April 30, 2007
Notice to Folks With Gmail Accounts
Someone's trying to comment spam the hell out of me with "*@gmail.com" in their address field; I've keyword listed "gmail" into the moderation queue until it's done. On the chance you have your "gmail" account listed in the e-mail field, you might want to swap it out for right now if you intend to comment (or just not put in your e-mail address; I mean, I don't). I expect this is will stop after a day or so.
If you do get bumped into the moderation queue, don't be offended; I'll liberate your comment when I can.
To everyone who has to get into San Francisco today from the East Bay: You have my sympathies.
Single Word Open Thread #1
Today is going to be a busy day: Got a flight, an interview in the afternoon and a reading tonight (Poisoned Pen Bookstore, Scottsdale, AZ, 7pm; I'll be the fellow wearing the white carnation), so not a whole lot of time to play with all y'all. So lieu of actually being interesting, I thought I would post a single word, and then you can share your thoughts on that single word in the comment thread - and of course, talk amongst yourselves, and basically validate the theory I've been propogating that at this late date, the Whatever readers don't actually need be to be around to amuse themselves.
Ready? Here's your single word for the day:
Share your thoughts, whatever they may be on the topic, and chat with each other. If this works, I'll post another single word open thread tomorrow, too, and so on. Because I'm all about keeping you entertained, even when I'm hurtling over the planet in a metal tube, going from one place to the next.
Have fun, and I'll check in on you all later.
Lessons Learned, Also, a Moment of Agogness
To self-pimp just a little bit, today's Book Tour Diary talks about the things I've learned about book touring after one week in. Check it out if you like; here's a link to the whole collection of the Book Tour Diary entries if you need to catch up.
Also, something I mentioned in the Google video but which I neglected to note here, which is that I've been told by Tor that Old Man's War is getting a second printing in mass market paperback. When you add the number of that print run to all the previous runs of the book, it means that there are now over 100,000 copies of Old Man's War in print. To which the only sane response is: Holy crap. If I haven't told you people lately that I love you all, now is an excellent time for me to do so. Thanks, folks. I am appropriately agog and humbled.
April 29, 2007
Having an Amazon Dork Moment
Here's why: At this very moment I have three books with an Amazon ranking under (or over, I guess, depending on how you want to look at these things) the 1,000 mark, each in a different format: The Last Colony at #297 in hardcover, The Ghost Brigades at #258 in mass market paperback, and Old Man's War at #908 in trade paperback. I'll throw in the usual caveats about Amazon rankings being notoriously slippery, because they rank sales relative to other books on Amazon, not by hard sales numbers, and so on and so forth; still, that's kind of neat. It's nice to see the series, as a series, getting traction.
LA Says Hi
Here's the crowd today at the LA Times Festival of Books panel on science fiction, waving hello to you. Well, part of it, at least; more came in later. The panel was excellent, but then, how could it not be, when there was Harry Turtledove, Kage Baker and Cory Doctorow on it? (Also, I was on it.) Then a signing, lunch with Cory (the ultimate pixel-stained lunch, clearly), another signing, a nice chat with some friends who were there at the book fair (including Whatever commenter Adam Rakunas, who delivered an In-N-Out T-shirt and a gift card, which a) made him my favorite person of the fair and b) will be converted to Double-Doubles very soon). Now I'm back and my plan is to sleep for 12 hours, or so. And then off to Arizona, where I will be at the Poisoned Pen bookstore in Scottsdale tomorrow at 7.
All I have to say is: Yay! LA! This is my hometown (or at the very least my home major metropolitan area), and it's always good to come back around, especially when my driving is largely confined to surface streets. I hope to be back soon. I love this place.
April 28, 2007
My Google Appearance, Live and On YouTube
Here you go. In it I talk about the online world, copyright, eBooks and regular books, and, of course, about that whole BaconCat incident. It's about an hour long. You can tell I'm caffeinated.
Also, here's the YouTube page itself. Enjoy!
Somebody Answer Me This
What the hell is it with hotels and pillows these days? My hotel bed came with eight pillows on it, including one tubular thing that stretches across the whole bed, which means that it's actually taller than I am. I mean, that's just freakish. And then I have to throw the majority of them off the bed to sleep, so then it looks like my room was the scene of a kicky slumber party. Which, as a 37-year-old man, I'm not entirely sure I want.
Somebody explain to me the pillow thing. I'm finding it more annoying the further along I get on my tour. Really, I want to know.
Berkeley Says Hi
Since you asked, I'll tell you what was so cool about the Berkeley stop of the tour: It had the highest proportion of people who are actually my friends in it. In the middle of this picture you see three examples: Susan, Jen and Mo, all of whom I have known for years and who I was thrilled to be able to see and spend a little time chatting with, because they are much, much more awesome than I (also in this picture: Whatever reader/commenter Madeleine F, SF Chron science fiction reviewer Mike Berry, and a lovely young lady whose name escapes me at the moment). It was also notable because Dark Carnival is without a doubt the most delightfully chaotic bookstore I've ever been to: between the screaming flying monkeys and the piles of books strewn about, it was what you'd expect a bookstore to be if you caught it mid-explosion, and I personally find that wildly appealing.
I also went to Google, but I signed a non-disclosure going in, so I can't tell you about all the cool things there, including the time machine (in beta). Whoops. Forget I said that. Suffice to say Google was as wildly Google-tastic as you've heard rumors about it being, and also a video of my talk there should be available on the Web sometime next week. I'll let you know when it goes up, of course.
Now I'm in LA, at a hotel that's clearly too good for me; As I checked in Jim Lehrer was hanging around in the lobby with some pals, talking about, you know, important stuff. All I want to do is go to sleep. And that's exactly what I'm going to do now.
April 27, 2007
So, in fact, I have been largely avoiding the news -- actually not so much avoiding news as it is not having a whole bunch of time to read it. What I'm trying to say is I have no clue what is going on out there in the rest of the universe.
So: Anything you think I should know about?
Yeah, I totally trust you not to lie to me.
San Francisco Says Hi
I noted earlier that I was looking forward to coming to Borderlands Books, and I'm happy to say I was not in the least disappointed; it was a great crowd, which included my sister and brother-in-law, as well as one of my best friends from high school (no pressure there), and of course Borderlands Books itself is just such a great store. And I met Ripley, the store's famous hairless cat. Very cute, in a "I've been left in the tub for 10 hours and now I'm all wrinkly" sort of way.
Many thanks to Alan and Jude and all the rest of the Borderlands staff for making me feel welcome and at home during my visit. I love this store, loads and loads.
Today: I'm off to the Google mothership for a lunch event there, and then will slowly wind my way back up the peninsula, signing stock as I go, to end up at Dark Carnival in Berkeley at 5:30. I'll be signing there, and then I'm off to the airport to land in Los Angeles, where tomorrow -- gasp! -- I have a day off, which I will spend sleeping and hopefully seeing friends. Sunday I have my LA Times Festival of Books appearance, with Cory Doctorow, Kage Baker and Harry Turtledove. That's pretty good company.
April 26, 2007
The Last Colony Review at The Agony Column
And it's a nice one, playing off the fact that The Last Colony is a Sci-Fi Channel Essential book for May:
I deem this book essential not just because every other star in the science fiction universe says it's great (it is), but rather because I think essential is a good description of the reason Scalzi is so much fun to read. His prose it and his story are stripped clean, smoothed down to the essentials. He packs more action into a 300 something page novel than some writers manage to get in a 3,000 page trilogy. Everything is crystal clear. The universe may be complicated and the aliens jockeying for the limited resources in that universe may be complicated, heck, even the politics of the human race are complicated, but in Scalzi's precise vision, all you get are the essentials you need as a reader to plug yourself into the story and set yourself loose at light speed. Scalzi is an essential writer to read because he offers readers only the essentials they need to get out there in his universe and have one hell of a good time.
Well, shucks. I do try.
Coincidentally, or perhaps not, I had an interview with Rick Kleffel (who writes at The Agony Column) today, over at KQED, and what I'm really proud of was that I think it's the first interview I've done where I may not have muttered a single "uuuuuuuh." We'll have to wait until it's released, of course, to see if I'm correct.
Half Moon Bay Says Hi
I have to tell you, the Half Moon Bay appearance was something of a question mark for me; I didn't know much about Bay Books, and I didn't know if I knew anyone in that area. But you know what, The staff Bay Books did an awesome job of promoting the event, because the store was packed with folks (including my pal Michael Rawdon, there in the center of the picture, who with his friend Andrew trekked down for the event). I had a great time chatting with everyone, and when it was all done, they sent me off with a box full of cookies. You can't beat that. So now that's two really excellent appearances. I like this tour.
Tonight: Borderlands Books in San Francisco, which is an appearance I've been really looking forward to, since its been one of my favorite speciality stores for years -- and yet this will be the first time I've been in the actual store (I've done signings for them at cons, though). So I'm really excited for tonight, and if you're on the San Francisco side of the bay, you really need to be there tonight at 7, if only to see me totally geek out. (If you're in East Bay, I'll be at Dark Carnival in Berkeley tomorrow at 5:30 -- come, it'll be excellent!)
Gotta get ready for a radio interview. Later.
April 25, 2007
I Am Not a Hobbit
It's just that Duane Wilkins of the University Bookstore is so damn tall.
I wanted to make sure I gave a shoutout to Duane and all the folks at University Bookstore for such a great event. If you're an author, I can't imagine a better place to come 'round for a visit.
Incidentally, I do have pictures, which I plan to get up. It's just that my Flickr uploader is being hellishly balky. I'll let you know when I manage to get them up.
I Get Cool Stuff On Tour
Seriously, people, how cool is this stuff: First, artist James Stowe's interpretation of the Consu from the Old Man's War series. The Consu, you may recall, are the mysterious hyper-advanced race of aliens who may or may not be messing with everyone's heads in that creepy alien way of theirs. Stowe's interpretation of what the Consu are was not what mine was; his is a lot cooler. Here's a closer and cleaner look at this particular artwork, over at James Stowe's site.
Second, I was surprised and honored when 2nd Lt. Stephen Silver presented me with insignia by way of thanking me for the good reads. I'm always very happy when someone in our armed forces tells me I've managed to get it right in my books, and I think this is another positive affirmation. As I said, very honored.
Thanks to both of them for the gifts. They were highlights of an already supercool Seattle experience.
In other news, I'm in San Francisco at the moment -- flight delays kept me from getting in at my appointed time, but that's not entirely surprising -- and I've got a couple of hours before I head down to my Half Moon Bay reading. I'm spending it typing (hello!) and jamming sugar and protein down my throat so my brain doesn't turn into pudding before my reading. This is the exciting touring life.
April 24, 2007
Seattle Says Hello
Here's the crowd for the first night of the tour, at the University Book Store in Seattle. They were full of awesome. And, as a bonus, I think the reading and the signing went really well. It got the tour off on a good foot, to which I can only say: Thank you, Seattle. Everyone else is going to have to work to be as full of awesome as you.
Would post more, but am about to slip into a coma, and have a morning flight. Sleep now, posting tomorrow.
April 23, 2007
The Boy in the Bubble
Here's an interesting question for all y'all; As you know, my day over the next three weeks will be filled with traveling, sitting in hotel rooms, going to tour events and (hopefully) seeing friends and depressurizing. I've been so busy doing each of these today, for example, that I actually haven't the slightest idea of what's happened in the world today, which makes me suspect that if I really wanted to, I could go until May 10 without reading any real sort of outside news at all; in effect, being a media bubble boy, oblivious to the world outside my own little book tour.
My question to you: Should I do this?
I crave your input.
And to celebrate, here's a picture of the muzzled dog that I can see from the window of my hotel room. Poor doggie. Although, who knows maybe it is a biter.
Off to dinner with friends. See you all tomorrow.
Sitting in the Airport
Waiting for my plane. And it's on time, so far.
Being at the airport means I have officially started my tour. Very exciting.
Will be in Seattle in, oh, eight hours or so. I'll check in then.
