Because I know there would be a riot if there wasn’t one.
Oh, yes. Krissy has been here.
Her comment: “Make sure you post a picture of how it looks now.” Done.
Have I mentioned my wife is made of awesome? Well, she is.
In case you missed some part of A Month of Writers and want to catch up, or just want to have a handy list, here’s all the Month of Writers participants in one place. Please read them and buy all their books.
My sincere thanks to each of these writers for letting my borrow their words through the month. It helped me quite a lot. And I hope you, the reader, enjoyed this month of writers as much as I did.
As of 9pm tonight, there have been exactly 8,990,000 unique visits to this site this year, which was an awfully round number, so I took a screenshot. It also means that unless the site fails to garner an additional 10k unique visits between now and 11:59:59pm tomorrow (which it should; it’s averaging rather more than that per day), I’ll finish 2007 with just a hair more than 9 million visits to the site, up from 6.3 million visits in 2006. It’s nice the site’s audience continues to grow.
I mentioned to a friend of mine yesterday that the site was likely to crack 9 million unique visits this year; he said “and you don’t put up ads? You’re an idiot.” Yes, well. As I’ve noted before, I’m not allergic to the concept of ads, I’m not just interested in it. However, if at some point during my new I-have-no-regular-monthly-income life, which begins with the new year, it looks like I’m short of mortgage money, I may become more interested. I’m sure you understand. Hopefully it won’t come to that. I don’t expect it will.
That said, thank you all very kindly for coming ’round in 2007; I hope you’ll keep coming ’round in ’08.
My office, 12/30/07:
This is, alas, an all-too-accurate metaphor for what my brain has been like for most of 2007.
Hopefully, 2008 will be a bit neater.
In order to facilitate you in your acquisition of ScalziProduct™, here’s a handy list of things I know are coming out from me, and being written by me, in 2008.
Stuff I Know is Coming Out in 2008
1. The Rough Guide to the Universe, Second Edition — This hits either in March or May. It’ll feature updated information, particularly on Mars, Saturn and Pluto, but also about the universe in general. Because although the universe hasn’t changed much since I wrote the first edition in 2003, what we know about it has, rather significantly.
2. Zoe’s Tale — This is solid for August in hardcover; I believe the actual release date is 8/17, but I’d have to check. I’m still writing this. I like what I’ve written so far quite a bit. I need to write faster.
3. The Last Colony — The mass market paperback edition of TLC is likely to be available near the release date of Zoe’s Tale.
4. Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998 – 2008 — Ten years of Whatevery, in convenient hard copy form. Don’t worry, it won’t be all of it, just the highlights. Like Coffee Shop, this is likely to be a limited edition release. The 10th anniversary of Whatever is September 13, so expect this one around that date.
5. Agent to the Stars — Tor’s trade paperback edition of this novel will be out in November. This new edition will feature some changes to the text (mostly to make all those Hollywood references more current) and will feature a new introduction to the book by me.
In addition to these books, I’m contributing to at least two Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader books in 2008: Their one on Michigan and their one on Pennsylvania. Per the usual Uncle John thing, my name will not be attached to my contribution, but I’ll get paid well, and I can live with that instead.
For those of you who like audio, an audio version of The Ghost Brigades is on the way sometime in 2008. You can assume that means that audio version of Old Man’s War has done nicely. Thank you. There may be other audio goodies in the course of the year, but TGB is the only thing with a signed contract at the moment.
Finally, I’ve written and sold one short story in the Old Man’s War universe; more details on when and where you can find that when I get more details myself.
Stuff I Know I’m Writing in 2008 (in no particular order of writing):
1. The High Castle — The sequel to The Android’s Dream got bumped for Zoe’s Tale, but I’m jumping into it when ZT is done, for an early 2009 release. People who came to see me on the book tour earlier in the year heard me read the first chapter; suffice to say that this series is evolving a tradition of insane first chapters.
2. Untitled 2008 John Scalzi Novel – Which will clearly not be called that. I’m not saying anything about this one other than that it’s a stand-alone and science fictional, although not set in either the Old Man’s War or Android’s Dream universes. Who knows when this will be out.
