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March 31, 2007

Taking the Weekend Off: An Open Thread

You know what, this is the last weekend that I'm actually going to be spending at home between now and mid-May, thanks to various speaking and touring commitments. I think I might actually spend it with my family instead of here. No offense. See you all on Monday with a wrap-up of Reader Request Week and other news.

In the meantime, here, have an open thread. To get you started: Share your favorite song to karaoke to. I have a distinct preference for "Melt With You" by Modern English, myself. If you don't karaoke, or choose to plead the fifth, then recount the worst karaoke rendition of a song you've ever heard.

Enjoy the weekend. See you later.

Posted by john at 01:00 AM | Comments (58) | TrackBack

March 30, 2007

My Big Geek Two Page Spread


Should you pick up a copy of Geek Monthly this month, the one with Mary Lynn Rajskub on it, you know, like you do, you geek, then this is what awaits you on pages 26 and 27. Perhaps not as faplicious as Ms. Rajskub (and if you disagree with this assessment, please don't tell me), but nice all the same. Both the very amusing photo and the article itself are by Jeff Hentosz, who as many of you know is a frequent visitor to the Whatever -- and in this case also a visitor to the Scalzi Compound, as he came out for the interview and photo shoot. Yes! He sat on the infamous office loveseat! Yes! He's met Athena! Yes! He pet the hallowed BaconCat! I'm sure it was a pivotal moment in his life, as it should have been.

I've thumbed through the rest of Geek Monthly as well, and perhaps not at all surprisingly, I found it a pretty fun and interesting read, filled with lots of stuff I like to know about. As it happens , it arrived on the same day as the latest issue of Wired, so I suppose if there was every any doubt that I am, in fact, a complete friggin' dork, those doubts should now be washed away. Hello, I'm a total knob. Nice to meet you.

Krissy just came in and went "Ha!" at that picture with the article, by the way. Figures.

Posted by john at 05:03 PM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

Reader Request 2007 #5: Out of Poverty

Castiron asks:

What advice would you give to someone who wants to help folks who are poor (either specific individuals they know, or poor people in their community in general) become not-poor?

Well, Castiron, if you can't give them good jobs with good wages and excellent benefits -- which would be helpful -- then what I would suggest is that you give them some practical advice; a roadmap, as it were, for charting their own course out of poverty. As this happens, this is something I have experience with, having grown up rather poor, and being not poor now. Here's what I would recommend you'd say, because this is what I would say, based on my own experience and the experiences of others I have known personally.

1. Get an education. This is the single most important thing you can do to get out of poverty. I'm not going to trot out all the statistics that show how much more you can make with a college degree than you can without one; I assume people know this already. But let me offer to personal anecdotes to bolster what I'm saying. The first is to note that I am the only one in my immediate family (mother, sister, brother) to get a college degree -- indeed, if I remember correctly, I'm the only one to have finished high school, although others in my family have GEDs. I make more a year than all the rest of my immediate family combined. I'm not smarter than anyone else in my family, nor more virtuous or a better human being, or whatever. But that degree got me a good first job, which in turn opened other doors.

The second anecdote involves my wife -- who to be sure is not in poverty, but bear with me. When Krissy and I met, she had her high school diploma and that was it. Anyone who knows me knows I think my wife is smarter, more sensible and better organized than I am, because she is -- I have met very few people who are as flat-out competent as my wife. But because she had only a high school diploma, she was locked into a series of jobs that were, to put it mildly, wildly below her abilities, and wildly below what should have been earning. It didn't matter that she was clearly capable enough and intelligent enough for other jobs; those jobs weren't open to her because employers listed a college diploma as a criterion. Fortunately, her current employer recognized her brains and paid for her to complete her college education, so they could put her in a job that required a BA. Now she has a quite nice job with a perfectly good salary. What has changed about Krissy? Not her intelligence, her competence or her abilities. What's changed is now she has a piece of parchment that says "bachelor of arts" on it.

It sucks that by and large smart, capable people are locked out of good jobs because some HR dweeb has decided to use a college degree as a filtering device. In perfect world this wouldn't be done. This is not that world. Getting a college degree does not assure one will lift out of poverty -- I know lots of starving post-grads -- but does mean one's options are much wider. Poverty in the United States is very often about a lack of options, and a lack of good choices. Giving one's self the ability to have more options in one's life matters. Beyond the simple fact of the college degree, the process of education can offer other useful things -- placement services, access to internships, the implicit task and time management training that comes from attending classes on a schedule, etc -- all of which will come in handy in the real world. But at the end of the day it's really simple. Education provides options.

People who are poor, and who are adults, are often reluctant to go back to school because they're worried they don't have the time or that their school skills are so rusty that they'll fail right out of the box. I won't pretend that it won't take time; I won't pretend that they might fail. Speaking from watching the experience of others, going back to school as an adult can be a painfully slow and aggravating experience because you have to fit it in to the rest of your life. But it will make a difference. If you're poor and young, you do (hopefully) have the advantage of not having all of the responsibilities of life pressing down on you all the time.

Yes, there are people who have done well without college or even high school diplomas; allow me to point at my own fiction editor, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, an autodidact of the first order and one of the smartest people I know. Allow me also to point out that for every PNH, there are 1,000 people who find their path to a financially remunerative career flatly blocked by a "B.A. required" notation on the want ad. We all want to be the statistical outlier; most of us, by definition, will be in the middle of the bell curve.

2. Take responsibility. One of the more odious bits of ignorance that come from those who loathe the poor merely for being poor is the idea that they are solely responsible for their poverty. This is exhibited by an almost childlike misapprehension of the facts of the world. This is not becoming in people who ostensibly have more than two neurons to rub together, so I'll spend no more time discussing all the ways that this model of poverty is absolutely and contemptuously ridiculous.

However, what these folks are correct about is that attitude matters. If one is not willing to look at one's poverty and say "I deserve better than this," then the chances of emerging from poverty are very slim indeed. I think at some point someone who is in the straits of poverty and who wants to leave them stops looking at why they are poor, and starts looking to solve their poverty problem, and keeps clear in their mind the idea that they are working to leave poverty behind. You have to want it, basically -- and you have to want it enough to actively do something about it.

This is what I mean by "take responsibility" -- not taking responsibility for one's poverty (although if you were an active participant in your being poor, you should be aware of that reality), but taking responsibility for getting out of it. You have to be the prime mover in your own life because generally speaking other people are too damn busy with their own lives to be actively working on yours. People often can help you and will help you, and when that offer is given you should take it (more on that later), but fundamentally you should work on the assumption that you're the only one who cares if you walk out of poverty.

It's going to take work, and it's going to take time, and it's going to be full of disappointments, slips, falls and backtracking. But you have to keep taking responsibility for your own life, and your own path out of poverty.

3. Get help. Taking responsibility for one's emergence from poverty and knowing you have to be the shaper of your own life should not equate to a "I don't need anything from anybody" attitude. Surprise! You do need help -- as much help as you can get. When people offer you help, take it. If they don't offer their help, ask for it (maybe they don't know you need help, after all). If there are programs -- charitable or governmental -- that can help you, use them, and somewhere in the back of your mind promise to pay forward that help when you're able. If you're not using every tool that is useful and available to you in your climb out of poverty, you're just handicapping yourself, and that's stupid, because the path out of poverty is difficult enough as it is. Your pride should be invested in getting out of the hole, not in declaring that you did it alone.

As an addendum, I'd also suggest using your judgment to know what's help and what's someone preying on you. I say this specifically regarding things like check advance stores and other businesses that suggest they're offering you a leg up while working on the back end to keep you mired in poverty. Being poor doesn't mean you don't have a brain. You've got one. Use it.

4. Learn patience. Anything is possible. But when you're poor everything takes longer. The degree that takes a middle-class 18-year old four years to get could take you ten years at night school. Your plans will be thwarted by a bad alternator, an unreliable babysitter, an unexpectedly large electric bill, a fractured wrist and always by the fact that you don't have the money that allows other people to consider potholes what you see as a sinkhole that will rob you of your forward momentum. It is not easy to stop being poor, which is something people who are not poor seem to have a genuinely difficult time understanding. It's an uphill walk, and a bunch of crap is rushing downhill at you. You will avoid some of this crap, if you're smart. You will almost certainly not avoid it all. And some of what you won't avoid is going to carry you quite a distance back down the hill.

You need to understand this now, because in the thick of it it'll be easy to say the effort isn't worth it. Trust me, it is, and you will recognize this when you get up the hill. In the meantime, learn patience. This won't be easy; it sure as hell wasn't easy for me (and still isn't). But it helps.

5. Filter Out the Stupid and the Ignorant. There are people -- lots of them -- who assume that poverty is a marker for low intelligence, bad work ethic and questionable moral character, and generally assume that if you're poor, you deserve to be. Your poverty serves to makes them feel good, because if you're poor for these reasons, then the fact they're not means they must be smart, industrious and virtuous. It's like these people read only the snarky parts of Calvinism. At their least malicious, these folks are merely contemptuous of the poor; at their most malicious they are actively engaged in hurting the poor.

To deal with the latter, vote them out of office and don't use their products. To deal with the former, the best thing to do is pity them that their worldview is hateful and petty and vile, and that they are simply not smart enough to differentiate between money and virtue. And once you've pitied them, stop thinking about them. You're unlikely to get them to change their mind, and any time you spend on the effort is time better spent helping yourself.

Likewise, there are some among the poor who resent when someone chooses to make the effort to lift themselves up out of poverty -- folks who feel that trying to do better for yourself implicitly suggests that you are better than them, not realizing that what you do isn't a referendum on their lives. You're unlikely to get them to change their minds, either. Pity them that they don't recognize that they are responsible for their own self-image, and then once again stop thinking about them.

What you can feel good about is the fact that outside these two groups of people there is a group of other people who recognize that pulling one's self out of poverty is an act of grace in itself, and who will encourage you and welcome your efforts and help you if they can. There are more of these people than you might suspect. Remember that they are there when you're confronted by someone who, for whatever reason, seems invested in the idea of seeing you fail.

This is my advice.

Posted by john at 11:06 AM | Comments (96) | TrackBack

Reader Request Week 2007 #4: The Inevitable Blackness That Will Engulf Us All

Adam Ziegler, who I think really needs a hug, asks:

The world is a sad place. One can argue that some things have improved in recent centuries and decades, yet with every turn of the sun, parents lose their beloved children, innocents are maimed or forced in slavery, wars rage, and most people on this planet endure grinding poverty. We live atop a mountain of sorrows, made higher still by our ongoing misery.
But you are fortunate. By luck of birth and the skill of your hands, you have escaped the fate of most. You earn a generous wage as an entertainer. You have a beautiful family, your health, a comfortable home. But all of it could end tomorrow.
Even if you are one of those rare individuals who can live every moment in the present; even if you know in your bones that life is what you make of it, you are still an intelligent person who knows the state of the world and how fortunate you are to have your fragile place within it. You know that, in the end, most of what you say or do will matter very little. You know that you, your family, everyone you know and everything you have worked for must someday come to ruin and dust.
My question: Does it make you sad? How do you deal?

Well, I deal with it, first, by not thinking about it all a tremendous amount. I do that largely by keeping busy. It's funny how just the simple act of answering a day's worth of e-mail will keep the crushing inevitability of the entropic heat death of the universe at bay for a good half hour to an hour. There, I've tidied up my inbox. Take that, proton decay! Having an eight-year-old in the house -- while certainly increasing entropy -- does also help to keep me sufficiently distracted. I'm surely aware this sounds like a dodge -- fiddling while Rome pops out of existence one sub-atomic particle at a time -- but it really does work, and if you are the sort to obsess about everything eventually turning into dust, then keeping busy is a good make-work solution for being overwhelmed by the ennui that comes from recognizing that nothing you do will matter 500 years from now, anyway. And this way at least all your e-mail gets answered.

The second way I deal with it is to have a sense of perspective about the matter. Look, at the end of the day, trillions of years from now, everything in this universe is going to disappear. It's right there on the label marked "quantum physics." Long before this happens, just five billion years from now, the sun will turn into a red giant, likely swallowing the Earth and reducing it to a cinder. Long before that -- billions of years before that -- changes in the sun's internal workings will render our planet uninhabitable. And long before that -- in the relatively short period of time of a few million years -- it's very likely we'll be extinct because unless you're a shark or an alligator, the chance that your species will simply peter out after a few million years is really rather excellent. We're likely with the majority there, even if we weren't busily altering our environment so rapidly it's like we're daring future generations of humans to survive.

With the exception of the very last of these, there's not that much to be done about it; the universe is not notably sympathetic to our cries that we should be special and eternal. It's nice you feel that way, the universe is telling us, but one day I'm going to end and I'm going to take you with me. Once you wrap your brain around this simple and unalterable fact -- the fact that not even the universe is getting out of here alive -- the rest of it comes pretty easy. And you realize that to some extent worrying about enduring when your genome will dissolve, your planet will dry up, your sun will engulf your home and every single thing that ever was in the universe will randomly pop out of existence, a particle at a time, is a little silly. This frees you to stop freaking out about what will happen in the future and focus on what the hell's going on now.

Yes, tomorrow I die in any number of ways; tomorrow anyone I know and love could do the same. 50 years from now I have a very good chance of being dead; 60 years from now it'll be a near-certainty; 100 years from now it's unlikely that anyone alive will be reading my work. Honestly, have you read a book from 1907? That year, the best selling book was The Lady of the Decoration, by Frances Little; prior to just now looking up this info, I'd not heard of either the book or the author. Nor, prior to just now, had I heard of The Port of Missing Men, Satan Sanderson, The Younger Set or Half a Rogue, best sellers all, or of Meredith Nicolson, Hallie Erminie Rives, Robert W. Chambers or Harold McGrath, their authors. These were the best sellers of the year. My books sell just fine today, thanks, but if I can't be bothered with Half a Rogue, it seems doubtful the citizenry of 2107 will have much use for The Last Colony.

(Here's the Project Gutenberg file for Half a Rogue, incidentally. I trust that you will find it as appallingly purple as I did, which will be roughly as appallingly purple as my books will be a century from now.)

Does this make me sad? Not really. Sure, it'd be nice to be remembered eternally, or, at least as long as people read, but that's not really up to me, and I just think it's dumb to spend much time worrying about it -- and indeed, for as much as I like like my writing, I think I'd be a little worried for the future if 200 years from now I was hailed as one of the great literary lights of our age. It would make me wonder what really interesting selective apocalypse occurred that only my work and work inferior to it survived.

My work is meant to be read now. If it survives and is enjoyable 20 or 40 years in the future, excellent; I'll be happy to enjoy the royalties and the low-to-moderate notability it provides. But I don't worry about writing for the ages; the ages will decide what they want to read by themselves, and I won't be around to care either way. I think intentionally writing for the ages is a fine way to psyche yourself out and assure whatever it is you're writing is stiff and pretentious, and frankly there are very few writers who are so preternaturally good at this gig that they should flatter themselves that the contemporaries of their great-great-great grandchildren will give a crap. Ask Frances Little or Harold McGrath about this one. I want to give people a good read that doesn't insult their intelligence and also pays my mortgage. If eternal art comes out of these desires, groovy. If not, then I still get to eat.

Moving away from my work to more ineffable aspects of my personal life, yes, I'm aware of the fragility of life and the suddenness with which circumstances can change. Today my life is good; there are any number of ways it could go crushingly wrong. Aside from basic and laudable prophylaxis, however (i.e., pay bills on time, live within means, buckle seatbelts, teach child basic moral standards, etc) I'm not sure that there's much benefit in thinking too much about all the ways things could get horrible, fast. So I don't. Being capable of understanding the downside -- to anything -- does not suggest that one is obliged to model it in one's head more than is absolutely necessary. Short of actually experiencing horrible wrenching change, I believe I am as prepared as a person can be for its possibility. Worrying about it beyond that point is useless overthinking; I've got enough stuff to do already.

Finally, in the larger sense -- the one in which I am a citizen of the world, that I like no man am an island, blah blah blah blah blah, it becomes a matter of asking one's self first whether one wants to be engaged in the world, and then if so, how best to be of utility. I do enough things that I feel engaged in my world and I feel like I'm trying to do beneficial things (or at least I'm doing as little harm as possible). I think it's my responsibility to try to make the world a better place than it was before I got here; I don't feel obliged to be heart-rent at every thing that's wrong with the planet. One person can make a difference in the world, so long as that one person realizes that one person can not do every thing or be actively concerned with every damn thing. I pick and choose; everyone does. I focus on what I think I do well, and where I think I can do good.

Now, I understand that these answers would suggest a certain and elemental shallowness to my nature -- a willingness not to think about topics or issues that are weighty in themselves and worth thinking about. What I'm leaving out here, for the space of relative brevity, is a detailed examination of processes by which I came to this intellectual methodology, generated through years of self-examination and self-realization via intentional and unintentional experiential phenomena, to produce the robust heuristic structure through which I filter data. As regards that, let me just say that I've had a life, and I've paid attention, and this is what works for me.

I don't discount that in the end, everything I do, say, write and am will amount to a whole lot of not much; I just don't think it's a relevant metric. The relevant metric is: Have I constructed a life that gives me happiness, allows me to give happiness, and allows for this life to have meaning within its admittedly limited context? If I am succeeding in this particular metric, I think I'm doing pretty well. Yes, one day my species will be replaced by hyper-intelligent squids, the earth will turn into a charcoal briquette and the universe will end in an increasingly thin proton soup. But that's all waaaaaay in the future. Right now, things are good.

Posted by john at 12:13 AM | Comments (27) | TrackBack

March 29, 2007

Author Interview: Alma Alexander

Over at the Ficlets Blog today,
I'm interviewing Alma Alexander about her latest book, the YA Worldweavers: Gift of the Unmage. We also talk about her world travels, making characters who deny then defy expectations, and whether writing can be taught. If you miss all this, generations hence will mark this as a black day in history. Possibly the blackest.

Posted by john at 05:50 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Well, That Didn't Take Long

And it's something I've been expecting since I accepted the nomination, so this is pretty much right on time: Whether I am fannish enough for the Best Fan Writing Hugo category.

Discuss (politely).

Posted by john at 02:27 PM | Comments (93) | TrackBack

March 28, 2007

2007 Hugo Nomination Thoughts

Some thoughts on this year's Hugo nominations. Yes, I'll talk about my nomination -- how can I not? -- but let me get through some other thoughts first.

* First, what the hell? I assumed that the first Worldcon based in Japan might actually have some Japanese nominees on it somewhere, but as this Hugo list shows, it's a completely English-speaking ballot from top to bottom. I think this is weird and wrong; there ought to be some Japanese nominees somewhere in the mix. I demand a recount!

* This is a fine year for the novel category, notwithstanding the fact neither of my eligible books are in it. I'm particularly gratified to see Blindsight and Glasshouse in it. With this nomination Charlie Stross becomes only the second person to score Hugo Novel nods in four consecutive years -- the other guy is Robert Silverberg. You may have heard of him. Charlie will no doubt be humble in the face of any comparison to Silverberg, so let me be unhumble for him: if there was any doubt about it before, Charlie Stross is now officially science fiction's poster boy for the first decade of the third millennium.

As for Blindsight, I feel some some pride in flogging the book to all and sundry last year, and its presence in the novel category shows that being adventurous in science fiction can pay off. Hopefully now this will equate to folks buying the book. I recommend you do this, now. Congrats also to Naomi Novik, who pulls off this year what I did last year: Best Novel Hugo and Campbell nominations! Very nice.

* Speaking of the Campbell Class, which I am naturally disposed to be interested in, it's a good one, too -- and, interesting, almost totally made up of fantasy writers. Discuss this amongst yourselves.

* Data point, noted in a Making Light comment thread but worth noting here, too: In the novel, novella, novelette and short story categories combined, there is exactly one female nominee. Strikes me as a little... odd.

* No, I'm not going to list who I'm going to vote for in what. For one thing, I don't know yet (except in the Best Editor, Long Form category. You know I'm voting for Patrick Nielsen Hayden there, because, well). For another thing, too many friends are competing in too many categories. Having lots of friends nominated for stuff makes me squee.

* So, my nomination for Best Fan Writer. As you may know, the Hugo committee lets the nominees know a bit ahead of time that they're nominated, so they can accept or decline. So, there I am, typing something on the SFWA newsgroups when I get a ping in my e-mail telling me I have a Hugo nomination. And so I think to myself, huh, I wonder which of the books got nominated, and then I opened up the e-mail to discover the answer was "none of the above." Then I laughed out loud, and then I thunked my head on the desk at the absurdity of it all. Then I took some aspirin, because I had given myself a headache. Yeah, I'm stupid sometimes.

Interestingly enough, I am not the first person to have been nominated for Best Fan Writer after having been nominated for Best Novel -- Piers Anthony did it (he was even nominated for Best Fan Writer and Best Novel in the same year), but it's been 37 years since it happened last. I am, however, the first Campbell winner nominated for Best Fan Writer, so I've got that bit of Hugo trivia going for me. Also I believe I am the first Best Fan Writer nominee ever to be running for president of SFWA at the time of his nomination. As if that campaign wasn't weird enough already.

* What do I think of this nomination? I think it's awesome. I think it's awesome because it was totally unexpected, for one -- I mean, really, bam, poleaxe across the head unexpected -- and also awesome because now you can't look at my Hugo nominations and say that I don't have range. It also points out the fact that I've got one of the weirdest science fiction writer careers going, and I say to say that fact pleases me mightily. Yay! I'm a freak!

But what's really awesome about it is that it means that what I write here has some significance to the science fiction community. And that, my friends, is both gratifying and genuinely humbling. I am continually surprised at how much the Whatever has shaped my life both professionally and personally, and how people respond to it what goes up here. Every time I think I have got it figured out, this place throws me for a loop. I should just give up trying to figure it out and enjoy the ride.

Which I will do now -- except to say thank you to my readers in science fiction fandom. Thank you for the nomination. Thank you for reading the Whatever. Most of all, thank you for including me into the science fiction community. I came to it from the outside, you know; my first convention ever was Torcon 3, back in 2003. Before then, I was a stranger to fandom. I don't feel like a stranger anymore, and that's an even better feeling than the one you get from a Hugo nomination.

