Damn It, I Can’t Make It to GaymerX2

I’m sad to say that for various reasons, including ones involving my personal (i.e., non-public) schedule, I’m just not going to be able to make it to GaymerX2, where I had been scheduled to be a Boss of Honor.

This makes me very sad, because, one, I was really looking forward to it, and two, everyone who will be there is certain to be having a whole bunch of fun and I won’t be there to have it with them. But some things you just can’t avoid, and this is one of them.

Before anyone asks, no, this announcement is unrelated to this bit of news. This was something else entirely, and I had been in communication with the GaymerX2 folks about it for a while. Tried to make it work, and sadly, just couldn’t. The GaymerX2 people were very cool during the whole situation, however, and I thank them for it.

Sorry to everyone who was looking forward to seeing me at GaymerX2 this year. If it means anything, I hope to be in the Bay Area for a public event at some point this year — perhaps on tour, or at another event if not. Either way, I’ll hopefully see you all before the end of the year.

And for those who are wondering: Why, yes, I totally encourage you to show up for GaymerX2, even though I will not be able to attend. It’ll still be a ton of fun. And that’s a lot of fun to be had.

Announcing “Unlocked”

As you all know, I wrote a novel called Lock In, which is a near future thriller, set in a time where a disease called “Haden’s Syndrome” has caused millions to be trapped in their own bodies. That novel is going to be out on August 26 (August 28 in the UK).

What you don’t know is that I also wrote a novella, “Unlocked,” that’s set in the same world. This novella is an oral history of Haden’s syndrome: How it started, how it spread, what it did to the people who contracted it and to the nation and the world as we scrambled to contain the disease and then help those afflicted.

I wrote the novella early this year, and for two reasons. One, while Haden’s syndrome is pretty well addressed in Lock In, the novel takes place in a time where the world has been living with the disease for decades, which means society has already made the changes that come with such a momentous event. I wanted to explore how we got there, and the novella let me do that. Two, I’ve been wanting to do something in the “oral history” format for years — I actually intended to do a two-book series in the format before World War Z came out and took the wind out of those particular sails — and exploring the progress of Haden’s syndrome offered a fantastic opportunity to let me finally get into that format.

So I wrote the novella, mostly for fun and my own curiosity. When it was done, I realized it would make for a great way to lead people into the world of Lock In. Tor agreed, which is why it’s releasing “Unlocked” as an eBook on May 7. All the details for that, including how to pre-order are here.

But wait! There’s more! For those of you who prefer a printed version, there will also be a limited edition signed hardcover version from Subterranean Press — more information on that (including for pre-order) to come. And if you prefer your novellas in audio, that version will be coming from Audible in the reasonably near future as well. More information on that one, too, as we go along. So, really: Whatever format you like your Scalzi, it’s going to be available for you.

I’m very excited that “Unlocked” is getting out to you. It was a blast to write and I think you’ll get caught up in how the world you know today changes into the world of Lock In. I can’t wait for you to experience it.

Write a Check, Get an Entirely Unrelated Check

Oh, boy, Tax Day! That’s when I find out how much my refund is!

(Checks paperwork)


(Writes check to IRS, grumbles)

Well, at least I got this check today:

That’s right! I am now verified on Twitter! It’s your assurance that whenever I write about gremlins, it’s really me, and not, say, Mary Robinette Kowal, posing as me for nefarious purposes. And what a relief that is. For all of us.

Women Characters in The Human Division

Question in e-mail today asks, of my book The Human Division: “What’s up with every one of the side characters being women?” 

My first thought was: Huh, a reader finally e-mailed about that.

My second thought was: Huh, it took a year and a half before a reader e-mailed about that.

My third thought is: In fact, not every side (or featured) character in The Human Division is a woman. If you were to take a pencil and write down the name of every named character, you’d probably discover that roughly half of the named characters are women.

I did consciously decide to include women characters roughly at parity to male characters, for two reasons. One, in the Old Man’s War universe, there’s no reason not to — thanks to genetic engineering and social attitudes (and other things), the OMW universe is one where there is no reason not to have parity between the sexes in the events related in the books. Since there’s not, introducing a disparity would be inauthentic to the universe I created.