3. “That Fantasy Novella I Was Going to Write This Year But Didn’t” — Again, not the actual title. This got bumped into 2008 because of other projects that I had to undertake this year. However, I’ve definitely got it on the 2008 schedule, and once written, it’ll be available via limited edition hardcover from Subterranean Press. Again, I don’t want to say too much about it, except to say that I’ll be interested to see what you all think of it, because it really won’t be the usual sort of thing from me.
4. “A (Short) Novella for an Anthology” — If you’re sensing the theme of these things not having an actual title, you’d be right. This will be for Godlike Machines, an anthology that will be coming out from the Science Fiction Book Club; I think it was one of the last anthologies SFBC acquired before it canned the ancien regime. This was one of several anthologies I was invited to participate in over the last year, most of which I had turn down simply as a function of time. However, as a lark, I suggested I would do this one if I were allowed to follow a certain entirely ridiculous premise in my story; Jonathan Strahan, the editor of the anthology, outbluffed me and agreed to it. As they say: Bwa ha ha ha hah ha! No, I won’t tell you what the premise is. You’ll just have to wait.
So that’s what I know I have coming out, and to do, in 2008. Independent of all that I have other stuff I have sketched out, including a new humorous non-fiction book, some new fiction ideas of varying sizes and a couple of possible projects that don’t necessarily have to do with printed text, but all of that is preliminary at the moment, and anyway, before I can get to any of that, I need to finish some of what I’ve already got on the plate, starting with Zoe. All planning and no finishing is not a good way to do a writing career.
Quite unintentionally, it turns out that I’m the guy who told Tim Pratt that he won a Hugo this year: After the list of Hugo Winners was posted, and Tim’s “Impossible Dreams” nabbed the short story award, I sent him a quick little congratulatory e-mail. His response a short time later was, essentially, “I did what now?” It’s not every day you get to break such news to someone. But to be fair, the awards were in Japan this year. They held them while he was asleep in California. Stupid round planet with its multiple time zones.
Tim closes out the Month of Writers by issuing a writing manifesto, as is popular these days in science fiction and fantasy. It may be worth noting that the date of the issuance of the following manifesto was the first day of the fourth month of the year. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t still follow it. I did, and you can expect the fruits of such adherence in a an upcoming novel. No, seriously. Bwa ha ha ha hah ha!
Tim’s latest novel is Blood Engines, which has been called “brain-twisting, superb… new and different and not to be missed,” and has a main character named Marla Mason, which in one of those very weird coincidences was the name of one of my best friends from elementary school. Pretty sure Tim didn’t know that when he wrote that. But then, clearly, we have some sort of connection. So maybe he did.
TIM PRATT: New Literary Movement
I’ve been meaning to post about this for a while. I’m not really one for manifestos, but it’s become increasingly apparent to me that we need a new literary movement. I’ve been interested for a while in metafictional works of SF and fantasy that include the author as a character (like some of Jeffrey Ford’s stories, or Rudy Rucker’s transrealism). I experimented with the subject in a recent story I wrote, “Her Voice in a Bottle.” And while the results were satisfactory (me, and my voice, explicitly present in a fantasy story) they seem, ultimately, rather too limited.
It’s clear to me now that I need to appear as a major, preferably heroic, character in everyone’s stories. Tim Pratt, on the page, fighting air pirates, defusing space bombs, sexing up the sexy sex nymphs, and what have you. (When a female or neuter character is necessary, authors may wish to use my nom de plume “T.A. Pratt”) The name for this literary movement will, of course, be PrattPunk (except in the U.K., where a “prat” is an asshole or moron, where the movement will be known as TimPunk).
To ease your transition into this new compulsory movement, I’m releasing myself under a Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license, which allows you to use or modify the source material — me — for your own work, while giving the creator — me — due credit for the original material — me — and granting permission for others to modify your works (about me). I’ll also turn a blind eye toward any unauthorized fanfic if enterprising authors wish to transform any existing works of SF literature — Dune, say, or Harry Potter — into ideologically pure works of PrattPunk.
