Monthly Archives: November 2006

Cover Me: A Musical Open Thread

I owe somebody something and they’re getting justifiably twitchy about, so I’m off to my sea-side writing bungalow to get it done. Or maybe my mountain writing bungalow! Possibly the African veldt writing bungalow. So many writing bungalows.

Oh, wait, I don’t actually have any writing bungalows. I’m just going to sit here at my desk and unplug the DSL. Crap.

Anyway, that’s all for today. Have an open thread. To get you started, a topic:

You can hire any band/singer/music artist in the world to cover any song you want — Who is the singer and what is the song? Difficulties: band/singer/artist must be alive and working; also, the cover version must not currently exist in the real world. Also, make it something you’d actually want to listen to — don’t make it wacky just for wacky’s sake. That’s too easy, you know? “Fields of the Nephelim doing ‘MmmBop’ by Hanson!” Yes, yes, very clever. But to listen to it would be madness.

I have two:

1. Alison Moyet covering the Waterboys’ “This is the Sea”

2. The Cure covering Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl”

Your turn.

Oh My God! It’s the Zombie Patrick Henry!

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Oh, don’t look so shocked. You knew this was coming.

Also, the target of Zombie Patrick Henry’s ire would in fact be Newt Gingrich, for being yet another schmoe promoting the “terrorists hate our freedoms, and that’s why we have to ditch the freedoms” mindset. Note to Gingrich: The expiration date on that particular school of thought was last election day. You’ve just performed the policy wonk version of wearing white shoes after Labor Day. Good job.

I hadn’t heard of the Dennis Praeger thing, actually, before the thread on the last entry, but having read it now, it’s so clear that the man is so jam-full of ignorance about the Constitution of the United States that once the Zombie Patrick Henry has finished his beatdown on Newty, he’ll shuffle over to Prager’s place and chew on his spine as well.

However, in neither circumstance will the Zombie Patrick Henry eat their brains. He may be a zombie, but he has standards.

Must. Not. Destroy. Computer.

I just had one of those “You’re writing a long entry and then the computer freezes up and eats it all” moments, about which the less said the better for my blood pressure. I could re-write the thing, but I think I’d rather tongue-bathe the crap I pulled out of the sink earlier today.

Instead, let’s make it a game: I’ll give you the title of the entry I was writing; you tell me if you can identify who I was writing about and why. If you get it right, oh, I don’t know, I’ll give you a shiny penny.

Here’s the title:

Yet Another Fat-Assed Coward For the Zombie Patrick Henry to Totally Kick the Shit Out of When He Rouses Himself From His Virginia Grave

Got it? Now: Who was I writing about, and why?

Go!

A Small and Disturbing Moment in Home Maintenance

I snaked one of the bathroom drains.

I may never. Stop. Screaming.

I mean, honestly. Hideous monsters must be shedding into our sinks, because what came out of that drain had nothing to do with any of the humans who live here. I doubt it was even mammalian.

To reiterate: Gaaaaaaaah.

The tub drain needs snaking, too.

Somebody hold me.

Some Good Advice

My pal Joe Rybicki is moving on from his job as editor at Official US PlayStation Magazine (in no small part due to the fact the magazine is closing up shop on Thursday), but before he saunters off into the editorial sunset, he’s posted some thoughts about business, gaming and life in general over at his blog. It’s good stuff and worth checking out. So, you know. Check it out.

That Tinkling Sound You Hear is the Sound of a TV Advertising Executive Earning Her Wings, and Then Plummeting Straight Into Hell

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Athena, today, as she watched TV:

“The only reason I’m watching this is to get ideas for things I want.”

On one hand, I’m proud Athena’s twigged to what TV is really about. On the other hand, I am, of course, utterly terrified.

For When You’re Shopping Your Brains Out: A Bookseller Pimp Thread

I’m not saying that you’re planning on putting The Android’s Dream on your holiday shopping lists, or even that you should, although, clearly, if you don’t, we’ll have to sell Athena to the salt mines, and with her bad neck and all, how long will she last? Really? However. If you are thinking of putting TAD on your holiday lists, it may interest you to know that Mysterious Galaxy Books and Clarkesworld Books both have signed copies of the book, awaiting purchase.