Your International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day Gift: The Durant Chronicles
Happy International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day! This is the day when all of us Webscabs celebrate our undermining of the dominant paradigm by giving away free reading to the lot of you. Because it just feels good. Tingly, kind of. Like a nine-volt to the upper lip.
And what am I giving away today? How about the first half of a young adult novel I wrote ten years ago, called The Durant Chronicles: Crisis at Tlada? It's filled with excitement, adventure, interstellar political intrigue, and, of course, alien fruits the size of your head. Now, you may ask, why give away only the first half, and not the second half? Because I never wrote the second half, that's why. No, I don't remember why; I actually like this story, so I didn't stop writing it because I was bored. Maybe I'll get around to it again if sufficiently motivated, and that's a big hint to you YA editors out there. In the meantime, however, I think the rest of you might enjoy what's here.
Here's the link. It'll take you to an .rtf file, which should be readable on just about anything electronic that reads text. Feel free to reformat it to your tastes. Also feel free to share (non-commercially) with family and friends, although I would appreciate if you write about it that you link back to this entry rather than host it on your personal site (that way I know how many people downloaded it).
This novel fragment is yours free to read; you don't need to pay me a damn thing for it. However, if you find yourself enjoying it so much that you feel the need to show your appreciation in the form of cash, allow me to suggest that rather than sending the cash to me, you instead send it to Reading is Fundamental, which is an organization that supports literacy in children and adults, and that's something I can really get behind. Indeed, I would ask all participants in International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day to list a charity and ask their readers to support it, in lieu of paying for all the delicious free reading they're getting today.
But wait, there's even more technopeasant goodness! As it happens, yesterday at Penguicon, the utterly fabulous science fiction/open source computing convention, I was on a panel with Charles Stross and Tobias Buckell about using free electronic works as a way to market one's self. The recording of that discussion is up now on the Time Traveler blog for your enjoyment, and yes, we talk about International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day. Because how could we not. And speaking of Charlie Stross, he's got something up today, too -- go here to find out what it is. I assure you, it's even cooler than what I'm giving away.
I'll post more links about International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day if I get a chance, but remember I'm traveling today. So -- if you are participating and you want to get the word out, drop a note in the comment threads! I'm all about the Technopeasant pimping today. (Note: if your comment gets trapped in the moderation queue, don't panic -- I'll release it as soon as I get a chance.)
Update, 5:39am: Jo Walton, who founded the day, lists more participants here.
Update, 6:40am: The IPSTP LiveJournal community also has a nice listing of free reads.
And of course I'll remind all and sundry that I have a standing entry of all the other creative stuff I've given away over the years.
April 21, 2007
Because apparently I'm an idiot, I've left my computer at home. I'm using a community computer at the moment. So, uh, no real updating today or tomorrow until late in the evening. Hey, these things happen.
Having a great time here at Penguicon, however. So that's good, at least.
April 20, 2007
Off to Penguicon
I'm heading north to Penguicon (less a physical location than a state of mind), so you want to stalk me this weekend, you'll have to go to Michigan to do it. And here's what I'm doing on the programming schedule, to make your stalking of me that more efficient:
8:30 – 11 PM: "Starship Troopers" Heckled MST3K Style Nick Sagan, John Scalzi In the style of Mystery Science Theater 3000, our two expert class clowns will provide a hilarious sendup of a film, which (by all reports) the director sincerely thought he was basing on a Heinlein novel of the same name. Whether the director ever read the book is an open question. ;)
1 to 2 PM: Works and Influence of SF Grandmaster Godfrey L. Winton John Scalzi, Nick Sagan, Sarah Monette Winton. A dynamic figure, often seen scaling walls and crushing ice. Some say he was an expert in stucco, a veteran in love, and an outlaw in Peru. Our panelists may disagree on the details. Did he really tour New Jersey with a traveling centrifugal-force demonstration, or is that just legend? Prove how familiar you are with the works and influence of 11 time Nebula winning, 26 time Hugo winning Grandmaster Godfrey L. Winton.
3:30 to 4PM: Signing Nick Sagan, John Scalzi
6-7PM Limited Female Roles In Fantasy, Comics, and SF TheFerrett, Elizabeth Bear, John Scalzi, Sarah Monette, M. Keaton Why is it that a female character will either be raped or lose her child? Do TV writers have difficulty coming up with a motivation for women that isn't vagina-related? We rarely see every man's worst fear: castration. For equal rights, what if every time a woman gets raped on a show, they also neuter a male on the cast? The panelists will evaluate the causes and discuss this and other solutions.
10-11AM Creative Commons and Internet Marketing Charlie Stross, John Scalzi, Tobias Buckell, Sylvia Hubbard Building a fanbase online. First hit's free!
When I'm not at these places you're likely to find me loitering in the lobby, talking up people, or at one of the Penguicon dances, because you know I'm a dancing fool. Come up and say hi if you're there. If you're not there, well, I pity you, since this is going to be a damn cool convention.
April 19, 2007
Kevin's Birthday Video
To commemorate my pal Kevin Stampfl's birthday, it being today, allow me to present to you a video from one of his favorite bands in high school: Marillion, featuring the lead singer named Fish, who as you will see in this video had perhaps the worst hair of any working rock n' roller in the 80s:
I mean, seriously: Stringy, wispy combover hair? With a bald spot and a rat-tail? Yes, that's the way to charm the ladies. That and having the nickname "Fish." On the other hand, the dude's fiancee is pretty damn cute, so, clearly, what do I know.
In any event: Happy Birthday, Kevin! See you soon.
Book Tour Diary at Ficlets Blog
Just as a head's up for all y'all, I'm going to be doing a Book Tour Diary, in which I recount the various stops and adventures on my book tour, and it's going to be over at the Ficlets Blog, on account that AOL is paying me to do it there. Yes! I'm doing it for the money! Anyway, it should be fun. I got a head start on it today by describing how I did, in fact, pack for a three-week trip using only carry-on luggage. Yup, I'm already packed. I just rock that way.
Don't worry, I'll be posting here, too. But the official Book Tour Diary will be over there. Come by, won't you?
Fun Fact For the Day
President Bush is giving a speech right now, about 20 miles from where I'm sitting! Indeed, it's entirely possible that one of my nieces, who goes to school in Tipp City (where he's at) is listening to him blather on.
Another of my nieces asked me yesterday, apropos to a discussion of his imminent arrival, if I would want to hear him speak. I told her that given Bush's propensity for not speaking except in front of vetted crowds, I found it very unlikely I would be let into the auditorium at all. Which in some sense would be amusing, but then not so much when I got put on a watch list and banned from boarding planes. I've got traveling to do soon, you know.
Anything exciting going on where you are?
1. I think I've finally caught up with all my e-mail. However, if you sent me e-mail in last few days and were expecting a response and I didn't respond, now's a good time to resend because I'm not sure I saw that e-mail of yours. Sorry, and thanks.
2. As of April 20 and through May 13 I am traveling one way or another, constantly, which is a really remarkable amount of time to be on the move, if you ask me. During this time I am likely to be very sketchy in returning e-mail. This is not because I don't think you are an interesting and fascinating person; it's because I'm likely going to be checking my e-mail only once or twice a day, and then focusing primarily on business and tour-related e-mail. So if you're not a business associate and/or someone who I am trying to catch up with while on tour, I may respond tardily, or indeed not at all. Again, not personal. I'm just, you know, busy catching planes and talking and dancing like a monkey. I hope you'll understand.
What I'm saying is, if there's something really important you wanted to tell me via e-mail that needs a response now, today is time to send it.
April 18, 2007
That Kind of News Day
We continue to be so wrapped up in the Virginia Tech shootings that the Supreme Court 5-4 ruling upholding abortion restrictions is not even close to the top story on either the CNN or MSNBC Web sites. Interesting, that.
Anyway, I thought I would mention it and give it some prominent play. Seems like roughly half my audience, at least, would want to know it happened.
Here's the opinion itself.
What Sex is Sam Berlant?
I'm getting an increasing number of e-mails about this particular topic, so I thought I'd address it here, now, and open it up to discussion:
In The Android's Dream, there's a fairly important character named Archie McClellan, who is a computer technician. During the course of the book, we meet Archie's significant other, Sam Berlant, who also turns out to be a fairly significant character, although for slightly different reasons. Archie and Sam have a long-standing relationship, based on love, affection and hot sex. Archie is male. Sam's sex, however, is not specified. Look through the book, and you'll notice that Sam lacks singular pronouns: It's always "Sam said" or "Sam replied" or such; when there is pronoun use, it's "they" as it refers to Sam and one other person (usually Archie).
Most people, it seems, haven't noticed that Sam is a character of unspecified gender, which is something that I actually take as a compliment. It means that I pulled off not specifying a character's gender through an entire book in a manner that does not call attention to itself. As it happens, that was one of my goals: once I decided to not to specify what Sam's gender was, I also decided to try to do it in an unobtrusive way that didn't get in the way of the story. By and large I seem to have gotten away with it; I suspect people read the story and sort of assigned to Sam whatever gender they were comfortable with or thought was appropriate and then just kept going. Nevertheless there seems to be a number of people who noticed the lack of pronouns, and either wondered what I was up to, or were irked because there was this character of indeterminate gender running around, and not only did they not know whether Sam was male or female, they also didn't know whether Archie was gay or straight.
So which is it? Is Sam a he or is Sam a she?
I'll tell you the truth: I don't know.
Swear to God, I'm not lying. Here's why: When I was writing, I got to the place where Sam showed up, waiting for Archie, and I started writing the two of them, and after I was done writing them I noticed that I hadn't actually used a pronoun with Sam yet. And then I had two thoughts: "Hmmm, that's interesting, I wonder what sex Sam is," and then I thought "Hey, I wonder if I can pull off not saying what sex Sam is all the way through the book." I mean, since I had already not applied a pronoun to Sam, and it seemed to work so far. So that's what I did, and from that point forward I consciously avoided thinking about Sam in a gendered way. Oh, I know what Sam looks like, but let's just say androgynous is the best descriptor here. But I haven't got Sam naked to look at the private bits that would (presumably) give away gender one way or another. I don't know what gender Sam is. I, as the author, never asked.
Now you might think this is foolish, that an author doesn't know the gender of one of his creations, but, come now. Fact is, there are lots of things I don't know about my characters, because those things are relevant to my understanding of the character or to the story at hand. What is John Perry's favorite flavor of ice cream? Got me. What does Jane Sagan think about Ancient Sparta? I can guess, but I don't know. Is Harry Creek generally conservative or generally liberal, as we understand those terms today? I haven't the first clue. Does Archie know First Aid? Possibly, but we never find out. What sex is Sam? Don't know; it never really came up. It wasn't actually important in the context of the story; what was important was that Sam and Archie loved each other. As it happens, this tells you about me -- namely, that I think the fact two people love each other is more important than whether they are of the same or opposing sexes -- but it doesn't tell you about Sam. You don't know, because I don't know.
Anyway, it's not an either/or thing. There are actually three options here, for Sam's gender and Archie's orientation:
1. Sam is a man, and Archie's gay (or some flavor of bisexual);
2. Sam's a woman, and Archie's straight (or some flavor of bisexual);
3. Sam is intersex, and Archie doesn't actually give a crap what anyone thinks of his sexuality or his relationship with Sam.
I have to say that of the three, Sam being intersex makes the most sense to me. After all, I have gay or bisexual characters in all of my novels (except, oddly, Agent to the Stars), and I clearly haven't had a problem noting that they are so; I'm not historically coy about gay or lesbian characters in my work. And, to the extent that Sam as an adult chooses to live as neither male or female specifically (as I personally think Sam would, given what I know of the character), it wouldn't make sense to make reference to "he" or "she" since neither would apply. I'm not saying Sam is intersex -- again, I kept the issue of Sam's gender out of my head entirely -- but I have to say that of the three options it's the one that appeals to me the most.