Happy writing, my Prattians!
(original entry, plus comments, is here)
Hey, this is nice: I’m nominated for a Romantic Times 2007 Reviewers’ Choice Award in the science fiction category, for The Last Colony. The nominees are chosen for their general excellence, not necessarily their romantic content, which is good, because I’m not notably good with romance. The other nominees in the category:
An excellent field of nominees. Some of you may recall I was up for one of these last year in the same category for The Android’s Dream; Jo Walton’s Farthing carried the day for that one. Will she repeat in the category? Tune in in April, when the winners are revealed at the RT Booklover’s convention in Pittsburgh to find out!
The RT Reviewer’s Choice Awards also have a rather significant slate of fantasy nominees in various categories, so here are fantasy writers of my acquaintance who have also gotten nods this year: Marjorie Liu, MaryJanice Davidson and Sharon Shinn (both of whom share an agent with me), Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, David Anthony Durham, China Mieville, Elizabeth Bear (twice!), Sarah Monette, Carrie Vaughn and Jim Butcher. Nicely done, all.
Hat tip to fellow nominee Jo Walton, from whom I found this news.
For those of you who live to obsessively follow the tweaks I give the Whatever, you’ll note that I’ve changed the sidebars in the following ways:
I may add a couple more tweaks later today; if so I’ll update this post. I know you’re on the edge of your seat for that.
Also, let me know if you notice the site slowing down any; the Random Whatever widgets makes calls to the database, and I want to be sure that doesn’t present a performance issue.
Yay! Justine Larbalestier is here! She’s one of my favorite people, you know. And she’s also an excellent writer, with her “Magic or Madness” trilogy, of which the latest installment, Magic’s Child, is featured above, racking up all sorts of awards, honors, and “best of” list appearances. Honestly, if I detailed how cool she is, I’d get all sloppy, so it’s best I keep this part short.
But despite being so damn excellent, Ms. Larbalestier admits to the occasional fault or two. For her Month of Writers contribution, she outlines what some of those alleged faults might be.
JUSTINE LARBALESTIER: faults
I have many faults, but the one I’m feeling baddest about at the moment is my tendency to dismiss a writer on the basis of very little. For example:
Writing is a tenuous profession and too many of us passionate readers are certifiably insane. It’s shockingly easy to turn off potential readers. You can do it with a word (use “jasmine” and you’ve lost Margo Lanagan), a bad clothing choice on the part of a character (I put a book down once because the supposedly hip protag was wearing hot pink lycra), a factual error (I have stopped reading otherwise fine books because they had Canberra being a short bus ride from Sydney).
You can also lose readers through no fault of your own: because they don’t like your cover, because they don’t like your author photo, or the way you spell your name, or won’t read paperbacks, or books by Australians.
So you’ll never catch me insulting fellow writers on my blog—too risky! I don’t want to piss them off (we writers have such long memories), or their fans (ditto), nor do I want to rack up any more bad karma (I’m bowed under the weight of what I’ve already got!). And I resolve to make sure my blood sugar levels are where they should be before reading a new book or attending a reading.
(original entry, plus comments, is here)
For those of you who like to mark your calendars early, I’ll note I’ll be the 2009 Guest of Honor at Millennicon, just down the road in Cincinnati. Please note the year there: 2009, not 2008 (2008′s Guest of Honor is Steven Barnes, who, you know, you should go see, too).
Wow, 2009. I feel so scheduled.
I’m about to go off and drive 180 miles, so I can’t make this long. So here’s everything you need to know:
David Anthony Durham: teh HAWSOME.
Acacia, Book One: The War With the Mein, his debut fantasy novel: also teh HAWSOME.
Campbell Award possibilities? It would be — yes! — teh HAWSOME.
And now, here’s the awesome David Anthony Durham.
DAVID ANTHONY DURHAM: Audio Flashback Magical Weirdness
Interesting thing happened to me yesterday… I was having another of those “I’m about to figure out some major plot point if only I do something random like take a walk down a tree-lined street” sort of moments. So, I got up and headed outside.