This will save you the hassle of trying to track me down and/or fending off a large hunting dog when you step onto our premises to get an autograph. Mind you, Kodi doesn’t want to tear out the soft flesh of your neck, but what choice to you give her, when you step onto her lawn? You see how it is. I’m trying to protect you, is what I’m saying.

As long as I’m doing shoutouts to booksellers, I’ll note Borderlands Books also has the book in stock (albeit not signed), and I think they rock, so if you’re in the Bay area, or just want your book to come from people who love the books they sell like darling, living things, then you know where to shop.

Since I’ve pimped a three booksellers, and three is the magic number, I hereby declare this a bookseller pimp thread. Surely there are other totally awesome booksellers that you like and enjoy on a regular basis, wherever it is that you are, so tell us about them. If they have a Web site, link away, although remember more than one link per comment and your entry will get shunted into moderation and will have to be released by me (and of course, if you are a bookseller, feel free to self-pimp). Heck, the bookseller doesn’t even have to have any of my books in stock, although if they don’t, that’s just one more step toward the salt mines for Athena. You know what I’m saying, here.

Your GNR Report

Before it all fades back into a haze of memory and pot smoke, thoughts on the Guns N’ Roses concert I went to Saturday night:

* First, it was really good. I had heard that the aborted 2002 series of concerts had been a big fat mess, but this time around, at least, the band was very sharp, very loud, and very tight. Axl Rose has apparently buffed out; indeed you might say he’s beefy these days, compared to the scrawny, meth-thin thing he used to be. Beefy but fit, since he hopped around and ran about and did his now-somewhat-less-effective snake thing and never ran out of breath while he did it.

Now, to be clear, this Guns N’ Roses is not the Guns N’ Roses, since Axl was the only original member of the band left (Dizzy Reed, longtime keyboardist but not original member, is the only other link to the glory days). That said, this Guns N’ Roses doesn’t make one feel like it’s just the Axl Rose traveling circus, either. Also, you know. The band features former members of Nine Inch Nails, the Replacements and the Psychedelic Furs. These guys don’t suck. And now, having said that, I do think it’s notable it takes three guitarists to handle Slash’s guitar parts.

What’s going to be interesting is how this version of GNR will sound like on record. It’s one thing to be a tight and hot performance band when you’re mostly rehashing tried and true tunes. I want to know what they sound like with the new stuff. The band played some new stuff at the concert, but honestly I couldn’t tell if it was much good or not; it seemed fine. But hearing a song for the first time in an arena setting when you’re wearing earplugs to keep your ears from ringing for a week is not an optimal first taste experience.

* And yes, I did need those earplugs. I left them out for the opener (“Welcome to the Jungle,” naturally) because I wanted the full sonic blast; once I had that (and it was worth it!), I jammed those earplugs in, and a damn good thing, because shortly thereafter GNR let fly with some flashbang pyrotechnics that were so loud I can’t imagine how the people up on stage can still actually hear themselves play with those going off every night. Even with the earplugs in, GNR was plenty loud, but since I came out of that concert without the cilia in my ears harmonizing their pain, I’m happy to say that I didn’t have to sacrifice a little of my high-end hearing for the experience.

* What was really notable was that the audience for the concert skewed young; it was definitely mostly folks under 25, which means the vast majority of these folks were going to their very first GNR concert ever. Which meant, of course, that they were all insane and that the vibe for the show was one that was, very amenable to the band. GNR could have come out and totally blown the gig, and these people wouldn’t have cared; being there was what mattered. So it was nice for them that the band didn’t blow the gig, and indeed turned in one of the best shows I’ve seen in a while.

* Former Skid Row lead singer Sebastian Bach opened the show, and man, he was flabby, both in his personal appearance and in his performance. He jumped around as much as Axl Rose, but he didn’t own the stage like his pal did. Now some of this is due to being the opening slot; people aren’t there to see him. And it’s pretty clear that Bach’s backlog of tunage has not aged as well as GNRs. And then there was the actually sad spectacle of Bach pimping his YouTube video and his MySpace page, and then stopping and saying “Did I just say ‘go visit my MySpace page?” like an old fart tickled that he’s figured out that whole set of tubes called Teh Intarweebs. You go, Sebastian Bach! He’s only a year older than I am, you know. Kill me now, man. Kill me now.