Two, regardless of the world I created, we live in a world in which women are underrepresented in the media, relative to the numbers they exist in the real world. I also think that’s inauthentic, and I don’t see why I would want to be a part of that. So, unless there is a compelling reason not to (see: The God Engines, in which the lack of representation of women is there as a tell about the culture), I’ve decided in general to replicate the parity of the sexes that exists in the real world into my fiction.

I didn’t make a huge deal about it when I was writing THD; I just reminded myself to write women characters. I also didn’t generally talk about making an effort at that parity after the book was published, because I didn’t think something as simple as accurately representing male/female ratios in the real world (and how they would logically be in the universe I created) was a big deal.

I was curious if anyone would notice. I think there was one review that noted it (in passing, not as a central feature), I was asked about it in one interview, and now I’ve gotten this one e-mail about it from a reader. And pretty much that’s it.

What does that mean? Well, you tell me. I like to think that generally speaking it means that people who read my books don’t think it’s a big deal that women are at parity to men in terms of characters. I’m good with that.

To those who do notice and think it’s weird or indicative of some political agenda they feel suspicious about: Meh, get used to it. It’s not going away anytime soon.

The Big Idea: A.J. Larrieu

Things have a cost. You buy a coffee, you pay the price for it. You stay up all night drinking, you pay for it with a hangover. But what cost comes from using magic — and how do you pay the price? A.J Larrieu is here to tell you how tallied the cost for her novel Twisted Miracles — and how that price affects her story.


I’ve always been drawn to speculative fiction that requires power to have a price. The price can come in different forms, but without it, the world just won’t feel real. In the Harry Potter books, one price of power is the training witches and wizards need to harness their innate abilities. In the Game of Thrones series, no one gets away without paying the “iron price,” and often paying more than they owe. Giving power a price creates natural balance in a fictional universe—and it makes things a lot more interesting.

The world of my debut novel, Twisted Miracles, is populated by shadowminds, humans with supernatural mental powers. They aren’t strictly telekinetic—they’re actually energy converters, able to use their minds to create motion, light or heat. This makes for some fascinating possibilities, but I knew I couldn’t let their powers be limitless. To make their gifts feel real, I had to understand how they worked. Not on a detailed level—it’s made-up magic, after all—but in a practical way. What’s possible, and what’s not?

I’m a scientist by training, so I began with one of the most fundamental, unbreakable laws of the universe, the First Law of Thermodynamics. It’s a famous one—simply put, it states that energy cannot be created or destroyed. As I move my fingers to type this post, I’m using energy I banked this morning in the form of peanut butter on toast and some disappointing strawberries.

I wanted the same general rule to apply to my converters. They can lift things with their minds, sure, but they can’t go around tossing SUVs like used tissues. If they don’t have the power to do it with their hands, they don’t have the power to do it with their brains. They have limits.

Of course, some of them can go beyond those limits. My heroine, Cass, can lift anything she wants, no matter how heavy, but that energy still has to come from somewhere. If she can’t find it in herself, her gift goes looking for it somewhere else, and the cost of stealing energy isn’t always one she’s prepared to pay.

It was this cost that led me to the thematic core of the story, the one I didn’t know about when I started writing. As it turns out, the big idea behind Twisted Miracles is a question: What are the limits of forgiveness? Cass’s dangerous gift has led her to do terrible things, some of them by accident, some of them not. Over the course of the story, she’s forced to make soul-rending choices about the price she’s willing to pay for justice. In the end, Cass’s journey is about learning how to live with her personal tab of decisions and mistakes—and learning that forgiveness might be the one thing in life without a price.


Twisted Miracles: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Google|iBooks|Kobo

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

How I Keep Myself Amused on Long Flights, Part II: The Gremlining

(For those who missed the first in this series, posted almost a year ago (i.e., almost certainly on another long plane trip to Los Angeles), it’s here.)

How I Sold My Books

Over on Twitter, author Wesley Chu has been leading a discussion on how authors sell their books — whether by submitting the full manuscript, by submitting a partial, or by proposal. This lead me to think about how I sold my own books. So, for informational and educational purposes, this is how I’ve sold each of my books to their respective publishers. I’m going to divide these up into fiction and non-fiction categories, and list them (mostly) in order of publication.


