Monthly Archives: March 2008

Voyage to Journey Planet

Last week I was interviewed by fanzine editor James Bacon for Journey Planet, the official fanzine of EasterCon, on the subject of fanzines and being nominated for the Best Fan Writer Hugo last year. Unbeknownst to the good Mr. Bacon, at the time we were talking I knew I was also nominated for Best Fan Writer this year, but because the nominations had not been officially announced I had to keep mum about it. So when he asked questions like “would you like to be nominated for Best Fan Writer again?” I had to pretend like I hadn’t been, yet. Cognitive dissonance is a funny thing. Sorry, James. I would have told you if I could have.

In any event, it’s a pretty good interview, and all of Journey Planet is well worth reading (and looking at, since it features sketches by Neil Gaiman), and you can get the PDF version of the zine here. My interview begins on page 21.

So Insanely Jealous

Phil Plait (of the Bad Astronomy blog) is getting an asteroid named after him. I’m so jealous I think my head might just explode. Congratulations, Phil, you lousy bastard.

Note to astronomers: if you happen to have any unnamed asteroids lying around you want to name after me, you just let me know. I don’t want to want to say I’ll bribe you — that would be wrong – but, you know. I’ve named characters after astronomers before. I’m just saying.

Double Whammy

A depressing little story in the Columbus Dispatch: Almost one in ten Ohioans receives food stamps, and thanks to rising food costs (one presumes both because of rising transport costs and the fact that everyone’s planting corn for ethanol now, rather than food crops) that $1 per meal per person doesn’t go anywhere as far as it used to. As much as it would be easy and dismissive to suggest all these folks just need to get jobs, I’m guessing a lot of them do have jobs, just jobs whose pay sucks, and now sucks more because what they get paid buys even less (related story: people now using 25% of their paychecks for gas). The rejoinder: They should get better jobs. Yes, well. Welcome to Ohio, home of a collapsing manufacturing economy, where the motto is “At least it’s not as bad as Michigan. Yet.”

Note to self: Next Whatever charity drive: Local food bank.

Tuesday Pimpery, 3/25/08, Plus a Open Pimp Thread

I’m in the mood for promotion, both in the “self” and “other” flavors, so here we go:

* First, the final print edition of Subterranean magazine is available for pre-order, and for Old Man’s War completists, it includes the magazine debut of “Questions for a Soldier,” my short story which was previously only in chapbook form (and which is currently available, when it is available, for like $100). “Q4aS” slots in between Old Man’s War and The Ghost Brigades in the OMW timeline, and features the first appearance of places of and characters that recur in The Last Colony (and Zoe’s Tale). So if you love series continuity — and I know you do! — this is where to get it. Plus, the magazine also features new fiction by Sarah Monette, Jason Erik Lundberg, Michael Marshall Smith and a bunch of other folks. All for $6. I tell you, that’s value for your entertainment dollar.

* Second, my pal Mary Robinette Kowal has been nominated for the Campbell Award this year, which is awesome, and recognizes that as the only short-story writer in the bunch, she has an uphill battle for reader recognition, which is sad. So she’s hand-picked a selection of stories for you to peruse, for free, which tips the scales back into “totally awesome” territory once again. Enjoy, and if you’re a voter for this year’s Hugos and Campbells, please give her due consideration.

* Third, but wait! Here’s more Campbell-nominated goodness! Campbell-nominated author Jon Armstrong’s novel Grey has been released in free eBook form, also presumably for your awards voting consideration. Go here, and then scroll down to the bottom for the link to the downloadable version.

* Fourth, for those of you starting the rest of your Hugo story consideration, SF Signal is keeping track of and updating the list of nominated fiction available online — here’s where it stands at the moment, and if you go back from time to time, you may see it updated with new links.

(For those of you wondering when I’ll make The Last Colony available to Hugo voters in electronic form: It’s coming. Have to do a few things first.)

Having now primed the pump, I declare this an open pimp thread, in which you can feel free to promote the stuff you like right now, and/or promote something you have out there in the world. Promote friends! Promote yourself! Promote good dental hygiene! Because, really, there’s not enough of that in the world.

