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March 23, 2007

Reader Request Week 2007: Get Your Requests In!

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

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

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

From 2003:

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

From 2004:

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

From 2005:

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

From 2006:

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

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

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

Posted by john at March 23, 2007 02:18 PM

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Steve Buchheit | March 23, 2007 02:24 PM

The Amish in the modern world.

Corey Porter | March 23, 2007 02:29 PM


Phil | March 23, 2007 02:34 PM

As an aspiring writer, I would appreciate any tips on how one goes about actually acquiring an agent.

John Scalzi | March 23, 2007 02:35 PM

Phil, type "Agent FAQ" into the site's search engine.

Lanna Lee Maheux-Quinn | March 23, 2007 02:44 PM

What is the most surprising thing about you, John Scalzi? (What about you that we don't know we would be most astonished to hear?)

Because it's all about you, after all! (grin)

Mary Robinette Kowal | March 23, 2007 02:47 PM

Solar flares.

Jon | March 23, 2007 02:48 PM

SEX. And that's a wide-open topic, so to speak.

LC9er | March 23, 2007 02:51 PM

Children of celebrities following in their footsteps. Should they hide their identities, *Ahem* Joe Hill *Ahem*, or take advantage of the opportunity?

DOSELLE YOUNG | March 23, 2007 02:53 PM


Burritos. Everyone in California has a favorite burrito/taco stand; or at least they likely did in their youth. I know my friends and I had several of our own and each held a special significance.

In your time in California, I cannot imagine you, Herr Scalzi, not having come across some incredible hole-in-the wall taquerias somewhere between San Francisco and the Mexican border.


Say it with me: B-U-R-R-I-T-O-S.

You know you want one RIGHT now.


Phil | March 23, 2007 02:55 PM

I'm continually astounded how the obvious solution tends to work.
Thanks for pointing me to your FAQ.

ordinarygirl | March 23, 2007 02:58 PM


You wrote a post earlier this year about Regina Spektor and how her music influenced your writing of TSD. We also know your love of Journey. But, 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?

More in the sci fi vein, there was at one time a lot of writing about AI and cloning, but I've not read as much about it in the last decade (though TGB does, to an extent). In our world, with clones being a possible way to harvest organs, cure diseases, and "genetically" have children when it's otherwise not possible, what do you see should be addressed in a global ethical debate? Do you think that machine intelligence is close enough on the horizen begin a global debate? (This might be something where there's just not enough new to debate.)

What bacon is Scalzi-approved and cat-tested? My cat runs away from me when I present him with bacon. Is he smart or just picky?

Andy | March 23, 2007 03:03 PM

Since you (as I) likely break into cold sweats when not near a buzzing access point to the vast Intarweeb, please enlighten us with your views of the future of said weeb. Surely something in your dome has changed from 3 years ago (as that's a million weeb-lifetimes), when you last addressed this question.

Andy | March 23, 2007 03:04 PM

Wow, that's actually 4 years ago now. That makes it 1.33 (repeating, of course) million weeb-lifetimes.

Tor | March 23, 2007 03:06 PM

Gears of War - buy the game or wait for the movie?

Does your answer change if you don't have an Xbox 360?

Jeremiah | March 23, 2007 03:08 PM

Diesel cars and related topics (biodiesel, etc)

Shawn Powers | March 23, 2007 03:17 PM

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.

Do you still feel like an approachable, regular guy -- or are you hesitant about possible stalkers? (No, I'm not planning on stalking you, don't worry)

Jason Erik Lundberg | March 23, 2007 03:17 PM


Walter | March 23, 2007 03:19 PM

Should we be more careful about announcing our presence in the universe?

Tania | March 23, 2007 03:22 PM

Pork versus Chicken.

Which is the superior protein source and why.

Matt W | March 23, 2007 03:25 PM

The undead and creatures of the night: types, advantages, disadvangates, cool combinations, their greatest foes.

Alma Alexander | March 23, 2007 03:25 PM

How the writing life that people dream of actually measures up to the writing life as it really is.