1. The Rough Guide to Money Online: Sold by my agent selling me to Rough Guides as a suitable author, them telling me what they wanted from the book, and me writing an outline that satisfied their needs.

2. The Rough Guide to the Universe: Sold via outline.

3. Book of the Dumb: Publisher wanted this particular book and wanted me to write it; we discussed what should be in it and I went off to write it. Note the publisher did not come to me out of the blue; I had contributed dozens of pieces for their “Uncle John’s” series of books by that point.

4. Book of the Dumb 2: Publisher: “Hey, let’s do a sequel.” Me: “Okay.”

5. The Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Movies: Sold via outline.

6. Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: Brief proposal (the material already existed).

7. You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop Into a Coffee Shop: Book specifically of pieces on writing, spun off from Hate Mail and actually published first. I basically said, “Hey, would you like these as a separate book?” and Subterranean Press said yes.

8. 24 Frames Into the Future: I was the Guest of Honor at Boskone and NESFA, the organization that runs the con, likes to published a limited edition book from their guests. I pitched a book of my film columns; they said yes.

9. The Mallet of Loving Correction: Me, to Subterranean Press: “Hey, wanna do another Whatever collection?” SubPress: “Yup.” This proposal-to-acceptance process took roughly 15 minutes, making it the quickest I ever sold a book.


1. Old Man’s War: Wrote it, put it up on Web site, it was discovered by Patrick Nielsen Hayden of Tor, who made on offer on it.

2. Agent to the Stars: Wrote it, put it up on Web site, it was discovered by Bill Schafer of Subterranean Press, who made an offer on it.

3. The Ghost Brigades: Patrick Nielsen Hayden: “So, you should write a sequel to Old Man’s War.” Me: “Okay.”

4. The Android’s Dream: Part of a two-book deal I signed when I signed with Tor for Old Man’s War. Pitched it on the sentence “man solves diplomatic crises through the use of action scenes and snappy dialogue.” Patrick Nielsen Hayden said, more or less, “Sounds good, go write it.”

5. The Last Colony: Patrick Nielsen Hayden: “So, you should write a third book in the Old Man’s War series.” Me: “Okay.”

6. Zoe’s Tale: Me, to Patrick Nielsen Hayden: “This sequel I’m writing to The Android’s Dream isn’t working and I’m shelving it. Would you take another Old Man’s War book as compensation?” Patrick: “Why, yes. Could you write it kinda as a YA?” Me: “Sure.”

7. Metatropolis: Audible director Steve Feldberg wanted me to do an anthology; I fleshed out an idea with him, recruited the other authors, and acted as editor. Originally published in audio; Subterranean Press expressed interest in the limited hardcover rights; Tor asked for the paperback rights.

8. The God Engines: Me: “I want to write a dark fantasy in which really terrible things happen.” Bill Schafer: “Dude, sold.”

9. Fuzzy Nation: Wrote for my own amusement with no intention of selling it; my agent Ethan Ellenberg declared he could sell it and did, to Tor.

10. Redshirts: Me, to Patrick Nielsen Hayden: “Hey, I wrote this thing. Want it?” Patrick: “Why, yes.”

11. The Human Division: Tor wanted to experiment with online distribution; I’d been wanting to go back into the Old Man’s War universe. We agreed the two aims could work together. There was no proposal in terms of the content, but there was definitely a roadmap created by all the interested parties in terms of how the thing should work, theoretically. THD was in fact probably the most intentional and built-out, in term of design and distribution, of all the fiction books I’ve written to date.

12. Lock In: Brief proposal to Patrick Nielsen Hayden.

13. The Human Division 2 (not actual title): I think we all just assumed this would happen; I don’t recall directly pitching it or being directly asked for it. Both Lock In and THD2 were part of a two book deal with Tor.

There’s additionally the novella I wrote earlier in the year which I’ve sold to Tor (e-book), SubPress (limited hardcover) and Audible (audio), the details of which I will announce a bit later. That one I wrote up and then offered up to each publisher; each then accepted it for publication.