Thank you again. It means a lot to me. More than you know.

Posted by john at 11:18 PM | Comments (52) | TrackBack

2007 Hugo Nominations

Yes, I'm nominated. Try to find me. Here's the list:

Michael F. Flynn, Eifelheim (Tor)
Naomi Novik, His Majesty’s Dragon (Del Rey; also, Voyager, 1/06, as Temeraire)
Charles Stross, Glasshouse (Ace)
Vernor Vinge, Rainbows End (Tor)
Peter Watts, Blindsight (Tor)

“The Walls of the Universe” by Paul Melko (Asimov’s, April/May 2006)
“A Billion Eyes” by Robert Reed (Asimov’s, October/November 2006)
“Inclination” by William Shunn (Asimov’s, April/May 2006)
“Lord Weary’s Empire” by Michael Swanwick (Asimov’s, December 2006)
Julian: A Christmas Story by Robert Charles Wilson (PS Publishing)

“Yellow Card Man” by Paolo Bacigalupi (Asimov’s, December 2006)
“Dawn, and Sunset, and the Colours of the Earth” by Michael F. Flynn (Asimov’s, December 2006)
“The Djinn’s Wife” by Ian McDonald (Asimov’s, July 2006)
“All the Things You Are” by Mike Resnick (Jim Baen’s Universe, October 2006)
“Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter” by Geoff Ryman (F&SF, October/November 2006)

Short Story
“How to Talk to Girls at Parties” by Neil Gaiman (Fragile Things, William Morrow)
“Kin” by Bruce McAllister (Asimov’s, February 2006)
“Impossible Dreams” by Timothy Pratt (Asimov’s, July 2006)
“Eight Episodes” by Robert Reed (Asimov’s, June 2006)
“The House Beyond Your Sky” by Benjamin Rosenbaum (Strange Horizons, September 2006)

Related Book
Samuel R. Delany, About Writing: Seven Essays, Four Letters, and Five Interviews (Wesleyan University Press)
Joseph T. Major, Heinlein’s Children: The Juveniles (Advent: Publishing)
Julie Phillips, James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon (St. Martin’s Press)
John Picacio, Cover Story: The Art of John Picacio (MonkeyBrain Books)
Mike Resnick & Joe Siclari, eds., Worldcon Guest of Honor Speeches (ISFiC Press)

Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
Children of Men. Screenplay by Alfonso Cuaron and Timothy J. Sexton. Directed by Alfonso Cuaron. (Universal Pictures)
Pan's Labyrinth Screenplay by Guillermo del Toro. Directed by Guillermo del Toro. (Picturehouse)
The Prestige. Screenplay by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan. Directed by Christopher Nolan. (Warner Brothers / Touchstone Pictures)
A Scanner Darkly. Screenplay by Richard Linklater. Directed by Richard Linklater. (Warner Independent Pictures)
V for Vendetta. Screenplay by The Wachowski Brothers. Directed by James McTeigue. (Warner Brothers)

Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
Battlestar Galactica, “Downloaded.” Writers Bradley Thompson and David Weddle. Directed by Jeff Woolnough. (NBC Universal/British Sky)
Doctor Who, “Army of Ghosts” and “Doomsday.” Written by Russell T. Davies. Directed by Graeme Harper. (BBC Wales/BBC1)
Doctor Who, “Girl in the Fireplace.” Written by Steven Moffat. Directed by Euros Lyn. (BBC Wales/BBC1)
Doctor Who, “School Reunion.” Written by Toby Whithouse. Directed by James Hawes. (BBC Wales/BBC1)
Stargate SG-1, “200.” Written by Brad Wright, Robert C. Cooper, Joseph Mallozzi, Paul Mullie, Carl Binder, Martin Gero, and Alan McCullough. Directed by Martin Wood. (Double Secret Productions/NBC Universal)

Editor, Long Form
Lou Anders (Pyr)
James Patrick Baen (Baen Books)
Ginjer Buchanan (Ace Books/Roc)
David G. Hartwell (Tor Books)
Patrick Nielsen Hayden (Tor Books)

Editor, Short Form
Gardner Dozois (The Year’s Best Science Fiction)
David G. Hartwell (Year’s Best SF / The New York Review of Science Fiction)
Stanley Schmidt (Analog)
Gordon Van Gelder (Fantasy and Science Fiction)
Sheila Williams (Asimov’s)

Professional Artist
Bob Eggleton
Donato Giancola
Stephan Martiniere
John Jude Palencar
John Picacio

Ansible, ed. Dave Langford
Interzone, ed. Andy Cox
Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, ed. Gavin J. Grant & Kelly Link
Locus, ed. Charles N. Brown, Kirsten Gong-Wong, & Liza Groen Trombi
The New York Review of Science Fiction, ed. Kathryn Cramer, David G. Hartwell, & Kevin J. Maroney

Banana Wings ed. Claire Brialey & Mark Plummer
Challenger ed. Guy Lillian III
The Drink Tank ed. Christopher J. Garcia
Plokta ed. Alison Scott, Steve Davies, & Mike Scott
Science-Fiction Five-Yearly ed. Lee Hoffman, Geri Sullivan, & Randy Byers

Fan Writer
Chris Garcia
John Hertz
Dave Langford
John Scalzi
Steven H. Silver

Fan Artist
Brad W. Foster
Teddy Harvia
Sue Mason
Steve Stiles
Frank Wu

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (not a Hugo)
Scott Lynch
Sarah Monette
Naomi Novik
Brandon Sanderson
Lawrence M. Schoen

List gacked from Making Light.

Posting the list now; comments to come in a separate entry in just a few minutes.

Posted by john at 10:14 PM | Comments (33) | TrackBack

Reader Request 2007 #3: BaconCat Fame

I was going to do something more substantial for today's reader request piece, but I've realized my brain is like mush at the moment, so I'm going to do an easy one instead, from Ron Hogan:

"How do you cope with the fame of having taped bacon to a cat?"

I think the whole thing has been pretty damn funny, myself. It's also a perfect microcosm of How The Web Works, circa now. Andy Warhol famously opined that in the future everyone would be famous for fifteen minutes; he had the right idea but the wrong vehicle. People aren't famous for fifteen minutes, they're famous for one Internet meme. Mine happens to be BaconCat.

Now, I can afford to be sanguine about BaconCat fame for a few reasons. One is that, if I may say so, I am somewhat notable otherwise; enough people know me for things other than my ability to adhere breakfast meat to a domestic animal that I'm comfortable with being known for that, too. Another is that that I understand how complete damn ridiculous it is, and in being ridiculous, being also non-repeatable. I'm not in a rush to tape bacon to other animals, or place other foodstuffs on my cat, or otherwise try to bottle this bacon-scented lightning a second time. Finally, in an Internet where a guy is world famous for falling on his face, another is famous for practicing Jedi moves while chubby and yet another is famous for his ability to pull his posterior regions apart far enough to lodge the Great Pumpkin in his rectum, being known as "The BaconCat Dude" is delightfully benign.

Which is not to say that the joke doesn't get old. Someone feels obliged to make a bacon and/or cat related joke here on two comment threads out of three. After a while, you know, I feel it's okay for all y'all to stop. It's not that funny. Now, I realize that most people are just doing it in good fun, so it's not worth making a deal out of. But, folks, seriously: making Bacon Cat jokes at this point is like the Whatever equivalent of the dude who shouts out "Freebird!" at every single concert you've been to for the last 15 years. I'm just saying.

Having said that, it is a fun story. And when I do a live appearance and people ask to hear the BaconCat story, I pretty much have it all blocked out and choreographed. It's like a little standup routine. When I'm on tour and you want to hear the story, go ahead and ask. I'll probably be happy to share.

(Want to participate in Reader Request Week? Add your own question here)

Posted by john at 08:45 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Various & Sundry 3/28/07


Hey there. Been busy today. Here's some stuff to think about while while I get my act together:

* The Spring 2007 edition of Subterranean Magazine Online kicked off a couple of days ago (that's the "cover" for it up there). I'm in it, just not yet -- material from the issue gets released over the course of time, to give you an excuse to keep checking in (don't worry, I'll let you know when my story goes up). But what's up now is pretty damn good, including new stories from Caitlin R Kiernan and Joe R. Lansdale and Neal Barrett, Jr. And it's free for you to read, which is nice.

* Christopher Rowe has some thoughts on joining SFWA, after next Sunday.

* I spent the earlier part of my day down at the Honda dealer, getting a new gasket for some aspect of my transmission (because the minivan was leaking transmission fluid), and putting on new tires, because we hadn't replaced the one that came with the minivan when we got it in '03. All of which was not notably cheap. I don't mind spending the money (it's not like I want to drive around without transmission fluid or on bald tires), but that's money I don't get to spend on useless indulgences. I sort of resent that. I say this with the acknowledgment that in the grand scheme of things, this is a good place for one to be, financially.

* Someone just pinged me that they've seen my profile in the latest Geek Monthly magazine, so I suppose that this is an excellent time to note that, hey, there's a profile of me in the latest print edition of Geek Monthly. Rush out and get it! You can find the online adjunct here. I'm not in that part, however.

Posted by john at 03:45 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

March 27, 2007

Various & Sundry 3/27/07


Various things:

* I meant to pimp Justine Larbalestier's Magic's Child last week, when it hit the stores, but then collapsed into my own belly button. Let me rectify that now by saying that Justine has written not only a terrific book here -- this should not be a surprise, given that she's up for the Norton Award this year -- but also managed to stick the landing with her "Magic or Madness" trilogy, which is very cool. Justine and I did our trilogies more or less at the same pace, and it was great to be able to have someone out there who was going through the same crap I was, pretty much in step with me. It was helpful, you know?

But that's all backstage stuff. Up front, as I mention, Justine's got a great book and an excellent conclusion to her series. You must go out and buy copies right now.

* If you've been following the SFWA elections in the ElectionBlog (actually a newsgroup), you'll know that Will Shetterly has been asking interesting questions of the candidates and making some cogent observations. Now he has some questions about electronic piracy (and SFWA's engagment with the issue) and about SFWA's current "newsgroup"-style online discussions. If you're a SFWA member (or are thinking about becoming one, ever), head over to Will's blog, read the questions, and leave your answers to the questions there.

* If you're in the Dayton, Ohio area and you've thought to yourself, "gee, I wonder what Scalzi would be like, lecturing on how to write fiction," you're in some luck, since I will be lecturing on that very same topic on Friday, April 13, as part of Sinclair College's 33rd Annual Writers' Workshop. There will be two 90-minute sessions, and there will also be other instructors, schooling participants on poetry, non-fiction and screenwriting. The cost of the workshop is $25, unless you're a Sinclair student, in which case it's just $15. Anyone who's ever seen me live knows I'll have no problems talking for an hour and a half solid, but I do also plan on answering questions as well.

* Athena just wrote a four page, single-spaced ghost story. She is made of awesome.

Posted by john at 04:42 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Reader request Week 2007 #2: Coffee, or Lack Thereof

DeCadmus asks:

What's with your irrational fear of coffee? Did you have an unfortunate encounter with a can of Folgers as a child?

Well, deCadmus, no. In fact, I deny I have an irrational fear of coffee at all; I almost never break out into cold sweats at the mere thought of the brew being dispensed, nor do I, like the protagonist of Mark Helprin's Memoir From Antproof Case, launch into sudden, multi-page tirades about the evil of the dusky drink. If other people want to drink coffee, that's fine with me. However, I don't drink it myself, nor am I likely to take it up anytime soon, for a simple and clear reason:

Coffee tastes like ass.

No, not like real ass; it's just an expression (although I suspect there has been coffee that literally does taste like ass, and I'm glad never to have sampled it). But, look, it tastes bad. Anyone who says, "well, that's just because you haven't had really good coffee" is merely saying "well, that's because you've never tasted really good ass" as far as I am concerned. No matter how good ass tastes, it's still ass. Coffee tastes so much like ass that Starbucks has managed to install itself on every street corner in America by dispensing variations of coffee whose main recommendations are that they taste less like ass than actual coffee. Mochas and lattes are to the modern era what a gravy was to the 1600s; a concerted effort to mask the rancid taste of what lies underneath. When you have to invent things not to taste a drink, the simple solution is not to drink the drink in the first place.

I'll note that coffee's not alone in this; there are lots of drinks that taste like ass, but which people drink anyway, usually to get to whatever drug is suspended in the liquid. Coffee tastes like ass, but people drink it for the caffeine. Beer tastes like ass but people drink it for the alcohol. All those energy drinks taste like ass coated in cough syrup, but people drink them for, what? Taurine? You people are all high.

And it's not just drink, of course -- people are willing to put up with a lot of things that taste like ass just to get at a drug. For God's sake, cigarettes are just pouring smoke over your tongue. And as for pot -- well, that stuff actually smells like vegan farts, doesn't it? Seriously: Room of pot smokers, room of hacky-sackers a half hour after a cruelty-free Thanksgiving. They both smell the same. And you suck it into your mouth just for a little THC kick. It's like I don't know you people anymore.

Honestly, this should be how we combat addiction: not by pointing out all the horrible things addiction can do to you, but by simply telling teenagers that what they're really doing by smoking, or drinking or toking up, is training themselves to enjoy things that taste like ass. This is something teenagers can understand. Trying to explain the downside of addiction to a teen is iffy; they're headstrong punks who can't conceptualize being a slave to craving because it's not in their experience. But things tasting like ass? They know all about that, and the social shame that comes with being a wanton ass-taster. I'm telling you, we'd cut teenage addiction to nothing.

Now, you can argue that coffee doesn't deserve to be lumped in with cigarettes or a nice, chunky blunt; fair enough. But there's a reason that plain decaf coffee isn't America's favorite drink. It's because all you get with that is the taste of ass. Everybody recognizes there's no point in that. At that point you might as well just have a glass of hot water and call it a day.

So, yeah. It's not a fear of coffee, just an internal notation that coffee = tastes like ass = not to be put in my mouth. If you want to put it in your mouth, that's fine with me, you ass-taster, you. I hope you enjoy its full-bottomed flavor. I'll stick with my Coke Zero. It tastes of many things, but not one of those things is ass.

(Want to participate in Reader Request Week? Add your own question here)

Posted by john at 12:17 PM | Comments (113) | TrackBack

March 26, 2007

Last Colony Love

Two reviews of The Last Colony today worth noting. The first is from SFReviews.Net, and it's positive, with a couple of quibbles (be warned that one of those quibbles is a minor spoiler). However, I can personally say I love it for its opening paragraph:

Some writers are prolific. A better adjective for John Scalzi might be "possessed." You'd think he'd have his hands full churning out novels at a machine-gun pace, editing magazines, maintaining two hugely popular blogs, and being SF's favorite sitcom dad. Yet he soldiers on, evidently genetically engineered for perfect tirelessness. I suspect that instead of sleeping, he has something like an iPod charger that he inserts in a Cronenberg-like body socket, after which he emerges a couple of hours later fresh as a daisy, with another 100,000 words of writing raring to go.

Dear Lord, if only this were true.

Also for your consideration, this encomium from Pyr Books main man Lou Anders, who among other things says about the entire "Old Man" series:

The complexity & moral ambiguity of the novels build with each one, though they all retain his very readable and distinctive narrative voice. I also think that I like each novel better than the one before, though it may be that I simply like returning to the universe of the Colonial Defense Force and am carrying my previous joy forwards and compounding it with new joy. Joy squared. Joy to the third power.

Interestingly, both the T.M. Wagner and Lou Anders note that, as both of them read Whatever on a frequent basis, it's difficult not to see some Mary Sue-ness in The Last Colony, given that in TLC John and Jane are married, have a smart, sarcastic daughter, and that I've acknowledged that Jane is to some extent modeled after my wife. As I've noted elsewhere, I'm pretty sure John Perry isn't my Mary Sue in the series -- I think the character of Harry Wilson is a lot more like me personally -- but at this late point I can't really complain too hard about it. I did it to myself by, among other things, naming the main character "John," even if he's actually named for Jonathan Cain, keyboardist for Journey. Note to self: No more main characters named John, ever.

Posted by john at 04:26 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Reader Request Week 2007 #1: Justifying My Life

To inaugurate this year's Reader Request Week, in which I write on your requests, because I love you in a mannish, totally het sort of way, here's a deep question, from Ray:

The world ends in 72 hours. How do you justify your life?

Well, Ray, I guess my question is, justify it to whom? I'm a doubtful agnostic, so I'm not likely to try to justify my life to God, whose line is likely to be jammed up in any event. If it's the end of the world, everyone else is gonna be dead in 72 hours, too, except the dudes in the international space station, who will clearly have problems of their own. I'm not going to try to justify my life to a cosmonaut; I don't know how I would reach one, and if I did I'm not sure he'd care. "Da, da, your life is good. Hang up now." Likewise I'm sure everyone else in the world will be kinda busy, too. And since it's the world that's ending, not just humanity, there will be no future race of intelligent rat/roach/squid/whatever to find my words etched into stone or glass or titanium or whatnot.

At the end of days, the only people to whom I would feel the need to justify my life would be to those I feel the need to justify my life to now, and on a daily basis: My wife and daughter, and to a lesser extent myself. Since I try to justify my existence to them daily, and try to live my own life so that if it were to end I could not say I was dissatisfied with it, having the end of the world coming up in three days would not make a tremendous difference in terms of personal justification. I'm justified well enough, thanks, that I wouldn't feel the need to take any chunk of my short remaining time to deal with it then. This is one area in which I've planned ahead.

Instead, with my last days, I would simply say goodbye; presuming the phones and the internet have not collapsed, I would post a last entry here, and I would call and e-mail friends and as briefly as possible I would let them know what they meant to me. Then I would turn off the computer, the phone and the world and spend my last day as I spend all my days -- in love with my family, and with them no matter what comes next, even if what comes next is nothing, and happy in the knowledge that the love we have for each other needs no room for regret, or for further justification.

As it should be in all things, in any event. My world -- my apprehension of it, anyway -- could end in 72 hours, or in 72 months, or (very optimistically) in 72 years. We don't know when we will die. I can't say I always manage to live my life so I do not have to justify it, or regret my actions; I am, alas, human. But I try. If I die today, I do not think I would have much to justify. I am, by my own standards, a good person. I believe I have been a good husband and father and friend. And I've certainly kept you lot entertained. I'm good.

So, Ray, that's how I would justify my life: I wouldn't. I would spend my last days doing other more important things. It's a better use of my time, what little of it remained. I would hope you would be able to do the same.

(Want to participate in Reader Request Week? Add your own question here)

Posted by john at 02:27 PM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

Before Any One Sends it to Me Again

Yes, I've seen the article about the sheep with 15% human genes. Yes, it's been sent to me a couple dozen times now. No, you don't need to send it to me again. Thanks for thinking of me, however.

Posted by john at 08:17 AM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

March 25, 2007

Another Quick Note Taking Post, This Time Re: Author Interviews/Ficlet Spotlights

Authors! I require assistance!

Here are people to whom I know I've said I'd send interview questions to for Author Interviews, for the March/April/May time frame. These people will be receiving e-mailed questions shortly, on account I'll be on tour through part of April/May and will want these in the hopper, ready to go:

Alma Alexander
Justine Larbalestier
Justina Robson
Cassandra Clare
Carrie Vaughn
Jennifer Ouliette
Sandra McDonald
Jim C. Hines
Elizabeth Bear
Jay Lake

If you are an author whom I have said I would interview during this time frame but do not see you name on this list, please contact me and say "Hey, moron, you said you'd interview me!" I would not want to not interview you.

Secondly, as the Author Interviews are no longer going to be tied into a specific day, I can probably get a couple more in there. So if you've got a book coming out, particularly in May, ping me and let's see what we can do. I seem to be running low on guy authors right about now. Here's how to do this.

Thirdly, remember that even if you don't have a book coming out, but are a published author, I can still promote the heck out of you if you want to write three ficlets for the Ficlets site. Here are those details again. A couple of you have pinged me for this; I'm going to ping you back. But I could use more.

Posted by john at 06:23 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Notice Re: E-Mail

I've spent most of today answering e-mail I've let sit too long (and will now be moving on to addressing and packing for mail books I've let sit too long, followed by sending off interview questions I've let sit too long, too), and I think I've caught up answering e-mail to everyone who I am supposed to have sent e-mail to in the last couple of weeks. So, if you feel I should have responded to you via e-mail about something and there's not, in fact, now an e-mail from me in your e-mail queue, you should consider this a lovely time to ping me again on whatever it was. I will try to get back to you in a more timely fashion.

Posted by john at 04:16 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Male Jewelry

Just out of curiosity, and for the guys (although women can answer as well, about guys they know): How much jewelry do you wear and why?

I ask because I myself wear only my wedding band, and really have no interest in wearing any other jewelry, nor ever really have: No class ring, no earrings, generally no pins either (I put my Hugo pin on my suit lapel during the ceremony, because it seemed appropriate to do so at the time, but otherwise kept it on my LACon IV badge).

I think the acceptability of male jewelry comes and goes, but as I don't really wear it myself, I have no idea where we are in the cycle at the moment. Any thoughts about that would be appreciated, too.

Posted by john at 12:16 PM | Comments (120) | TrackBack

March 24, 2007

Apologizing for Idiotic Smackfights

Yeah, I got into a stupid smack-around on the SFWA ElectionBlog (actually a newsgroup) with one of the SFWA VP candidates, thus showing I have the maturity to lead a major writer's organization. This is the post where I admit I was a moron for having done it, and make various apologies.

Sigh. Being a grown-up is hard.

Check out other conversations too -- lots of interesting topics relating to SFWA, plus a few flamewars to add a special kick.

Posted by john at 01:50 PM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

The New Kid in Town

The Android's Dream meets The Last Colony, an author copy of which arrived here yesterday. The meeting doesn't go well.

The cameraperson on this one: Athena. I think her hand-held, cinema verite style adds a certain authenticity, no?

Funny story about getting my author copy. For the last couple of days there were heavy rains, which flooded out the front part of my driveway and part of the road. So I'm sitting here in my office and I get a phone call, and it's the Fed Ex guy, who tell me he can get up to me. So I walk all the way out to the bottom of my yard, where I have to stop because there's a drainage gully knee-deep in water between me and the Fed Ex guy. So he ends up throwing my package to me from about ten yards away. Good throw, fair catch, touchdown. Thank God I didn't have to sign for it.

