Reader Request Week 2008 #4: Where I Am Now

Dan asks:

Cast yourself back to the Scalzi of twenty years ago.

Now, in your life, are you anywhere near where you thought you’d be?

Yeah, pretty much I am. Twenty years ago I was a first-year student in college, and I had a weekly column in the college newspaper and I had bluffed my way into upper-level creative writing course (in which the professor on the first day declared that there was to be no science fiction written for his class, the bastard!), and I pretty much figured I was going to be a writer in the future, because that’s what I was then, and what I knew I was good at (relatively speaking) and wanted to continue doing.

There are specifics that I wouldn’t have expected. For example, living in Ohio, which still occasionally comes as a shock to this southern California boy. Also, I didn’t anticipate the Internet in any way. When I was in college I assumed I would go on and be a columnist at a newspaper or a magazine. Well, I did — at 24, I was the youngest nationally syndicated newspaper columnist in America (and quality-wise, alas, it showed) — but I didn’t then expect that I would end up essentially writing a daily column online, on my personal site, which gets as many weekday visitors as the average American newspaper has in weekday circulation. I mean, come on, that’s a little wacky. It still surprises me. But it doesn’t surprise me I’m writing in this form.

And as for writing novels, not surprised there, either. I hoped I would be writing books, and let’s just say I’m not entirely surprised I ended up writing science fiction at this point, either. I suppose I could have made my debut in fiction by writing a sensitively-written novel about a young writer who goes back to his hometown and meets up with all the old friends he’s left behind (and the one girl who was always meant for him, and still is), filled with exquisitely observed moments leading to a small Moment of Realization™ near the end, but inasmuch as I just threw up a little in my mouth even writing that description, I’m glad I went the route of aliens and exploding space ships. Just more fun, you know?

So, yeah: I became what I wanted to be when I grew up. It’s nice. We should all be so lucky. But then I suppose if we were all so lucky, there’d be millions of astronauts and quarterbacks, and a substantial number of people who were both. I don’t think our economy could support that.

(there’s still time to ask questions for Reader Request Week 2008: Post your question here.)

18 Comments on “Reader Request Week 2008 #4: Where I Am Now

  1. Instead you wrote your debut in fiction by writing a sensitively-written novel about a old ad-writer who leaves his homeworld and meets up with all the old friends he’s gone to war with (and the one girl who was always meant for him, and still is), filled with exquisitely observed moments leading to a small Moment of Realization™ near the end involving aliens and exploding space ships.

    Just sayin’. (grin)

    Dr. Phil

  2. Hee-hee. First comment and the re-write of Scalzi’s words — for the win!

    Dr. Phil

  3. Oh, sure, Dr. Phil. Give away the ENTIRE PLOT.


  4. So Cal is for wussies. Admit it, Ohio winters have made a man out of you. After all, nothing is more manly than watching your neighbor plow your drive.

  5. Every time I see an academic decry genre fiction it reminds me of how far the academics have moved from the mainstream. When I see most of the “literary fiction” that’s so praised by academics all I can think of is watching a literary circle-jerk and that’s not something that interests me.

    Exploding space-ships for the win.

  6. I bet that professor would’ve been fine with you writing CanLit (Canadian Literature) though. It’s easy to write too. You just have to write from the perspective of a woman growing up on a farm in the prairie provinces somewhere between 1890 and 1940. Give her an abusive husband and write a scene later in her life where she’s kind of happy and kind of sad that he’s dead.

  7. “… the familiar theme of boy-being meets girl-being beneath a silvery moon, which then explodes …”

    I think we’re all better off with you writing exquisitely observed moments of exploding spaceships.

    Although that other story might be GoodForYou™. Sort of like cod liver oil.

  8. …a sensitively- sensationally-written novel about a young writer ninja who goes back to his hometown and meets up with stalks all the old friends fiends he’s left behind escaped (and the one girl who was always meant for him, and still is), filled with exquisitely observed fucked-up moments leading to a small hellacious Moment of Realization Retribution™ near the end…

    It’s infinitely versatile. Kinda like the Hero’s Journey of comment threads.

  9. Kelsey, be careful. There’s actually quite a few of us former So Cal people who have found ourselves in Ohio. Although I do push the snow off my own damn driveway (except these past two times where I borrowed my neighbors snowblower). And now that we’re all manly men, were too busy watching basketball to bother.

    And ‘splody space ships rock ever so much more than teen-aged angst infusions from writers in their late twenties.

  10. Well, good for you. I am doing absolutely nothing I thought I would be doing back when I was in college, and doing other things I never thought I would do. What I thought then and what my life is like now are so different they are like two separate people. This life is better.

  11. I forget what I wanted 20 years ago, but I doubt if it was “lazy soccer mom blogger.”

  12. Truly, in high school I wasn’t sure what I’d end up doing but I wanted it to be something where I would still be learning new things. Here I am working as a Windows Systems Admin in IT –be careful what you wish for.

  13. Steve, snowblowers are manly. Good for you.

    I wish watching basketball was more of a manly requirement than knowing the difference between the two types of screwdrivers. Sigh.

  14. I think creative writing classes that forbid science fiction can be good things, and I’m a lover of science fiction. Here’s why: They’re supposed to be about learning to write. And if the most interesting thing about your story is the space ship (or the aliens), and the part with people isn’t very good, then it’s not going to be a good book.

    It’s like learning woodworking with hand tools, even though you’ll be working with power tools later on.