it's food for thought. Me, I'm just glad the book seems to be selling well. And look! Naomi Novik's on the list, too! Fine company.

I regret to say I didn't make Amazon's Top 10 Editors' Picks for Science Fiction & Fantasy, but Charlie Stross and Jeff VanderMeer did, among others, so congratulations to them.

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Hebrew OMW is Here

Here's Ghlaghgheee, getting into the whole "Im In Ur [noun], [present participle verb] Ur [noun]" thing all the IntarWeeb Catz seem to be doing these days, while she's checking the Hebrew version of Old Man's War for translation errors, a task which I can honestly say she is as competent to perform as I. I'm happy to say that so far she has not noticed any major problems. I shall make the kibble flow in appreciation today, I will.

The book itself looks pretty nifty, I have to say. I've caught myself holding it upside down a couple of times, on account that Hebrew books read from right to left, and then I feel pretty damn stupid when I catch myself. I also notice there are a couple of placed where footnotes have been added in -- from what I can tell the translator has put them in when there's some idiom that doesn't elegantly translate out of English, or there's some US reference that's not clear to anything but us USians (I noted one of the footnotes had the words "Semper Fi" in the Roman alphabet, the phrase being the motto of the US Marines). Fair enough.

Can't wait to get copies of the book in other languages, too. Call me a dork, but I think it's cool having versions of my words in languages I don't understand.

Posted by john at 08:36 AM | Comments (68) | TrackBack

November 14, 2006

Official PlayStation Magazine, RIP

Oh, dear, looks like I'm out of a job:

Ziff Davis Game Group, the leading integrated media company focused on the video game sector, today announced that it will discontinue publication of Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine after the January 2007 issue. The Game Group is laser-focused on continuing to expand its rapidly growing digital media presence and on further strengthening its multiplatform properties and powerful integrated network. As such, the Game Group has determined that Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine, a property licensed from Sony Computer Entertainment America and limited to print, no longer fits its strategic vision.

For those of you who don't know, I've been writing DVD reviews for OPM since 2000, and also wrote music reviews and opinion columns too. It's actually been one of the longest writing gigs I've had, and a fun one, too; there are worse things than getting DVDs and music, you know? But if there's one thing that's true in writing, it's that no gig lasts forever. Six years is a mighty fine run as these things go.

Before you ask: I'm fine, thanks, both emotionally and financially. If there's one thing I keep telling people it's that a writer's path to happiness is multiple revenue streams, so that when one stream goes away -- as they inevitably do -- you have others in place to keep you from starvation, credit card juggling and landlord evasion. OPM is an important part of my income portfolio, to be sure, but I'm fortunate not to be hurting without it; turns out this crazy book-writing scheme I've got going is really beginning to pan out. I don't even have to give up writing DVD reviews, since I still have my DVD review gig at the Dayton Daily News. So, yes, I'll be looking for some work to replace the OPM income. But I have the luxury of not having to be frantic about it.

What I'll miss is working the OPM folks, who are all good eggs, and particularly working with Joe Rybicki, who is excellent fellow and a very good friend of mine -- I officiated his wedding, you know, and named a rather important character after him in The Last Colony. But I have reason to believe we'll stay pretty close even if he's no longer my editor, and I suspect that most of the OPM staffers will find their way into other sections of the Ziff-Davis magazine and Web site empire. This is one of those situations where I'm fairly sure almost everyone involved is going to land on their feet.

In any event, OPM was fun while it lasted. And the good news is, now I can take my sweet time in getting a PS3. I was worried I'd have to fight someone to get one sometime soon, and I really wasn't looking forward to that. A small blessing, this, to be sure. But I'll take it.

Posted by john at 09:22 PM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

Busy, Busy

Athena's home sick, I'm writing a short story and a book proposal, and I have to prepare for a library appearance this evening. No time to play today. Here, though: have an open thread. Topic to get you started:

Have anything you want to accomplish by the end of 2006?

Do tell.

Posted by john at 01:21 PM | Comments (71) | TrackBack

November 13, 2006

Subterranean Magazine Online, and a Sale

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Happy November 13! Have a present: The entire Subterranean Magazine #4 -- guest edited by me -- is available for you to download here, absolutely free. Why? Well, because we sold out the entire print run, for one reason, and for another reason we thought that these stories were just so damn good that as many people as possible should see them. And you're as many people as possible! Congratulations.

Seriously, I'm extremely proud of this magazine. It's a great mix of new and established authors, each of them taking some of the grand cliches of the genre and breathing new life into them. I got rather more than I expected when I signed up to edit this, and since I was expecting, you know, a lot, I was pretty dizzy with happiness at the finished product. I think you will be too. Read these stories! Love them! Nominate them for major awards!

The magazine is in pdf format so you can see the layout and art just as it was. Enjoy! Also, please feel free to spread the word -- we like sharing this good writing.

And as long as you're enjoying some fine written entertainment from Subterranean, let me also point out that until the 17th, Subterranean is having a 40% off sale on some of its hottest titles, including my very own You're Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop Into a Coffeeshop: Scalzi on Writing. This on top of books by Poppy Z. Brite, Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, Joe Lansdale, Cherie Priest, Robert Silverberg and Connie Willis, among many others. Get 'em while they're hot and cheap!

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On Theocracies

I'll share with you a moment I had this summer, when I was on a panel at Worldcon, one of those surprisingly contentious ones involving medicine. One of the audience members was talking about, I think, either birth control or abortion (or some combination of those two), and made the concluding remark that she hated living in what she saw increasingly as a theocracy, which she saw as legislating her right to control her own body. My immediate response was to comment that as far as the "theocracy" bit went, we weren't actually living in one and that I suspected we'd gotten about as far we were going to go on that end of things. The reaction to the comment in the audience was not what I would call charitable; indeed, I suspect I lost the room for the rest of the panel.

But, of course, so what. Time has vindicated me. The mid-term elections were not a referendum on "theocracy" -- they were a referendum on Iraq, corruption, and many other more prosaic subjects -- but to the extent that "theocracy" is coextensive with "right-wing fundamentalism," and its influence on the day-to-day functioning of our government, yes, any budding theocracy we might have had was nicely chopped in the neck last Tuesday. The theocratic influence is not gone by any stretch of the imagination, since our President is still the same man he was before the election. But I don't think you can look at the 110th Congress and suggest to me that the right-wing fundamentalist agenda will have the same sort of stickiness it had before. "Theocracy" is not where we'll be going as a nation anymore. I'm not crushed.

But those of you who might have your hopes/fears up for an orgy of Washington godlessness better get ready for disappointment, too, because it ain't happening. The United States is a deeply religious country; its elected representatives are going to have religion (or at least will bow in its direction). What I expect we'll be seeing is religion and the religious continuing to have an influence but that more moderate (and -- gasp -- liberal) religious folks will be having more of a say. If you don't like religion at all this may not be an improvement, but those of us who are not necessarily automatically suspect of religion will see this as an entirely normal thing and a reflection of the complexity of life here in the US. Also (and of course), not every religion or religious person is bent on cultural hegemony; there are lots of churches and religious folk who like the idea of the separation of church and state, which is a fact that has tended to get forgotten over the last several years.

It's also worth noting that the swings in this country are not only political but cultural, even within Christianity, and indeed even within the evangelical movement. I'm on the outside of Christianity so I can't claim this observation as anything other than anecdotal, but it at least appears to me that within US Christianity the fundamentalist movement is on its way down, and that the new hotness in Christianity might as well be called "Bonoism" for lack of anything better: A focus on dealing with poverty and human rights and environmentalism, from a Christian perspective. This is one of those "what's old is new again" things, since Christianity has been actively engaged in issues of poverty and human rights before (the environmental angle may be new; I confess ignorance on the history of Christian environmentalism), and equally have been now, even when those good works have not been in the spotlight. But I can't say I'm not happy to see this aspect of the Christian mission make a comeback in the national perception of the religion. It's nice when some of the prominent aspects of Christianity have more than a tiny bit of Jesus in them.

So, theocracy: Not so much, and frankly, not much missed. But a culturally engaged Christianity as part of a tolerant and pluralistic society? Bring it on. That's not theocracy, that's just people and institutions playing their part. Hard to see a downside there.

Posted by john at 08:23 AM | Comments (117) | TrackBack

November 11, 2006

In Progress

Words fail me.

There is a disconnect between my mind and my words, between what I think and what I say; not a disconnect in intent but in execution, between the flower of thought and the fruit of the mouth, between the initiation and the completion. I say what I mean but I do not say all that I mean.

I am not speaking to you now. These words do not pass my lips or pass out of my mind. I say them only to myself, forming them perfect and whole and interior, and leaving them on the shelf and closing the door behind me. Others may find these words in time but for now they face only toward me, whispering back my image with full description, golems who write the words of life on my forehead.

These words are my life. Representation of time and counterfeit of emotion, record of loss and celebration of gain. It is not my whole life; words fail me here as they fail anyone, entire worlds slipping through the spaces between words and letters as a life among stars is compressed into this small space. A short life to be sure; and yet long enough to be lost in translation.

But it is enough. Give us a few lines arranged just so and we see a face and more than a face. We see the life behind it; the terrors and ambivalence, the desire and aspiration -- intention in a pattern, a person in a coincident assemblage of curves. This is that: A few lines to follow that in themselves mean little but build on themselves; a crystal lattice using absence to suggest presence, the implication of more pregnant in the gaps.

I wish I could show these words to you, you who know me only from outward expression. I wish I could fold these words, package them and present them with a flourish, a rare gift I made of myself to you. But these words do not bend -- or rather they will not -- or perhaps it is that I cannot find the strength to push them through the doors of my mouth and my mind. They are stubborn words and I fear what would happen if I let them go. They stay inside where you cannot come; they are meant for you, but not sent to you. Words fail me and I return the failure.

But these words exist. These words record, these words stand witness; these words speak, if only to an audience of one. These words are real and they are me, or who I believe I have been; incomplete but truthful, through a mirror darkly but reflecting all the same. I have no doubt that one day you will find these words and that you will find me inside them: A seed to plant in your mind, to become a vine to filigree your memory of who I was and who I was to you. Words fail me but I will use them anyway. And in their failure and despite their failure I will live again and you will love me again, as you love me now.

***

(From this)

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November 10, 2006

The Question for the Day

Man, why the hell am I so tired?

No, really. I want to know. I can't figure it out myself. Probably because I'm so damn tired.

Any insight you have into this phenomenon will be appreciated.

Posted by john at 05:11 PM | Comments (56) | TrackBack

The Columbus Reading

Briefly: I think the Columbus reading went very well. There was a good turnout, and people seem to have enjoyed the reading and the general blather, and I got to meet a number of Whatever readers that I had not previously met in person. Hey, what do you know, we're all not just brains in boxes. And I got gifts! My friend Erica Hardesty showed up and gave me a very nice mix CD, which came in handy for helping me keep my sanity on the drive back home, in which traffic crawled to a stop for half hour to hour stretches not once, not twice, but three times, twice because of truly gnarly accidents (ever seen a semi with its engine sheared off and spread liberally across a half mile of highway? I have, now) and once because who the hell knows. Let me put it this way: I've driven home from Detroit quicker than I drove home from Columbus today, and Detroit is twice as far away. So thank you, Erica -- I bet you didn't know your eclectic taste in music would be so useful, so quickly.

I'd also like to take a moment to acknowledge Doug Triplett, who drove in from West-freakin'-Virginia to catch my reading. Here's the two of us:

Bet he got home before I did, though.

Photos here by Jeff Hentosz, incidentally, who also caffeinated me prior to my leaving Columbus, a maneuver that proved provident indeed, considering my drive back. But now I feel the effects wearing off, and I'm off to sleep. Catch you all a bit later.

Posted by john at 12:32 AM | Comments (32) | TrackBack

November 09, 2006

Philcon Schedule and 2007 Convention and Appearance Thoughts

First off, for those of you attending Philcon, here's my panel schedule as it exists at the moment. This is where you know you'll be able to find me, and find me in full blatheration mode.

Fri 8:00 PM in Freedom Ballroom
MILITARY SF: IS PACIFISM DEAD OR HAS IT JUST STOPPED SELLING?
Does this trend reflect something deeper in our society?

Notes: Leaving aside the issue of military science fiction entirely, has pacifist-oriented SF ever sold?

Fri 9:00 PM in Seminar A
EARNING A LIVING BY GIVING IT AWAY
Free give aways tend to get attention. But is it worth it? What kind of free samples do you want to give away and how?

Notes: Interestingly, by the time I'm on this panel, I'll have another piece of data for this topic. No, I won't tell you what it is yet. Wait until next week.

Sat 11:00 AM in Ballroom A
HAS SCIENCE FICTION SWUNG TO THE RIGHT?
Or is this merely some liberal paranoid delusion?

Notes: Liberals? Paranoid? That's unpossible! This should be an interesting discussion in the aftermath of the 2006 elections.

Sat 12:00 PM in Logans 1
IF IT'S TUESDAY, THIS MUST BE JUPITER: A TOUR OF THE SOLAR SYSTEM (192)
Panelists will discuss the most up-to-date knowledge about each planet in our Solar System, what missions are presently exploring the planet, and what missions are planned. Earth will be included. This panel will have to be 2 hours or we will have only about 5 minutes to spend on each planet with no time for questions.