The Last Colony looks fabulous, by the way. It'll be another few weeks before it hits stores (it will in fact arrive perfectly timed for my book tour, the itinerary for which is now lovingly displayed on the gorgeous new Tor Books Web site -- yes! Tor books has a new Web site!) but it's totally going to be worth the wait. Patience.

As for The Android's Dream it gets a fine write-up in the new issue of Some Fantastic (pdf link to the latest issue here). The review is intensely spoiler-riffic -- it gives away oodles of stuff I'd want you to find out on your own, so be warned before you read (this has been an endemic problem for TAD reviews, I'm afraid, and I wonder why). That said, it has nice things to say about the book:

In all, Android’s Dream is a wonderful departure for Scalzi. Up till now, his SF work has resided within the confines of the universe created for Old Man’s War, but this book shows he capable of far more... I thoroughly enjoyed this frenetic romp that made entertaining use of any literary device Scalzi seemed interested in playing with. As much as I love his Old Man’s War series, I am looking forward to any other future diversions he plans on taking from that universe.

See, TAD? You're still beautiful and beloved. Now stop drinking.

Posted by john at 12:01 PM | Comments (28) | TrackBack



Attorney General Alberto Gonzales approved plans to fire several U.S. attorneys in a November meeting, according to documents released Friday that contradict earlier claims that he was not closely involved in the dismissals.
The Nov. 27 meeting, in which the attorney general and at least five top Justice Department officials participated, focused on a five-step plan for carrying out the firings of the prosecutors, Justice Department officials said late Friday.

So, is Wednesday a good day for a resignation? Wednesday, around 11am? I'm putting my marker down there. Anyone else?

Posted by john at 02:21 AM | Comments (37) | TrackBack

March 23, 2007

In The Category of Bands I Never Get Tired Of

The Pretenders:

Chrissie Hynde's voice and lyrics + James Honeyman-Scott's guitar work = Never Goes Stale

Tell me who you never get tired of.

Posted by john at 08:07 PM | Comments (79) | TrackBack

Reader Request Week 2007: Get Your Requests In!

Once a year here at the Whatever, I stop writing about whatever I want to blather on about, and instead write about whatever you want me to blather about. This is called Reader Request Week, and starting next Monday, we'll be having it again.

IF! If, that is, you would be so kind as to offer up a suggestion as to what you would like me to write about. Drop your idea here in the comment thread, and starting Monday I will cruise through the suggestions and pick some of the ones I like. Then, for a week, I dance like a monkey for your amusement. See how simple it can be?

To keep you all from requesting stuff I've already answered in previous Reader Request Weeks, below you'll find links to all the previous subjects.

From 2003:

Reader Request #1: The Middle East
Reader Request #2: Life Online
Reader Request #3: TV
Reader Request #4: Testing Preschoolers
Reader Request #5: Jealousy
Reader Request #6: Immigration
Reader Request #7: Ohio
Reader Request #8: Writing
Reader Request Wrapup

From 2004:

Reader Request #1: Boys and Girls
Reader Request #2: The Meaning of Life
Reader Request #3: Can Writing Be Taught?
Reader Request #4: Fatherhood and Pie
Reader Request #5: Objective Newspeople
Reader Request Week 2004 Wrapup

From 2005:

Reader Request #1: Creative Commons and FanFic
Reader Request #2: Peak Oil
Reader Request #3: Beatles, Batman and They
Reader Request #4: Pot!
Reader Request #5: Odds and Ends

From 2006:

Reader Request #1: SF Novels and Films
Reader Request #2: 10 Childhood Nuggets
Reader Request #3: Writers and Technology
Reader Request #4: The Nintendo Revolution
Reader Request #5: A Political Judiciary
Reader Request #6: Paranoid Parents
Reader Request #7: Writing About Writing

So there you have it. As for topics you can request: Whatever you want. I do kinda hope they're not all writing questions, though.

Okay, start suggesting! And make them good. I want to have fun with this year's Reader Request Week, like I've had all the other years. I'm relying on you.

Posted by john at 02:18 PM | Comments (140) | TrackBack

God Wasn't Willing


And the creek done rose. Which is why most of the road out front of my house is flooded at the moment, and apparently there are more thunderstorms and rain to come. If I die today in the rushing waters, I want you to know I always loved you best of all the Whatever readers. Yes, you. I didn't want to make the other readers jealous. But now, as the waters nip my toes, we have not time for such delicateness.

Hold me.

Posted by john at 09:29 AM | Comments (56) | TrackBack

March 22, 2007

Disobeying My Wife


I promised Krissy that I wouldn't post anything SFWA-related today, but then Theo Black sent along this poster and it was too sweet not to post. I hope she will forgive me.

Since I've already gone this far, I'll also link to a long post where I talk about my real-world publishing credentials and why they're relevant to being SFWA president over at the ElectionBlog (not a newsgroup). You know you want to read it. Other interesting stuff going on there today, too.

No more SFWA-related posts today, I swear.

Posted by john at 12:39 PM | Comments (35) | TrackBack

March 21, 2007

Off It Goes


Behold! My SFWA ballot, all ready to be mailed. I must confess, I voted for myself. I also voted for Derryl Murphy in the veep slot; I felt that he would probably be the best fit for me in philosophy and goals, should I win, and also independently I like his platform. Mr. Burt's apparent decision to base his campaign on defeating my presidential run, as chronicled at the SFWA ElectionBlog (actually a newsgroup), does also lend toward my voting for the other fellow. In any event, I've voted now. The deed is done.

If you are a SFWA member, please do remember to vote. You have, effectively, a month from this very date to vote (all votes have to be received by 4/28). If you threw away your ballot, you can get a new one from SFWA by contacting the secretary, Catherine Mintz; if you're thinking of joining in order to vote in this election, you better do it right soon (like, now). You don't have to vote for me (although I want you to), but you should vote.

Posted by john at 08:00 PM | Comments (28) | TrackBack

Portrait of the Daddy as a Big Ol' Geek


Athena had me stand for a portrait; here it is. Note the geek accouterments including two computers, the Campbell on the wall, and the "electric sheep" T-shirt.

I regret to say this rendering of me is all too accurate.

Posted by john at 04:09 PM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

On Inexperience (A SFWA - Related Post)

Over at the SFWA's ElectionBlog (actually a newsgroup), things are beginning to get interesting; VP Candidate Andrew Burt has shown up and decided that he's going to make an issue of highlighting the fact that I am rather inexperienced in the ways of SFWA. He's asking me if I'm aware of the work of this committee or that committee, or if I know that particulars of certain documents relating to SFWA's governance. It's a bit like he's Alex Trebek, offering up the "SFWA Inner Workings" category of Jeopardy! to me. I will note I am not running the category.

There are a number of reasons why Mr. Burt is choosing to do this, but whatever the reasons, let me note that he is absolutely right to do this. The fact of the matter is that I don't know all the inner workings of SFWA; I can't name all the committees, I certainly can't name all the people who are on the committees, and there's no doubt that if I win, I'll be spending much of my time from the announcement of my election until the advent of my tenure catching up on everything SFWA -- what it does, how it does it, its financials and so on. I am every bit as inexperienced as Mr. Burt wishes to suggest I am; denying this would be foolish.

Naturally, I don't plan to deny it. If you vote for me, you are getting an inexperienced president, period, end of sentence. You accept this fact the moment you write in my name and send in your ballot. What you have to hope for is that I'm a fast study (and I am) and that I will be competent from the start (which I sincerely hope I will be).

What is going to make a great difference here is whether, if I win, people help me out. One of the great theories I have regarding SFWA is that more members want to do more -- SFWA clearly has a great core of volunteers (and I would be remiss in not noting that, despite my philosophical issues with their potential governance, Mr. Capobianco, the other presidential candidate, and Mr. Burt are among them) -- but there should be more of us pitching in. This is why on my platform I make explicit a call to service. One of the joys of being a candidate so far is hearing from so many folks who have said "count me in." I am counting you in, you know. If I win, my next stop is your doorstep.

I am going to need help. I am going to need old SFWA hands to catch me up on history and mechanics and to give me wise counsel (which may include an occasional slap across the head). I am going to need current SFWA hands to exercise generosity with my learning curve while I learn to respond effectively to their needs. I am going to need new members -- I hope to God we get them -- to bring their enthusiasm into SFWA so we can tap their energy and suck them totally dry in an orgy of initiatives. I want to be as good a leader to SFWA as I hope I can be.

I am going to need help. I hope you will give it to me, and in return I will give you the service I believe SFWA deserves.

As I said, Mr. Burt is entirely correct to point out that I don't know what what's going on with many of the committees. But here is a question for you SFWAns: Do you? I at least have the excuse, as I've noted a number of times, of having my SFWA membership as an affectation to this point, and not expecting or wanting anything from it. But I know many of you do expect things from SFWA. Has the organization made you feel like it is doing things you need to know? Has it been doing things you feel like you need to be engaged with? Do you feel like SFWA makes a difference to you and wants you to make a difference to it?

To my mind, this is one of the critical things concerning this election. I could name to you every committee that SFWA has and what it's doing and how, but if you feel like it's not material to you -- and to your career as a speculative fiction writer -- then there's a big problem. And, I believe, this is the situation which faces SFWA today. Some of this has been because of past policy decisions that are at odds with how working writers get things done today; some of it has been that SFWA is opaque and sequesters so much of itself behind a private wall; some of it is because for a volunteer organization, it doesn't seem to go out of its way to enthuse it members toward service. I do not wish to belittle the good and excellent service SFWAs volunteers give to the organization. They rock. That said, look: the fact that all five positions on the SFWA ballot were uncontested is a symptom of a larger problem.

Mr. Burt is pointing out that many aspects of my platform are not new; this is correct, they're not. They are what I think SFWA should be doing. Mr. Burt is also pointing out that initiatives similar to what I suggest are underway at SFWA now. I think that's wonderful; if they are indeed similar to what's on my platform, than it'll be less work for me to ramp things up. I didn't know about a lot of these initiatives. Did you? Do you think that it's a problem if you didn't?

I am an inexperienced candidate for president of SFWA. There's no getting around that. You need to consider that when you vote for me. What I promise to you is this: that should I be elected, I won't be inexperienced for long. My delightfully obsessive-compulsive ways -- the same ones that allow me to tell you the domestic box office of every Hollywood film made since 1991 (residue of my movie critic days) -- will force me to learn every nook and cranny of SFWA. I will soon know everything there is to know about SFWA. And be assured I am going to tell you all about it.

Also be assured that I am going to make you part of it. Remember that I said that a vote for me is a vote for an obligation from you to SFWA. I will be on your doorstep.

I am going to need help. If I get it, I think I can be a good president.

Posted by john at 02:49 AM | Comments (104) | TrackBack

March 20, 2007

These Are Made of Awesome. And Fat

Forwarded to me by someone who knows my love of bacon and cheese: Deep Fried Bacon, Cheese and Beer Dog. My arteries are clogging just thinking about it.

It comes with pictures. Oh, yes.

Posted by john at 03:03 PM | Comments (32) | TrackBack

Comrades! Now Is The Time To Do Your Part For the Glorious Revolution!

This just in: Theo Black is awesome. Dig these mack daddy posters he made for my SFWA President run:

I swear that if I win, that last one is going to be my SFWA President business card. Yet another reason to vote for me.

Also, I swear to you that these popped into my e-mail at pretty much exactly the right time. For a number of various reasons, of which this whole SFWA president thing is one, I've been unspeakably stressed all day long (evidence of this: I'm up at 2:38 am and am not tired at all). These showed up, and I got a smile as wide as the Volga, and suddenly I felt ever so much better. Theo Black, you are my hero.

And so are you -- really, all of you who are sending along these posters and stuff. I don't want to make a big deal of it, but the fact is you folks doing this silly stuff is helping to keep my brain from jumping out of my skull and shoving itself into a kitchen appliance ("Will it Blend?" indeed). It's silly, it's stupid, it's dopey -- and right now it means the world to me. Thank you all kindly.

Posted by john at 02:38 AM | Comments (32) | TrackBack

March 19, 2007

Prometheus Award Finalists: TGB is In

The Prometheus Award final list has just been e-mailed to me and The Ghost Brigades is on it. Here's the full finalist slate:

Empire, Orson Scott Card
The Ghost Brigades, John Scalzi
Glasshouse, Charles Stross
Rainbows End, Vernor Vinge
Harbingers, F. Paul Wilson


For those of you wondering what the Prometheus Award's about, it's presented by the Libertarian Futurist Society and, in their words, "focuses on novels whose plots, themes, characters and/or specific issues reflect the value of personal freedom and human rights, or which seriously or satirically critique abuses of power-- especially unchecked government power."

Thoughts on the slate?

Posted by john at 03:35 PM | Comments (42) | TrackBack

Proof I Am Drinking Far Too Much Codeine -Based Cough Syrup

I swear to you I did a big, self-pleasuring post about this review of The Last Colony at SF Signal, but after I posted it, it disappeared. I can't find it anywhere. Which leads me to wonder: Did I hallucinate writing it? Did I hallucinate reading the review? Is all of life simply a dream of a dream and when we wake up we find ourselves a beautiful butterfly, released from the tears of this world? Also, when I go to rehab, can I room next to Britney Spears? I hear she's sucking down a case of Coca-Cola a day there. She can be my dealer.

I'm in a weird space, man. And that's all I'm gonna say about that. Go read the review.

Posted by john at 10:46 AM | Comments (31) | TrackBack

SFWA Election Update


I think this may be my favorite poster of all so far.Thank you, Mary Dell!

Word of the SFWA election is getting around: It gets a write-up today in Galleycat, publishing's blog of record. Excellent to see interest outside of our little corner of the world.

Over at the Election Q&A newsgroup, I'm fielding questions about health care, volunteer service and reading in schools. I could be running for Congress. Come check it out, and if you're a SFWA member, feel free to ask questions of your own.

(Non-SFWAns and others who just don't care: No worries, I won't be posting on the election every day. But for now you'll just have to slog through. Okay? Groovy.)

Posted by john at 10:28 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

March 18, 2007

Webb School of California Class of '87 RULEZ!

I'd like to take a moment to note that my high school classmate Josh Marshall got prime "Column One" placement in the Los Angeles Times yesterday for himself and for his mighty political blog Talking Points Memo, which is currently in the process of totally pwning Alberto Gonzalez. This is why TPM is the 22nd highest-ranked blog out there, while I have to settle for being lowly number 33. But I don't mind being the second-most notable blogger in the class of '87; Josh is doing good work. He deserves the notoriety.

Posted by john at 10:16 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

SFWA Election Blog is Now Up

It's here. It's not actually a blog, it's a newsgroup, because it was built fast and for this purpose. Anyone can read it -- SFWAns, non-SFWAn spec fic writers who are interested in the process, SF/F fans and anyone else. However, to post questions and comments, you have to be a SFWA member. This makes sense to me because, after all, it is a SFWA election. But do feel free to comment about it here (in this thread) or on your own sites. Also, spread the word.

I'll note this is something of a controversial experiment for SFWA; most of the time the election discussions and debates are internal. But I think now is a good time to let people see what SFWA's concerns are and see where the membership wants to have the organization go. I do hope you'll bookmark the newsgroup and check in on the questions and answers. And if you are a SFWA member -- hey, asking some questions of the candidates wouldn't be bad, eh?

My thanks to Jeffrey Dwight for building out this newsgroup on short notice, and to fellow candidate Michael Capobianco for agreeing to do this.

Update, 3:12pm: My SFWA candidacy post was the #9 blog post on the Internet yesterday, according to BlogPluse. Yay! People are interested!

Posted by john at 02:32 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

TAD in the Winston-Salem Journal

I've just read what has got to be the nicest negative review I've ever gotten. While book ultimately isn't the reviewer's cup of tea, he also writes things like "John Scalzi is a writer of crystalline clarity and wit," and "there is no ambiguity in Scalzi's talent " and so on and so forth. It's like a paramour telling you they just want be friends and then buying you a new car to ease the breakup.

Posted by john at 11:36 AM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

As A Warning, There Will Be Absolutely No Context For The Following Statement

Bwa ha ha ha ha ha hah! Oh dear oh dear oh dear. Life is funny sometimes.

Posted by john at 02:05 AM | Comments (24) | TrackBack

The Expectation Management Entry (SFWA Related)

Here's a graphic from Technorati of how often SFWA was discussed in blogs over the last week:



I've received a lot of support and enthusiasm from folks since announcing my SFWA bid (often couched in "Dude, what's wrong with your head?" phrasing, but even so), and I wanted to take a moment to thank all of you who who have cheered me on. I appreciate it, and yes, I'm wondering what's wrong with my head, too. So are others; someone recently suggested I'm doing this as a bit of a publicity stunt, which gave me a giggle. Doing this as a publicity stunt would be a little bit like attempting in vitro fertilization just for the kicky fun of it; the problem is that in both cases if it works, there's fairly significant obligation at the end of the stunt. There are better ways to publicize myself, I'd say.

I am serious about running (a fact which causes my editor no end of grief), but I think I would be remiss not to manage expectations. There are lots of reasons I might not win, including:

1. I'm a write-in candidate;

2. I may have waited too long and too many people may have already turned in ballots;

3. Michael Capobianco may simply be the preferred candidate of the majority of SFWA voters, based on platform/experience/personality/rugged good looks;

4. I may just irritate the crap out of enough SWFA members that they actively vote against me;

5. People who intend to vote for me may get distracted by a marathon Veronica Mars DVD-watching session and simply forget to vote in time.

Realistically, I'm the underdog in this particular election. I think I can win, otherwise I wouldn't be running; more to the point, I'm campaigning to win (sorry, PNH). But whether I will win is another matter entirely -- and whether I will breathe a sigh of relief if this particular cup gets passed from me is another matter, too.

Part of the reason I mention this is that if I don't win, I intend to chalk it up to a combination of the five points above and not, say, a massive conspiracy that goes to the very top of SFWA to crush all who oppose the status quo. Honestly, SFWA's not that organized. And although Mr. Capobianco is (clearly) not my choice to lead the organization, I don't suspect he'll lead it to ruin. SFWA will live to see another election.

In short, this is the expectation management entry. I'm not the "project boundless optimism" type; I prefer reality. If you're supporting me in this election, I hope you keep reality in mind as well. Hope for the win, plan for the future if not.

No matter what, two good things are coming out of this election: one, SFWA voters will have a choice, with candidates with distinct philosophical differences; two, a lot of issues regarding the organization are going to get dragged out into the light for everyone to look at. Hopefully this will make a difference the next time elections come around. Both of these matter; I'm glad to be able to help bring them about.

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

March 17, 2007

One of the Few Things I'm With the White House On

It's that Washington, DC isn't meant to have representation in Congress. Sorry, guys. I think if it was meant to, it would have been specified in the US Constitution, and what's in the Constitution about DC (and the representation thereof) is too wobbly to be a good legal argument for that representation. Naturally, I allow that lots of people will disagree with me on this one. But fundamentally I think DC is supposed to be a funky federal fiefdom, a place where Congress can do its thing without aggravating one of its own members. It's a bit of an atavistic view, I'm sure, but there you have it.

It's one of the reasons, actually, that when I lived in the DC area I never considered living in the District; I like having representation in Congress.

Posted by john at 01:53 PM | Comments (62) | TrackBack

Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth

That's it. No ice cream for Athena until 2034.

Update: Someone's always protesting.

Posted by john at 01:09 PM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

Out in the Open (A SFWA-Related Post)

Patrick (not of the Nielsen Hayden persuasion) has this to say about the recent SFWA-related posts:

Honestly, at this point, you boys need to take this inside. As fascinating as it is for me to watch and provide pointless distractions, this is now an internal issue.

Two things:

1. This is my site and I get to decide what goes here, and if y'all don't like that, tough;

2. I disagree that this is now an "internal" issue.

Which is to say: Yes, SFWA is a particular group with particular aims that are of interest to only a relative small number of people -- i.e., science fiction writers (and more particularly science fiction writers who are members of SFWA and those writers who would like to be members), and its elections and etc are not generally open to public purview. However, I don't think that's either needful or wise. SWFA is a group that in my opinion needs to grow; SFWA is also a group that in my opinion is viewed as increasingly irrelevant by a generation of up-and-coming writers, not in the least because so much of what goes on in SFWA is opaque, either intentionally (private newsgroups, etc) or unintentionally (a navigationally difficult Web site).

I think there are certain things about SFWA that may need to be discussed privately by SFWAns alone -- current sensitive policy debates, for example. Nor would I deny SFWAns their private forums to bitch and moan, even if I personally prefer to bitch and moan in public. However, I think the default setting for SFWA should be set on "open"; there needs to be transparency in the process so the people that SFWA is for can see that it's useful, and can see that they can be useful in SFWA as well. There ought to damn well be a compelling reason not to do things openly, and "well, we're not comfortable with that" is not a damn good reason.

My aim is to have this election process as open as possible; at the very least I intend to be open about it as possible. I'm not worried about it losing me the election; frankly, I'm worried about it winning me the election, and then I'll have to go from spouting high-minded ideals to actually trying to implement them, and we all know what a pain in the ass that can be. It's a risk I'll just have to take.

If you don't want to read the SFWA-related posts, do what you do with other posts you don't like: stop reading them when you realize you couldn't care less about them. Another, non-SFWA-related post will be along shortly, I assure you.

Posted by john at 10:39 AM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Ask John Scalzi Questions About His SFWA Presidency Run

Have questions for me about my SFWA presidential run? This is the place to ask them. Click here to see my reasons for running and my platform.

This is a thread for serious questions, so serious questions only, please.

If you want to ask questions of Michael Capobianco, who is also running for SFWA president, go here.

Posted by john at 10:01 AM | Comments (29) | TrackBack

March 16, 2007

Michael Capobianco's SFWA Presidential Platform

Yesterday I announced I was a write-in candidate for SFWA president and presented my platform here; the fellow who is actually on the ballot, Michael Capobianco, dropped his platform into the comment thread for folks to see as well. I thought it might get lost there so I've bumped it up to its own entry. You'll find it behind the cut. If you're planning to vote in the SFWA election, please read both so you know what you're getting.

