Yearly Archives: 2008

On the 2008 Weblog Awards Nomination

Yes, I’m still on break through January 5. But this is worth making a public notation about, so there’s no confusion later.

Whatever has been listed as a finalist in the 2008 Weblog Awards in the category of “Best Large Blog,” which is defined as a blog with a Technorati “Authority” rating between 301 and 500.

While I am honored to have Whatever listed as a finalist and thank those responsible, Whatever in fact has an Authority rating of 1,210 (as of 2pm 12/31/08), and should therefore be more accurately defined as being in the “Major Blog” category (for blogs with an authority rating of 1,001 or above).

The source of the error, as I see it, comes from the fact that the URL of Whatever changed in October, from “scalzi.com/whatever” to “whatever.scalzi.com.” Whatever has two Technorati listings, one for each URL, and the latter is the one which shows Whatever with the smaller Authority number. However, both listings are actively being polled by Technorati in terms of rank/authority, and the first URL automatically forwards to the second, so the higher Authority listing should be considered as the more accurate one.

Therefore, as a matter of prudence and of fairness to the other excellent blogs that are finalists in the “Best Large Blog” category, I must decline the finalist listing of Whatever in the “Best Large Blog” category of the 2008 Weblog Awards. I will ask the folks running the award to remove Whatever from the category before voting begins on January 5th, and if that is not possible for some reason, I would ask people not to vote for Whatever in this category. If for some reason people were to vote for the blog and it won the category, I would be obliged to decline the award.

Please be aware that my declining finalist status is not a negative commentary on the Weblog Awards, nor am I suggesting that Whatever has been placed in the category for any reason other than wholly innocent and explainable error. And to be very clear, I am not suggesting that Whatever be placed in the “Major Blog” category as a finalist this year (and indeed, would decline such an offer, if made).

Again, my thanks to the Weblog Awards folks for making Whatever a category finalist, even if in error. And best of luck to the legitimate finalists in the “Best Large Blog” category.

Update, 3:54pm: I’ve been withdrawn from the category and replaced by another blog. Thanks to the Weblog Awards folks for their prompt attention.

D’oh

PC Magazine would have to link to Whatever in their piece on their favorite blogs of 2008 while I was taking a two week break, wouldn’t they.

So: If you’re here from PC Magazine, howdy. I’m on a break at the moment, and will be back on January 5th. But, if you want to look around, go right ahead. Here’s my end-of-year “Best of 2008″ entry to get you caught up on what I wrote this year, and if you’re interested in my fiction output, here’s a sampler of free fiction for you to try out. The book of collected entries mentioned in the PC Magazine entry, Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded, is available on Amazon (as is my novel Old Man’s War, also mentioned).

I’d also note that I’m on that PC Magazine list a second time, as a contributor to the AMC blogs, specifically SciFi Scanner, where I’m a film columnist; a list of my columns for the site is here.

Enjoy!

Everyone else: I’m still on break, see you the 5th. I can already tell you I’ll have interesting stuff for you then.

Christmas 2008

For those of you who are wondering how it’s going.

Athena reads up on her new Wii games, for her new Wii. Yes, we got a Wii.

But Athena also got a primer on Latin! How many other children can say that? I suspect rather fewer than can say got a Wii. And their loss, I must say.

Ghlaghghee and Lopsided Cat, enjoying their capnip toys. Zeus, who is rather less able to handle his ‘nip, is in the other room, watching the wallpaper move.

Kodi, enjoying her Christmas gift of a juicy bone. Lopsided Cat, you’ll note, knows well enough to stay back during the gnawing portion of the proceedings.

Krissy, showing off the t-shirt I got her. Here’s a clearer picture of what’s on the shirt, and yes, it has more significance to the two of us than just being a clever way of picturing a Cure song; it’s the first song we ever danced to, the first night that we ever met. I bought it about ten seconds after I saw it.

In short, Christmas going fabulously. Hope yours is, too.

My SF Movie Christmas Wish, Plus 2008 AMC Column Index

It’s Thursday, which means even on Christmas I have an AMC column up. This week: My Christmas wish involving science fiction movies. No, it does not include a futuristic space massage from the lady in the artwork above. She kinda scares me. Enjoy, and be sure to leave comments, should you be spending your Christmas cruising this here interweb thingy.

