Monthly Archives: December 2004

Quick Note of Thanks

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You know, I just wanted to say “thanks” to everyone who has been sending e-mails or comments about spotting Old Man’s War at your local stores. It’s really been heartening to get the heads up and especially the pictures from all over the place (The picture above, incidentally, is from Texas, courtesy of one of the Lone Star State’s finest online diarists). As an author, it’s very reassuring to see the book really is making its way into the stores (and also, making its way out of stores). So, again, thanks bunches. I really do appreciate it, and I additionally wonder how novelists in the pre-Internet age kept from going nuts when their books came out, and they wondered if they were actually in stores, or if their publishers were telling them another tall one. Documentary evidence — the hallmark of the 21st century.

On the Agenda

People have asked: What are your plans for 2005? Well, confining this discussion largely to work subjects, they break into two groups: Things I know I need to do, and things I’d like to do.

Things I know I need to do: Early in the year, I’ll need to do revisions and editing for The Rough Guide to Science Fiction Film. I have a series of articles to write for the Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader series, on the states of New Jersey, Michigan and Minnesota. And then I’ll start work on The Ghost Brigades, which you all know to be the sequel to Old Man’s War (John Perry teams up with a talking dog! To fight crime! No, not really). And then, depending on a number of factors, there or may not be work I need to do for Book of the Dumb 3, or another project which I cannot discuss at the moment. Among all this will be some corporate writing (which as I’ve noted before is not glamorous but sure pays well), and hopefully I’ll continue my writing associations with AOL, OPM and the Dayton Daily News.

Things I’d Like to Do: In no particular order:

1. Try my hand at writing some short stories. I’ve only written two over the course of my career, actually: This one for Strange Horizons a while back, and then this one which I used for my RIF fundraiser last year. At this point, I feel reasonably competent with writing novels and books, so I’d like to fiddle in the short story format and see what it gets me. Being lazy as I am, I don’t know that I’ll actually get around to selling any, but my wife keeps telling me that if I’d just give the damn things to her she’d mail them out for me and keep track of the submissions, so we’ll see. What I really think would be fun to do is try to contribute to some short story collections — they usually have a theme of some sort and I think at first I’d probably do better with an assigned subject matter than thinking one up myself. Of course, to start doing those it’d probably be useful to have already written some short stories. Stupid Catch-22.

2. Take a break. I keep meaning to take a few weeks where I do nothing, but then I keep not doing that, and it’s really sort of annoying; for example, right now I’d envisioned myself kicking back in the house sleeping until noon and staring blankly at a phosphorescent screen. and while, yes, I *am* doing that, unfortunately I’m also doing work, too. This is partly my own fault and partly the fault of that nasty sickness I had in November, but the point is — no rest for me now. And not likely through the first half of 2005, although I might just take off a week or two just to so it (say, March).

3. Travel a bit: I know I’ll be in the UK in August for Interaction (this year’s Worldcon), and I’ll hit a couple of more-or-less local SF cons (book to promote, you know). Outside of those, however, I’d like to just wander with no particular reason to do so. I imagine I’ll get to New York and DC a couple of times in the year to visit friends and do business and so forth, and I’d like to get a west coast trip together as well. Where I’ll find the time to do this, of course, is an utter mystery, but who knows. Maybe someone in Hollywood will buy the book and I’ll have to fly in for “meetings,” which would, in my opinion, simply be cover for seeing friends and eating Double-Doubles.

4. New markets, and a couple of old ones. I keep meaning to write some non-fiction pieces for Strange Horizons; I queried them a couple of months ago and they responded back enthusiastically, and then the roof fell in on my bandwidth. Still, I want to get back to them as soon as I can. I now also have my foot in the door over at National Lampoon, and I’ll be happy to try to exploit that as well. What I really want out of life at this point is a column, simply because writing at a regular interval is reassuring to me and my mortgage, but again, I’ve been doing my own thing for so long it’s unlikely anyone’s just going to hand one of those to me for free (well, I’m sure if I worked for free I could get one, but I don’t want to do that). So that will be one of the goals for 2005: Get my work out there a little more, and see if a regular gig can come of it.

5. Prepare for the Random. Lots of stuff happens with my writing life that is simply out of the blue, and I think it might simply be worth it to factor that in to life at this point. Preparing for the unexpected is of course a contradiction in terms, but it’s not so much preparing for anything, as simply accepting that things will happen for which one is not prepared, and one should be (heh) prepared for that. We’ll see how I do with that.

That’s the plan, anyway.