I know you're one of the people who will tell it like it is, and this has two salutary effects on people who might be thinking that this life might be for them - the ones who are deluded or ignorant or plain dithering on the edge will get properly scared off by the truth, and the ones who have the real flame will only get it fanned by the truth. Either way, the writing world is the better for it.

(And think of it this way - it's potential fodder for "You're not fooling anybody" VOlume 2... [grin]

Matt | March 23, 2007 03:27 PM

I'd like to hear about your take on the work being done in the sci-fi field. What recent books have you enjoyed, and why? What are the Must-Reads of the day? Trends? Authors to keep an eye on? (Though that might not work with so many working professionals reading this blog and feeling slighted if they're not mentioned.)

JD | March 23, 2007 03:36 PM


Speaking of fatherhood, my recommendation for a topic is "How to raise a kid with a soul in an increasingly soulless world"

Specific examples, How to be popular not at the expense of other children.

Patrick M. | March 23, 2007 03:41 PM

Homeschool vs private school vs public school?

Susan Loyal | March 23, 2007 03:43 PM

A childhood of online notoriety, or What It's Like for Children to Grow Up on Their Parent(s)' Blog. (I was an only child, and my parents took beaucoup pictures, but there was no internet, so I'm never surprised by my own baby pictures when I surf the net. As a baby-boomer with lingering illusions about privacy, this pleases me. The current generation of children faces a very different prospect, but they don't have boomers' expectations, either. What's it all about, Scalzi? You know Athena isn't alone. Exemplary, but not alone.)

Cassie | March 23, 2007 03:46 PM

[rubbing hands together]

How about taking on the topic - from what I suspect is the opposite POV from your own - about reducing the use of the word "fuck" in the media today, including movies and books.

Patrick M. | March 23, 2007 03:48 PM

What's more distracting when talking to someone, huge wing-like ears or a lazy eye?

Kate | March 23, 2007 03:50 PM

Please describe your perfect pizza, and then tell me how asking someone what their ideal Italian concoction is a window to their souls and psyche.

(and btw -- Full pan crust with cracked dough bubbles covered in a dusting of corn meal, a hearty but not too saucy tomato layer, fresh garlic, extra mozzarella, and fresh sliced tomatoes on the top with a side of garlic oil for dipping.

And yes, extra greasy.

Kate | March 23, 2007 03:52 PM

With apparent extra spelling and grammar mistakes to boot.


Garth Johnson | March 23, 2007 03:53 PM

I second the post asking for your thoughts on the sci fi field, must reads, etc.

Jim | March 23, 2007 03:55 PM

What is your opnion of the 2nd Amendment and the recent court decsion in Washington D.C.?

Keri | March 23, 2007 03:57 PM

Where do you get your news in an incredibly media-saturated environment?
What filters are in place to prevent information overload? (Physical, mental, software, hardware, wetware, remote control, whatever...)

Rebecca Hb. | March 23, 2007 04:01 PM

Transformers, why the franchise keeps working, and what the draw is.

(What? Everyone has their pet topics. *grins* Mine happens to be Transformers.)

Dennis | March 23, 2007 04:04 PM

Ugly epithets, especially pertaining to race, gender and sexual orientation. Should artists shy away from using them in all cases? If not, when should they use them?

Leann | March 23, 2007 04:07 PM

What can the average individual do to effect change re:

- Global Warming specifically, the environment in general.

- world peace.

Chang, the real O.C. | March 23, 2007 04:09 PM

Who would win in a fight?

Mary Robinette Kowal


Maryann Mohanraj?

Riccardo | March 23, 2007 04:13 PM

Writing... but not your SF writing, but rather corporate freelance writing and the like...I'd like to know more about it, as I'm in a parallel line of work (translations).

Patrick | March 23, 2007 04:16 PM

Where do you draw the line between Science Fiction and Science Fantasy?

Ron Hogan | March 23, 2007 04:18 PM

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

Ray | March 23, 2007 04:23 PM

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

KevinQ | March 23, 2007 04:23 PM

How do you feel about sushi? On a more general note, are you an adventurous eater (Schadenfreude pie experimentation notwithstanding)?


John H | March 23, 2007 04:37 PM

Even though the Confederate thing well and truly bores the crap out of you right now, what is your take on the display in Florida titled "The Proper Way to Hang a Confederate Flag"?