Also, since the above AMC column is my last one of 2008, I thought it would be useful to give you an index of all my AMC science fiction movie columns for the year, just in case you missed one or two along the way and feel the urge to catch up.

Is Guillermo del Toro the Right Man for The Hobbit?

$20 Million Now, $20 Million Then – How Star Wars Changed Movie Math

How to Make a (Good!) Science Fiction Movie (for Cheap!)

Why the Movie Version of Your Favorite SciFi Book Stinks, Part I

Selling Your SciFi Novel to Hollywood: Is It Just About the Money?

With SciFi Movies, Classic Does Not Equal Good

Nerdgassing About Science Fiction Movies

What Are the New SciFi Classics?

Science Fiction Is Easy, Comedy Is Hard

The Ridiculousness of Riddick, or, How Not to Make a SciFi Sequel

Ridley Scott Deserves an Oscar, Even If It’s an Honorary One

Science and History: Everything the Movies Tell You Is Wrong

Is The Dark Knight Oscar Ready?

Do Hugo Winning Novels Make Great Films?

Sports of the Future Will Be Much More Violent Than Those at the Olympics

Ellen Ripley Paved the Way for Strong Female Leads

Why Tim Burton’s Recurring Nightmare Remains So Popular

Things We Learned From the Summer SciFi Box Office

Why We Love Our Post-Apocalyptic Flicks

The Look, Not the Idea, Makes a SciFi Movie

Sound + Vision: Scores That Make Their Science Fiction Films

For SciFi Sequels, Taking a Chance Makes All the Difference

Do “American” Science Fiction Movies Actually Exist?

Are Mad Scientists Unfairly Maligned?

What Can Our Next President Learn From His SciFi Counterparts?

Do Science Fiction Movies Still Need Theaters?

Are You Living in a Science Fiction Movie?

A SciFi Thanksgiving

The Battle Between Science and Religion – And SciFi Is the Battleground

The Worst Science Fiction Movie of the Last Twelve Months

The Best (and Worst) Scifi Movies of the Year

That should keep you busy after all the presents. Merry Christmas.

Whatever Best of 2008

This year marked the 10 year anniversary of Whatever, and it was also a pretty good year in terms of individual entries. Having an election helped, I think. Here are some of the entries I think qualify for the best of the year, just in case you missed them the first go-around.

Happy reading.

Worth the Read

Sports Illustrated’s cover story on what’s happened to the dogs that were part of Michael Vick’s dog fighting kennel. It turns out the large majority of them are living and some are even thriving, which is a miracle when you remember that even PETA thought they needed to be put down. But it should also go without saying that bringing these dogs back from the hell Vick put them in hasn’t been an easy task, which is why, as we say here in the Internet biz, you want to read the whole thing. Speaking as a dog owner, I’m glad these dogs are free and Vick’s in a cage. It’s justice.

Athena, Ten

As has been our tradition here in the Scalzi household, we woke Athena up on her birthday today by singing “Happy Birthday” and presenting her a cake. It’s a holdover from when she was much younger and didn’t actually have an idea when her birthday was, so the way she would find out would be to wake to her parents singing off-key and shoving a flaming baked good in her face. She’s ten now, which means she’s pretty well figured out the whole birthday date thing, but we figure it’s still a fun way to wake up on your birthday, so here we are.

Anyone who has a child understands what I mean when I say that it doesn’t feel like it’s been ten years, but it has been, and in each of those years I’ve felt additionally blessed to spend time with the person my daughter is becoming, because she’s smart and funny and headstrong, and even when she’s being a butthead there’s a lot there I admire (not so much that I don’t want to strangle her sometimes, but still). I believe the universe has provided me with exactly the child I should have been provided, which is an example of the universe being both impossibly generous, and possessed of a wicked sense of humor.

Athena is at an age where I were to get unduly mushy about how lucky I am to have her as my child, she would become horribly and unduly embarrassed, so I will go ahead and leave off it for now. However, I do happen to have a letter I wrote to her the day after she was born, which encapsulated what I was thinking about her then, and still do. I’m including it here behind the cut.