Bear in mind that in not assigning Sam a gender, I wasn't trying to make a big statement about writing or sexuality or how so much of who we perceive someone as being is tied up in their gender -- although, as it happens, not giving Sam a gender seems to have made at least some folks think about each of these issues a bit, and I'm not unhappy about that. If having Sam of indeterminate gender gives people an opening to discuss these issues, great. Glad to help the conversation. But as I said, my intent was to have Sam's lack of stated gender not actually be an issue; in other words, I didn't want people to notice. For one thing, that would mean I have some writing skill. For another thing, it could mean that Sam's lack of stated gender actually didn't matter, or doesn't matter, and that people just accepted Sam, whoever he/she/neither of the above was, and kept on going because they wanted to find out what happened next. Personally, I see that as the optimal response.
Anyway, the answer to "What Sex is Sam Berlant?" is: Dunno. Personally I would suggest reading the book with Sam as male, and then with Sam as female, and then with Sam as intersex, and see which version works best for you.
And then, when you've settled the question of "What Sex is Sam Berlant?" to your personal satisfaction, you can ask yourself another question about The Android's Dream:
What color is its hero, Harry Creek?
Happy Birthday, Krissy
It's my wife's birthday, and so I take the day to reflect, as I often do even when it is not her birthday, how gobsmackingly unlikely it was that a schlub like myself could have ever gotten together with such a gorgeous, smart, fun, good human being such as her. Really, all my friends are still trying to figure that one out. I hope they'll let me know what they come up with. At the moment, however, I'll just go with what Cory Doctorow said to me last year, after he met her: "Dude, you are so out of your league." Oh, I know. I know.
She is a gift and a joy to me, bright and shining, every day of our lives. Today of all days I'd want her, and you, to know that.
Four Self-Portraits, April 2007
April 17, 2007
Interview on Tower.com
Tower.com has posted the interview they have with me, made from fan-submitted questions. The topics range from music to movies to writing to formative experiences in my life. It's a nice range of questions, I think.
Congratulations to those of you who by asking questions won free copies of the book; I have the box with your books in it on my office floor right now, and will be signing them forthwith.
Also, because Tower clearly knows how to make an interviewee feel like a star, they've posted a promotion of the interview on their front page. I feel shiny!
(Note that I don't expect that promotion to be there much after 4/17/07 -- that would be silly.)
What She Said
Teresa Nielsen Hayden, The Most Sensible Person on the Web™, unsurprisingly has sensible things to say about comment moderation on blogs and Web sites. Listen to Teresa; she's smarter than you. Really, she is.
The Whatever: You Get What You Get
An e-mail today that I think is worth addressing:
Though I am an avid lifelong science fiction (some say fanatical) reader - I came to your blog and then your books by a search that somehow led me to 'I hate your politics'
I know that you are about to go on a book tour and that is about promoting your work. I'm hoping that after that you will want to get out of the promotion cycle and get back to writing about the things I value most from you.
I've bought and read a number of books by you and it used to be that I really enjoyed Whatever, as a part of my day. I like you as a thinker and I'm sure I'll get and read The Last Colony - I really like the Old Man's Universe.
I haven't been able to through Laptop/Coffeeshop and I'm thinking about deleting Whatever from my favorites, because of their promotional - perhaps even egocentric nature.
I think that if you get a chance to spend more time writing about things other than your career once this tour is over - that I am not the only reader who would be more appreciative of you and your work. Not that every post is 'I hate your politics' or 'Being poor is ..', but those and many other things spoke to me where I live. Hopefully constructively.
To begin, folks, the reason I'm not addressing a whole lot of politics and social issues at the moment is not because I'm in a self-promoting frenzy at the moment, but because I'm damn well burned out on those issues right now. My enthusiasms for particular topics come and go, and at the moment politics/social stuff is largely in the "don't want to write about it" category. And when something's in that category, you know what happens? I don't write about it. Indeed, I don't much think about it, either, which is probably the main reason I don't write about it. I don't doubt I will write about politics and social issues more when I'm not burned out on them and avoiding giving them any significant number of my processing cycles. That time, however, is not today.
I'm not nearly organized enough about this site to say to myself "Hmmm, you know, I have a book tour coming up, maybe I'll do a whole bunch of self-promotey things, and then after that I'll write some more about politics and then put up a picture of my cat, because the kids always love that." Honestly and truly, what I write about here is whatever I'm thinking about at that moment. There is no plan, there is no agenda, there is nothing except me sitting in front of my computer banging out words. Sometimes you'll get what you want to read, sometimes you won't. The only thing you know that you get from it is what I want to write. That is the guiding principle.
Which means, of course, that this site is always egocentric, not just sometimes. I'm happy the site entertains the lot of you, really I am, and I'm generally fond of you all in that Internetty way. But at the end of the day, it's more important that the site entertains me. If I decided to put ads on the site, I could make a lot of money from it, but then I would have to start worrying about maximizing returns every damn time I wrote rather than writing what interests me. If I just wrote about politics, or tech, or whatever, I could probably get more people coming in -- single-topic sites are the ones that get the most traffic, as a cursory glance at Technorati's Top 100 makes perfectly clear. But then I would be bored out of my skull. And this is exists in large part so I won't be bored out of my skull.
In any event, regardless of what I write, there's always a contingent of readers who wishes I was writing about something else. If I'm writing about politics a whole bunch, I'll get e-mails telling me I should write more about writing. If I write about writing more, I'll get people saying I should write more about what's going on with my pets. If I write or take pictures of the pets, there are people who say "what are you, Cute Overload? I came here for serious issues!" or some such. There are 25,000 of you visiting, on average, every week day. You're not all going to agree on what I should be writing about. And even if you did agree, the fact is, if I don't want to write about that general area of things, I'm not going to. I'll post pictures of cats, or talk about politics, or write stupid entries about off-brand corporate mascots, or self-promote, or write whatever the hell catches my attention, on my schedule.
If you don't like it, that's perfectly all right. You are entirely free to go away and come back later, when the stuff being discussed is more to your liking, or, indeed, go away and never come back, if that's your preference. If you go back through the archives, both here and on archive.org (for the musty, pre-2003 and Movable Type days), you'll notice that the site's basic structure has been the same since the beginning, when there were fewer than 100 folks checking in to see what idiotic thing I was saying that day. This format works for me, which is the person for whom it is supposed to work. One day maybe everyone will finally get exasperated and it will be just me talking to a few dozen people again, or hell, just to myself. That's fine, too.
All of that said, if you want me to write more about some particular topic, the way to have that happen is not to bitch to me that I'm not writing enough of what you want to read, since it will only irritate me and cause me to bang out one of these cranky "it's my site, damn you" posts, which as it happens I seem to do on a more-or-less annual basis. The way to get me to write more on a particular topic is to send me an e-mail going "Hey, Scalzi, what do you think about [insert specific topic or recent event here]?" I like getting those type of e-mails, because then I don't have to think about what the heck I'm going to write about that day, and because then maybe I'll be jostled out of whatever rut you think I've fallen in and will then commence to write more things that entertain you. I don't necessarily respond to every request, mind you, but I look on topic requests immensely more kindly than complaints that I'm not doing a monkey dance in what manner you prefer your primates to prance. Really, try it sometime.
In sum: Around here, you get what you get. But you might get what you want, if you ask.
Hope that clears up any confusion.
TLC Review in Romantic Times
Oh, how nice -- on The Last Colony's official release date, a rave review in The Romantic Times BOOKreviews:
This is a fantastic, eminently readable and more than a little bittersweet end to Scalzi's Old Man's War trilogy... The plot is beautifully constructed, and the resolution of the series is heart stopping in its absolute rightness.
The full review will be here in two months, or you can go and get a copy of the magazine in the stores.
Naturally, I'm delighted. The Romantic Times has been good to me: Its SF reviewer, Natalie Luhrs, also liked The Android's Dream, you may recall, and gave TAD a nomination in its annual awards for best SF Book. More to the point, RTBR is (for me, anyway) a surprisingly good source for what's good and interesting in new science fiction. Notwithstanding my own reviews, I trust RTBR to point me to what's readable in SF more than I trust some SF-only review sites and magazines. No, I won't name names. That would be rude. In any event, this review is going up on the books page, soon.
Also Out Today: The Outback Stars
Congratulations to Sandra McDonald, whose debut novel The Outback Stars also hits stores today, with both acclaim ("An auspicious debut" -- Publishers Weekly) and a cover by Donato Giancola that I am insanely jealous of. Not that I don't like my cover, mind you. I'm just saying. In any event, as long as you're going to the bookstore today, cruising the science fiction aisles (hint, hint), check this one out, too.
Also out today, The Children of Hurin, by some bloke with the odd name of JRR Tolkien. Apparently it's been about 30 years between this book and his last one. Dude, write any slower and people will think you're dead or something! I don't know much about this fellow, but my friends who are really into fantasy say he might be good. You know, if you like elves and such. Hey, whatever makes you happy.
A Small Reminder That One's Adorable Furbuddy is in Fact a Merciless Predator
At the garage door this morning: Not one but two wee dead baby bunnies, laid out symmetrically, paws facing each other.
Let me repeat: Baby bunnies.
And the cats will do it again. Without remorse.
Which is what the cats are supposed to do -- remember we do live out in farmland, so every small rodent and lagomorph the cats get is one less in our garden or pantry. They're supposed to be working cats as well as pets.
But come on: Baby bunnies.
The Last Colony is Out
Today is the official release of The Last Colony -- if you go to your bookstores today, there it will be, in the science fiction section, all winsome and pretty, begging you to take it home, open its pages, and see what the heck happens next to John Perry and Jane Sagan. You can also get it online, of course: Here's the link for the Tower.com site, which has the correct release date listed, and here's Amazon, which says it's available on 4/27 (Powell's has the same date), and here's Barnes & Noble's site, which says it's available in May, and yet assures shipping in 24 hours. I'm pretty sure that all of them have the book in stock regardless and will ship it to you forthwith.
To mark the occasion of the release, here's a promotional video of me talking about The Last Colony, filmed by Expanded Books. No, it doesn't feature any talking books:
In retrospect, I'm not entirely sure I made the correct sartorial choices for the interview, but what can you do. The interviewer, incidentally, has her own Web site, here. She was very nice, as was the rest of the Expanded Books crew. Here's that YouTube link, incidentally.
In any event: Another book! I'm very pleased. And I'm pleased with this book, too: I think TLC gives John and Jane the right send off. Folks are asking me if I plan to return to the "Old Man's War" universe, and I would say I probably will, since I think it's an interesting universe, and since Tor really really really wants me to. As an author it's nice when your publisher really really really wants to publish a book from you. However, this is the last book with John and Jane as the leads. That's a definite.
I'll have more to say about The Last Colony later, I'm sure; for now, I just hope you'll enjoy reading it.
April 16, 2007
On the Getting of Signed Books
Oh, I forgot something in the last post:
Let's say you wanted an autographed copy of one of my books, but for some reasons you are unable to get out to one of my signings -- you live too far away, perhaps, or possibly you'll be busy being consumed by a grue, or whatever. Fear not! For you can still get a signed book. All you have to do is contact one of the bookstores at which I will be appearing (my tour schedule has the list, plus phone numbers to call). Tell them you'd like to buy the book from them, and ask them if they would have me sign it and then ship it to you after I've put pen to title page. I'm sure most of them will be happy to oblige the request. Be aware that you'll probably have to pay extra for shipping, but that's reasonable, I think. And I'll be happy to personalize the book if the store puts a Post-It Note somewhere letting me know who the book is to be signed to.
Basically, since I'm going to be signing stock for these booksellers anyway, there's no reason for you not to get one of these signed editions. I'm all about the enabling.
One Week Until the Tour
Holy crap, I've only got one week before I hop on a plane and begin my book tour. Some random thoughts on this:
* The book tour, as most of you know by now, is going to be three weeks long. On one hand: Excellent. I feel like a rock star being out on tour this long. I feel like I should have roadies and tour managers and wreck hotel rooms and stuff (note to Tor: I will not wreck hotel rooms). On the other hand: Three weeks is the longest time I will have spent apart from my wife in 11 years. It is the longest I have ever spent apart from Athena. People who know me know that after three days away from my family, I get a little twitchy; this is three weeks. I'm specifically not putting Journey's "Faithfully" on my mp3 player because I know if I listen to it midway through the tour I'll cry like a baby, and then I'll feel like an ass.