In addition to all the books I have published (and THD2, which is not written but will be, soon), there are three projects I specced out to a greater or lesser extent but didn’t write. One was the sequel to The Android’s Dream, which I sold after the first book came out; that contract is unfulfilled to date. I plan to get around to it again at some point. Another was a two-book series which I sold on proposal; it was shelved when another very similar book became a bestseller and I didn’t want to appear to be cashing in on that book. The contracts in question were applied to Zoe’s Tale and Redshirts. The third was a YA proposal that I wrote at the request of the publisher; the proposal was accepted but we couldn’t come to terms financially, so there are no contracts to fulfill.

Looking at all the projects to date it’s clear I sell either on full manuscript or on proposal (with or without an outline). I have never sold a book on a partial manuscript, and it seems to me anecdotally that selling on a partial is an unusual circumstance, although I could be wrong on that (see the word “anecdotally”).

If I were advising someone on selling a first novel, I would suggest — and I believe most editors would back me up here — that you have the full manuscript in hand before you go shopping. Having a partial in hand when you are an unpublished author doesn’t suggest you know how to finish a novel, and for a publisher, having a finished novel is actually key. Yes, this means doing work without a guarantee of a sale, but, well. If publishers want to buy from partials, there are a lot of already-pubbed authors who they know can produce that they can worth with. So I would have the whole thing ready to go. It’s what I did, in any event.

Reminder to Everyone: I’ll Be at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books This Saturday

The headline says it all — but specifically, I will be doing the following things:

1. At 2:30pm in the Ronald Tutor Campus Center, I and producer Jon Shestack will be talking about taking Redshirts from page to screen, with the fabulous Pamela Ribon moderating. Expect this to be about Redshirts, but also very many other things, because when you get me and Pamie together on a panel, whooo boy. Basically I’m saying I expect this panel to be a ton of fun to listen to.

2. After the panel (i.e., about 3:30) I will be at a nearby signing tent, to sign books and such, probably for an hour or so.

3. If you miss the 3:30 signing because you had other places to be, I will be doing a second signing at 5pm at the Mysterious Galaxy tent, also for an hour or so. Come by to get something signed, or just to say hello.

Here’s the Festival Web site so you know what other cool things are going on. If you’re in or near LA, hope to see you there!

The Big Idea: Elizabeth Bear

Two things you need to know for today’s Big Idea: One, Elizabeth Bear is one of this generation’s best science fiction and fantasy authors, and Steles of the Sky is the latest in her acclaimed Eternal Sky series; Two, there’s a really big and awesome announcement in this Big Idea. Okay? Here you go, then:


Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

So there’s this guy, right? And he’s the youngest son of a branch of the royal family, but his older brother, the heir-apparent, is killed in battle with another branch of the line, and he nearly dies himself–



…okay, I’m yanking your chain. That’s not the Big Idea here. That all actually happened before the beginning of the first book, Range of Ghosts, which I Big Ideaed about here.

Yes, it’s a pretty traditional setup. But I just might have gotten lucky and done something interesting with it this time.

Today, though–today I’m here to talk about the third and final book in the trilogy*, Steles of the Sky, which releases today.

The Big Idea here is… well, there are a lot of them. Humanoid tigers with an esoteric religion; occasional megafauna (possibly the name of our illustrious host’s next band); the unreliability of history (which is generally being written by a lot of different people with different agendas over the course of centuries); all the things women actually did in the premodern era…

Wait. Let’s talk about those last two things.

Every so often we hear the excuse that women have no place in epic fantasy stories because medieval women didn’t actually do anything. They were simply fungible objects, pumping out babies and keeping house.

Even if one were to ignore the exceptional women of history–the Hypatias and Hatshepsuts and Hildegards, the Eleanors and Aethelflaeds and Nzinga Mbandes, the Ching Shihs and Khutuluns and Tomoe Gozens–the women who, more or less, took on roles usually identified as masculine–one is left with women who spun, who wove, who ran households, who served as the supply chain managers for their male relatives’ armies, who participated in their husbands’ businesses and explorations–or took them over, after those husbands died–who, in general, performed enormous amounts of unpaid labor on their families’ behalves and got absolutely no credit for it.

Tycho Brahe said of his sister, Sophie Brahe Thott, that she had as fine a mind as any man. She’s worth reading about. She is very far from alone.

