Monthly Archives: January 2008

I Met John Scalvi!

There was a printer’s error involving the convention ribbons I’m giving out to people here at the ConFusion science fiction convention (which, for those of you who are not geeks, are ribbons that con-goers can attach to their convention badges). Thus:

Excellent. I put “John Scalvi” into Google, to see what would happen: First, Google asked “Did you mean John Scalzi,” which is nice little ego boost (hey! Google knows me!), and then all the references were to me, with my name misspelled. Which I don’t think is any sort of fun at all.

So, for today’s fiddly time-waster while I’m away from my computer: Let’s create John Scalvi! In the comments, write the following: “I met John Scalvi…” plus some interesting fact, legend or assertion you wish to communicate about the man. For example:

I met John Scalvi. He smells of cheese.
I met John Scalvi. He has arm freckles that resemble the constellation Cassiopeia.
I met John Scalvi. I heard he once ate a live toad.
I met John Scalvi. He has mystical powers over pillbugs.
I met John Scalvi. We fought who made better baked ziti: Mario Batali or Martin Heiddeger.

Don’t feel you must constrain yourself by physics, logic or by anything else anyone else has written about the man, including me.

So: Have you met John Scalvi? What can you tell me about him?

A Symposium While I’m Away

Traveling today and lots of errands to get to before then. Stay out of trouble until I get back.

To keep you busy, let’s hold a symposium: What did the big hair rock bands wore in the 80s mean? What did it represent? What did it signify? From whence as a symbol did it come and to what misty signatory fate has it gone? Is there a semiosis we can somehow employ to understand the role of this bleached, poodle-y, split-ended phenomenon of the arena rock days of yore? I crave your insight.

To foment reason, I offer you a representative sampling of 80s big hair, in the form of: Giuffria!

Seriously, this video is a doctoral thesis on the semiotics of big hair all on its lonesome. You could build an academic career out of it. Probably, somewhere, someone has.

Temp Cat™ Requires a Name

Temp Cat™ passed two critical tests in the last 24 hours: The one at the vet that shows he’s free of feline leukemia, and the one here at the Scalzi Compound that shows he knows how to use a litter box and thus can be trusted to stay indoors overnight without pooping on the comforter. He’s now been given his shots (not happy about that) and made a member of the clan. Good for him.

What Temp Cat™ does not have yet, however, is a name. While Krissy has one or two in mind (including, actually, “Temp Cat™”), we thought it might be fun to throw it open to you, the teeming Whatever masses, to see what suggestions you might have. In fact, we’ll make it an official contest, with a prize and everything. And so, I am proud to present:

The Official Name Temp Cat™ Contest!

The rules are simple:

1. The name can’t be obscene (because, dude, we have to call him this name every day, in front of other people).

2. Pick no more than five names and put them all in the same comment. This is to make it easier on us, and to make sure one person doesn’t just reel off a whole bunch of names. Man, that’s not cool.

3. Sometime next week, Krissy will look through the comment thread and see if she likes any of the names more than the names she’s already thinking about. If she does, you win. If she doesn’t, then, well, you’re all out of luck. Sorry.

Easy enough.

What does the winner win? Dunno. How about a book? I have some lying around. We can decide which one when/if you win. I’ll even sign it.

To help you in your naming quest, some data about Temp Cat™: He’s a he, he’s about six months old, about 6 pounds, pushy in a cute way, aggressive without being obnoxious, fairly vocal and pretty active and playful. Black and white, obviously. Eats a lot. Purrs constantly. Is a small carnivore. You know.

All right, get to namin’!

Things One Should Not Forget: The Quickening

Jonah Goldberg rather dramatically misses the point thusly about why people look askance at his assertion that Mussolini was not on the political right:

Again and again people are throwing a few Mussolini quotes at me where he talks about being on “the Right” and therefore — case closed — he was on the “Right.”

Since I’m one of the people tossing the quote, and he name checks me in the entry previous to that one (in which he admits that he hasn’t read what I’ve written but nevertheless opines that I clearly haven’t read a great deal about fascism, which is a neat trick, I have to say), let me clarify this for him, at least from my point of view.

The reason I tossed the quote at him is because in an interview he made the really very silly statement that Mussolini was called right wing only because he supported World War I. The Quote, however, rather elegantly contradicts that very silly statement, because it showed that Mussolini viewed himself as being on the right, politically, thus offering another possible reason as to why people might think of him as right wing: Because he said he was. And who’s going to argue that point to Mussolini? Especially in 1932?

Again, if Goldberg’s going to make stupid and easily refutable statements, he should expect people to smack him down for it. This was one of those statements. And thus, the smackination. Goldberg deserved it, he got it, done.