* Also, while I am bringing work with me and intend to update blogs and what have you, at the end of the day for those three weeks my job is to be on tour, and to promote the hell out of The Last Colony and the other books. That means that this week is going to be devoted to actually trying to get a whole bunch of crap done on the assumption that John Scalzi in heavy-duty self-promotion mode isn't necessarily going to be writing scintillating prose.
I mean, who knows, maybe I might: Maybe all those lonely nights on the road, with only my laptop and a bottle of Coke Zero to keep me company, will be perfect for banging out chapters of The High Castle and jamming through interview questions for authors and finally writing that rock opera I've been meaning to get around to since high school. But I suspect it's best to work on the assumption that what I'll mostly be doing with my nights is lying on a hotel bed in a daze, watching whatever's on HBO. So: this week -- worky worky worky.
* Here's a fun wrinkle I gave absolutely no thought to: The public announcement of the results of the SFWA presidential election will be made during the Nebula Awards Weekend in New York City, which takes place May 11 - 13, which is the weekend immediately after my tour ends -- Indeed, I fly home from the tour on May 10 (which is, coincidentally, my birthday). So if I want to make the Nebula Awards Weekend, what I do is fly home, spend 12 hours or so with my family after three weeks of not seeing them, and then get on a plane to spend another three days away from home. As you may imagine, I'm full to the brim with ambivalence for this plan. Not that I don't want to go to the Nebula Awards Weekend; I think it would be cool. I just wish it were, you know, two weeks later.
Now, one simple solution is to take them with me to NYC, and if I do go, then at the very least Krissy will come along. But I'm sure we all recognize there's a difference between that and actually being home after three weeks. This is what I get for being a write-in candidate and not thinking ahead.
* On the other hand, how cool is this: At most tour stops, I have an escort, paid for by Tor. No, not that kind. Really, you people disgust me. I mean someone who's there to pick me up and drive me around to where I need to go and then drop me off at the airport so I can catch my flights. Yay! Someone pointing in the direction of where I need to go! After a few days of this, I'm gonna need that, you know?
* All right, here's a theoretical question for you all: Do you think it's possible to pack for a three-week book tour using only carry-on luggage? Because you know what, I'm going to 14 different cities on this tour, and that'll be about a dozen opportunities for lost luggage. And once that luggage misses a flight, it's done -- by the time they get it to me, I'll be two cities forward on the schedule, and wearing the same underwear, which I'm sure will be a treat. If I keep everything in carry-ons, the only person who can be faulted for losing my luggage is me.
Now, I think I can do it, because I'm a pretty low-maintenance sort of guy: I'm going to be mostly be wearing "author casual" (i.e., t-shirts and jeans), the components of which can generally be jammed into a duffel bag without too much damage. I might bring a more dress-up ensemble for a couple of events, but I'm not really worried about them getting wrinkled because most hotels have irons, and I actually know how to use one. As long as there's someplace for me to do laundry somewhere along the way, I might actually be able to pull it off.
Am I deluding myself, here? Seriously, I want input on this. One carry-on bag, one backpack. Will it work for three weeks?
* Okay, since you asked, I'll tell you the one thing I'm nervous about, which is that this tour is not exactly cheap. Plane tickets, hotel rooms, escorts, fresh stuffed animals made each day from the local Build-a-Bear franchise propped up on my hotel pillow, as negotiated in my contract rider, a constant stream of Coke Zeros -- all these things add up. So what I'm worried about is Tor dropping all this cash for the tour, and having, like, six people show up at every stop. It's not that I won't be happy to see those six people -- really, thanks for coming out, you guys -- it's just that at that rate the promotional cost comes to a couple hundred dollars per head.
So, please, if you're thinking of coming out to one of the appearances -- and I hope you will -- won't you please also drag along every single person you've ever met in your entire life? Or at least a couple of friends. I promise to be vastly entertaining: I'll do a little reading, I'll answer questions, I'll even re-enact the entire Día del gato del tocino for your amusement. Really, you and every single person you've ever met in your entire life will have a good time. And of course, every appearance is free (although if you pick some books at the bookstore while you're there, the proprietors will thank you -- and if the books you happen to pick up are mine, I will thank you too, and sign them, even). Honestly, this is a hell of a deal for all y'all. Please come. Please please please oh God please.
* To sweeten the deal for you, here's a little tidbit: One of the things I'm considering reading on the tour is the first chapter of The High Castle, my novel that's set for release in early 2008 -- provided, you know, I finish it in the next few months, WHICH I WILL (he says, loudly, because he knows his editor is reading this). This is the chapter whose first line is "Judge Sn's assassination was getting in the way of his golf game," and it only gets better from there, honest. By showing up, you'll be getting a sneak preview of a work no one else will be able to get their hands on until next year. Heck, I haven't even sent my editor this chapter yet (although, uh, I should probably do that soon).
So: If you don't come out for the tour appearances, you'll just have to wait for this chapter until 2008. Like a common troll! And we both know you're not a common troll. You're an uncommon troll -- the kind who goes to see authors on their book tours. And that's the best kind of troll there is.
Wait, that didn't come out right. Well, you know what I'm saying.
April 15, 2007
April 23, 2007 is International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day!
In honour of Dr Hendrix, I am declaring Monday 23rd April International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day. On this day, everyone who wants to should give away professional quality work online. It doesn't matter if it's a novel, a story or a poem, it doesn't matter if it's already been published or if it hasn't, the point is it should be disseminated online to celebrate our technopeasanthood.
Whatever you're posting should go on your own site. I'll make a post here on the day and people can post links in comments to whatever they're putting up on. If you are a member of SFWA, or SFWA qualified but not a member (like me) you get extra pixel-spattered points for doing this. If other people want to collect the links too, that would be really cool. Please disseminate this information widely.
Of course, I have a lot of free stuff up already, put for International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day I think I'll put up something new: The complete text of The Durant Chronicles: Crisis at Tlada, which is a young adult novel I attempted right after I had finished with Agent to the Stars. Now, when I say "complete" I mean, "all the chapters I actually wrote," because I never got around to finishing it. Nevertheless, it's a sizeable chunk of text, and I did shop it, and it is fun to read, so I think it qualifies. It's something to look forward to eight days from now.
If you want to get in on the action, and you're a pro-level writer (i.e., you've sold something sometime somewhere), go over to Jo Walton's place and let her know you're in. Then on April 23, post a story for the unwashed masses to read -- for free! If you're not a pro-level writer, April 23rd might be the right day to submit work to pro venues, because, after all, the pros are going to busy elsewhere. And if you're a reader, well. International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day should be a lot of fun for you, now, shouldn't it?
Pass it on.
April 14, 2007
Yeah, I Couldn't Just Leave It Alone
I posted a response to SWFA VP Howard Hendrix's ignorant outburst here.
April 13, 2007
Since People Keep Asking
Yes, I've seen the current SFWA vice-president's rant about "webscabs" and how they're rotting SFWA from the inside, or whatever. No, I don't particularly have anything to say about it, other than to classify it as something akin to a buggy-whip manufacturer railing against the pernicious influence of the automobile. In any event, I suspect I don't have his vote. I'll survive.
Update: 9:35pm: Nick Mamatas is not above kneecapping the fellow, however.
Why It's Good to Have a Day Job
This week we paid out what is known, in technical terms, as a "buttload" of taxes. First, as we did well last year, we paid a fairly not small sum that we owed despite paying our quarterly taxes in a diligent fashion (when one is self-employed the government makes you pay out every three months, because you can't be trusted to make a lump sum payment, apparently). Then we paid our quarterly estimated for the first three months of this year too, which was an amount pretty much equal to that first bit. In a word: Yow. Bye-bye, money.
The good news is that because my wife is such an excellent steward of our finances, we were able to pay both sums without discomfort and still have a good amount left in our savings (we use the savings as our "cushion" -- our actual savings are our IRAs and 401(k) accounts). But having taken a large sum out of the savings, it is now below the cutoff line for which Krissy begins to feel itchy. I personally think her financial worry line is pretty high as these things go. But then, there's a reason I'm not in charge of the household finances, and I'd rather have Krissy be conservative about these things than not, and then have us in a financial world of crap somewhere down the line.
When we get below this cutoff line, we naturally do an accounting of income sources, i.e., who owes us money and when we can expect it. And it's here that we discover why, for a writer, things often get dicey. Because as it happens, I have a lot of money coming in -- enough to get the savings back up to Krissy's comfort zone and then some -- but when it's coming in is another matter entirely.
Here's what I'm currently owed:
* 1st advance payment on The High Castle (for signing the contract)
* 3rd advance payment on The Last Colony (for publication)
* Royalties for Old Man's War and The Ghost Brigades (the royalties on The Androids Dream are likely to be held as a reserve against returns, even though TAD shipped completely earned out)
* Royalties for The Rough Guide to the Universe
* Royalties for Coffee Shop
* Royalties for The Sagan Diary
* Payment for article on Ultimate Fighting Championship
* Payment for article on Annie Oakley
Add it all up, and it comes to... well, a lot. Good for us.
But it's not here, which is the thing. Now, none of this is in arrears -- in all cases the publishers in question are moving the money toward me in a customary and non-evasive fashion, which is nice -- and all of this should be paid out in the next few months. I just don't know precisely when in the next few months, however. Which means that none of this money can be used for the purposes of practical financial planning. For practical financial planning, you work with the money you have, not the money you expect to have.
And this is why I am happy that a) Krissy works for a company that pays her on a regular and predictable basis and b) I do By the Way and Ficlets for America Online, because AOL also pays me on a regular and predictable basis. Over the next few months, the amount Krissy and I will get from these regular and predictable sources is likely to be less than what I'll get from the various publishers, when they finally disgorge what they owe me from the bowels of their payment departments. But it's income we can count on, and which we can use to pay bills, groceries and mortgages, and which allows us not to have to panic while we wait for these various publishers to get their checks in the mail. The stability we have because of these day job incomes is worth an ineffable amount, when it comes to our peace of mind when the bills are due.
And this is why I always tell writers to be wary of ditching the "day job" -- i.e., a source of regular income -- unless they have something in place to keep the money coming in on a regular basis. A spouse with a good regular job can be key (it is in our case), but even then some amount of regular income from the writer him or herself in addition to a regular spousal income can make a real difference (also, it helps to have savings. But that's for another time).
I'm happy to be doing well as a writer right now -- it beats the alternative. But even doing as well as I am, I'm not at a place where I can say that a regular source of income doesn't still matter for us and how we live. It's something to keep in mind as you figure out your own writing path.
April 12, 2007
Grass and Sunsets
Over at By the Way today I wrote about the recent speculation that plants on other planets might not be green at all, but red, or orange or purple; naturally I had to engage in a bit of Photoshoppery on along that line.
The thing is, no matter what color the grass is, the sunsets are still going to look like this:
And I don't think that's a bad thing at all.
You can see a monster size version of that last picture here.
On E-Mail, the Deletion Thereof
I don't want to expend too much thought on what a lying sack of crap the White House is regarding all those missing e-mails of theirs, but let me just say this: I have in my personal possession about 60,000 e-mails dating all the way back to January 9, 1996, so if you're a real live person and you've sent me e-mail since that date, the chances are pretty good I've got a record of it somewhere in my database (minus the occasional accidental deletion during a spam sweep). And I'm not actually required by federal law to keep a record.
Now, you may ask, why do I have nearly every single e-mail I've been sent in the last nine and a half years? Aside for the desire to pass on my hard drives to the University of Chicago archives after my death, because I'm absolutely certain future scholars will want to read all my e-mails from over the years trying to coordinate restaurant plans with my friends, it may be because one really has to go out of one's way to delete them. You really have to actively and affirmatively decide to delete mails once you've pulled them off a server and put them into a e-mail reader. Even when you're not actually required by federal law not to delete them.