Notes: Ooooh, this could be a lot of fun, as long as we have a moderator who moves things along nicely. Hopefully we won't get too bogged down in the Pluto thing. Or, perhaps, hopefully we will! Give the audience a thrill.

Sat 3:00 PM in Salon 1
WEBSITES FOR WRITERS
What a writer needs to do to set up a website: domain names, site hosting and design or hiring a professional.

Notes: I'm not sure why anyone thinks I would know anything about this.

Sun 10:00 AM in Seminar B
THE WORLD NEXT DOOR: PARALLEL UNIVERSES
Do other universes exist? Can we ever contact them?

Notes: And will they buy Girl Scout cookies from my daughter? She has a quota to meet, you know.

Sun 11:00 AM in Logans 2
THE NEXT GENERATION OF SCIENCE FICTION
How do we go about recruiting new readers?

Notes: Personally, I suggest blackmail.

In addition to the panels above, I may also do a reading, or I may not; apparently the readings schedule will be provided to us when we get there. The rest of the time I'm sure I'll be in the lobby or bar or dealer's room, poking Charlie Stross with a spoon to keep him awake. Philcon will be my last convention appearance of 2006, so if you're really itchin' to see me in my natural habitat with other geeks before this year slides off into the slag heap of history, this is where you're going to have to do it.

As for 2007, here are the SF conventions that at the moment I strongly suspect I'm going to be at: ConFusion, Boskone, Penguicon, Wiscon and the Heinlein Centennial. These are all conventions I've been to before, so this year I'm also hoping to add a few new conventions to the mix, particularly in places I've not yet been. I kind of want to go to a Minneapolis-area convention, for example, because it occurs to me there are a lot of folks in that general area I wouldn't mind seeing, both in the SF community and outside of it. I'd also like to attend an SF convention in the South and/or the West; I really haven't been out in those directions, notwithstanding last year's Worldcon.

Speaking of which, I'm sort of holding my fire about Worldcon this year. On one hand I'd like to go, because everyone I know raves about Japan and what a lovely country it is, and I'd like to see it, and by that time (hopefully), the Japanese version of Old Man's War will be out. On the other hand, it's a whole lot of money and unfortunately I'm not likely to have a lot of time this summer to take a week off to sightsee in Japan outside of the convention. So there's the question of whether it's worth thousands of dollars to travel to another country just to spend five days mostly staying inside a hotel. Basically, I'm going to punt making a decision on that until some time next year.

If I don't go to Worldcon I may try going down to Dragon*Con and seeing what it's like. I understand it's fairly insane. I'm not sure I want to bother with next year's NASFIC (Archon 31), because apparently the Holiday Inn at which it will be is making attendees do fairly ridiculous things to reserve a room, like send a photocopy of both sides of their credit card; also the hotel is charging the cards for the reservation when the reservation is made, not after one has stayed at the hotel. And apparently the hotel folks are maintaining this is standard operating procedure for all hotel, which is of course a contemptible lie. I feel sorry for the Archon folks, since it's really not their fault the hotel is suddenly acting like dicks. However, I think if the hotel is giving them that much trouble now, that they're not going to be much more helpful at the time of the actual convention, and I'm not sure I need to spend several hundred dollars to go somewhere I'm not wanted.

Aside from conventioneering, I'm giving some thought to attempting some sort of tour thingie around the release of The Last Colony, which would mean sometime in May or June. This is all very nebulous in my head at the moment, and among other things I would need to talk to the Tor folks about it. And it would require me to be organized, and we all know how that goes. So, really, you should kind of ignore this paragraph entirely. It's just me typing random brain squeezings.

Back on the convention front, I did have a nice thing happen last night, which was that I was invited to be the Guest of Honor at a science fiction convention of some note. Rather unfortunately the convention is happening on one of the only two weekends in 2007 in which I can't wiggle out of my plans. So I had to turn down the offer. But still: Cool. Nice to be wanted, you know?

Posted by john at 11:40 AM | Comments (53) | TrackBack

November 08, 2006

A Picture of Interest Only to True Blog Dorks

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I've noted before that I and Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo were in the same high school class together (Webb School of California, '87), and here's some documentary proof for you that I can't believe I actually haven't posted before: a picture of me and Josh from our high school days. Josh is the second from the right, in the white shirt, whereas I'm second from the left, in the black sweater, with the hair and the impossibly horizontal eyebrows.

The picture, incidentally is for the "Faith Gang" -- an interdenominational group on the campus who helped bring speakers from various philosophies and religions onto campus to speak at our chapel. Each of us represented some particular faith or philosophy: Rahmi Mowjood on the left was either Hindu or Muslim (hey, it was 20 years ago), Rich Garcia on the right was Catholic, Josh was Jewish, and I was the humanist representative, because in high school I was a godless heathen. I believe this picture was taken right after dinner, which would explain why everyone else in the photo is wearing suit and tie (it was boarding school); in fact, it was probably Sunday dinner, because everyone's wearing their school tie as required for Sunday Chapel, and really, no one would be caught wearing a tie that hideous if they weren't made to. I'm not entirely sure how I managed to get away with a sweater and jeans. I was just that way. I believe I may still have that sweater. I dare not attempt to fit into it.

One may reasonably ask what was in the water at our school that two members of the Webb School Class of 1987 have gone on to become Meggastarz of Teh IntarWeebs, yo; to be honest I really couldn't tell you. I think it was the mercury. Also, to be accurate, Josh is the Meggastar of Teh IntarWeebs of the two of us, with a current Technorati ranking of 75; with my Technorati ranking of 1033, I'm a bit down the Web Celebrity food chain -- the Internet Yo La Tengo to his online REM, if you will. But, you know. Go look at the Talking Points Memo Web empire and tell me he doesn't deserve it. Anyway, I've got my science fiction geek fame going on; I'm doing fine, thanks.

My question is not why the two of us are relatively well-known blog types but where the heck aren't other people from our high school out here blogging their asses off. I mean, come on: hyper-educated spawn of West Coast nuevo riche? What about the demographic doesn't scream "blogger"? (although, truth to tell I was the school annual charity case and I don't think Josh was from crazy rich parentage either. Hmmmm.) There are a few other Webb blogs (ha!), but not a whole lot that I know about. Clearly this needs to be corrected. So if you or anyone you know blogs and attended the Webb School of California (or, heck, the Webb Schools in Bell Buckle or Knoxville; I'm not picky), you should let me know. Heck, we've got the right school name for blogging.

Posted by john at 09:39 PM | Comments (28) | TrackBack

Heckuva Job, Rummy.

Bye, now.

Incidentally, what I find interesting is that when I went to Wikipedia just now to find out who this Robert Gates fellow is, the entry was already updated to note he'd been nominated by Bush to be Secretary of Defense. Welcome to the 21st century, where even reference materials update in real time.