However, if you didn’t notice, Goldberg’s trying pull to a fast one here by suggesting that all people have to argue that Mussolini was on the right were a few quotes where he says “hey, I’m on the right.” Point of fact, he’s not just on the right, cased closed, because he uses the word “right.” Context matters, and the context for the quote in question is the Doctrine of Fascism, in which Mussolini (or his ghostwriter, whose work Mussolini then signed off on) makes a pervasive case as for why his movement is a right-leaning movement, and why it stands in contrast to, and in opposition to, socialism, liberalism and democracy. Mussolini doesn’t have to write “Hey! I’m on the right! Look at me! Right! Wooo!” every single paragraph; that devil — the awful, nasty, autocratic devil — is all there in the details. It’s not a matter of a “few Mussolini quotes” here and there; it’s a document in which Mussolini explicitly details what Fascism is, and what it stands against. Mussolini explicitly declaring fascism to be a right-focused movement is just the sparkly, obvious jewel mounted in a setting of pervasive “right” rhetoric.

Now, as I understand it from the article linked above, Goldberg wants to argue that Fascism was really on the left, on the argument that back in the day, everyone was so left, and in such a massive way, that just being a little left let you claim you were actually on the right, and that’s where Mussolini was. Well, it’s an argument. It does seem from what I’ve read that Goldberg is conflating “collectivist” with “leftist,” which makes things easier for him, but I don’t have any problem with letting him ride that pony. I just wouldn’t bet on it in a race.

Goldberg says “if you can get beyond my critics cherry-picked quotations from texts and speeches they never read until last week, and look instead at the anatomy of fascism, it becomes most clearly part and parcel of the collectivist, leftist tide during the first half of the 20th century.” This is nice snark, but inasmuch as Goldberg himself couldn’t actually seem to remember much about the “Doctrine of Fascism” when he was asked about it and had material quoted to him from it in his Salon interview, it falls, well, a bit flat and calls into question his own research on the subject. “It’s been about three years since I’ve read it,” is his fairly lame excuse when exhibiting his total noncomprehension of it. Really, Mr. Goldberg? A seminal treatise on what Fascism is, from the guy who invented the movement, and you can’t recall even a little bit of it, in a discussion of your book about fascism? Really?

You know, it’s pretty short. It’s no Das Kapital. You could tuck it in in about an hour. I think you might consider reading it (again). Especially since people are pwning your words up and down the Intertubes with it. Just a suggestion. Mind you, I don’t expect it to change your mind any — you’ve got a book to promote and it wouldn’t do for you to have a Saul-on-the-way-to-Damascus moment on the subject — but at the very least I would feel more confident that you weren’t just pulling all “liberal fascism” stuff entirely out of the air, holding it up to the light and saying “look, I’ve picked myself a cherry.”

Mr. Goldberg, you haven’t read me but suspect I don’t know much about fascism. Well, I am reading you, the parts where you’re shucking and jiving on the Internet, anyway, and I have to say, I’m getting pretty much the same vibe about you.

Ten (More) Things I’ve Done You Probably Haven’t

I’m hiding from the Internet today because I made certain promises to certain editors about having certain words to them by the weekend. To keep you occupied, however, I offer you this list of Ten (More) Things I’ve Done Your Probably Haven’t, to go with my original list two years ago. As was the case then, I encourage you to share your own list, either in the comments or on your own site, with a link to your site in the comments here.

Ready? Here we go:

Ten (More) Things I’ve Done You Probably Haven’t

1. Been offered a bong hit by members of Sonic Youth

2. Had a gauze-wrapped human kidney placed on my lunch tray as a birthday present

3. Walked into a glass door, snapping off part of a tooth

4. Gotten a thank-you letter from Jean-Claude Van Damme

5. Had the top of my head kissed and/or licked by a few dozen people over the course of a weekend

6. Had rocks thrown at my bus in a Palestinian refugee camp

7. Founded a right-wing college publication (no, really)

8. Wrote someone else’s (successful) college application essay

9. Autographed books that were on the other side of the country at the time

10. Administered a contest for a million dollars

That’s my list. What’s yours?

Things One Should Not Forget

Jonah Goldberg, who has never once used someone else’s verbal flubs for mocking purposes, ever, gets annoyed that people are amused that during a talk at the Heritage Foundation (update, 2:13pm: actually, in this Salon interview; he apparently himself forgot where he said it, and this is what I get for following his memory on the subject; editing now to reflect provenance) he momentarily forgot why Mussolini was called a fascist, i.e., because he was the founder of the Fascist Party:

Any fair minded person would agree that I simply misspoke. Instead these bandersnatches ignore the rest of the entire speech and focus on this unfortunate but entirely innocuous flub as “proof” of my total and complete ignorance and dishonesty.

My apologies for giving these buffoons the ammo, but anyone persuaded by this and this alone is beyond reasoning with anyway.