Happy Birthday, Athena. I love you.

Continue reading

The Big Idea: Lesley Livingston

This is a kind of cool thing for me: I met Lesley Livingston back in 2003, at my very first science fiction convention (that would be Torcon 3, for those of you keeping score at home). I was neopro writer whose first book wouldn’t come out for a couple of years; Lesley, on the other hand, was a TV personality for Space, the Canadian science fiction cable network. Which is to say, she had fans (crazy ones!), whereas no one knew who I was, and she could have easily dropped me into the “crazy fan” territory, lurking about as I did. But she was nice to me instead, which I appreciated, and we had a nice time chatting about writing and science fiction and all those sorts of things. She was very cool, and since then I’ve been looking forward to reading what she had to write.

The wait is over: Today marks the release of her debut novel, the YA fantasy Wondrous Strange, which is about fairies and Shakespeare and acting and Central Park, all of which are things I approve. I’m delighted to be able to give her a little bit of space here in The Big Idea to tell you how they all fit together, and why they inspired her to get wondrous strange in her writing.

LESLEY LIVINGSTON:

The Celts, the Elizabethans, the Victorians… they all believed in the existence of the Faerie. More than believed – they shared their world with them. These beings inhabited the artistic endeavors of these societies: they filled in the spaces of Celtic mythology where gods didn’t necessarily fit; Shakespeare’s audience was so fond of the Fair Folk that he gave “to airy nothing a local habitation and a name”, dedicating an entire comedy to their antics (and the effects of faerie shenanigans on the surrounding human populace); and in the middle of the 19th century, at the height of the faerie craze in Victorian England, you couldn’t swing a dead boggart without smacking it off a faerie painting. And then, at the turn of the century, all that changed. Seemingly overnight – it wasn’t, of course, but it feels a bit like it – faeries all but vanished from popular culture.

I’ve been fascinated by faerie lore since I was a kid. The stories that intrigued me the most, though, were never the ones that portrayed the Fae as tiny, sweet, sparkly things. Rather I was drawn to the idea that these were the creatures that existed just beyond the circle of firelight, or just on the other side of the threshold, or just over that far hill; things only ever glimpsed out of the corner of your eye – if you were lucky! I always knew I wanted to write a faerie story. I just didn’t know what.

Wondrous Strange is that story (or, at least, the first part of it!) but the germ of it didn’t come from staring at Arthur Rackham sketches. Rather, my Big Idea for came straight from the heart of the Big Apple.

When I signed with my agent (for another project entirely), I went to New York to meet her face to face. I went with another YA author friend of mine, Adrienne Kress, who was meeting her publisher for the first time. Both of us were wowed by the city as a whole, but I was absolutely captivated by Central Park. Even in February. It was my first visit to the city and I really didn’t know what to expect but it was utter infatuation at first sight. We did the touristy stuff on that trip – carriage ride, Tavern on the Green (both of which are now plot points in Wondrous Strange). I became fascinated by certain landmarks in the park – by the fantastic, otherworldly landscapes of the Shakespeare Garden and the Ramble and the Lake, by the statue of the Indian Hunter (a source of inspiration for Sonny Flannery and the Janus Guard in the book) and by the Carousel – which is the fourth one to stand on that spot – two previous incarnations having burnt to the ground.

Back home, I couldn’t get the park out of my head The whole place just struck me as somehow mythic. And a really good location to stick a story (obviously – I mean, writers have been doing that forever!). I just needed to find the story that I wanted to put there. I started to do a bit of research into the origins of Central Park and its creators – in particular, a virtually forgotten man named Andrew Haswell Green. Almost the only tangible tribute you will find to Andrew Green is a marble bench tucked away in an obscure corner of the park. Odd, considering the fact that this guy was, in his day, a vastly influential in figure in municipal politics and, as a city planner, was largely responsible for much of how New York exists in its present form. What’s even odder about Green is that his death in 1903, at the venerable age of 83, was untimely – he was shot to death on the steps of his Park Avenue brownstone. It was supposedly a case of “mistaken identity” wherein a crazed boiler-worker claimed that the octogenarian civic leader was having an affair with a mysterious “dark lady” who was known to ride only in curtained carriages and was rumored to be an exiled princess from some exotic land. So the boiler-worker shot the old man to death. On Friday the 13th.