* Prior to Sebastian Bach’s performance, the crowd as entertained by a burlesque show featuring members of Suicide Girls, the Web site which features tattooed and pierced women in various stages of undress. It was your basic semi-nekkid girls hopping around and being limber sort of thing. Interestingly, I was sitting next to what I figured was a 14-year-old boy and his dad (who looked none-too-pleased to be at the show, actually; must have been a birthday present for the kid), and you could see the dad and kid look at each other and sort of agree, in an unspoken sort of way, not to tell mom about this part of the show. Prior to the Suicide Girls, there was some other band, but who cares? I wasn’t there for that.

* The most amusing tidbit of the night: The Palace at Auburn Hills apparently makes everyone in general admission sign a “Mosh Pit Waiver” in which the signatory indemnifies the Palace against all claims if, say, someone bashes in their eye socket with an elbow or what have you. I think when future archeologists look to find the moment our society truly began its irreversible slide into the cesspool of history, it will be the moment that someone thought to require a legal document in order to join a mosh pit. In Detroit, for God’s sake. Or Auburn Hills, which is close enough.

John Scalzi’s Culinary Discovery of the Day

It’s not rocket science: Three scoops vanilla ice cream, a handful of Rice Krispies and a spiral of Dulce de Leche dessert topping. In a word: Yum.

I was gonna take a picture, but then I ate it. Sorry.

A Special Edition of The Ghost Brigades

Last year, I and Tor Books made a special electronic edition of Old Man’s War available for free to the folks serving in Iraq and Afghanistan; here in 2006, we’re doing it with The Ghost Brigades. TGB is a follow-up to OMW but it’s a stand-alone book; you don’t need to have read Old Man’s War to be able to read The Ghost Brigades.

So: If you’re currently serving in Iraq or Afghanistan and would like to receive an electronic edition of The Ghost Brigades to read and (hopefully) enjoy, all you have to do is send an e-mail from your .mil account to omw@scalzi.com and ask for it. As soon as I get your request, I’ll send you an .rtf document (about 584kb in size), which you can format as you please for whatever you read things on.

Your cost: not a thing. You’ve earned some recreational reading, I expect.

In case you’re wondering: The reason I ask for a .mil address is to confirm that you are currently serving. We’d like these electronic editions to go to the folks who are currently serving away from home and don’t have ready access to things like bookstores. But aside from the .mil addresses, we’re on the honor system here. I figure most people understand what we’re doing here and will honor that. For the rest of you, the book is in the stores, waiting for your tender caress.

If you’re not in the military but know someone who is stationed in Iraq/Afghanistan and who might want to know about this, by all means cut and paste the information here or send them a link. Also, of course, feel free to mention this in your own blogs and journals and link back here. I don’t mind this getting around.

Once again, I owe a big thank you to Patrick Nielsen Hayden and Tor Books for allowing me to do this; it feels good to be with a publishing house that’s willing to do something like this from time to time. I means a lot to me to be able to do it.

Head Trauma Can Be Fun!

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Yesterday I was going to do a write-up on the Guns N’ Roses concert I attended Saturday night/Sunday morning (GNR didn’t take the stage until after 11), but then I got home and in circumstances rather too annoying to discuss but which were not her fault (or, for that matter, mine or Krissy’s), Athena found herself the proud possessor of some minor head trauma. Once she started being sleepy and then vomited, we decided to take a fun family outing to the emergency room, where, among other things, Athena was given a delightful souvenir neck brace, which you see her modeling here. Don’t worry; Athena is fine, and the neck brace was only a temporary measure while they were checking her out. She’s wearing it in this particular picture because she finds it a unique fashion accessory. I’ve already told her she can’t wear it on a regular basis. Isolating your neck for no good reason is not really a good thing to do.

Thence follows an interview with Athena about her magical trip to the emergency room:

So, did you enjoy your trip to the emergency room?