Jonah, dude, I don’t doubt that you misspoke. That’s pretty obvious. But, really. How does one — particularly one purporting to write a book on fascism — forget, even for a minute, that Mussolini was called a fascist because he was a Fascist? And not just a Fascist, he was the Fascist; indeed, the Platonic Ideal of a Fascist. Maybe you were nervous about being interviewed — you do it so infrequently, after all — but it’s kind of a big goof. We Americans may not know much about Mussolini, but we know three things: He made trains run on time, he bore an unsettling resemblance to George C. Scott, and that he was a goddamn Fascist. It’s not something one easily forgets, nor should forget, especially when one is, say, talking about fascism to the press. Try to do better next time, Mr. Goldberg. You’ll look less of an ass.

So that’s taken care of. Now I want to make the point that, aside from the fact that Goldberg had a mental burp when he forgot Mussolini was called a fascist because he was a fascist, OG style, yo, he was also way off with the rest of the statement in question. Which is:

Mussolini was born a socialist, he died a socialist, he never abandoned his love of socialism, he was one of the most important socialist intellectuals in Europe and was one of the most important socialist activists in Italy, and the only reason he got dubbed a fascist and therefore a right-winger is because he supported World War I.

Well, out here beyond the conservative event horizon, we’re pretty sure Mussolini, at the top of his authoritarian game, was happily right-wing and not a socialist. We know this because Benito — old school Fascist, fascist before fascist was cool — tells us so in the document in which he lays out the doctrine of Fascism:

Granted that the 19th century was the century of socialism, liberalism, democracy, this does not mean that the 20th century must also be the century of socialism, liberalism, democracy. Political doctrines pass; nations remain. We are free to believe that this is the century of authority, a century tending to the “right”, a Fascist century.

Now, I know it’s not the fashion to prefer the original sources to current, revisionist views of history, but what can I say, I went to the University of Chicago, and we’re old fashioned that way. So when Benito Mussolini — Fascist before Fascism became so popular no one went there any more — describes the “Fascist negation of socialism, democracy, liberalism” as a doctrine of the right, I tend to give credence to the man’s word.

Which is to say: not only was Mussolini dubbed a fascist because he formed the Fascists, Fascism is a right wing doctrine because Mussolini, who founded the movement, designed it to be. Therefore, Mussolini: right-wing and fascist! And self-admitted to both. You can read it for yourself.

I know, I know. Why should I believe anything Mussolini said? Dude was a fascist. We all know how they are. He probably called himself right-wing just to mess with the liberals and socialists. But when you remember that he dealt with liberals and socialists by actually killing them and then bragging about it on the floor of the Italian Parliament, you figure pulling literary pranks of this sort might have been a little subtle for him. Mussolini — fascist back when being fascist meant something, damn it — was all about the action. He’d tell you that himself, were he not eventually whacked by firing squad while trying to sneak out of the country and then hung upside down by meat hooks in the Piazzale Loreto for the general populace to abuse.

(To be fair to Goldberg, Mussolini did indeed do time, and prominently so, as a socialist. But eventually he stopped being one. You know why? Because he went and created the Fascist Party. Which was anti-socialist and right wing. Just ask the founder of it. I’ve not read Goldberg’s book so I’m not entirely sure what alchemy he uses to argue that a right-wing, anti-socialist political movement is and always was actually a left-wing socialist political movement, but I do suspect whatever argument it is, Mussolini himself would have found it less than satisfying, and being as much the political journalist as Goldberg is, would likely have offered him fair argument on the point, if he didn’t just have him, oh, shot.)

So. What have we learned today?

1. Fascism: Right wing authoritarian movement. Says so right there on the label.

2. When speaking in public about fascism, try not to forget why Mussolini, founder of Fascism, arguably a fascist movement, was called a fascist. Even for just a minute or two.

3. When declaring someone is a lifelong socialist and not right-wing, it helps not to have that person’s own words and writings (and actions, really) actively contradict you.

4. Original sources are jazzy and fun, and everybody should read them!

5. If you’re going to complain about people snarking without substance, don’t give them something substantive to snark about, too.

Done for now. Comments open. Behave.

(Update, 8:11pm — this entry is getting linked various places, and some new folks are coming in, so, new folks: try at least skimming the comments that are already here before posting your comment/criticism/argument. You might find the point you want to make has been discussed, and you can spring off of that. Believe it or not, the discussion is substantive, with lots of excellent comments from many points of view. Thanks.)

Cattitude

Inquiring minds want to know how the other cats are getting along with Temp Cat™, and the answer is tolerably if not enthusiastically. Anyone who has cats knows that when you introduce a new one into a house that has them there is a transitional period, and that’s what we have going on here. As a result, Lopsided Cat treats Temp Cat™ with disdain, and Ghlaghghee seems largely affronted by the presence of this hyperactive thing in her house. Ghlaghghee does in fact have a bit of a princess personality, so the fact a new cat has suctioned attention away from her regalness irks Her Fluffy Self to no end. It’s no help that Temp Cat™ is notably boisterous, which does not track with Ghlaghghee’s preferences. Be that as it may, they are beginning to be able to share common spaces together, as the picture above shows. Mind you, two minutes later Ghlaghghee stormed off to be alone. But it’s a start.