If you have comments or questions about the platform, feel free to leave them in the comment thread; I'm sure Mr. Capobianco will be happy to answer them. Remember that in his time here he is my guest and I would be, well, disappointed if you took his participation here as an invitation to snark.

Michael Capobianco's SFWA Presidential Platform

Yes, I'm running for President again. For the newcomers among us, I've been the Authors Coalition liaison for going on thirteen years and have served on a number of other committees for a decade or more. I have been Vice President, Treasurer, and President of SFWA. In short, I have quite a bit of experience with this organization, and I believe that I understand how best to move it forward. I've been kibitzing for a long, long time now, and anyone who reads on sff.net probably has a pretty good idea of how I feel about SFWA.

When I was President from 1996-1998, I accomplished quite a bit. I created the position of Executive Director and hired SFWA's first full time employee, my Board and I re-wrote the By-laws, and I revamped the Officers' Guidelines and Grand Calendar. Under my leadership, we got Star Trek authors compensation for books that were being exported, fought against the Star Wars flat fee contract, and put Uwe Luserke, the notorious German "agent," out of business. Times have changed and there are many new threats to members. Here's what I plan to do if I'm elected:

I'll concentrate on authors' rights and getting authors a place at the table as publishers and the Internet giants discuss the future of our digital rights. We've been systematically excluded while Google and Amazon plunge merrily ahead, scanning and displaying large portions of our works whether they have the right to do so or not. I understand that members have divergent views on copyright, but the bottom line is that the individual author should have the ultimate say over how his or her work is used. This is a matter that concerns me both generally and individually, and I will be pursuing it vigorously. As a beginning, I would like to set up a conference at which authors on both sides of the issue try to work out points of agreement.

I'll work to make SFWA functions more automated. This includes making it easier for officers and selected volunteers to update parts of the website without having to bother the webstaff. I hope that we can do this with the Forum, Online Directory, and NAR, as well as updating the Officers' Guidelines and the like. I'd like to do both a private and public SFWA blog, to increase real-time communication with the members and readers, in addition to maintaining an ongoing presence on sff.net.

I'll advocate for an ongoing program in which SFWA dedicates 2% of the General Fund per year for infrastructure improvements, and 3% per year to special projects. The Fund is large, and we can afford to tap it in small amounts. Other than this, we should live within our budget. The Authors Coalition money we receive every year is not going to dry up, but it should be used for author advocacy, not day-to-day expenses. I see several areas where we might be able to save some money, especially with the Forum, but I'll tread carefully and reach a consensus before doing anything drastic.

One of our biggest problems is that the Board exists in an information vacuum. Attempts to collect information such as contracts or royalty statements from members have largely been unsuccessful. I propose that, as an experiment, SFWA pay a small bounty to any member who sends a copy of a current contract for analysis by the Contract Committee, somewhat less if the contract has been redacted. Maybe then we can return to the kind of contract analysis that was favored by Damon Knight as one of the main goals of the organization.

I believe that SFWA should follow up on its Orphan Copyright work and continue efforts to make it easy for potential publishers to find members in order to buy rights. We began this effort ten years ago with the Authors Registry, but, the Registry, which is run by Authors Guild, has stalled. If it can't be brought into the present via online registration and information updating, SFWA may have to create and maintain its own registry.

In order to bring SFWA up to speed, I don't believe we need to make any immediate changes to the By-laws or Award Rules. I will reconstitute the By-laws Committee with an eye towards a future restructuring of the organization in which the employee(s) are more firmly integrated, but I don't see that happening any time soon. I do believe that we need a written Policies and Procedures Manual for the Executive Director position, and a long overdue rewrite of the Officers' Guidelines, and I will do my best to get that done during the next year. I will also fully implement the Worker Relation Guidelines (http://sfwa.org/private/offguide/EmployerRelations.html) that create a procedure for the President and Board to handle disputes that may arise with employees.

If you elect me, I promise I will again give the organization my best efforts.

Posted by john at 11:21 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

The Mockery! It's Begun!

Jon Hansen, bless his black little heart, makes an excellent campaign poster for me:

The mad elf CEO resurfaces! Best of all Amanda Dowum (who made the lovely tiara you see here) has said she'd make me an official SFWA president tiara. I do so love a good tiara.

For all of Jon Hansen's excellent work, I feel that the picture does not quite capture the gravity of my candidacy, so allow me to post my own poster here:

(For those of you who are not complete Internet dorks, see here for the inside joke)

Naturally, I encourage you all to make funny-yet-humiliating SFWA President posters for me. Because it's Friday, and it's not like you're actually working anyway.

Update: More posters await you behind the cut. I'll keep posting them as they arrive.

From Christian DeBaun:

Two from Harmony Scofield:

Two from David Moles:

Kaf Oseo:

Jason Stoddard:

Two from Kate Baker:

Amanda J Dwyer:

Jeff Hentosz:

C.A. Brewer:

Soni Pitts:

Dig this awesome "smear" video from Mary Robinette Kowal:


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

March 15, 2007

SFWA President: I'm a Write-In Candidate

I got a ballot from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America about a week ago; the ballot is for electing the officers of SFWA -- President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. As I read the ballot, I noticed two things. First, there was only one candidate on the ballot for each category, and no way to register a "none of the above" vote; two, the SFWA members standing for president and vice president are people who, for philosophical reasons only (having nothing to do with their respective personal characters), I would not vote for nor wish to be at the helm of the organization at this time.

While the ballot does not offer a "none of the above" option for voting, it does offer SFWA members the ability to offer a write-in candidate instead. This is me announcing, somewhat reluctantly, that I am now offering myself up as a write-in candidate for SFWA President. If you are a member of SFWA and you are dissatisfied with the presidential choice offered to you, you may write me in; if elected, I will serve.

Allow me to note that I am not particularly keen on serving in this position; I've been a SFWA member long enough to know that it's a fairly thankless position, with lots of herding cats and dealing with aggravating minutiae, and I have a career to look after at the moment. I'd just as soon not be president of SFWA, and if I am elected president, you should know now that I will view the position as something I am doing in addition to my writing career, not something of equal importance. I might as well be honest with you on that score.

If I don't really want to be president of SFWA, why am I offering myself as a write-in candidate?

1. Philosophically, I'm opposed to having only one candidate for a leadership position of any organization I am involved with. I don't think it speaks well for the organizational health of the body; it suggests an apathetic membership. One can debate whether the membership is apathetic because the organization is not useful enough to be engaged in, or whether the membership is simply apathetic in a general sense (or both). Whatever the cause, it's not an encouraging sign.

I have always been honest that I've pretty much viewed my membership in SFWA as an affectation; I've never expected SFWA to do anything for me because I require nothing from it. However, I have the luxury of regarding my membership as an affectation; other members of SFWA might actually want it to do something useful for them. I happen to think SFWA can be useful; I happen to think it doesn't do a particularly good job of being useful. I have opinions on the matter strong enough that I believe that I can be a reasonable candidate for the job of president. As there is only one other person running, I feel obliged to put my hat in the ring if only to offer a reasonable and notable choice for the position.

2. I don't believe that Michael Capobianco, the fellow running for SFWA President, is at all the right person for the job. Let me note again that this is not a reflection on his personal character; I've not met him outside the online SFWA newsgroups and a few other online venues, so I cannot speak as to whether he is a nice guy or whatever. I'm sure he is. Likewise, Mr. Capobianco is a past president of SFWA and has won the organization's service award, which suggests that in the past, at least, he has been viewed as a reasonable choice for leading the organization. The question in my mind is not his past service, of which I have no experience (it was before my time) but whether he's the right person to lead SFWA forward now.

I don't think he is for two reasons. First, he hasn't had a novel published in this century; his last published novel, White Light, which he co-wrote with William Barton, was published in hardcover in 1998. Essentially, he's a decade out of practice with the practical aspects of publishing science fiction. This matters if one believes, as I do, that SFWA should primarily be a professional service organization; it particularly matters if one believes, as I do, that the publishing world in the 21st century, even this early on, is manifestly different than it was in the 20th century. I have books professionally published in both centuries; I know how much it's changed, and I deal with the publishing world on a daily basis.

Second, I believe that based on what I've read from him Mr. Capobianco is fundamentally afraid of the changing publishing world, and the changes in the world of speculative fiction, and that this fundamental position will cause him to make his tenure as SFWA backward-facing and defensive, rather than forward-thinking and innovative. This will make SFWA even more irrelevant to working writers -- that is, the people who are shaping science fiction -- than it already is.

Simply put, the professional organization of speculative fiction should not be headed by people who believe their job is to hold back the future. I believe strongly that Michael Capobianco sees it as his role to hold back the future and to maintain the status quo in publishing and in speculative fiction. That battle has already been lost; the publishing world has already irrevocably changed from when Mr. Capobianco last published. It's time that SFWA moves forward with leadership who understands this.

I'm not keen on being SFWA president. But I'm even less keen on Mr. Capobianco being SFWA president, enough so that I'm willing to offer myself for the position.

(I believe similar things about Andrew Burt, who is the fellow running for Vice-President; however, I'm not offering myself for that position, so I'll leave it at that for now.)

Now that you know why I am offering myself as a write-in candidate, it's time to hit you with my platform. It's a platform that is based on the idea that the primary goals of SFWA should be a) to advance the position of speculative fiction (and particularly written speculative fiction) in the mind of the public and b) to benefit and advance the active speculative fiction careers of its members.

Here's what's on the platform:

1. A rational view of copyright issues that while strongly affirmative of a creator's right to control his or her work also recognizes that the biggest problem facing creators is not piracy but obscurity. To that end I suggest re-evaluating the potential of online browsing initiatives in particular, to get samples of work to the largest possible audiences while still giving authors a say in how that work is viewed. That said, while this issue is "sexy," this is the issue out of all the ones I'm presenting here that SFWA should spend the least amount of time on. Other issues are more practical and more fundamental to the well-being of SFWA members' careers, and the health of the speculative fiction genre.

2. An understanding that the most critical segment of our audience is the youngest segment; to that end I will suggest SFWA undertake initiatives with publishers, libraries and educators to get speculative fiction in front of new readers and help create the next generation of speculative fiction writers. These initiatives will include mentoring aspiring science fiction writers and creating SFWA-branded anthologies of new, fun and age-appropriate anthologies that the organization will offer to schools, free in printable electronic form.

3. An expectation of service from all SFWA members in the organization's institutional and educational goals, including those noted in point two. Speaking as someone who has a membership primarily as an affectation, I can say that requiring active service will be beneficial in shaking out the hangers-on and giving those who remain the feeling that SFWA is doing something useful, because it requires something useful from them.

4. SFWA should be viewed as a first-stop resource for every literary event, SFF convention and speaker-seeking organization in the country for speakers and panelists. I suggest the hiring of a full-time and salaried Director of Speculative Fiction Evangelism. The director's job will be to identify, pursue and generate opportunities in organizations and communities where SFWA members can promote speculative fiction, the organization, and their own work.

5. SFWA's Web site sucks, with abominable aesthetics and clunky design and navigation. The official organization of the literature of the future should not have an online presence that looks like it came from 1997. I will suggest a massive revamp of the site to make it more attractive, easier to use and most importantly more relevant to speculative fiction readers and enthusiasts, including an initiative to create new content on the site on a regular basis, to attract readers and raise awareness of SFWA and its relevance to both speculative fiction readers and writers.

6. The Nebulas are one of the two major awards in literary science fiction, but their luster has dimmed over the last several years; they are no longer the equal to the Hugos in terms of relevance and timeliness, and their nomination process leaves them open to accusations of nomination via logrolling rather than literary quality. As a result they are less useful to SFWA members in promoting their own Nebula-nominated work, and they are less useful to SFWA as a publicity-generating tool. I will suggest a number of steps to bring the Nebulas back to their position of pre-eminence in the science fiction world, including a return to calendar year nominations, making the nomination process anonymous to eliminate the appearance of quid-pro-quo nominating, and presenting the Nebulas at major SFF conventions -- i.e., in front of fans, rather than away from fans at a private SFWA function.

7. Presenting the Nebulas at a major science fiction convention would necessarily eliminate the need for a Nebula Weekend, but it would still be useful and beneficial to have a SFWA-themed event, to handle face-to-face SFWA business and to let the members socialize, and also to get SFWA members in front of fans old and new. I will suggest the formation of a SFWA Jubilee Committee, whose task will be to run an annual convention complete with programming for fans and readers as well as for private SFWA business, and to have the Jubilee move its location annually and work with organizations in the communities in which it is held to raise interest in the event and to bring in both old-time fans and new potential readers (particularly from high school and middle school).

8. Two of SFWAs most useful initiatives are its Emergency Medical Fund and its Legal Fund, to help members who find themselves in tight spots. I will suggest active, aggressive and persistent fundraising initiatives to pile money into both of these funds to assure they are always ready when members have need.

9. Any professional organization lives and innovates by attracting new members. I will suggest initiatives to assure that every SFWA-eligible writer who is not a member knows he or she is eligible to join -- and that we want them in our ranks.

That's enough for one one-year term, I think.

Now, you may ask, do I honestly think all of these things can be accomplished over the course of one term? I do not; there's no assurance that any of these initiatives will make it out of the gate, and remember, in all of this I'll also be having a career, writing my own books and taking care of my own business. Be that as it may, these are the things SFWA should be tackling, whether I am the one at the helm or not. Please consider this an open-source platform; if you want to be a write-in candidate, or be a candidate next year, please take as many of these ideas as you want. I don't mind getting off the hook for this gig.

If I am to be the one at the helm, it would be helpful to have a SFWA executive committee that is both philosophically aligned with these goals and willing to do the work to implement them; I suspect I would be particularly in need of an uber-competent VP who would have a passion for organization and a gift for details, because God knows I'm deficient in both. I hope someone will step forward and offer themselves as a write-in candidate for VP, and please please please be competent.

I will say this: If you're a SFWA member, don't vote for me if you're not willing to have me come in and stomp around and try to get these things done, and not necessarily be the most politic guy when I do; likewise don't vote for me if you are not willing to pitch in when I come asking for your help, which I will. I'm not going to try to get this done on my own; if I look out among SFWA members and I don't see people willing to step forward and make the organization useful and relevant to their careers and the careers of other science fiction writers, I'm out of there. I want to be very clear about the fact I have no compunction against saying "see ya" if I don't think SFWA's membership is serious about SFWA. I'll resign the post and go back to my plow. So make no mistake that a vote for me is a vote for an obligation to SFWA by you. If I have to stop thinking about my membership as an affectation, I think you should have to, too.

There it is. Thanks for reading.

Update, 1:17 am 3/16: Derryl Murphy has announced a write-in run for SFWA VP.

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Author Interview: Elizabeth Moon

As you know,
I've transferred my author interview series from the By The Way site to the Ficlets Blog, because, hey, it's a better fit, now, isn't it? This week, the author interview is with Elizabeth Moon, who in addition to being super nice (I met her at the ConFusion convention this January, where she was the guest of honor), is also a fabulous writer, and has won herself a Nebula award and other fun stuff. Command Decision, her latest novel, came out the other week, and she's talking about it, her Nebula winner The Speed of the Dark and lots of other subjects. If you don't go to read this, you will wake up in the dead of night with an implacable feeling of bereavement. It's true. They've done studies.

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My Huge Super Expensive Book Video Promo Thing!

You wouldn't believe how much this cost to put together. Craft services alone were phenomenal. And then we had to change cinematographers midway through the shoot. But, clearly, it's worth every penny.

Direct link here. And remember you can check out the first chapter of "Android" here.

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March 14, 2007

Three Quick Pimps, Plus a "Pimpin' Other People" Thread

Three things for you to leave this site for:

1. That was quick: Mere hours after announcing the "Guest Ficlet" program (whose official title, incidentally, is Ficlet Spotlight), we have our first guest ficleteer: Campbell Award-winning author Kristine Smith, who thought up three cool ficlets for folks to fiddle with. Naturally, I invite you to see these ficlets, and to check out Smith's other work, too.

2. Jeff VanderMeer passed along a note letting me know that his and Cat Rambo's collaboration, "The Surgeon's Tale," is being serialized this week at Subterranean Online; parts one and two are up and part three is coming on Friday. And now I'm telling you. You may, should you be inclined, tell others, and thus will the network of knowledge about the work of VanderMeer and Rambo be increased throughout the land. Which can only be consider a positive for us all -- and indeed, may save us all. Plus: nifty story.

3. Shimmer magazine has a nifty video trailer up for its latest issue, with excerpts from stories narrated by the fabulous Mary Robinette Kowal, and music from some schmoe. I was going to post a link to the trailer, but then a remembered: Duh, it's on YouTube, I can just embed it:

If the trailer intrigues you, check out Shimmer's page on the issue.

That's my pimping for today. Want to pimp something from someone else? Use the comment thread below. Note this is pimpin' other people's stuff -- not a self-pimp thread. Spread the love, people. Also remember that if you drop in a link, your comment might be sent to the moderation queue. Don't panic; I'll release it.

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March 13, 2007

From the "Why On Earth Would We Tell The Author Anything" File

Hey! Today Old Man's War was released in Spanish, in which it is known as "La vieja guardia." How do I find out? The Internet.

Oh, Internet. You never fail me.

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A Quick Note About Ficlets; Comics Alliance

I'm looking around the Web and seeing a lot of discussion about Ficlets, which makes me really happy -- looks like we're off to a good start. However, I see myself being credited as the one masterminding the project, which isn't actually true. I've been involved in shaping the site and getting it ready for mass consumption, yes, but I was not the only one involved and certainly not the mastermind -- indeed, I came in fairly late in the game, once the groundwork had been laid. My role was in offering suggestions on how to improve the offering and in helping with initial content (and helping to drive the site from this point). I'd like to make sure that credit for Ficlets is also heaped upon AOL's Kevin Lawver and John Anderson, who were the two who did all the heavy lifting on the site, along with their technical and production crew, and then brought me in to fiddle with the site's feng shui.

John Anderson, incidentally, is part of the team also responsible for Comics Alliance, a new AOL site about -- can you guess? -- comic books and graphic novels. I've known John for a long time now, and to call him a comics geek is like calling a Daisy Cutter a nifty little firecracker, so if you're a comics geek, you'll want to swing by and check out CA sometime soon.

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Uxorial Pictures, 3/13/07

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My CyberPower PC

Today I got two different requests wanting to know what I thought the CyberPower PC I bought a few months ago; apparently it's Buy a Tricked Out PC season, and here I am without any seasonal greeting cards.

In short, I'm pretty happy with the PC. With one exception, it has not suffered any notable gitches or problems, and it has done everything I've asked it to do without choking, which is notable because I use several processor-intensive programs, often with them all open at the same time.

The one problem I've had with the PC is that one of the graphics cards is unpredictably glitchy when I have the cards in SLI mode. I contacted CyberPower's service folk about it and they were pretty helpful, and asked me to run a couple of checks so they could isolate which card it was and suggested that would be happy to correct the problem. I said I would and then promptly forgot to do anything about it, so the dipshit in this case is me, not them. Now it's not an issue because I upgraded my OS to Vista, and NVidia's Vista drivers for their graphics cards are so full entirely full of suck that I can't run the cards in SLI mode, even if I wanted to. Hey NVidia: You stink. Just so you know. I don't know whether this is a problem when Vista comes natively installed; check with the computer makers, I'd say.

In any event: My Cyberpower is a perfectly swell PC that does everything I ask of it and comes nowhere near complaining, and since I run some high-end stuff on my PC but did not get their high-end rig, that's a good sign. If you're in the market for a PC, you could do rather worse than to give these folks a whirl.

Posted by john at 04:09 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Writers, Editors, Publishers: Promotional Opportunities on the Ficlets Site

Dear writers, editors and publishers:

The Ficlets site is about writing, creativity and literature -- and so we want it to be a place where published writers can be part of the site, and benefit through the promotional opportunities the site can afford. To make that happen, I'm instituting a number of ways to help authors get the word out about themselves and their work. Click through the cut to find out some of the programs we'll be instituting, and how to be part of them.

To begin, a little information about Ficlets and myself.

What is Ficlets? Ficlets is a Web site run by America Online, devoted to collaborative fiction. Visitors may read, comment on and post short pieces of fiction, and those fiction pieces may then be added to by other visitors. Work posted is licensed via Creative Commons to allow sharing.

Who is John Scalzi? I am one of the principals of the Ficlets site, at which I contribute ficlets and post on the Ficlets Blog about writing and publishing. When I'm not doing that I am a published novelist. My books include the Hugo-nominated novel Old Man's War and its sequels The Ghost Brigades and The Last Colony.

How can I promote work on Ficlets? Right now, we have two primary ways for authors to promote their work:

1. Author Interviews. In these authors of newly-released work answer half a dozen questions about themselves and their work. These interviews will be run on the Ficlets Blog and will be promoted on my personal site (Whatever, 20k - 30k daily readers), my AOL blog By The Way (~10K daily readers) and on the Ficlets site itself. These Author Interviews take the place of the Wednesday Author Interviews, previously appearing at the By The Way blog; previous interviewees include bestselling and award-winning authors such as Joe Hill, Charles Stross, Jo Walton and Ellen Kushner. Authors of non-fiction and fiction (all genres) are welcome.

2. Guest Ficlets. In these, authors contribute three ficlets for the readers of the site to enjoy and expand upon; the presence of these Ficlets is promoted via the Ficlets Blog. Please note that authors, like anyone, are able to create ficlets at any time -- "Guest Ficlets," however, will be specifically promoted. Authors of non-fiction and fiction (all genres) are welcome.

The goal is to have at least one author interview and one guest ficlet spot per week, and hopefully more per week than that.

Publishers and editors, Ficlets is also open to other promotional possibilities including book giveaways and themed ficlets.

If you'd like to be interviewed/have an author you'd like to have interviewed:

1. The author should have a book either coming out in the timeframe you'd like the interview to occur or that has been in stores no more than three months at the time of the interview request (interview slots are focused on connecting readers to new and intriguing titles) and have an ARC/review copy available for us;

2. The book must not be self-published, solely electronically published or published via PublishAmerica or its equivalents. Small presses are welcome to query and will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

3. The author must have an e-mail address and be willing to answer questions via e-mail, with a turnaround of no more than seven days.

