Monthly Archives: January 2005

Design Note

I’m pretty much done fiddling with the design of the Whatever for a while, so I hope you like the new design, which is clearly inspired by the artwork and color palette of Old Man’s War. I had liked the previous design quite a bit, but eventually the gray design got to me — I think it was it being winter and all. The new color scheme is a bit more colorful, although hopefully without being obnoxiously so. However, love it or hate it, you’re stuck with it for at least several months, because doing design work is a pain.

Have a great weekend — I’ll see you Monday.

More Details

A little more information about the hardcover version of Agent to the Stars (and it should be understood that all of this is very preliminary):

* This is indeed going to be a limited-run edition. The current plan is for a print run of 1,000 copies, each of these copies numbered, as well as signed by yours truly. These hardcovers will probably be a higher price than the average hardcover (but not significantly higher; it’s not like I’m famous or anything), but I expect I might be able to wrangle a discount for Whatever readers. Stay tuned.

* Want your Agent to the Stars version in something more, oh, I don’t know, ritzy? 26 copies of A2S will be printed in an ultra-deluxe edition, which will be lettered, leatherbound and set in their own traycase. These will also be signed, possibly with an ink created from my very blood! Okay, probably not that last part. These versions will be pricey — we’re talking probably $150 or so. Think of it as an investment, and then every time you see me you can yell at me to get back to work in order to keep the value of those books high. See? It’s a motivation tactic!

* We’re looking at a July/August 2005 release for the book, which would situate it nicely between OMW (out now, as if you didn’t know), and The Ghost Brigades, which is tentatively scheduled for January 2006. Naturally, take this with a very large grain of salt, since OMW was originally scheduled for 2003.

* In a very nice gesture, Bill Schafer (Subterranean Press’ big cheese) asked me if there was anyone who I preferred do the cover art, and indeed I did have someone in mind. We’re chatting with him now about it, and if we can get him, time and other factors permitting, well, let’s just say it would rock. We’ll have to see.

That’s where things are at the moment.

Agent to the Stars: Sold

So, I sold Agent to the Stars to a publisher.

But wait, I hear you say. Didn’t you say recently that you weren’t going to sell Agent to the Stars to a publisher? And now you have? Doesn’t that make you a dirty, dirty liar?

Well, no. I said I wouldn’t actively try to sell Agent to publishers — which is to say, have my own agent push the novel. Because, among other things, I wanted to be able to have it on the site for people to check out my writing style. But if a publisher came by and was okay with me keeping the novel on the site, I would be happy to listen. And one did, and was, and so here we are.

Yes, that means that once again I’ve sold a book with no real effort on my part. I’m sorry.

The publisher? Subterranean Press, who specialize in really excellent special editions by some very intimidating authors, including Dan Simmons, Robert Silverberg, Poppy Z. Brite, Charles de Lint and Richard Matheson. It’s nice to be in the same room as these folks. We’re still working on the details, but the general idea is to give Agent a nice limited-run hardback edition for collectors and fans of the novel. I’ve heard from a number of people about the general excellence of Subterranean Press, and so I’m happy to give Agent a home there. It seems like a pretty good fit all the way around. I’m very excited.

I’ll have more details for you, including release dates, when I know about them. In the meantime, let’s open the floor to some questions:

So will you keep Agent available online?

Yes. I’ll be retaining most rights to the book, including electronic rights, and as I’ve mentioned, I think having Agent on the site is a real bonus. I am of course not the first person to do this; Cory Doctorow famously has had downloadable editions of his published work available online. He believes — and I suspect it’s true — that letting people sample the complete work leads to more sales, not less. Now, the dynamic with Agent will be slightly different in that the hardback will probably be a limited edition, not a mass-market edition of the book, as Cory’s books were with Tor. But the concept should be the same. I know many people have told me over the years how they’d love to have an actual hard copy of Agent, including Krissy (Agent is her favorite book of mine); now they’ll have that chance, and I’m delighted about that.

So, this is twice you’ve sold a novel you’ve put up online. What, are you too stinkin’ proud to sell a novel like a normal human being?

Hey, I already said I was sorry. I can’t explain it either. I have sold two other novels the old-fashioned way, and I expect I will sell any additional novels the old-fashioned way as well, if for no other reason than that I have no other completed novels to put up online.