In other news, Krissy suspects that Temp Cat™ may in fact be owned by some neighbors of ours who like to keep cats as outdoor mousers (these neighbors’ former and now deceased cat, in fact, is the mother of Ghlaghghee and also, we suspect, Lopsided Cat). We have to doublecheck on this, but if it is the case, then Temp Cat™ is likely just freeloading off us at the moment because tiny rodents are scarce on the ground at the moment. This is not a bad thing — I think Temp Cat™ is cute, but don’t mind not having to be ultimately responsible for the little furball. Be that as it may, we may yet spring for the neutering even if it’s properly the neighbor’s cat, because they’re not likely to (thus the existence of our other cats), and the minute Temp Cat™ starts spraying is the minute he wears out his welcome.

Thus ends your Monday cat update. Thank you for your attention. Further updates as events warrant.

On That Path Lies Madness

I feel vaguely responsible for the trend that prompted this warning.

I don’t think there’s a thing wrong with sf/f authors reminding readers (and potential awards voters) of the work they have eligible for award consideration. It’s a larger field than ever, there are more outlets, online and off, and lots of stuff slips between the cracks even when people are actively paying attention. That said, you want to avoid getting all Chill Wills on people. There’s a difference between saying “this is my eligible stuff” and “Oh God, if you don’t vote for me I’ll die,” or something of more moderate phrasing but similar subtext.

Basically, remember that dignity counts. You can remind people your work is out there. You should let others (preferably people you have not planted) make the argument that your work should be on a ballot.

Plagiarism is Not Romantic

A couple of people have asked me if I have anything to say about the plagiarism accusations surrounding romance writer Cassie Edwards, which have been exhaustively documented at Smart Bitches, and the answer is no, not really. Ms. Edwards pretty clearly cut and pasted chunks of text from other peoples’ work, and that’s also pretty clearly plagiarism. The examples I’ve seen to be largely out of texts that are in the public domain, which is interesting, since if they are, even if it is plagiarism it wouldn’t be copyright infringement; it’s not a legal problem to plagiarize work not under copyright. But no one likes a plagiarist, even if they just stick to plundering the public domain.

What does get me is that Ms. Edwards’ excuse for her plagiarism is that she didn’t know she was supposed to credit sources: “When you write historical romances, you’re not asked to do that,” she told a reporter. This comment was no doubt followed by the the sound of all the other romance writers in the world groaning and smacking their heads in frustration, because Ms. Edwards, in an effort to rationalize her own bad behavior, just rather explicitly stated that romance writing is the warm, shallow, yellow-tinged end of the publishing pool. That’s going to make her popular at the next RWA shindig.

Also: Really? The woman writes 100 books over 25 years and is somehow unclear on the concept of plagiarism and attributing sources? That’s kind of like a long-haul trucker claiming after a couple of decades that he didn’t know he was supposed to use his turn signal when he changes lanes on the interstate. Yes, it’s that fundamental. Irony: at the moment, Ms. Edwards’ Wikipedia entry states that she “is known for her meticulous research.”

Really, it’s not hard: Attribute sources. If your publisher won’t let you have an acknowledgments page because paper is too dear, put up a Web site and do it there. And then you’re covered. Easy.

Celebrities: Ruining Everything

Another day, another letter from someone who thinks that having work out there in the market means that I need to shut up about the political process here in the United States. This is not a wholly uncommon occurrence for me and usually plays out like this: Someone reads Old Man’s War, assumes because it’s military fiction that I am some stripe of conservative and/or Heinleinian libertarian, comes here, catches me on a day I’m writing about politics, has the veins in their neck pop, and then writes me a letter or makes a comment suggesting that I shouldn’t write things they don’t like because then they might not be able to buy any more of my books, hint, hint.

To which my response is always the same: Kiss my ass, hint, hint. Someone who thinks that buying my books entitles them to suggest I need to be silent about anything is someone whose money I don’t need or want. It’s always the righties who do this; I can’t remember the lefties who disagree with my politics, and yes there are some, ever pulling this kind of stunt (on the other hand, the lefties who disagree with something I write often want me to write differently than I do, which is not something I get from the folks on the right. This may be indicative of larger political pathologies relating to the American right and left wings; I invite master’s theses on this subject).

To be clear, the vast majority of my right(ish) fiction readers who are aware of my personal politics appear to be content to let me be an idiot on the subject and buy my books anyway; I thank them for their patronage, from the very bottom of my mortgage, and I also thank them for their (ahem) liberal attitude on the subject. I am always glad to see when someone, right or left or orthogonal, decides that as a general rule they don’t have to filter every single aspect of their life through a screen of personal political orthodoxy. It speaks well of their higher cognitive functions, in my opinion.

That said, this particular letter was a new variation on the theme: rather than threatening not to buy future books unless I shut the hell up, which is the usual tactic, this one said that the decision not to buy future books was already made, because “I respect celebrities who are humble enough to keep their political views to themselves, and after visiting your website, it seems you do not fall into this category.” Mind you, there’s still an explicit “STFU” message here, which boils down to oh, if only you followed the rules and been a silent little monkey from first you entered the marketplace, I could still give you my precious, precious coin. But the “more in sorrow than in anger” tone here is a nice touch.

But the part that really got me was the implication that I am now a “celebrity,” and that celebrities, by this gentleman’s formulation, should be “humble enough to keep their political views to themselves,” which is a formulation that is less about humility, I expect, and more about “I own your work and therefore I own you, so shut up, monkey.” But let’s take each of these points in turn.

Celebrity, me: Yeah, really, not so much. Yes, I’m a writer who is well known among people who read science fiction, and among people who read blogs. This is not the same thing as being a “celebrity” in the generally accepted sense of the term. I don’t get recognized in public; hell, a lot of the times I don’t even get recognized at science fiction conventions, which is the one place people might have some inkling of what I look like, and are sometimes even looking for me. I’ve had conversations with people who were holding books of mine and had them not know who I was. This is amusing, to be sure, but it’s not celebrity.

This is fine. I used to interview movie stars and musicians, you know, and have friends who work with and near the genuinely famous. I’m not unfamiliar with actual celebrity. It seems tiring. When I was younger, I thought it would be nice to be famous; at this point in time I’m content to be well known in my own field. It seems to give some of the nicer perks of fame (i.e., people seeming to be glad to meet you, once they know who you are), without some of the more annoying aspects (i.e., absolutely no privacy whatsoever about any aspect of your life). True, this means I miss out on groupies, but I suspect after the first several hundred they lose their luster as well. I could be wrong. I might be willing to find out. Let me clear that with the wife and get back to you on it.

I don’t want to be disingenuous or artificially humble about my notability, but at the same time, let’s have some perspective. Let’s say I am a celebrity among science fiction writers. Fine. You know who is more famous than me? My cat. Who is more famous than her? Wil Wheaton. Who is more famous than him? Neil Gaiman. Who is more famous than Neil? Tila Tequila. And thus, we learn the value of celebrity. And more to the point, if I’m going to be required to shut up because I’m a celebrity, I want to be at least more famous than my cat. Although to be fair, my cat rarely gives her political opinion on anything. Maybe this guy should buy books from her. Soon to come from Ghlaghghee the Cat: Everything I Ever Really Needed to Know About Disembowling Defenseless Rodents I Learned from Karl Rove. Brilliant!

As for respecting celebrities humble enough to keep their political opinions to themselves, allow me to suggest, humbly, even, that this fellow really ought to grow up a little. What he’s really saying is that he doesn’t want his fantasy image of celebrities messed with through the inconvenient fact of a celebrity being an actual person. But, alas, celebrities are not merely poseable action figures for our enjoyment and control; they regrettably come with thoughts and brains and opinions and such, which they may wish from time to time to use and express. Possibly some of these celebrities will be not particularly astute in their opinions; you could say the same about real estate agents, plumbers, doctors, bloggers or any other group of people, including, alas, politicians. I wonder if this fellow also only patronizes real estate agents, doctors, plumbers, etc, who never express a political opinion outside the confines of their own brain, and if he does, if as a consequence he’s become quite the handy man.

(Also, you know: What about political celebrities? They are celebrities, after all. And clearly caught in a bind by this man’s strictures, for the moment they speak or write, they make it impossible for him to give them campaign contributions! Or buy their books! Oh, the conundrum.)

But at the end of the day, of course, it’s this man’s choice, and his money. I would not have him do other than stick to his guns; indeed, I celebrate his choice and wish to help him achieve it. This fellow offered a list of representiative celebrities — aside from me — who he thinks ruin his fun with their persistence in talking about politics: Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Ben Affleck and Sarah Jessica Parker. I’m sure there’s something that connects all four of those actors, but I’m not quite sure what it is. Nevertheless, to aid this fellow in his quest to purge from his entertainment dollar all entertainers who just can’t keep their mudflaps shut about politics, here’s a list of conservative celebrities, from BoycottLiberalism.com. I’m sure he will get right on not supporting any of their projects with his money. Likewise, I’m sure that in science fiction, this fellow will henceforth avoid any books by John Ringo, Orson Scott Card or Jerry Pournelle, to name just three gentlemen who unnecessarily sully the air with public announcements of their own political thoughts.

I wish this fellow the best of luck in his purge of all entertainment by people who have ever publicly expressed a political thought, and hope that he finds his resulting entertainment choices — nutrition information panels and car owner manuals, mostly — keep him gripped and on the edge of his seat, waiting to find out what happens next (SPOILER: Riboflavin did it! In the B Complex!)

For my part, I think restricting one’s entertainment only to those people who don’t ever speak about politics is pretty damn stupid, even when those entertainers have the temerity to have opinions that aren’t exactly like mine. But I suppose that’s because, silly me, I think that a multiplicity of political views is actually a good thing for the health of the country, as is the willingness of all Americans to speak their mind on the subject, even famous people, even when they disagree with me. I also think there’s more to life than just politics, and pity those who apparently don’t. But, hey, I’m a celebrity. What do I know.

Your Big Fat Election Brain Dump, 1/11/08

Because I haven’t pissed you guys off enough recently, that’s why.

* I was asked just before the New Hampshire primary who I was voting for, which confused me, because I don’t live in New Hampshire; Ohio’s primary isn’t until March 4. Even then, I’m not going to be voting for a presidential candidate in Ohio’s primary, because it’s a closed primary and I’ve been registered as an independent for as long as I’ve been voting. No soup for me.

But this doesn’t particularly worry me. In a matchup, I’ll take any of the top Democratic contenders over any of the top Republican contenders, because aside from the fact that there are no Republican candidates who I have any interest in voting for (I find McCain the most congenial to me philosophically and the only one who, should he win, won’t have me looking somewhat wistfully at the New Zealand immigration site to see if I have enough points to qualify), there’s also the simple fact that no Republican administration is going to be as motivated as a Democratic one to stop doing all the fucktarded things the Bush Administration has done over the course of the last seven years. Sorry, guys, the dude has trashed your brand.

I’m not going to go so far as to say that if the Democrats nominated a circus bear I’d vote for it over any GOP candidate, although I probably would vote for a circus bear over, say, Huckabee, because the bear would almost certainly know more about foreign affairs. But Clinton or Obama (or even Edwards, although I suspect he’s already toast and just hanging about to be kingmaker)? Really, not a problem.

* Well, if I were going to vote for one of the Democratic candidates, which would I vote for? Honestly, I have no clue, partly because since I don’t get to vote for either, and would be happy with either, I haven’t given it that much thought. But also, I’m happy to have the two of them debate each other and give everyone a good look at their positions and such. Emotionally, Obama appeals to me; he’s good with them there word thingies, and also to be blunt about it, having a President Obama would make it feel like the American people were doing a Ctrl+Alt+Delete on the previous eight years, and there’s a lot of appeal to that. But Clinton’s selling point — she’s already got the presidential apparatus ready to go — is not insignificant either. And also, you know, I don’t really have that foamy “Clintons are made of pure, baby-pureeing evil” thing going on, either. So I have no idea which I would go for. Since I don’t have to worry about it, I won’t.

* People who loathe the Clintons, singly and severally, like to cling to the shibboleth that her negatives are so high that when it comes right down to it people just won’t be able to will themselves to vote for her, and thus: President McCain (in a best-case scenario). I think these people are kind of high. Hello, McFly: This is a Clinton we’re talking about. You can’t kill them, they just keep coming, and you don’t need to look any further than New Hampshire for proof of that. What GOPers really fear about the Clintons is that at heart they have that same amoral “fuck you, I’m going to win this thing” vibe going that the GOP have made a bedrock of their recent character, and they do it better than Karl Rove and an entire flying squadron of College Republican automatons could ever do it.

Ask yourself, Clinton loathers: if in some alternate universe 2000 had been between Dubya and Clinton (either Clinton, they come as a package deal), do you think the Clintonistas would have tolerated the Florida vote count shenanigans? Does anyone really believe that Bush would have walked out of that the winner? One of the things I’ve always said about the 2000 election is that ultimately Bush won it because the Republicans were willing to snorkle through pig shit to get it, while the Democrats, and specifically Al Gore and his people, didn’t want to get their precious widdle hands mussed. When it came down to it, Gore didn’t want it enough. “Not wanting it enough” is not going to be a problem for Clinton.

For all the people who seem to believe that Clintons are universally loathed simply for being Clintons, it’s worth remembering that for the entirety of Bill Clinton’s second term (you know, the one he was impeached in), his approval rating never dropped below 54% (according to Gallup); as a contrast, the last time Bush saw an approval rating higher than that was the first couple of weeks of his second term; he hasn’t been at 50% since May, 2005 (alternately, his disapproval rating has been greater than 50% since August ’05). Al Gore’s cardinal sin of the 2000 campaign (aside from not fighting for it at the end) was running away from Clinton’s popularity; all he had then was himself. Hilary Clinton isn’t Bill Clinton, of course, for better and worse, but I think nevertheless the expiration date on the “Everyone hates the Clintons” meme is coming up a lot sooner than the Clinton haters suspect.