For the first time since I began writing The Other Lands (the sequel to Acacia: The War With the Mein), I remembered how with previous books I liked to take a little tape recorder with me. When I came on good ideas I’d just dictate a brief message to myself that I could reference later. This was a lot better than walking around juggling ideas like so many bubbles, afraid the whole time that any of them might pop and be lost before I could get them written down. So, I fished out my little micro cassette recorder and embarked.
It wasn’t long before I started to have an idea or two. They seem to come pretty steady when I get chugging along. Just starting to move seemed to stir them up. Before starting to dictate, though, I pressed play, just to see where the tape was or something… And to my surprise (not really, but sort of) my own voice spoke to me out of that little black machine. It was a voice from several years ago. It was a voice that was going through this same process – with the first Acacia novel.
My plan was just to rewind and start anew, but I was immediately shocked by what I heard. My voice came in short bursts, perhaps no more than a sentence that expressed an idea or question before cutting off. Each time a new recording cut in the background noise changed: sometimes windy, sometimes traffic noises or music or kids in the background. Sometimes I was out of breath and other times it was strangely quiet and my voice quite clear.
What was I saying? Things like this… (If you’ve read Acacia you’ll recognize some plot things here. If not I won’t give anything away that hasn’t been written in pretty much every review of the book.)
“What if the Acacian economy is fueled by some international trade?… Something kinda secret… Nothing to be proud of…”
How strange! “What if?” I’d almost forgotten that there was ever a time I didn’t know about Acacia’s international trade. I’m so used to the idea now it’s like it was always written in stone. But here was proof that at one time I’d only gotten so far as asking “What if?”
A little later I said…
“Remember that this isn’t a novel all about prophecy and fate and stuff like that. Everything doesn’t work out that way.”
“Not everyone lives to the end. Someone important has to die… Not sure who, but… someone does.”
How about that? Here’s my own voice proposing for the first time something that is now so fundamental to the entire world of Acacia and all that may ever happen in it. A few takes later…
“Ah, okay… That trade could be in children… children that the Acacians take from each province, with a quota from each, and then they send them across the ocean, never to be heard from again….”
“I think X is the one that’s good with a sword…” (I didn’t really say “X”, but if you haven’t read the book I didn’t want to give that one away.)
“Oh, that thing the children are traded for… what if it’s some sort of drug?”
I walked along in a bit of daze listening to this. Again and again I was hearing myself say for the first time aspects of the story and characters that I’d just thought in that past moment. So very strange that things that exist so concretely now, in tens of thousands of different copies read by (so far) tens of thousands different readers at one point began as “What if…” ideas when I was taking a walk somewhere. So very strange that this tape recorder captured the moment I first experienced those what ifs – moments prior to my having put those words on the page.
Understand me – this is not that I’m impressed with myself. It’s not that at all. What I am impressed with, though, is the creative process. The way things, stories, meaning can apparently be created out of nothing. I’m awed that it works, because I certainly can’t explain it. Thinking about it as I listened to an earlier version of myself, the whole thing felt quite magical. As I’m struggling to shape this next monster of a novel, that was a very fortunate thing to be reminded of.
Oh, by the way, I didn’t record over any of that stuff. I just couldn’t do it. I’ll have to go get a new tape soon. This one goes in a drawer somewhere, perhaps to be discovered again a few years from now…
(read original entry, with comments, here)
Did you know (and before you say “yes,” I should warn you that the answer here will almost certainly be “no,” so don’t try to be all cool about it) that today marks the fifth anniversary of what I consider my official entrance into science fiction?
No? Huh. Surprising.
Well, it is. Five years ago today, Patrick Nielsen Hayden asked if Tor could publish Old Man’s War, and I said “sure,” and then we were off the proverbial races. From that point it took another two years for the novel to actually get published; January 1, 2005 was the official publication date. So while I peg today as the anniversary date for my pro SF career, I’ve technically been a published science fiction novelist (or, indeed, a published novelist of any stripe) for just not quite three years now. Seems like it should be longer, doesn’t it.