I guess. I got a Popsicle, and apple juice, and I got a blankie.

And you got a CAT scan! What did you think of that?

It’s neat. It’s neat because the camera was going around and around really fast and then it was flashing. And then when I went to the next room –

That was the X-Ray room –

The camera was kind of weird because it moved all around and you could change the way it looked, you could make it taller, all from the room in the back. It was really weird.

And what did the doctor say?

That I was fine, and the good part was that the doctor said I should be watched for 24 hours, so I don’t have to go to school today, no I don’t, no I don’t, la la la la la!

See? Head trauma is fun!

NO IT’S NOT!!! (Note: Athena typed that part herself)

It’s not? But you got a Popsicle and a CAT scan and you get to stay home! What’s not fun about that?

I threw up, for crying out loud! And I fell down.

Well, I guess it’s true that those parts of it weren’t a whole lot of fun. But you’re feeling better now, right?

Yeah. I guess. Bye bye!

And at this point the interviewee, clearly bored with the whole interview process, got up to watch more cartoons. She’s got attitude! Which means that she’s just fine.

Do you Know Where You Are? You’re In Middle Age, Baby. And You’re Gonna Die

So, a friend said to me: Hey, I got tickets to Guns N’ Roses. You want to come? And I said, I wouldn’t miss a chance to see Axl Rose implode live! Mind you, if we actually get to see him onstage at all; he can be capricious that way. And so I’m off to Detroit for the G’n’R concert, and I think I can say with some confidence that if Axl and his pals don’t take the stage, there will be a riot. But inasmuch much as most of the Gun’s fans are now my age, the riot will be brief, and then all the rioters will have to crouch with their hands on their knees and take an oxygen break before the second wave of carnage. Or maybe they’ll take it in shifts. Who can say. I can guarantee I won’t riot, however. I’m not the rioting type, I’m more of the “I’ll watch other people riot and then write something snarky about it on my blog” type. Yes, that seems the route to go.

Anyway, I’m off. You kids try not to riot here while I’m away. To keep you all busy, consider this an open thread with the following topic: Bands from your misspent youth you’ve not seen live, but really wish you could. Go!

A Little Respect for Pierce Brosnan

Krissy and I got out to see Casino Royale this evening and as advertised, it’s pretty damn good: It’s got a rougher and more realistic edge than previous Bond flicks (I mean, within reason; it’s still a Bond flick) and Daniel Craig is, in a word, terrific, and puts a great new spin on Bond that I’ll be excited to see play out over the next couple of movies. If you’re a Bond fan, you’ll want to see it.

Having said that, I find myself unaccountably annoyed at the reviews I’ve seen of the film, many of which seem to praise Daniel Craig in part by taking a smack at Pierce Brosnan, Craig’s predecessor in the role. Apparently Brosnan was too light and fluffy, his smooth good looks and terrific head of hair sapping the series of its life and vitality by his last turn in the tux, Die Another Day.

Well. I’m not going to argue whether it was time for a new Bond or not — I suspect Brosnan would have been good for one more film, personally, but cashing him out after the last one was fine, too — but I will say this sort of revisionism at the expense of Brosnan is a little mean-spirited. It’s worth remembering that Brosnan’s turn as Bond saved the franchise, rescuing the series from the embarrassing aesthetic and financial train wreck it had become with the two Timothy Dalton films, The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill. Daylights did a fair amount of business (about as much as A View to a Kill, the last Roger Moore outing) but it was a flatly terrible flick, and Licence, which was even worse, was an outright flop, the first one the series ever suffered — it made $34 million in 1989; to find another Bond film that made less, you have to back fifteen years from there, to The Man With the Golden Gun, which when adjusted for inflation made rather more than Licence. Indeed, adjusted for inflation, Licence is easily the dog of the Bonds (to be fair, it did rather better internationally).

