House For Sale: Come Live in Bucolic Splendor!

My mother-in-law has put her old house up for sale, on account that two-and-half acres of lawn and woods is a little much for her to keep up on her lonesome. So: Looking for a place to live in beautiful, bucolic Darke County, Ohio, home of Annie Oakley (and also, me)? This three bedroom, two bath ranch home on two-and-a-half acres with two-car garage and barn is, honestly, just about perfect. Come buy it and live where you can see the Milky Way at night!

Here’s the official listing for the house. If you’re interested, contact the listing agent, Jeff Apple. He’ll be happy to answer your questions and set a showing.

The Big Idea: Ann Leckie

And now, for Ancillary Mercy, the third book of a trilogy that began with the ridiculously successful Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie ditches the usual “Big Idea” format for something else entirely. And why not!


So let’s be real. Ancillary Mercy is the concluding book of a trilogy. Trilogies are often (though of course not always) very large single works. So in a lot of ways the “big idea” of Ancillary Mercy is a logical extension of the big idea of Ancillary Justice. And really, if you haven’t read Justice yet, Mercy probably isn’t the best place for you to start. Though, you know, you can if you want to.

So instead of going over the AJ stuff again–what is a person? Who is anybody anyway?–I instead give you the Ancillary FAQ. These are all questions I’ve actually gotten (or oveheard) at one time or another.

Q: How can you possibly wrap the story up in one more volume? There’s too much going on; I don’t see how you could manage it.

A: The easiest way for me to answer that is to actually do it. Which I have, and you can see the answer for yourself wherever fine books are sold. Or at a library near you. I love libraries. They’re awesome.

Q: Will there be more books after this one?

A: There will be more books, and certainly more books in this universe, but not books about Breq. Nothing against her, I’ve had a lovely time these past three books, but it will be nice to do something different.

Q: What is it with you and tea?

A: I love tea! Tea is the most frequently consumed beverage on this planet, next to water. I can’t imagine we’d go far from our solar system without finding a way to take it with us. Also it’s partly a very respectful bow to C.J. Cherryh’s Foreigner series.

Q: There was not enough Seivarden in Sword. Will you be remedying this in Mercy?

A: I have to admit the strength of some readers’ affection for Seivarden caught me by surprise. I mean, I love her, of course, I made her. I just didn’t expect her to be quite so much of a favorite.

In answer to your question, I present two Wordles for you to compare. If you’re not familiar with Wordles, it’s a thing where you take a bunch of text–in this case two novels–and plug them in and you get a graphic where the most frequently used words are larger and the less used ones are smaller.

First, the Wordle for Ancillary Sword. Note the relative size of “Seivarden.” A little difficult to find, huh?

And now, the Wordle for Ancillary Mercy.

Q: I notice the word “translator” in that Mercy wordle. And that only reminds me that Translator Dlique was onstage for far too short a time in Sword, and now I am sad.

A: I myself was sad when I realized how short a time Translator Dlique would be onstage. But there really was no way around it.

I was talking with a friend of mine recently, and saying that I’d heard from some readers who were very unhappy with the all-too-brief appearance of Dlique, and she frowned at me and said, “But what about…oh, wait! They haven’t read Mercy yet!” And then she started laughing.

Q: I really think the second book ought to have been called Ancillary Mercy. There wasn’t a whole lot of “sword” in it. Why is the second one Sword and this one Mercy?

A: Originally the titles of the three books were going to be Justice of Toren, Sword of Atagaris, and Mercy of Kalr. My agent knew nothing of this–well, except the title of the first book–and thought Justice of Toren wasn’t a particularly fabulous title. He suggested Ancillary Justice and I agreed, pleased that my Justice/Sword/Mercy scheme could remain in place.
As often happens when I write–I gather this happens to lots of other writers as well–Sword of Atagaris ended up not being quite as prominent a character in the story as I’d originally planned. But I still didn’t want to switch the titles. For one thing, I think Justice/Sword/Mercy makes a better overall arc. For another, well, read the book.