However you want to slice it, it’s certainly been an interesting half of a decade. Here’s hoping it all continues to be fun as I start doing the book writing thing full time.
Speaking of which, back to it.
A multi-billionaire industrialist donates 97% of his fortune to help fund clean water in Africa, education for blind children, and housing for the mentally ill, and it’s presented by one of the largest news organizations in the world in terms of what it means for Paris Hilton.
You know, I’m not entirely sure when it was I first met Ellen Kushner — I suspect it may have been Wiscon three years ago, but maybe it was before then — but whenever it was that I met her, she quickly became someone I liked and admired, because she’s warm, personable, a great conversationalist and, not as a coincidence given all the above, an excellent writer. I suppose it’s possible not to like Ellen Kushner, but I’m not entirely sure I’d want to hang around the sort of person who wouldn’t. They would make me sad.
Earlier this year, Ellen Kushner was nominated for the Nebula Award for her richly deserving book The Privilege of the Sword (it was also nominated for the World Fantasy Award, and won the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel), and as this entry for the Month of Writers shows, even the estimable Ellen Kushner sometimes gets attacked by the Procrastination Monster. Here’s how she fought it off, eventually.
ELLEN KUSHNER: the dog ate my Nebula essay
I used to find writing non-fiction utter torture. Book reviews, school papers, personal essays . . . they took so long and cost so much agony that I pretty much gave them all up as soon as I could – even the ones that paid real money.
Then I started my national weekly public radio show Sound & Spirit. And for many nightmarish startup months I had a 10-15 page script due, not every week, but about every 4 days. A script with music and research included – oh, and some sort of personal essay (or “sermon”) at the end. Ohhh, how I twisted and turned, writhed and defended! What if it wasn’t good enough? What if it sucked? What if everyone hated it? What if was done but it wasn’t the best I could possible do? This had always kept me from finishing anything in the past. But now there just wasn’t time to pull my usual avoidance tricks; there was a production schedule, and several people – producers, engineers, assistants – would have their week pretty much ruined and be very put out if I didn’t turn up with something.
That’s when I learned my new writing mantra:
Done is Good.
And what’s more, I learned that it was true. What I was writing was actually not bad. (Well, I learned this weeks later when the produced shows went on the air, and the listener fan mail started coming in. It’s not like you can ever figure out on your own whether anything is good or not. Not for a few years after you’ve written it, anyway; I hear those despised and despicable scripts now, and they’re really Not Bad.)
I learned my lesson, and look at me now! Typing up these little confessional thoughts justabout as fast as my 10 fingers can carry them.
Who’d'a thunk it?
Which makes it all the more pathetic when I tell you what happened next:
I couldn’t write my Nebula essay.
Could. Not. Do. It.
The letter came from SFWA Bulletin editor Mark Kreighbaum 4 – no, 5 weeks ago:
You have a work on the 2006 Final Nebula ballot. The Bulletin would be grateful if you would share a brief bio and an essay about your nominated work, which will be printed in the Bulletin and available at the Banquet.
The bio should be one or two paragraphs. The essay may be as short as one paragraph or as long as ten. The subject of the essay is entirely up to you. Some authors talk specifically about the story and its genesis, others discuss the ideas and themes of the work, still others write about a topic that is personally or professionally important to them.
This was it: the moment I’d been waiting for all my life! My novel nominated for an award given by my writing peers. At a banquet, they would all sit during the boring bits surreptitiously reading the booklet at their places containing the perfect thoughts of the Nominees summing up their life’s work and philosophies of writing in ways that were both moving and entertaining, and ultimately inspiring. I know, because I’ve read so many myself over the years. Now it was my turn to write one.
I know how to do this. I have profound thoughts about life and art. And I really know how to write about it for public consumption; hell, Bill Moyers once wrote me a radio fan letter about how much my words have moved him! All I had to do was write something for a slightly different audience: Other Writers. Other Fantasy & Science Fiction writers. All of them. People I’ve known and loved for years. People I’ve idolized. People I’ve grown up with. People who’ve never heard of me and wonder why some stupid girl book is on the Nebula ballot. People whose entire opinion of me and my life’s work will depend on my articulating it boldly yet charmingly, in an authoritative yet humble manner.