These are reasons that I can’t help but think the GOP would rather face Obama than Clinton in the general election: because I doubt she’s as unpopular as some folks want to believe, and also, when it comes right down to wallowing in the pig shit and going after your opponent with a splintery baseball bat, no one does it better than the Clintons, and the GOP is out of practice dealing with an opponent who not only hits back but is out to break your fucking skull. Obama’s already been marked as someone who wants to take the high road, which is to say, he’s a sitting duck for a smearing, and we all know how the GOP loves a soft target. The Clinton’s aren’t going to put up with that crap. The first 527 to try to Swift Boat Clinton is likely to get its collective ass handed to it.

* That said, I think it’s entirely possible we’ll end up with Obama as the Democratic candidate, in which case the GOP had better hope smearing still works, because that’s all they’re going to have on the dude. There’s no one out there who thinks Obama has experience; that’s not why you buy the Obama package. You buy it because the guy is smart and inspirational and makes people feel like a better day is coming; indeed, one of the more astute (and positively heretical) ideas I’ve read is the one that suggests that Obama is the true heir to Reagan, not for his policies but for how he makes people feel about where it’s possible for the country to go. If that’s anything close to the truth, then I hope the conservatives enjoyed their time at the top, because it’ll be going bye bye.

* Also, the GOP field? Monkeys. Or more accurately: Jesus Monkey, 9/11 Monkey, flip-flop Monkey with perfect hair, Monkey who wins teh Internets and fails everything else, and John McCain, who is not a monkey, but who is two years shy of how old Ronald Reagan was at the end of his second term, which is worrying. I want John McCain to tell us right now who his VP choice is going to be, because I have a sneaking suspicion that knowledge is going to be relevant in his case, and if he picks a monkey of the same quality as the rest of the GOP field, it’s back to perusing the New Zealand immigration Web site again.

But aside from McCain, seriously, y’all, what the hell? Is this field really the best you can do? Don’t get me wrong, Huckabee’s Chuck Norris ad gave me a giggle, and I think it’s nice that Ron Paul gives the “I read Atlas Shrugged every year and it gets better every time” crowd something to do through the chilly winter nights. But this is no way to run a railroad. I sincerely do hope McCain takes the nomination, because although I disagree with him substantively on a number of policy points, at least saying “President McCain” doesn’t make me want to vomit in my mouth a little, the way “President Romney” or “President Guliani” does (saying “President Huckabee” doesn’t make me want to vomit, but does make me want to sigh heavily and shake my head sadly). I can live with a President McCain. But I’m sorry for you Republicans you don’t have a better set of candidates to choose from.

* Bloomberg? If he does jump in, he’s a Perot, not a Nader. Another thing for you GOP folks to worry about in an already worrying year for you.

My 2008 ConFusion Schedule

Just one week to go until High-Voltage ConFusion, at which I am the Toastmaster, a task for which I have spent months assiduously mastering toast (it’s trickier than you think). To make stalking me easier, here is my schedule:

FRIDAY, JANUARY 18:

7 PM: Teh Awesome Duo – Revealed!
An interview with Guests of Honor Justine Larbalestier and Scott Westerfeld conducted by John Scalzi.
Notes: This should be a blast. I know all their dirty secrets. Alas, they also know most of mine, so there’s only so far I’m going to push it.

8PM: Opening Ceremonies
Opening Ceremonies and speeches by our Guests of Honor Scott Westerfeld and Justine Larbalestier (Author GoHs), Carl Lundgren (Art GoH), Kevin M. Dunn (Science GoH), Throwing Toasters (Music GoH), The Roaming Pirate Party (Fan GoHs), and John Scalzi (Toastmaster).
Notes: I’ll be the one in the purple spandex.

9PM: Dessert Reception with the Guests of Honor
This is a great place to walk right up to your particular favorite author or panelist for a quick chat or just to meet someone new. People and food and drink will be on hand.
Notes: Finally! I’ll get to cut in line at the dessert reception! I’m a GoH! Who’s gonna stop me!

10PM: Originality is Overrated
There’s this idea that writers work entirely alone and create their work out of whole cloth. That’s rubbish. If a work were wholly original no one would be able to read it. All writers are influenced by those who came before them. Most writers talk to other writers. Many are in writers’ groups and even those that aren’t frequently read and comment on each other’s work. Let’s talk about the influence and community that writers share. Even when they don’t know each other. Justine Larbalestier, Scott Westerfeld (M), Patrick Nielsen Hayden, John Scalzi, Patrick Rothfuss and Doselle Young.
Notes: Oh, crap, Patrick’s going to be there! Note to self: Carry laptop at all times; always appear to be working on Zoe.

After this one, you’re likely to find me at the dance, and then, once I’m all moist and sweaty, at the hotel bar.

SATURDAY, JANUARY 19:

10AM: Board Room Coffee with Toastmaster John Scalzi
Space is limited; please sign up in Ops ASAP.
Notes: There’s a good chance I’ll still be sweaty from the night before. Just to warn you.

Also, for those of you who don’t sign up for this in time, you can still see a Scalzi, as Krissy –yes, in the flesh — is one of the panelists for “Giving Clear Signals,” whose write up is as such: “Fans are not always known for their social acumen. This panel is about how to give—and how to read—social signals that clearly indicate interest, disinterest, or even an unquestionable brush-off.” I’m really annoyed I’m scheduled opposite this, because Krissy is going to be f&*#in’ awesome at this.

12 NOON: Piracy of Fiction on the Internet
What is fair use versus exploitation without compensation? Patrick Nielsen Hayden, John Scalzi (M), Merry Haskell and Paul Melko
Notes: Oh noes! Teh Intarnets be steelin’ mah fikkshun! Between the four panelists here, this will not be an unopinionated panel.

2PM: The Short Sell
Where are the current markets for short sf? Are some better than others? What is the place for short fiction in the science fiction field today? John Scalzi (M), Mike Resnick, William Schafer
Notes: Holy crap, is this panel going to be entirely off the hook.

4PM: Science Fiction Gaming
Most young people play video games more than they read or watch television; how much has science fiction been a part of this new medium? Tobias Buckell (M), The Ferrett, Karl Schroeder, John Scalzi
Notes: Don’t tell ConFusion, but rather than having a panel, we’re all bringing our game rigs, lashing ‘em together, and then you’re going to watch as I totally pwn these llamas at Unreal Tournament III.

5PM: Mass Autograph Session
Notes: Finally! Get an autograph and be absolved of your sins, all at the same time! No, really; I’m an ordained minister. I can totally get you out from under on the sin thing. More seriously, this likely to go for a half hour unless the lines are crazy, so come early.

After this I’ll be likely hanging about, going to the dance (again), and once again loitering in the bar afterward.

SUNDAY, JANUARY 20:

11AM: Gluten-Free Fantasy
Most medieval cultures didn’t have chainmail, swords, horses, or wheat. Yet the overwhelming majority of medieval cultures in fantasy do. What do we stand to gain by breaking the bonds of Europe on our collective imagination? And what’s so scary about bolas, sled-dogs, and rice? Justine Larbalestier, Scott Westerfeld, John Scalzi, Karl Schroeder, Jim Frenkel
Notes: My odds-on bet for the most entertaining panel of the convention.

12 NOON: The Art and Science of Evolving as a Writer
In order to improve as a writer you have to practice. What are some of the ways to do this? How can you tell if there is improvement? (John Scalzi, Steve Climer (M), Paul Melo, Sarah Zettel)
Notes: In the comments, Jim C. Hines says he’s also on this panel. And I, for one, believe him.

That’s it for me on Sunday.

And of course, feel free to say hi if you’re there and you happen to see me. If you don’t recognize me, I’m likely the short balding dude standing next to this person:

Hope that helps.

So: Who’s coming to ConFusion? And if you’re not, what’s your incredibly lousy excuse?

Temp Cat™ Yearns for the Bennies

With the exception of the three or four hours he spent up a tree yesterday, chased there by Kodi after he foolishly ran away from her, thus triggering her hunting reflex, Temp Cat™ is doing fine, as you can see. We still need to canvass the neighborhood to see if anyone’s missing him, but I believe Krissy has already scheduled a vet trip for him for shots, deworming and possible detestefying. I say “possible” because Krissy seems to think he’s been previously snipped; I rather think it’s that he’s not yet hit cat puberty. Either way, we’ll find out. And naturally once we’ve paid for his emasculation, then we own him, because if you’re going to take someone’s balls from him, you pretty much owe him lifetime support.

And no, before someone asks, “Temp Cat™” is not his name, it’s his current condition. Should the owner location project fail, and post shots and snippery, he will be put on staff at the Scalzi Compound and given a name. Personally I think his name is Robert Paulson, but that’s probably too obscure to amuse anyone but me. Anyway, Krissy has declared she has naming rights this time, and when you consider the fact the other two cats are named Ghlaghghee and Lopsided Cat, this is probably for the best.

In any event, off to writing. If I don’t finish this chapter today, I will have to put my head in the garbage disposal. It’ll be a while before I’m back. Try to amuse yourself somehow.

Also, before anyone notes it: Yes, that’s a bacon wallet package in my “in” box. A gift from a friend. I’m waiting for just the right occasion to use it.