TLC and Other Stuff
With five days to go before its official release, The Last Colony is beginning to slip out into the wild; here it is at the Easton Town Center in Columbus, Ohio, as photographed by Jeff Hentosz. Jeff admits to positioning the book for maximum photogenics; I have no problem with that so long as it remained face out, high shelf after he was done (the face-out Old Man's War, I am told, was there already). But yes -- if you've been waiting for the book, it's beginning to get out there.
On the subject, here's a review of TLC at Fantasybookspot.com, which is nice and positive (although contains at least one minor spoiler): "I dare you to put the novel aside in the final 100 pages!" the review says, although without the exclamation mark, which I put in because I suspect that's what Tor's marketing folks will do once they get their hands on it. The reviewer has quibbles, but notes "with the quick and fun flow of the book, it’s easy to ignore these flaws." See, now, that's an actual compliment. I think nearly every book has flaws of some sort or another, but if your reader is going "eh, I'm having too much fun to complain," you're doing something right. Yes, I'm an expert at distracting you from my shortcomings! Look! Fluffy kittens!
Also out, an amusing and very positive review of The Ghost Brigades at the Agony Column, in which Rick Kleffel notes "you may want to go out and shove this book down the gullet of some Hollowood types who are without doubt making, bad stupid space movies when they could be filming Scalzi's work." I do appreciate the sentiment, although I would note that actually, physically attempting ram this or any other book past a movie producer's epiglottis is likely to cause that producer to have traumatic associations with the title, further reducing its chances of being produced.
Now, as it happens, there has been interest from Hollywood regarding these books, which is nice. We're waiting for a deal that makes sense for us. Other than that I can't say much, except to tell you not to get too excited. Strange are the ways of Hollywood, and slow. And I have no intention of being a cheap date.
Moving away from me for a moment: Kurt Vonnegut is dead from brain injuries from a fall. This is why, when I turn 70, I'm moving to a single level house. I don't have too much to say about his passing, other than that the man was brilliant and despite that, I enjoyed many of his books. Funny how being brilliant doesn't always equate to creating books that are good reads. This wasn't much of a problem for Vonnegut. Something for other brilliant authors to note and learn, hopefully.
Finally, this comment came in today in the Lee Iacocca thread, from Hirotami Hirano, in Japan:
I also lost my wife last month.
I read "Oldman's war" at a crematory.
Our marriage life was just so as in that.
Mr. Hirano, I am honored that my words spoke to you in that moment. You are in my thoughts.
April 11, 2007
Lee Iacocca is One Cranky Old Man
And if you think I've been mean to Dubya, you should read this, in which Iacocca, who is (or was, at least) a lifelong Republican as far as I know, takes a hammer to our president. One wishes it were published, oh, three years ago, when it might have done some good, rather than now, here on the downslope of an already impressively downsloped administration. But you make do with what you have, and there is some pleasure in reading Iacocca run over Dubya with a nail-studded K-Car:
You can't be a leader if you don't have COMMON SENSE. I call this Charlie Beacham's rule. When I was a young guy just starting out in the car business, one of my first jobs was as Ford's zone manager in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. My boss was a guy named Charlie Beacham, who was the East Coast regional manager. Charlie was a big Southerner, with a warm drawl, a huge smile, and a core of steel. Charlie used to tell me, "Remember, Lee, the only thing you've got going for you as a human being is your ability to reason and your common sense. If you don't know a dip of horseshit from a dip of vanilla ice cream, you'll never make it." George Bush doesn't have common sense. He just has a lot of sound bites. You know—Mr.they'll-welcome-us-as-liberators-no-child-left- behind-heck-of-a-job-Brownie-mission-accomplished Bush.
Mmmmm... horseshit dips.
Seriously, this is what it looks like when an 82-year-old man has a real live moment of catharsis. An 82-year-old man who is coming to kick your ass. I hope to be so stemwinding at that age.
Yes, I've Seen the "Quest for the Perfect Bacon Sandwich" Story in the New York Times
All y'all can stop sending me e-mail links to it now, thanks.
I wrote about it over here, on By The Way.
The Last Colony Review in the Pioneer Press
Hmmm. Looks like I'll have to send my legions of angry spider monkeys to harass this critic:
The good news? 'Colony' is good and hard. The bad news: It isn't quite as much fun. OK, I understand Scalzi could only take the geezer-turned-buff-warrior gimmick so far. But the new novel seems a bit humorless as it pits its heroes against a quasi-Borg adversary amid tiresome astropolitical intrigue.
Blasphemy! Fly, my spider monkeys! Fly!
(Note: please don't actually harass this critic. For one thing, you're not a spider monkey. So far as I know. And if you are, you're not one that is part of my angry legions. Trust me, I know how all my angry spider monkeys write. Please, people, leave the harassing to the professional angry spider monkey legions. It's their job. They know how to do it.)
My thoughts on the review? It's fine. I'm now far enough along in my SF writing career that people have their favorite books of mine, which is good, but also means that other books that don't hit the same combination of pleasure buttons in the same way aren't going to be enjoyed as much by that person. Since this is the way I approach books by my favorite authors, I can't be surprised when not everyone loves every book equally, either. This is why I point out this particular review, in fact; it's a reminder that you're not going to please everyone (and certainly not every critic) all the time. Sounds like this guy might like The High Castle when it comes out, however; it's pretty damn funny so far. That is, if my legions of angry spider monkeys don't get to him first.
As long as we're talking The Last Colony, a quick reminder that Tower.com is still accepting questions for their interview with me, and by submitting a question you'll be eligible for their contest, in which they are giving away signed copies of The Last Colony (signed by me, even) to five lucky queriers. Yes, "querier" is a real word. I looked it up.
April 10, 2007
Ficlet Spotlight: Rachel Swirsky
Over at the Ficlets site, Rachel Swirsky is a guest Ficleteer, offering up three ficlets for folks to read and play with. Rachel, as some of you might recall, wrote the absolutely fabulous short story "Scenes From a Dystopia," which opened up the "science fiction cliches" issue of Subterranean magazine that I edited (if you missed it, download it as part of a pdf version of the magazine). Her ficlets are also a ton of fun.
Remember that if you're a published author, you can be a guest Ficleteer, too. Here's where to get the details.
Various and Sundry 4/10/07
Some stuff for you today:
* For those of you who love your audiobooks, buckle in: Subterranean Press has released a free audiobook version of Kage Baker's short novel Rude Mechanicals, read by Mary Robinette Kowal, for your personal auditory pleasure. I'm happy to say the success of the audio version of "The Sagan Diary" has some hand in SubPress trying an audio version of this book as well (and in recommending MRK as the reader, because she did such an awesome job with "Sagan"), so I hope you'll check this out too. And remember, if you like it, you can get the hard copy as well, as part of a limited signed hardcover edition.
* I am reminded that only a few days are left for you to
totally game add your vote to this year's Locus Awards, in which the magazine asks readers and folks online to vote for the best novels, short and related works, and editors and publications. You can select from the books/works/people Locus recommends, or you can write in your own (say, "The Android's Dream" or "The Ghost Brigades," just as examples). The voting closes on April 15, so if you wish to flood the survey with votes for my work cast your votes for the best work in science fiction in 2006, now's the time.
(Seriously: Go vote. One of the nice things about the Locus Awards is that they actually have the widest voter base of all the major SF awards, and anyone who is interested can cast their vote. Give it a shot, even if you don't end up voting for some of my work. Which is fine; rumor has it it's a good year for SF/F.)
* As long as we're talking about voting, I'll also remind those SFWA members among you to get in your ballots for this year's SFWA elections. The various boards, etc covering the elections have settled down since the early days when I threw my hat in the ring, but it's still an important election, and who becomes president will make a difference for where SFWA is headed in the future. There, I'm done with my campaigning for the day.
* On the topic of SFWA, there's now a SFWA LiveJournal community, which I believe is open to non SFWAns as well. I'm a member, although I haven't posted yet -- although Michael Capobianco, the other fellow running for SFWA president, has -- several times! Egad! I'm losing the blogger vote! Anyway, interesting posts and discussions there. Check it out.
* Matthew Appleton, who edits the Some Fantastic zine, writes nice things about The Last Colony on his personal site ("Simply put, it's an amazing end to the Old Man's War trilogy"), additionally explaining why he's reviewing the book on his personal site -- apparently since he's reviewed everything else I've written in other publications he needs to be "fair" to other writers and review some of their work instead. Hey! Appleton! "Fair" doesn't pay the damn mortgage! Now get those reviews into a publication Tor can blurb on a back cover! And bring me a cool beverage! I mean, as long as I'm making pushing demands and all.
* Dave Munger,
scientist science writer and college friend, has a snarky but instructive post on how not to write a science book. I would certainly agree that when it comes to science books, it helps to have actual science in it.
* Former (and currently consulting) Tor editor Anna Genoese has put up her shingle online for editing services. Unlike so many people online who do this, Anna Genoese is a real, live and excellent editor, so she's liable to be actually useful to you. So if you're looking for someone to go through your manuscript with a fine-tooth comb, there's a resource for you.
* Finally, a reminder to you folks in the Dayton/Cincinnati area that I'm teaching fiction writing this Friday at Sinclair College as part of their Annual Writers' Workshop. There will be two 90-minutes sessions, and I expect I'll talk a bit about how to write fiction and also my experiences selling and marketing fiction, and of course answering questions. It should be fun, and I believe you can register right at the door.
That should be enough linking to hold you for now.
Rock and Roll is in My Blood!
Dig this: in the 80s and 90s, my uncle Gale played in a band called "Thief," which was your basic local cover band. As I recall, they did pretty well, doing the sorts of gigs you need cover bands for. What I didn't know is that they did a promotional video for themselves back in 1985, covering ZZ Top's "Give Me All Your Lovin'". And it is full of 80s cover band-ness. I present it to you now. Enjoy.
My uncle is the bass player, incidentally. And to avoid the inevitable, yes, I'm aware that my uncle bears an uncanny resemblance to Borat in this particular video. Hey, it was 22 years ago. What are you going to do. 22 years ago I was doing my damnedest to look like Steve Perry, myself. The less we talk about that, the better.
These days Gale is running the Valkyrie Riders Cruiser Club, one of the world's largest motorcycle clubs. Piss him off, you'll have a couple thousand people on big-ass bikes waiting for you to come out of your house so they can have a word with you. I'm just sayin'.
Pardon Me While I Roll My Eyes
Okay, about this "Blogger Code of Conduct" thing:
Whatever. I'll be ignoring this entirely (after this post, obviously). Some reasons for this:
1. This is my site and I couldn't care less how anyone else thinks it should be run; anyone else who thinks they should have a say in how the site is run (i.e., "the community will police itself") is going to learn all the different ways I know how to say "kiss my ass."
2. Outside my site I couldn't possibly care less how people run their own sites. It's their site, let them do what they want.
3. Who elected Tim O'Reilly and Jimmy Wales the hall monitors of the Internet?
This Blogger Code of Conduct is predicated on two fundamental and fundamentally incorrect beliefs: One, that there's a "blogosphere" community in any coherent, structured and enforceable way; Two, that the people who write blogs are sufficiently similar, in personality and output of content, that an attempt to standardize any aspect of the conversation will be successful. There's also a third belief, reached from the first two, which is that this community of bloggers needs direction from its notable members/leaders, i.e., O'Reilly and Wales. This is equally incorrect.
People seem to believe these points should be correct, however, particularly the first of these. The "blogosphere" feels like a community, because everybody links to everybody and reads everyone else's sites, and because people are people -- there are a certain number of people who can be either convinced or shamed into following a certain mode of conduct. But it's not the same thing, and I'm a perfect example of why not: I haven't the slightest inclination to run my site in any other way other than how I choose to, and no amount of "community" pressure is going to change that. This is because when it comes down to it, I just don't care what anyone else thinks of the site. I have it up for me. There's no way for the "community" to make me do anything I don't want, either; the blog police will not come to my door and ask to see my Code of Conduct badge, and haul me away or fine me if I don't have it. Some people might not visit the site if I don't have a Code of Conduct badge or whatever, but I wouldn't want those people's patronage anyway. There is no "community" -- there's me and how I choose to run this joint.