(Let me take a moment here to say: Poor Timothy Dalton. People like to blame him for the awfulness of this Bond flicks, but Dalton is a more than credible actor who had a great look, too. If we’re going to lay blame for the pure craptacularity of the Dalton Bonds, let’s put the blame where it deserves to be placed: First on director John Glen, a longtime Bond hand who had basically inherited the director’s chair beginning with For Your Eyes Only (he’d been a second unit director on previous Bond flicks, beginning with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) and whose directorial style was workman like at best and borderline incompetent at worst (Licence and his post-Bond gigs Aces: Iron Eagle III and the appallingly bad Christopher Columbus: The Discovery). Second, on writers Michael G. Wilson and Richard Maibaum, both also long-time Bond hands (Wilson still is; he’s exec producer now) who didn’t give Dalton anything useful to work with. If Dalton hadn’t been given crap to recite and a hack director, he’d probably have been a fine Bond. But he was given crap in both cases, so there you have it.)

It’s worth remembering that GoldenEye, the first of the Brosnan Bonds, was as much of a reboot of the series as Casino Royale is touted as being. The producers shockingly went outside the Bond camp to find a new director (Martin Campbell, who, as it happens, also directs Royale) and new screenwriters (Jeffrey Caine, who was nominated for an Oscar just last year for his screenplay for The Constant Gardener, and Bruce Feirstein, better known as a humorist, and who gave the Bond dialog some real kick). The story also recognized that Bond had become an anachronism (you’ll recall M’s dressing down of Bond as a misogynist dinosaur) and thus allowed him to get over it and get on with being Bond for the 90s.

In no uncertain terms, the reboot saved the series: GoldenEye became the first Bond flick to gross over $100 million domestically and more than doubled the international take of Licence; what’s more, each subsequent Brosnan Bond film made more, both domestically and internationally, than the one before it. Die Another Day took in $431 million worldwide. We can certainly argue whether the Brosnan Bonds didn’t eventually get silly — I think casting Denise Richards as a nuclear scientist in The World is Not Enough was asking the audience to swallow one whopper too many — but let’s not pretend they didn’t deliver the goods, both in terms of profitability and what people come to Bond films for: guns, girls and gadgets.

Let’s also note that Brosnan was a damn fine Bond. For one thing, he could act, which is more than you could say of, say, Roger Moore. For another thing, he had a great look, which does matter. And finally, he gave Bond something new: A bit (just a bit) of world-weariness, to contrast with Connery’s off-the-cuff sadism and Moore’s it’s-all-a-lark-ness. If you look, you can actually catch the Brosnan Bond thinking from time to time, which was a refreshing change.

Taking as given, as one must, that Sean Connery is the Bond archetype, I feel confident in saying that Brosnan was a better Bond by far than Roger Moore, who while showing some semblance of menace early on quickly degenerated into the effete creakiness that makes his later Bond turns all but unwatchable. He’s also rather better than poor Timothy Dalton, hobbled as he was by the hacktacularity of his films. He’s probably better than George Lazenby, too although it’s so hard to tell from only one film (and of course many Bond folks think Majesty is the best of the Bond films, story-wise). Daniel Craig, as noted earlier, is terrific, but we need at least one more film from him before we can really see if he deserves to settle into the “at the right hand of Connery” position. For now, Brosnan’s got it, and he’s earned it.

So: By all means, enjoy Casino Royale and Daniel Craig and the new direction the Bond series seems to be heading toward. But try not to dump all over Brosnan as you do so, even if you’re inclined to. If it wasn’t for him saving the series, the only Casino Royale you’d be watching is the one with David Niven and Woody Allen, and that’s just not the same. Trust me.

A Delightful Holiday Reheat

As it’s now officially the holiday season, God help us all, and as the piece no longer appears to be up at the National Lampoon Web site, allow me to re-present a holiday favorite here at the Whatever: The 10 Least Successful Holiday Specials of All Time. Revel in Ayn Rand’s “A Selfish Christmas,” Star Trek’s “A Most Illogical Holiday,” “A Muppet Christmas with Zbigniew Brzezinski” and many more. You’ll laugh! you’ll cry! You’ll experience severe intestinal distress! And isn’t that what the holidays are all about?