Let me be clear: I don’t pretend that I’ve not been in fact incredibly lucky to have sold novels online, with minimal effort on my part. At this point I’m getting a little twitchy recommending to other people that they continue to submit their work the old-fashioned way, since I think the more suspicious could suggest that I’m just trying to keep the “toss your stuff on your Web site” method of selling a novel to my greedy little self. But I swear to you, it’s not that. I sold OMW to Tor at the end of 2002; I’m selling this one to Subterranean Press now. In those 25 months, I don’t know of anyone else who has sold a complete SF novel they’ve posted on their Web site; meanwhile, hundreds of novels were sold to SF publishers the old-fashioned way. Entertain the notion that I’m some hideous freak of nature, and give your novel the best chance of being published by submitting it the way publishing houses ask you to.

Having said that, this goes to show that a well-stocked, well-maintained personal Web site is indeed an excellent thing for a writer to have; of the seven(!) books I’ve written and/or am writing, four can now be traced back to writing on this Web site (OMW, Agent and the Books of the Dumb). Having this site has had other, less directly tangible benefits as well: For example, I note Instapundit mentioned Old Man’s War again yesterday (as commentary about a mention from Professor Bainbridge), and between Glenn and Prof. Bainbridge, the book’s Amazon ranking went from about 8,000 yesterday to over 300 today.

Glenn and Prof. Bainbridge mention the book because they like it, which I am very glad for, but part of the reason it’s on their radar screen is because we are fellow denizens of that nation known as the blogosphere, where the rule of thumb is “help out the other guy.” I know I’ve promoted the works of people I’ve met as part of this online community (which reminds me: Ms. Bear, I’m really enjoying Hammered so far), and the impetus there has simply been to help friends and people who I see as being part of my tribe.

So, if you’re a writer, you could do worse than to be part of what’s going on online. Clearly, it’s worked for me.

How are you going to celebrate?

Are you kidding? I’ve got deadlines. I’ll celebrate in a week. But I will say this: Mmmmmm…. mini Mac. I was just thinking to myself, I kinda want one, but how can I justify what is essentially a pointless expense? Bwa ha ha ha ha! If there is a God, clearly he wants me to have my toys. Of course, I still need approval from the finance department, i.e., my wife. So Steve Jobs may have to line his pockets with other people’s money first. But still!

Any other comments or questions, drop ‘em in the comment thread.

A Pan, For Your Pleasure

Here’s a fine negative review of Old Man’s War, in which the book is described as “smugly preachy… occasionally interrupted by tedious digressions into How Science Works,” and the clever alternate title of Elder’s Game is suggested. Just in case you’re wondering if I was only going to note the positive reviews here.

The “smugly preachy” part I’m neither here nor there on, since that’s a personal perspective, and God knows I have my moments of smugness and preachiness. I do think the complaint about the digressions on How Science Work is interesting, though, and I’d like to comment on it. The reviewer here notes that a couple of pages talking about a beanstalk (for an example) is pretty much unnecessary, since everyone who typically reads science fiction already knows what a beanstalk is. And I would agree: most people who typically read science fiction have been introduced to the concept. Readers confronting The Singularity on a regular basis don’t need a primer on beanstalk physics. Fair enough.

However, my wife, who does not typically read science fiction, does need a primer, and so do my in-laws, and so do several close friends. So do the people in my little hometown who are reading the book because I’m the local author, and so do a lot of the people who I hope might want to pick up the book who don’t typically read science fiction. The book is in fact intentionally written with non-science fiction readers in mind. Why? Well, it’s simple: I want a whole lot of readers, and I don’t want to give potential readers outside the sphere of SF the excuse of thinking the book is going to be inaccessible to them.

Look, I’m not a snob. I’m in this for the mass market, and I want to nab readers who don’t typically have science fiction as part of their reading diet. I want the guy who usually reads Tom Clancy or Stephen King to look at my book and think it might be something he wants to read. And so does my publisher; the reason Tor picked up OMW, as I’ve mentioned before, is that Patrick Nielsen Hayden read it and said to himself, I bet I could sell this in a supermarket rack. I hope not to disappoint Patrick in this regard. I hope we can sell the book in supermarket racks. I hope we sell a lot. This doesn’t mean writing down – that’s wholly condescending and unnecessary — but it does mean taking the time for a certain amount of exposition.