Authors, editors, publishers and publicists are welcome to e-mail interview queries to "john@scalzi.com". In your e-mail head, please put "AUTHOR INTERVIEW REQUEST:" and the name of the author. In the e-mail itself, please include the name of the book and author, a brief description of the book, and the release date. I'll respond with instructions on how to send along an ARC/review copy. I will also respond to general queries to add me to mailing lists for ARCs/review copies.

(Note: If you have already contacted me about an interview prior to 3/13/07 and I've said I've scheduled you, you do not need to query again -- we're good, I've just been busy helping to set up Ficlets. Likewise, publishers/editors/author/publicists who already have me on their mailing lists for ARCs/review copies, you need do nothing additionally -- all this stuff still goes to the same place.)

If you'd like to/have an author you'd like to contribute Guest Ficlets:

1. The author should be previously published. Authors with books should not have the books self-published, solely electronically published or published via PublishAmerica or its equivalents. Short fiction writers should be published in established, paying short story markets. It is not necessary to have a book or story newly-released to be a Guest Ficlets contributor.

2. The author must be able to create an account on the Ficlets site, via an AOL/AIM account or OpenID account, so as to post the ficlets.

3. The author must be willing to provide three ficlets, written solely by the author and able to be licensed by the Ficlet site's Creative Commons license.

4. The author must be willing to post these ficlets before or on the date of his/her Guest Ficlet appearance.

Authors, editors, publishers and publicists are welcome to e-mail Guest Ficlet queries to "john@scalzi.com". In your e-mail head, please put "GUEST FICLET REQUEST:" and the name of the author. I'll respond with date availability.

Please Note: Authors who are willing to be interviewed and contribute Guest Ficlets at the same time will be given scheduling priority.

If you'd like to query about any other promotional possibility:

Authors, editors, publishers and publicists are welcome to e-mail promotional queries to "john@scalzi.com". In your e-mail head, please put "PROMOTIONAL REQUEST:" and the name of the author. In the e-mail itself, please include the name of the book and author, a brief description of the book, the release date and the promotional vehicle you are suggesting. I'll run it past AOL and see if it's doable. Be aware that all potential promotions must conform to AOL's promotional specifications and that it may take time to get approval (and that some promotional suggestions might not get approval at all). Thus the earlier you supply your promotional idea, the better.

If you have any questions about any of this, please don't hesitate to send me an e-mail. I'll try to respond as quickly as possible.

Posted by john at 12:31 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Announcing Ficlets


So, in addition to the books and magazine articles and blogging and corporate writing and fighting crime I do, I have another project I want to tell you about, because it's a hell of a lot of fun, and it's something you can play with too. It's called Ficlets, and it made its debut over the weekend at the South by Southwest Interactive show. It's a collaborative short fiction site.

What does "collaborative short fiction" mean in this case? Simple: You, as a writer, post a very short (not more than 1,024 characters) piece of fiction or a fiction fragment on the Ficlets site. People come to Ficlets to read what you've written, and to comment on your piece. If they want to, they can also write a "sequel" to your story or story fragment, carrying the story forward from where you left it. Or, alternately, they can write a "prequel," explaining how you got to where you are in the story. All sorts of people can write all sorts of sequels and prequels -- and of course, other people can write sequels and prequels to those. What you end up with is a story with multiple authors and multiple branchings -- lots of possibilities and surprises.

(And of course, if you as a reader find a ficlet you find interesting, you can always write a sequel or prequel as well.)

For those of you out there who are worried about what this means for your rights to what you write on Ficlets, you should know that all the words written on the Ficlets site are licensed by a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 license. This makes it easier to play and share fairly, and should also assuage any fears you may have that AOL, which created and runs the site, will do something nefarious with your text.

Reading Ficlets is simple: Just click over and read. It's easy to contribute, too -- if you have an AOL or AIM account, you can use that to sign in and get going. Those of you without AOL/AIM accounts and having no desire to get one can also use Open ID to sign into the site (the reason we have to have people sign in: Well, we allow comments, and we don't want to spend all our time handling spam). Ficlets is open to all.

This site will fly depending on the quality of the contributors, which is why I hope that you folks who come here, who I know are damn creative, will come over to Ficlets to play, and will add your own ficlets as well as post quality sequels and prequels to the ficlets that are already there. I also hope you'll tell folks about it; the more folks we have contributing to and playing in the site, the better it will be.

I'll be contributing to the site myself, in two ways. One, I'll regularly write ficlets of my own, ones that lend themselves to sequels -- you can see some ficlets I already put up here here here and here. Yes, if you ever wanted to collaborate with me, here's your chance. Collaborate away, my friends.

Second, I am blogging there at the aptly-titled "Ficlets Blog." Yes, I know. Yet another blog. At the Ficlets Blog I will be writing about writing and publishing, highlighting amusing ficlets I find and also doing a fair amount of interviewing and promoting writers -- my Author Interviews are officially moving there (and indeed, the one I did with Jon Armstrong last week is already there). Authors, editors and publishers, I'll be posting an entry immediately after this one explaining how to get in on this nifty promotional action.

I'll be updating the Ficlets Blog at least a couple of times a day, and naturally I intend to make it one of the must-read destinations of the literary blogosphere, so equally naturally I think you should bookmark the Ficlets Blog right this very instant (you can also subscribe to the news feed). It should be fun, or I'll collapse from exhaustion. Either way, you'll have fun watching.

(No, I don't plan on collapsing from exhaustion -- the Ficlets Blog and site come out of the same time budget as By The Way, so I'll be trimming back there a bit, although I'll still also be updating there on a daily basis.)

So there you have it: Ficlets! Please come by to play, and tell everyone you know who likes to write -- and likes to play -- to come by, too. I'm already having too much fun with it. Having you there having too much fun with me would make it the best of all.

Posted by john at 10:37 AM | Comments (31) | TrackBack

Servicing the "Shut Up and Post More Pictures of Your Cat" Crowd


There you go. I hope you're happy.

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Why Don't You Love Me (Vocal Mix)

Whatever reader Kate Baker listened to some of my electronic music the other day and asked if she could borrow one of the tracks to put vocals on; I said "sure, whatever" and then went back to whatever damn fool thing I was doing at the time. A couple days later she came back with said vocals on the track, and I was, well, pleased with the results. Perhaps you will be too. Enjoy.

Posted by john at 12:49 AM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

March 12, 2007

Oh, Okay, One More Thing

Bill Peschel's Scalzi on Writing, Digested, in which he boils down my writing book to 500 very amusingly snarky words:

To be a writer, be just like me. I’m goddamn brilliant. I work hard, have lots of contacts in the industry, and I never, ever rewrite. I work it all out in my head, with the help of hour-long showers. You need to work hard and be confident in yourself. I’ve been told I have my head up my ass. They’re probably right, but I’m a published author. I make over $100,000 a year and have for several years. Do you? No? So shut up.

That sounds nothing like me. Nothing!

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Foods That Make Your Children Cry: A Participatory Thread

Busy day today, so I'm off to do things and stuff. To keep you amused and occupied and possibly disturbed while I am away, I offer this participatory thread:

Foods that make your children cry. No, not like Brussels sprouts. We're talking foods that they will need therapy to get over. Like this:


"From the heart of the Shetlands, Shetland hearts."

Your turn. Keep it clean, if disturbing.

Posted by john at 09:38 AM | Comments (72) | TrackBack

The Android's Dream: Chapter One

Happy March 12! As you all undoubtedly know, March 12 is the day that Coca-Cola was first sold in bottles, which means, for a Coca-Cola fiend such as myself, it's pretty much a national holiday. As you all are no doubt also aware, it is customary on Coca-Cola Bottling Day for science fiction authors to celebrate by decanting an excerpt of their latest work for their thirsty audiences.

With that in mind, allow me to present to you the infamous first chapter of The Android's Dream, the one which begins with the the immortal line "Dirk Moeller didn't know if he could really fart his way into a major diplomatic incident. But he was ready to find out."

As it happens, this is an excellent chapter to offer up to you, because I think of it rather like the opening sequence to a James Bond movie -- a sequence that is self-contained, and yet starts the ball rolling for the rest of the story. Of course, no James Bond movie ever started with diplomats farting with malicious intent. The world is poorer for that.

In all seriousness, I think as you read this chapter that it's clear that I as the author had entirely too much fun writing it. I hope you have as much fun with it as I did.

For those of you who have already read and enjoyed The Android's Dream, this will be a fun rerun. For those of you yet to read it, I hope the chapter gets you excited to find out what comes next in the book. The novel is still out there to get, and I hope you'll consider picking it up. Also, of course, feel free to point folks here to sample this chapter. It's fun to share.

The chapter awaits you, behind the cut.

The Android's Dream
By John Scalzi

Chapter One

Dirk Moeller didn't know if he could really fart his way into a major diplomatic incident. But he was ready to find out.

Moeller nodded absentmindedly at his assistant, who placed the schedule of today's negotiations in front of him, and shifted again in his chair. The tissue surrounding the apparatus itched, but there's no getting around the fact that a ten centimeter tube of metal and electronics positioned inside your colon, a mere inch or two inside your rectum, is going to cause some discomfort.

This much was made clear to Moeller when he was presented with the apparatus by Fixer. "The principle is simple," Fixer said, handing the slightly curved thing to Moeller. "You pass gas like you normally do, but instead of leaving your body, the gas enters into that forward compartment. The compartment closes off, passes the gas into the second compartment, where additional chemical components are added, depending on the message you're trying to send. Then it's shunted into the third compartment, where the whole mess waits for your signal. Pop the cork, off it goes. You interact with it through a wireless interface. Everything's there. All you have to do is install it."

"Does it hurt?" Moeller asked. "The installation, I mean."

Fixer rolled his eyes. "You're shoving a miniature chemistry lab up your ass, Mr. Moeller," Fixer said. "Of course it's going to hurt." And it did.

Despite that fact, it was an impressive piece of technology. Fixer had created it by adapting it from blueprints he found in the National Archives, dating back to when the Nidu and humans made first contact. The original inventor was a chemical engineer with ideas of bringing the two races together in a concert that featured humans, with the original versions of the apparatus placed near their tracheas, to belch out scented messages of friendship.

The plan fell apart because no reputable human chorus wanted to be associated with the concert; something about the combination of sustained vocal outgassing and the throat surgery required to install the apparatuses made it rather less than appealing. Shortly thereafter the chemical engineer found himself occupied with a federal investigation into the non-profit he had created to organize the concert, and then a term in minimum security prison for fraud and tax evasion. The apparatus got lost in the shuffle and slid into obscurity, awaiting someone with a clear purpose for its use.

"You okay, sir?" said Moeller's aide, Alan. "You look a little preoccupied. Are you feeling better?" Alan knew his boss had been out yesterday with a stomach flu; he'd taken his briefings for the today's slate of negotiations by conference call.

"I'm fine, Alan," Moeller said. "A little stomach pain, that's all. Maybe something I had for breakfast."

"I can see if anyone has got some Tums," Alan said.

"That's the last thing I need right now," Moeller said.

"Maybe some water, then," Alan said.

"No water," Moeller said. "I wouldn't mind a small glass of milk, though. I think that might settle my stomach."

"I'll see if they have anything at the commissary," Alan said. "We've still got a few minutes before everything begins." Moeller nodded to Alan, who set off. Nice kid, Moeller thought. Not especially bright, and new to the trade delegation, but those were two of the reasons he had him as his assistant for these negotiations. An assistant who was more observant and had been around Moeller longer might have remembered that he was lactose intolerant. Even a small amount of milk would inevitably lead to a gastric event.

"Lactose intolerant? Swell," Fixer had said, after the installation. "Have a glass of milk, wait for an hour or so. You'll be good to go. You can also try the usual gas-producing foods: Beans, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, raw onions, potatoes. Apples and apricots also do the trick. Prunes too, but that's probably more firepower than you'll really want. Have a good vegetable medley for breakfast and then stand back."

"Any meats?" Moeller had asked. He was still a little breathless from the pain of having the apparatus sent up his tailpipe and grafted to his intestine wall.

"Sure, anything fatty will work," Fixer said. "Bacon, some well-marbled red meat. Corned beef and cabbage will give you a little bit of everything. What, you don't like vegetables?"

"My dad was a butcher," Moeller said. "I ate a lot of meat as a kid. Still like it."

More than liked it, really. Dirk Moeller came from a long line of carnivores and proudly ate animal flesh at every meal. Most people didn't do that anymore. And when they did eat meat, they picked out a tube of vatted meat product, made from cultivated tissue that never required the butchering of an animal, or even the participation of any sort of animal outside of the purely mythical. The best selling vetted meat product on the market was something called Kingston's Bison Boar™, some godforsaken agglomeration of bovine and pig genes stretched across a cartilaginous scaffolding and immersed in a nutrient broth until it grew into something that was meatlike without being meaty, paler than veal, lean as a lizard and so animal friendly that even strict vegetarians didn't mind tucking in a Bison Boar Burger™ or two when the mood struck them. Kingston's corporate mascot was a pig with a bison shag and horns, frying up burgers on a hibachi, winking at the customer in third-quarter profile, licking its lips in anticipation of devouring its own fictional flesh. The thing was damned creepy.

Moeller would have rather roasted his own tongue on a skewer than eat vatted meat. Good butchers were hard to come by these days, but Moeller found one outside of Washington, in the suburb of Leesburg. Ted was boutique entrepreneur, like all butchers were these days. His day job was as a mechanic. But he knew his way around a carving chart, which is more than most people in his line of work could say. Once a year in October, Ted damn near filled up a walk-in freezer in Moeller's basement with beef, pork, venison, and four kinds of bird: Chicken, turkey, ostrich and goose.

Because Moeller was his best customer, occasionally Ted would throw in something more exotic, usually a reptile of some kind -- he got a lot of alligator now that Florida had declared a year-round hunting season on that fast-breeding hybrid species that the EPA introduced to repopulate the Everglades -- but also an occasional mammal or two whose provenance was often left prudently unattributed. There was that one year when Ted provided 10 pounds of steaks and a note scrawled on the butcher paper: "Don't ask." Moeller served those at his annual barbeque of former associates from the American Institute for Colonization. Everyone loved them. Several months later, another butcher -- not Ted -- had been arrested for trafficking in meat taken from Zhang-Zhang, a panda on loan to the National Zoo. The panda had disappeared roughly the time Ted made his yearly meat drop. The next year, Ted was back to alligator. It was probably better that way for everyone, except possibly the alligator.

"It all starts with meat," Moeller's father told him often, and as Alan returned with a coffee mug filled with 2%, Moeller reflected on the truth of that simple statement. His current course of action, the one that had him accumulating gas in his intestinal tract, indeed began with meat. Specifically, the meat in Moeller's Meats, the third-generation butcher shop Dirk's father owned. It was into this shop, nearly 40 years ago now, that Faj-win-Getag, the Nidu ambassador, came bursting through the door, trailing an entourage of Nidu and human diplomats behind him. "Something smells really good," the Nidu ambassador said.

The ambassador's pronouncement was notable in itself. The Nidu, among their many physical qualities, were possessed of a sense of smell several orders of magnitude more fine than the poor human nose. For this reason, and for reasons relating to the Nidu caste structure, which is rigid enough to make 16th century Japan appear the very model of let-it-all-hang-out egalitarianism, the higher diplomatic and political Nidu castes developed a "language" of scents not at all unlike the way the European nobles of earth developed a "language" of flowers. Like the noble language of flowers, the Nidu diplomatic scent language was not true speech, in that one couldn't actually carry on a conversation through smells. Also, humans couldn't take much advantage of this language; the human sense of smell was so crude that a Nidu trying to send a scent signal would get the same reaction from their intended recipient as they would get by singing an aria to a turtle. But among the Nidu themselves, one could make a compelling opening statement, sent in a subtle way (inasmuch as smells are subtle) and presenting an underpinning for all discourse to follow.

When a Nidu ambassador bursts through one's shop door proclaiming something smells good, that's a statement that works on several different levels. One, something probably just smells good. But two, something in the shop has a smell that carries with it certain positive scent identifications for the Nidu. James Moeller, proprietor of Moeller's Meats, Dirk's father, was not an especially worldly man, but he knew enough to know that getting on the Nidu ambassador's good side could mean the difference between his shop's success and its failure. It was hard enough running a dedicated butcher shop in a largely vegetarian world. But now that more of the relatively few meat enthusiasts remaining ate the newly-arrived vatted meat -- which James vehemently refused to stock, to the point of chasing a Kingston's Vatted Meat wholesaler from his store with a cleaver-- things were getting precarious. The Nidu, James Moeller knew, were committed carnivores. They had to get their vittles from somewhere, and James Moeller was a man of business. Everybody's money was equal in his eyes.

"I smelled it down the street," Faj-win-Getag continued, approaching the counter display. "It smelled fresh. It smelled different."

"The ambassador has a good nose," James Moeller said. "In the back of the shop I've got venison, arrived just today from Michigan. It's deer meat."

"I know deer," Faj-win-Getag said. "Large animals. They fling themselves at vehicles with great frequency."

"That's them," James Moeller said.

"They don't smell like what I smell when they're on the side of the road," Faj-win-Getag said.

"They sure don't!" James Moeller said. "Would you like a better smell of the venison?" Faj-win-Getag nodded his assent; James told his son Dirk to bring out some. James presented it to the Nidu ambassador.

"That smells wonderful," Faj-win-Getag said. "It's very much like a scent that in our custom equates with sexual potency. This meat would be very popular with our young men."

James Moeller cracked a grin wide as the Potomac. "It would honor me to present the ambassador with some venison, with my compliments," he said, shooing Dirk into the back to bring out more of the meat. "And I'll be happy to serve any of your people who would want some of their own. We have quite a bit in stock."

"I'll be sure to let my staff know," Faj-win-Getag said. "You say you get your stock from Michigan?"

"Sure do," James said. "There's a large preserve in central Michigan run by the Nugentians. They harvest deer and other animals through ritual bowhunting. Legend has it the cult's founder bowhunted one of every species of North American mammal before he died. They have his body on display at the preserve. He's in a loincloth. It's a religious thing. Not the sort of people you want to spend a great deal of time with on a personal basis, but their meat is the best in the country. It costs a little more, but it's worth it. And they have the right attitude about meat -- it's the cornerstone of any truly healthy diet."

"Most humans we meet don't eat much meat," Faj-win-Getag said. "What I read in your newspapers and magazines suggests most people find it unhealthy."

"Don't believe it," James Moeller said. "I eat meat at every meal. I have more energy physically and mentally than most men half my age. I've got nothing against vegetarians; if they want to eat beans all the time, that's fine with me. But long after they're asleep in their bed, I'm still going strong. That's meat for you. It all starts with meat -- that's what I tell my customers. That's what I'll tell you." Dirk returned from the back with several large packages of meat; James put them in a heavy-duty bag and placed the bag on the low counter on the side. "All yours, sir. You enjoy that."

"You are too generous," Faj-win-Getag said, as a flunky took the bag. "We are always warmed by such hospitality from your race, who is always so giving. It makes us happy that we'll soon be in the neighborhood."

"How do you mean?" James Moeller said.

"The Nidu have entered into a number of new treaties and trade agreements with your government, which requires us to greatly expand our presence here," The ambassador said. "We'll be building our new mission grounds in this neighborhood."

"That's great," James Moeller said. "Will the embassy be close by?"

"Oh, very close," Faj-win-Getag said, and nodded his goodbyes, taking his venison and his entourage with him.

James Moeller didn't waste time. Over the next week he tripled his order of venison from the Nugentians and sent Dirk to the library to find out anything he could about Nidu and their culinary preferences. This led to James ordering rabbit, Kobe beef, imported haggis from Scotland and, for the very first time in the three-generation history shop, stocking Spam. "It's not vatted meat," he said to Dirk. "Just meat in a can." Within a week, James Moeller had transformed his butcher shop into a Nidu-friendly meat store. Indeed, the enlarged shipment of Nugentian venison arrived the very same day that James Moeller received his notice via certified mail that the building that housed Moeller Meats was being seized by the government under eminent domain, along with every other building on the block, to make way for the new and enlarged Nidu embassy. James Moeller's receipt of this letter was also neatly coincident to a massive heart attack that killed him so fast that he was dead before he hit the floor, letter still in his hand, venison still unbutchered in the cold room in the back.

Dr. Atkinson tried to assure Dirk that the shock of the letter in itself would not have been enough to kill his father. James' aorta, he explained, was like a cannoli solidly packed with lard, the end result of 53 years of uninterrupted meat consumption. Dr. Atkinson had warned James for years to eat a more balanced diet or at least to allow him to snake out his arteries with an injection of plaque 'bots, but James always refused; he felt fine, he liked his meat and he wasn't going to sign off on any medical procedure that would give his insurance company the ammunition it needed to raise his rates. James had been a heart attack waiting to happen. If it wasn't now, it would have been later. And not much later at that.

Dirk heard none of this. He knew who was responsible. He had found his father's body, had read the note and had learned later that the day after the Nidu visited Moeller's Meats, a Nidu representative had flown to the Nugentian preserve in Michigan to seal a direct venison distribution deal with the cult, using the information James Moeller innocently supplied in conversation. The Nidu ambassador knew when it came through the shop door that Moeller's Meats would be out of business in a matter of days, and he let Dirk's father give him free meat and information without so much of a hint of what was coming down the road. It was just as well his dad had the heart attack when he did, Dirk thought to himself. Seeing his grandfather's shop torn down would have killed him otherwise.

History and literature is filled with heroes called upon to revenge the deaths of their fathers. Dirk took to this same task with a grim methodical drive, over a span of time that would have made Hamlet, the very archetype of obsessive-compulsive deliberation, utterly insane with impatience. With the compensation provided by the government for the Moeller's Meats property, Dirk enrolled at John Hopkins, down the road in Baltimore, majoring in interplanetary relations. Hopkins' program was one of the top three in the nation, along with Chicago and Georgetown.