New Book Announcement

In the previous entry I hinted that I had a little something that would help me replace the income I lost when Official US Playstation Magazine went down the tubes, but said I couldn’t discuss it yet. Well, the person who can give me clearance to discuss it happens to read the Whatever, and he’s given me permission. So:

Tor’s asked me to write a follow-up to The Android’s Dream, and I’ve said oh my, yes. We’re aiming for an early 2008 release, which means I will have to start writing it, oh, probably tomorrow. At the moment I can’t share much in the way of title and plot, because I’m still thinking of all of that. But I will share with you the very first sentence of the novel, which should have some added amusement for those of you who have already read the TAD:

“Judge Sn’s assassination was really getting in the way of his golf game.”

Yeah, I’m going to have fun with this one. Which is, incidentally, one of the reasons I was really happy to hear that Tor wanted a follow-on to TAD. This is a universe that is a kick to write in.

Some of you who follow my career with stalker obsessiveness will note that my agreement to write a TAD follow-up in an expedited fashion means that The Secret Project I Can’t Tell You About gets bumped back until after I finish this book. I’m fine with this because with TSPICTYA, more research time is not a bad thing. This isn’t the first time that a novel of mine has gotten bumped back for another; The Android’s Dream was originally slated to be my second book from Tor, but had its release date bumped back after OMW took off and Tor wanted another book in that universe. These things happen. The important thing is that I’m getting paid to make things up. The order in which they’re released is a small matter after that.

Surveying my next twelve months (which is not the same as the next calendar year, by about 8% or so), this means I am writing two novels, a novella, a novelette, an as-yet-undetermined number of short stories, and an update to one of my non-fiction books (on top of whatever other ephemeral writing I’m doing online and in print). 2007 should also see the release of one novel, one novelette, two and a half non-fiction books, and an as-yet-undetermined number of short stories. Some of the latter group are in the former group; some are not. Also, of course, this being the writing/publishing field, all of this is subject to change instantly and randomly. However, it certainly beats working.

Among the things I am thankful for this Thanksgiving day: That I get to write, that I get to support my family through that writing, that I get to write things that are fun for me, and that when I’m done writing it I get to share all of it with other folks. It’s a good life, and I’d be an idiot not to realize how lucky I am. I’m not an idiot. I’m thankful, and the people to whom I’m thankful for all of this includes you guys. So: Thank you. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day.

Random Thoughts Early on a Thanksgiving Morning

In no particular order:

* I just got my final four contributor copies of Official US Playstation Magazine in the mail today. They look great, and I’m sad not to be writing for the magazine anymore, and even more sad that it will stop existing at the end of the year. A reminder, as I’ve noted before, that everything passes, even the really sweet jobs that allow you to write off all your video game, DVD and music purchases.

The good news here is that I’ve already managed to replace that income, and then some. But I can’t go into detail about that yet. Don’t worry, I’ll explain it later.

* My father-in-law put down some mulch in the garden to prepare it for next year, and it’s apparently some pig-based mulch; not only pig manure but also some actual chunks of pig carcass, or something. Naturally, the dog is all over that, and I do mean all over that; she comes into the house smelling like a slaughterhouse. I let her in the house not ten minutes ago and she stank so bad I actually sprayed her down with Fabreeze. Now, I deeply suspect that Febreeze is not meant to be applied to live animals, but, look, you don’t have to smell the dog. Now she’s got a delightful clean linen scent, which is somewhat better than the rotting pig smell she had before.

* So, if any of you out there actually play in Second Life, you really need to tell me what the big deal is about that place. I’ve been wandering around in there for the last couple of days and as far as I can see its major attraction is that it gives you something to look at while you’re performing IRC. I mean, sure, that’s nice and all, but is that all there is? Am I missing something? Someone please explain this to me.

Oddly, Athena finds Second Life far more compelling than I do — aside from the flying around thing, she eager to explore and poke around odd corners. I’m ambivalent about this since there are lots of places in Second Life that aren’t suitable for a seven-year-old, so I haven’t let her play on her own. Second Life does have a teen version that I might let her wander around in, however. I would find it deeply amusing if she got in there and passed for a thirteen year old. Although I’m not entirely sure the Linden Labs folks would be happy with me if I let her do that. I’ll have to think about it some more.