Jim Hall | March 23, 2007 04:40 PM

NASA and it's future plans. Your thoughts on the plans for a Mars and Moon landing.

Sam | March 23, 2007 04:43 PM

I want to discuss how Awesome (but historically innacurate) the movie 300 is.

Matt | March 23, 2007 04:50 PM

A few topics I would like you tackle:

Disaster Preperation

The uncertainity of having just graduated college with a liberal arts degree, and no idea of where to go from there (can you tell that one hits at a personal level?).

Why sports are good/bad and why like/dislike them.


Chang, the real O.C. | March 23, 2007 04:56 PM

The Future: Are we there yet?

Lisa | March 23, 2007 04:58 PM

Unless I missed it, you never answered your own age-old question: Cats or Cheese?

I'd like a detailed dissertation laying out the reasons of your decision. And also, whether Glagghlee (sp?) has any thoughts.

Also? Why is lopsided cat lopsided?

kero aka Kevin | March 23, 2007 05:05 PM

How is the Dance Dance Revolution coming along?

Jenny Rae Rappaport | March 23, 2007 05:08 PM

Ice Cream and Your Love For It
Leif Garrett and When You Had Hair
Athena As A Future Teenager
Furbies Ruling The World

Wolfgang Baur | March 23, 2007 05:27 PM

Music piracy and regular piracy
The Decline and Fall of SFWA
The Best SF Movie of ALL TIME

Bookninja | March 23, 2007 05:29 PM

The used book world - specifically those kooky collectors.

Also, do you eat bacon, or just keep it around for taping to the cat?

Cat Rambo | March 23, 2007 05:30 PM

Why -do- we find dancing monkeys amusing?

AQ | March 23, 2007 05:39 PM

rat poison & pet food - an issue bigger than our pets?

Nathan | March 23, 2007 05:40 PM

Unlike Shawn Powers above, I was entertaining thoughts of stalking you. This probably won't happen since:

1. I'm working in Connecticut right now, and they expect me to achieve stuff everyday (Jeeeez) and,

2. Even if I wasn't working I'd be semi-somnolent on my couch in Brooklyn, (perfecting that lazy thing).

So, would you mind, one day next week, posting "A Day in the Life of Scalzi" with pictures and video? The more minutia the better.

MWT | March 23, 2007 05:44 PM

I'd be interested in seeing a discussion about http://www.thismagazine.ca/issues/2006/05/copyright.php

The Anonymous Collective | March 23, 2007 05:45 PM

Any sexual fetish which creeps you out. Especially if it's internet-related.

Christian | March 23, 2007 05:46 PM

I know that you are a film aficionado, (and I am too). I was a film student back in the 80's, ran a reparatory film house for 8 years, and once upon a time I was also a film reviewer, and projectionist. At present, my DVD collections cracks the 600 mark, and I still try to watch a theatrical release at least once a week.

So this begs the question, are there really just 64 stories in Hollywood?

Is "Fight Club" simply a remake of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"? Would "Being John Malkovich" potentially be considered a "65th story"?

When does a film break new ground from a writing standpoint, that really challenges the audience to think outside the box? What would you do to make those films more available to (or consumable) to the general masses?

Why do people continue to consume a steady diet of "SAW III" movies, when watching "The Whale Rider" might have a much more requiting effect on their movie satisfaction index?

bhw | March 23, 2007 06:05 PM

How about the state of SF for kids? How many quality books are out there now for different age groups, including the very young? Is there a demand for SF stories in children's publishing? What makes a high-quality SF book for children (again, for different age groups)?

Seems like there's not much available for young kids in particular. What's your take?

Greg Morrow | March 23, 2007 06:08 PM

Is there a "NASCAR Dad" (in the sense of "soccer mom"), and politically what does that mean?

shane | March 23, 2007 06:19 PM

Forgive me if you've covered this before:

Why do you continue to blog, and do the comments give you personal interaction otherwise hard to find as a novelist and freelance writer?

Patrick M. | March 23, 2007 06:41 PM

Does this post make me look fat?