John Scalzi’s Utterly Useless Writing Advice

People wrote me: “Hey, as long as you’re reposting old crap, why don’t you repost your “Utterly Useless Writing Advice”? Well, okay.

I’ve made some minor changes to get certain personal facts up to date, but otherwise it’s the same cranky bit of advice it was when I wrote it in 2001. I do have the urge to write something else about writing, but inasmuch as I actually have real writing I need to do, it’s going to have to wait.

Anyway, here you go.

—-

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Another Appearance

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My pal Joe Rybicki sent this picture from Stacy’s Bookstore in San Francisco, from his phone cam, no less (it’s like living in the future!), and the note that this was the last copy in the store. Since Stacy’s had three copies on hand as of 12/13, according to its site, this is good news, although of course I certainly hope someone at Stacy’s had the good sense to reorder after two copies went out the door.

So that’s two sightings of the book in California, and I know at least a few other people in the Golden State have picked up copies. Needless to say Amazon still has it listed as unavailable, because apparently in a past life I dumped a load in Jeff Bezos’ shoes and he’s yet to forgive me for it. I checked my local bookstore and it’s not available here yet (although they do have a whole stack of Book of the Dumb 2, so I can’t complain). So: If you’re in California, you seem to be in luck — if not, not yet. Naturally, I’ll let y’all know when I see in on my own local bookshelves, at which point I’ll stop yakking about its availability. God knows, if it’s at my local bookstore, it’s going to be everywhere else in the world.

Cultural Note

The Scissor Sisters version of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” is as close to a musical atrocity as we’ve had in the last year. I pronounce jihad on the lot of them, and after they’re rounded up, they should be forced to listen to non-stop playings of Triumph and Fastway.

That is all.

Why Christmas

Yesterday Athena and I were chatting about Christmas and I asked her if she knew why we had Christmas, and she explained to me that we had Christmas so that we could be with family and get presents and have food and be thankful. To which I said, yes, those are things we do on Christmas, but do you know why there’s a Christmas in the first place? To which she confessed she did not. So I explained to her how it was Jesus’ birthday, and how many people believe Jesus was the son of God, and that celebrating his birth was important to them. This then moved into a discussion of how old Jesus would be if he were alive today, and also how old God might be, and then we watched Tom & Jerry brutalize each other in cartoon fashion.

We had this conversation for a simple reason, which is the same reason I’ve explained to her why people vote or how the sun is out there in space or why she can’t stick her finger in a wall socket just for fun: I want her to actually understand the world around her and why things are the way they are. As most of you know, I’m not in the slightest bit religious personally; at the same time I think it would be wrong if Athena’s only understanding of Christmas was as a jolly and secular gift-giving event. That’s not why Christmas exists; it exists because some 2000 years ago, someone was born who a couple billion people on the planet believe is the son of God, and those people want to commemorate the event. Athena, being five, might not understand all the implications of knowing that Christmas is Jesus’ birthday, not the least because she’s a little shaky on the theological implications of Jesus being Christ. And that’s fine; people who are considerably older have a difficult time wrapping their brains about it as well. But putting that into her consciousness now means that at some future point in time we can expand on it and explore it more. I see it as a building block.

And what will I teach her about Christmas as she gets older? Everything I think is important, and also everything she wants to know (which may not always be the same things). I’ll read to her the Biblical stories of the birth of Jesus; I’ll also explain to her one of the reasons we celebrate Christmas when we do was a matter of the Church co-opting Solstice observances to accommodate previously pagan converts. We’ll sing Christmas carols; I’ll explain the history of the Christmas tree and Santa Claus. I’ll answer the questions she asks, and help her find the answers for herself. I think over time she’ll get a good understanding of Christmas as a religious holiday and as a secular gift-exchange extravaganza. And in the end, if all goes as planned, she’ll make her own decisions about the importance of each of these aspects to her. But it’s critically important she understand that at the root of it all is the birth of a child many consider divine. As they say, it’s the reason of the season.

As I’m not personally religious, some of you may ask why I would make the effort to teach Athena the religious aspects of the holiday. The reasons are several. The first is that even if one doubts the Christhood of Jesus, one may still admire him as a man, a thinker, and an icon of peace. You don’t have to be a Christian to want your child to know that Jesus is at the heart of Christmas. The second is that it’s my job as a parent to teach my child these things; I don’t want my child picking up theology on the proverbial street corner because we don’t teach her about it at home. That seems a fine way for her to pick up some dubious knowledge from dubious people who might eventually get her in trouble. Better that we introduce her to that sort of thing. Third, it’s not a bad thing to reinforce the idea that when Athena does have questions about any subject, she can come to us, and we’re going to tell her as much of the truth of things as we can.