* I’ve found or was sent three additional reviews of The Android’s Dream: First, a four-star review of the book from Romantic Times Book Review (“A fantastically funny caper… fast paces and dazzlingly inventive”); second, a good review from the San Diego Union Tribune (“The pace is quick-to-breakneck, and Scalzi’s obviously had a great deal of fun spinning a light, romping tale”); and third, a review at Fantasybookspot.com (“It is the quintessential page-turner”). This stuff makes me happy. And makes my editor and publicist happy. And makes my mortgage bank happy, hopefully.

* I think I’ve hinted at this before, but let me come out and say it: having a monitor that flips to portrait mode is Teh Crack. Finally, a computer monitor orientation that fits my need for having a crapload of reading material on the screen at one time without having to scroll the damn article. It makes the Internet the “drinking from the firehose” experience it always should have been. No, it’s not perfect for video games or watching movie or whatever, but for those I can just flip the screen back into landscape. Honestly, I’m simply appalled I didn’t get a portrait-mode monitor before. I may never be able to forgive myself for wasting all those years. Writers, save your pennies for one of these things. It is so totally worth it.

* Finally, your Geek Envy moment for the day: Last night, I interviewed Jonathan Coulton and you didn’t. So ha! Ha on you, I say! The interview is for the Dayton Daily News, because he’s coming to town in the first week of December, but there’s a good possibility I’ll post the interview here as well, at some point. Because even though you didn’t get to interview him, you still want and need to see the interview. Admit it, you do.

The Really Incredibly Clueless Opinion Column of the Day…

It’s here, where Los Angeles Times columnist Erin Aubry Kaplan is apparently under the impression it says something about race relations in America that people are more outraged about the recent OJ Simpson If I Did It thing than they are about Michael Richards calling his comedy club hecklers niggers. She writes:

I’m not equating racist invective with charges of double homicide. But the reality is that there is far more tolerance for a white person’s unseemly behavior than for similar behavior of somebody who isn’t white, especially if the unseemliness involves race. Richards’ “racist rant” has been described as a terrible but isolated incident. O.J., meanwhile, is condemned for his character.

Leaving out the fact that for the last few days you can’t go to a news site or read a newspaper without finding out the latest on Cosmo-gate — i.e., Michael Richards is being well and truly pilloried for his racist idiocy, and rightly so — let’s note that Ms. Kaplan is pretty much lying through her teeth here: she is clearly making an equivalence between racist invective and charges of double homicide, or at least bringing the two within shouting distance of each other so she can make a pretzel-logic point about race. But this isn’t the right comparison anyway. If any comparison in this case is valid, it should be the one between racist invective and exploiting the murder of one’s ex-wife, which one is accused of performing, by writing a recounting of the murder as the murderer. Both are repugnant; the difference the latter is repugnant without the need to bring race into it at all.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but for my money, the truly pertinent thing about the recent Simpson event has nothing to do with Simpson’s race or the ramifications of such; it has to do with the fact that he is sociopathically clueless, and his sociopathic cluelessness was at least temporarily enabled by one of the largest media conglomerates in the world. Even if one assumes that Simpson is innocent of slaughtering his former wife and the poor guy who happened to be with her when the knives came down, the fact that Simpson apparently thought it would be a neat idea to write a fictional account of murdering the mother of his children — and that various arms of News Corp. thought such an account would be a perfect thing to get up on the bestseller lists and garner some nice ratings during a sweeps month — is, in a word, monstrous.

This is depraved behavior, pure and simple, and if you believe that Simpson did kill his wife and her friend and got away with it, it’s just that much worse. There’s really no circumstance where such a memoir, fictional or not, is even plausibly morally acceptable. It’s nice that Fox and HarperCollins have come to their senses and apologized for their part in this fiasco; to date I’m not aware of Simpson doing so, but then why would he. I’m not going to bother to argue whether there is a racial component to the public perception of OJ Simpson, since there is, and it’d be foolish not to recognize it. I am going to argue, however, that everything else about this If I Did it episode is so morally repugnant that the race-based element of the story is, at best and at this point in the Simpson saga, a minor consideration indeed.