So, yeah, I regard the How Science Works parts of Old Man’s War to be a feature, not a bug, although of course I recognize that it’s not a feature that appeals to everyone, or that everyone needs. In other words, this reviewer isn’t wrong (opinions can’t really be wrong, anyway), he’s just approaching the book with a more narrow presumed audience in mind than I have. When you write, you make choices, and this was one of my choices, and I think it was the right one to make. For my part, I don’t think it would be a bad thing if someone who doesn’t read science fiction read my book, thought “hey, that was fun,” and took a chance on another science fiction book.

That’s my goal: To be the gateway drug of science fiction. Sure, they start with me, but the next thing you know they’re mainlining Charlie Stross right through the eyeball. This is not a bad scenario.

To end on a high note: A positive review, from NetSurfer Digest. I doubt this pointer will remain static, so an excerpt: “John Scalzi channels Heinlein (‘Starship Troopers’) and Haldeman (‘The Forever War’) in this terrific tale of interstellar war. Facing up to legends has the potential to go horribly wrong, but Scalzi has the writing chops to carry it off and produce a book which stands up to comparison with those two iconic military SF novels.” Groovy.

Update: The comment thread contains a few spoilers. If you haven’t read the book, you’re hereby warned.

Genre Advances

I know, I said I was submerging for a few days. But this is worth linking to for science fiction writers: SF Writer (and soon-to-be first time novelist) Tobias Buckell has created a form for SF/F writers to anonymously enter information on what the advance was for their first novel, and then for their most recent novels (click here to see it).

The idea here is to create something like this — a listing of what the various Romance genre publishers offer for advances — for science fiction and fantasy writers. That way first-time writers who get an offer will be able to see how their proposed advance matches up against the genre in general (and among other advances offered by that publisher), and established writers can see if they’re keeping pace with their peers. This will no doubt cause writers even more anxiety than they already have, but if you’re going to feel anxious about something, money is a good a thing as any.

Tobias has just now sentenced himself to an indeterminate term of codifying and collating the information, and better him than me. But it should be a useful thing if enough SF/F writers participate. I’m off to enter my info now.

Also, and unrelated: I may fiddle slightly with the look of the Whatever over the next couple of days (as a sort of break from incessant editing/writing). Don’t be alarmed.

Also

Submerging for the next three days (chapters to edit; pieces to write). Consider this an open thread to play in while I’m busy trying to salvage my writing career. Starter topic: Why aren’t there any words that rhyme with orange? Feel free to free-associate from there or ignore it entirely.

Celebrity Books

Before we get to the topic at hand, allow me to note the very nice review of OMW from Professor Bainbridge. Thank ye kindly, sir.

Also, yes, I realize that I’ve been mostly writing about writing here recently, with only the occasional off-topic post to leaven the mix. This very much has to do with the fact that I’m intensively re-editing Rough Guide to Science Fiction Film chapters and doing pieces for an upcoming Uncle John book, and both are taking up pretty much all of my brain cycles at the moment, leaving little time for trivialities like world events. I’m all about writing, and probably will be for at least another week or so. Fair warning.

Now, as long as we’re on the subject of writing, let me answer a question posed in one of the comment threads, which is:

As a writer, what is your perspective on the sensationalist books that are released and just absolutely bought up by the truckload by the general public? Case in point. The Amber Frey book that came out last week, where she’s documenting her relationship with Scott Peterson. Anyone that doesn’t know who that is, hasn’t had a television on, read a newspaper, or visited a news web site in a VERY long time. Anyway, how does that make a published author feel? Someone who has worked years at their craft to get published and recognized, and yet this person is in it for “15 minutes” and gone. I realize publishers don’t care about the content as much as the earning potential. I was just curious as to an author’s perspective.

As a writer, I’m almost entirely unconcerned about it. To begin with, most of the time the books folks like Amber Frey write (or more accurately, someone else writes so as not to make the putative “author” look like a total idiot) and the ones I write aren’t really addressing the same audience; it seems really unlikely that there’d ever be a time when someone is in the bookstore agonizing over having to choose either Old Man’s War or Witness: For the Prosecution of Scott Peterson. So I don’t really gnash my teeth with each sale, thinking “that could have been my book.” It wouldn’t have been my book. Nora Roberts or John Grisham, on the other hand, might be annoyed — the whole melodrama of the Scott Petersen case is right up their respective textual alleys. But you know, they’re not exactly hurting.

Secondly, life is capricious and weird, and there will always be someone who does not seem to deserve the fame and wealth thrown at them. Amber Frey’s great claim to fame is being huckstered by Scott Peterson into having an affair. Is this a firm foundation upon which to build a lasting career in the public eye? No, but it’ll do, and to be flatly honest about it, someone would have written up a lurid tell-all about Frey’s relationship anyway, so why shouldn’t she get the money for it? I mean, I’d rather she get the payday for her trouble than some hack spinning out the tale from newspaper clippings and court transcripts. Soon it’ll all be over for Ms. Frey, and she’ll go back to doing whatever it is she does when she’s not known for being a murder’s moll. Hopefully, she’ll manage her money well.

Ms. Frey’s fortunes — or the fortunes of any person who suddenly erupts out of nowhere, makes a bundle of cash for dubious reasons, and then returns to obscurity as quickly as they arrived — affect me not in the least. The fact she can get a book deal in the snap of her fingers while other people toil for years to do the same is monstrously unfair, but there are so many other things in the world that are monstrously unfair — and of genuine consequence — that this one example of unfairness is quaint by comparison. If other people want to be bothered by it, they should by all means worry that mental scab until their irritation is assuaged. But don’t see why I would want to bother.

Atom Feed

Christopher Davis notes in the comments to my last post that MT 3.11 generates an Atom feed automatically, which provides a full posting for people whose RSS readers accept Atom. And so it does; I checked. Since using the already-generating Atom feed is the path of least resistance, I’m putting up a link. Henceforth if you use an RSS reader and want excerpts, use the RSS feed. If you want full postings, use the Atom feed. If your RSS reader doesn’t accept Atom and you want full posts, it’s officially your problem, not mine.

For the RSS Feed Subscribers

Evo Terra, host of the Dragon Page radio show, is trying to convince me to have my RSS feed include entire entries, not just excerpts, as part of his overall war on RSS excerpts. I’m neutral on this — I post 100-word excerpts because it’s enough to see what I’m getting at but not too much for the people who just want a recap. But I could expand it if there’s a general desire. So if you get the RSS feed (including the LiveJournal Scalzifeed readers), let me know which you’d prefer.

Briefly Noted

Another review of Old Man’s War here (also posted on the Amazon page for the book, as the reviewer, Harriet Klausner, is apparently the #1 ranked Amazon reviewer, in terms of volume); a more detailed version of the reviews (with stats) is here. It calls the book “a terrific tale of a belligerent future in space,” which is nice, and also says it is “a tense anti-war military science fiction thriller that will leave fans pondering what is war good for.”

I certainly hope the latter part of that last sentence is true, although I don’t know that I subscribe wholly to the book being anti-war. I would say that it is anti-stupid, in that at least a couple of people acting stupidly in the performance of war in the book reap the consequences of their actions. This also happens to be my general opinion of war: Use only when absolutely necessary; try not to use stupidly or wantonly; be prepared for the consequences.

However, I don’t want to say the review is wrong. I think the “anti-war” assessment falls into that interesting gray area of legitimate textual interpretation based on the reader’s personal perspectives. As an author I think I get to set some boundaries regarding what the book says or is about; if you were to, say, tell me the book advocates genocide (as there is some discussion of the subject in the book), I think I’m within my rights as the author to say “well, no, it doesn’t.” But if you tell me it’s anti-war, I’ll be interested to see your line of reasoning. I like that people see my work in different ways than I do.

Short Works

Aaaah. Funny how sleep will get you back on track. Now then.

I’ve been keeping up with the various reactions to Old Man’s War, like you do if you’re a novelist (especially a first-time novelist), and one of the most surprising compliments about the book, from my perspective at least, is that it’s short; phrases like “refreshingly crisp” have popped up and over here, this fellow lists me and Cory Doctorow as part of a new trend:

Now, the trend for up-and-coming authors seems to be writing efficiently. Writers which have impressed me lately seem to be writing shorter works, but also seem to be putting a lot of thought into the fewer words they do use.

I’ll take the compliments, but I’ll also note I don’t think Old Man’s War is actually short: It comes in at over 90,000 words (91,400, to be more precise). In contrast, both of Cory’s two novels so far clock in at about 50,000 words — meaning that they are genuinely short novels — and the cutoff for the Hugo award for novels (the Hugo award being a big award in science fiction, for the various Whatever readers who aren’t actually SF geeks) is 40,000 words. Personally, I’ve always worked under the assumption that it takes 60,000 words to make a novel, although now for the life of me I can’t remember where I got that number. In any event, at 90,000 words, it’s not really a short book, it just feels like it. As does Agent to the Stars, which is often described as a “quick read,” although it’s actually longer than OMW: about 95,000 words, if I remember correctly.

I think Old Man’s War may seem shorter than it is for a couple of reasons. First, there does seem to be a perception that SF novels have had a bit of bloat in recent years. I don’t actually know whether that’s true or not; most of the SF/F novels I’ve been reading recently, from Stross, Bear, Fforde, Sagan, Zielinski, Westerfeld and Larbalestier, have been short or at least not blatheringly long. I think maybe everyone’s transfixed at the sheer heft of Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle, which at 3,000 pages is large enough to crush an unwary kodiak bear. Compared to that, undoubtedly OMW would look compact, by the same reasoning that makes 5′ 10″ man seem short when he stands next to Yao Ming. Having said that, I do remember getting the first advance reader copy of OMW and being slightly surprised that it wasn’t longer — I thought 90,000 words would take up more space. It’s amazing the things they can do with fonts and leading these days.

Second, I think OMW seems short because there’s quite a bit of dialogue, and I think dialogue “reads” quicker than description. Part of that is perceptual: With dialogue your brain imagines people speaking the words, and that’s maybe easier than what your brain has to do when trying to construct an unfamiliar image to go along with descriptive text: i.e., reading dialogue takes fewer processing cycles than reading description. Part of that is construction: When people speak (or when I write people speaking), their sentences are shorter and there are relatively fewer unfamiliar polysyllabics — which is to say that when people speak, they’re actually trying to be understood. All of which makes for a faster read.

I am pleased that people think OMW is a short read; I’d rather have them get through the book quickly and think “that was good, I want more” than to read along and wonder to themselves when the torture of slogging through the book will end. I also don’t think that I’m a very good candidate for creating a thousand-page tome any time soon; I don’t have the patience, for one thing, and for another thing the style of my writing doesn’t lend itself to that. However, I’ll note that The Android’s Dream is longer than either Agent or OMW – the completed book (unedited by Tor) is about 112,800 words. In its construction, it’s very like OMW and Agent, though, so I’ll be curious to see if it’ll qualify as a “quick read” as well. I think it does, but then, I would.

Gaaaaaah

Up all night editing a chapter of Rough Guide to Science Fiction that I was previously quite unhappy with. Now happy enough with to send to editors. On to the next two chapters that I am quite unhappy with to re-edit them.

Did I mention having a writing deadline in December is no damn good? I think I did.

I need to stay awake long enough to drop Athena off at school. Then: Blankness. What I’m saying is, don’t expect wonders from me here today.

A Terrifying Moment of Personal Introspection

jsgeeks.jpg

Balding? Check.
Unshaven due to deadline? Check.
Hand brace to avoid RSI? Check.
Strange Horizons t-shirt? Check.
Stack of anime DVDs? Check.
Aggressively messy desk? Check.
Geeked-out dual-monitor computer set-up complete with Web cam? Check.
Glasses? Check.
Haven’t seen anyone but family and pets in over a week? Check.
Employing mediocre Photoshop talents to avoid actual work? Check.

When was it exactly that I became the stereotype of a science fiction writer? Because, baby, I’m so there.

Yes, I know, top of the geek food chain and all. But, come on.

And now I’m off to find a woodchipper.

Word Processing

The Whatever has a fair share of visitors who are professional writers (and an equally fair share of visitors who could/will be pro writers, when/if the capricious gods of publishing align their stars in the correct configuration), so let me throw this out to y’all:

As most of you know, I’m 35, and I started writing in earnest when I was 14 years old, which, as it happens, is the same time that the original Mac debuted. What this means is that I have never written anything of any appreciable length — anything – that I didn’t write on a computer (or at the very least, a computerized word processor). As a consequence, my writing process has developed with the word creation and editing capabilities of the computer in mind. Indeed, is tied to it to such an extent that the mere thought of trying to write anything of any length — more than a few hundred words — without the aid of a computer fills me with a certain amount of dread and terror.

Nor do I think I’m alone in this — as I said, I’m 35, which ain’t exactly young (not exactly old, either, harumph, harumph, but I’m not, shall we say, any longer in the freshly-spritzed bloom of youth), and there’s an entire generation of writers my age (give or take five years) who also have always used the computer as their primary writing tool. Not to mention the entire generation of adults younger than I, who I assume are aware of typewriters, but may never have seen one in actual professional use.

So, writers: Can you honestly imagine trying to write a full-length book or novel (we’re talking 60,000+ words) without a computer? Or, for those of you alive and publishing in the terrifying days before computers, can you imagine going back to that? I’m simply curious.

As an aside to this, apart from the pure and simple mechanical issues of writing on a computer, I do wonder to how much my writing style is predicated on my writing tool — i.e., to what extent my “voice” is due to working on a computer rather than a typewriter or (eeeeeegh) pen and paper. I suspect it’s a not insignificant amount, although it would be hard to quantify without actually trying to write something like a novel with another writing tool, and I don’t know if my curiosity on the matter extends that far.

Commenting Note

Just to let you all know, sometime soon — probably in the next week — I’m going to disable commenting for all threads previous to December 2004, in an attempt to minimize spammation. So if there’s something you want to say on any of the posts earlier than this, now’s the time.

OMW Availability

Here’s a not very cheering comment about the availability of Old Man’s War, from the editor of Locus Online:

I’ve been on the lookout for the John Scalzi novel Old Man’s War for several weeks now, since I read Scalzi’s blog and he’s been crowing about its appearances at various retail outlets; and it sounds like a fun book, and the starred PW review doesn’t hurt. But it hasn’t appeared at any of the several Borders or Barnes & Nobles’ in my area that I circulate among. Today I finally queried the Borders database: sold out(!), it says. Without ever a copy having passed through their stores, apparently. OK, fine. I came home and ordered it from Amazon.

As it happens, I was in my local bookstore the other day, picking up my copy of Hammered, and didn’t see Old Man’s War there either, although the store has three other of my books on offer (including multiple copies of Book of the Dumb 2). I checked with the folks at the sale desk, and they noted that didn’t even have it available to order yet; their distributor (Ingram, if you know about these things) had a comment in the system that the book would be available in January, but just not yet. Well, of course, this is not great news — if I remember correctly, Ingram is the largest book distributor in the US, so it wouldn’t be a good thing if it didn’t have its copies yet. Anecdotally, it seems the book is more available on the coasts than in the heartland, but I may simply have this perception because I know more people on the coasts.

I’m not exactly worried. It’s early yet, and the first edition print run of Old Man’s War is relatively small (somewhere in the area of 4,000 copies, if I remember correctly), so there was always a possibility of some early scarcity if the book was well-received, which (thank you, God) so far it seems to be. I expect this is a short term issue. But it’s never a good thing when people are looking for your book and can’t find it, and it’s particularly not a good thing when the person in question is an editor of one of the most influential science fiction magazines out there.

If you are having trouble finding OMW on the shelves, remember that nearly every bookstore out there will be happy to special order the book for you, or you can order it from Amazon, BN.com, Powell’s or any number of online outlets (and don’t forget the Science Fiction Book Club).

Ideally, you could support your local bookstore when you buy the book, but if you want it, get it however you can get it.

Cover Art

Charlie Stross is showing off the cover to his upcoming novel Accelerando on his site, and it is indeed a most excellent cover. Being part of the super-secret writers cabal that I am (I could tell you more but then I’d have to remainder you), I’ve had a peek at the novel itself, which I think will be the science fiction book to beat in 2005 (and damn you Charlie, he said, because his own book is in that year, too). Of course, I haven’t read Cory Doctorow’s Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town yet, so we’ll just have to see.

Someone, incidentally, also has excellent cover art, by Dave McKean, and I have to say I’m pleased for both of them that both of them have books whose covers project a higher level of sophistication than you might normally see in the genre. I don’t think it’s any secret that I’m often very critical of science fiction art, and indeed I can think of at least one science fiction publishing house that I would not have sold Old Man’s War to, specifically because their book covers are flat-out embarrassing to be seen with if you’re over the age of 14. Happily for me, Tor was not one of those houses.

In fact, I do have to say that as Old Man’s War hits the stores, I am finally beginning to truly appreciate just how smart Tor was with the cover, and what an excellent choice Tor art director Irene Gallo made in choosing Donato Giancola as the artist. I always liked the cover art, which I thought was appropriate for the book — they story has a classic space opera form, so it made sense to have a more or less classic space opera type cover. I liked it enough that I actually bought it, and in doing so made it so that between what Tor paid him and what I paid him, Donato has made more off Old Man’s War than I have. Well done, sir.

But now that it’s out and people have seen it on the shelves, one of the things I’m hearing from them is how the cover gives the book a different feel from a lot of the other books of the shelves. I think a lot of that has to do with Donato’s saturated blue-green color scheme, which is a color palette you don’t see very often. And I think having the central figure on the cover be an older male is also an eye-stopper; you really don’t see older people on science fiction/fantasy book covers with any frequency, unless they look like Gandalf’s second cousin.

In all, a fine cover both in itself and how it seems to be grabbing people’s eyes. So once again let me take a moment to acknowledge both Donato and Irene, both of whom made my book look good. If the two of them work on The Ghost Brigades, so much the better for me; we’ll know at least one thing about the book won’t suck. If people judge my books by their covers, in these cases, I’ll be just fine with that.

Update: Tobias Buckell, whose novel Crystal Rain comes out this summer from Tor, shows off his cover art here. I dig the parrots.

More Confederate Stupidity

I’ve noted before that one of the most fascinating things about Confederate sympathizers is how tortuously they will twist their tiny but ambitious intellects to suggest that the Confederacy was really about something more than a bunch of rich white people owning a bunch of poor black people, and managing to bamboozle a bunch of poor white people into thinking it had something to do with them, too. Another one of these jackasses has popped up in the comments to this entry, in which I note that the CSA is fundamentally evil because it explicitly codified the enslavement of humans into its Constitution, something that even the US, despite its shameful, not-to-be-minimized history of slavery, never did. Get a load of this particular attempt at getting the Confederacy off the hook:

Your assertion that the CSA was evil because of Article IV, Section 2 of it’s Constitution falls flat on it’s face when Article I, Section 9 is considered. To wit: “Sec. 9. (I) The importation of negroes of the African race from any foreign country other than the slaveholding States or Territories of the United States of America, is hereby forbidden; and Congress is required to pass such laws as shall effectually prevent the same”. This is a demonstration of the fact that the CSA government was not so concerned with the perpetuation and expansion of slavery as it was with the protection of private property rights. Yes, at the time slaves were considered to be private property. As reprehensible as this is to us now in the 21st century, it is hardly fair to judge the actions of those in a society were slavery had been largely deemed an acceptable practice by comparing it to a society (like ours currently) where such a practice is considered immoral.

Leave aside for the moment the monstrously ignorant and ahistorical dismissal that would suggest that everybody in the 19th century thought owning slaves was just peachy, despite the massive piles of evidence to the contrary. Focus instead of the following line of reasoning:

1. Yes, the CSA encoded slavery into its Constitution.
2. But look! They didn’t want to get slaves from anywhere else.
3. So that meant encoding slavery into the CSA Constitution wasn’t about slavery, it was about property.
4. Property which just happened to include, you know, other people.

The author of this comment apparently believes that banning the international slave trade meant that the slave populations in the South would thenceforth be static and then would eventually decline as the existing slaves died out. As quaint a picture as that provides, it does ignore one small detail, which was that one of the reasons that the CSA could choose to ignore the international slave trade was that there was already a robust slave trade inside the southern states (and thus, by extension, within the CSA). Here’s a fun little excerpt from an article on the matter:

Several ante-bellum events converged to encourage slave breeding. Legal limitations on the Atlantic slave trade reduced the number of slaves entering the country, despite smuggling. The soil in Virginia began to wear out from overuse and some planters turned from tobacco to slave farms. The Deep South had insatiable needs for workers for labor-intensive crops, from sugar to cotton.

A slave breeder would select a group of healthy young black women and lock them up with some healthy black men who were strengthened by having been fed meat, not in the usual slave rations. After a few days it was hoped that the women would be pregnant.

Other references I see online to the interstate slave breeding trade note that slave women were started breeding at ages as young as 12 and 13 and that some slave breeders would promise these women their freedom from slavery if they could produce 15 babies. Consider, if you will, the human mind that would tell another human that the way to purchase her own freedom is to condemn 15 of her own children to slavery.

Note also that the CSA specifically exempted US slaveholding states and territories from its prohibition, which says a lot about the mentality of the CSA — not only did it fully intend to continue its own internal slave trade, it kept a door open to trade human lives with what slave areas remained in the US. What would the effect of this be? Well, aside from the obvious economic benefit, it could potentially serve to keep the US off-balance internally, because the bitter division between slave and free states would still exist. A US that was busy with its own internal politics is a US too busy to bother with the CSA. In other words, the slave trade could have been a potentially effective political tool for the CSA.

But wait, there’s more! If breeding slaves was a profitable enterprise, as it clearly seems it was, couldn’t one view the prohibition of an international slave trade simply in protectionist terms? Which is to say, by prohibiting the international slave trade, the CSA is protecting a growth industry within its borders from undue competition. The CSA had a native slave population of some three million (a population only slightly less than the entire population of the US at the time of its independence from Britain); this was a large enough number to assure a robust breeding pool for some time to come.

In short, my Confederate friend’s suggestion that encoding slavery into the CSA’s Constitution wasn’t actually about slavery works only if one ignores the inconvenient fact that slave breeding already existed in the south and/or CSA, and the obvious benefits of continuing such breeding programs for the white, racist, evil sons of bitches who created the CSA in the first place. And I don’t see any reason to do that, because unlike Confederate sympathizers, I don’t have to pretend that the hateful and pathetic political entity that was the Confederacy was anything more or less than a system designed to let one group of people deny the human rights and dignity of another group of people for no other reason than that there was profit in it.

Given that my correspondent’s assertion that the CSA isn’t evil is handily disposed of (and indeed, is shown to enable further perpetuation of the evil practice of slavery, thus deepening the fundamental soul-rotting evil of the CSA), his continuing blatherations on the matter are moot, and I only cursorily scanned them, noting only in passing that he trots out the tired “the CSA had a right to secede” blah blah blah, which I took a hammer to some time ago, the gist of my thinking on the matter being: Would that the USA had agreed on that point, because then it would have been a simple matter of kicking the ass of the foolish and evil political entity to the south of us and taking its territory for our own, instead of hewing to the polite fiction that the CSA were merely rebellious states. But isn’t that just like a Confederate not to think things all the way through.

But let’s leave aside the demolition my correspondent’s idiotic line of reasoning to note one simple thing: No matter how you slice it, and in any era you choose to place it, slavery was evil, period, end of sentence. Any state that codifies slavery into its very constitutional fabric codifies evil into its very being. Therefore the CSA was, is, and will until the very end of the human race continue to be, evil. All rationalizations, all excuses, all twisty attempts at tortured logic fall under the simple question: Did the founders of the CSA choose to make slavery part of its fundamental nature? They did. Any attempts to distract from this fundamental evil are merely the attempts of the morally vile to disguise the festering inhumanity at the very heart of the CSA.

The problem is, you can’t hide something like that. And you shouldn’t. The fact Confederate sympathizers continue to try says something very small and sad about them.

Frank “Skeeter” Scalzi

fscalzi.jpg

I was cruising eBay, looking to see how quickly OMW would hit there (answer: pretty quickly, and why you would pay for an advance reader’s copy is beyond me), when I came across a completely egoless bit of Scalziania: An auction for the trading card of Frank “Skeeter” Scalzi, who played one season — actually, 13 games — for the New York Giants in 1939. Well, how could I not get that? A week and $20 later, it was mine.

You’d figure a guy who plays just 13 games in the bigs must have been less than good, but interestingly enough, Skeeter hit .333 in those games, so clearly he wasn’t bad. This site, whose owner claims to be (and almost certainly is) Skeeter’s grand nephew, suggests that the player suffered from a poorly-handled contract which somehow impacted his ability to play in the big leagues for any amount of time. We also learn that Skeeter eventually became a fairly successful minor league manager and may have gone even further save for a 1950 car accident. The things you learn.

As far as I know, Skeeter is not actually any relation to me — although interestingly, he’s a native of Ohio, where I now live. Be that as it may, Scalzis of note are scarce enough on the ground that any are of interest to me, relation or not. This is what you get for having an unusual last name; if I were named, say, “Cooper,” I’d probably be less interested in a 13-game MLB player from 1939. But I’m not, and so I am.

In any event: Here’s Skeeter. Enjoy him!