Dear God, let Robert Gates be competent.

Posted by john at 01:13 PM | Comments (60) | TrackBack

Election Observations 2006

Some early morning, off-the-cuff observations about the elections:

* What do I feel about the 2006 elections? Like my country has taken some kind of big goddamn sanity pill, that's what. I don't want to oversell the importance of this particular election, but at the moment I feel like it's probably the most important election in my voting life to date -- essentially, the one that was a referendum on just how important the Constitution really is. And we passed. Goodbye unitary executive. Goodbye rubber stamp. Goodbye Dubya's "mandate." Y'all really won't be missed. Yes, this election mattered. Quite a lot. We can quibble if it's the most important recent election, but anyone who tries to tell you it doesn't really matter much is either delusional or trying to screw with your head.

* Having said that, I understand to the large majority of voters, this election wasn't about the Constitution, but about Iraq and corruption, and the general disenchantment with the President and his policies. My response to this is: Hey, whatever works. If people were pissed off about the war and the Congressional leadership and the side effect is that separation of powers endures as more than some words on a parchment held under leaded glass at the US Archives, I'm okay with that. I can accept that many Americans don't have my own dorkmungous concerns as their own. This was a problem with one solution, but many different ways of getting to that solution.

* I certainly do hope that the new Democratic leadership in the House (and possibly the Senate, if the vote does but hold) gets it through its head that this election was about George Bush and the culture of incompetence and corruption, not about everyone turning blue as a pair of Levi's. This doesn't mean -- as Republican and conservative spin monkeys will start saying, oh, right about now-- that the Democrats will have to legislate and act like junior Republicans. It does mean that Democrats need to understand why they're in power now and what the electorate expects them to do first, which is to act as competent damage control for the excesses of the last several years.

The shorter version of this is that America did not go Blue overnight: It's still the same purplish place it always was. The big difference is that all those purple people lost their confidence in Bush and the GOP and went with the people who promised they'd act like grown-ups. If the Democrats can do that for the US, they'll probably be fine in the next election, too.

* As an aside to this, an headline I read on the National Review site last night that went something along the line of "The Real Voter Fraud: how Democrats are using moderates to usher in extreme leaders." Yes, well. The Democrats wouldn't be the first to do that, now, would they.

* I'm a petty enough human -- but an honest enough human -- to tell you that I'm going to enjoy the next several days of conservative and GOP commentators whining and mewling and gnashing their teeth and walking around like they've just taken a bat to the back of the smug, soft heads, and taking the position, per Ann Coulter, that since the Democrats didn't take 60 seats in the House they've clearly failed. Bitch, please. The Republicans gerrymander Congressional districts for eternal Republican majority and they still lose 27 seats? And they picked up no seats from Democratic incumbents? Wow, those guys must suck. The fact that Republicans lost the former seat of Tom DeLay, master of the Republican gerrymander effort, is just one of the sweet ironies whose flavor will suffuse in one's mouth for months, if not years. Yes, yes. Today I think I'll go down to the store, buy some ingredients and make one of these:

Then I'm going to fire up some conservative Web sites while I enjoy my pie. Mmmm... pie.

Even so, I don't expect to spend any substantial amount time in schadenfreude mode. Oddly enough, I don't actually see politics merely as touch football for doughy former high school treasurers. It's not about putting points on the board or talking trash, it's about making sure what we do as a country is good for us and reflects our ideals as a nation. In the last few years incompetence and corruption have done us a lot of damage; it might be nice to focus on correcting that.

* What does this all mean for the GOP, other than they're not in charge of the House and possibly not the Senate either? It means a lot of things, which I'll probably opine on at at length at a later time. For now, I hope it means that they realize they've come to the end of their current line of strategy, which is to milk the credulous extreme right for its votes. That cow's done dried up and it seems somewhat annoyed at all the tugging. Hopefully some Republican introspection will be in order, and I welcome it. I am not reflexively anti-GOP; I've told people before that what I suspect I really am is a "Rockefeller Republican." But it's also equally true that the GOP has some work to do before I can trust it in national elections. I'll be interested to see where it goes from there.

* Coming closer to home, holy crap, did the Democrats ever have a big night in Ohio. They pretty much ran the table on the major statewide offices; the only Republican who won was the one running for State Auditor, and whatever the importance of that office, it's not one from which springs a whole lot of critical policy. And it's worth noting that in the Governor's race, Kenneth Blackwell got stomped; he got just 37% of the vote, while Strickland got 60%. Hell, Blackwell barely won my county, which is so damn red that it voted 70% for Bush in 2004; Blackwell got 49% of the vote in Darke county, compared with 46% of the vote for Strickland (Mike DeWine, who lost to Sherrod Brown, did rather better in my county; he carried it 60 - 40). Blackwell deserves the stomping he got, not because he's GOP but because he's the very definition of a political hack who ran his campaign on sleaze and innuendo; hopefully he won't be back.

Democrats even won seats in Ohio's legislature, which is one of these GOP gerrymandering wonders, although they didn't get a majority there. That's fine. If I'm for divided government nationally, I'm not entirely sure why I wouldn't be for it on the state level.

* If rabid Democrats need a sign that just because Democrats won that night the US hasn't turned a deep blue, they should look at the fact that even more anti-same-sex marriage amendments passed last night, some more egregious than the others. There's good news in that South Dakota's unconstitutionally horrible abortion law was voted right off the books, however. Stunning news flash: Most Americans are somewhere in the middle when it comes to most social issues! I know, I can hardly believe it myself.

So, those are my early impressions. Thoughts?

Posted by john at 07:59 AM | Comments (91) | TrackBack

Because I Haven't Talked About Me Enough Recently

Allow me to take a moment in all this election dorkery to make mention a few things going on with, uh, me:

1. There's a lovely review of The Android's Dream over at Bookslut:

The Android's Dream is a galloping caper that is very funny and very satisfying. Often caper books fall apart at the end, the plot flying apart from the stress of all of its complications. Thankfully, The Android's Dream avoids ending with a whimper. Watching all of the plot threads wind back together into an integrated whole is delightful. By combining a tight ending with sympathetic characters and sharp, funny writing, The Android's Dream delivers top-notch entertainment.

The reviewer's one complaint about the book is that the main character is one of those hyper-competent guys that riddle SF, and I think that's a fair cop. I tried to compensate for his hyper-competence basically by kicking the crap out of him over the course of the book. I'm not sure my character would appreciate this if he knew.

2. Got my royalty statement for Old Man's War, and it came with a check. Yay! Christmas is saved! Shoes for everybody!

3. Reminder to all in and around the Columbus, Ohio area that I will be making an appearance at the Barnes & Noble at the Easton Town Center on Thursday at 7pm. For God's sake, please come. There's nothing more pathetic than an author doing a reading/signing for just the bookstore staff. Not that they're not wonderful, fabulous people, mind you. Because they are.