Moeller did his graduate work at the latter, gaining access to the intensely competitive program by agreeing to specialize in the Garda, a seasonally-intelligent race of tube worms whose recent mission to Earth was housed on the former grounds of the Naval Observatory. However, shortly after Moeller begun his study, the Garda began their Incompetence, a period of engorgement, mating and lessened brain activity coinciding with the onset of Uuuchi, an autumnal season on Gard which would last for three years and seven months on Earth. Because Moeller was only able to work with the Garda for such a limited period of time, he was allowed to pursue a secondary track of research as well. He chose the Nidu.

It was after Moeller's first major paper on the Nidu, analyzing their role in helping the United Nations of Earth gain a representative seat in the Common Confederation, that Moeller came in contact with Anton Schroeder, the UNE's observer and later first representative to the CC. He'd left that behind to become the current chairman of the American Institute for Colonization, a think tank based out of Arlington committed to the expansion of the Earth's colonization of planets, with or without the consent of the Common Confederation.

"I read your paper, Mr. Moeller," Schroeder said, without introduction, when Moeller picked up his office phone; he assumed (correctly) that Moeller would recognize the voice made famous by thousands of speeches, news reports, and Sunday morning talk shows. "It is remarkably full of shit, but it is remarkably full of shit in a number of interesting ways, some of which -- and entirely coincidentally, I'm sure -- get close to the truth of our situation with the Nidu and the Common Confederation. Would you like to know which those are?"

"Yes, sir," Moeller said.

"I'm sending a car over now," Schroeder said. "It'll be there in half an hour to bring you here. Wear a tie."

An hour later Moeller was drinking from the informational and ideological fire hose that was Anton Schroeder, the one man who knew the Nidu better than any other human being. In the course of his decades of dealing with the Nidu had Schroeder had come to the following conclusion: The Nidu are fucking with us. It's time we start fucking back. Moeller didn't need to be asked twice to join in.

"Here come the Nidu," said Alan, rising from his seat. Moeller gulped the last of his milk and rose, just in time to have a bubble of gas twist his intestine like a sailor knotting a sheepshank. Moeller bit his cheek and did his best to ignore the cramp. It wouldn't do to have the Nidu delegation aware of his gastric distress.

The Nidu filed into the conference room as they always did, lowest in the pecking order first, heading to their assigned seats and nodding to their opposite human number on the other side of the table. Nobody moved to shake hands; the Nidu, intensely socially stratified as they were, weren't the sort of race to enjoy wanton familiar person contact. The chairs were filled, from the outside in, until only two people remained standing, at the middle seats on opposite sides were Moeller and the senior-most Nidu trade delegate in the room, Lars-win-Getag. Who was, as it happened, son of Faj-win-Getag, the Nidu ambassador who walked through the door of Moeller's Meats four decades earlier. This was not entirely coincidence; all Nidu diplomats of any rank on Earth hailed from the win-Gatag clan, a minor, distaff relation of the current royal clan of auf-Getag. Faj-win-Getag was famously fecund, even for a Nidu, so his children littered the diplomatic corps on Earth.

But it was both satisfying and convenient for Moeller regardless -- fitting, he thought, that the son of James Moeller would return the favor of failure to the son of Faj-win-Getag. Moeller didn't believe in karma, but he believed in its idiot cousin, the idea that "what goes around, comes around." The Moellers were coming around at last.

Ironic in another way, Moeller thought, as he waited for Lars-win-Getag to speak in greeting. This round of trade negotiations between the Nidu and Earth were supposed to have broken down long before this level. Moeller and his compatriots had quietly planned and maneuvered for years to get Nidu-human relations to a breaking point; this was supposed to be the year trade relationships were to implode, alliances to dissolve, anti-Nidu demonstrations to swell and the human planets were to start their path to true independence outside the Common Confederation. A new president and his Nidu-friendly administration had screwed it up; the new Secretary of Trade had replaced too many delegates and the new delegates had been too willing to give up diplomatic real estate in the quest to renormalize Nidu relations. Now negotiations were too far along to manufacture a diplomatic objection; all those had been hammered out two or three levels down. Something else was needed to bring negotiations to standstill. Preferably something that made the Nidu look bad.

"Dirk," Lars-win-Getag said, and bowed, briefly. "A good morning to you. Are we ready to begin today's thumb twisting?" He smiled, which on a Nidu is sort of a ghastly thing, amused at his own inside joke. Lars-win-Getag fancied himself a bit of a wit, and his specialty was creating malapropisms based on English slang. He had seen an alien do it once in a pre-Encounter movie, and thought it was cute. It was the sort of joke that got old fast.

"By all means, Lars," Moeller said, and returned the bow, risking a small cramp to do so. "Our thumbs are at ready."

"Excellent." Lars-win-Getag sat and reached for his negotiation schedule. "Are we still working on agricultural quotas?"

Moeller glanced over to Alan, who had made up the schedule. "We're talking bananas and plantains until 10, and then we tackle wine and table grapes until lunch," Alan said. "Then in the afternoon we start on livestock quotas. We begin with sheep."

"Do ewe think that's a good idea?" Lars-win-Getag said, turning to Moeller to dispense another ghastly grin. Lars-win-Getag was also inordinately fond of puns.

"That's quite amusing, sir," Alan said, gamely.

From down the table, one of the Nidu piped up. "We have some concerns about the percentage of bananas the treaty requires come from Ecuador. We were led to understand a banana virus had destroyed much of the crop this last year." From down the table, a member of the human delegation responded. The negotiations would continue to burble on for the next hour at the far ends of the table. Alan and his opposite number with the Nidu would ride herd on the others. Lars-win-Getag was already bored and scanning his tablet for sport scores. Moeller satisfied himself that his active participation would not be required for a long period of time and then tapped his own tablet to boot up the apparatus.

It was Lars-win-Getag himself who inspired the apparatus. Lars-win-Getag was, to put it mildly, an underachiever; he was a mid-level trade negotiator while most of his siblings had gone on to better things. It had been suggested that the only reason Lars-win-Getag was even a mid-level trade negotiator was that is family was too important for him to be anything less; it would be an insult for his clan to have him fail. To that end Lars-win-Getag was policed by assistants who were notably smarter than he was, and was never given anything critical to work on. Largely pre-determined agricultural and livestock quotas, for example, were just about his speed. Fortunately for Lars-win-Getag, he wasn't really smart enough to realize he was being handled by his own government. It worked out well for everyone.

Neverthless, like intellectually-limited mid-rangers of most sentient species, Lars-win-Getag was acutely sensitive to matters of personal status. He also had a temper. If it weren't for diplomatic immunity, Lars-win-Getag's rap sheet would have included assault, aggravated assault, battery, and on at least one occasion, attempted homicide. It was the last of these that caught the eye of Jean Schroeder, the son of the late Anton Schroeder and his successor as the head of the American Institute for Colonization.

"Listen to this," Jean said, reading from a report his assistant had compiled, as Moeller grilled steaks for them on his deck. "Six years ago, Lars was at a Capitals game and had to be restrained from choking another spectator to death in the stadium bathroom. Other guys in the bathroom literally had to tackle him and sit on his big reptilian ass until the police came."

"Why was he choking that guy?" Moeller asked.

"The guy was standing at the sink next to Lars and used some breath spray. Lars smelled it and got crazy. He told the police the scent of the breath spray suggested that he enjoyed cornholing his mother. He felt honor bound to avenge the insult."

Moeller stabbed the steaks and flipped them. "He should have known better. Most humans don't know anything about what smells mean to the Nidu elites."

"Should know better, but doesn't," Jean said, riffing through the report. "Or just doesn't care, which is more likely. He's got diplomatic immunity. He doesn't have to worry about restraining himself. Two of his other near-arrests involve arguments about smells. Here, this one's good: He apparently accosted a flower vendor on the mall because one of the bouquets was telling him he kicked babies."

"It probably had daisies in it," Moeller said, poking at the steaks again. "Daisies have a smell that signifies offspring. Where are you going with this, Jean?"

"You start negotiations with Lars next week," Jean said. "It's too late to change the substance of the negotiations. But you're negotiating with someone who is neither terribly bright nor terribly stable, and has a documented tendency to fly into a rage when he thinks he's being insulted by an odor. There's got to be a way to work with that."

"I don't see how," Moeller said. He speared the steaks and put them on a serving plate. "It's policy at Trade to be respectful of Nidu sensitivities. Negotiations take place in rooms with special air filters. We don't wear cologne or perfumes -- we're not even supposed use scented underarm deodorant. Hell, we're even issued special soap to use in the shower. We're serious about it, too. The first year I was at Trade, I saw a negotiator sent home because he used Zest that morning. He actually received a reprimand."

"Well, obviously you're not going to walk in with a squirt bottle with Essence of Fuck You in it," Jean said. "But there's got to be some way it make it happen."

"Look," Moeller said. "Lars' dad gave my dad a heart attack. Nothing would make me happier than to derail the bastard. But there's no way to secretly stink him into a rage."

Two days later Jean sent him a message: Something smells interesting, it read.

Back at the negotiating table, the Nidu had gotten the Earth delegation to leave the Ecuadorian bananas on the table in exchange for the same percentage of bananas to be shipped from Philos colony. This made everyone happy since Philos was closer to Nidu than Earth, and the Philos plantation owners would accept a lower price for their bananas, and the Earth wanted to promote colonial trade anyway. Moeller nodded his approval, Lars-win-Getag grunted his assent, and the negotiations moved on to Brazilian bananas.

Moeller opened the window for the apparatus software on his tablet and tapped on the "message" toolbar command. The window immediately listed four categories: Mild insults, Sexual-related insults, Competence insults, and Grave insults. Fixer, who had designed the apparatus and adapted the off-the-shelf software to run it, found a chemical dictionary for the Nidu smell language at the science library at UCLA. He dispensed with everything but the insults, of course; Moeller wasn't planning to tell Lars-win-Getag that he looked pretty, or that it was time for his puberty rites. Moeller also immediately discounted insults about competence, as the incompetent never question their competence about anything.

Let's start small, Moeller thought, and selected the "Mild insults" option. Another window opened with 40 suggested insults; Moeller picked the one at the top of the list, which read, simply, You stink.

The touch screen presented an hourglass, and in his colon Moeller felt a tiny vibration as the apparatus moved elements around. Then a dialog window popped up. Processing enabled, it read. Fire when ready.

Moeller was ready almost instantly; the combination of the milk and the vegetables and bacon at breakfast had worked their wonders in his gastrointestinal tract. Carefully so as not to attract attention, Moeller shifted in his seat to help the process along. He felt the gas travel the few centimeters into the apparatus chamber. The dialog box changed: Processing, it read. Moeller felt a second small vibration as the apparatus as the middle chamber worked its magic. After about five seconds the vibration stopped and the dialog box changed again. Ready. Choose automatic or manual release. Moeller chose the automatic release. The dialog box began a countdown.

Ten seconds later the lightly compressed gas exited the apparatus and moved toward the final exit. Moeller was not especially worried about it making noise; one doesn't work for decades in the diplomatic corps and its endless meetings and negotiations without learning how to silently depressurize. Moeller leaned forward ever so slightly and let it out. It smelled vaguely like parsley.

About 20 seconds later Lars-win-Getag, who had been giving every appearance of drifting off to sleep, jolted himself straight up in his chair, alarming his assistants on either side. One of them leaned in close to find out what had disturbed his boss; Lars-win-Getag hissed quietly but emphatically at her. She listened to him for a few minutes, then arched her nose up and gave a brief but notable sniff. Then she looked at Lars-win-Getag and gave the Nidu equivalent of a shrug, as if to say, I don't smell anything. Lars-win-Getag glared and glanced over at Moeller, who had all this time stared down the table toward the banana discussion with an expression of polite boredom. The air scrubbers were already dissipating the odor. Eventually Lars-win-Getag calmed down.

A few minutes later Moeller let fly You mate with the unclean. Lars-win-Getag let out a grunt and slammed down a fist hard enough to rattle the entire table. Negotiations came to a halt as everyone at the table looked toward Lars-win-Getag, who was by now out of his seat and whispering fiercely to the rather nervous-looking aide to his right.

"Everything okay?" Moeller asked the second aide, to Lars-win-Getag's left.

The second aide barely twitched. "The trade representative is clearly troubled by the quality of Brazilian bananas," he said.

Lars-win-Getag had managed to sit himself back down. "My apologies," he said swiveling his head up and down the table. "Something caught me by surprise."

"We can discuss changing the percentage of Brazilian bananas if you feel strongly about it," Moeller said, mildly. "I'm sure the Panamanians would be happy to increase their percentage, and we can make it up to the Brazilians in other categories." He reached for his tablet as if to make a note of the change and in fact gave the order to process You bathe in vomit.

"That is acceptable," Lars-win-Getag said, in a low growl. Moeller nudged Alan to get the discussions going again, and in doing so maneuvered just enough to let the latest missive slip out. Twenty seconds later, Moeller noted Lars-win-Getag breathing heavily and struggling not to explode. His aide was patting his hand, only a little frantically.

The next hour was the most fun Moeller could remember having just about ever. Moeller taunted Lars-win-Getag mercilessly, safe in his own appearance of bland disinterest in the minutiae of the negotiations, the visible absence of a scent-emitting object anywhere in the room, and the Nidu assumption that humans, with their primitive sense of smell, could not possibly be intentionally goading them. Except for Lars-win-Getag, the Nidu were of the wrong caste to know anything more than the basics of the scent language and so could not share their boss' outrage; Except for Moeller, the human delegation was utterly ignorant of the cause of Lars-win-Getag's behavior. They could tell something was making the Nidu twitchy, but had no idea what it could be. The only person who noticed anything unusual was Alan, who by sheer proximity could tell his boss was gassy, but attached no importance to it and wouldn't have dreamed of saying anything about it anyway.

In this garden of ignorance, Moeller savaged Lars-win-Getag with intolerable insults about his sexual performance, his personal grooming and his family, often in complex combinations of all three. Fixer's apparatus was filled with enough chemical compounds to emit coherent gaseous statements for days before needing to be detached and refilled. Moeller experimented to discover which statements enraged Lars-win-Getag the most; as expected, insults about job competence barely caused a rise in respiratory rates, but suggestions of sexual inadequacy really seemed to get him hot. Moeller thought Lars-win-Getag was going to pop when Your mates laugh at your lack of seed wafted over to him, but he managed to hold it in, primarily by gripping the table hard enough that Moeller thought he might break part of it off.

Moeller had just released You feast on shit and just punched in Your mother fucks algae for processing when Lars-win-Getag finally lost it, and gave himself to the negotiation-halting rage that Moeller was hoping for. "That is enough!" he bellowed, and lunged across the table at Alan, who, for his part, was shocked into immobility at a large, sentient lizard-like creature launching itself at him.

"Is it you?" Lars-win-Getag demanded, as his assistants grabbed at his legs, trying to haul him back to his side of the table.

"Is what me?" Alan managed to spurt out, torn now between the urge to get away from this snappy angry creature and the desire not to endanger his young diplomatic career by accidentally scratching the Nidu trade delegate in his rush to avoid getting killed.

Lars-win-Getag pushed Alan back onto the floor and kicked himself free of his assistants. "One of you humans has been insulting me for over an hour! I can smell it."

The humans stared agog at Lars-win-Getag for ten full seconds. Then Alan broke the silence. "All right, guys," he said, looking up and down the table. "Who's wearing the scented deodorant?"

"I'm not smelling deodorant, you little shit," Lars-win-Getag snarled. "I know one of you is speaking to me. Insulting me. I will not tolerate it."

"Sir," Alan said. "If one of us have said something that offended you during the talks, I can promise you --"

"Promise me?" Lars-win-Getag bellowed. "I can promise you that every one of you is going to be working at a convenience store in 24 hours if you don't --"


Silence. Moeller was suddenly aware that the entire room was looking at him.

"Excuse me," Moeller said. "That was rude."

There was a little more silence after that.

"You," Lars-win-Getag said, finally. "It was you. All this time."

"I don't know what you're talking about," Moeller said.

"I will have your job for this," Lars-win-Getag exploded. "When I get through with you, you --" Lars-win-Getag stopped suddenly, distracted. Then he took a long, hard snort. Moeller's final message had finally gotten across the room to him.

Lars-win-Getag took full receipt of the message, processed it, and decided to kill Dirk Moeller right there, with his own hands. Fortunately, there was a Nidu ritual for justifiably killing a nemesis; it began with a violent, soul-shattering roar. Lars-win-Getag collected himself, draw in a deep, cleansing breath, focused his eyes on Dirk Moeller, and began his murderous yell.

One of the interesting things about alien life is that however alien it may be, certain physical features appear again and again, examples of parallel evolutionary paths on multiple worlds. For example, nearly every intelligent form of life has a brain -- a central processor, of some sort, for whatever nervous and sensory system it may have evolved. The location of the brain varies, but it is most frequently located in a head of some sort. Likewise, nearly all life of a complex nature features a circulatory system to ferry oxygen and nutrients around the body.

The combination of these two common features means that certain medical phenomena are also universally known. Like strokes, caused when the vessels of whatever circulatory system a creature might have rupture violently in whatever brain structure that creature might possess. Just like they did in Lars-win-Getag, less than a second into his bellowing declaration. Lars-win-Getag was as surprised as anyone when he cut short his bellow, replaced it with a wet gurgle, and then pitched forward dead, following his center of gravity down to the floor. The Nidu immediately swarmed their fallen leader; the humans stared slack-jawed at their negotiating partners, who by now had begun a keening wail of despair as they attempted to revive Lars-win-Getag's body.

Alan turned to Moeller, who was still sitting there, calmly, taking it all in. "Sir?" Alan said. "What just happened here, sir? What's going on? Sir?"

Moeller turned to Alan, opened his mouth to provide some perfectly serviceable lie, and burst out laughing. And continued to laugh, hysterically and without interruption, for well over a minute.

Another common feature among many species is a primary circulatory pump -- a heart, in other words. This pump is typically one of the strongest muscles in any creature, due to the need to keep circulatory fluid moving through the body. But like any muscle it is prone to damage, especially when the creature to whom the pump belongs takes rather bad care of it. And, say, eats a lot of fatty, plaque-inducing meat, which causes the circulatory vessels to cut off, suffocating the muscle itself.

Just like they did in Dirk Moeller.

Dirk Moeller collapsed on the floor, joining Lars-win-Getag in a fatally prone sprawl. He was dimly aware of Alan shouting his name and then placing his hands on his chest and pumping down furiously, in a valiant but fruitless attempt to squeeze blood through his bosses' body. As Moeller lost consciousness for the last time, he had time for a single, final request for absolution.

Jesus, forgive me, he thought. I really shouldn't have eaten that panda.

The rest is darkness, two dead bodies on the floor, and, as hoped, a major diplomatic incident.

Posted by john at 12:51 AM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

March 11, 2007

The Practical Argument Against Giving Alberto Gonzales the Boot

Senator Chuck Schumer said today that Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez should get the boot; so did the New York Times. In most circumstances I would agree; it's not making an argument that Gonzales is a competent attorney general that's hard, it's making the argument without giggling that's the problem.

However, the fly in the Gonzalez resignation ointment is that the guy who appointed Gonzalez would be in charge of appointing his successor, and if six years has taught us anything about Dubya, it's that "appointing competent people" is only slightly above "speaking both grammatically and extemporaneously" on his "Things I'm Really Good At" list. Moreover, if the recent attorney firings scandal tells us anything, it is that when it comes to the Department of Justice, Bush appointments trend toward devolution; hell, that's even evident at the top, since Gonzalez is an even worse Attorney General than John Ashcroft was, and when you consider that what Ashcroft really needed was a two by four with the United States Constitution laser-etched onto its surface liberally applied to his skull at least twenty hours a day, that's no mean feat.

So, the question becomes: If Alberto Gonzales resigns or is fired, given Bush's previous track record at Justice, who is the logical person that Bush will nominate as Attorney General? Well, I think the answer is pretty clear:


Yes, it will be Snidely Whiplash. True, he's Canadian, which normally might be problematic for this position. However, here it works to his advantage, as this likely snippet from his Senate Confirmation hearing shows:

SENATOR SCHUMER: Mr. Whiplash, tell me, what are we to make of your predilection for malfeasance, specifically your numerous attempts to tie Nell Fenwick to train tracks?

SNIDELY WHIPLASH: Senator, I admit I have had my share of youthful indiscretions; who among us has not? But those indiscretions are decades in the past, and at no time have I ever broken the laws of these great United States.

SCHUMER: Are you trying to suggest that forcibly kidnapping a woman, assaulting her by tying her up with rope, and then attempting to murder her by placing her in the path of a train is not against the law?

WHIPLASH: What I can say is that I have not broken the laws of this country, senator.

SCHUMER: Would you agree that kidnapping, assault and attempted murder are crimes in this country, Mr. Whiplash?

WHIPLASH: Naturally, senator, I would need to consult with staff to explore the relevant statutes.

SENATOR BROWNBACK: Mr. Whiplash, about these youthful indiscretions of yours: Are you prepared to swear in front of this committee that you will not attempt the kidnapping, assault and murder of Nell Fenwick when you are Attorney General?

WHIPLASH: You have my word, senator. (Twirls mustache)

Snidely Whiplash, your next Attorney General. You heard it here first.

So remember: if you're agitating for Gonzalez's removal, you can't say you weren't warned.

Posted by john at 06:50 PM | Comments (41) | TrackBack

The Original Gay Marriage

According to this article on religious literacy in USA Today, "50% of high school seniors think Sodom and Gomorrah were married."

I think this is funny. I don't think it's a particularly good thing -- I'd be happy to have our teenagers have a basic literacy in the Bible, along with the religious texts of other major religions -- but I do think it's funny. Now we need to find out how many, thanks to The DaVinci Code, think Jesus was a married dude.

Incidentally, there's a simple solution to the problem of teaching the history and literature of religions in public schools without "accidentally" tipping over into, you know, proselytizing: Have atheists teach the classes. Yes, that will go over swell, I know. I'm just saying.

(The betting pool is on, incidentally, on how long it will take for someone to snark in the comment thread that this would be like having creationists teach biology. I'm betting on the fifth comment. Fortunately, I suspect the sixth or seventh comment would point out the flaw in that particular formulation. That's right! I'm leaving it to you folks to do all the heavy lifting! Have fun.)