I’m also not going bother to rationalize Richard’s outburst, since I find it appalling, and the reaction to it both gratifying and unsurprising: When a white guy calls a black man a nigger, he ought to find himself in a deep pile of crap, and when he does so as an insult, that pile of crap should increase by another six feet, piled up directly on top of that white man’s head. I do think Richards’ response of “stop, drop, and abase” was the correct one. Only Richards knows what’s in his own heart, but at least he (or at least his advisers) understood that the smartest thing to do was recognize publicly that he’d done something wrong and apologize for it in a big way; starting by apologizing on the David Letterman show last Monday was a good start to that.

And I think that rather than race has to do with Richards’ getting a “better” end of things than Simpson, inasmuch as either of them is in a “better” situation. Richards recognized that what he did was wrong and moved in a timely fashion to apologize; Simpson has yet to apologize for crassly exploiting the murders he was accused of performing, and it seems unlikely that he ever will. Or to put it more bluntly, Richards’ showed he had a conscience; Simpson didn’t.

That’s not an issue of race. It’s an issue of character. In that regard, at least, Ms. Kaplan is entirely correct.

Reviews and Etc

While I wasn’t paying attention, some nice things have happened, review-wise, for some of my books:

* The Android’s Dream got a good review from the good graces of Paul Di Filippo over at SciFi Weekly, who writes:

[T]he SF ancestors of Scalzi’s newest book are masters like Keith Laumer, Christopher Anvil, Eric Frank Russell and Gordon Dickson—humorists who contemplated mankind’s role as underdog or newcomer among self-serving alien races who were often goofy, nasty, aesthetically repellent or some combination of all three traits. Think of Harris Creek as Jame Retief updated for 2006, and you won’t be far astray. And I have to affirm most heartily that Scalzi has the craft and chops to pull off his homage, upgrading and reimagining what might have seemed a tired subgenre to full-strength comedic relevance and un-put-downability.

Filippo also namechecks Donald Westlake, Elmore Leonard, Carl Hiaasen and Christopher Moore in describing the book. And he gave the book an “A”. As the kids say: w00t! The review is here, but be warned that there are a couple of fairly meaty spoilers.

* Over at The Agony Column, Rick Kleffel has nice things to say about both The Android’s Dream (“[The book], which should have long ago been on your auto-buy list, is another combination of intelligent humor, clever world-building and sparkling prose”) and my upcoming book on writing, You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop Into a Coffeeshop: Scalzi on Writing, of which he says, ” Scalzi’s advice on writing is filled with the same humor and intelligence that makes his fiction so entertaining. And it’s not just about writing fiction, but about all the kinds of writing you might end up doing.” Indeed. Lord knows I’m still writing other things besides fiction. His column on both is here. Coffee Shop is still on track for a February 2007 release, incidentally.

* I’m especially delighted to note the presence of The Ghost Brigades on the San Francisco Chronicle’s “Best Of” list for science fiction this year, sharing the list with work by Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Ian McDonald, Jeff VanderMeer and others. Hey, that’s nice company to be in.

There, we’re all up to date with that stuff.

Bright Red Clouds

sunset112106.jpg

I was going to write a piece on what you need on your Web site if you’re a writer, but ironically it just doesn’t seem to be coming at the moment, and I have other things to do. So: Here, have a sunset. Not as spectacular as some I’ve posted before, but I like how the sun is setting those low clouds on fire.

Also, damn, Thanksgiving is barreling up on me. I’m so not ready for it, even though “being ready” largely equates to “opening my gullet and letting my mother-in-law slide food down it.” It still takes preparation, you know?

Robert Altman, RIP

Nuts. Robert Altman has passed away. I interviewed him once when I was full-time movie critic, and I’m here to tell you he’s probably one of the smartest people I ever interviewed in the film industry, as well as disarmingly practical and modest about what he was doing with his films and his life. He was 81, so you can’t exactly say he was taken too soon. You can say that the film industry is not likely to see a director like him again.

For those of you who don’t know too much about him, a Wikipedia article. He’d be remembered for M*A*S*H* alone; that there was also McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Nashville, The Player and Gosford Park (among many others) is a hell of a bonus.