Anyway, I promise to be entertaining. So come on down. And bring a friend. Heck, bring two. And if you can trick a busload of seniors into showing up, so much the better.

4. Oh, hey: When perusing the Barnes & Noble page for The Android's Dream, I came across the Library Journal review of the book, which reads in part:

The author of Old Man's War delivers a tongue-in-cheek sf adventure that delivers serious action and intrigue as well as clever comedic barbs aimed at diplomatic airs, sf cults, and other foibles of the modern era.

That it does, people. That it does. And sheep! But by now, you know that last part already.

Posted by john at 12:11 AM | Comments (23) | TrackBack

November 07, 2006

Thank You [Insert Higher Power Here]

The Democrats are now officially projected to win at least 15 additional seats in the House of Representatives, which gives them control of the House. Ladies and gentlemen, we've achieved divided government. Everything else from this point forward this election night is just gravy. Rich, dark, satisfying gravy. Perfect for serving with a heaping portion of lame duck.

Now things are going to get really interesting.

Posted by john at 11:12 PM | Comments (33) | TrackBack

The "Hell Yes, I Voted" Thread

vote2006.jpg

I've voted today. Presuming you're eligible to vote in the US, let me know when you have, too.

Posted by john at 08:36 AM | Comments (268) | TrackBack

A Small Plea to the Right: Vote Left in 2006

Dear Republicans:

Here's the thing. We've got ourselves a Republican President who likes to whiz all over the Constitution; really, he just likes to whip out Lil' Dubya and make a splatter tinkle all over James Madison's handiwork. Then he looks over to the Republican Congressional leadership, which says "that's a right pretty tinkle, Mr. President," and hands him a six-pack so he can reload. And while they're doing their little Andres Serrano act on the founding document, they're holding back a reserve for your basic Republican ideals of individual freedom, fiscal responsibility and smaller government. You see how this might be a problem.

As Republican voters, I figure you've got two choices when you step into the voting booth today. You can either get pissed on, or you can get pissed off. And if you choose the latter -- if you decide it might be important that your Republican leaders actually act like Republicans, and also treat the Constitution as something other than a nice absorbent blotter for their processed beer -- you might consider doing what it appears so many others are going to do this year and give your vote to the Democrats.

"But wait," I hear you say. "Won't voting for a Democrat make me a Democrat? Won't it scald my flesh? Won't the ground open up underneath me and tumble me into a hellish chasm where Susan Sarandon and Barbra Streisand savage my nether regions with a strap-on that looks just like Al Franken?"

Absolutely not! Nothing could be further from the truth. First off, the strap-on actually looks like John Kerry (his chin massages your prostate!). But you don't get invited to The Pit until the second time you vote Democrat. So you're safe. Try not to be too disappointed. Second, and rather more importantly, voting Democrat in this case doesn't make you a Democrat. Far from it -- it makes you a better Republican, one who recognizes that the likelihood of Republican party reforming itself and re-embracing genuine Republican principles without being booted on its ass is roughly the same as, say, Al Gore waxing poetic about the health advantages of breathing coal dust. By voting Democratic, you're letting the GOP know that you think it would be nice if it stopped being the party of swelling deficits and shrinking individual rights and got back to what it says it believes in.

Third, let's be honest: Even the wettest of their dreams, the Democrats won't be getting anything close to a veto-proof majority. Yes, they'll whoop and holler and Nancy Pelosi will sacrifice a goat or whatever it is that she does, and then the Democrats will get all misty about their big plans. But without a veto-proof majority, they're mostly harmless for the next two years. That's enough time for the GOP to tear itself apart in a fury of bitter recrimination, crawl out of the bloody ruins re-energized and then take a rock to the skulls of those unwary Democrats in 2008. Foolish pinkos! They'll never see it coming! Where's your goat now, Speaker Pelosi?

Now, believe me, Republicans, I sympathize with you. I'm sure it will be hard to pull the lever for the party of Bill and Hillary, and to know that for the next two years, somewhere in Hollywood, Sean Penn is giggling like a bisexual Wesleyan freshman inhaling his first whippet. But, listen: you're not doing it for Sean, or for that Wesleyan bisexual. You're doing it for the idea of separation of powers, for congressional oversight of the executive, and for a re-establishment of the genuine ideological principles of the GOP. You're doing it for the good of the nation and your party. And anyway, that's why it's a secret ballot. Go ahead and lie to your friends and the exit polls. It's all right. Like that night in college with that lacrosse player, no one has to know.

Just give it some thought, is all I'm saying. About the voting, that is, not the lacrosse player (save that for later). Consider whether the Republican party you have now is the Republican party you signed on for, and the one you want to lead the country. If it's not, help to make it become the right party for the right side of the political spectrum. Vote Democrat in 2006.

Posted by john at 12:00 AM | Comments (59) | TrackBack

November 06, 2006

Here's How Nuts It's Getting Out There

I'm receiving robocalls. From Virginia. A state in which I haven't lived for five years. It's times like these that I wish every single political apparatchik in the land would spontaneously combust. Because I would be there. With marshmallows.

Also, at the moment I'm drinking maple syrup. Because that's the sort of day it is.

Posted by john at 09:29 AM | Comments (50) | TrackBack

Monica Schroeder -- So Far

Hey folks, have I got a treat for you. Monica Schroeder is one of my favorite singers, on account that she's got one of those fabulously rich and warm voices that make you just melt, and she's got a brand new album out, called So Far, which is just absolutely terrific all the way through: Schroeder's wistful words and voice lay over a bed of subtle resonant electronics and invite you right in. If I had to describe it in an "X meets Y" sort of way I'd say "Sarah McLachlan meets Blue Nile," which in my book would be a fabulous thing.

But you don't have to take my word for it: Schroeder's given me permission to play you the lead single from So Far, called "City Lights." Click on the player below and you'll hear it. Bask, people, bask!

Told you it was nice.

Want to hear more? Here's her MySpace page, which features two more songs from the album. And once you've decided that you can't live another moment without owning this album, you can get it off Amazon, CD Baby, Different Drum and iTunes (note: the last one of these will pop up the iTunes store).