Does this mean my site is lawless and full of dickheads? No, because as it happens, I have a site disclaimer and comment rules which are pretty clear about what and how I will post, and what I will and won't tolerate from people posting here. These rules have been here for years, and I regularly call them out and have links to them in the appropriate places. As the site is generally visited by people with brains who want to have a discussion rather than spew, and people know I'm not shy in enforcing my comment rules, this is a spirited but generally civil place. Occasionally one of the more obnoxious visitors will get out of line, or wish to suggest I am obliged to tolerate their presence whether I want to or not; those folks are corrected regarding this apprehension sooner than later. The article notes that some bloggers think deleting obnoxious comments is a violation of the commenter's right to free speech. These bloggers deserve what they get.
Indeed, the reason that we're now at a point where some self-appointed guardians of the discourse have decided it's necessary to tell the rest of us slobs how to talk to each other is that people apparently forgot they have the right on their own sites to tell obnoxious dickheads to shut the hell up. Honestly, I don't know what to say to that, other than I'm sorry that other people's muddled-headed conception of what "free speech" is has allowed obnoxious dickheads to run free in blogs, and allowed busybodies to wring their hands in the New York Times about how mean the blogosphere is. It's idiotic.
What the blog world needs is not a universal "Code of Conduct"; what it needs is for people to remind themselves that deleting comments from obnoxious dickheads is a good thing. It's simple: if someone's an obnoxious dickhead, then pop! goes their comment. You don't even have to explain why, although it is always fun to do so. The commenter will either learn to abide by your rules, or they will go away. Either way, your problem is solved. You don't need community policing or a code of conduct to make it happen. You just do it.
April 09, 2007
State of the Scalzi
As you might be able to guess from the picture above, the state of the Scalzi at the moment is a little frazzled and tired. San Diego was fun, getting home less so, and of course as soon as I got home the first thing I had to do was get right to work. Whee!
As I noted earlier, the reason I was in San Diego was that I had been invited by the Thomas Jefferson School of Law to talk about writing. I had two sessions, one a sort of formal presentation (I was interviewed, Actor's Studio-style, by my friend Deven Desai, who is a professor at the school) and the second rather more informal: Me hanging out on a couch in the student lounge, eating a bunch of cookies and fielding questions. In the first session I talked about how writing had been important to me in creating a "brand" for myself not just as a writer but also as an independent businessman. This was on point for the audience because many of the students are likely one day to put out a shingle as an individual proprietor, or will work in a small law office -- and law, more than many other fields, is heavily dependent on writing competence. In the second session, I fielded all sorts of topics: writing, publishing, e-books, creativity and so on and so forth.
Both sessions were a lot of fun; the first was pretty well-attended by both students and faculty (which was nice -- good to have a mix), and in the second the students asked a lot of interesting questions and kept me on my toes. It was a whole bunch of fun for me, anyway, although I think most of the other folks got something out of it as well. It was also a good warm-up for me for this coming Friday, when I'm talking about writing fiction at Sinclair college.
Having discharged my duties at the law school, the rest of the weekend was pretty relaxing; mostly I hung out, read, and gained about 30 pounds eating Thai, Indian and Mexican food. On Saturday, I went out to Mysterious Galaxy bookstore, because I'll be there during my book tour on the first of May, and I wanted to make sure I knew how to get there the next time I was in town. I'm happy to say the joint was hopping; we arrived just before author Jim Butcher was to do a reading, and there were lot of folks in the seats. Here's hoping some of them come back for me. But it's a very cool store, and I bought some books for the plane ride back as well as the latest Locus, because I'd heard Charles Brown, the editor, had had some things to say about the SFWA election, and I wanted to read it for myself (in short: yes, he's happy I and Derryl Murphy are contesting the election; no, Locus didn't make any formal endorsements, either for or against any of the candidates).
As for the delay, that happened when my flight out of San Diego was delayed by an hour and 40 minutes -- which meant that I and anyone who had a connecting flight within 2 hours of when we were supposed to land were entirely hosed (this was most of the people on the flight), and I'd have 11 hours until my new flight left. The good news was that Deven was only a few minutes from the airport, so he drove back to get me so I didn't have to stay trapped in airport hell all that time. It was irritating -- I wanted to be home with my family for at least part of Easter -- but all things considered, if you're going to be stranded, better it be in San Diego than, say, St. Louis, which is where my original flight was going.
I did manage to get in a little bit of sleep on the flight out from San Diego, but airplane sleep really isn't the same as real sleep, so at the moment I am basically alert enough to type and recount, as I'm doing now, but really competent to actually think, which is unfortunate, since I should be writing some of The High Castle at the moment. But if I try writing that right now, I'm just going to have redo it all tomorrow. I'm going to eliminate the middleman and just go to sleep early tonight so I can start on it tomorrow.
In any event: A lovely weekend, excepting the travel portion of it, but that's often the way things work. I do want to thank the Thomas Jefferson School of Law faculty and students for making me feel welcome and asking interesting questions about writing; it made it a lot of fun. It's always nice when one of these things actually works the way it should.
Catching up on e-mail, work, etc. More later.
April 08, 2007
I Hate Flying
My 12:10pm flight today has been delayed until 11:00pm tonight, and all things being equal, I imagine the airport gods will find some way to poke and taunt me some more. So who knows when I'll actually get home.
Here, have an open thread. To get you started: Write a haiku about flying. Here's mine:
Stupid airport gods
Why won't you let me go home?
This Easter just sucks.
I'm heading home on a reasonably early flight, so I can't play with you all today. For all of you of the Easter-celebrating persuasion, have a Happy Easter; for everyone else, have a good Sunday. See you tomorrow.
April 07, 2007
A Question For You to Consider
Having a fine time in San Diego, thanks for asking -- the students and faculty at Thomas Jefferson Law School, which I spoke at, were lovely people, and I'll no doubt talk about that more when I get back home. But for now I want to throw open to discussion something which came up last night over dinner.
Which is: As you know, there was a mild controversey this last week when Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards said that at some point in the recent past, he had mixed the ashed of his father with some cocaine he was doing and -- toot! -- snorted his dad. This claim was later retracted-- Richards' handlers claim he was just having a little April Fool's fun with us all. I suspect Richards did it, because, come on, he's whacked out of his mind on drugs half the time anyway, but whether it's true or not it brings up an interesting question:
If you snort human remains, are you engaging in cannibalism?
There were arguments for an against the "snorting remains = cannibalism" claim.
For: Snorting the remains gets the substance of the remains into the bloodstream quickly (this is why one snorts cocaine, for example) and of course from the bloodstream it's just a hop, skip and a jump into incorporating the elements in the ashes into the body.
Against: Intent is key -- one does not snort remains to "ingest" them and anyway introducing material from other people into the bloodstream does not necessarily count as cannibalism, otherwise any time anyone had a blood transfusion, we'd have to declare them cannibals, and we don't do that.
We argued the point back and forth and didn't come to any particular resolution, which is why I'm now throwing open the question to you folks. Does snorting human remains equal cannibalism? I crave your input. Hopefully we'll arrive at a solid legal interpretation regarding whether Keith Richards is a cannibal, or merely a drug-addled freak with a creepy sense of humor. And I think the world will be a better place when we have that sorted out.
April 06, 2007
"The Last Colony" Contests
Looks like I'm not the only one ramping up to do stuff with The Last Colony: At the moment there are two different giveaway contests going on for the book.
The first is through Tower.com: The folks there are setting up an interview with me and are soliciting questions from folks like you, about the book or anything else -- and then they'll randomly select five people who have asked questions to receive a free copy of TLC -- and I believe the plan is to have me autograph those five copies as well. So, just by asking a question -- which as we know from Reader Request Week you're all capable of doing -- you could get pure, creamy (likely to be) autographed science fictional goodness out of it. Naturally I heartily endorse this plan of action. Go! Ask questions!
Also, if you've not already pre-ordered your copy of The Last Colony, and you plan on buying it online, consider getting it from Tower. Some of you may recall last year that I held up Tower.com as an example of people who get how to market to bloggers and others online, because when they contacted me to see if I'd be interested in doing some sort of marketing thing with them, they actually knew who I was and who the readership here was. Which is to say they treated me with respect, which I liked. Also, in this particular case they took it upon themselves to promote the hell out of TLC just because they liked the book, and then contacted us and asked if we might want to get in on the action. Call me crazy, but I like the idea of supporting online retailers who go out of their way support my career, without me even asking.
So, yes, do consider giving Tower.com your online book and music-buying business. They're selling TLC and my other books for a good price -- the same one you'd pay at other places online -- and they're good folks. It's a good combo.
The other giveaway at the moment is through Fantasybookspot.com, which despite its name also reviews and supports science fiction as well. I'm not entirely sure how they're handing their giveaway -- it's not quite clear to me from this announcement -- but heck, they're still giving it away and you can still get in on the action.
San Diego, City of Dreams
Well, actually, perhaps not, since I have no memory of any dreams last night, except the one where I consumed a series of delicious, savory In-N-Out Double Doubles. But since I actually did consume a delicious, savory In-N-Out Double Double last night, not more than a few minutes after departing the airport parking lot, it wasn't so much a dream as a joyful reality. All hail the Double Double! Except, I suppose, the vegetarians. I applaud their lifestyle choice, yet secrety pity them.
San Diego is lovely so far, although what I've seen of it since I've gotten here is largely limited to the In-N-Out drive through line and the inside of my friend's townhouse, where I'm staying while I'm here. My understanding is that I'll see more of the city today and tomorrow. It is to be hoped.
Anyway. Hi, I'm alive. How are you?
April 05, 2007
Notes From the Airport
Hey! Dayton's airport has free wifi. Nifty.
As I was buying myself a Coke at one of the airport stores, the register lady looked at me and said "Has anyone ever told you you look just like... Paul Shaffer?"
"Really, no," I said.
"Well, you do," she said. "The spitting image."
Great. Of all the celebrities in the world to look like, I look like Artie Fufkin. Excuse me as I go walk into a propeller blade now.
Off to San Diego
I'm about to head out the door to catch a flight to San Diego. Won't the flight be surprised! Posting will likely be spotty here for the next few days.
In the absence of actual content, I present you with anagrams for my book titles.
Old Man's War
MAD SNARL, OW
DAMN WARS, LO!
DARN, MA! OWLS!
WARN AS MOLD
The Ghost Brigades
GATHER BIDETS, HOGS!
BAD TOGETHER, SIGHS
BRASH GEODE TIGHTS
EGGHEADS BOTH STIR
EGAD! BIGOTS THRESH!
EARTH'S GOB SIGHTED
The Last Colony
LEACH LOTS, TONY!
LO! STONY CHALET!
HOLY COLA TENTS
LACY HELOTS? NOT!
HOT LONELY CATS
Agent to the Stars
GAS THREATENS TOT
THE SNOT SAGE, TART
THE TORT SAGS? NEAT!
TASTE OTHER ANGST
STOATS RAG THE NET
TARTS NAG THE TOES
The Android's Dream
A STARDOM, HINDERED
SHORTENED ID DRAMA
RAMRODDED SAINT, EH?
DAMN REDHEADS RIOT
ODDEST HARRIED MAN
Yeah, sorry. Seemed like a good idea at the time.
April 04, 2007
Don't Say I Never Did Nothing For You
Hey. Wanna see an excerpt from the first chapter of The Last Colony? Turns out that Tor has posted the first half of the first chapter on its Web site. Be warned that it has mild spoilers regarding The Ghost Brigades so if you've not read that book, you might want to sit tight. Otherwise, go nuts. It's got goats!
It looks like the Tor site is also featuring the entire first chapter of The Ghost Brigades as well, just in case you've somehow missed that. And if you have: Shame. Shame, my friend.