Also, unlike a fair number of the non-religious, I’m not antagonistic toward religion per se, or Christianity specifically. As I’ve said elsewhere, I think Christianity is a fine religion, and I wish more Christians practiced it. And, not entirely separately, of course one reads a story like this, in which Christians were so incensed that a manger scene was taken out of a school play that they voted down much-needed funds for their school district, or that they’ve mandated teaching “intelligent design” in high school biology classes, and one wonders why so many Christians seem to believe that Jesus wants their children to be dumb as lard, as if there’s some sort of natural opposition between accepting Christ as one’s savior and increasing one’s knowledge of the world to the limits of one’s God-given abilities. But that’s not about Christianity, or religion in general; that’s about some people’s thick-headed interpretation of it and the religious impulse. I don’t blame Jesus for the stupidity of some of his followers; we don’t get to choose our fans.

I am not religious, but I would not be disappointed if my daughter decided to become so, over the fullness of time and through a depth of knowledge, since it is not a failure of the either the human intellect or spirit to seek the divine. Where I would have failed her is if her religious impulse were to take on a close-minded, fearful and intolerant cast. I would have equally failed her if she were non-religious but also close-minded, fearful and intolerant of those who had such an impulse.

In the end, I want to teach my daughter about Jesus so she can understand him, understand those who see him as the son of God, and understand how he fits into her own view of the world. Making sure she understands why Christmas exists is a good starting point. It’s early in her understanding of all of this, of course. But better early than too late.

Favorite Science Fiction Authors, Circa 1998

When I first put Agent to the Stars online, I also put up a couple of additional essays, including one listing some of my favorite science fiction authors. I took down those essays when I transferred the site over to the new host and didn’t resurrect them when I re-established Agent. However, I keep getting requests for my SF recommendations, so I’m posting it here, behind the link.

As you read this, a couple of things to keep in mind: First, the list is now over six years old, so it is somewhat out of date — I still like all the authors on the list, but during the interim some of them have put out new works, and there are also several newer voices who I’ve particularly grown to like. Which are they? Well, that’s the other thing: Since I’ve now joined the SF writer fraternity, I’m more hesitant to haul out a list of writers I like, basically because a number of them I now know personally, and a number of them are my friends, and I don’t want anyone to feel implicitly (and wrongly) criticized if I don’t put them on the list. See, I’m all political now. Also, and conversely, I like the writing of all of my friends, and I don’t want to put out a list that’s just me giving mad props to SFWA homeez, yo. Suffice to say I’ve found a lot to like in science fiction, particularly recently; it’s an exciting time in the field.

In any event, here are some of my favorite science fiction reads, circa 1998.

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Online Friends

Writer Michelle Sagara has been thinking about the phenomenon of “online friends” on her LiveJournal (an appropriate place, that), specifically here and here. Even more specifically, she asks her readers the question: “How many of your best friends are online only?” Which is to say, I imagine, who among your closest circle of friends have you never actually communicated with except through e-mail/IM/blog or journal comments.

For me, the answer is simple: None. With really only one exception I can think of (and the reasons for that exception being personal enough that I don’t particularly feel the need to share the details with the lot of you, save to say it’s not what you think, you pervs), the circles of close and best friends are reserved for those I’ve actually spent an appreciable amount of time with in the flesh.

To explain this, let’s take a moment to define the universe of People We Know, and explore how it relates to our relationships with people, online and offline. The universe of People We Know exists as concentric circles, which are, in ascending order of importance to the person at the center (and generally speaking with corresponding fewer people in each circle):

People We Know Of – These are folks whose existences we are aware of, for various reasons, online and offline. The most removed subset of these would be celebrities; rather closer to home would be people like friends of friends (who are not friends with us), people who comment on the same newsgroups/chat boards/blogs we do, other parents of kids in one’s child’s class, people whose blogs/journals we read occasionally but without comment, so on and so forth. We have knowledge of these people, and we may even have positive or negative opinions about them, but our interactions with them are minimal at best. And although we may know of these people, it’s not always the case they know us. There are thousands of people who read my site every day, for example, who never pause to comment; I am known to them, but the reverse is not true.

Acquaintances — People who you know, who also know you, and with whom you’d had some amount of contact, but to whom you neither feel nor engender a certain amount of friendly obligation. Acquaintance is a “friend-neutral” term, as surely most of us have among our circle of acquaintances people we don’t particularly like, both online and off. However, it is certainly possible to have friendly acquaintances, particularly online. Here at the Whatever, the vast majority of the commentors I group into the “friendly acquaintance” category — they’re interesting people, and I like most of what I see of them in terms of their comments, and I think by and large we’d probably get along if we ever met, and I certainly like the community that I see on the site. But most of them aren’t actual friends. Friendly online banter and casual enjoyment of one’s company is an excellent thing, but it doesn’t cross that personal threshold.