Let me know what you think --

Posted by john at 12:00 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

November 05, 2006

An Interesting Editorial

A snippet of an editorial someone sent me a link to:

...We think a vote that is seen—in America and the world at large—as a decisive “No” vote on the Bush presidency is the best outcome. We need not dwell on George W. Bush’s failed effort to jam a poorly disguised amnesty for illegal aliens through Congress or the assaults on the Constitution carried out under the pretext of fighting terrorism or his administration’s endorsement of torture. Faced on Sept. 11, 2001 with a great challenge, President Bush made little effort to understand who had attacked us and why—thus ignoring the prerequisite for crafting an effective response. He seemingly did not want to find out, and he had staffed his national-security team with people who either did not want to know or were committed to a prefabricated answer...
There may be little Americans can do to atone for this presidency, which will stain our country’s reputation for a long time. But the process of recovering our good name must begin somewhere, and the logical place is in the voting booth this Nov. 7. If we are fortunate, we can produce a result that is seen—in Washington, in Peoria, and in world capitals from Prague to Kuala Lumpur—as a repudiation of George W. Bush and the war of aggression he launched against Iraq.

The name of the liberal rag in which this editorial was published? The American Conservative, co-founded by Pat Buchanan. The whole editorial is here.

I think it goes without saying that Pat Buchanan and his pals are not necessarily smack-dab in the mainstream of current conservative thought. Even so, this is another sign of interesting times on the right side of the political spectrum. I don't know what would make it more interesting: If the GOP loses the House and/or Senate on Tuesday, or if they keep it.

Posted by john at 04:30 PM | Comments (33) | TrackBack

One More Thing

Holy crap, look at these Ohio polling numbers for state offices and the US Senate. The story that accompanies those numbers is here.

What would be really interesting is if all the Republican candidates won, 51 - 49%. If that happened, this building would probably be on fire before morning:

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That's the head office for these folks, incidentally. Located right here in the great state of Ohio! It'd be either them or the State House, frankly.

Posted by john at 11:12 AM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

One More Thought Before My Brain Once More Collapses Like a Flan in a Cupboard

You know what's nice to get? An e-mail from someone you truly like and respect, but who hasn't read your books before, complimenting you on your writing. Not that I don't like getting compliments on the writing from other people: Really, please feel free to pile on, because I might as well have a neon sign flashing "please feed the author ego." But when one receives sincere comment from from someone who knows you and who you care about, it's a good thing.

I'll tell you a funny story, which was Krissy's reaction right after she read Agent to the Stars. As most of you know, Agent was the first book I ever wrote, and when I handed it over to Krissy to read, she was rightfully filled with dread. Because what if she didn't like it? After all, she was married to me. And she certainly wasn't going to lie to me about whether she liked it. So she was in no small way actively dreading reading this mass of papers her husband was eagerly shoving toward her. So when she read it and liked it, her first emotion was relief. Because there was one really awkward marital bullet, well and truly dodged.

Of course, this only means that when I do write a book Krissy doesn't like, I'm in deep trouble. Because now she knows I can write well enough to make her happy. And she won't actually tolerate me not doing so. So basically you're never going to see any sort of novel from me that my wife is not 100% happy with. That's quality control, my friends.

All right, I'm done thinking for today.

Posted by john at 10:40 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Catching Up on the Female Domination of Publishing

Interesting fact: Every single winner at last night's World Fantasy Awards is a man. Clearly the female cabal dominating every facet of the publishing industry is trying to lull us men into a false sense of security. We must remain vigilant.

Posted by john at 10:29 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Catching Up on Incompetent War Administration

Turns out in 1999 a simulation of an attack on Iraq suggested that we would need 400,000 troops to get it done -- and even then there was a good chance that things would tip into chaos. As a reference point, currently we have 144,000 troops in Iraq, and things are a bit of a mess there right now, as you may have heard (although there was a spot of good news from there today as well).

Despite it being fashionable to pile on Rumsfeld at this time, I do think it's worth remembering that the actual "fighting Saddam's army" portion of going into Iraq was indeed done very well by the much smaller invading force that we used; that portion of Rumsfeld's plan worked fine. Where everything fell down was in everything after desposing Saddam, where it's clear we didn't have the troops but more importantly, we didn't have the plans, to do a creditable job occupying the country. I think not having the plans is clearly the major issue; it's hard to point to a single thing that was done competently in Iraq after we took control of the place. Without intelligent planning it really wouldn't have mattered if we had put 400,000 troops in there, or a million.

Of course, as this war gaming document notes, it may simply have been that no matter what, we'd have had a failed state. So here's some irony for you: It may be that Rumsfeld did us all a favor by committing as few troops as possible. After all, if the end result is going to be a failed state anyway, better to have as few troops on the ground as you can, so you have fewer body bags coming home. But that assumes that Rumsfeld et al, knew from the very beginning that the end result of invading Iraq was going to be failure; I don't imagine that was really seriously discussed.

The neocons who justified the War in Iraq, incidentally, now explain why none of the bloody mess should be laid at their feet. It boils down to the neocons saying "hey, we're just the idea guys. You can't blame us when the implementation fails." Funny how so many neocon ideas fail in the implementation; at a certain point one has to reasonably wonder if every neocon idea is fated to fail when it hits the real world. This is what you get when the people who build policy are so far removed from reality that Atlas Shrugged is their lodestone for ideal human behavior.

Personally, I think they should all win a delightful expense-paid vacation to Tikrit. Hell, I'll even cough up for a collection. God knows we're paying for their accomplishments anyway.

Also, if you have to ask me how I feel about the administration logic that says that people who have been tortured by the US in secret CIA prisons can't talk about being tortured to their lawyers because those torture methods are state secrets, you've really not been paying attention. And no, I'm not going to bother with the polite fiction that suggests that "alternative interrogation methods" are something other than torture, because, see, I'm the sort of straight-talkin, hip-shootin' fella that tell it like it is. Hi there, I'm from the US, where we torture people now, even if we don't want them to talk about it. Nice to meet you. I'll understand if you don't want to shake my hand.

I'm just glad I'm not to poor son of a bitch from the Justice Department that has to stand up in front of a judge and make that argument, because I'm pretty sure that tearing sound I'd hear in my brain when I made it would be a piece of my soul being tugged right off. Not entirely sure any job is worth that.

Posted by john at 10:18 AM | Comments (39) | TrackBack

Catching Up on Evangelical Licentiousness

Ted Haggard officially removed as pastor for sexually immoral conduct: Since when is getting a massage sexually immoral? I mean, that's all that happened, right? Hmmmm. I guess the church was no less convinced by that particular explanation than the rest of us. Personally I think the real issue here would have been not the fact that Haggard got serviced by a guy, but that he apparently cheated on his wife while doing so. Sure, common adultery is not as (heh) "sexy" as hot religious conservative/man whore m4m action, but it's a lot more problematic for Haggard's relationships. I suppose it's possible that Haggard got clearance from the missus for this sort of thing, but all things considered I sort of doubt that.