I wrote Mark, “May I have an extension? I’m on other deadlines right now, and want to be able to turn my full attention to it.”
Deadlines passed. I wrote Mark, “May I have another extension? I’ve been traveling, the holidays are coming and so are my parents.”
The holidays over, I wrote Mark, “Is there still time? I’ve been sick.”
I wrote a few paragraphs. They were awful. I wrote a few more. They were hopeless.
I wrote Mark, “Can I have the weekend?”
I wrote some more paragraphs, started over, gave up, started again . . . .
I wrote Mark, “Do you still have room for me if I get it in by midnight?”
At 1 a.m. last night, I finally achieved liftoff.
I’m not saying it’s good, or anything. But it’s done.
(original entry, plus comments, is here)
Look at this: The Village Voice has a big, gushy article about my pals Justine Larbalestier and Scott Westerfeld, talking about how cool they are and how everyone loves them and how they smell nice and everything. Well, it’s all true.
Remember, kids: Scott and Justine are the Guests of Honor at this year’s ConFusion convention, which is just four weeks away, and at which, incidentally, I am Toastmaster. Oh, yes. There will be revelry. You miss this, and, well. You’ll spend the rest of 2008 weeping, that’s what you’ll do.
Today I went out and partook in my tradition of picking up the latest edition of the Writer’s Market and carrying its phonebook-sized mass home with me and parking it on my desk. I’ve been doing this more or less every year since I became a full-time freelancer, in 1998; in no time since then have I ever actually used the thing to get gigs, because due a curious combination of personal connection and unspeakable luck, in all this time work has generally found me rather than the other way around. In the next year, I do not expect to use the book very much either; I’m nicely busy, and — once again through personal connection and unspeakable luck — I generally have ready markets for the stuff I write that I don’t already owe to people, and editors are still kind enough to drop me notes asking if I wouldn’t mind writing something for them. I love these guys.
If I don’t plan to use the Writer’s Market, why did I bother dropping $29.99 on the thing? Simple: It’s on my desk so that if the unthinkable happens and the floor drops out from underneath my serendipitous business plan, and I start feeling sorry for myself, my wife can pick the thing up and beat me over the head with it, and the sheer bulk of the object I am being bludgeoned with will serve to remind me that it is filled with a couple thousand markets into which I may sell my writing. That being the case, I should stop with the whiny little pity party and get to work. Because at this stage in my career, it seems fairly inconceivable that I couldn’t sell something to someone. Particularly when there are a couple thousand markets out there, all looking for writing.
So yes: As an actual aide to finding work, it’s $30 down the hole, at least for the next year. As a preventative measure against basic writer’s neurosis, it’s cheap at twice the price. I think about all the therapy an annual application of the Writer’s Market has spared me from, and I realize that it pays for itself each year, probably somewhere in the third week of January. It’s worth it.
Today I posted the final “Big Idea” entry I’ll have over at Ficlets, and it’s from Nathalie Mallet, the author whom Night Shade Books had debut its mass market paperback line with the fantasy/mystery novel, The Princes of the Golden Cage. Kind of cool to debut an entire new line of books, I’d say. Well done, Ms. Mallet. And I hope you’ll go check out what Ms. Mallet has to say, and give the feature a good sendoff there.
As to whether this is the end of “The Big Idea” in the larger sense, the answer to this is “no”: I have plans to continue it and author interviews here at Whatever, and possibly add in a couple other writer features as well. Stick around when it turns to 2008 for more details.
If you’ve missed some of this year’s author interviews or “Big Idea” features, never fear, I’ve links to the whole lot of ‘em here. Enjoy.
2007 BIG IDEA FEATURES:
2007 AUTHOR INTERVIEWS
David Anthony Durham
Robert J. Sawyer
Looks like I averaged about one of these every two weeks. We’ll see if we can’t do better in 2008.