Now, lest you pick up Wondrous Strange thinking this is his story – let me assure you that it is not. But damned if it wasn’t a mighty source of inspiration, one that became a sort of underpinning for the entire trilogy. You see, aside from the fact that I was fascinated by this gentleman’s story, I also love coincidences and word-play and the fact that Mr. Green’s first name, Andrew, means “man” twigged something in my brain. Anyone who has a passing acquaintance with Celtic mythology and faerie lore will be familiar with the figure of the Green Man. It also didn’t hurt that ‘Haswell’ means ‘the misty place’ or ‘the Wild’. How could I resist a Wild Green Man from the Misty Place? Seriously.

At any rate, all of my random research started to form connections in my mind: between the disappearance of faeries from popular culture around the turn of the century and mass immigration to the new world; between this improbable park in the middle of this thriving new metropolis and the strange circumstances of one of its chief architects’ demise. It laid the groundwork upon which I laid the story of a young actress named Kelley Winslow who comes to the big city to follow her dream and finds her destiny. (During that time, I continued to perform with Tempest Theatre Group, a Shakespearean company of which I am a founding member, and I had already written a short story about an actress in a production of a Midsummer Night’s Dream.)

Since that first February day – it seems like a very short while ago – I have been back to the Park several times and have spent many a night busily populating it with beings from the Otherworld. If you visit, do be careful where you walk! – not all of them are friendly…

—-

Wondrous Strange: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powell’s

Read an excerpt of the novel here. Visit Lesley Livingston’s blog here. See Lesley discuss her book here.

Things I Pay For Online

And no, I’m not detailing my online porn addictions to you. What I mean is, what premium services I pay for online. Since so much is available online for free, if one is paying for something online, it’s generally because it offers some genuine value and is worth the price. These are some of the things that are worth money to me.

1. Rhapsody: I’ve been paying for Rhapsody for I think five years now, first because it was the simplest legal way to listen to music online (which also compensated the artists, something that was and is important for me), and these days because I’m familiar with it and find it really easy to use and to find music on. Since the time I subscribed and now, lots of legitimate free music services have popped up (you’ll note I frequently embed imeem streaming), but most of those services are still hit-and-miss in terms of availability of music, and most of them are still kind of a pain in the ass to navigate. For making it dead easy for me to find the music I want when I want it, Rhapsody keeps earning my $15 a month.

2. Encyclopedia Britannica: Because none of the editors I work with consider Wikipedia reliable in the slightest. I personally use Wikipedia tons for casual research, but I cross check it with EB (and original sources) when I do actual writing. Wikipedia partisans, this is your cue to link to that study that suggests Britannica is no more accurate than Wikipedia on several fields, but you know what? Unlike Wikipedia, if I cite Britannica and it turns out to be wrong, I don’t get blamed for sloppy research. Britannica’s reputation is worth the subscription cost. This is actually my oldest current online subscription; I think I’ve had it for almost ten years now.

3. Flickr Pro: Because it’s easier to upload and store pictures there than it is to my own ftp space. Don’t worry, I have all the originals stashed on an archive drive here at home.

4. LiveJournal: Because I like the ability to comment on LJ, basically. This is probably the account for which I get the least exchange value for, but it’s $25 a year, and, eh, I can spend that. Although now I understand they’re putting ads on LJs, and since I’m a paid member I don’t see those. Go me.

5. GameTap: Because $10/month (or whatever it is I’m paying) is a really really cheap way to keep Athena entertained with hundreds of video games that I don’t have to buy. Also, to be honest, GameTap serializing the recent Sam& Max games alone made it worth the money I sink into it on a monthly basis. You know what one of her favorite games on GameTap is? Pong. Cracks me up, it does.

6. Wall Street Journal: Because I read it enough to justify the cost. I think it’ll amuse some folks that I’m fairly left and still subscribe to WSJ, but you know, I just skip the editorials and it’s fine.