TAD2 Title; Wikipedia Picture
As you know, I've been busy writing the followup to The Android's Dream; what you might not know is that until earlier today, it didn't have an official title. Well, now it does: Henceforth TAD2 is to be known as:
The High Castle.
Philip K. Dick fans among you will note that this is yet another sampling of one of Dick's novel titles, in this case his Hugo-winning novel The Man in the High Castle. The conceit worked well for The Android's Dream, so we decided to try it again. As with the first book, the title is also at least somewhat relevant to the story, although again in an indirect way and not in the manner in which PKD himself used his "High Castle" in his book.
As I've noted before, the book is coming along pretty well; I look forward to showing it to you all in early 2008.
Unrelated, but amusing: I put up a picture of myself in my Wikipedia entry. I sort of wonder how long it will stay up.
Reader Request Week 2007 #7: Short Bits II: Electric Boogaloo
Since doing this yesterday so was so much fun -- and so easy! -- let's keep the good times going, and finish off Reader Request Week for 2007 (especially since it's now dragged on for nine days), with another entry of short bits.
Alex J. Avriette: "I'd be interested in hearing you discuss the relevance of science fiction to literature as a whole. It's been discussed off-and-on in various places, particularly in authors' weblogs, but they all seem to have a 'wait and see' attitude. Stuff is just around the corner, and then we can speculate. Can SF gain the credibility required to, say, have it be covered in high school classrooms? Will we ever see books like Accelerando or Snow Crash (or their successors...) offered alongside works such as To Kill a Mockingbird?"
Well, Alex, I think SF is already taught in high schools and even middle school; I know Fahrenheit 451 and Martian Chronicles are both popular, and assigning 1984, Brave New World, and Stranger in a Strange Land or Starship Troopers is not unheard of either. My particular high school was unusual, I'll be the first to admit, but it had an entire class on utopic literature, which assigned everything from (yes) Utopia to then contemporary science fiction.
Now, the question of whether newer SF books will ever be taught? Difficult to say. Books are taught in high school for a reason, because of the themes involved and etc; Fahrenheit and 1984, for example, are good because they talk about individuality in repressive societies. For newer books to start showing up in reading lists, they have to hit some pretty basic themes, and the thing about a lot of adult science fiction these days is that it doesn't do that -- at least, not as well as Bradbury or Heinlein did. I suspect teachers will stick with what they know.
Or, and I think this is a very real possibility, they'll assign YA SF. One author I expect will be taught in high schools -- because it's already started -- is Scott Westerfeld, whose Uglies series of books is dead-on about issues of identity and personal determination in a repressive society, done up in a way that works for contemporary teens.
Joel: "What impractical foreign language would you like to be fluent in?"
Italian. Which will outrage some folks because Italian is, after all, spoken by 55 million people and it's fairly practical for them. But here in the US, outside some very specific urban enclaves, it's not particularly useful. I'd want to speak it because my grandfather only spoke Italian until he was five and started school, and I like the idea of sharing that language with him, because I loved him a lot.
Jesse C: "I wrote a post on my blog about authors building web communities as a new sort of business model and you were my test case. So I figured I'd pass the link along to you. Its something it'd be interesting to hear your take on during your reader request week."
I think creating the opportunity for online communities to exist can be very helpful for an author -- whether one coalesces, of course, is another matter entirely and depends on both the writers and the fans. And I do think an author who is cynical about it, or plots to create community only as a means to an end, is likely to create disappointment on all sides. The community around here is a little different, because the Whatever predates any of my books by a couple of years, and my published science fiction by seven -- which is to say the community was here before I was an author of any consequence. This is why I am equally known for blogging as I am for writing SF. As it happens I'll be talking about this very subject in a few days in San Diego; when I get back I may expound on it a bit more here.
SFC SKI: "I have two topics. The first is: Citizenship, in the sense of 'Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.' The second topic: Is the term 'Punk' as it's used today just a cooler way to describe Power Pop?"
Second one first: I think 'Power Pop' is used to describe power pop, although I also think it's acknowledged that punk is a part of its DNA. I do think there's always been a poppy aspect to punk; if you go back and listen to Never Mind the Bollocks Here's The Sex Pistols -- as I recommend you do -- or any early Ramones or the Damned -- the thing that gets you about it now is that it is actually damn catchy. It's a direct line from Sex Pistols to Fall Out Boy, as much as that horrifies punk purists (it's not necessarily a straight line from TSOL or Husker Du to Fall Out Boy, but that's another discussion).
I do think that using the word "punk" to describe power pop is just lazy or misinformed, but I don't think it's an insult to either genre of music.
First one second: I think it would be lovely if more people believed citizenship entailed service and responsibility. I think one of the great tragedies of the current war was the strategy choice that asked nothing of any of us not in the military except for us to go about our lives, and surrender a few key civil liberties. It made sense for the administration to do it this way -- it fit their conception of what this war was going to be -- but I think the disengagement it engendered on this end was not a good thing.
Anonymous Coward: "The Singularity - fact, fiction or somewhere between?"
Nothing ever happens the way science fiction authors imagine it will, and this will be a perfect example: The Singularity, if and when it happens, will happen like the iPod or the television happened: One day a few fashionable geeks will be caught up in it, and a year later everyone will be part of it, and no one will think anything much about it after that. The Singularity will happen and it'll seem like a perfectly normal thing, and as a culture we'll still want to know if Britney is walking around without underwear.
Rebecca Hb: "What are your thoughts and evaluations on the short story market for genre writing these days?"
I think it's fine; I think it's changing. I think, for example, that the short story SF magazines like Asimov's and F&SF better rethink at some point or continue to face the slow leak of subscribers they seem to have now; I also think that eventually the entire genre short story market, save for anthologies, is going to be online, and that writers and publishers need to find a way to make that work economically, since writers will still want to get paid.
I wish there were a way to make writing short fiction generally more remunerative for writers, but I don't know if there's a solution that will work globally. Personally, with the exception of creating collectors' items like The Sagan Diary, short fiction doesn't pay enough for me to consider it as a viable income generator, so my solution is to view short fiction, basically, as a loss leader and a playground to experiment with my writing. This is why I've done relatively little of it, compared to my contemporaries in SF.
Randomscrub: "What drove you to get a philosophy degree as an undergraduate, rather than English or something else typical for a writer?"
Well, to be honest, what drove it was that at the end of my third year in college, I looked at the courses I took and realized that I had enough credits to graduate with a philosophy degree right then, whereas any other concentration of study would require five years to graduate. So I said "Hmmm, guess I'm a philosophy major," and then had a very relaxed fourth year, which is atypical at the University of Chicago.
As for why I focused more on philosophy to begin with: Well, because it's an interesting subject. I was taking English courses, too, mind you, but my focus on writing was always more practical than not, and so for my education I wanted something theoretical and mind-expanding. It worked out well for me; writing at the newspaper (and freelancing for the Sun-Times and the alt-weeklies) gave me the practical experience in writing, while all the philosophy stuff kept my brain open and gave me an appreciation for learning for the sake of leaning. That was a good combination.
Adam Rakunas: "Have you ever had a fanboy moment?"
Well, yeah. My biggest one was probably when I interviewed John Woo, right around the time of that Van Damme movie he directed as the cost of getting his foot in the door in Hollywood. We had a perfectly good and useful interview where I was all professional and everything. And the minute I turned off the tape recorder and the interview was over, I got all gushy on him. Because he was John Woo, man.
However, I do suspect I've had fewer fanboy moments than a lot of folks, because one of the things you eventually grok about famous people if you spend any amount of time near them (and I did while I was a film critic) was that the smarter, less neurotic ones actually get bored getting squeed over. Most of them want to be treated like normal humans. Doing so is not always possible, particularly in an interview situation, which is how I saw most of them, but the closer you get to that, the more comfortable they feel, and the more they appreciate it. Mind you, that's if they're smart. There are lots of folks who want you to make a big deal over them. These are not the sort of folks I'm like to get fanboy about.
Jess: "Being accused of using Mary Sue's in your writing, you sort of wrote about that already but how do you think that will affect future stories you write, especially changing genres?"
Well, to be clear, I'm not really concerned about the accusations of Mary Sue-dom in my work. Honestly, if I was going to put myself as a Mary Sue in my work, the novel would have to be about an unshaven writer in a bathrobe staring at a computer screen all day. There's no market for that. Also, I don't really mind when people accuse me of making my main characters my Mary Sue, since my main characters are, you know, generally competent dudes having interesting adventures. I mean, I wish my life was that interesting. Minus, I hasten to add, all the pain I put my characters through. I do have to say that when people complained to me that John Perry seemed unusually lucky, my response was, "Well, I did have him lose half his body in a horrible shuttle crash." I mean, come on. The dude was so tore up he kicked his own uvula. I'm not entirely sure I'd want that kind of luck.
My main characters to date have been generally competent, primarily because generally competent protagonists are useful in moving the plot along at a nice clip. Will my protagonists always be like this? I don't think so, and I don't think that's been all I've written; I don't think Jared Dirac of The Ghost Brigades was a classic "competent man" character, for example. I will say that I think people like competent characters in the lead, so if you make one that doesn't fit that mold, you have to make sure you put in the extra work, to give readers something to grip unto regarding the main character.
Girl Detective: "I am in the middle of reading You're Not Fooling Anybody..., and the question that plagues me is if you're making so much money, and living in not-quite-Dayton OH (which I know from; I was born in Columbus and lived in Granville), what are you doing with all that money? Saving it for your kid's college? I just don't get it. Why not live in a good city with a slightly higher cost of living, with good politics, good culture, that's still a good place to raise kids, like Minneapolis, where I'm writing from? But really, I'm still baffled. What are you doing with all that money in the boonies of OH?"
At the moment, I'm going to pay taxes with it, since my income went up a bit this last year (as did our overall household income), and we got a nice fat tax bill to go with it. As they say: Oh, joy. I don't begrudge the amount of taxes I pay - I think it's a fair amount - but sending off a check for the amount I haven't already paid in quarterlies isn't going to be pleasant.
The reason I live where I do is that this is where Krissy's family is. I once dragged Krissy across the entire country when I got a job at America Online; later, when she decided to drag me to Ohio so she could be near her family, it was only fair I go without too much complaint. I would dispute that this is not a fine place to raise a kid, incidentally: Athena is surrounded by a supportive extended family, her school is small and she gets personalized attention, and she has a yard to play in and explore that's larger than most city parks. Later, when Athena becomes a teenager, I suspect she'll not be able to wait to get out of this small town, which I think will be fine. Right now, however, it's ideal.
Likewise, although I would hesitate to call this the perfect environment for me, I actually like where I live. I suspect you overestimate our isolation -- I'm close enough to civilization, for example, that I can take in a Rembrandt exhibit or watch a ball game if I want to, and while the politics of my county are a little conservative for my tastes, the people here are excellent neighbors and fine folks. And of course we are not so isolated that we cannot get whatever daily culture we choose through TV, Internet and Amazon. We're doing fine on that score. Really, it's not so bad. This is Ohio, a densely populated state. Nothing is so isolated that you're more than 45 minutes from a reasonably-sized city.
As to what I spend money on: The usual. We do put away for retirement, we are planning for Athena's education, I buy lots of books and electronic toys, and so on. We also travel a bit. In short, we spend our money the same way other people do -- although we spend less of it on housing and cost of living. Which is, you know, nice.
Scot: "In the spirit of L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology, what are your thoughts on your sci-fi work being adopted into/the basis of a cult in the future?"
Do I get free sex out of it? With hot women? When I'm old and wrinkly and there would be no other reason I would get said sex? If so, the answer is: Eh, still probably not. I'm not entirely sure I'd want to be in the company of people who fetishized my work to that extent. It might have made Hubbard happy, but this is just another way in which he is not me. The other ways, in case you were wondering: I don't like sailor hats, and I look terrible in a cravat. There it is.
Thanks everyone for all your questions this Reader Request Week. Let's do again, oh, in about a year. Also remember that you don't have to wait for Reader Request Week to ask me to write about something: I like it when people ask me my opinions about things. Just send along an e-mail.