These women are often erased in history. They took their husbands’ names. They lived in societies that believed the only time a woman’s name should be recorded was when she was born, got married, gave birth, or died.

And they are often erased in literature, as well.

(It’s interesting to me that at least one review of Steles of the Sky so far has said that every major character other than the protagonist is female. This is not actually true–the points of view are about equally divided between women and men) but it does go to show that if you start approaching parity, people think the women are taking over.)

Even in modern fantasy literature, where we ought to know better. Where we have the scholarship and the knowledge of history not to erase the accomplishments of historical women by treating each and every one as an exception, a lone thing, and not part of a tradition.

Capable women are not the exception. But women who have managed to make such nuisances of themselves that they cannot entirely be erased from history–they are harder to find.

So I wanted to talk about some of those accomplishments. I wanted to show some epic women who were not warriors, not fireball-throwing sorcerers, and who still managed to have an impact. (There are some warriors and sorcerers too, of course.)

I wanted to remind myself, as a writer and a human being, that capable women are not the exception in history. That they should not be in literature, either.

Also, if awesome women aren’t enough for you, this book has an amazing Donato cover, and an equally amazing Ellisa Mitchell map.

*And–here’s the even bigger idea! (and way to bury the lede, Bear!), but I have an announcement to make.


There are going to be more Eternal Sky books!

While Range of Ghosts, Shattered Pillars, and Steles of the Sky comprise a complete story arc in and of themselves, I can now reveal that Tor will be publishing at least three more books in this world. We came to an agreement late last month, and I can tell you this–here, exclusively:

This second trilogy, The Lotus Kingdoms, will follow the adventures of two mismatched mercenaries–a metal automaton and a masterless swordsman–who become embroiled in the deadly interkingdom and interfamilial politics in a sweltering tropical land.

Look for them starting in 2017.


Steles of the Sky: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

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

Off to See Emmylou

(Warning: the video above starts abruptly with crowd noise, but is otherwise worth watching and listening to)

Emmylou Harris is touring to mark the 20th anniversary of the release of Wrecking Ball, which is not only my favorite album of hers but may in fact be my favorite album, period, end of sentence, so I’m traveling today to catch her show. Bonus for me: Daniel Lanois is both performing with and opening for Harris, so I will also after about 25 years finally catch him live. Very excited for that.

But that means I’m not going to be here, because it will require travel, and then I will be spending time with the friend. In short: I’ll be out in the real world. Try to have fun on the Internets without me. I’ll be back tomorrow.

In the meantime, a question related to my activity today: In the comments, tell me of a particularly memorable concert that you’ve been to — not necessarily the best or worst, although either is fine, but one that stick in your memory for whatever reason. Because concerts can be memorable, can’t they.

Brendan Eich and Mozilla

Getting lots of requests in e-mail to share my thoughts about now-former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich resigning from the position after less than two weeks, in large part because of stakeholders being upset that Eich, in 2008, donated money to a successful initiative to ban same-sex marriages in California, which at the time were already legal.

All right. Some thoughts:

First, I think a lot of people are not entirely clear what the story is. One of the e-mails I got asked what I thought about Mr. Eich being fired for statements he made about same sex marriage in 2008. In fact, Mr. Eich was not fired, he resigned; the fomenting issue was not about statements he made, but a donation he gave for a political purpose.

Now, I recognize that the counter here is the suggestion that if Mr. Eich had not resigned he would have been fired, and that (if you’re the Supreme Court, at least) it’s looking more and more like donations are statements, etc. Nevertheless, for now, let’s say that when we have actual facts, we go with the actual facts. The actual facts are: Mr. Eich resigned, and it was his donation to support California’s Proposition 8 in 2008 that got this particular ball rolling.

Second, let’s recognize that Mozilla is in itself an unusual place, and the specific characteristics of that organization, of the things it creates, and of the community of developers it works with, has quite a lot to do with events as they unfolded (see this useful NY Times piece for further if brief elucidation). We should acknowledge this, and recognize that because of this, Mozilla may or may not be a good candidate for a wider prognostication of “what it all means.” In other words, no matter what your position, don’t freak out yet.