Stacy | March 23, 2007 06:48 PM

Speaking of Amish in the modern world, Steve Buchheit, I was in Sheetz the other day and saw an Amish man at the touch screen ordering a sandwich. Odd.

Mr. Scalzi, I would like to hear your thoughts on social programs and the funding thereof.

Rhiannon_s | March 23, 2007 06:50 PM

Who was your favourite Doctor from Dr Who?

What is your favourite garden plant?

Daleks versus Klingons, who would win?

Bhutan, isn't it awesome?

Annalee Flower Horne | March 23, 2007 07:00 PM

If you could have a single superpower, which would you choose and why?

and Stacy: are you sure they were Amish? Some Quakers still practice plain dress, and we have no objection to the use of technology.

GTD Wannabe | March 23, 2007 07:07 PM

I'd love to hear a Scalzi podcast. Will you ever experiment with that medium?

John Scalzi | March 23, 2007 07:10 PM

GTD Wannabe:

Go here.

chang, who is not chang | March 23, 2007 07:11 PM

Let's hear your thoughts on Robert Bussard and his latest work on unconventional approaches to fusion energy production:


(Google has a nice set of links on this topic.)

Great scientist gone crackpot? Or is he on to something?

Or you can just talk about Ghlaghghee. This is actually my first choice.

Dawn B. | March 23, 2007 07:16 PM

Video Gaming & Youth

I know you sideline-write about this a bit re: Athena and were interviewed and all, but I'd really like a dedicated essay on gaming from your youth as well as what you do for Athena (and why) and what you plan for the future.

Alternately, something regarding the current big three makers since you don't write for PSO unless it would still affect your on-going relationship with Sony, in which case just MS/Nintendo leaving aside Sony so as to prevent any potential bashing or leaking of info.

gMike | March 23, 2007 07:34 PM

Someone needs to write about the death of Hard Science Fiction. The number of Fantasy titles being published outweighs the number Hard titles, from my observations.

Jeff Hentosz | March 23, 2007 07:43 PM

1) Detail, please, the Zen of Ego-Surfing, Scalzi's Methodology toward Google-fu and thus-like.

2) Your Top-10 favorite artists. Of the fine and plastic arts kind, in any medium, from cave painting to Flash animation. Ex., my list would include Grant Wood, Paul Klee, Joseph Cornell, Charleses Addams, Jones and Schulz, Tara McPherson and Jay Ryan. Today, anyway. Bonus: Why are musical "performers" referred to as "artists"?

3) Your Top-10 favorite myths, fairytales or folktales.

4) Genesis tour: exciting or pathetic?

5) Who would win in a fight: Neil Gaiman v. Brian Michael Bendis; Neil deGrasse Tyson v. Brian Greene; Tobias Buckell v. Charles Coleman Finlay?

Patrick M. | March 23, 2007 07:54 PM

Well, CLEARLY Gaiman would win, because he has those cool eyebeams which can either be used concussively or as an incendiary.

And I think we're only 6 beers away from arranging a Finlay/Buckell bout. Why guess?

Omaha Lisa | March 23, 2007 07:55 PM

Finding True Love

Dawn B. | March 23, 2007 08:03 PM


John actually did a short response to Death of Science fiction in one of the odds & ends above.

Chris Meadows | March 23, 2007 08:19 PM

Web 2.0.

Really, it's one of those buzzwords that everyone is touting as being so important, but the meaning is terribly fuzzy. It's almost like a second dot-com boom, where all these businesses or non-profit sites are springing up that are all built on harnessing interactivity in some way.

The funny thing is that the Internet has long been about interactivity, even before most people knew what it was. I was doing round-robin writing with people on USENET and mailing lists in the early '90s, but it took until 2007 for ficlets.com to come about.

Why did "Web 2.0" take so long to come about?

Connie B. | March 23, 2007 08:20 PM

Early Greek Philosophers!

Alex J. Avriette | March 23, 2007 09:25 PM

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?

john | March 23, 2007 09:52 PM

I've got a couple.