Q: I’m really hankering for some Imperial Radch fan art. Is there any?

A: There sure is! And it’s fabulous.

Q: And fanfic? What’s your fanfic policy?

A: Fanfic is awesome. My fanfic policy is “I won’t read it, please don’t try to sell it, but otherwise you have fun.” And frankly, as far as I’m concerned, having people write fanfic of your book is right up there with winning awards.

Q: What sort of tea would the Radchaai drink? Is it like some kind of tea we have here on present-day Earth?

A: I’ve actually answered that question here.

Q: No, but seriously, Ann, at the end of Sword you left us with a damaged space station, a resentful and mutinous warship that has every reason to hate Breq, a mysterious ship on the other side of the Ghost Gate whose nature and motives we know almost nothing about, a civil war in progress, and possibly angry and very dangerous aliens going to turn up at some point–

A: That’s about the size of it, yes. And the only way to find out what happens next is to read it.


Ancillary Mercy: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow her on Twitter.

New Books and ARCs, 10/5/15

I usually post new book/ARCs entries later in the week, but I’m going to be busy later this week, at NYCC and at Nerdcon:Stories, and also I received enough books to do a post today, so: Hey, look! New books and ARCs! If you see anything that interests you, tell us about it in the comments.

In Other News This May Be My Next Author Photo

I believe cornhole is about to replace kickball as the hipster sport of choice, and for once I’m out in front of the trend. Way, way far out. Who will join me on this ragged, hipster edge?

Also, for those of you going “Cornhole? WTF?” here’s an explanation of the sport. And yes, there is actually a national league. That’s where I got the jersey.

35 Years of Tor is unveiling Tor’s new logo today — it looks like the old logo, only, you know, more modernand offering a timeline of highlights from Tor’s now 35-year-long history. I’m delighted to say I show up on the timeline twice, first in 2005, when it’s noted that I and Brandon Sanderson debuted in that year, and again in 2013, when Redshirts won the Hugo award. It’s nice to be considered part of that history.

I’ve remarked on it before, but I’ll do it again now: I like that Tor is my publisher. Part of it has to do with the fact that Tor is Tor, the largest publisher of science fiction in North America and possibly the world (I’d have to check to see what’s up with China these days to be sure about that), and so being published by a company that has the talent and skill and reach of Tor is a nice thing indeed. Tor is also one of the smartest publishers, too — it hasn’t been afraid of the digital world, and it trusts its readers, which is why their ebooks are DRM-free.

Part of it is that nearly all the time I’ve been with Tor, they’ve been willing to back what I did in fiction, even if it didn’t necessarily make great sense on paper. Write a book that starts with a chapter-long fart joke? Go for it! Rewrite a classic of the genre just to see what it’d be like. Cool, let’s see what happens! Take one of the oldest jokes in science fiction — hey, it’s not a great idea to be the dude in a red shirt! — make a whole novel out of it, and tack on three codas at the end, just for kicks? Why the hell not, we’ll run it up the flagpole and see who salutes! And so on.

The leeway I’ve gotten from Tor in what they publish from me is a microcosm of how I think Tor approaches science fiction and fantasy in general, a philosophy of well, let’s try it and see what happens. Tor is no stranger to “old school” science fiction, of course — one need only look as far as the Old Man’s War series for confirmation of that — but I like the fact that they don’t hold to the philosophy that science fiction is only that (or that fantasy should only be one way, for that matter). Science fiction and fantasy by their very definitions should contain multitudes: Multitudes of stories and ideas and perspectives and authors. I look at what Tor publishes and I see a lot of different work, from a lot of different points of view. This is good thing. There’s always room for more, and I like seeing my publisher going toward the direction of more. I hope it continues to be a guiding philosophy.

Mostly, however, I’m glad to be part of Tor because of the people I know there. My editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden, most obviously (and Teresa Nielsen Hayden, font of wisdom that she is), but so many other people as well. To name just a few: Irene Gallo, the company’s art director, who is one of the very best in publishing, period; Alexis Saarela and Patty Garcia in Tor’s PR department, who have to put up with me when I’m on tour; Liz Gorinsky, who even as Patrick’s assistant was always one of the smartest people in the room; and Tom Doherty himself — if anyone can be called a wizard of publishing, it would be he. There are more, many more, than this. I like the people I know at Tor. They make publishing there a generally pleasurable experience.

Is Tor perfect? No, it has its foibles and missteps, and it and some of its people have done dumb things in the past, because people are people and business is business. It hasn’t even always been perfect with me; I’ve had some sharp disagreements with the company in my past, and I’m sure I will have kvetches and complaints in the future. I like Tor and am happy to be published by them, and consider many of the people who work there to be my friends. But I also don’t forget that Tor is also a publishing company, owned by a larger publishing company, owned by an international holding company, with fallable humans comprising those companies all the way up to the top. Their priorities and mine are not always in sync and never will be. If as an author you don’t understand this fundamental disconnect, you’re going to be grievously surprised one day. This is not me saying know your place; it is me saying understand the context.  If you understand the latter, you might be surprised at how far you can get.

Tor and I are going to be in business together for a long time, so I’m glad I like the people and the company, and the general philosophy of the publishing house. I’m invested in Tor’s success, as they are now in mine. I’ll be happy to have that new logo on the spine of my books over the next decade.

Adulthood and What Being a Friend Means Now

The New York Times ran an interesting article today, in which the writer of the piece talked about the difficulty of making friends if one is over the age of 30. The reasons for this vary and can include the fact that one has a family and children to worry about, time pressures, scheduling, and the fact that as one gets older one becomes pickier about the people one chooses to spend time with in any event.

I found the article interesting because while not discounting all of the above, my thirties and forties have been very good years for me in terms of the acquisition friends, both in terms of quantity and of quality of friends. I can say without reservation that a number of the people that I’ve met in the last decade have become some of the most important people in my life, friends that I can’t imagine living my life without now. I don’t disagree with the writer’s general thesis — I do think it is generally harder to make new friends the older one gets — but it does make me wonder what the mechanics of my situation have been that make the last decade different for me than for this particular author.

The answer, think, is relatively simple: I moved into a line of work with a deeply-established social structure. Which is to say that when I became a science fiction author, I plugged into a field where there were lots of conventions and social events, i.e., opportunities to socialize with people who have similar enthusiasms, and where both fans and pros in the genre generally buy into the idea of a community. All things being equal, people are friendly and supportive rather than not.

Additionally, the way that the science fiction community comes together for conventions and similar events works really well for the general impositions that adults have making and maintaining friendships. When fans and pros go to conventions, by and large they are taking a bit of time from their “real” lives to have two or three days of highly concentrated social experiences: Hanging out in hotel bars, staying up late with deep (and not so deep) conversations about work and life, and otherwise focusing on enjoying themselves with others — not worrying (as much) about life, and kids, and other parts of their existence that distract from making a connection with other adults.

There’s also the fact that people in science fiction and fantasy (and also I think in literature generally) are pretty good with the social media thing. While there’s certainly the possibility of downside in blogs/Twitter/Facebook what with complete and utter assholes trying to get your attention, which we don’t need to get into at the moment, the lovely upside to social media is that it makes it easy to stay in contact with friends even when you can’t physically be with them at any particular moment. Snarking with my pals (authors and otherwise) on Twitter or Facebook helps keep the friendship humming along, so you don’t have that start-and-stop feeling that the NYT writer mentions.

(I don’t think that any of this is unique to science fiction and fantasy, mind you. There are other communities that adults can join into and have at least some of the same dynamics in play. This is just the one I lucked into.)

Finally, I think there’s a personal aspect as well. I find it relatively easy to be friendly with people, and consequently, to make friends — and also (this is somewhat important, I think), I don’t fret if I don’t see a friend for months or even years at a stretch. Because, you know, I realize we’re all adults and have lives and kids and such, and that sometimes that’s just the deal. I mean, I can usually tell pretty quickly whether I want to be friends with someone. If I do, then the qualities that make them someone I’d want to be friends with are (generally) not likely to go away. So I don’t worry about seeing them again. When I do, I assume it’ll still be there. And in the meantime, as noted: Twitter and blogs and such.

(And also, occasionally: Email and/or phone and/or other private communication! That’s right! Not everything in the New Age has to be done in public!)

I do think friendship as an adult has to be approached with the understanding that it is different for adults than for people in their twenties or below. If you try to do friendship like you were sixteen years old, then it’s probably going to end up like anything you’d approach as if you were sixteen, i.e., kind of a hot mess. Being sixteen is fine when you’re sixteen. It’s problematic when you’re thirty-six or forty-six. So, be a grown-up about what friendship is and how it’s done in between everything else in your life, and I think you’ll be fine.

I’ve noted before here, a while back, that prior to coming into the world of science fiction, I told Krissy that I was pretty sure I had made all the friends I was ever going to make. It turns out I was entirely wrong, and it turns out that I am very happy about that. I wouldn’t trade the friendships I’ve made in the last decade for anything in the world. They were a surprise for me and I’ve been grateful for them. I continue to be grateful for every new friend I make. I hope to make at least a few more before I’m done.

(Picture above of a group of us at the Hugo afterparty, borrowed from Ramez Naam)

Ohio From Above, 10/4/15

You can see where the fields are being harvested. A nice contrast of brown and green. Three weeks ago, it was mostly green. Three weeks from now, it will be mostly brown. The seasons. They happen.

In other news I am back in Ohio, for the next couple of days. Then it’s off to New York City for ComicCon and then Minneapolis for Nerdcon. Busy times here in Scalziland.

Greetings From Iowa City

It’s very pretty here today.

Reminder if you’re in town that I’ll be doing my event at 4pm at the former “Wedge” space at 136 S. Dubuque (I wrote 135 yesterday – my bad). See you there!

If you’re not in town, I hope you’re having a good day anyway, and, if you are on the east coast, that you haven’t been swept away by rain.

View From a Hotel Window: Iowa City + New Books and ARCs, 10/2/15

First, the view out my hotel window!

Well, it’s not a parking lot. The room itself is perfectly nice, however, so. For those of you in or near Iowa City, my events are tomorrow: I have a reading/Q&A at 4pm at 135 South Dubuque St (the former Wedge space, I am told) and I will have a signing there immediately thereafter). Come on down!

And now, new books and ARCs that have come to the Scalzi Compound this week. Obviously I took the picture before I left. Here’s what we have:

What looks good to you? Tell me in the comments!

I Am On My Way to Iowa City

Because all the cool kids will be at the Iowa City Book Festival. And I’m a cool kid!


(That last all caps sentence was a reference to a recent spasm in science fiction about “cool kids,” which was very silly because people out of high school should not be using high school as a social metaphor on a regular basis, and it gets more embarrassing to use the older you get. A pro tip there.)

(Also, topic for discussion, speaking of high school and cool kids: You know you’re an adult when you watch Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and think to yourself, “You know what? Ferris really is kind of a prick, isn’t he?” Debate in the comments.)

Anyway, Iowa City! I’ll be there soon. If you’re there, I’ll see you there! If you’re not there, well, we’ll have to try to have fun without you. It will be difficult! But we’ll try.

In Which I Rank the Months, Because Why Not

In order from best to worst:

1. October: Halloween. Cool weather. Foliage.

2. May: My birthday. Spring in full bloom. Memorial Day starts summer.

3. December: Come on, it’s the holidays.

4. September: Start of the school year (traditional). Football, if you care.

5. June: Summer’s nice month.

6. November: The middle child of the 4th quarter. Thanksgiving in the US.

7. April: Usually Easter. Usually somewhat green.

8. January: New year, but first half feels like December’s hangover.

9. February: Screw you, Valentine’s Day, don’t tell me how to feel.

10. July: July 4th plus two weeks of errant fireworks.

11. August: Summer’s asshole month.

12. March: Drunks and mud.

Your rankings belong in the comments.

The Big Idea: David J. Peterson

Here’s a word for you: “Conlanger.” Do you know what one is? And what one does? And how they relate to some of your favorite fantasy and science fiction movies in the last several years? David J. Peterson, author of The Art of Language Invention, will catch you up on all the details — and they’re very cool details, to be sure.


I am a conlanger.

If this were the year 2000, one in every ten thousand or so people would know what that meant. Now in 2015, I’d say one in every four or so people have an idea what that means. That’s huge. And for those of us that are conlangers (or language creators, for the other three quarters), the notion that language creation is now a publicly discussed, if not understood, phenomenon is still surreal.

After all, it wasn’t too long ago that conlanging as an activity was still quite obscure. The rise in notoriety of language creation wasn’t gradual, but exponential. Starting with James Cameron’s Avatar at the end of 2009, and followed closely by Game of Thrones in 2011, conlanging’s star has risen more dramatically in the past five years than it had in the previous 900.

The meteoric rise of conlanging coupled with a sea change in how we interact with the internet (younger folks especially) has left us with a strange reality. Scores of new would-be conlangers are coming to the craft specifically because of examples they’ve encountered in film and television in the past five years. Further, because of how they use the internet (Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Reddit—essentially media sharing and microblogging platforms), they’re finding each other, and finding discussions of well-known conlangs, but aren’t finding the older crowd—the original conlanging community.

The reason is simple enough. The older conlanging groups are housed on e-mail–based listservs or phpBB bulletin boards—platforms that were hugely popular in the 90s and early 00s, but which don’t seem to enjoy a lot of use anymore. Additionally, most conlangs by older conlangers are presented on personal websites—often with hand-coded HTML and CSS—which are all but invisible now that webrings and link lists are passé.

Now don’t think for a moment I’m bemoaning the current state of the internet—far from it! Sharing/resharing has changed the world, and changed it for the better. Reddit has really filled the hole that the death of newspapers had left in my morning routine.

The problem lies not with new conlangers, but with the old guard—those that aren’t transitioning to the new internet. Unfortunately, it’s the new conlangers who are suffering for it.

Going back to the year 2000, I was a brand new conlanger who didn’t know anything about the craft or anyone else who created languages. After a year of fumbling in the dark with my first language I found the original conlanging community, and that’s where I learned everything I know today. That’s basically what everyone did back then: Found the community, listened in, shared, received critiques, and improved.

The best part was, as a community, we all got a lot better at creating languages. Whether it was a language for a fantasy novel one was working on, or a “what if” project to test the limits of our linguistic capacity, the projects that came out of that period were stellar. And it makes me sad to think that while conlanging is currently at its zenith, much of this work is more obscure than ever.

With The Art of Language Invention, my purpose was twofold. The first was to give the uninitiated a window into the world of conlanging: to see what it’s all about, to see the work that goes into creating a language, and, maybe, to see if it’s for them. The second, though, was to build a bridge between the original conlanging community and the conlangers to come.

Obviously, the most visible part of this bridge-building is sharing the conlanging strategies, tips, and tricks I’ve learned over the years and included in the book. These, of course, are not my own invention: they come from the education I gained as a member of the early conlang community. Beyond that, though, I wanted to advertise the fact that other conlangers have done great work, and they have a lot to share—and a lot to teach.

The reason this is so important to me is that I hold no illusions about the position I occupy in the world of conlanging and how I got there. I was fortunate to be born when I was born, and fortunate that, after creating my first language, I found the early conlang community. After putting in ten years learning how to create languages, I was fortunate to hear about the competition to create the Dothraki language for Game of Thrones (not all conlangers did), so when I got my shot, I worked my choyo off to get the job—not just because I wanted it (I did), but to honor those that helped to inform my understanding of the craft.

Because outside the accidents of history, I am one of the old conlangers. You can still see my old website with hand-coded HTML and CSS here (and, yes, I like those colors, and I’m not changing them!). Some of my old languages were just okay; some were pretty good. No one would have heard of them, though, just as few have heard of Kash, created by Roger Mills, who died this past September. He put a lot of work and a lot of love into that language, and it’s quite impressive (I love Kash’s reciprocative reduplication pattern). Work like this is worthy of study and admiration and deserves to be remembered.

So, since I got the opportunity to write a book on language creation—to write about the art that has been my passion for over a decade and is now my livelihood—it was my big idea to let everyone know exactly what’s behind some of the conlangs you hear and see on the big and small screen, and to acknowledge and celebrate the conlangers who came before me and helped me to become who I am today.


The Art of Language Invention: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow him on Twitter.

What My Day Was Like

Look at contract.

Email agent about contract.

Look at another contract.

Let electrician in to do work in the basement.

Look at questionnaire accompanying second contract.

Talk to agent on the phone about contract.

Look at email about another thing that will require a contract.

Email other agent about that thing.

Let electrician out because he’s done with his work in the basement.

Look at thing that requires scheduling.

See possible conflict with other thing.

Email overseas editor about thing that requires scheduling.




Schedule this.

Schedule that.

Add a thing to an already-existing schedule.

Think about scheduling some October Big Idea pieces that haven’t already been scheduled because tomorrow is October.

Realize it’s 4:30.

Remember you thought about doing some writing today.

That was my day.

I Had Things I Wanted To Write Here But Got Swamped by Actual Work, So While I Catch Up, Enjoy This Very Important Cover Version of a Very Important 90s Song

You’re gonna love it. 

See, told you.

Who is this guy? He’s this guy.

The Big Idea: Ilana C. Myer

Poets: Can they change the world? And what kind of world would it be if they could? Ilana C. Myer poses this question in her Big Idea, for her novel Last Song Before Night.


It began in a college class—long enough ago. The topic was poets in Celtic myth. The text was “Guaire’s Greedy Guests,” the tale of a man who suffers from guests for whom the term “imposition” is an understatement. The host must accede his guests’ every demand, is too scared to do otherwise, for one reason: they are poets. Poetry, in those myths, had power. With words they might bring any disaster on him they choose.

The idea of a terrifying poet is incredible to anyone who has lived in our world for five minutes. Even our Poet Laureate’s greatest power is, likely, to acquire a prestige position at a university. Yet here in Celtic myth was a different concept of the poet altogether. Kings sought the blessing of poets, feared them. A life might be transformed, or destroyed, through song.

There in that class was planted the seed of Last Song Before Night. I asked myself: What would it be like to live in a society where poets were powerful? Where they posed a threat even to the king?

Immediately I thought, first of all, as personalities they would be less like poets of our day and more like rock stars. The combination of charisma, skill, and societal clout would make someone larger than life. But they’d have the pitfalls of rock stars, too—the ego traps and rivalries that characterize the arts as a whole, especially near the top. And with such characters as protagonists, the conflicts must center first and foremost around questions of art: What it means, what it makes of us, how it connects us to the world. How through art we can craft illusions to hide from the truth of ourselves, or else discover it—at times in ways acutely painful.

When Last Song opens, poets are enjoying fame and wealth although their enchantments are long gone. They reap the rewards of being rock stars without the responsibilities of true power. Ultimately the protagonists will be forced to recover their lost enchantments in order to avert cataclysm—and this can only be done at great cost.

While Celtic myth provided inspiration, I was equally intrigued by the troubadours of twelfth-century Provence, with their intricate codes of honor and problematic ideation of women. That I ended up writing the book while living in Jerusalem, a city of near-eternal summer and Middle Eastern culture, was an influence that crept in through the back door.

Beyond the influences of myth, place, and history, what shaped this story was an intense drive to create something even when there didn’t seem to be a point—everyone knows it’s hard as hell to get published. Dedicating years and making significant life choices around the completion of this book always seemed, in light of reality, a form of madness. Inevitably, the questions I was forced to ask myself over the years—why I was doing this, what art means to me—became an undercurrent in the writing.

I had hoped, starting out fresh out of college, that through the process I’d discover concrete  answers. I can say honestly that this didn’t happen, but what opened up to me instead was infinitely more valuable in the end. I am excited to share it with you.


Last Song Before Night: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow her on Twitter.

Weekend Clouds

And it was a good weekend for them. I was concerned that the clouds would prevent us from seeing the lunar eclipse last night, but as it turned out there was a gap in the cloud cover just as the moon was sliding into the shadow of the Earth. So we got to see it in all of its blood moon glory. I didn’t take pictures of that; I assumed everyone else would. I was not disappointed in that expectation.

I spent the weekend largely away from the Internets because I was working on a project and I didn’t want to be distracted. The project was a screenplay, specifically an adaptation of one of my shorter works. I did it primarily for my own benefit; I don’t expect you’ll see this screenplay out in the world, although you never know. Stranger things have happened. In any event I enjoyed myself and learned a few things, too. It’s nice when that happens.

How was your weekend?

Away For the Weekend

Because I’m working on a personal secret project:


No, not just sleep, actually. I do love sleep. But this is something else.

See you all on Monday.

New Books and ARCs, 9/25/15

Last weekend of September starting soon, and to see off the month, here’s this lovely stack of new books and ARCs for your delight. What looks good to you? Tell me in the comments!

John Boehner’s Stepping Down

And honestly, can you blame him? He’s had to ride herd on an increasingly dysfunctional GOP Caucus in the House for four years now, a group that sees actually shutting down the government to get its way as just another political tactic. That’s got to have taken its toll on the man, who I believe at his heart does see government needing to be useful, even if he and I have rather different ideas about what “useful” means in this case. It can’t be fun being Speaker of the House these days. There’s less chaos in a kindergarten, and at least when you’re in charge of a kindergarten, when everyone’s cranky, you can make them take a nap.

So now he’s done, or will be soon — he’s resigning at the end of October as I understand it. I’ve seen people wondering if the Pope, who spoke to Congress yesterday and whose presence in Congress Boehner has apparently worked toward for years (ironic he got his wish with this particular pope, but even so), might have been an influence on what seems like a sudden decision to resign. I don’t suspect directly, no. I don’t think the Bishop of Rome pulled him aside and said, “dude, what are you doing? Get out while you can,” but I think Boehner may  have felt that this particular event was a highlight of his tenure and maybe it was time to go out on a high note, and while he was still young enough (he’s 65) to do something else with his life. I think maybe it crystallized his thinking, as in, why not leave now? It’s a valid question.

I don’t think Boehner’s departure from the Speaker position is going to do the House GOP or the GOP in general any good. I suspect whoever replaces him will be to Boehner’s right and more willing to use the House as a bludgeoning tool to get their way, which will be an interesting dynamic coming into an election year, and I use “interesting” in all its connotations. Right now the House GOP is on the verge of shutting down the government over Planned Parenthood; even if they dodge this particular bullet it will likely be by a stop gap measure that means there will likely be another possible government shutdown a few months down the line. The optics of shutting down the government are never good, and it’s better-than-even odds that the next House speaker won’t have the wit to recognize this. We’ll see.

I live in Boehner’s district and I’ll be very interested to see who replaces him, both short- and long-term. Boehner’s been the representative here since 1991 and he’s never gotten less than 61% of the vote (his first election), and there hasn’t been a Democrat in the OH-8 seat since the Depression. This seat is so safe the Democrats didn’t even run someone against him in 2012. Everyone including me assumed that he’d be in that seat until he was rolled out on a gurney. That being the case, I don’t think anyone’s been lurking in the wings. I mean, I’m sure someone is, in some way; I just don’t have the slightest idea who it might be. In one sense it doesn’t matter, since the GOP could run a dead raccoon in this district and it would still get 60% of the vote. But in another sense, well. Boehner was actually a good fit for OH-8, politically: rock-ribbed Republican rather than unhinged reactionary. I’m mildly worried whoever comes in will be more of the latter than the former.

People have jokingly suggested that now would be a fine time for me to enter public service; my response is thanks, no. I have no ambition to be a US Representative, for many reasons, among them that I would have less time for writing and also because while franking privileges are a compelling perk, overall the pay/perks package is not as good as what I get now. Also, the idea that what I would actually be doing with most of my time is begging for money from people who want me to vote their way, i.e., institutionalized bribe-seeking, depresses the shit out of me. I’m not a fan of the job as it functions today, basically; it seems very far away from what it’s supposed to be, which would be me acting as an actual representative of the people who live in the district.

But even if I were interested in the job, I’m unelectable in OH-8. I’m not a Democrat, so I don’t have that strike against me (I’m registered independent), but I am generally what passes for liberal in the United States. OH-8 is religious and conservative; an agnostic pro-choice dude who believes the rich aren’t being taxed enough is gonna be a hard sell. I’m not going to bother to make it. I have other things to do, and I like those other things I have to do. So, sorry, folks: Not running. Try to contain your disappointment.

As for Boehner, I hope that he does something other than become just another lobbyist. He and I don’t have a lot in common politically, but he generally seems to be a decent human being who means well and tried to do what he saw as best for his district, his nation and Congress. He’s still young enough to do something more with that impulse. I’d like to see him to do that.

The Big Idea: Tade Thompson

For today’s Big Idea, Tade Thompson takes the immigrant experience, plus the problems that crop up when you tell a little lie at the wrong time, and puts them together for his novel Making Wolf. What do we find out? It’s here, below.


Here’s the thing: if you’ve ever moved from one country to another, going back is always a fraught experience. Migration must be worth it, so when returning to the home country you must show off success either in terms of money or status, preferably both.

So what happens if you’re a lowly store detective, but you have to go home for a funeral? You lie. It’s harmless, right? Usually. But in my story the protagonist Weston pretends to be a homicide detective without attending to his audience. He’s kidnapped by a rebel faction and asked to solve a cold-case, a politically radioactive murder that nobody really wants solved unless the finger points at someone else.

What follows is a weird, violent and frightening journey through a country that has become unfamiliar and alien. The amateur sleuth is a time-honoured tradition in crime fiction, but it is usually voluntary. Weston has to solve a murder to keep himself alive. Then there’s Church, his guide in this journey, a personification of the chaos, who might just be responsible for executing Weston should he fail.

I had to create an alternative time line and an imaginary country because Making Wolf is based on aspects of my own childhood in Nigeria and I don’t want to offend individuals who may be identified. The way memory works tells us that what we think we remember is mostly fiction, so the Nigeria I think I’m remembering may no longer exist, or never have existed in the first place.

If I could not write about these matters, I’d have to make everything up, transforming people and places beyond recognition. My speculative fiction background kicked in and I threw worldbuilding at the problem. I created an alternative time line in which the Nigerian civil war had a different outcome, and I created a new country between Nigeria and Cameroun. I was good to go.

What I do remember accurately is the experience of danger, the pervasive paranoia and the constant negotiation of relationships with powerful people. Conspiracy theories were everywhere. The threat of sexual violence was omnipresent, and if you threw a stone, you’d find a victim.

The ingredients were there for a noir narrative: a disconnected detective, a baffling milieu, an ambiguous relationship with the police force, a femme fatale, a murder, and a conspiracy. Raymond Chandler and Mickey Spillane were staples of my childhood literary diet, and it was fitting that Making Wolf emerged as first-person and gritty. Weston is not Philip Marlowe or Mike Hammer, but they do share similar experiences and some DNA strands.

Speaking of DNA, the usual CSI techniques are not available in my narrative. It’s a brute-force investigation depending on leg work, brain power and dumb luck.

At its heart, crime fiction is about the social contract. We agree to live in peace with one another, and if someone comes along who won’t play nice, we sanction them. We use crime fiction to tell ourselves that no matter what happens, if someone breaks the contact, we will find the person and break them. This doesn’t happen all the time in real life, but we would like to believe it does, and so we tell ourselves stories about it.

Making Wolf is one of those stories.


Making Wolf: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

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