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

Possibly The Best Thing on the Internet Ever


Zimmerman Does Giesel. Go. Now.

Nicked off Neil Gaiman, who is a 1965 Newport Folk Festival all by himself.

Posted by john at 12:00 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

March 10, 2007

New Mexico Hearts Pluto

New Mexico is considering passing legislation to declare Pluto a planet (here's the text of the resolution). Suck it, International Astronomical Union! Your lane has been swept, my friends.

Speaking of "sweeping the lane," here's an interesting bit from the linked article:

The resolution has also been welcomed by other astronomers that do not agree with the demotion of Pluto or with the IAU's definition. David Weintraub, a professor of astronomy at Nashville, Tennessee's Vanderbilt University, pointed out that neither Neptune nor Jupiter would technically be considered a planet under the definition: Neptune has not cleared its orbit, because Pluto crosses its path, and Jupiter has objects in its orbit -- the so-called Trojan asteroids that sit in stable gravitational pockets, known as Lagrange points.

Partisan though I am for Pluto, I think this is a specious argument; Pluto and Neptune are locked into a 3:2 orbital resonance which assures that never the twain shall meet; the resonance is undoubted due to the gravitational influence of Neptune. Likewise, the Trojan asteroids are locked into their Lagrange points; if not "swept" by Jupiter's gravity, they're nevertheless securely contained. In both cases, Neptune and Jupiter are gravitationally in charge of their respective lanes.

Back to New Mexico, the question to ask here is whether a state legislature has the right to name any particular celestial object a planet against the consensus of the competent scientific body that generally adjudicates such things. After all, if New Mexico passed a resolution declaring the Western Rattlesnake a mammal, the American Institute of Biological Sciences is not obliged to concur. Likewise, I suspect the IAU's response will be to say "well, that's awfully cute," and then keep on doing what it's doing. This is not to say I think the debate about Pluto is over, since even among planetary scientists Pluto's status is still contentious; it's to say that I don't suspect New Mexico's resolutions will have much impact on the scientific discussion.

Be that as it may: Rock on, New Mexico! Pass that resolution! You have my vote.

Posted by john at 02:42 PM | Comments (29) | TrackBack

Once More With Feeling

Brad Delp, lead singer of Boston, died yesterday.

Great band? Probably not. Perfect for its moment? Absolutely.

Moment's over.

Posted by john at 12:43 AM | Comments (26) | TrackBack

March 09, 2007

Bang Bang Bang

This is interesting: A judicial ruling that actually interprets the second amendment! That almost never happens. What's more, it's entirely conceivable that it might be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, which would be a big ol' ball of fun, judicially speaking. I think the last major Supreme Court ruling on the second amendment was in the early 20th century, although I could be wrong on that. It's been a while, in any event.

From what I read of the ruling, incidentally, I'm in agreement with the majority. I'm not a huge fun of people running around with guns, but philosophically speaking I'm even less of a fan of people not running around with guns, and I do suspect the Founding Fathers wanted people to have their rifles and pokey weapons on the argument that only having soldiers and government types being armed was not part of their thinking. The drawback to this is you have kids accidentally shooting their friends when they play with daddy's gun, people blowing their faces off when they're cleaning a loaded rifle, and Wayne LaPierre being treated seriously instead of sucking quarters out of public phones, which by all rights should be how he makes his living. But these are these costs we must bear.

Incidentally, this is one of those places where my thinking has changed over the years. Back in my college years and early 20s I was pretty anti-gun and wouldn't have minded a Constitutional Amendment to outlaw them. In time I realized I didn't trust the government all that much, and certainly the last six years have solidified that idea pretty damn well. I still don't like guns, and I still don't buy into the various shibboleths like "an armed society is a polite society." I don't think an armed society is a polite society; I think an armed society is just as rude and obnoxious as any other, and the only difference is that your more crazed members of it will shoot at you rather than, say, beat you to death with a lead pipe or kick you in the kidneys until you're pissing blood. But I recognize now that my personal dislike of firearms does not rise to the level of Constitutional revision.

(In case any of you are wondering, this realization predates my move to Ohio; hangin' with the local rednecks was not a motivating factor.)

Going back to the ruling, I do find especially interesting the legal argument for the dissent, which suggests that as Washington DC is not a state, the Second Amendment doesn't apply to it. This would by necessity mean that none of the amendments apply, which also seems to suggest that the Constitution is null and void in the District of Columbia. I'm not entirely sure I like that line of argument; on the other hand if the citizens of DC ever wanted to convince conservatives of the need for the District to have statehood, this would probably be the way. But maybe I'm missing something here. One of you lawyer types will have to tell me if I am.

Posted by john at 09:08 PM | Comments (46) | TrackBack

I Can't Believe It. Just. Cannot. Believe it.

What? The FBI using the Patriot Act as cover to illegally obtain personal information on Americans? How could that possibly be?

What? Newt Gingrich was having an extramarital affair while he was up in arms about Monica Lewinsky? I'm shocked!

What? My fluffy adorable cat a vicious carnivore who disemboweled a rodent and left its bloody remains in my garage? The horror!

Clearly, a day of disillusionment all the way around. I may never trust my government, or my cat, again.

I think I need to lie down.

Posted by john at 06:10 PM | Comments (39) | TrackBack

The Scathing Review Winner, or, This May Be the Best Whatever Entry Ever

Oh, God. I think the Write a Scathing Review contest is my favorite contest ever. I laughed so hard at some of these I damn near barfed myself. It also made me glad that the books these comments are putatively reviewing don't actually exist. Although one or two of them seem like interesting ideas... Hmmmm. Probably better not.

Suffice to say that I had an extremely difficult time choosing one as the best; in the end I went with the one I thought had the best overall balance of humor, disgust, plausible explanation for my craptacularity, and of course regretful pity at how much I suck. This is the one, contributed by Tim. Tim, send me your address so I can send along your book.

Although Tim won the contest, there were so many Coke-through-the-nose bits from the contest entries that I can't let them go unremarked. So below you'll find some of my favorite quotes from the entries.

You all are beautiful, creative, evil people. I love that about you. Thanks for having fun with this.


"Right now I feel like scooping my eyeballs out with a spoon and cleansing the sockets with bleach."
"Choose Your Own Adventure is dead. Someone forgot to tell John Scalzi."
"Mr. Scalzi, ballooning sales numbers to the contrary, beginning each of your books with a chapter-long fart joke is not the way to win fans."
"The [book] collects the poorly edited ravings of a necrotic brain."
"This reviewer would go one step further and recommend that all works by John Scalzi be burned, that no one, even in criminology, should teach using the works of John Scalzi, and that the name John Scalzi be forgotten entirely and that his ashes, when he is caught and brought to justice, be strewn upon a public urinal."
"Though I applaud experimentation with forms of structure and presentation, what possible justification can he offer for subjecting us to a work that contains four chapters consisting solely of haiku in transliterated Sumerian?"
"The fact that this book actually managed to make it to market without imploding from its own foul weight is compelling proof that there is no God."
"To call his new work 'tripe' would be an insult to the first, second, and third stomachs of ruminants worldwide. [This] is best described as sub-tripe; perhaps originating from the abomasum or duodenum regions."
"Scalzi's raw loathing for his readers leaps out like one Central Park flasher after another."
"There comes a time when necrophilia begins to look not just bad but tacky, and John Scalzi's annual humping-Heinlein exercise in techno-fetishism and military hagiography has reached it."
"Scalzi's new romance novel answers with a resounding 'no' the question can a writer can creatively bounce back from a year of heroin and horse tranquilizer abuse."
"There is nothing redeemable about this novel, except for the price you'd get per pound of paper from a recycler."
"In one of John Scalzi’s earlier works, a character is farted to death. After reading Scalzi’s latest, I know how the poor bastard feels."
"If you want a thrilling plot full of interplanetary intrigue, or likable, well-drawn characters, look elsewhere; if you ever wanted an excruciatingly detailed description of how to have intercourse with a barnyard animal in zero gravity, well, then you're covered."
"Like being seduced or tickled by an incompetent lover, Scalzi’s newest effort leaves one with the manhandled sensation of one who overcompensates with lack of finesse by lustily barking enthusiasm."
"This book covers about every way a person could misuse human excrement."
"As far as the writing itself, someone must have mixed a cephalotropic drug in with Scalzi’s Viagra."
"Reads as so much Vogon poetry."
"Mr Peebles, the office gerbil, has given a far more honest and copious critique of Mr Scalzi’s work than is possible here."
"Had this reviewer actually paid for this book, rather than receiving an ARC, it might have been found burning merrily in the grate. It certainly would have provided more entertainment there."
"For 35, count 'em, 35 pages, John describes the things to which he's taped bacon."
"Scalzi is the only author I know of whose fellows rigged an awards ceremony just so they could hand him a trophy with the words 'Philip K.' rubbed out."
"Introducing an innocent and unsuspecting reader to Scalzi’s writing with [this book] would be like introducing young boys to John Wayne Gacy."
"If you are considering buying this book, let me suggest an alternative course of action. Take twenty dollars out of your wallet, burn it, then slam your genitalia in a car door several times. This will re-create the same general experience while saving you a lengthy trip to the store."
"I can only suggest that Scalzi snake out his occluded neural pathways and start over."
"This books sucks so much it might well be the end of the universe as we know it."
"If the rumours as to his eventual destination are true, then we can only hope that the ashrams of northern India can help him to a better perspective than he displays in the pitiable final effort of his writing career."
"I keep watching CNN to see if there’s a late breaking news story informing us that aliens have abducted Scalzi, leaving a drooling, slack jawed creature in his place."
"Don’t buy it. If you must buy it, for the love of all that is good, don’t read it."
"Mr. Scalzi: If hope is the thing with feathers, sir, then you are the thing there is no hope for. Unless you're hiding your feathers somewhere. Which I doubt."

Did I mention I love you all? Well, I do. And I take comfort in knowing that no review of an actual book I have written will be as cleverly vicious as these.

Posted by john at 12:53 PM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

Those Industrious Australian Scalzis

BotPermArm.jpgIt's becoming increasingly clear that the Australian arm of the Scalzi clan is the one that has all the ambitious folks in it; in addition to the previously mentioned Scalzi Produce agricultural empire run by Pat Scalzi, there's also God's Hill Winery, run by a fellow named Charlie Scalzi. God's Hill is a boutique winery producing Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Merlot, and apparently word on these wines gets around. Note this review of the 2002 vintage of the cabernet I found in the Sunday Business Post in Ireland, which gave the wine a 94 rating:

Tiny parcels of the best cabernet sauvignon from an already small 30-acre vineyard go into making God's Hill wines. This cabernet cuvée is a simply epic creation. Opaque black in the glass, the wash is a wall of concentrated fruit alive with a riot of delicious dark chocolate, crushed blackberry, prune, caramel and even eucalyptus touches. A very fine wine.

See, now. That's a review worth having. It makes me wish I actually drank alcohol. Well, Krissy does; indeed, she was enjoying an Australian wine just the other evening. Maybe I'll get some from her. My understanding is that God's Hill Wines are now beginning to be available in the US, so I'll have to track down the distributor here in country (it's in Texas somewhere).

Learning about God's Hill naturally led me to learn more about Australian wine-making, because I'm like that, and it turns out that where God's Hill's winery is (a little town called Lyndoch -- see it here on Google Maps), is smack dab in the Barossa region of South Australia, which I am led to understand is very much the analogue of the Napa Valley in California, i.e., positively riddled with wineries and places where Down Under oenophiles can go and get their Sideways groove on, although hopefully without the rants about merlot and the whole "getting one's nose broken by an outraged lover" thing.

Indeed the Barossa Vintage Festival is just a month away now -- there's still time to book! I shall not be able to go myself -- I have other commitments, alas, and it does take place on the entire other side of the planet, which makes nipping out and back problematic. But you should go. And have some God's Hill wine while you're there.

Posted by john at 08:09 AM | Comments (28) | TrackBack

March 08, 2007

The Canonical 2007 Tour Date Entry

All right, to keep this site from being turned into "all tour dates update, all the time," I hereby pronounce this The Canonical 2007 Tour Date Entry. In it you will find all the tour dates, times, and locations. I'll post a link on the sidebar for everyone to see from here on out, and this post will be updated as necessary. So: Dates, times, and locations await you behind the cut.

(not the official name of the tour)

Tuesday, April 24, 7pm
University Bookstore
4326 University Way N.E.

Wednesday, April 25, 7pm
Bay Book and Tobacco Co
80 N. Cabrillo Way

Thursday, April 26, 7pm
Borderlands Books
866 Valencia Street

Friday, April 27, 5:30pm
Dark Carnival
3086 Claremont Avenue

Saturday, April 28, Time to come
Los Angeles Times Festival of Books
UCLA Main Campus

Monday, April 30, 7:30pm
The Poisoned Pen
4014 N Goldwater Blvd. Suite 101

Tuesday, May 1, 7pm
Mysterious Galaxy
7051 Clairemont Mesa Blvd

Wednesday, May 2, 7pm
Powell's Books
1005 W. Burnside Avenue

Thursday, May 3, 7pm
Prairie Lights Bookstore
15 South Dubuque Street

Friday, May 4, 7pm
Harry W. Schwartz Bookshop
2262 S. Kinnickinnic Avenue

Saturday, May 5, 1pm
Uncle Hugo's
2864 Chicago Avenue South
NOTE: Appearing with Tate Hallaway (aka Lydia Morehouse)

Sunday, May 6, 1pm
Borders Books & Music
43075 Crescent Blvd.

Tuesday, May 8, 7pm
1307 19th Street, NW

Wednesday, May 9, 6:30pm
Fountain Bookstore, Inc
1312 E. Cary St.

Tuesday, May 22, Time to come
Barnes & Noble
Location to come

Thursday, May 24, 7pm
Books & Co
350 East Stroop Road

Thursday, May 31, 7pm
Joseph-Beth Booksellers
2692 Madison Road

Posted by john at 04:56 PM | Comments (37) | TrackBack

Who I Want to Write Like

I'm occasionally asked if there's anyone I wish I could write like. The answer: Yeah, I wish I could write like this guy.

Posted by john at 01:43 PM | Comments (31) | TrackBack

March 07, 2007

Wednesday Author Interview: Jon Armstrong

Over at By The Way I've got an interview with author Jon Armstrong about his jazzy, trippy novel Grey, in which we discuss Jazz, Japan, Jeremy Lassen and other things that begin with "J" -- and many other things, too. If you don't go read it, the angels will weep. They will. They said so.

To a couple of authors I owe interview questions to: Haven't forgotten you, I'm just having an unbelievably busy week. The questions are coming, honest.

Posted by john at 06:50 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

New Tour Dates

Three Four Five more dates to add to the book tour. The full schedule so far, with new dates in bold:

4/24: Seattle, WA
4/25: Half Moon Bay, CA
4/26: San Francisco, CA
4/27: Berkeley, CA
4/28: Los Angeles, CA
April 30: Phoenix, AZ
5/1: San Diego, CA
5/2: Portland, OR
May 3: Iowa City, IA
5/4: Milwaukee, WI
5/5: Minneapolis, MN
May 6: Detroit, MI (actually Novi, MI)
May 8: Washington, DC
May 9: Richmond, VA

There's still a possibility of an additional date or two getting jammed into the schedule; I should know soon, I think we're pretty much done, and I'll add actual appearance times and locations in a later post. Also, for you Ohioans, we're looking to have an appearance in Columbus later in May. More details when it gets locked down.

Update, 5:11 pm -- Another appearance confirmed: Iowa City.

Update, 5:57 -- Another appearance confirmed: Phoenix.

Posted by john at 04:46 PM | Comments (64) | TrackBack

Four Words I'm Not Entirely Sure Ought to Be Used in Combination, Ever

They are: Laser vaginal rejuvenation surgery.

You'll have to imagine my "WTF?" face going on here. I can see a need for vaginal plastic surgery, laser-based or otherwise, in the cases of injury, whether during childbirth or in some other way. But getting surgery done to restore a "youthful aesthetic look"? Madness. Maybe I haven't been a critical enough observer of the body part in question, but I'm flummoxed to come up a set of parameters that would equate with a "youthful aesthetic look" in that area. I suppose if my partner has such a surgery and asked "so, do I look younger?" I would say "yes," because she spent all that money and I wouldn't want her to feel bad. But saying it and seeing it are two different things.

Aside from the "youthful aesthetic" thing apparently some women are having the surgery to look more like a virgin. That's a whole sort of social pathology I don't even want to get into at the moment.

Personally I would suspect that Kegel exercises are likely to take care of much of any "problem" with youthful demeanor down there, and the rest is women being preyed upon by folks who want a really nice boat in a primo marina. I'm willing to admit ignorance on this topic, but this is my suspicion. Moreover, when the plastic surgeons start advertising laser penile rejuvenation surgery, as they inevitably will, my position on that will be much the same, except that I'm likely to state it while being crouched over and typing the words with my chin because my hands are busy reflexively protecting something else.

Honestly, folks. Just, no. Okay?

Posted by john at 11:46 AM | Comments (50) | TrackBack

March 06, 2007

The Scalzi Creative Sampler

This is another one of my "put it up there to establish a permanent link to it" things. In this case, this entry is an index of the creative work I have online that people can access for free.

Here's what's on offer; this entry will be updated from time to time, when more of my stuff goes up.

* Agent to the Stars -- a complete novel, published in limited edition hardcover by Subterranean Press in 2005, and in an upcoming edition from Tor (likely in 2008).

* The first chapter of The Android's Dream, published by Tor in October of 2006.

* "The Sagan Diary," audio version -- an audio version of my 2007 novelette, set in the universe of the "Old Man" books (and occurring sequentially between the books The Ghost Brigades and The Last Colony. Read by Mary Robinette Kowal, Elizabeth Bear, Karen Meisner, Ellen Kushner, Helen Smith and Cherie Priest.

* Subterranean Magazine, Issue #4 (pdf link) -- An issue of Subterranean Magazine guest-edited by me. Featuring stories by Allen Steele, Jo Walton, Nick Sagan, Elizabeth Bear and many others.

* "Alien Animal Encounters" -- a short story published in Strange Horizons magazine, in October, 2001

* "Missives from Possible Futures #1: Alternate History Search Results" -- A short story published by Subterranean Magazine Online, February, 2007

* "Pluto Tells All" -- A short story published by Subterranean Magazine Online, May, 2007

* Music For Headphones -- My album of electronica

"Saturn Speaks" -- A single electronica track, based on recorded sounds from the planet Saturn.

Posted by john at 11:16 PM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

All you Philosophy Majors Will Have to Find Something Else to Argue About Now


Athena: Let's play "Questions."

Me: What's that?

Athena: It's a game where you ask me questions. Duh.

Me: All right. What is the meaning of life?

Athena: The meaning of life is to live life.

Me: Huh. Well, I guess that's as good an answer as any.

Athena: Yes. What, did you expect me not to get that one? (rolls eyes)

Posted by john at 03:25 PM | Comments (62) | TrackBack

The Libby Pardon Pool

Personally, I call 11:50 pm, January 19, 2009. Anyone want to get in on this action?

(Context, for those of you who need it)

Posted by john at 01:38 PM | Comments (62) | TrackBack

March 05, 2007

The Official "Win a Copy of Coffee Shop" Contest: Your Scathing Book Review

Last week, as you'll recall, I ran a contest to see what contest I would have to give away a copy of Coffee Shop. And now - at last! -- the time has come for that contest to be run.

So: Want a free copy of my sold-out-before-publication book, You're Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop To a Coffee Shop: Scalzi on Writing? Here's what you do:

1. Imagine I have released a book in the year 2009.

2. Imagine you really really really hate it.

3. Write a review that expresses the full extent of your loathing. Post it in the comment thread to this entry.

4. Extra points for being mercilessly and gratuitously cruel. Even more extra points if you quote excerpts, and even more extra points if the excerpts actually read like me.

5. Post the review here by 11:59:59 Eastern, Thursday, March 8, 2007.

I will read the "reviews" and pick my favorite; that person shall win the coveted copy of Coffee Shop. I'll announce the winner by next Monday.

Now, two things:

* One scathing review per participant. So make it good.

* Remember that this scathing review is for a book I have not written. Please do not post scathing reviews of books I have written, even if, in fact, you think those books actually kinda suck. Among other things, reviews of books I have actually written will be disqualified from consideration for the prize. I may also delete them simply to keep the thread on topic.

Now, you may ask: What sort of horrible book have I written that you will hate so damn much? Well, I leave that up to you; I am sure you all, in your fertile imaginations, can imagine any number of ways in which I could well and truly suck. Frankly, I can't imagine you folks will need any help working on that one. I'm a pretty big target after all. So fire away.

I can't wait.

Posted by john at 10:42 PM | Comments (74) | TrackBack

Cherie Priest, Stephen King, Neil Gaiman and Me

First off, a big fat w00t! to Cherie Priest, whose limited edition novel Dreadful Skin makes it out in the big ol' world today. Because I'm special, I got an early look at it, and I thought it was just fabulous; it had just about everything that makes Cherie one of my favorite contemporary smart and spooky writers. And it's gotten lovely reviews from others, just in case you think my taste is suspect. And you can still check out the first third of the novel -- which is its own, self-contained novella -- online at Subterranean Press.

Speaking of Subterranean Press, while you can order Dreadful Skin in various places online, you may wish to consider ordering it through the SubPress Web site, because Subterranean Press is doing a nifty little giveaway contest:

We have in our hands an ultra rare PC copy of Stephen King’s new short story collection, The Secretary of Dreams, just published by Cemetery Dance. This very oversized volume contains literally hundreds of illustrations by Glenn Chadbourne, is printed in two colors, and signed by both the author and artist!
Best of all, we’re giving it away!
That’s not all!
Second prize in this giveaway will be a copy of our just published edition of The Green Mile, which features more than 60 brand new black and white illustrations by noted artist Mark Geyer. The Subterranean Gift edition consists of six small hardcovers with foil stamped covers, printed in two colors throughout, housed in a custom slipcase.
To enter the drawing, all you need to do is place an order for any in-print or forthcoming title between now and 5:00 EST Friday, March 9, 2007. For every book you order, we’ll drop your name into the “hat” five times.