(Standard note: adding more than one link per comment may punt your comment into the moderating queue. Don’t panic if that happens; I’ll release it sooner or later.)

So: What do you want to tell us about?

Constituting an Official Bitch and Moan at io9.com

Dear io9.com:

So, your Hugo award nomination coverage consists of one paragraph three days after the Hugos nods were announced — no list, no commentary, no snark about the nominees. Meanwhile, your coverage of a painting of a bear with a cannon rates three graphs.

Thanks for letting us on the literary side of science fiction know how we rate these days.

Kisses,

Scalzi

This is What We Get For Painting Her Teeth With Corn Syrup Every Night Before Bed

Athena is off to get a cavity filled. I am going along for moral support, and because she can’t drive herself to the dentist. See you all in the afternoon. Remember to floss.

The Hugo Downside, Such As It Is

From the vasty fields of e-mail, a question about the Hugos:

“Now that you’re an old hand with the Hugos, tell us if there’s a downside to getting a nomination.”

Hmmm.

The short answer is no, not really. Particularly in the case of a Best Novel nod, what a Hugo nod means is that during the four months between the announcement of the nomination and the announcement of the winner of the award, your book is one of the big topics of conversation among science fiction fans and readers, and that’s the sort of focus you dream of. It means eyeballs on your words, a little extra cash in your pockets as people go out and buy your book (which on its next printing will have the word “HUGO NOMINEE” plastered on the cover), and some bump in your status on the intangible but nevertheless real list of who is who in the genre. It’s hard to complain about any of that.

The long answer is: Actually, yeah, there can be downside — if you’re the sort of person who doesn’t realize that being in the spotlight not only means that your work is given an opportunity to shine, it also means your work is a well-lit target for people to throw things at. Because once your book or story or art has been declared a nominee for the most prestigious award in the genre, there are inevitably people who are going to step forward and say, loudly and publicly, “Really? That work? Really?” And then once they’re done banging on your work, there’s also a chance they’ll have a few choice words to say about you.

As an example, since the Hugos were announced last Friday, there has been no shortage of people online who have been, well, underwhelmed that The Last Colony made the short list. Comments I’ve seen suggest it’s too lightweight for the honor, that it’s underwritten, that it’s poorly written, that it’s yet another predictable sacrifice at the altar of Heinlein, that it pales in worthiness to one and/or all of the other nominees, or that it’s taking the place of some more worthy tome that lurks below the nomination cut. Even worse, there are some people who are indifferent to it, which really sucks. At least the people who don’t like it felt strongly about it.

Mind you, it’s not just my book. Look online, and you’ll see each of the nominated books and authors has their full share of people wondering what the hell that book and author are doing on the ballot. And indeed, you’ll also find sweeping judgments on the Class of ’08 as a whole, ranging from dismissive to hostile. Apparently, we all suck, individually and in aggregate, even though the members of the class have won Hugos, Pulitzers, Campbells (both flavors), Nebulas and BSFA awards. Likewise you have people saying that (pick one book) will win even though (pick another one) clearly is the better book, because (insert rationale unrelated to literary quality here). Or they are casting aspersions on a particular author, his personality, his talent and possibly his cat. And there will be yet other criticisms: say, that none of the Best Novel nominees are fantasy novels, or that none of the authors of the books nominated are women.

This will go on for the next four months.

Now, to be clear, what will also go on are people defending each book and writer in turn, praising the work and the person who wrote it, and generally touting their favorites to friends and strangers. And, you know, that’s a good thing. The point here, however, is that as great as it is to get nominated for a Hugo, what it also means is that everybody gets to have their say in the quality of your nominated work and in your talent as a creator, and by no means will everyone think you or your work is wonderful — or, indeed, even mediocre.

If you’re not prepared for that, I think it can be hard to take, especially at first. Creative types are a twitchy lot as it is; a lot of us are really no good at all at handling criticism, especially if we perceive it as casually unfair or nasty. Going from the high of getting your work on a Hugo ballot to the low of someone going into detail about why it shouldn’t be there at all can be fairly whiplash inducing. Couple that with the general stress of being nominated for a major award (the number of science fiction and fantasy authors who are genuinely unconcerned about winning a Hugo is small and largely confined to the population of writers who have already won the Hugo of their choice), and you’re well on your way to making a writer an ulcerating wreck. To paraphrase a certain schadenfreude-laden saying, those SF/F writers the geek gods wish to punish, they nominate for the Hugo.

Is this my plea for fandom to be nice to those poor, suffering Hugo nominees, afflicted as they are by their acclaim? Well, no. As it happens I fall solidly into the camp of those celebrating the idea that fans and readers can and should say anything they like about the work authors and artists offer up for public consumption, and that creative types need to come to grips with the fact that not everyone is going to think either they or their work are special and beautiful flowers, to be cherished and gently held up to the sun. Having people bitching about your Hugo-nominated work is one of those high-class problems that lots of folks would kill to have, and the writers in the position of being nominated should (and, I think, largely do) recognize it as such.

Nevertheless, if there’s a downside to the Hugo (or, indeed, to any competitive award widely discussed in the public sphere) that’s what it is. High-class problem or no, having someone say “dude, your work doesn’t deserve to be on the ballot” still takes a little getting used to. Of course, if you win, I expect you manage to get over it pretty quickly. So that’s the upside.

My Online Social Life

It occurs to me that at this point I have a lot of memberships on the various “Social Web” sites out there, and that it might be worth it to make a widget to point to those memberships for folks who have any interest in linking to me on those sites. So, in the far right sidebar, you’ll now see a “Socially Speaking” widget, with links to my profiles on these sites. Do what you will with the information.

Kindles and Owning Your eBooks

At this very moment (10:41 am, 3/23/08), Old Man’s War is #2 on Amazon’s Kindle Store Science Fiction bestseller list; only Slaughterhouse Five stands between it and glory. That’s all right, though; Kurt’s a Chicago alum. I can spot him the top seed. As noted before, I haven’t the slightest idea what a high Kindle Store ranking means in terms of actual sales; I suppose I’ll have to wait until my late 2008 royalty report to find out. But it’s nice to see the eBooks are presumably doing okay by me.

Apropos to this, here’s an article which notes that there’s some debate about whether by buying Old Man’s War or any other book electronically, you actually own the book, or if you just own a license to display the book on your eBook reader. Well, I’m just the author and copyright owner, so it’s not like my opinion matters too much around these here parts. But personally I’m of the opinion that if you’ve paid for the eBook, you own it, and can do whatever you like with it, up to and including giving it to someone else when you’re done with it (hopefully, if you do that, you’ll only do it once, as opposed to making hundreds of copies for everyone you know. That I consider, well, you know, wrong).

Now, whether what I think will make a difference to the people selling the eBooks is up for debate. But just in case anyone asks, that’s where I stand on the matter.

Copyediting Commas

Just got through looking at the copyedit of Zoe’s Tale and generally it’s pretty good — the copyeditor has indeed saved me from making an ass of myself on a grammatical level, which is what copyeditors are supposed to do. That said, as I was going through the copyedit I was reminded that apparently the way I use commas, and the way copyeditors use commas, are two completely different things, because I spent a whole lot of time going through and writing STET where my copyeditor either added or subtracted commas.

There are two reasons for this, as far as I can see:

1. As a former newspaperman, I firmly believe that the serial comma is an abomination before humanity and must be eradicated unless it’s absolutely required to avoid ambiguity;

2. I frequently use commas (or remove commas) to set the pace for a sentence.

Since the serial comma is inexplicably the law of the land in book publishing, this means lots of serial commas put in which I then have to take out; since the copyeditor is not always aware I’m using commas (or the lack thereof) for pacing, this means the copyeditor putting (or taking) out commas based on strict grammatical rules. Which again I need to go back and STET.

This is not me blaming the copyeditor, incidentally — the copyeditor’s job is to use the publishing house’s style guide and to correct what he or she sees as grammatical errors. And on my end, there are a several places where the copyeditor changed the comma usage and I’ve felt the change was beneficial. It’s useful for me to have a copyeditor go, “no, no, you need to put a comma here,” so I can say “no, really I don’t,” or, alternately, “hmmm, I guess you’re right.”

That said, I think next time I’ll just ask Tor to stop asking its copyeditors to put in the serial comma during the copyedit. Because the serial comma, it is evil. Evil!

The Catnip-Filled Sock Claims Another Victim

A tragedy, really. I thought Lopsided Cat might be strong enough to hold out against The Sock. I see now that I was wrong.

Lots of stuff to do today; I suspect there will be light posting from here on out.

And Just So Not Everything Today is About the Hugos

There’s this, from the “Things We Already Knew Already” department, about Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the Democratic nomination at this point in time:

Unless Clinton is able to at least win the primary popular vote — which also would take nothing less than an electoral miracle — and use that achievement to pressure superdelegates, she has only one scenario for victory. An African-American opponent and his backers would be told that, even though he won the contest with voters, the prize is going to someone else.

People who think that scenario is even remotely likely are living on another planet.

Ayuh.

Also, I’m interested in what people think the over/under is on an Obama/Richardson ticket. I wouldn’t bet against it, personally.

Quick Hugo Follow-up Q&A

Hugo announcement days are good for your ego when you’re on the ballot, but not great for getting a huge amount of work done, because you’re busy answering congrat e-mails and such. Yes, this is in the class of “problems one wishes one could have.” But I’m getting some specific questions in e-mail and comments which I thought I’d post up here.

1. How can I vote for the Hugo? (this is from a family member, bless ‘em)

Get a membership to Denvention 3. It’s this year’s Worldcon, for those of you who don’t know this already. If you plan to go to the convention, you should get an attending membership, which is $200. If you don’t plan on attending but still want to vote, get a supporting membership, which is $50. Buying either sort of membership also means you’ll be able to nominate for the Hugos in 2009.

2. Will you be attending Denvention 3?

Indeed I will be; I reserved my hotel room about a month ago. I actually have a busy travel schedule in late July and August — among other things I will be Guest of Honor at ArmadilloCon in Austin a week after Denvention 3 — so even though I had reserved a room I was sort of holding off on getting a membership. But now I have a couple of reasons to go, aside from seeing a whole bunch of friends and fans and enjoying Denver. So, yes: See you there.

3. Will you be making an electronic version of The Last Colony available for Hugo voters?

Yes. Some of you may recall that when Old Man’s War was nominated for the Hugo, I made it available electronically for Hugo voters, in a bundle that included Robert Charles Wilson’s Spin and Charlie Stross’ Accelerando. I’ll definitely be making TLC available to Hugo voters in electronic form, and I’ll ping the other nominees to see if they want to bundle up our books into a single package. This might take a few days to organize, especially as we’re heading into a weekend (and an Easter weekend at that) so be patient while I see if any of the other authors want in.

Of course, you can just pop into a bookstore (or a library) for a copy of my book or of the books of any other of the nominees.

4. Have you sent your band of secret ninja assassins to deal with the other nominees?

Of course not. The nominations aren’t rescinded in the event of death, and their untimely demise at the hands of shadowy martial artists would just create sympathy for them. Also, I like most of the other nominees in my categories on a personal level. I would be sad if they were dead. They’re safe from my ninja horde.

And yes, someone really did e-mail this question to me.

5. Think you’ll win?

Don’t know. At this point, don’t care. I’m just enjoying the nods for now. Seems the sane thing to do.

And there you have it. If you have any other Hugo-specific questions for me, feel free to leave them in the comment thread.

TAD Wallpaper at Tor.Com

For the next week or so, Tor is making available this really excellent wallpaper based on the cover of The Android’s Dream, created by Shelley Eshkar. It’s one of my favorite covers and it does make a fine, fine wallpaper, if I do say so myself (also up: a genuinely spooky piece of art from Sam Weber). It’s available at the Tor.Com Web site. Get it while you can.