April 03, 2007
Calming Your Fears Re: The Last Colony
More than one person has e-mailed recently with the concern that according to Amazon, The Last Colony will be available April 27 -- but I start my book tour on April 24. Does this mean that for the first three days of my book tour, The Last Colony will be unavailable, and I will use my single author copy to taunt you all? As fun as that would undoubtedly be, the answer is no, in fact the book should be available. Here's why:
1. My inside connection at Tor tells me the book will actually be released on April 17 -- that's just two weeks from now! -- so there should be plenty of copies available for the screaming hordes of fans who will undoubtedly mob me at each and every stop of my triumphant national tour (please, God);
2. If you think Tor is going to pay to schlep me around the country to promote this book for three friggin' weeks and then not actually have the books on hand at each and every bookstore I'm going to be at, you simply do not understand the mighty awesome power that is the Tor Books publicity juggernaut. Honestly, I have to tell you that I am terrified at the raw mightiness of it. It is like an angry, twisting bull, upon which I am perched, fervently praying that I do not fall off and become trampled or gored by its horns of editorial wrath. There is no rodeo clown to distract it in this scenario, my friends. This is why you and everyone you've ever met must come to my appearances.
In other words, don't worry too much. The books will be there. Waiting for you. Pining for you, actually. As will I.
Reader Request Week 2007 #6: Short Bits
Since I woke up at 4am and couldn't go back to sleep, and I'm not quite ready to dive into the novel for today, let's bang through some short answers to many of the questions/requests for blatheration that came up in the Reader Request queue. There are quite a lot -- indeed, I might even do two of these.
Lanna Lee Maheux-Quinn: "What is the most surprising thing about you, John Scalzi?"
I think probably the most surprising thing about me is that there are surprising things about me -- which is to say there are a number of things about my life and how I live it that I don't write about here. Now, let's not get too wrapped up in this: I'm really not that exciting. I do not wish suggest that I have an evil, sinister second life, in which I am the meth king of the Midwest, or a vampire, or that I lick people's utensils when I visit their houses, or that I dress as a furry and spend hours in cuddlepiles (which is not evil or sinister but might be full of static electricity); I neither am nor do those things. It is to suggest that I have a well-defined line, beyond which I don't share, and relative to what and how much other people share on their blogs or journals, the line is actually fairly far back. Which is to say I have a private life, which is occasionally surprising to the people who only know me through my online life.
Ordinarygirl: "What is it about the music you like that makes you like it? Are you mostly a lyrical-type of guy or is there certain musical combinations that just do it for you? Do you see a future for yourself in music?"
With regard to what makes music work for me, I don't think it's any one thing, but the totality of the experience; that said, if I had to compartmentalize it, I'd say it'd be 70/30 music to lyrics. I'm willing to forgive a lot lyrically if musically a song works for me; I'm not nearly as likely to enjoy a song whose lyrics are clever but whose music is no damn good. This would explain my easy enjoyment of idiotic melodic rock while disdaining some music which, while having more street cred, is just not as much fun to listen to. Having noted that I do find that as I get older my capacity to chuck lyrical intelligence when it comes to relatively new bands has declined considerably; I have no love for Nickelback, for example.
I don't see a future for myself in music, if the question is meant as me writing music personally; that's something I do for fun, when I have time. I do absolutely see a future for myself in music, if you mean still finding music I like from new artists. It's always a joy to find a new band or musician whose work hits home.
Tor: "Gears of War - buy the game or wait for the movie?"
Dude, there hasn't been a video game-based movie yet that didn't suck, and the genre goes back a dozen years now. Get the game.
Shawn Powers: "How as your dead tree and fast electron fame affected your daily life, if any? I creeped myself out a bit adding you to my AIM buddy list, but thousands of others likely did the same thing."
Well, you know. The reason I put the public AIM address out there was so anyone could add me to their Buddy List. If it doesn't creep me out, I don't know why it should creep you out.
My fame has not notably affected my daily life. First, I live in a small town; people here know what I do but it's not any big deal to them. Second, my "fame" isn't real fame, of the "get recognized by total strangers" sort. Outside of a science fiction convention, no one randomly stops and goes "Hey, isn't that John Scalzi?" when I go by (and inside a science convention they will still usually try to casually read my convention badge, since I really don't look too much like my pictures). The most I get of that is when someone online gets excited if I link to them or put a comment on their LJ, and that's rare enough as it is. Fact is, I don't really have fame; at this point what I have is notability.
Moreover it seems unlikely I will gather much more fame. I'm 37 years old and past the stage where I will look any more attractive rather than less attractive as I go on, for one thing, but for another thing, I'm a writer, which means that what fame I do have accrues to my name and my books, not to my physical being. I think this is fine. I don't actually want to be randomly accosted by people when I go shopping or when I'm hanging out with friends outside of a context where I'm implicitly on display, like a science fiction convention. I like the way my "fame" works now, which is that I go to a specific place ( a convention, a book store, etc), have a couple days where people appear to like to be around me, and then I go home and no one bugs me. I can't even imagine how a real famous person gets through their day. I would go insane.
Walter: "Should we be more careful about announcing our presence in the universe?"
A little late for that, Walter. We've been blasting our presence to the universe for 80 years now, and it seems unlikely we'll be getting any less noisy. Anyone who has the technology to hear us (and is within 80 light years) has heard us by now.
Patrick M.: "What's more distracting when talking to someone, huge wing-like ears or a lazy eye?"
Lazy eye. I don't really notice ears. The secret with lazy eyes is to look in the eye that's looking at you. Simple. If neither eye is looking at you, split the difference and look at the bridge of the nose.
Kevin Q: "How do you feel about sushi? On a more general note, are you an adventurous eater (Schadenfreude pie experimentation notwithstanding)?"
I like sushi rather a lot, actually, and was happy when a Japanese restaurant opened up a couple towns over. I don't actually consider sushi qualifying as "adventurous eating" at this point, because it's been popular here in the US for a couple decades now (I first ate it in high school). Adventurous eating to me at this point would be eating bugs. I'm not quite there yet.
Nathan: "So, would you mind, one day next week, posting 'A Day in the Life of Scalzi' with pictures and video?"
First, yes, I would mind, because I would find it intrusive; second, you don't want me to do it because it's really boring: I spend almost all my time in front of a computer, typing. That's what writers do. The act of writing really isn't very exciting, and I do more writing than most writers during a day, which means my day-to-day life is even less interesting than most writers'. Sorry. I know my life seems more exciting on the other side than it does on this side.
The Anonymous Collective: "Any sexual fetish which creeps you out. Especially if it's internet-related."
I don't know that I find any consensually acted-upon fetish creepy. I find a few sort of disgusting, and others amusing, and in some cases a fetish is simply so far removed from my own sexual proclivities (which are, without going into any detail, generally pretty vanilla) that I don't really think anything about it at all, other than "well, you kids have fun."
What I would find creepy is if someone was being very secretive about a fetish and not telling their partner(s). Look, if you're a panty huffer (or whatever), let the person you're with know, before they find you trying to inhale their clothes hamper. Really, it just saves time and a lot of awkwardness.
Dr. Phil: "If asked, would you teach a week at Clarion? Does the recent move from East Lansing MI to San Diego CA affect your decision?"
Clarion, for those of you who don't know, is a famed science fiction writing workshop that lasts six weeks.
Sure, I'd teach, if I could take a week off in my schedule (and I suspect I could probably make the time); no, the recent move wouldn't have any effect on the decision. Actually I would have preferred if Clarion had stayed in Michigan, because it's closer to where I live, so I could just drive there in about four hours. The question is whether Clarion would want me to teach. I've noted before that I doubt whether a workshop environment would have been at all helpful for me as a budding writer, since I don't have the temperament for group criticism (ego too big, disinterested in the opinion of people not actually buying work, etc); while I think I could be a useful teacher I don't know if the people who choose the instructors would want someone who wouldn't have want to go to Clarion to be someone who teaches there.
In any event I haven't been invited. We'll see if I am.
We're Number One
Oh, hey: Old Man's War tops this month's Locus Magazine Paperback Bestsellers list. This beats a sharp poke in the eye. The last three #1 Locus paperback bestselling authors: George RR Martin, Neil Gaiman and Robert Jordan. Let's just say it does not suck to be in their company.
Thanks, folks, for picking up the book. This gets my April off to a nice start.
April 02, 2007
Various and Sundry, 4/2/07
An April Fool's Sunset. In real life, it was even prettier than this.
And now, a couple of linky bits, all of which are at least tangentially related to me, because I'm a rampant egotist like that:
* Because I was avoiding being online yesterday, I didn't link to the April Fool's Day SFWA candidacies, in which Jeff VanderMeer, Jay Lake and others announced their own write-in campaigns. Andrew Wheeler has a good collection of all the usurpers over at his SFBC BookBlogger site.
* Simon Owens of Bloggasm looks at the Creative Commons releases of Move Under Ground and Blindsight by Nick Mamatas and Peter Watts, respectively, and how they've affected the lives of those books and their authors. Oddly to me, Owens doesn't note Blindsight's Hugo nomination; to my mind it's pretty clear that Watts releasing the book under CC (and the subsequent pimping at Boing Boing, here and other places online) pushed the book into Hugo consideration status.
* Over at the Hugo-nominated Drink Tank fanzine, the equally Hugo-nominated Chris Garcia handicaps the Hugo slate this year (pdf link). How's that for recursive?
* If you ever wanted to know how much money Tobias Buckell makes, he's spilling the beans today. Going freelance has been good for him, apparently. I could have told him that (and I did, now that I think about it).
Spring is Here, Spring is Here...
... life is Skittles and life is beer. Or, combining the two, Skittlebrau. Mmmmm... Skittlebrau.
First, if you'd like to see more lovely pictures of a spring day here at the Scalzi Compound, complete with cherry blossoms, basketball-playing children and an impossibly green lawn the size of some of the smaller states in the union, go here. You won't be disappointed, and if you're disappointed, maybe your standards are just too damn high.
Second, as many of you know, April is going to be an amazingly busy month for me. In addition to work on the Android's Dream sequel, and the release of The Last Colony, and the continuing SFWA presidential campaign, I have a tremendous amount of other travel and activity. I'll be going to San Diego this week to give a presentation at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law; next week I'm doing fiction-writing lectures at the writer's workshop at Sinclair College here in Dayton, the weekend after that I'm at Penguicon in Michigan and then after that, I start the book tour, which will see me on the road through the second week of May.
What does this mean for you, o dear and treasured reader of the Whatever? Well, to begin, my publishing schedule for the Whatever is likely to change slightly. I've been updating here at will, and often in the morning, but through the start of the book tour I'm going to be devoting the morning and early afternoon hours around here to working on the novel, so I'm unlikely to be updating around here until the afternoon. And once I am on the book tour, I'm unlikely to be updating at any great length, because all the traveling and speaking and signing and wild groupie carnality is likely to tucker me out. Indeed, I am thinking of asking a couple of people to come in as guest bloggers during this time to keep the shelves stocked. I'll make a decision about that sometime soon; clearly, I'll let you know.
The main takeaway here is that April is likely to be the craziest month I've had in a very long time and will require some forebearance on your part as I fiddle with my publishing schedule so that my head doesn't explode trying to get everything done that I need to get done. I hope you understand; I'm sure you do.
The good news is that so far everything seems to be well. The writing of TAD2 is coming along fine; the first chapter features multiple simultaneous attempted political assassinations on a golf course, and after that it gets a little weird. I'm trying to get out all the author interviews I have scheduled for April and May out the door to the authors in the next week or so in order to have them ready to go when I'm on the road; I've added a couple exciting names to the interview list, who I think you're going to enjoy. And I'm trying to co-ordinate seeing friends and Whatever folks when I am on the tour, so hopefully I'll get to hang with all y'all when I'm on the road.
It's all very exciting, and I'm having a lot of fun with it, and I think I'll be glad when it's all over and I get to be relaxed and at home once more. For now, however, I juggle. At least it's good weather for it.