Yeah, that's pretty cool. But if you really want to boost your chances, Subterranean is offering to double your tallies in the drawing you if you order one of three books that Subterranean announced today. The first is a new collection of short stories from Neil Gaiman, called M is for Magic, which just looks damn cool. The other two are from me.

Which is to say that today Subterranean announced that it would be publishing very limited special editions of both Old Man's War and The Ghost Brigades. These editions will feature full color covers and several full color interior plates from artist Vincent Chong, and will also likely feature new introductions by me. Basically, they're going to be damn cool. There will be two editions: a signed hardcover edition, of which 400 will be made, for $60; and (if you're feeling especially collectoriffic), a signed, lettered traycased edition of 15 for $250. Those of you who bought the signed editions of The Sagan Diary will also have the option of getting the same number for the limited editions of OMW and TGB, so your collection of Scalziana will all match.

Also, because Subterranean knows that treating Whatever readers well makes feel all warm and fuzzy inside, here's a special deal for those of you thinking of plunking down $120 for both limited editions: Until Friday, you can get both cheaper:

Until Friday (3/9/07) buy copies of both OMW and TGB for only $95, a savings of $25 off the regular cover price. Please mention the special when checking out. May not be combined with other specials, coupons or savings certificates (although you'll still be entered in the Stephen King drawing). Your shopping cart total and automatic e-mail confirmation won't reflect the sale price. Don't worry, we'll catch it when processing your order. Important note: If you use PayPal, e-mail us for an invoice. Do NOT go through our online store. Thanks.

Here's the store page for OMW on Subterranean; here's the store page for TGB. Both are slated for release this summer. Don't worry, I'll probably mention them again the closer we get to release.

That covers that.

Posted by john at 10:07 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Calling Out to My Australian Peeps


In Australia, in Adelaide, there's a successful concern called Scalzi Produce (who I imagine are pretty ticked at me taking the Scalzi.com domain; they have to make do with scalzi.com.au), who are sponsors of Adelaide United, the football/soccer team from the area. Apparently Scalzi Produce is going to be the front of shirt sponsor for the team in an upcoming series of home stands, and I've decided I pretty much need to have the jersey for my own, or I may die. I've dropped a note to the team via their Web site, but I don't realistically expect to hear back from them that way.

So, my Australian friends: How would I go about doing this? The team has its own online store, of course, but the jerseys they sell there don't have the Scalzi Produce logo on it, and that's what I really want. Is there a way to secure this particular jersey? Any Adelaide-based Whatever readers out there? Or other antipodeans with ideas? As I said, without this particular jersey I may wither away into nothingness, and we wouldn't want that.

Update: 6:08 pm -- Hey! Just got a very nice note from Aldo at Scalzi Produce over on my bio page, thanks to the efforts of Brian Forte. Likewise, Timelady did me a favor and touched base with Adelaide United. Australians rock. And yes, Justine, I knew that already. It's just nice to have it confirmed from time to time.

Posted by john at 09:13 AM | Comments (35) | TrackBack

March 04, 2007

How Not to Self-Promote Here: A Self-Pimping Thread

So, there's this guy out there named Robert Eggleton (not to be confused with Bob Eggleton, the Hugo-winning illustrator who has lent his talents to a number of my works) who has developed quite a reputation for being the sort of cluelessly obnoxious sort of guy who will spam just about any available public space devoted to writers and writing with little ads for himself and his work (he's also developed a reputation among writers for persistently bugging them about providing blurbs and testimonials and then being affronted and offended when they tell him to go screw). This is a fellow who has been around long enough to know that there's a right and wrong way to self-promote, but who continues to go about the wrong way of self-promoting, apparently because he's under the impression that being a twit is the best way to pique the interest of would-be readers.

Some time ago this fellow wandered by this site and decided it would be a fine place to do his self-promotional thing. And if this fellow would have been content to keep his self-promotion to the self-promoting threads that I occasionally put up for the purpose of allowing people to self-promote, as he had been told to do by me, he would have been right about that; I like using my site to help people tell other people about their work. But this fellow decided instead to spam other threads with inappropriately self-promoting crap, and after seeing him do it long enough to know this fellow had no learning curve regarding this site nor any interest in acquiring one, and no desire to otherwise participate in the site, I've simply decided to ban the little shit from commenting further. Life is too short to tolerate inconsiderate dickheads who seem to enjoy being inconsiderate dickheads. They simply need to be tossed over the side.

To celebrate the banning of this inconsiderate dickhead, I hereby pronounce this a self-pimping thread, so all of you creative folks who know well enough not to spam this site can harvest the benefit of my 25,000 visitors a day, many of whom are looking for new and exciting things to read and see and enjoy. Thank you for treating this site and me with respect! I do appreciate it, and look forward to you promoting yourself and your work in many self-pimping threads to come.

(Note: Be aware that when/if you include a link to whatever you are self-promoting, that you may find yourself bumped into the moderation queue on a temporary basis. Don't panic -- I'll release your comment as quickly as I can.)

As for Robert Eggleton, he's already been added to the junk lists and any messages from him that do make it onto the site will be vaporized as soon as I find them. One hopes that this bit of public humiliation will encourage him in the future not to make such a goddamned nuisance of himself in public, but considering that I heard of his obnoxious behavior long before he ever arrived here, and also that he seems to be remarkably resistant to understanding that his activities make him look an ass, I don't expect he will learn much of anything. What I suggest the rest of you who have blogs do, however, is add him to your junk filters as soon as possible. That's pretty much where he belongs to be.

So: Everyone who is not Robert Eggleton: Promote yourself!

Posted by john at 09:15 PM | Comments (141) | TrackBack

The Privileged, Matrimonial Few

Interesting story from the Washington Post: Numbers drop for the married with children

Punctuating a fundamental change in American family life, married couples with children now occupy fewer than one in every four households -- a share that has been slashed in half since 1960 and is the lowest ever recorded by the census.
As marriage with children becomes an exception rather than the norm, social scientists say it is also becoming the self-selected province of the college-educated and the affluent. The working class and the poor, meanwhile, increasingly steer away from marriage, while living together and bearing children out of wedlock.
"The culture is shifting, and marriage has almost become a luxury item, one that only the well educated and well paid are interested in," said Isabel V. Sawhill, an expert on marriage and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

And for those who believe that is all a matter of modern ideas breaking down traditional ideas of marriage and child-raising, here's a quote from you, into which I'll add my own emphasis: "'We seem to be reverting to a much older pattern, when elites marry and a great many others live together and have kids,' said Peter Francese, demographic trends analyst for Ogilvy & Mather, an advertising firm." What's old is new again.

Some various thoughts on this:

* One of the very interesting and problematical things in the story is a reason many people give for not getting married, which is that they feel they can't afford it. This despite general evidence that shows being married stabilizes one's finances rather than causes hardships (anecdotally, this was certainly the case with me; when I met Krissy all my bills were on third notices because I just didn't get around to paying them on time. Krissy took over the finances and I stopped having to worry if my electricity was going out).

I think to some unknown extent worrying about the cost of being married is a convenient excuse not to get married for other reasons -- lots of people of marriageable age right now are the products of divorce, so any excuse not to screw up like their parents did is a good one -- but this doesn't mean that I think it's being used as an excuse by everyone. In particular I wonder whether how much of "I don't think we can afford to get married" translates into "I don't want to mix my financial life with someone else's." Lots of people of marriageable age are running around without health insurance, and so are their potential spouses; how many of them are thinking "do I want to be responsible for this person's medical bills?" Likewise, how many of them want to be on the hook for a dual-income-requiring mortgage if the spouse loses a job? And so on. Adding a child to this equation adds another level of uncertainty.

Which leads to an interesting thought experiment: Would universal health care lead to an increase in the willingness of young couples, particularly poor and working-class couples, to marry? That's one less major expense to be phobic about, after all. And, if there were evidence that showed a correlation between universal health care and higher rates of marriage (particularly among working class and poor couples), would social conservatives, who appear to be generally against universal health care, be persuaded to be for it? Bear in mind I call this a thought experiment for a reason: I don't know the marriage rates in, say, Canada or the UK and whether they are trending differently than those in the US.

* The article notes while there's a racial dimension to who is not marrying, the rather more relevant indicator is class -- the better off you are, the less likely you are to co-habitate or have a child outside of a marriage (and this has been the case for some time). It also notes that the affluent and college-educated are less likely to "marry down" -- marry someone who is not of a similar level of education or income. As a side effect of the affluent marrying the affluent (and the not affluent not marrying as much), the household income disparity between classes is going up. Which is to say that to some extent the decline of marriage is contributing to systematic economic inequalities in the US.

I don't think this means that those in the poor or working classes are doomed to a life of unmarriageability. What I do wonder about is whether those people who raise their class level via education/income leave behind potential marriage partners, and I wonder if intentional or unintentional snobbery is making those people already affluent leave potential partners out of consideration. Anecdotally, I know that black women who have gotten educations or have good jobs are less inclined to marry to black men who are less educated or who have poor job prospects; I suspect these women are not so much outliers as pioneers. There are more women than men entering college and getting degrees, and as they build their own economic and class position, they're going to quite reasonably ask why they should bother considering men who are not their equals in position. This is the genesis of the "all the good ones are taken" line. How many good men -- "good" in the sense of being a useful and loving partner -- are being excluded from consideration?

It's not just the women who do this sort of sorting, of course. Men do it too. Speaking as a member of the educated and affluent class, with one exception I can't think of any man I know who is also educated and affluent who didn't marry someone of equivalent economical and educational stature (there are no "trophy wives" in my peer circle to skew this determination). And likewise, I wonder how many good women are being excluded from marriage consideration because of this social sorting.

(The exception, incidentally, was me -- when Krissy and I met, she was both economically and educationally a step down the ladder from me. And I would be lying if I said to you that for a small time in the early part of our relationship I didn't wonder if it was going to be a problem. This got solved when I realized that she was actually smarter and more sensible than I and if I got stuck on class considerations rather than looking at the actual person I would be stone moron and would deserve the couple-less and lonely life that would inevitably follow. And now, as it happens, Krissy has more degrees than I do and is the one whose job has all the nice benefits and perks, so if someone wants to discuss "marrying down," there'll be some argument as which of us was doing the marrying down. As it is, I know I got lucky. Krissy was the right person for me, period.)

* I am proponent of marriage and the benefits it provides to the adults and the children in it (so much so that I wish to let same-sex couples and their children share in those benefits, which I understands annoys some people), and I think it would be sad if it basically became to province of the well-off, who already have so many things as it is. If one wants encourage marriage (and childbearing and childrearing within it), I think one would consider encouraging the social and economic aspects that in turn encourage marriage. If I had to pick one thing, I think I would focus on education. I'd want to make sure that public elementary and secondary education were uniformly excellent in the United States (which right now it is not) to encourage children of all economic classes to continue the educations that correlate to economic security (and thus, marriage), and that our students didn't leave college or graduate/professional schools so overburdened with debt that they fear marriage will worsen their economic situation rather than improve it.

I suspect this would do a better job of preserving marriage than, say, blocking certain couple from engaging in it, or making it more difficult to divorce once one is married. And in any event the end result would be a better educated populace, from which would stem other, non-marriage-related benefits. Everybody wins.

Thoughts on any or all of this?

Posted by john at 02:09 PM | Comments (97) | TrackBack

March 03, 2007

"The Last Colony" ARC Contest

No, I'm not running it; I've got enough contests running here. Jonathan Strahan is, so check out his blog on how to play. Have fun; I'll be interested in the results!

Posted by john at 06:41 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Dearth of Political Ranting (Here)

It just occured to me that I haven't written an explicitly politics-oriented entry on the Whatever since mid-January, when I compared Digital Rights Management to Guantanamo. The toothache entry gets political in the comments, to some extent, but I didn't start that. It's not like there's not political stuff to write about. I think it's because I'm in some sort of refractory period about politics right now, dating back from the last election, because if you look I haven't really written much about politics since then; a bit here, a snark there, but really nothing of any substance. That's because every once in a while I'll see some political-oriented thing that looks like it could be worth writing about, and I'll fire up the blog software and then... eh. It's just not happening.

I don't think this is a particularly bad thing. I enjoy winding myself up about political topics; it's cathartic. But one of the nice things about this site being about whatever I want it is that I don't have to write about whatever I don't want, too. This is one of the reasons that I run the site like I do. It fits my attention span, or lack thereof. That said, it was a little bit surprising to me when I realized just how little I've been blathering about politics recently. I'm sure I'll come back to it at some point. But at the moment I'm apparently not missing it much.

Posted by john at 03:19 PM | Comments (30) | TrackBack

March 02, 2007

"The Last Colony" Tour Dates: First Draft

As you all know, I'm doing a book tour this spring in support of The Last Colony. We're still in the process of packing in dates and appearances and so on and so forth, but here's what we have confirmed so far:

April 24: Seattle, WA
April 25: Half Moon Bay, CA
April 26: San Francisco, CA
April 27: Berkeley, CA
April 28: Los Angeles, CA
May 1: San Diego, CA
May 2: Portland, OR
May 4: Milwaukee, WI
May 5: Minneapolis, MN

Actual locations and appearance times to come, along with the "official" name of the tour (since so many of you have said "hey, what ever happened with that tour naming thing?"). And as I noted above, we're likely to cram in a couple more appearances into the tour. But generally, this is where I'll be and when. Mark your calendars!

Posted by john at 05:34 PM | Comments (68) | TrackBack

TGB Prometheus Award Nominee, Maybe

I see from the most recent edition of Ansible that The Ghost Brigades has made the short list for the Prometheus Award, which is the best novel award given by the Libertarian Futurist Society. However, the "short list" Ansible lists is the same as the preliminary list I saw floating around last month, so I'm not at all sure that TGB is on the final list of nominees. The LFS hasn't contacted me about it, so I suspect this list may still be the preliminary list. Clearly, if anyone knows definitively, please let me know. Thanks.

In the meantime, here's the nominee list as Ansible is reporting it:

Empire by Orson Scott Card

Harald by David D Friedman

Variable Star by Robert A Heinlein and Spider Robinson

Engaging the Enemy by Elizabeth Moon

The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi

The Clan Corporate by Charles Stross

Red Lightning by John Varley

Rainbow’s End by Vernor Vinge

It's an interesting selection, to say the least.

Posted by john at 02:07 PM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

Reading Russian, Poorly

I surely do get a kick out of reading reviews of Old Man's War in Russian, primarily because the Google and Babelfish translations of what the folks have written are delightfully inscrutable: "Serious miscalculations Scalzi not have been allowed. At the very least, in the chosen path," reads one, which is generally positive (I think), as is this one, maybe: "Good fantastic gunman in the best tradition of this genre, swallowed the day, with some claim to filosoficnosti, but after reading the special thoughts left." Hmmm, maybe that wasn't so glowing. Here's an amusing one: "Not recomendovap to read a book to people who are more than 64 years not to incite false dreams." Incidentally, it also appears that another translation of the Russian title of the book is "Destined to Victory," which I must admit, seems a lot less lugubrious than "Doomed to Victory."

It's nice to see the book being discussed in Russian because, frankly, I have no clue as to how well it's selling there or how it's been received; Eksmo, my Russian publisher, hasn't provided me with any of that information (and it's early yet in any event). The fact people seem to be chattering about it, and generally seem to think it's good book, is heartening. Now if only translation software were better, so I had a better idea what people were really saying. I suppose I could try to learn Russian.

Posted by john at 01:11 PM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

Bye-Bye Winter


This is likely to be your last wintery photo from the Scalzi Compound for a while. I took this picture last night before a big rain storm melted most of the snow and washed it off to the nearby creek (causing a bit of flooding as it did so down by the road); now about 95% of the snow is gone and the rest isn't likely to last the day. There's a chance of a couple of snow showers tomorrow but all next week the forecast is for mid 40s. Bye-bye, winter, nice knowing you.

Posted by john at 08:43 AM | Comments (28) | TrackBack

March 01, 2007

The Winner of the "Come Up With a Contest to Give Away a Copy of 'Coffee Shop'" Contest!

The winner is Jacob, who came up with this idea:

It's 2009, write a review of Scalzi's new novel (bonus for including a throwaway line incorporating the world of tomorrow)

Excellent. However, I'm going to amend it in two ways:

1. The phrase "the world of tomorrow" will be optional;

2. Everyone should write a scathing review. Because those are more fun to read, anyway.

No, don't start writing those reviews yet. I'll post the official contest thread next Monday. Until then, start planning what horrible, horrible things you are going to write.

This should be fun.

Jacob, drop me an e-mail with your address so I can send your book to you.

Posted by john at 09:27 PM | Comments (24) | TrackBack

This Entry is All About Me (As if All the Others Aren't)

Actually, it's all about my books and stuff, which means it's about my output, rather than me directly. But that's close enough for government work.

* My personal copies of the French version of Old Man's War have arrived and I'm quite pleased -- finally, a foreign-language version that I can sort of, kind of read! Seriously, it's surprising to me how much of the text I can puzzle out; naturally it helps quite a bit that it's a translation of my own work, so I always have a vague idea of what's supposed to be going on anyway. One thing I like is how much nicer stuff sounds in French. The French translation of BrainPal, for example: "Amicerveau." Excellent. From what I can puzzle out the translation appears pretty good, so thanks to translator Bernadette Emerich for that.

I'm also pleased to find out the cover is in fact original artwork for the book; it's done by Didier Florentz, who has posted a picture of the whole art on his Web site. It's inspired by the Special Forces attack on Coral in the last couple of chapters of the book, and you know what? It's just damn cool. I sent him an e-mail thanking him and asking him if he had a print I could get from him; I hope he reads English.

The French version of the book is available in Canada, incidentally, so you Francophones up there who have a desire to read me in your native tongue now have a way to do it. Have fun with that, you crazy kids!

* Whatever reader Patrick Vera informs me that the Japanese Amazon site has up the cover art for the Japanese version of Old Man's War, and here it is:

Patrick surmised that this is meant to be taken from the Battle of Coral, and I agree. And look! They're green! As they're supposed to be. The Japanese version of the book, so far as I can tell via Babelfish, is supposed to be out on April 30.

* The SFSite has up reviews of not one but two of my books: The Android's Dream and Coffee Shop. The reviewer for TAD (Peter D. TIllman) is very happy with the book:

This is a pretty near perfect light planetary romance, ending splendidly with all the Bad Biters badly-bit, and the Good Guys (and Girl) well-rewarded. Really a wonderfully entertaining book -- definitely a keeper. This is my second John Scalzi novel -- I liked Old Man's War, but that was apprentice work, compared to The Android's Dream.

The Coffee Shop review is not as glowy -- the reviewer (Paul Kincaid) does not agree with all my points -- but is generally positive:

What is particularly unusual and refreshing about this book, and about Scalzi's whole take on writing, is that he does not confine himself to the writing of fiction. This is not a book that follows the old, old pattern of taking us through the various stages of worldbuilding, character creation, dialogue and the like -- in fact Scalzi treats all these with a studied disinterest. For him, writing includes journalism, writing for web sites, even advertising, all of which he does or has done. From these skills (normally not even mentioned in such books) he learns very different lessons from those usually passed on to novelists, lessons about meeting the deadline and fitting the brief which infuse this book.

I think it's interesting that Kincaid notes how little the business end of writing gets discussed in writing books for novelists; I think he's correct, and I think that while there's certainly nothing wrong with a focus on the art of writing, a little more about the business of things wouldn't kill novelists (and aspiring novelists) to read and know.

* Whoops, I missed this when I first posted the entry: The Ghost Brigades anchors SFSite's Best SF and Fantasy Books of 2006: Readers' Choice list, in there with books by Vernor Vinge, Charlie Stross, Peter Watts, Naomi Novik and Scott Lynch, whose Lies of Locke Lamora takes the #1 spot. Cool. There's also the notation at the bottom of the page that suggests that I might have been ranked even higher if I didn't have more than one book out in the year of contention (The Android's Dream and Old Man's War are specified). These are the risks you take, and I'm happy to take them.

* Finally, if you happened to lose your copy of The Android's Dream on a recent Korean Air Lines flight, I want to thank you, because you helped me pick up a new fan, as this e-mail I received yesterday details:

I was flying back to the U.S. from Hong Kong last week, and had to change planes at Seoul. A copy of your book The Android's Dream was on the seat next to mine for the trans-pacific leg of the flight. I kept waiting for the owner to show up, but he/she never did. Once they shut the doors I appropriated it, thinking it must be an interview with Phillip K. Dick, and had to be better than reading the Skymall catalog.
Aside from brief pauses to eat I did not put that thing down for 12 hours. That book was exceptional. Robin's dialogue in particular had me laughing out loud and disturbing people all around me who were trying to sleep.
Unable to thank whoever left the book on the KAL flight I thought I'd thank you. So thank you.

Excellent. Although I'm sorry someone lost their copy of TAD -- unless this is part of some joint Tor Books-Korean Air Lines effort to expand the audience for science fiction on trans-Pacific flights. In which case: Mission accomplished, folks. Mission accomplished.

Posted by john at 11:17 AM | Comments (31) | TrackBack

25 Copies of Coffee Shop Available; The Future of Coffee Shop

Update, 12:48pm: Sold out. Thanks!

Thanks to a convoluted chain of events that may involve a missing UPS truck, a telling stick of Big Red brand chewing gum and Chester A. Arthur, the 21st President of the United States of America, Subterranean Press has discovered that it has 25 copies of You're Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop Into a Coffee Shop: Scalzi on Writing available for purchase. If you wanted a copy but didn't get one, this is almost certainly your last non eBay-involved chance to get this edition, because Subterranean has decided not to go for another round of printing. You can get them here (Update: link removed because book is sold out now). I'll post when/if Subterranean tells me they're all gone.

In other news, as noted in the paragraph above, Subterranean's decided not to go in for another printing. What does this mean for the book? What it means is that now I have my non-fiction agent shop the book to other publishers, to see if one wants to release a version for wider release. Having Coffee Shop sell out so quickly and having already generated good reviews in places like Booklist will help its case, I think. So we'll see where it goes from here.

Posted by john at 10:21 AM | Comments (33) | TrackBack