7. AOL: I know, I know. Call it an affectation. Just in case the broadband apocalypse comes, I want to be able to have a dial-in backup. Also, although I haven’t worked for AOL in almost a year, there’s always a chance they’ll still want to use me as a contractor in the future, and it’s easier to hang on to the account just in case they do. Also, you know. They’ve paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars to me over the years. I can spot them $72 a year, or whatever.

8. Skype: Because when I go overseas, it’s cheaper than roaming charges. Also, it’s a pay-as-you-go sort of thing; I deposited 10 euros worth of money into my Skype account in 2005 and I still haven’t worked all the way through it (I don’t go overseas all that much).

9. Club Penguin: Because it amuses the child, so why not.

10. Scalzi.com: Of course. Devotees will know that I recently switched hosting of Whatever to WordPress.com, which I’ve been very happy with, but everything else about the site still resides on 1and1.com, who’s been my host provider for four years now. This is a good arrangement, since WordPress.com is able to handle the load of my blog visitors, while 1and1.com is good with handling my e-mail and storing my files and various domains, and for all I do with those, $20 a month isn’t a bad rate.

And I think that’s it at the moment. The great news for me is that almost all of the above is tax deductible one way or another. Ah, the life of a freelance writer.

Over the Hillside

I’ll let you in on a little secret, which is that one of the reasons I was happy that the 2005 Worldcon was in Glasgow was that I always wanted to visit the town that The Blue Nile was from, and which inspired the music off of Hats, which is one of my all time favorite albums, and coming up on its 20th anniversary in 2009. Mind you, it’s not like I accidentally ran across Paul Buchanan while I was there. But there was always the possibility, at which point I could have said “well done, you, sir,” and then watched as he (I expect) muttered embarrassed thanks and then scuttled away.

The point is, I wanted to be in the city in my head that I imagined the music on the album came out of, and while that city doesn’t actually exist, Glasgow was probably as close as I was going to get to it. It was a good trip, and this is a great album.

Incidentally, clicking on the album cover above takes you to the Amazon page where you can download the mp3 version of the album. At just $6.93 (cheap!), it’s worth it.

Zoe’s Tale Review on Slashdot

Oh, excellent. Just in time for the last-minute “I’m a geek and haven’t gone shopping for the holidays yet, what should I get?” crowd, which, you may be assured, I am certainly a part of.

And the review is nice, too:

This is a strong entry in a great series that I believe is destined to be considered a classic. Scalzi’s entry into the field is a welcome treatment of classic themes with a fresh new viewpoint that is smart and entertaining.

Groovy.

If you go over to check out the review, I’d note to you that the comment thread is somewhat spoilery about the series in general.

Quick Music Review: Fall Out Boy, Folie a Deux

The Quick Review: It’s everything I come to Fall Out Boy for, just slightly less, so overall I’ll give it a B-. I find myself noting with a growing alarm that when this generation’s rock bands mature, they get more twee (see as well: The Killers) and I’m not really down with that. That said, FoB is still more clever than stupid, and I’m getting enough of what I want, so I’ll stick around for the next album to see where they’re going with all this.

Winter Where You Are (Unless You’re On the Other Side of the Equator)

The first day of winter here at the Scalzi Compound is bright, sunny, and about 10 degrees Fahrenheit, although with the high, blustery winds at the moment, Weather.com tell me it actually feels like -12 degrees. Well. Good excuse to stay inside all day, I suppose.

How is winter where you are? Unless, as noted, you’re on the other side of the equator, in which case, how is summer?

Business Note Re: Anthologies, Part II

Last May, I noted I was suspending participation in original short story anthologies through July 2009, on account of scheduling and other factors. It’s time to update that, and the update is:

Until further notice, I will not be accepting any short story anthology invitations.

There are various reasons for this, but much of it simply comes down to time, as in, I’m already all booked up for 2009, and 2010 is looking to be equally busy. Yes, I am lucky. No reason to push my luck by pissing off anthology editors when I blow past a deadline.

This doesn’t mean I won’t be writing short fiction in the next couple of years, just that it’s not likely to be in an anthology (aside from fiction I’ve already sold to anthologies). My plan for the next couple of years at least is to write short fiction when the mood strikes me, rather than to a deadline.

I’ve updated my work availablity page to reflect this, but I figured it’d be worth posting a general notice about it as well.