Friends – In my world, friends are people who you like, you find interesting, and whose company you actively seek, in whatever format. They are also people to whom you are inclined to feel obligation; as a small example, if a friend puts out a book, I will often buy the book not only because (thankfully) most of my friends who write are fine writers, but also because as a friend, I want my friends to succeed, and buying their books is a small way to do that (however, and I want to be very clear on this, I don’t keep tabs of which of my friends buy my books. That’s just neurotic). But more concretely for most people, the obligations of friendship include things like a sympathetic ear, a happiness in their company, and projecting to them (truthfully) a general sense that you like having them about.

I think it’s possible to make friendships and maintain them entirely online: I can think of several people with whom I have friendships who I have not communicated with other than through words on a computer screen. For general friendship, I think that’s a perfectly sufficient level of contact. However, by and large, this is the cut-off level for online interaction in terms of personal closeness.

Good Friends — These are the people with whom you share a more personal connection; the folks you’re comfortable telling some (but not all) the things you don’t bother telling other people, and the people whose back you’ve generally got and who have generally got your back. If you go out with any friend and they run a little short of cash, you’ll spot them; with a good friend, you won’t bother remembering how much you’ve spotted them because you know over time it’ll all even out anyway. Likewise, a good friend can piss you off from time to time (and vice versa) and it generally won’t affect your friendship.

This sort of friendship, I think, almost always requires contact beyond words on a screen, because — at least in my case — I need to hear and see the people in action before I extend out that sort of personal trust. It’s not a question of people online being deceptive, mind you. Some people are to their online friends, but (to be honest about it) since I’m not a really attractive young woman, it’s generally not been the case that I’ve had to deal with people like that. It’s more that people online are idealized versions of themselves — as scary as they may seem considering what and how much people let hang out on their sites — and to be a good friend, you have to see more of that person.

I flatter myself in being a very good judge of character, and I usually know within a few minutes of meeting someone whether I am going to want them as a friend or as a good friend (if I’ve already conferred friend status to them). But it’s really the case that I have to spend some amount of time with you first. Now, I will say that there are friends that I have online who I fully expect will get Good Friend accreditation once I meet them in the real world; indeed, I can think of at least one person who went from online acquaintance straight to good friend because they were just that awesome a human being. But that just reinforces the point, doesn’t it: Personal contact is essential beyond a certain level of friendship.

Close Friends — People you can count on, and who know they can count on you, and basically you obligate yourself to putting up with a lot of crap from them if necessary. These are the folks who get the unlimited 3am crisis calls and emergency pick-ups from strange bars, and who you don’t drop from your circle even if they start dating a real asshole (although you do get the privilege of telling them they’re dating an asshole, if that’s something you want). It’s even possible not to like close friends for reasonably long stretches of time but still consider them close friends. Basically you’ll put up with a lot because you get a lot, and you’re willing to put in the work to keep it going.

Knowing these people in real life is pretty much non-negotiable because I think becoming a really close friend is very much falling in love with someone, in that there’s something about the person that speaks to you beyond the rational and explicable, and while it’s possible to feel infatuated with someone without ever knowing them, that real “God, I want this person to be part of my life” feeling by definition requires human contact, especially if you want it to last beyond the infatuation stage and deepen into a genuine and continuing relationship.

Best Friends — simply put: You’d give these guys a kidney. Or a liver (a lobe, anyway). What’s more, you wouldn’t think twice about it (which is not to say you wouldn’t remind them of it whenever you felt like it). Needless to say, best friends take years to develop, and they definitely take personal contact. I also suspect that the number of best friends any one person can have is limited, because the obligation is nothing short of a marriage (and so it goes without saying your spouse damn well better be one of these, and at least ever-so-slightly above the rest on the priority list), and it’s difficult to invest the emotional energy, and the life obligation required for this.

Now, one of the interesting facts about good, close and best friends is that once you’ve spent some physical time with them, you don’t actually need to spend a lot of physical time with them — due to factors of geography and time, I haven’t seen some of my best friends in a couple of years or more. But I’ve made that personal commitment to them, and that (plus phone calls, IMs and e-mail) keep things bubbling along. Still and all, they wouldn’t be friends of that quality had I not spent time with them.

One of the reasons it’s difficult to make new good friends as one gets older is that it’s often the case that life keeps you from making the sort of contacts that allow that level of friendship to take hold. Conversely, I think that the online world makes it so easy to meet new people (in a fashion) and that people are always eager to make new friends, particularly new friends who share common interests (as they tend to do online, because one goes online where one’s interests lie). In my case, I know over the last few years I’ve made more friends online than I have made in my little town, precisely because I have more in common with my online acquaintances.

However, of the same period of time, nearly all the people who have become good and close friends have become so from face-to-face encounters. It’s axiomatic. Ultimately, no matter how you slice it, it’s the personal contact that seals the deal with a friendship. Friendship is about contact, and contact is a tactile thing; the mind may write the contract between friends, but it’s in the physical world in which that contract gets signed.

OMW Store Spotting

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We have our first Old Man’s War spotting in stores. This handsome pair of OMWs were found in an LA-area Barnes & Noble by my pal Mykal Burns, who notes that not only did he see the book in the store, he also saw Brad Pitt. No word if Brad Pitt then purchased Old Man’s War. Seems doubtful. Mykal also reports that he proceeded to place the book face forward, showing that he knows how to make authors happy. I think I’ll put him in my book acknowledgments.

Meanwhile, Amazon still has the book listed as “not available,” thereby wasting for me a perfectly good rave today from Cory Doctorow on Boing Boing. Stupid Amazon. All that love from Cory for nothing. Doesn’t matter. Cory’s still getting my Hugo vote this year (and will have deserved it, for Eastern Standard Tribe). He would have gotten it anyway, without the shoutout, mind you. Point is, Cory officially rocks, Amazon officially sucks. And OMW is officially live. Start pestering your book sellers for it now.

(And remember, notwithstanding Amazon, you can buy the book online here here here here and here. Just in case you want to buy online but don’t want to wait for Amazon to get a clue.)

Update: Canadians can get their copies of OMW on Amazon.ca. Have I mentioned enough recently how much Amazon.com sucks for me?

Wallowing in ConFusion

Note to stalkers: I’ve made the executive decision to attend this year’s ConFusion, a science fiction convention in Michigan, which makes it fairly close to where I am (i.e., drivable without pain). It’s the nearest con closest to the release date of Old Man’s War, and you know I’m all about the rampant promotion. Also, I’m sort of interested in seeing what a science fiction convention is like when it’s not a Worldcon, Worldcons being the only conventions I’ve gone to so far. I’m just curious this way. I’ve let the programming people know I’m open to being on panels and to doing a reading, but as I’ve only registered today, so far the only thing I know I’ll be doing there is loitering.

Other cons I’m considering attending this year: Wiscon, Interaction (this year’s Worldcon) and the World Fantasy Convention, Millennicon, InConJunction, and ConText. With the exception of Interaction, which is across an entire ocean, all of these take place within a few hundred miles of me, the most distant being Wiscon/World Fantasy, both of which are in Madison, WI this year. Which ones I go to depends on my writing/life schedule, although at this point I’m pretty confident about both Wiscon and Interaction. I may also nip up to Chicago for the Nebula Weekend, seeing as I am on a Nebula Jury this year, but again, we’ll just have to wait and see what life plops down like a dead wildebeast in front of me.

Google Guessing: An Ego-Surfing Game

It’s “Google Guessing”: A new way to be neurotic about your popularity online through the new Google Suggest function, in which Google tries to guess what you want to search on while you’re typing in the word. Here are the rules of Google Guessing:

1. Go to Google Suggest (it’s in beta).
2. Begin typing your name — first and last.
3. Count how many letters of your last name you have to type until your full name shows up in the suggestion window without scrolling. In the case that your full name shows up before you type in a letter of your last name (for example, if your name is “John Kerry”), use the number “0.5″.
4. Note the number of results listed.
5. If you have a common name (you know who you are), click through and count how many pages of references go by before you personally get a mention (this is an updated step).
6. Divide the “results” number of step four by the “letters entered” number in step three, and then (if applicable) divide that number by the number in step five. This is your “Google Guessing Rank,” or GGR for short.
7. Compare your GGR with others for sheer neurotic sport. A higher GGR suggests there are more references to you online and/or that enough people search on your name that Google has a good idea they’re looking for you earlier than later.

In my case it takes three letters of my last name before I show up in the suggestion window, and “John Scalzi” is noted to have 108,000 results attached to it. Therefore my GGR is (108000/3) = 36,000.

How does 36,000 compare? Let’s see.

George Bush (15,800,000/0.5) = 33,600,000
John Kerry (12,000,000/0.5) = 24,000,000
Glenn Reynolds (1,100,000/1) = 1,100,000
Josh Marshall (971,000/1) = 971,000
Neil Gaiman (460,000/0.5) = 920,000
Cory Doctorow (179,000/0.5) = 378,000
James Lileks (242,000/1) = 242,000
Patrick Nielsen Hayden (81,000/2) = 40,500
Dan Drezner (115,000/3) = 38,333

In other words: Meh.

Now, obviously there are flaws with the methodology. For example, not every “John Scalzi” referenced is going to be me, so there’s some noise inherent in the system — which would be even greater if you only tracked your last name (and the noise is much greater if you have a common name — note some of the comments below — which is why I added in step five). Also, this doesn’t take into account name variations (“Daniel Drezner” instead of “Dan Drezner,” for example — and since “Daniel Drezner” has a GGR of about 90,000, maybe he’d want to go with that).

However, excessive picking apart of the methodology means that one is veering dangerously close to taking it seriously, and if one does that, one should probably step away from the computer for a decade or two. This is supposed to be fun. Good, clean, ha-ha-ha-my-GGR-totally-pwned-your-GGR -so-I’m-prettier-and-more-popular-than-you fun.

So, what’s your GGR?

Master of My Own Domain

I’ve been stocking up on domains. Clearly, I own Scalzi.com. But over the years I’ve owned several others, and as my hosting service charges a mere $6 a year to maintain domain names (a vast improvement over the $35 a year I’d been paying previous), I decided to do a little shopping. Forthwith, these are the domains I now own:

Scalzi.com – Duh. However, Scalzi.net and Scalzi.org are not owned by me, they’re owned by someone named Danielle Scalzi, who’s had them for three years now and has not done anything with them. Maybe I’ll ask her if I can buy them from her, since it would be nice to have all the major hierarchy domains. Not that I’d spend a whole lot on them, mind you, and in any event if you own the “.com” you’ve got the one everyone is going to try first anyway. Even so. Being denied the “.net” and “.org,” I did pick up:

Scalzi.info, and

Scalzi.name. Dunno what I’ll do with them yet. I suspect at some point I might give Scalzi.name its own place and then rent space out to all Scalzis who might want a Web site, and give them their own sub domain (so: kristine.scalzi.name), but that requires logistical planning that I’m not going to get into at the moment.

(Interestingly, Scalzi.it — the domain for Italy — goes to a law firm.)

Johnscalzi.com — Since most personal site domains are usually comprised of first and last names, it just made sense to get this one and have it point to Scalzi.com.

Athenascalzi.com — Because maybe one day she’ll want it. A couple of years ago I had registered athenamarie.com, but I forgot about it and let it lapse, and then someone snapped it up ( a woman named Athena, whose middle name, I would surmise, is Marie).

Mencken.com — I keep meaning to do something with this — maybe a political group blog — but again, time and effort and all that conspire against me. Be that as it may, I was somewhat amazed it was available when I checked several years ago; you’d think some libertarian or conservative would have snapped this baby up. Well, I have it, baby. Bwa ha ha ha ha!

Bookofthedumb.com — mostly to make sure some competitor didn’t snap it up and use it point to their own books.

Oldmanswar.com — Well, why not?

Indiecrit.com — Late, lamented. I wish I had more time for it.

Blogcritics.com — I actually bought this at the behest of Eric Olsen, who wanted it for the review site he was creating, but a communication mix-up cause him to construct the site at Blogcritics.org. I still own this domain, but it points to the other site. I keep meaning to transfer it over to him, but time, hassle, yadda yadda yadda.

While I was making my recent spree of domain purchases I gave some thought to purchasing scalzisucks.com and johnscalzisucks.com, but then I thought, hell, if someone hates me just that much, who I am I to stop them. Also, with a site name like ScalziSucks.com, it would be pretty clear it wouldn’t be an objective font of Scalzi information. You can’t get too worked up about crap like that (also, quite honestly, I don’t really expect those domains to be snapped up any time soon).

Now I feel all domain-y.

Old Man’s War Availability Recap

As of 7:45pm December 11, here’s which online retailers have Old Man’s War in stock, and for how much:

Amazon: Not yet. Tick, tick, tick… However, as I mentioned before, it appears that people who pre-ordered the book from Amazon are having it shipped, so I expect it won’t be too long now. When it does appear, the price will be $16.29.

Amazon UK: Now, oddly enough, Amazon UK is already selling the book (for about 12 pounds), but also notes there is a 9 to 13 day delivery time, which means those of you in the UK shouldn’t necessarily expect to get it in time for Christmas. The site also seems to suggest that the first printing of the book will be 15,000 copies (see the synopsis), which — shall we say — varies from the information I’ve received.

Hey! Even Amazon in Germany has it listed as available! Stupid American Amazon…

Wal-Mart: $14.99. Sad that Wal-Mart has it officially available before Amazon.

Books-a-Million: $17.84.

BN.com: $19.26.

ValoreBooks.com: $17.56.

And there you have it. If you were to ask me which of these online institutions you should receive your book from, I would tell you that indeed, I have no preference. Wal-Mart is clearly the least expensive, but it means buying from Wal-Mart, and I understand many people have philosophic objections to that (I don’t, incidentally, as we shop there fairly often. Remember: Rural Ohio).

If you really want the book more inexpensively and also have a bit of patience, then you can wait about a month and get it through the Science Fiction Book Club, which will have it listed as an Alternate Selection for their “Winter” offering (which follows January but is before February — the SFBC has a 17-”month” year, you see). If the SFBC follows form it will sell it for something like $12.50. The catch is you have to wait six weeks (including shipping time) — and, as a SFBC member, that you obligate yourself to purchase a certain number of books within a certain amount of time. Tanstaafl, don’t you know.

But if that works for you, then by all means, book club it. I suspect a lot of authors will tell you (or at the very least would think at you very hard) they prefer you buy the books outside of a book club setting, but as most of you know, my philosophy for this book is that I’ve already been paid, and now my main concern is getting the book into as many hands as humanly possible, and the SFBC is certainly a good way to do that. Indeed, I suspect Tor thinks so, too, since Tor’s first printing of OMW is relatively small — I think they’re hoping SFBC (which does its own book printings, from what I understand) will be effective in selling its own version of the book. And so do I. Go, SFBC, go!

In the perfect world, you’d buy the book at your local bookstore, which is independently owned and operated by cheerful people who have filled the store with comfy chairs and espresso machines and Maine Coon Cats sleeping photogenically in the picture windows, and have a vast and delightful science fiction section. But in the real world, lots of bookstore have questionable SF sections, no chairs, and Maine Coon Cats give rise to serious dander issues. So, honestly, I couldn’t care less how you get the book.

Well, amend: Don’t steal it. That’s not nice. But short of larceny, it’s all the same to me. I just want you to read it, and hopefully feel you’ve gotten your money’s worth, no matter what you paid for it.

Update: A1books.com has it for $14.17. Man, that’s just ridiculous.

More Book Blah Blah Blah

A couple of things:

* I’ve created a new Books section to the Web site, which you can see here. Nestled within this new book section, in an understated way, is an Old Man’s War Preview Page, which contains information about the book, some of the reviews, and an essay about the book, none of which will be news to recent readers here — and also a sample chapter, which might be. The books page also links to Agent to the Stars. At some point, when I’m not feeling lazy, I’ll put a permanent link to the book section here at the Whatever. But in the meantime it’s linked off the front page of the site.

* The folks at Amazon, perhaps disbelieving that people have read a book that’s not yet officially published, appear to have yanked down the customer reviews for Old Man’s War. I am of course sad — those were some fine reviews, and my thanks to those who posted them — but the good news is that the Publishers Weekly review remains. I guess Amazon decided it was possible someone at PW had actually read the book. Hopefully once the book is officially out in the world the customer reviews will return.

* I hadn’t paid attention to this until someone pointed it out to me, but back at the Amazon page, there’s an interesting dichotomy between what other books customers who bought my book also bought, and the books that people who viewed my book also viewed. Among the books also bought are a number of science fiction titles from Neal Stephenson and Elizabeth Moon among others, as well as James Lileks’ Interior Desecrations book. Among the books browsed were political books like Axis of Weasels by Scott Ott and The Anglosphere Challenge: Why the English-Speaking Nations Will Lead the Way in the Twenty-First Century by James Bennett, as well as science fiction books Armor and Orphanage.

This is actually a residual illustration of the Instapundit Effect, because every book in the “viewed” category is one mentioned by Glenn either in conjunction with my book (in the case of Armor & Orphanage) or at some point in time close to when he mentioned my book (as is the case of the political tomes). I think it’s interesting that there’s not a huge amount of overlap between the two groups, but I have no idea what the implications of the variance might be. I do see Glenn’s influence in the purchases; he’s been a longtime booster of James Lileks’ book work. Of course, as have I. In any event, it’s an interesting testimony of how a mention on one Web site can leave a noticeable footprint on Amazon.

The Glorious Appearing — A Contest

I am reliably informed by one of my many spies that Old Man’s War has begun shipping from Amazon, so those of you who have pre-ordered the book from that online vendor should be receiving it fairly soon. It is still not listed as in stock, although I imagine that will change fairly soon. Update, 9:55pm: BN.com has it available for shipping.

In one of the comment threads someone asked what one could get for being the first to spot Old Man’s War in the wild (which is to say, in an actual bookstore). What an excellent question. To which I say, the first person who send me actual documentary evidence of Old Man’s War out there in the world — preferably by way of taking a picture of the bookstore employee ringing it up at the cash register — will receive a CD from me of some of the various musical compositions I’ve banged together over the years. I used to have some of them up over at Indiecrit, but they went down the same time as Indiecrit did. However, if you’re wondering if getting this CD would be a reward or a punishment, here’s one of them as a sample. I make music about as well as an author should, I think.

Now, you can’t just send me a note that says — “Hey! I saw it!” and expect to get this oh-so-choice reward. Pictures, please. And don’t think I can’t tell a Photoshopping when I see one. Not that I expect anyone would actually go through the effort of Photoshopping for a CD of my musical stylings. Even so.

How difficult will this be? Hopefully not terribly so, although as a practical matter this first printing of OMW is fairly small: about 3800 copies, or so I’ve heard (ah, the life of a first-time genre author!) and so that may represent something of a challenge. On the other hand, if you are a book collector, better snap up a copy (or two!). Those first edition OMWs might actually be worth something one day.

In all seriousness, I’d love to know for sure when OMW hits the stores, so if you see it — picture or no — let me know. Thanks.

2:42

Following up on Wednesday’s Three Minute Perfect Pop entry, Chad Orzel observes on his site: “Of course, the real test is to see whether 3:00 is a more ‘pop’ song length than some other, so we need a control list to compare to.” His control list is for songs that run four minutes and thirty three seconds, which aside from being 93 seconds longer than three minutes is a crafty little in-joke for music geeks. This time pops up some interesting songs for Chad, including “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” by Steely Dan and “All I Wanna Do” by Sheryl Crow, and a number of other people pitch in with their on Cage matches (as it were) including me. It’s a good sampling, although based on what I see there I would have to say that for pure pop satisfaction, three minutes has 4’33″ beat.

But let’s approach the “perfect length for perfect pop” question from another angle — let’s start with a song that embodies perfect pop, figure out how long it is, and then see if other perfect pop songs are also that length.

As it happens, I have a fine candidate for pop perfection: “There She Goes” by The La’s, which most people know better by its fairly recent remake by Sixpence None the Richer. For my money, “There She Goes” is nearly impossible to beat in its pop perfection: from the tips of its chiming guitars to the bottom of its blissful lyrics, it simply doesn’t get any better than this. If aliens came down and said that we had just shade under three minutes to justify our existence or we’d be evaporated — well, I wouldn’t necessarily suggest playing this song, but I might suggest someone put it on in the background while we boot up Stephen Hawking’s voice synthesizer.

“There She Goes” — both The La’s and SNTR versions — clocks in at 2:42. We go to the iTunes again, and ladies and gentlemen, we strike gold:

* “Johnny B Goode” by Chuck Berry
* “Michelle” by The Beatles
* “Don’t Do Me Like That” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
* “Breakdown,” ibid
* “Help Me” by Concrete Blonde
* “Crazy” by Patsy Cline
* “Tears of a Clown” the version by The (English) Beat
* “Sunday’s Coming On” by Marc Teamaker (no, you don’t know who he is. Trust me, it’s good)

Check it yourself — 2:42 has got the perfect pop goods. I await your verification.

Agent Back Online

Agent to the Stars, the first novel I wrote, and which had been online here at Scalzi.com until I changed hosting providers earlier in the year, is now back online. Folks who are familiar with it will note a few changes, among them that I poured the novel into a Movable Type blog, and that the downloadable version of the novel is now a pdf file rather than an rtf file. The former of these was done because Movable Type does all the hard work of putting in the links for me; the latter because I think the novel looks better as a pdf. It’s not to keep people from stealing the work or anything, especially since someone could just cut and paste text from the Web site if they wanted.

The other major change is that I’m no longer promoting Agent as a “shareware novel” — as I note in the new introduction, the novel collected about $4,000 over the space of five years online, which more than proved the point that people will actually pay for stuff they think is good, even if they don’t have to. Be that as it may, corralling the money that comes in is a bit of a hassle — I have some checks I never even deposited — and more importantly, I just don’t feel like asking people for money for Agent anymore. If they like it, I figure they’ll track down Old Man’s War or another one of my books and buy that. That works for me.

So Agent is now officially freeware. Tell your friends.