With those out of the way:

So, the board of a private company appoints someone as CEO, many of the stakeholders of the company (employees, outside developers, companies whose products are accessed by the other company’s products) object and decide to act in their own personal or private capacity to complain and/or boycott, and ultimately as a result — and without governmental intervention at any level — the CEO decides his presence in the position is not in the interest of the success and welfare of the private company and chooses to resign.

What’s the problem here?

I mean, isn’t this supposed to be how things work? Decisions made, a frank exchange of viewpoints by legitimately interested parties, choices selected with an eye toward the bottom line good of the company, and actions voluntarily taken by the person and people affected? With no governmental interference in any way? Is this not the very soul of laissez-faire capitalism?

But, but… Mr. Eich should be free to believe what he wants, and to contribute to any political cause he so chooses! Well, and so he is, and I would, as they say, defend to the death his right to do so. What he is not free from — and this is the thing which people seem to fall down on again and again — are the consequences of his actions. When you’re the CEO of a corporation where a large number of your stakeholders support same sex marriage, either for personal or professional reasons, your choice in the past to offer support to make such (at the time legal) marriages illegal is a legitimate issue for discussion. Additionally, your further choice not to speak on your current personal thoughts on the topic (whether or not you pledge your company to openness and diversity) is also a legitimate issue for discussion. If a CEO is not willing to accept that there are consequences to his or her past and current actions, they should not be a CEO. Being a CEO is fundamentally about there being consequences to your actions.

Let us posit another company. This company features stakeholders — employees, board members, vendors, users of the company’s product — who fervently believe the Second Amendment to the Bill of Rights means that one should be able to buy and own any particular type of firearm one would choose to possess. Let’s say the board of this company hires a new CEO, even thought they know that CEO at one point in the not terribly distant past contributed money to make handgun ownership illegal in the city or state the company resides.

This doesn’t sit well with the stakeholders and they complain and some announce they will no longer support the company. The CEO responds by saying that his own personal beliefs will not keep the company from acting in a way consistent to the law as regards handguns, but refuses to comment on how — or indeed if — his beliefs regarding handgun ownership have changed.

Are stakeholders not right to be concerned that the CEO’s refusal to further elucidate their personal opinion will not directly affect the company and the company stakeholders? Would it not be reasonable thing to worry that the CEO’s past and present action might make it difficult to recruit new employees and vendors, most of whom in the relevant business sector having a clear and certain view regarding handguns and the Second Amendment — and one that opposes the CEO’s known actions? And if the CEO ultimately decides to depart from the position rather than to threaten his company’s standing in the field, would not this be seen as the correct thing for him to decide to do?

And also: Would it not be, again, the very soul of laissez-faire capitalism? That the issue was raised, discussed, taken action upon and dealt with, all within the scope of the company and its stakeholders, quickly and without intervention in any way by the government?

I think you may guess my answers to these all questions.

Regarding Brendan Eich himself: My understanding (which may be incorrect) was that he was initially reluctant to be considered as a CEO candidate. If that’s the case he probably wishes that he had followed that first impulse, as then he would still be CTO of Mozilla and any controversy about his 2008 donation regarding that position (as there was, by all indication) already baked in and dealt with. I think it’s clear that both he and the board underestimated the pushback from stakeholders about the donation and how it would affect Eich as CEO. I don’t know that it’s something they could have known until he was in the position. It’s something they know now, with regard to whom the next CEO may be.

John Scalzi, Award-Winning… Meteorologist?

No, I haven’t started a sideline business for when my writing career craters under me. There’s a John Scalzi (no relation, or at least no relation that doesn’t go back several generations), who works as a meteorologist for WWSB down in Sarasota, Florida, and he just won the “Best Weathercast” award from the Florida Associated Press Broadcasters. So that’s excellent for him! As I noted when I congratulated him on his Facebook fan page, the name “John Scalzi” always looks good on an award.

One day the two of us will meet and it will be confusing but fun for everyone involved.

In any event: Congratulations to John Scalzi, from John Scalzi.


A Series of Tweets Regarding My Own Personal Sexism

Apropos to a discussion on Twitter about this Slate article, a discussion of sexism, specifically, my own:

And then, the conversational addendums: