Monthly Archives: January 2006

Anecdotal Evidence of the Long Tail

The Ghost Brigades bumped up into the 2000s in the Amazon rankings today but as far as I could tell no one was actually talking about it — no new reviews, etc, so I wondered what was going on. I think I figured it out: Glenn “Instapundit” Reynolds was pimping his own book An Army of Davids today, and on his Amazon page, TGB is listed as one of the books in the “Customers who bought this book also bought” category (as is Old Man’s War). Glenn’s book is currently at #66 (up from 23,000 or so yesterday), and all the books in the “also bought” category are also up in their Amazon numbers today as well (save the book Glenn himself co-wrote). It could be mere coincidence all these books are up, but I suspect not.

So, thanks, Glenn, for pimping your own book. It’s working out well for me.

I added to Glenn’s number, incidentally, by pre-ordering. It’s the least I could do. Also pre-ordered: Crystal Rain, by Tobias Buckell. Sure, I could have scammed a free copy off of Tor when I was there. But I believe the best way to support new writers is with actual sales. Call me crazy on this one.

Just Because You’re in Publishing Doesn’t Mean You Can’t Be a Moron

Here’s a headline, in the wake of James Frey:

Publishers Say Fact-Checking Is Too Costly

Yes, but is it more costly than fighting off a $10 million class-action suit? Personally, I’d guess “no.” Heck, even a lousy settlement will cost more than the salary of one poor bastard fact-checker, slaving away in the bowels of some publishing company’s basement, calling up local law enforcement to see if their author was, in fact, charged with masturbating a parrot in front of schoolchildren, or whatever ridiculous thing you need to claim you have done in order to get Nan Talese to fork over the cash these days.

And, no, thank you, I’m still deeply unimpressed by the “but memoir is about emotional truth” line. Look, I could tell you what I think happened last week and someone else would say “well, I remember it differently.” That’s fine; we’re not perfect data recorders and people tend to remember things in a way that allows them to live with themselves. However, there’s a difference between remembering imperfectly and just lying your ass off because it makes a better story. You should know whether your arrest for onanistic avian encounters actually, you know, happened. It’s not a thing one would forget. And one wouldn’t confuse it, say, with a cite for jaywalking. And in any event, it’s a relatively trivial thing for someone to check. An arrest for parrot masturbation is definitely going to make the local papers. It’d probably be the most exciting thing to happen in two counties that entire day. Thank God Oprah backed off from that ridiculous line of “emotional truth” thinking and ripped Frey a new one when she brought him back on the show. At least someone has a clue.

What I expect will happen is something which the WSJ story suggests will happen, which is that language gets introduced into memoir contracts specifying that the author is at least attempting to tell the God’s honest truth; it’s not as good as an actual fact-checker, but legal indemnity is good enough for the purposes of not being sued. As an author of non-fiction, I certainly wouldn’t mind signing a contract with that sort of amendment, but then, I’ve never been unclear on what non-fiction is. Go ahead and fact-check that statement. You’ll discover it’s the truth.

Early Oscar Thoughts, 2006 Edition

There are a lot of things to say about this year’s Oscar picks. First, among the best picture contenders, this is the most worthy, challenging, intellectually satisfying field in years. Second, this year’s Oscar show may be the lowest-rated in the history of forever, because to date not a one of these worthy, challenging and intellectually satisfying films has done any sort of business in the theaters.

Numbers: At this moment, the three highest-grossing Best Picture nominees (Crash, Brokeback Mountain, Munich) have done less business in aggregate than the single Adam Sandler film The Longest Yard, and only barely edge out the terrible Superhero film Fantastic Four. All five combined made less than Madagascar — or the 2000 Best Picture, Gladiator. The average domestic gross of the Best Picture films this year at the time of their nomination is $37.1 million; adjusted for inflation, I suspect strongly this is the lowest-grossing class of Best Picture nominees in the entire eight-decade history of the Academy Awards. Whichever film eventually wins is very likely to be the first Best Picture in a decade not to crack the $100 million mark  — the last Best Picture to fail that was The English Patient.

Just how uncommercial is this crop of nominees? Consider this: a nominee for Best Documentary — March of the Penguins — has made more money than any of the Best Picture nominees. I guarantee you that has never happened before, ever. When Hollywood’s best films can’t compete with chilled, aquatic birds, there’s something going on.

This is not to say that box office should be a factor in deciding which films should be most honored. The money isn’t actually the point. The point is that the “best” movies of the year are profoundly alienated from what Hollywood is actually selling at the moment. When the highest grossing Best Picture nominee (Crash) is only 48th in terms of yearly grosses, what you’re saying is that the film industry is failing at the task of marrying art and commerce — or, at the very least, failing at the task of convincing moviegoers that art is worth seeing. Among the top ten domestically-grossing films of 2005, there’s not a single acting, directing or screenwriting nomination; the most significant Oscar nomination among that pack is Cinematography (for Batman Begins). You have to go into technical and wardrobe awards before the films in the top ten show up in any appreciable quantity.

Maybe film companies don’t care — but on the other hand remember that the film industry (rightly or wrongly) perceived itself in a slump last year; the $8.8 billion total gross was the lowest since 2001, and 2005 was the first year since 1991 that there was a shinkage rather than an expansion of total grosses. The general chatter on the ground was that in 2005, Hollywood wasn’t making films that people wanted to see; based on the Best Picture nominees, you could additionally say that Hollywood also recognizes that the best work of the film industry was not what it was actually busy selling to all of us. This damn well ought to be a teachable moment for someone.

Enough ranting. Here’s a quick take on the nominees and front-runners.

Best Picture: “Brokeback Mountain,” “Capote,” “Crash,” “Good Night, and Good Luck,” “Munich.”

In my opinion the Oscar race is pretty much already decided: barring a freakish mishap, it’s a Brokeback year. Aside from the film’s inherent quality, it’s also got Hollywood social momentum going for it, as the relatively liberal Academy will consider it a fine poke in the eye of the folks who freak out about men loving men, particularly when those men are cowboys. However, I see two chances for wild card situations: Crash takes place in LA and is socially conscious, and its cast won the Best Ensemble award at the SAG awards the other night. Actors are the largest branch of the Academy, so that might mean something. I suspect it won’t, actually, because the dynamic for a Best Ensemble award is not the same for a Best Picture award, but you never know. The other dark horse is Good Night, if the actors line up for George Clooney for Best Director and the rest of the Academy decides it’s more important to send a message about government intrusiveness than about the right of Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal to openly kiss. But I think that’s a dark horse indeed. Capote and Munich are just there as filler — very good filler, mind you. But filler.
Early Pick: Brokeback Mountain

Director: Ang Lee, “Brokeback Mountain”; Bennett Miller, “Capote”; Paul Haggis, “Crash”; George Clooney, “Good Night, and Good Luck.”; Steven Spielberg, “Munich.”

This is one of the very few years where all the Best Picture and Best Director nominations line up; usually there’s an odd man out. I think Ang Lee will nab this, both as part of a larger sweep for Brokeback and also because he’s due; he really ought to have won in 2001 for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, in my opinion. His only real competition comes from George Clooney, who aside from his fine work in Good Night is also primarily an actor, and the Actor’s branch of the Academy is notorious for dropping director Oscars into the lap of its brethren, often at expense of more deserving directors (ask Martin Scorsese about this: He lost out to both Robert Redford and Kevin Costner this way, not to mention Clint Eastwood). Nevertheless I expect it to come Lee’s way. Miller, Haggis and Spielberg are not actually in consideration this time around; even if Crash were to somehow come away with Best Picture, I would expect Director to go with Ang or Clooney.
Early Pick: Lee

Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman, “Capote”; Terrence Howard, “Hustle & Flow”; Heath Ledger, “Brokeback Mountain”; Joaquin Phoenix, “Walk the Line”; David Strathairn, “Good Night, and Good Luck.”

This is the hardest category to handicap. The only person I’ll immediately vote off the island is Terrence Howard, with the notation that I’m surprised and pleased he got the nomination at all — he truly deserves it. Hopefully he’ll be happy with it as his reward. But after that things get iffy. I’d toss out Phoenix next, but since Reese Witherspoon is a genuine contender in Best Actress, and their performances are a matching set, I’m hesitant to discount him entirely. If David Strathairn gets the Oscar it’ll blow up any predictions about Brokeback and suddently Good Night will look like a real contender. But in the end I think it’s between Ledger and Hoffman, and I’ll give Hoffman the slightest of edges because he’s an actor other actors have admired for a while now. On the other hand, Ledger has achieved his ambition not to be seen just as a pretty boy, painfully biting back his emotions through Brokeback, and it’s hard to ignore a great performance no one was really expecting. It could go either way; I’m with Hoffman now, but I reserve the right to change my mind later.
Early Pick: Hoffman

Actress: Judi Dench, “Mrs. Henderson Presents”; Felicity Huffman, “Transamerica”; Keira Knightley, “Pride & Prejudice”; Charlize Theron, “North Country”; Reese Witherspoon, “Walk the Line.”

I bet you Keira Knightley is surprised as all hell this morning. Enjoy it, Ms. Knightley, because your big moment will be on the red carpet. Judi Dench: Not a chance, not in the least because six people saw Henderson in the theater. Theron’s performance in North is Norma Rae all over again, and she’s got that ill-advised Aeon Flux flick out there at the moment. It’s down to Huffman and Witherspoon, really, and while Huffman’s got the transsexual thing going for her, I’m really having a hard time imagining a universe in which the pretty, successful and driven Ms. Witherspoon doesn’t get this statuette.
Early Pick: Witherspoon

Supporting Actor: George Clooney, “Syriana”; Matt Dillon, “Crash”; Paul Giamatti, “Cinderella Man”; Jake Gyllenhaal, “Brokeback Mountain”; William Hurt, “A History of Violence.”

Interesting category. I’d throw out Hurt early, but it’s nice to see him taken seriously again. If either Dillon or Gyllenhaal win you can take that as an early indicator of their films’ fortunes, although the reverse is not true. It’s possible Clooney could get this if the pals in the Actor’s branch decide not to gang up on Ang Lee in the director category. Giamatti’s presence is very interesting; I suspect he’s here more because he was flagrantly ignored last year for Sideways than for his performance in Cinderella (which, to be clear, was very good), and if he wins it’ll be one of those “we’re sorry for not giving this to you when we should have” moments. I’d say for now Giamatti’s in the lead, followed narrowly by Gyllenhaal and Clooney.
Early Pick: Giamatti

Supporting Actress: Amy Adams, “Junebug”; Catherine Keener, “Capote”; Frances McDormand, “North Country”; Rachel Weisz, “The Constant Gardener”; Michelle Williams, “Brokeback Mountain.”

Good category — nice to see Amy Adams getting a nod, although I find it unlikely she’ll get a win; McDormand I think is out of it completely. Catherine Keener, I think, deserves an Oscar on general principals, but ultimately the real competition will be between Weisz and Williams. Between the two of them I’m leaning more toward Weisz at the moment, but this is definitely one of the categories where it’ll need to be revisited closer to the date to see how the wind blows. And don’t count Keener out completely; anyone who can make an actual human character in a film like The 40-Year-Old Virgin deserves your love.
Early Pick: Weisz

Other thoughts: I’ll be very surprised if Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana don’t get Oscars for Brokeback’s script and it’s very possible that George Clooney & Grant Heslov will get script awards from Good Night as well, not just for the script itself but because Clooney and Heslov are both better known as actors, and I’ve already impressed upon you the mightiness of the Actor’s branch — in fact, let me go on the record with them as front-runners for Best Original Screenplay. I expect Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit to get Best Animated Film. Best Original Song will go to “Travelin’ Thru” by Dolly Parton, because everyone loves Dolly. March of the Penguins is a no-brainer for Best Documentary, but Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room has a chance for political reasons, and Murderball has a shot because it’s cool to see paraplegics who can kick your ass.

Your thoughts?

Out of Print

Teresa Nielsen Hayden muses on the life expectancies of books:

We talk about immortal literature, but the vast majority of books are as mortal as we are. Who here has read John Cleveland? He was the most popular poet of his era, with numerous editions of his work published during his lifetime and just after. Then his style went out of style, as did his Royalist sentiments. Bye-bye, Cleveland.

It happens. You wouldn’t believe how many authors were left gasping on the beach when the tide of 1920s experimentalism ebbed—not that you could tell, looking at a bestseller list, that they’d ever been in print in the first place. When I was young, paperback gothics and nurse novels and books of poetry by Rod McKuen were all over the racks, but they disappeared like the passenger pigeon. More recently, the collapse of the horror boom left a lot of authors with nowhere to go…

All gone, now. We shall none of us escape obscurity.

I’m six years into my book writing career and already I’ve had a book fall out of print: The Rough Guide to Money Online, which was published in November of 2000 to great expectations and was brutally sideswiped by both the bursting Internet bubble and a disputed presidential election that sucked all the media oxygen into itself, leaving none for my poor little book and my poor little book tour. Barring mere neglect, its term of life would have been limited anyway because of the relentless pace of change online; a short year after the book came out, half the online institutions listed in the book were gone, either merged with other companies or simply out of business, and the software noted in the book had already undergone revision.

Even if you could find a copy of this little book I could not in good conscience recommend you buy it — it is no more useful today than an Internet book from a decade ago, which would tell you about gopher and archie and .plan files but nothing about blogs or VOIP or mp3s. I suppose it could be updated, but Rough Guides has exhibited no interest in doing so and at this point I would probably be more inclined to let someone else do the revisions and share author credit (as specified in my contract), because I have other things to do. I’ll always hold a special place in my heart for this book because it’s my first, and because it opened the door for me to write more books. It certainly was a useful book for me. But out in the real world very few people know it ever existed now, and in ten years it’s not an entirely safe bet I’ll be able to reel off the title of it myself.

As TNH notes: It happens. Books die. The new media promises that books that shuffle off the publisher’s coil might now have a shadowy second life as “publish on demand” entities, but just as the real issue for today’s authors isn’t piracy but obscurity, so will obscurity be the main problem in this new second life — as TNH notes: “the number of books we can hold suspended in book-mindspace will be smaller than the number of books whose text is stored in POD databases, ready to be printed out.” Not all of us are going to be major authors, even in our respective genre, and even being a major author in a genre is no guarantee: All fans are slans, but have all fans read Slan? At least Slan is in print. Not so, with, say, The Voyage of the Space Beagle, another important book by A. E. Van Vogt. Beagle is available as an e-book, but looking at the Amazon sales rank at the moment (#1,072,413), being an e-book isn’t doing Beagle a whole lot of good. If the source material for Alien (as Beagle was, at least partially) is out of print physically, what should I eventually expect for my own genre novels?

Does this worry me? Eh. I mean, I have an ego. I like the idea of people buying and enjoying my books for decades to come. Being out of print does put a hard cap on readership; at this point being available as e-book or publish on demand is like the Hawking radiation of publishing — every so often something will happen and someone will buy a book, but you don’t know when and as an appreciable event in itself, it won’t be significant. I’ll be sad that people can’t read particular stories of mine, because they won’t know they exist.

On the other hand, I’ve had a book go out of print already, and it doesn’t really bother me. True, it’s informational non-fiction as opposed to fiction, and that probably makes a difference. But from Subterranean Press I hear that Agent to the Stars is down to the last few dozen of copies (get yours now!), so when those are gone, the book will be out of print; unless someone wants to make me an offer, there are no plans at the moment to do a paperback or other printing. It’ll exist again only in electronic form. And I feel fine about that, too.

Part of that is that unromantic business thing of mine — in a career sense, any book I do merely has to make it possible to write the next book. If I can keep swinging that, then what happens to a book when it’s in the wild is immaterial. I’d prefer it do better than that, of course; just as everyone hopes all their kids grow up to be happy and successful, I hope all my books connect with readers and make me fat pots of cash. But simply as a business matter, getting to keep writing books is the name of the game. So there’s that. Another part of it is that at this point I still have other stories to write, and I’m focused on that. If there comes a time when I feel tapped out, I may be more concerned about what I’ve done than what I’m doing. Fortunately and thankfully, that time isn’t now.

The other part of it is that once you realize the universe is going to end in a thin entropic soup in which all the energy-depleted atoms wink out of existence one by one, worrying about immortality through your writing seems a little silly.

Anyway, another useful thing is that I’ve gotten ample training in writing ephemera; it’s called “newspaper writing.” Magazine writing and online writing, too. I’ve written thousands of movie and DVD reviews (not to mention hundreds of music reviews and dozens of book reviews and columns and general articles) and unless you read them the day they came out, well, you missed them, pal. Yes, some of them exist somewhere in the Lexis-Nexis database, but the likelihood of anyone anywhere searching to discover my opinion about, say, 1994′s Sugar Hill, starring Wesley Snipes, is roughly as likely as me sprouting feathers from my pinky toe. The majority of everything I’ve ever written — at least a couple million words overall — is deeply unlikely ever to be read by anyone ever again. I mean, if you want to track down all that stuff and read it for yourself, please, be my guest. Enjoy! I hope you get a BA thesis out of it. But you will be one of the very few. I’m all right with that. I’m in good company on that score.

Here’s who I write for. Right now, I write for as many people as I can, in the various places that I write: in books, here, in newspapers and magazine. As noted before, I have an ego; I like for my writing to be seen. I also like to be paid. Toward the future, my ambitions are slightly more modest. I wouldn’t mind if millions read me decades after my death, but what I’m aiming for is that my kids and grandkids and other Scalzis and other family yet to be born are able to find my writing and get an idea of who I was from it (I expect them to say, “he seemed kind of ranty.” Damn kids). I’ve written before that if some great-great-neice or seventh cousin thrice removed comes across some of my words and has a glimpse into my world, that works for me. I wouldn’t mind having what I’ve written passed down through the generations of my own folks. That seems reasonable. It’s also not necessarily contingent on remaining in print.

If you are one of my far-distant family, reading this from the future: What, you guys couldn’t clone me, or something? Jeez. I’m pretty sure being dead sucks. I hope you at least have your rocket cars to the moon by now.

Ahead of the Curve

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One of the nice benefits of being an author
and/or having a blog a few people visit is now I get advance reader copies of books I want before the rest of mass of humanity gets its grubby little paws on them; naturally I have to taunt the rest of you with them now. Here’s the most recent batch, sent to me by publishers or acquired during my recent trip to Tor:

Vellum, by Hal Duncan: I met the estimable Mr. Duncan briefly at Interaction, at the Orbit party, and I’ve been hearing good things about this, his debut novel, so I was definitely pleased to see in my office when I rolled in late last night (via rental car; my flight was delayed so there no more connecting flights when I got to Detroit, but Detroit is close enough to home that a rental car option was not totally stupid). I know nothing about the book other than that it is nominally fantasy and that it’s supposedly one of those things that you either love or you wish to strangle the author for committing to paper. If that’s true, either way Duncan’s already won, since people will talk about the book no matter what. As for myself, the promise of unconventional fantasy work always appeals to me on a theoretical level. I’ll let you know whether I feel like strangling Duncan after reading it; in the meantime I commend you to his blog, where he writes quite interesting rants on writing and other subjects.

Farthing, by Jo Walton: As most of you may already know, Ms. Walton has contributed what I think is a truly excellent short story for the issue of Subterranean magazine that I’ve edited, so when I was in the Tor office and saw the readers copies for this, I startled an editorial assistant with the avidity with which I lunged for the stack to grab my own copy. This was described to me by Patrick Nielsen Hayden as a charming English late 1940s murder mystery, set in an alternate history England that is not nearly as nice as the one we ended up having. I’m very much looking forward to this one.

Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge: I started this one last night and probably would have finished it on the plane to Dayton, had there been a plane to Dayton, which there wasn’t. I ended up driving, and as much as I was enjoying this book, I chose not to read and drive at the same time, for which I think the entire driving population of Interstate 75 from Detroit to Dayton is thankful. As it is, I’m about two-thirds of the way through this one. Charlie Stross’ comment about this being the new benchmark novel for near-current SF is pretty accurate so far; at the very least it’s been immensely enjoyable and the first Vernor Vinge novel I’ve read so far that you could give to a non-SF reader without some ramp-up, and as you all know by now I think having good SF accessible to non-geeks is a good thing.

The Ocean and all its Devices by WIlliam Browning Spencer: This was sent to me by Subterranean Press in a box that contained my author copies of “Questions for a Soldier” — which reminds me that shortly I’ll make a post about that and the other Subterranean Press chapbooks for 2005. It’s a short story collection. I’d not heard of Mr. Spencer before, but so far I’m liking the stories I’ve read. Spencer’s prose is writerly without fumbling over into being ornate for ornate’s sake; I like reading authors with that much control over their language. I’m also paticularly fond of the book’s introduction, in which Spencer ruminates about fame, karma, obscurity and poverty, sometimes all in the same sentence. But then I’m unnaturally fond of forwards and introductions in books. In any event, if you’re a short story fan, this is worth looking into.

In other writerly news, over the weekend I discovered Old Man’s War was part of Locus Magazine’s Recommended Reading List for 2005; it’s there in the “First Novels” category, in excellent company with books from folks like Elizabeth Bear, Tim Pratt, Justine Larbalestier, Jay Lake, Charles Coleman Finlay, Sarah Monette and the aforementioned Hal Duncan among others. Yes, the class of 2005 does kick ass, thank you very much.

Not among the first novel selections is Scott Westerfeld, but two(!) of his novels show up in the YA list, and to top it off he’s got a big ass article about himself in the Melbourne Age newspaper, which you can read here. There’s a picture too, which looks good except for the shirt, which looks like it’s been attacked by a flock of incontinent ostrich. But, hey, maybe that’s hip in Australia.

TGB in My Hands

My author copy of The Ghost Brigades. Excellent. Got it right from the editor while I was at Tor, where I had lunch and spent time chatting with Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Irene Gallo and with Tom Doherty, and also had a long, useful chat with my publicist Dot Lin, who is super-cool. In all, a fine experience in the Tor environs. They should do tours.

Philadelphia Feeling

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Philadelphia was lovely. Well, actually the part of Philadelphia we were in, Fishtown, had “character.” I think that’s the appropriate euphemism. But I and Ron Hogan certainly had a lovely time while we were there, especially at the event, which was nicely attended and went off without a hitch. My compliments to the folks at Germ Books, who, if you happen to be in Philadelphia, have a truly righteous collection of really interesting books.

The image you see here is my Rough Guide publicist Katy Ball standing in front of some WPA-looking public art representing “The Spirit of Transportation.” Mmmmm… WPA art. Katy, incidentally, a superfabulous publicist, despite the fact that that she said the following line: “Wait. Danny Elfman was in a band?” Her excuse, such as it is, is that she’s young. I’ll be sending her this, stat. She’ll thank me for it later.

Also, quick personal note to Chris Lehman: Dude. I just saw your e-mail today. D’oh!

I’d chat more about event and Philly (and will, later), but right now I have to hop in the shower and prepare to meet editors. Have a good friday, all.

From Russia With Cats

My agent just sent me an e-mail letting me know we sold The Ghost Brigades in Russian. As they say: w00t! And to celebrate, I offer you this picture of a cat:

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The cat is not Russian (it is not even a Russian Blue), but its owner studied Russian in college — I know that much because I once held her flash cards while she was studying. And that’s a tenuous enough relationship for me.

Off to Philly a little later in the day. Maybe I’ll see some of you there.

Title Change for Writing Book

Just as an FYI for all y’all, I’ve made a change to the title of the writing book. It is now:

You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop: Scalzi on Writing

Yes, it’s long. So what. I like it. Although I do like the runner-up, too: “Sailing the Ramen Seas: Notes on the Writing Life.” If Bill thinks the first title is too much, I’ll fall back on the ramen. Which really is a writer thing to do, is it not.

You may like the chapter titles as well:

1. Writing Advice, or, Avoiding Real Work the John Scalzi Way
2. Yo Ho, Yo Ho, A Writer’s Life For Me
3. The Schadenfreude Needle is Buried Deep Into the Red: On Writers
4. Science Fiction, or, Don’t Skip This Chapter, You Goddamned Writing Snobs

Only four chapters. Each between 10k and 20k words, however. Total book length is 70k words.

Also, the book is compiled, sequenced and sent. January 24, and I already have a book done for the year. Only three more to go! Please kill me.

Philadelphia (and New York), Here I Come

Just a reminder that tomorrow I and Ron Hogan descend on Philadelphia like a biblical plague of smart-ass movie book writers, for an event at the aptly-named Germ Books + Gallery (308 E. Girard, 215-423-5002) at 7pm in the evening. We’ll be talking specifically about science fiction films of the 70s (seeing as I’ve written a book on SF films, and he’s written a book on 70s films), but I imagine that the discussion is likely to wander afield as he and I shock and amaze the good people of Philly with our sass and wit (not to mention humility). This is going to be a lot of fun, so if you’re in the area, try to be there.

I’ll tell you one of the reasons that I’m looking forward to the event, which is that while Ron and I have known each other for well over a decade now, we’ve never actually physically met. We “hung out” on the alt.society.gen-x newsgroup back in the day (“the day” in this case being around 1994) and while we’ve kept up with other since then and cheered each other on with our respective careers, we’ve never managed to actually be in the same state at the same time as far as I know. This is soon to be corrected, and indeed I have some reason to expect that other former members of the a.s.g-x tribe will be at the reading as well. We’ll all be together again for the very first time. That’s the online world for you.

Let me also take a moment here to sing the praises of Ron’s book; his publicist sent along a copy and I would heartily agree with the Publishers Weekly review that calls it one of the year’s most fun film books — I had a lot of fun cruising through it (and dwelling particularly, as is to be expected, on the chapter on SF movies). It’s smart and a blast to go through, which is a more difficult combination that I think many people would expect. But, yes, if you’re a fan of 70s cinema (or know someone who is), this should be a no-brainer for the pick up.

Along with Philly, I’ll also be spending some time in the NYC area over the weekend; I’ll be doing the “visit Tor” thing on Friday and will otherwise be spending time with some college pals but I might have time to see folks. So if you know of anything particularly groovy going on this weekend in the NYC environs, by all means let me know. I’ll have e-mail access and all that groovy stuff.

All this moving about the country means that updating here may be light over the next few days. Just a fair warning. Also, a quick note for all the folks who have sent me link ideas recently — I’ve got them but haven’t had time to follow up on them because I’ve been trying to jam a week’s worth of work into three days (a week’s worth of work that’s included putting the finishing touches on the writing book). I’ll try to track through your links soon.

The Canadian Example

Knowing next to nothing about American politics has never stopped me from writing about that subject, so I don’t see why it should stop me from writing about Canadian politics, about which I know even less. Those of you who live in the Great White North elected a conservative government last night — bearing in mind that what passes for “conservative” in the lands above Minnesota would be generally described as “screaming pinko socialists” here in the US — and now the blogosphere is alight with folks speculating about this sea change in Canuck politics (naturally Instapundit has a wrap-up).

My thought about it: Yeah, don’t get too excited, folks. First, the Canadian conservatives have a minority government, which makes it pretty clear they’re not going to get to do anything truly radical since all the opposition is on their left and they have to work with at least some of them to get anything done at all. Second, from all I’ve read about the election and recent Canadian politics, this election was less about Canadians pulling over to the right than it was Canadians punishing the now-former ruling party, which had been acting corrupt, idiotic and arrogant. Possibly that party, now humbled, will get its act together and return to its philosophical and political roots while in exile.

Naturally, if this is indeed the case, I’m delighted for the Canadians and hope that some of their good sense will filter south. As it happens we also have corrupt, idiotic and arrogant ruling party down here that needs a good kick in the ass and a return to some of its more admirable philosophical and political tenents, very few of which have been in exhibition recently. Perhaps a few years wandering in the desert is exactly what it needs as well.

In all countries I believe it is a positive thing when those who lead are reminded that they lead only as long as they are worthy of being followed, and I think it’s a fine thing that our northern neighbors let their former leaders know they were no longer worthy. So good on ya, Canadians, for sending that memo. I’m hoping a little later in the year we’ll follow your fine example.

PW Review of The Ghost Brigades

Oh, look. The Publishers Weekly review of The Ghost Brigades is in and it’s not bad at all. The opening line: “This fast-paced interstellar military drama doesn’t quite meet the high expectations set by its predecessor, Scalzi’s acclaimed Old Man’s War (2005), but it comes impressively close.” That works just dandy for me. You can see the entire PW review on TGB’s Amazon page.

One portion of the review that interested me was this: “Scalzi pays gleeful homage to Ender’s Game, The Forever War and Starship Troopers, sometimes at the expense of originality. All he needs to make the jump from good to great is to trust in his own ideas.” This is a fair cop — the book, as with Old Man’s War, is not only directly in line with the tradition that tracks through those books by Heinlein, Haldeman and Card, there’s actually a point in the book where the characters in the story read those books and note how they relate to their own lives to greater or lesser degrees. And of course, in addition to concretely serving the story it’s also me as an author making a nod to my honored predecessors.

As a writer, you can’t do that, or openly revisit the themes explored by those books and authors, without opening yourself to comment and comparison. Or at the very least, you can’t do it and act surprised when people note that you’re playing the changes. The ideas in The Ghost Brigades are to a significant degree an expansion of previous explorations on sf military themes. As I noted on Old Man’s War in my “Lessons From Heinlein” essay: “The flip side of so consciously appropriating such a well-known sf format… is that Old Man’s War cannot be accused of being breathlessly original, either in concept or execution. I think that’s a fair enough assessment. To speak of novel in musical terms, it’s best described as a variation on a theme or an improvisational riff off a classic tune.” As a writer I have no problem trusting my ideas; one of the ideas with these books is that because they’re an extension of a particular tradition of SF novel, so some derivativeness is going to be baked right in. I expect The Last Colony will be open to more of the same observations, as tonally and thematically it’s going to be in line with the other books in the series. I do think there are a number of original ideas in all the books, of course. You get a little from column A and a little from column B.

Having said that, I entirely understand the reviewer’s point of “Yes, we know you can do Heinlein — but can you do you?” One of the ironies here is that the book I wrote immediately after Old Man’s WarThe Android’s Dream — is rather different tonally than Old Man’s War or Ghost Brigades; and at the very least it can’t be said to be Heinleinesque because Dear Ol’ Bob never opened a book with a chapter-long fart joke. Indeed I don’t believe any science fiction author of note has done so. Thus will be my claim to fame in the years to come — when any future science fiction writer does something of a gastrointestinal quality, reviewers will say “it’s rather Scalzi-esque, though, isn’t it?” I don’t know that I could ask for anything more. I don’t know if Android’s Dream will be the book to propel me from good-to-great territory — one does not generally achieve greatness via flatulence, Le Petomane notwithstanding — but I guess you never know.

In any event — and aside from fart jokes — I’ll be interested to see what critics think of Android’s Dream when it comes out (not to mention the Two-Book Project I’m Currently Secretive About, which won’t be out until late 2007 in any event). I think both those will establish I have my own voice, for better or for worse. In the meantime, of course, there are worse things than being in the company of Heinlein, Haldeman and Card.

ConFusion Writeup

athenalumberjack.jpgAs Samwise Gamgee once said, well, I’m back. Hope you enjoyed Nick and Eliani’s story — I see it’s been noted online in several places, almost all positively. I’m glad people liked it as much as I did.

I spent the weekend up at ConFusion, where I did a reading, quite a few panels, more than my share of dancing, and got my ass handed to me at Dance Dance Revolution by this guy, after me talking trash to him about it for a day or so beforehand. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. People were making excuses for me by suggesting that I just wasn’t used to the particular pads, but no. I just got whupped. Being a man means admitting when you’ve been totally pwned.

As a whole I thought the convention was quite successful, but the moment of pure anecdotal fun came during Friday evening’s guest of honor desert reception, as I was chatting with the convention’s Fan Guest of Honor, Chuck Firment. I asked Chuck if he was staying out of trouble and when he answered that indeed he was, I replied that well, then, he wasn’t doing his job. At which point he asked me to stand at a particular point near a low ledge and then announced to the entire room that everyone had kiss the top of my head at some point during the convention. Whereupon I was rushed by at least a dozen geeks who grabbed me, pulled me off the ledge and began the process of cranio-labial osculation. One man — in a kilt — actually licked my skull. All the rest of the con random people were coming up to me, kissing the top of my head, and then just wandering off. Because when the Fan Guest of Honor commands it, it must be done. It’s a good thing Chuck didn’t command them all to kiss my ass.

Later I related this story to Vernor Vinge, the writer Guest of Honor, who found it amusing but unaccountably passed on the opportunity to kiss my skull. Be that as it may, I told him that I would say that he did, and that the story would grow in the telling over the years so that many years from now it would be like the heterosexual science fiction writers’ version of Brokeback Mountain, featuring only kisses and scalps, and in which Vernor Vinge tells me, over dinner at a Carribean-themed restaurant, that he wished he knew how to quit my skull. Bear in mind that in reality, the only portion of this which is true is that the two of us had dinner at a Carribean-themed restaurant, along with Tobias and Emily Buckell, Karl Schroeder and his lovely family, and Anne KG Murphy. But it feels true, in that James Frey I’m-making-shit-up-because-being-honest-won’t-get-me-on-Oprah sort of way. So, yes. Vernor Vinge kissed my skull. I’ll write about it in my upcoming memoir, A Million Little Kisses.

Back in the real world (the one in which no Hugo winner has ever in fact gotten anywhere near my scalp with his lips, or indeed any other body part), Mr. Vinge was indeed a fascinating fellow and a fine dinner companion, as were the Buckells, the Schroeders and Mrs. Murphy. I also managed to break bread with Steven Brust, who is always a pleasure to spend time with, and with Bill Schafer of Subterranean Press, who handed over my author copies of “Questions for a Soldier,” which looked great (this means that all you folks who ordered copies should have them very soon), and managed also to spend a few moments with David Klecha and his family and friends, who included Merrie Haskell (Dave’s most excellent story “Refuge” will be in the Subterranean magazine issue I’m editing); Dave and friends also showed up at my reading, which was most excellent of them.

I also was happy to spend time with Confusion staff and fans, many of which I regret to say I know only by first name and/or LiveJournal nickname, which as it turns out seems to be a more frequent occurance as life goes on. On the other hand, since so many people online refer to other people online by their nicknames with no confusion (no pun intended as regards the convention), I suppose it’s no crime to say it was lovely to see Rikhei, Rennie, Tammylc and Matt Arnold (whose LJ name is actually his name, so that’s easy) among others.

I’ll stop name-checking at this point because namechecking eventually gets boring, but before I do I did want to give mad props to Sarah Zettel, who moderated a couple of panels I was on and did a wonderful job of keeping panelists and unruly audience members in line. As most people know I’m a fan of highly-competent moderating, and she is indeed highly competent.

Overall, a fine time. This is the second time I’ve been to ConFusion and both times I’ve gone I’ve enjoyed myself beyond all reason. If you’re the con-going sort, consider that a plug.

Incidentally, the picture above: Athena with the toy I got her from Confusion, which is a plush lumberjack that stuffed with a werewolf — which is to say that you can yank out the stuffing and it becomes a werewolf, at which point you stuff the lumberjack into the back of the werewolf and it becomes that creatures stuffing. As one person noted: “It’s a topological cylinder!” That it is, I suppose, although that’s not the reason I got it. Athena took it to school with her today; I’m looking forward to the inevitable parent-teacher conference.

Who Put the Bomp?

I’m away this weekend (I’ll be here), and in my absence I leave you this special treat: A short story written by Nick Mamatas and Eliani Torres that I bought from them to showcase here. Folks who read the site know the background on this already; if you’ve wandered in from elsewhere, you can read the details of how and why I bought this fine piece of literature here. However, do allow me to repeat one thing I wrote in that previous entry, which is that I once again thank Nick and Eliani for letting me present their work here. It’s an honor, and it’s fun.

I hope you enjoy the story. Please do tell your friends, acquaintances and random strangers that it’s here.

And now without further ado —

Who Put the Bomp?
By Nick Mamatas and Eliani Torres

I first realized something was amiss many years ago when the milky calves of the New York girls coming in on the train to Bennington for college vanished over the course of a single semester; after the winter intercession, the girls came back up here to Vermont encased in slacks, black wool tights, and sometimes they even wore men’s shoes or boots.
   
The other day, at the Burger King off Route 7, I ate breakfast: coffee, French toast sticks (double order), and their hash browns (which resemble Tater Tots), but I couldn’t get through my meal, because I heard the bah-hum-yeh-ha “Express yourself!” murmurings of one of the workers who made it a point to sweep the area around me of all the discarded drinking straw wrappers and spent salt packets.

I was three years old in 1946, when Paula Welden went missing on the Long Trail, near the Glastenbury Mountain, in what some people—generally very foolish people—call the Bennington Triangle.

When people on television end an utterance with the reflexive saying, “Y’know what I’m sayin’?” I wish that once, just once, someone would show the courage and will to say, “No, I do not know what you are saying.  Please enunciate clearly and avoid slang words and ‘street’ patois; not everyone knows what bing-bong or that other nonsense is!”

I do, however, know exactly what people mean when they say they wish to keep it real.

My father returned from the service … changed.

One time we went to the movies in Bennington proper (we lived in North Bennington at the time) because I had begged and pleaded for weeks beforehand, having been utterly beguiled by the posters for a film called Invaders from Mars, which intrigued me because a man, woman, and child were looking on in awe at the towering, fish-eyed Martian standing before them.

I am an only child. 

I happened to be on the bus, with my mother, when James E. Tetford, who had been mustered along with my father to fight in Europe, vanished while sitting two seats ahead of me.

I was only three years old; I didn’t realize at the time that dematerialization, the dissolution of flesh and bone into a chalky fog, was an impossibility.

I heard of such things all the time, after all, on the radio.

They don’t play radio plays on the radio anymore, unless the theme is a Christian one of alcoholism and loss, followed by a visit to a skid row mission, redemption, and then a course at a southern Bible college.

This is the left end of the dial I’m referring to here, you see.

None of the other passengers reacted to Tetford’s slow communion with the chilly December air of the bus at the time, which further fortified the notion that what I was witnessing was an everyday occurrence.

My breath hung before me like a little cloud on a night illuminated only by a blue gibbous moon—that is how Tetford looked right before he disappeared.

That is my first memory.

I prefer trains to buses, but commuter service to the Bennington area ended before I was born.

I do not have a VCR or DVD player, and indeed, could hardly tell you the difference between the two of them, but I do have a contract for cable television, because I like to watch old movies, and the reception one gains from rabbit ears on the edge of the Bennington Triangle, where I have spent all but three months of my life, is terrible.

In old movies, women still wear dresses; in the real world, a woman who wears a dress two days in a row rather startles the males in her presence.

One would think that such reactions would lead to more women exploiting dresses, but this is not the case.

I was seven years old and Paul Jepson was eight when he, according to his father, developed a “yen” to walk up into the mountains.

My mother didn’t like me to play with Paul, because his parents worked at the town dump, and she was afraid that I’d stumble upon some rusty nail and come down (though Mama always used the phrase end up) with tetanus.

Tetanus causes lockjaw; they’d like that, wouldn’t they, if I were unable to speak out?

You bet they would.

Paul and I often went to the bus depot to watch the Bennington College girls come in to town on the great silvery vehicles; he liked the buses—the hiss of the air brakes, the glazed smiles and sharp uniforms of the drivers, the chirping manners of the passengers—I liked the girls, or rather the controlled swing and steps of the legs as they peeked out under casually swirling hems.

That was always in September; all the Bennington Triangle disappearances always happened in October, November, or December.

December’s an odd time to take a hike in the woods in Vermont, don’t you think?

The leaves have already fallen by then; trees are gray and skeletal except for the evergreens, alive and defiant.

During a shocking moment in Invaders from Mars, when David’s father bellows, “I said it was barbed wire!” and smacks David across the face, my father gained my attention by tapping me on the knee with his forefinger; he then looked me purposefully in the eye and nodded toward the screen.

That was 1953.

In 1950, the disappearances stopped, though the body of Freida Langer, who disappeared on October 28 of that year, wasn’t found until May 12, 1951.

Her remains were in a clearing that had been searched a number of times, and which was near a well-traveled hiking path.

She was not interfered with; the cause of death remains unknown to medical science.

Though I know.

In 1952, the most popular song was Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable.”

In 1952, women still wore dresses.

Today, there isn’t even a commuter train to Bennington or North Bennington, though the tracks and even the station house remain in good repair.

The grassy lot across from the defunct train station in North Bennington, where I used to sit and watch local girls, sometimes with Paul Jepson, is the green after which Shirley Jackson modeled the stoning grounds in her 1948 short story “The Lottery.”

That’s a tale of a mass-mind of sorts arraying small pathetic figures against a strong, forthright individual, simply to bring it down.

That’s how I read the story anyway.

The mass against the one.

Freight trains use the tracks occasionally, bringing chemicals, lumber and … other things, into the area.

The North Bennington station house is still in use as well, as the town hall.

The Bennington train depot is a restaurant.

I used to eat there quite a bit, until a radio was installed, one that was always tuned to a station that played “blazin’” hits in the rhythm and blues idiom.

The year the girls changed, I overheard one, a Semitic-looking brunette with an aquiline nose, turn to a broad-faced blonde with curls and ask a question.

The question was “Who put the bomp in the bomp?”

That was 1961.

I was eighteen years old, a man.

I attempted to join the army, but was rebuffed due to what I was told was a pilonidal cyst near the top of my natal cleft.

In fact, that pilonidal cyst is what is referred to in the patois of the invaders as “a zipper.”

You may remember that in the film Invaders from Mars, the “zippers” were visible to a sharp-eyed observer like young David because they were placed on the back of the neck.

When David noticed his father’s zipper, David’s father claimed it was an injury from barbed wire; when David pushed, insisting that there was no barbed wire for miles around, that is when his father shouted and slapped him across the face.

When I first noticed my father’s zipper, I was standing out in the “Lottery” lot by the train station; it was a dark night, with nothing but a blue sliver of moon for illumination.

My father was nude, covered in near-freezing mud and the dozens of minor scratches suffered from his hurried rush through the woods.

I didn’t realize it was him at first, but then he called my name in a hoarse shout.

“Kenny!”

It was 1951, right before the spring thaw.

In 1951, Albert “Sunnyland Slim” Luandrew recorded the Negro music hit “Sunnyland Train.”

I do not recall exactly what brought me to the field that night; I suspect I might have been looking for my father, as I do remember the thrill of sneaking into the kitchen and stretching on my toes to the top of the Frigidaire in order to reach the flashlight, which I was not allowed to play with.

I remain unsure about my purpose in the field that night because I remember standing in that field any number of evenings, often without a flashlight, listening.

Music in the woods; music in the mountains.

I am told that people no longer use the term jive.

The carnival would come to Bennington in mid-May, right after the college girls would return to New York for the summer.

The carnies’d pitch their tents and construct their joints on the lot; I’d watch them and listen closely, as much of what the carnies said was in cant, and some of that cant was created via the introduction of the infix iz into otherwise ordinary words.

“The mission envision is going to whistle.”

“The m-iz-shun in-viz-shun is going to w-iz-le.”

“The Martian invasion is going too well.”

If you have a television, I am sure you have heard the iz infix being used as part of popular slang for some time, thanks to its introduction into general society via contemporary Negro music.

You know what I’m saying?

Those who vanished within the Bennington Triangle were a diverse group: an elderly woodsman, a teen girl, my young friend Paul, a trio of hunters with rifles, my father’s old wartime acquaintance, and several other people as well.

But none since 1950.

And then 1951, the modern era truly began in earnest. 

Negro music began to predominate on the hit parades; movies, pulp novels, radio shows, all expressed a zeitgeist that was a shallow reflection of real events: our minds were being manipulated by simplistic, pulsating rhythms and the vibrations of nonsense syllables and pistonized beats, the evidence obscured like a purloined letter by being placed right under our noses—it’s in your head right now, likely, a bop-bop earworm from Olympus Mons, designed to beguile and bamboozle—the smoke screens of the Reds and our snipe hunts under beds, the chasing, recovery, and redundant debunking of strategically misplaced weather balloons, the gases of the swamps and the manipulation of the natal cleft of proper Angloid stocks; oh Vermont, little state that I love, that you carried such a viper in your bosom!

My father left my mother for a showgirl he had previously met at an uptown club near Columbia University during a business trip. 

He hopped a freight train to do so.

You cannot take a commuter train from Bennington to New York City.

Recently, bus service between Bennington and New York City was also suspended.

I am still here, and I am waiting. 

Who put the bomp?

I’ll tell you: invaders did, invaders from Mars, if not other, occulted planets and planes from beyond this dimension; they put the bomp in our brains, enslaved us all without firing a single shot or screaming Z-ray beam, with their black music and fanciful ideas of a debased and sexually charged gender equality—there is nothing, nothing I tell you, sexually attractive about an overstuffed rump, and certainly not one that jiggles like a layer of fat stripped from hanging meat, not at all compared with a tender white calf only partially glimpsed—who deadened our watch with their own mocking portrayals of our very colonization, who bred us like animals and continue to do so to this very day (my own mother died bereft of grandchildren, as I Will! Not! Sully! Myself!, even though this broke her heart and mine as well), who stole my only friend away, they are the same ones who disintegrated a man in a show of audacity matched only by the bovine complicity of the bus passengers who saw, but who did not witness, said execution, and that, my friends, occurred decades ago, before their tentacular grip was so tightened that even our language sounds nothing like the dulcet screams of kindness and truth I grew up with but rather grates on my ears like the death rattle of a man who deserved his shameful death, and this is shameful, I tell you, and this plan, this scheme, this what-is-known-in-their-tongue as bomp, this all-encompassing, totalizing hegemonic xenocracy of thought, breath, and action, which was fait accompli for years before I recognized its existence on the way home from my pathetic failure of an army physical nearly four dozen of our Earth years ago, they are the ones who did this!

They put the bomp!

In my zipper, the bomp is in my zipper!

In me!

In you!

The bomp is in you!

Take it out, take it out, for the love of sweet Jehovah, take it out!

****

Nick Mamatas and Eliani Torres live in Brattleboro, Vermont, where they write and edit and presumably do other things as well.

Selected Creatures from the Athena Collection, With Artist Commentary

“He’s just a mixed up monster. Because he has crab arms, and an oval body and he has two ears that are, like, from an animal, I think? Is that right? Yeah. Probably a dog sticking up its ear, only it’s not pointy. He’s a monster, he destroys towns so his ears are always up because he’s angry all the time. Well, he’s not really angry, he’s just really mean.”

“He’s two-headed, and they both have one leg to make two. The one on the left has really big eyes and is really freaky looking, and the one on the right side is really freaky too, but you can choose which one you like better. I think I like the first one better, because he’s cooler looking, but the one the right looks dumber, doesn’t he? There’s a little town in front of them, it’s so small that you can’t even see it, and they’re mostly just that kind of monster.”

“A boy thinks this little girl is cute, and you can see little hearts coming from him, and I made an arrow so you know who he’s in love with, and then he walks over (but I didn’t put that on the board), and she turns HUGE and has razor sharp teeth and eats him! It’s really cool in the picture. Because she’s a monster, she was just in disguise. She has a little button to push her big and small and to disguise her mean eyes and razor sharp teeth. The boy will just live in her stomach and then he’ll turn into poop. You can fall in love with this girl. Just don’t get near her.”

“Which one is your favorite in all of them?”

Subterranean Magazine Update Plus Reminder

For those of you with a vested interest in the Subterranean Magazine issue I’m editing, I’m happy to say that the stories have had their first round of copy edits and have been sequenced, I’ve written my editorial afterward and sent the whole wad — 59,300 words or so — to the Subterranean offices (which to my knowledge are not, in fact, underground). From there the stories will undergo a second round of copyedits, after which other people do mystical, magical things and at the end of it a magazine appears. I think the process involves sacrifices to Chango, the god of Santeria. You never know. Anyway, that’s where we are.

Reminder also to tune in here tomorrow for the world premiere of Nick Mamatas and Eliani Torres’ short story “Who Put the Bomp?” You can only read it here. And if by some chance you read it elsewhere I want to you to go to the house of the people displaying it and beat them with a hammer.

Well, no, actually, I don’t. That’s just a lawsuit just waiting to happen. But at least glare at them disapprovingly. Maybe purse your lips, too. That’ll make ‘em crumble in shame.

The Oldination!

webbday.jpg

Small signs from above that you’re moving right along through the demographic python: Your seven-year-old wearing a twenty-year-old t-shirt that you wore when you were sixteen. Yup, that’ll do it.

“Webb Day,” incidentally, being the inter-class competition my high school does every year. Our class won that year. Because we rock, you see. Indeed, our rockination so saturates the shirt that Athena can’t help but throw up the horns! Yeah, maybe I should wash that shirt. 20-year-old rockination does get a little gamy.

Space Age Miracle Fiber Mattress

samf0117.jpg

Our new mattress arrived today, and as advertised, it is filled with some sort of space age miracle material that conforms to your body when you lie down on it — it’s so form-fitting, in fact, that the effect of lying on it is just a little disconcerting, particularly when one tries to move out of the space age miracle cavity the mattress has created to cradle to your body. You have to work up a little momentum to get out of it. Likewise, we’ve warned Athena that her days of bouncing on the bed are over, but as it turns out the warning isn’t necessary because it’s pretty much impossible to bounce on the bed because bed just sucks up all the kinetic energy into its space age miracle surface. I let myself fall hard onto its surface, and just stopped and sank (slightly). It was like falling into a king-sized square of whipped modeling clay. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this, but since the bed is in fact almost disturbingly comfortable, I don’t suspect it will be a real issue.

One of the nice things about the mattress is that it comes with a removable top, so if the cover gets grape juice spilled on it, or the cat takes unfortunate liberties upon it, we can unzip the mattress and clean it off. This makes so much sense that one wonders why all mattresses don’t do this, and not just the ones with space age miracle marketing. Perhaps it will catch on. In the meantime, I expect to enjoy the new mattress, which will hopefully allow me to reach new levels of space age miracle sleep. We’ll have to see.