The War on Drugs

Political Correctness

Revisionist History

Intellectual property, DRM, piracy

Net Neutrality

john | March 23, 2007 09:57 PM

Oh yeah, and I forgot one: The DMCA

KevinQ | March 23, 2007 10:14 PM

Your "Bands I never get tired of" post made me think of this question:

It's well into the future, and you have just died. Your life is over. In your will you have listed one song to be played when they lower you into the ground/roll you into the oven/scatter your ashes. One song, that either sums up your life on earth, or speeds you on the way to the next life.

What is your burial song, and why?


Steve Buchheit | March 23, 2007 10:35 PM

Stacy, you haven't lived until you see a horse buggy driven under obvious influence of some intoxicant on a state highway at 1am. Or have your radio drowned out by a boom-box in a buggy (and my windows were up). Mostly the kids are to blame, but I could tell you stories (in fact, some of them end up in my stories I'm trying to sell).

deCadmus | March 23, 2007 10:49 PM

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


Jeteraus | March 23, 2007 11:18 PM

Essential Science Fiction Reading.

2 categories, the classics and modern SF.


Paul | March 23, 2007 11:34 PM

I second the nomination for your thoughts on bio-fuels, like ethanol and bio-deisel.

Also, the impact to one's health of being addicted to soda.

JH | March 23, 2007 11:36 PM

Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert?

Joel | March 23, 2007 11:41 PM

What impractical foreign language would you like to be fluent in?

By impractical, I mean, has no immediate application in your life: None of your friends speak it, no one you know speaks it, you have no plans to travel to a destination where it is spoken - you just want to be able to speak it because you find it unique and interesting. Inuktitut, for example.

Dr. Phil | March 24, 2007 12:24 AM

If asked, would you teach a week at Clarion? Does the recent move from East Lansing MI to San Diego CA affect your decision? (grin)

Dr. Phil

Jesse C | March 24, 2007 01:08 AM

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 reeder request week.

Blog Post

CmdrSue | March 24, 2007 01:19 AM

The Year 2069

How Publishers Should REALLY Pick Books and Authors

Falling In Love


Do Blondes Have More Fun?

Michele | March 24, 2007 01:50 AM

What are Athena's favorite books?

Old Jarhead | March 24, 2007 02:13 AM

"Cold Equations" by Tom Godwin was the first SF story I remember reading as a boy in 1954 and it captured my imagination as few stories or books have since and inspired my interest in SF. What story caught your imagination and set you on the path to reading and writing SF?

Old Jarhead

SFC SKI | March 24, 2007 07:21 AM

I have two topics:
The first is: Citizenship, in the snese 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?

Anonymous Coward | March 24, 2007 08:00 AM

The Singularity - fact, fiction or somewhere between?

Ewan | March 24, 2007 08:05 AM

OK, I'll delurk and actually make suggestions/requests.

* Raising children that you're proud to have raised - what's key?

* [Top choice] How to avoid procrastination

* [Unlikely, I suspect] Best artisinal foods in the US right now


LCB | March 24, 2007 09:44 AM

Hmmm...you were a reporter once in Dayton...reporters get around...

Good places to eat in SW Ohio!!! Not big resturants...the places most people don't know about!

Patrick M. | March 24, 2007 10:06 AM

Single Children

I'm asking because I am also raising a single child(5 year old boy) and I frequently get the, "Are you ready for another" by parents with two or more and I have wonderful conversations around why I chose to have only one child. Was yours a conscious decision and why? Do you see benefits to raising a single child? limitations? Challenges? Advice?

Queenie | March 24, 2007 12:32 PM


Not bacon and beer, or anything that's even remotely conncted to bacon, but what the Scalzinator eats when he's at home/at a restaurant that doesn't serve bacon/traveling/not consuming bacon. Just an idea.

fishbane | March 24, 2007 12:46 PM

Marital success.

witteafval | March 24, 2007 01:24 PM

There seems to be an increase of Hollywood movies that have revisited or rebooted old series within the past couple of years (and still going): Batman, Superman, James Bond, Rocky, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers, and a few others I can't think of right now (I suppose the Star Wars prequels might fit the criteria as well).

Anyway, thoughts. Here to stay, or passing trend? Which of these efforts did you think worked well (noting what you've already said about Star Wars)? Does this say anything about Hollywood's creativity or lack thereof? What old movie series would you like to see revisited or rebooted, if any?

Rebecca Hb. | March 24, 2007 01:33 PM

An additional thought/question: What are your thoughts and evaluations on the short story market for genre writing these days?

MWT | March 24, 2007 02:12 PM

Ewan said: * [Top choice] How to avoid procrastination

You'll probably enjoy reading this: http://www.structuredprocrastination.com/

Kami | March 24, 2007 02:27 PM

Aww, John, the comment moderation queue ate my suggestion.

bring it back, please? *puppy dog eyes*

Brian | March 24, 2007 09:18 PM

OK, this has kind of been bugging me.

You have several Scalzi for SFWA posters recently that are clearly inspired (if not outright taken) from Soviet Art. Would you post any Scalzi for SFWA poster that used Nazi art?

I mean, the Workers unite is a cool look, but the SS thing isn't without style. (And The Triumph of Will has broad influence in the visual arts). In terms of killing their own people, the Nazis weren't as bad (at least, according to the Black Book of Communism).

I do think that the Nazi poster would cross the line, but clearly you don't mind the Soviet images (or you wouldn't have posted the images).

Why not?

Ewan | March 24, 2007 09:55 PM

I said: * [Top choice] How to avoid procrastination

following which MWT generously noted:

You'll probably enjoy reading this: http://www.structuredprocrastination.com/

...and I did. Thanks muchly. I especially liked the thought that trying to minimise the number of things that I have going on - wait, did I say me? I meant, um, that other guy - is counterproductive, and taking on more would actually help. This is in fact exactly true, now that I think about it, and I shall proceed thusly. Tenure, here I come!

John Scalzi | March 24, 2007 09:58 PM

Kami: I think I lost your suggestion. Please post it again!

Djscman | March 24, 2007 10:03 PM

What are your favorite movies, SF or otherwise? Do you think filmmakers could consciously duplicate what you liked about them?

J at The Dundies | March 24, 2007 10:30 PM

The state of YA SF.

ordinarygirl | March 25, 2007 02:21 AM

Your grand, master plan for Athena when she wants to start dating.

nsh | March 25, 2007 08:06 AM

Many of the whatever readres (inlcuding me)would like to hear your thought about the US war in Iraq and its parallel lines with the one fought in Vietnam.

Woudl you cosider mil. science fiction books as pro/anti war genre ?

Graeme Williams | March 25, 2007 01:22 PM

I'd like to hear more recommendations for science fiction books along the lines of, "If you liked that, you'll like this".

I also love to hear some recommendations for "entry-level" books for people who haven't read much science fiction (for others) or fantasy (for me). I assume that there are great fantasy books out there, but most of the ones I've read recently either include dragons, or couldn't be any worse if you added dragons.

I'm not exactly asking you to turn Whatever into a review site, but I know you mention / recommend books every so often, so when you do, this is the sort of information I'd find most useful.

Castiron | March 25, 2007 01:49 PM

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

Randomscrub | March 25, 2007 02:09 PM

Do you have any suggestions for a person who wants to get into writing nonfiction? How does one even know where/how to start?

Also, what drove you to get a philosophy degree as an undergraduate, rather than English or something else typical for a writer?

Patrick M. | March 25, 2007 02:09 PM

I suppose I meant 'only child' rather than 'single child'.

amk | March 25, 2007 06:18 PM

What's it like to be a professional article writer doing corporate work and how do you work with the clients? How specific are their requests? How long does an article take to write? How does the revision process between your client and you work?

(I'm on the board of a non-profit that's hiring a writer to write some white papers and introductory documents, and we're not sure how to manage the writer: should we expect to see an outline first? How many hours are required for an N-page article? Writing about this would be pretty useful for us, and hopefully for others.)

J.D. Finch | March 25, 2007 09:30 PM

Neal Stephenson, in a recent NY Times op-ed piece, opines that those who are SF geeks may actually finally be exhibiting some cool. Has the image of the horn rimmed glasses (held together with tape and/or bandaid) wearing...pocket protector having...scared of the opposite sex being... SF fan finally bitten the dust? Or is Stephenson just a punk blowing steam?

(I've posted the piece on my blog as it is no longer available at the NY Times site for free viewing.)

"Lack of critical respect means nothing to sci-fi’s creators and fans. They made peace with their own dorkiness long ago. Oh, there was momentary discomfort around the time of William Shatner’s 1987 'Saturday Night Live' sketch, in which he exhorted Trekkies to 'get a life.' But this had been fully resolved by 2000, when sci-fi fans voted to give the Hugo Award for best movie to 'Galaxy Quest,' a film that revolves around making fun of sci-fi fans.

The growing popularity of science fiction, the rise of graphic novels, anime and video games, and the fact that geeks can make lots of money now, have given creators and fans of this kind of art a confidence, even a swagger, that — hard as it is for some of us to believe — is kind of cool now."

Jeff Hentosz | March 25, 2007 10:53 PM

One more from me. What do you think of the idea — it apparently goes back to the founding of the republic — of establishing a cabinet-level Department of Peace? Some fallout from a current effort in that direction was reported on NPR Saturday.

And strike my #5 up-thread. Patrick M. is absolutely right. It's totally silly. Please substitute: Who would win in a fight, Steve Buchheit or a drunk Amish teenager?

MWT | March 26, 2007 12:34 AM

Found another one to request:


What do you think about Wikipedia in terms of reliability, usefulness, impact on the world as we know it, etc. etc.? Also, the value of expertise from certified experts versus random anonymous people? And how successful do you figure Citizendium might be?

(I blathered a bunch of my own thoughts on the subject in an LJ, which I've put into the URL field; not that it'll probably be interesting to anyone besides me and the guy I was talking to; but now I get to find out what that URL field does...)

Kell Brown | March 26, 2007 10:17 AM

The plague of snakeoil salesmen on TV and the internets

Jennie | March 26, 2007 11:00 AM

Recommend a good man purse.

another steve | March 26, 2007 03:28 PM

The English in an Amish world.

Adam Rakunas | March 26, 2007 05:22 PM

Have you ever had a fanboy moment? And I don't mean just SF fanboy moments. If you were in an elevator by yourself and Steve Perry walked in and it was just the two of you for twenty floors as "Don't Stop Believin'" played on the Musak and Perry himself was mumbling "Streetlights...people...", what would you do?

Actually, I think I like the second question better.

Jeri | March 26, 2007 05:30 PM

Futurism! To take it one step beyond Chang's total request live plea, specifically: what of your own fictional concepts do you consider most plausible to occur in the next century, as well as least likely to occur? And what do you most fervently hope, work and politic to prevent ever taking place? (Besides SFWA presidency, your own or someone else's?)

Hmmm... leads me to a thought, would the SFWA work as a rational anarchy? Probably not.

CosmicDog | March 26, 2007 08:07 PM

Hi John, I have a two part question about Agent to the Stars:

1. I know that it was your first published Fiction novel, but is it the first one you wrote? Are there other unpublished novels or parts of novels at the Scalzi compound and Agent to the Stars was just the one you liked the most and decided to release to the world? (All one question).

2. What was your process for writing this story? Did you just write straight through and do a lot of re-writing, did you know the beginning and the end and fill in the middle, or some other method?

As you may have guessed, I am unpublished novelist and I am trying to get a feel for what others have gone through in getting that first one out there.

MWT | March 27, 2007 12:58 AM

Yet another request from me:

For a lot of the questions that have relatively short answers, do another podcast. :)

Tim Weaver | March 27, 2007 08:11 AM

how about something related to the very unfortunate situation that Kathy Sierra finds herself in. Have you experienced anything like this, what would you do, what should she do?

Johnny Carruthers | March 27, 2007 11:44 AM

What is your favorite candy bar, and why?

Chang, for rizzle. | March 27, 2007 12:38 PM

Skunk or Donut?

Twitch | March 27, 2007 12:45 PM

What keeps you up at night? (besides noisy neighbors of course...)

Twitch | March 27, 2007 12:47 PM

Oh...and secondly who would win a rock/paper/scissors competition, you, Neil Gaiman or Neal Stephenson?

Dave | March 27, 2007 01:33 PM

I've noticed that many musicians listen to, and are influenced by, a surprisingly wide variety of music. It seems to me that there's something that makes you either a musician or not (this is different from having a career or hobby playing music or not), and one of the features of being a musician is an innate understanding of just about any music.

Do you think
1) This is a cr*p theory and utterly wrong;

2) It's correct, but applies only to music; or

3) It's correct, and applies to other arts as well, including/excluding writing?

Do you seek out a variety of things to read? Do you read as little as possible so as to not taint your own process? It writing merely a technical skill and not "art?" Or do no arts have depth beyond skill?

That might have been more than one question.

Jess | March 27, 2007 04:51 PM

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?

Joel Finkle | March 27, 2007 09:01 PM

See: http://headrush.typepad.com/creating_passionate_users/2007/03/as_i_type_this_.htm
rearding death threats against Kathy Sierra

Girl Detective | March 27, 2007 09:57 PM

I was going to ask your thoughts on OH, but I see you answered that already. I was born in OH, grew up mostly there, then moved away and have managed to get to 39 and not move back. (Never say never, but still.) 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?

h | March 28, 2007 02:45 PM

If I gave you a dollar would you wear my pants and take a photo of it? why or why not?

Olya | March 28, 2007 03:48 PM


Your opinions/beliefs that changed after you had a child. Anything from "became a recycling fiend -- could care less before" to "never thought I would buy Disney-themed clothes, etc" to "now understand why some parents just lose it and snap."

Dave | March 28, 2007 05:48 PM

If the average Whatever reader who's not already a writer decided to become one (and took it seriously) what do you think the odds are they would produce (in some arbitrary but reasonable time period) something (say, 1-n stories or poems or 1 screen-/teleplay or novel)

a) good (can be shown to family and friends without embarrassment);

b) publishable (reputably);

c) published (reputably);

d) paid a non-nominal amount for;

e) is the start of an illustrious career?

Brandon | March 29, 2007 07:55 AM

Can a good writer make any topic interesting? Conversely, if a specialized piece isn't interesting to a broader audience is that a failure on the part of the writer or just par for the course? Inquiring minds want to know!

Scot | March 29, 2007 08:36 AM

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?

Adam Ziegler | March 29, 2007 10:15 AM


The world is a sad place. One can argue that some things have improved in recent centuries and decades, yet with every turn of the sun, parents lose their beloved children, innocents are maimed or forced in slavery, wars rage, and most people on this planet endure grinding poverty. We live atop a mountain of sorrows, made higher still by our ongoing misery.

But you are fortunate. By luck of birth and the skill of your hands, you have escaped the fate of most. You earn a generous wage as an entertainer. You have a beautiful family, your health, a comfortable home. But all of it could end tomorrow.

Even if you are one of those rare individuals who can live every moment in the present; even if you know in your bones that life is what you make of it, you are still an intelligent person who knows the state of the world and how fortunate you are to have your fragile place within it. You know that, in the end, most of what you say or do will matter very little. You know that you, your family, everyone you know and everything you have worked for must someday come to ruin and dust.

My question: Does it make you sad? How do you deal?

I ask, because recently I’ve been struggling with this myself.

Adam Ziegler | March 29, 2007 10:29 AM

I’d like to clarify:

A philosophical response would be interesting, but I’m looking here for practical advice. If you find yourself feeling in a funk about the world, what do you DO?

I can go all Zen and tell myself that to resist sadness is to resist happiness, but I’m still sad.

Jeri | March 29, 2007 01:56 PM

I'm annoyed today and blogged about it... and thought I'd ask your input - how do YOU deal with this issue as a work at home creative professional? This is what I wrote:

Why is it that when I take vacation time at home, with the intention of using it as creative time, it completely disappears under a honey-do list avalanche?

Don't get me wrong, it's not that the love of my life is a slavedriver. He's not, in fact, the majority of the items end up coming from me, not him.

I end up with a full slate of high priority or even urgent errands, cleaning, home projects, etc that take up as much or even more time than my day of work would have.

Is it adjusting to the single focus required by creative work? Or is it just needing to amp up my boundaries?

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