Monthly Archives: September 2005

First Shot

firstshot0929.jpg

Behold! The first shot from the Nikon D70s. It’s of my front yard, for those of you not already familiar with the sight. And with the publication of the shot comes to the end a long and sad story. As most of you know, I bought myself a new camera to celebrate finishing The Ghost Brigades (I actually bought it in anticipation of finishing TGB, but did finish the book before the camera arrived), but when I unpacked my shiny new toy to play with it, it was, alas, broken; apparently some Nikon cameras recently have had problems with their shutters, and mine was one of them. Off it went, back to the camera store, which sent me another one. This one, as you can see, works just fine. I’m deeply pleased about the camera arriving today since I wanted to be able to take it with me to Chicago this weekend. And now I will! And as coincidence would have it, the same Fed Ex fellow who brought me this camera carried off my copyedit of The Ghost Brigades to Tor, so that connection is still there.

In terms of an initial evaluation, I’m very pleased with my new camera, now that I have one that works, and the camera is indeed far more camera than I know what to do with at this point, since my photo experience to date is entirely of the "point-and-shoot" sort. Mind you, that’s one of the reasons I bought this particular camera — to learn how to use it — but at the moment it vaguely frightens me with all its buttons and options and f-stops. The prior camera, the Kodak EasyShare, will not be entirely retired, since it’s a perfectly fine camera and in some situations it’ll be easier to reach for it than the Nikon (also, the Kodak makes groovy little movies, which the Nikon will no do). But I already promised Athena she could play with the Kodak more, and I also additionally suspect Krissy wouldn’t mind prying the Kodak out of my grip every now and again. It’s the chain of photographic command! This means the cat gets the old Olympus:

Won’t you be interested to see what she comes up with?

Incidentally, with the advent of the new camera, don’t be entirely surprised if I do slightly more photoblogging around here. Hey, I’ve got a new camera. I totally have to justify the expense.

My Copyediting Sins

Forgive me, father, for I have sinned against my copyeditor.

I’m going through the copyedit of The Ghost Brigades and I am appalled — appalled, mind you — at the sheer number of immensely stupid grammatical errors I have made in the course of the writing. Things as fundamental as the "that/which" grammar rule — which I know, by the way — are wantonly peppered through the manuscript. My only saving grace is that at least I was consistent in my screw-ups.

One does wonder if the copy editor sits there reading, clucking sadly to him or herself at the monstrosity of grammar which (that!) lie (lay!) before them (him! Or her! Pick one!) and thinking I’m gonna have to waste an entire blue pencil on this one before bringing said pencil down in a savage orgy of correction, correction, correction.  And then the manuscript is returned to the author, silent (but not wordless — oh, no, not wordless) rebuke on every page. You know, I know a nice freshman composition teacher who can tutor you, it seems to say.

Yes, I’m reading too much into it. But you should see how much blue is on this manuscript. It’s as if it came back from the editors with the note: "Congratulations! It’s a boy!" 

To all copyeditors everywhere who will one day have the misfortune of receiving one of my books to edit: Sorry. I’m really not an idiot. Thank you in advance for making me look good. And naturally, this goes double for the copy editor of The Ghost Brigades. When the finished book comes out, you won’t see his hard work, because that’s the nature of the copyediting gig. But let me assure you: Oh, it’s there.

Post Script: The first person who copy edits this entry in the comments is so going to get deleted. Yea verily, and the second one, too! And so on! Don’t tempt me, man.  

Mac, He Dead

Well, that was interesting. I came upstairs a little earlier today to discover that my Mac had entirely died on me: Black screen, couldn’t get it to reboot, and so on and so forth. The good news is that it’s under warranty; the bad news is that, well, my Mac is dead, and with it some stuff I’ve been working on. As they say: Arrrrrrgh. But at least The Ghost Brigades was finished and sent off. Had the Mac died before then, all that would be left of it right now would be tiny shards of metal and plastic.

Anyway, if you’ve e-mailed me anything of any import in the last couple of weeks, you might want to resend. I can’t guarantee I have a copy anymore.

Copy Edits and Cherie Priest

books0927.jpg

Here’s what’s arrived in the mail today: The copy-edited version of The Ghost Brigades, which I need to go through and see if I agree with all the copy-editing (which I’m sure I will, mostly. The same fellow did the copy-edit for Old Man’s War and did a fab job of that; indeed, aside from a difference of opinion regarding the serial comma, it was perfect). As the production cycle of TGB is on an expedited pace at the moment, which may or may not have something to do with someone turning in the manuscript so late, he said in a tiny wee voice, I’ll be banging through this in the next couple of days.

Also arrived: Cherie Priest’s Four and Twenty Blackbirds, which I ordered a couple of days ago off Amazon, which apparently now has a warehouse in Cincinatti, which suggests most of my orders with them will now arrive in two days no matter what shipping I pay for. Location, location, location! As well most of you may know, Ms. Priest and I have been jointly fighting the forces of online stupidity in the wake of the hurricanes, me with the "Being Poor" piece and she with her famous LiveJournal piece on why the poor didn’t leave New Orleans, which was to a not at all insignificant degree an inspiration when I sat down to do the "Being Poor" piece. As it happens, Ms. Priest is a Tor author as well. Coincidence? You decide. Be that as it may, having found her LiveJournal to be thought-provoking and readable, I was eager to try out her fiction, and here we are.

This reminds me that at some point I want to do a think piece about which is better for a novelist: posting a novel online or having a really interesting blog. The two aren’t exclusive, of course; but I suspect one is more useful than the other, and at some point I’ll explain why. In the meantime I’m frustrated that Four and Twenty arrived the same day as my copy-edit; I have to do the latter before I can reward myself with the former. As they say: Waaaaaaah! I’ll be taking it with me this weekend, however, as I trundle off to Chicago to shill for Tor at the Great Lakes Booksellers Association convention.

Another reason I’m interested in Four and Twenty, incidentally, is that it was edited by the most excellent Liz Gorinsky, who is one of those hypercompetent folks who assure you that one’s own generation doesn’t have the lock on brains and talent, and I’m not just saying that because I strongly suspect that one day she’ll be running a publishing company and I want to be among the first in line to toady and fawn. I’m interested in her seeing mad hot editing skillz in action, and this book looks like a good opportunity for that. Yes, I realize it’s very book geeky to be interested in a book for its editor as well as for its author, but come on. As if I’m not a book geek.

Taunting the Tauntable, Part 17,443

My existence in the world, as well as the newsworthiness of my "Being Poor" article has apparently sorely affronted this person, who has many bad things to say about me. Apparently what’s provoked her ire is that the AP piece about me ran in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. I suppose no one should tell her the piece ran in several dozen other newspapers worldwide, and that the entry itself was reprinted in the Chicago Tribune, the Dayton Daily News and several other papers. Her poor little apoplectic head might pop right off.

If I remember correctly, this is the same person to whom I gave a "C" grade to in the original Being Poor comments for her flamage, and whose posting I used as the baseline for reasonably adequate contemptuous jackass snark, warning others that additional flamage below that level of competence would be deleted (and was). At the time, she didn’t seem to appreciate being the standard-bearer for that particular rhetorical category, which is a shame if you ask me. Her rhetoric hasn’t improved, but I certainly appreciate her enthusiasm. Anyway, I do invite you go over and watch her spin around in tight, angry circles. It’s entertaining! At least, I think so.

The Actress

Okay, watch this:

Athena looks happy… until I tell her that we’ve sold her for medical experiments!

Now, now. I’m just kidding about the medical experiments. We’d never sell you for medical experiments, sweetie. Unless, of course, we could get a really good deal. But I see I’ve distressed you. What say I get you some ice cream?

 

Did I mention it’s Kitten Ripple ice cream?

I jest! I jest! They haven’t made kitten ripple since the 1930s. It’s actually Chunky Kitties and Cream!

 

All right! What an amazing performance! The pathos! The pain! The kittens! Come on honey, take a bow.

Thank you, and good night! 

Yet Another Subterranean Magazine Submissions Reminder

All you short story writers, here’s yet another reminder that as of Saturday, I begin accepting submissions for Subterranean Magazine’s Spring ’06 issue, with the theme "Big Honkin’ Science Fiction Cliches." The details are here, and once again I remind you to learn and love the submission requirements, as they do apply to all.

Allow me to note also that while the reading period for submissions begins October 1 (and ends November 1), I am probably not actually going to begin actually reading submissions until October 3, on account that I will be in Chicago this weekend at a bookseller’s convention, promoting the heck out of my own work. Let me also note that getting stuff to me the very first day will not make any sort of difference in terms of acceptance/rejection; you’ll have just as much chance selling me a story if it arrives a week in, or two weeks in, or on the last day of the reading period, as you will the very first day. So please, don’t rush your story just to have it be the first piece in my mailbox. Take an extra day or two for revisions and such.

In case you’re wondering what the schedule here is going to be for production, it’ll be something like this:

October: Reading submissions, making first cuts, (possibly) asking for revisions.

November: Final selections based on revisions and another sweep through submissions to find anything I missed the first time around.

December: E-mailing of rejections; mailing payments. Initial layout and production.

That’s the plan, anyway.  

Remember also to read this, regarding the mechanics of submission rejection. And if it’s any consolation, I’ve already written a short story for the magazine that I then rejected (it seemed amusing enough when I started it, but when I was done with it? Eh, not so much). Since I’ve already rejected a submission from myself, this should be an indication I’ll not be playing favorites.

Of course, you should be happy I’ve already rejected myself: More space for the rest of you. I’m looking forward to seeing what you have.

Being Privileged

Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn’s riff off of the "Being Poor" entry is out in the newspapers and online: Katrina opened eyes to poverty–and privilege. In the piece he encourages folks to add to the list on his blog here (I linked to that yesterday as well). Naturally, if you have something to add, I encourage you to head over there are make a contribution.

However, I’ll note my own "being privileged" markers here:

Being privileged is not knowing how much you make, because you know you make enough. This is my own particular situation; I’m a freelance writer so my money comes in on an irregular basis as it is, and when it does come in, I simply sign over the checks to Krissy, who deals with the bookkeeping aspects of our little endeavor (it’s where her practical and academic experience lies). I know how much I make every year when we tally up our taxes; in the interim I know I’m making enough that I don’t have to worry about.

Bear in mind this ability of mine to be oblivious of how much I make is predicated not only on making enough to not have to worry about my income, but also because I have a spouse who has an almost unearthly level of personal and professional organization. I don’t know how much I make, but I assure you Krissy does, and if she doesn’t have the exact figure on the top of her head, she can get out the information and tally it up within a few minutes. More to the point, not only does she know how much I make, she also knows how much all my various income sources owe me. And trust me, if you don’t pay up what she knows you owe me, you’ll hear from her. And you’re not really going to like it. Being privileged is being able to trust someone else to watch over your needs.

It’s also to the point to note that the ability to absorb and tolerate the variability of my income is also predicated on the fact that Krissy has a "real" job, one that provides a certain stable bedrock of income and benefits, above which my income floats. At other points in our marriage, I was the one with stable income and benefits, which allowed Krissy the freedom to go to school and do other things. And right now — as with most of time before this — me working at home allowed me to be the caretaker of our daughter, saving money on daycare, and allowing us not to worry about what happens when our kid is home sick, or has a doctor’s appointment or whatever. Being privileged is being able to have the flexibility to build your family’s security.

Between Krissy and me, we do very well for ourselves, and have done very well for ourselves for some time now. Among the many other things this allows us is the ability to help our own; when family and friends find themselves in the position of needing something, we are often able to pitch in without worrying about whether it puts us in a pinch. Given that a great deal of the reason that I am where I am today is the selflessness of people who reached out to help me over the course of my life, the fact I can return the favor is very happy one indeed. Being privileged is being able to help.

What is the upshot of all this discussion or being poor and being privileged? Having been both, for me its largely the awareness that while the perceptual differences between the two states are great, the real-world differences are razor-thin indeed. I can tell you almost to the minute when I crossed over from being poor to being privileged: It was during the interview for my first job out of college, when the interviewer told me how impressive it was that I had a philosophy degree from the University of Chicago, and I realized that yes, indeed, sometimes just where you went to school makes a difference in the jobs you can get. Going to the U of C wasn’t the deciding factor in getting that job, but I strongly suspect if I had a philosophy degree from Cal State Chico, it would have made getting that job substantially more difficult. Being privileged means knowing that sometimes life is unfair –and it’s unfair in your favor.

Having come to privilege from poverty and knowing how thin the real-world margin is between the two also makes me aware of how little it would take to go back to that state. We’re not rich, and while we’d be able to take one major hit and absorb it, two major hits in a short time would knock us on our asses like nearly everyone else. It’s entirely possible we could lose it all, and find ourselves, like those who live in poverty, facing an oncoming wave of crises, with few options to shield ourselves from them in an immediate sense. What’s different is that no matter what happens in the short term, in the long term I have faith I can do well for my family and myself. I’ve been heard to say that if it came down to it, I’d take a greeter job at Wal-Mart to provide for my family; one of the reasons I say that is because while I would, I can’t actually imagine the set of circumstances that would lead to that being the best financial option for me. Being privileged is having the skills to make opportunities — and the faith that you can as well.

Those are some of the things that remind me I am privileged. If you’ve some ideas on the subject, don’t add them in this comment thread — instead, add them here.  

Update 1:40 — Blogger Matt Barr has a somewhat snarky list about "being normal" here. Like him, I’m looking forward to the inevitable "Being Green" parody list.

Giving Direction for “Being Poor”

If you’re here because you read the AP story on my "Being Poor" essay, the entry in question is here, and the thread for additional comments about it (on account of the original thread got up to 350 comments) is here. Also feel free to wander around and see what other things I write about here.

In the last couple of weeks since I wrote "Being Poor" I’ve been finishing up a novel and then letting my brain slowly reinflate from the effort, so if you want to catch all the stuff surrounding the "Being Poor" piece, you may want to pull up the monthly archive from September and start from the beginning (the "Being Poor" piece I wrote on 9/3, but there are a couple pieces previous to that to give it context, starting on 9/1). The monthly archive is in reverse chronological order, so scroll down to the bottom to start.

The entries between September 1 and September 11 are particularly relevant to the whole "Being Poor" thing (and on 9/11, I have a reprint of the entry I wrote after the actual 9/11). After that I start focusing on writing stuff, which is still interesting but not really related.

If you’re wondering what the heck I’m talking about here, a reporter from AP did a story on "Being Poor," which you can see here.  

Also, as a point of interest, Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune has a "being privileged" counterpoint column running tomorrow in that paper, but an early and participation-friendly version is available on his Trib blog here. Check it out and if you have something to add, do.

And now we’re all caught up! 

Conventioneering — Warning: Geekery Ahead!

Given that I’m still giving my brain a rest from thinking about anything of any importance for at least the next couple of days, in the absence of actual thought I’m considering which science fiction conventions to attend in 2006. If all goes according to plan I will have no fewer than three books hitting the stores in 2006 (The Ghost Brigades in the first part of the year, The Android’s Dream in later part, and a non-fiction book project I can’t tell you about yet but probably will soon smack dab in the middle), and being as I am a great big schmoozing publicity ho, I want to do the meet-and-greet thing amongst my demographic, and also (and not coincidentally) see some friends who are likely to be at some of these shindigs.

At the moment I’m focusing on the first several months of 2006, and here are the conventions I am thinking of making an appearance at. Bear in mind this is still in the thinking stage; I’m unlikely to go to all of them because as it happens making conventions one’s primary source of amusement is expensive, even when it’s tax deductible, and contrary to rumor, I’m not actually made out of $100 bills. Clearly, I need to get me some of that hot and sweet "Con Guest of Honor" action, but I think I need more of a paper trail than two in-genre novels to get that. Oh, the tribulations of the neo-pro. Anyway, here’s what I’m thinking.

January: Synthetic ConFusion — This is pretty much a done deal as I’ve already been chatting with the programming folks about which panels I will be on and what have you. Also, I had a big bundle of fun at it last year, so, you know, why not do it again.

February: BoskoneOld Man’s War is apparently going over pretty well with the NESFAns, so that’s definitely a point in Boskone’s favor, and as two of next year’s guests of honor blurbed OMW and another did the hardcover jacket art, it seems almost fated that I should attend. Fate! We’ll have to see what airplane tickets are to Boston a little later in the year, however, to see how expensive fate is. Extra point in Boskone’s favor: it’s the weekend before Ghost Brigades officially debuts (according to Amazon), which means in reality it should be fresh in the stores. Mmmm… that new book smell.

March: Lunacon — I can combine this with seeing publishers, agents and business clients for maximum business bang for the travel buck.

April: Penguicon — Another possible repeat engagement, since I had a fine time at it this last year.

May: WisCon — Another one that’s very likely as nearly all my favorite SF people plan to be there, and the Governor’s Lounge is a veritable font of love and beer. Should I go to this, Krissy will be coming along with me, since most of my favorite SF people actually want to spend time with her instead of me. No, I’m not bitter.

July: Confluence — the Confluence people very nicely asked me if I’d like to attend this year and unfortunately I just couldn’t get it into my schedule, so I’m going to see if I can get it on my 2006 schedule. However, I also hear good things about CONvergence, and it has the added benefit of being in Minneapolis, home to (or at least conveniently located near) a number of dear friends, some of whom have been trying to drag me in that direction. So we’ll have to see.

August: L.A. Con IV — This is a definite. It’s a Worldcon, I’m an LA native, and on the off-off chance I’m nominated for anything Hugoesque in 2006, I want to be able to lose in person. Also: In-N-Out Double Doubles. Enough said. This will probably be a family affair, with the whole Scalzi clan, and my mother-in-law in tow for Athena wrangling.

Post August 2006, I got nothin’. If anyone wants to suggest a con for the latter months of 2006, the comment thread’s the place to do it.

As for the rest of 2005, it doesn’t seem very likely I’ll get out to any other conventions. There is a very outside chance I (or we) might get to World Fantasy, but if I were you I wouldn’t be holding my breath on that, particularly since I don’t actually write fantasy. I know, it’s a piddling detail, but what are you going to do. Have fun without me, kids. I’ll be thinking of you.

So those are my con thoughts for right now.

Another Uncle John Book!

Look! It’s another Uncle John book that I have contributed to that you can rush out and own: Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Plunges Into New Jersey. Perfect for the ten million or so of you who live in the Garden State, and those of you who have some sort of unnatural attachment to the state in question. This is actually the first of four Uncle John books I’ve contributed to that will be coming out this year, and of course I will let you know when the other ones come out as well. Because I know you care.

Questionable Popery

Not to question the Pope on these matters — he’s got an in with God and all — but after the Catholic Church bans even celibate gays from becoming priests, where does he honestly think the Catholic Church is going to get priests? They’re not exactly running a surplus on priests as it is, and it’s not the 16th century anymore, when primogeniture laws left a surplus of disenfranched sons running about looking for something to do with themselves.

I’m not Catholic and never was (I was baptized in a Lutheran church, if you can believe that, largely because it was close by to where my parents lived — which, incidentally, is a terrible reason to get baptised into a particular denomination), so I don’t really get a vote here, but in my opinion, any man who can keep it in his pants for Christ is showing a level of devotion that deserves merit. I do also wonder what the Church is going to do after it’s booted all the gay priests and discovers it still has pederasts in its ranks, as pedophilia doesn’t significantly map to sexual orientation. But these are things for the Church to work out, not me.

One other question, though: Given the shortfall the Church already has in recruiting priests, particularly here in the US and in other first-world countries, how much longer will it be before the Church, by necessity, begins to allow married priests? Personally, I don’t think it’s likely at all, but again, I’m on the outside looking in, and if it comes down to married priests or none at all, it’ll be interesting to see what transpires.

Google Books

Peter Pociask asks me what I think about this: Authors Guild sues Google over library project. The gist of the issue here is that Google wants to scan the entire contents of the libraries of University of Michigan, Harvard University, Stanford University, the New York Public Library and Oxford University, which means, more or less, that most significant books written in the last several hundred years would have digitized counterparts that people on the Internet could search and access. The Authors Guild is worried this will impact the sales of current members, apparently, and the rights of authors to say how their work can be copied and transmitted.

My take on it is pretty simple, which is that so long as an author can dictate the availability of his/her work outside of fair usage (presuming it is still under copyright), I think having a digitized, world-wide accessible database is pretty damned cool. I certainly don’t feel the sales of my work is threatened in any relevant way by something like this, and I don’t suspect the sales of anyone else’s work is particularly threatened either — especially if protections for copyrighted works are in place.

That said, the onus in protecting copyrights here should be on Google (or any other maintainer of a database like this) not on the author. When in doubt, Google should assume a work is under copyright and the copyright owner does not want the public to be able to read the entire text. Google should also be able to quickly verify and accomodate copyright owner requests regarding the display of their work; that’s part of the cost of a project like this. From what I know about the project on the Google end (which is admittedly not a whole lot), Google seems to be taking steps in that direction, so provisionally I’m of the opinion to let them move forward with this. If Google was all, like, "we’re going to do this and there’s nothing you can do to stop us bwa ha ha ha ha," I might be annoyed. But on practical grounds — which is to say, the impact on the sales of my books — even then I would doubt it would be a particularly negative thing. As noted before, I’m not nearly popular enough to truly worry about piracy.

Indeed, I think the large majority of current author fear regarding digitized, accessible versions of their work is based on two primary factors: Ignorance and ego. The ignorance is the lack of understanding that for the vast majority of authors, the ability to pop up in an Internet search on a subject would be a good thing: It’s free publicity and also acts as a taster for people who (very likely) have no idea who you are and what your writing is like. The ego is the assumption that a whole bunch of people are just gagging to steal one’s work at the slimmest opportunity. Well, you know, look: They really aren’t. Most authors are flatly unknown to anyone else, and being unknown means you have little value. Stealing your work would be a waste of time. Stealing JK Rowling’s work makes much more sense.

No one likes hearing that their work is of such inherently little value that people don’t even want to steal it, of course. But this isn’t about the quality of one’s work, it’s about the celebrity of one’s name. Most authors have none. Simple as that. Most authors have to as much to fear from online pirating as they have to fear from actual pirates coming to their door and making them walk a plank, arrrrr. I mean, I am walking proof of this: Two of my books are available online, one officially (Agent to the Stars) and the other is available through various archival services (Old Man’s War). But being online hasn’t stopped Agent from very nearly selling out its print run, or stopped Old Man’s War from cycling through several printings in hardback — because I’m not important enough to pirate. The day I actually have to worry about online versions of my book cutting into my sales is the day I know I’ve arrived.

Getting back to the Google suit, I think it’s reasonable to the extent it serves notice that authors and copyright holders really are the final legal arbiters of what happens to their work. Copyright is about control. But I think the vast majority of authors who would choose not to have their text significantly searchable and readable will be doing themselves a disservice: These days, most authors need all the publicity they can get.  

A Thought Exercise

Here’s a question for you to ponder:

If there had been a Constitutional amendment that said that any war undertaken by the United States, in which the US was the aggressor, had to be financed with current federal revenues (i.e., by taxes levied today, not by borrowing), would the War in Iraq have been approved — or even considered?

Does your answer suggest to you that a Constitutional amendment like this might be useful in the future?

In the Beginning

In one of the comment threads, Scott writes:

I have a request that I think many of us would be interested in. There is obviously some history behind the creation of this site and your independent launch.

It is clear that at one point you worked for various publications, while now you work for yourself. What inspired you to start all this?

To whatever extent you feel comfortable sharing, perhaps you could fill us in on the origins of Scalzi.com.

I know I’ve written about this before, but since the first three or so years of the Whatever are not currently online, I suppose there’s no harm about doing a quick recap.

Scalzi.com was registered in March of 1998, about a week after I had been laid off from AOL. AOL had let me go because the group I was working for was dissolved and no one wanted to be responsible for my full salary, so out on the street I went (it wasn’t all bad; about a week later a number of AOL departments signed me on as a contractor, which meant more money for less work anyway. I maintain a relationship with AOL to this day, so clearly there aren’t too many hard feelings there). With the loss of my AOL employment came the loss of my previous AOL screenname, and the little personal Web site I had there; clearly I needed a replacement site. Scalzi.com was available to register (because, honestly, why wouldn’t it be), so I took it and coded up a the Scalzi.com Website.

The main advantage to the Scalzi.com domain at the time was simply that from this point forward I would never ever have to change my e-mail address again, and, so long as you knew my name, you knew my e-mail address. Interestingly, this last point turns out to be less true than you might think, since people who should know better, including family members, continually ask me what my e-mail address is. But what are you going to do.

For the first several months Scalzi.com acted largely as my previous Websites had — as a repository for some of my previously published work (film reviews and columns I had written for The Fresno Bee, and columns from America Online as well). But in summer of ’98 I started reading various online diaries, and in particular I was dropping by James Lileks’ site on a regular basis. I had known of James previous to finding him online: I started reading his newspaper columns off the wire when I was with the Bee, and at AOL, when I was editing a humor area, he was one of the two "pros" I specifically asked to contribute stuff to me, which he graciously did (the other: cartoonist Ted Rall. Yes, it was a funny pairing then, too).

I liked what James was doing and more to the point writing something daily online seemed like a good way to stay "in shape" with writing column-length material. At the time my ultimate goal was to get back into newspapers as a columnist. So I started the Whatever in September of ’98, and the "wanna write a column again" thing dictated the form and length of the writing I did there. To a very large extent it still does; the Whatever has never been a short-form, link-oriented experience. I sometimes wonder what a truly "bloggy" blog from me would be like; "By the Way" gets close but I still blab on quite a bit there as well.

As noted a few entries ago, the Whatever has taken on a life of its own, a life that has been very useful for me in terms of my writing career, so these days I write it for itself, not as practice for any other sort of writing. I wouldn’t mind a newspaper column, however, and the Whatever, I think, has kept me sharp for that sort of thing. So if you’re reading this and you just happen to be a newspaper editor: Hi. I can be bought.

Scalzi.com over the years has had other features to it aside the Whatever, including archives and pages for my consulting business, but at the moment it’s largely a shell for holding the Whatever, with Agent to the Stars on the side. I imagine at some point I will expand it more, but of course I am famously lazy. Maybe I’ll hire someone to expand it for me instead.

Anyway, that’s the Scalzi.com story in a nutshell.