While we're on that subject, here's a rather vile comment from another pastor about why Haggard may have been getting his pulpit polished by another man:

Most pastors I know do not have satisfying, free, sexual conversations and liberties with their wives. At the risk of being even more widely despised than I currently am, I will lean over the plate and take one for the team on this. It is not uncommon to meet pastors’ wives who really let themselves go; they sometimes feel that because their husband is a pastor, he is therefore trapped into fidelity, which gives them cause for laziness. A wife who lets herself go and is not sexually available to her husband in the ways that the Song of Songs is so frank about is not responsible for her husband’s sin, but she may not be helping him either.

If only Ms. Haggard had dressed up as a burly lumberjack or maybe a leather boy from time to time, ol' Ted wouldn't have felt the hunger for man flesh! Yes, I'm sure that's it. I sure hope if Ms. Haggard ever meets this fellow, she gives him a healthy punch in the testicles.

Update, 1pm: Haggard comes clean, without much in the way of detail:

"The fact is I am guilty of sexual immorality. And I take responsibility for the entire problem. I am a deceiver and a liar. There's a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I have been warring against it for all of my adult life," [Haggard} said.

The entire letter is here (pdf link).

I think the implication here is that the "dark and repulsive" part of Haggard's life is his desire for men; I, on the other hand, would venture to say that the dark and repulsive part of his life was that his own fear of that part of who he is caused him to punish, in his words and his deeds, at the pulpit and beyond it, those who did not reject that same part of themselves. It's sad; sad for him that he had this self-loathing, and sad for all the gays and lesbians who have their lives burdened, indirectly and directly, by Haggard's self-loathing. Nor are they out of it, since the anti-same-sex marriage amendment Haggard helped get on the ballot in Colorado has yet to be voted on. If it passes, will gays and lesbians find it in their heart to forgive Haggard his role in its passing? It's an interesting question.

Posted by john at 10:16 AM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

Status Update Update

Okay, so, I slept about 20 hours yesterday. Yes, it was refreshing. Yes, I'm still sort of groggy. So don't expect me to think deeply today, all right? Thanks.

Posted by john at 10:13 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 04, 2006

Status Report

Should be writing. Am mostly sleeping. Think I may be sick. Further updates as events warrant.

Don't expect much here this weekend. Saving strength for elections.

Open thread.

Posted by john at 04:38 PM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

November 03, 2006

University of Chicago Magazine Article

My alumni magazine printed up an article on me for its November/December issue; the online version is here. I'm already getting e-mails from fellow U of C folks; fortunately none of them so far have said "Christ, you've gotten bald since the last time I saw you." Although, generally speaking, that would be a true statement. Along with the article, incidentally, there's a lovely picture by Erica Hardesty showing just how bald I've gotten. Although, you know, that's not the primary focus of the picture. I'm going to stop talking about being bald now.

On to other news: Ethan my agent has gotten a sales statement from Tor which says that The Ghost Brigades is now officially earned out, and then some, which is good -- yay! -- but thanks to the dreaded reserve on returns I don't get any of my sweet, sweet royalty money until the next reporting period at the earliest -- boo! That's okay. I only would have spent it on something frivolous (cough) like new therapies (cough cough) for a my drug-resistant strain (hack cough hack) of tuberculosis.

Oh, look. I just barfed up a lung. Better stuff that back in.

Gaaaah! An e-mail just came in discussing my hair! I better quit now while I'm ahead.

Posted by john at 03:28 PM | Comments (24) | TrackBack

A Real Live Luke 6:42 Moment for Evangelical Christianity

A conversation here in the Scalzi household this morning:

Krissy: So, what's in the news?

Me: The head of the largest evangelical Christian organization in the United States is accused of having a three-year-long adulterous affair with a man whore.

(pause)

Krissy: I'm sorry. I probably shouldn't be laughing.

Yes, well. Gobsmackingly ironic karmic retribution will do that to a person, won't it. If these accusations are true (and apparently at least some of them are), then hello, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the absolute collapse of evangelical moral credibility. I mean, if you wanted the current set of evangelical marching orders to be cut off right at the knees, you couldn't do much better than to have the married leader of 30 million evangelicals paying to have his pole smoked by another guy. On a monthly basis. For three years. I mean, Christ. Talk about intelligent design.

Mind you, I don't expect this will stop evangelicals from warning all the rest of us of the dangers of homosexuality and same-sex marriage and how they threaten good old-fashioned morals and what not. But now the response to this can be "if it's good enough for Ted Haggard, it's good enough for me," and that's going to be a pretty effective rejoinder for a while, I think. Let's recap: One of the most influential evangelical leaders in the country -- a guy who gets on a conference call with the President of the United States every week -- stands accused of being a drug-snorting adulterous whore-mongering sodomite. Which are all adjectives and nouns this fellow has apparently spent much of his career railing against. Now, we're all human, and if you believe in the concept of sin, it's pretty clear we all do it. But this fellow sure seems to be buying his sin in bulk.

How should those of us who are not evangelicals respond to the evangelical moral agenda? As ever, the Bible is a font of wisdom. Let's read from the Book of Luke, chapter six:

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

There's a great big evangelical eye beam right about now, I'd say. What will be interesting is whether the evangelicals see it. Because the rest of us can see it just fine.

And what of Ted Haggard? What should we think of him? And of the evangelicals who have recently built so much of their power in the despising of others? Back to Luke:

But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

If that's too much to ask, consider this variation: "Forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them more."

Personally, while I'm pleased to be at least temporarily relieved of the fiction that evangelicals have greater moral credibility than the rest of us simply because they talk about Jesus in churches the size of sports arenas, I also hope that the evangelistic movement takes this moment to look inward and work on its core beliefs. From the outside, it looks like evangelistic core beliefs are about division, acquisition and exclusion, none of which strike me as particularly Christ-like (or for that matter particularly evangelical). I'm never going to be an evangelical Christian, but I like Jesus; he was a righteous dude. It would be nice to see more of Jesus in the loud and showy thing that is evangelical Christianity. I don't expect it. It would still be nice to see.

In the meantime, of course, I'll be happy to remind the folks who want to busy themselves with the morality of others in the name of Christ that they've got their own house to get in order first. Luke 6:42 is going to be awful handy for this, and I plan to use it. Of course, I'll say it with love. That's what Jesus would want.

Update, 3:07pm -- The story now is that Haggard contacted the male escort for a "massage" but never had sex, and that he bought the meth but just kind of stared at it instead of using it. In other words, he didn't inhale. Either time.

Posted by john at 08:28 AM | Comments (116) | TrackBack

November 02, 2006

Election Analysis? Already?

I've gotten a few e-mails from folks asking me for my analysis on the election; basically my response to this is: Uh, shouldn't we have the election first? It does seem like a lot of folks have either happily or bitterly said their bit on the election, but unless I'm stuck in some weird pocket of slow time out here in rural Ohio, the election isn't actually over, and I kind of like to do my election post-mortems when things are actually "post." The closer we get to election day, the less convinced I am that something could happen to drastically change the status of the election, and I certainly have expectations as to how things are going to go, which are generally in line with most other people's: i.e., that it's likely to be a big year for the Democrats. But in terms of what it all means, I prefer to wait until we know what we have in terms of election results. Call me paranoid.

This is also a reminder to folks of all political stripes that your expectations on how things are going to go on election day (and night) are likely to be contingent on your actually voting. Complacency is a fine way to find yourself in a country you didn't sign up for, in terms of its political direction. Vote, damn you. All of you. Even those of you who will cancel out my vote.

I will say this: At this point, my major concern about the election is not how people will vote but whether their votes will be accurately counted and whether they will be allowed to get to the ballot box at all. The problems with electronic polling places have been chewed over here and other places; I believe they're a menace to the democratic process and that's all I need to say about that right now. But it's not just the electronic polls that contribute to this problem; it's not all Diebold. Here in Ohio, for example, a voter ID law has been so wildly screwed up that it's possible some chunk of registered voters will get to the polls and find they can't actually vote (or they'll be given provisional ballots, which may or may not be counted); some of the folks who voted absentee may find their ballots thrown out because they entered the wrong number off their driver's license (not that they were told which of two numbers to use before they voted).

Frankly, this sort of thing sucks. Look, it's more important that everyone who can vote is able to vote, than one candidate or another wins. Just that simple. For God's sake, people, make sure you have everything you need to vote with you before you go vote. Don't give anyone an excuse to keep you from exercising your franchise.

You all already know how I'm going to vote. I'll have more to say on the actual elections on Wednesday. Until then, I'll keep some amount of my thinking on the elections to myself until we have results on the ground.

Now: Tell me you're going to vote.

Posted by john at 02:11 PM | Comments (50) | TrackBack

The Last Colony Cover Art?

I just got an e-mail from someone mentioning that they'd seen the cover art of The Last Colony on Amazon.ca and that they'd liked it, and my reaction to that was "qua?" Because I didn't know such a thing existed. But I went and checked Amazon.com, and sure enough:

tlcprelim.jpg

Thoughts: First, if you visit the Amazon page, don't try to order it yet; they're not even taking pre-orders yet. Second, I suspect this might be a preliminary design, because certain elements on the other covers are not in this one. Third: Ah, look, they put in a Campbell plug. Sweet.

Anyway, there you go. Don't say I don't pass on stuff to you.

Posted by john at 01:07 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

In-Store Promotion

Jeff Hentosz sends along this picture of the sign promoting my appearance next week at the Barnes & Noble in Columbus' Easton Town Center:

TAD110206a.jpg

I'm pretty sure the actual sheep are Photoshopped in. But it would be funny if they were not. And look at the attention to Photoshop detail -- shadows and everything. It's as if Jeff were a graphic designer or something.

I'm trying to decide what I'll read at the appearance. I sometimes read from the first chapter of TAD, but it's got a whole lot of profanity in it, which is probably not appropriate for a book store in a mall. So I think I may read from the first part of the third chapter, which both introduces the hero and explains why the governor of Nebraska was sent to prison after some aliens visited his state. That's fairly amusing. I may also read either a snippet from The Last Colony or "The Sagan Diary," depending; it might be fun to give folks who show up a sneak preview of what I'm writing.

On the subject of bookstores, I'm hearing from a couple of folks that they've spotted TAD in the general fiction section, not in the science fiction, which I think is interesting. If that's happening I suspect it's due to the cover art, which despite the presence of an android on it does not immediately scream "Science Fiction" the way many science fiction covers do. I know I've seen Cherie Priest and Nick Sagan's books shelved in general fiction because they've had atypical covers. Will this be a positive or negative for sales? I haven't the slightest idea. I don't mind the book being shelved with general fiction; I think it's good enough to compete there. But I also know my editor reads the Whatever, so if there's an issue with it, he'll get on the horn to the store reps and deal with it. Yay Intarweebs!

Hey, for those of you who have read/are read TAD, someone posted a question on Yahoo! Answers wanting to know if the book was good and worth her time and money. If you've got a Yahoo account, let her know your thoughts, would you? I'd tell myself I think the book is fairly decent, but I think that might be a little creepy to have the author show up and try to hand sell you his book.

Posted by john at 08:12 AM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

November 01, 2006

TAD Giveaway

Apparently someone is running a contest to give away a couple copies of The Android's Dream. He's not even making people beg cravenly, like I did. Slacker.

Posted by john at 07:32 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Coke Zero Haytas

Coke04eva.jpg

Okay, so, the comments on "My Appalling Lunch" have exposed a heretofore unknown sleeper cell of Coke Zero haytas around these here parts, and I'm here to tell you, all y'all just better step off on mocking my choice of no-calorie beverage. As Joe Rybicki notes in the comments, all true Colaheads (as opposed to "cokeheads," for obvious reasons) know that Coke Zero is the one true no-calorie Coca-Cola experience, since it's formulated from the original Coca-Cola formula. Diet Coke, on the other hand, is some sort of bastard hybrid that shares its taste DNA with the hated and reviled New Coke, the antichrist of colas. New Coke!!! I mean, really. As if. And while, yes, I'd prefer to drink fully-sugared Coke, if I were to do that at my current level of soda consumption, I would probably be wider than I was tall, and that would be no good.

So back off, man. And show Coke Zero some love. It's the one no-calorie cola that doesn't actually taste like ass. And you know that's the truth.

Posted by john at 03:47 PM | Comments (95) | TrackBack

Wednesday Author Interview: Catherynne M. Valente



For those of you who just can't get enough of literary interview goodness,
I've got a pretty damn interesting interview of Catherynne M. Valente up over at By the Way. Catherynne's book The Orphan's Tales: In the Garden, Vol. 1 hit the stores yesterday -- yes, she and I shared a release date, and it was excellent -- and it's a gorgeously-written clutch of homemade myths and fairy tales that resolve themselves over the course of the book into a really well-structured novel. Very nicely done. Likewise, the interview is a series of discrete questions which eventually resolve into -- an entire interview! Honestly, it's like magic or something. Check it out.

Posted by john at 01:35 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

My Appalling Lunch

A sandwich made with: Beef sticks, American cheese and Wonder Bread, nuked for 60 seconds. And a Coke Zero.

Yes, apparently on the inside, I am a 12-year-old boy. A chunky one.

Discuss.

Posted by john at 12:56 PM | Comments (56) | TrackBack

Pale Autumn

paleautumn1101.jpg

Taken this morning while the frost was still on the ground. I think it gives the grass and fields a really interesting color, especially when contracted with the foliage. You can see a larger version here, which adds in more background; that one pretty much fully captures my rustic, pastoral living situation.

Welcome to November, everyone.

Posted by john at 12:04 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack