Daily Archives: April 16, 2008

A Shareware Short Story: “How I Proposed to My Wife: An Alien Sex Story”

(Artwork: Bob Eggleton)

Around the time I was editing Subterranean Magazine’s cliche issue in 2006, I wrote my own short story based on a science fiction cliche (“Aliens! And humans! Having sex!!”). The story, “How I Proposed to My Wife: An Alien Sex Story,” was not printed in the magazine itself, but was printed in a chapbook for the 80 or so folks who bought the hardcover limited edition of the magazine. So you could say this story has had an extremely limited circulation — indeed, it’s easily the least seen published story of mine. Which I think is too bad, because it’s a pretty funny story (which, yes, features alien sex). I’d like to see it have a bigger audience

And so: Starting right this very second, a (zipped) pdf version of “How I Proposed to My Wife: An Alien Sex Story” is available for you to read and enjoy. I’m offering it as shareware — that is, it’s free to read, but if you like it, you’re encouraged to send a little money my way. How much? Up to you (but, you know. Not too much. It’s a short story, not a novel). You can send money through PayPal or through Amazon. Links to both of those are coming in a minute.

What happens to the money? Half of the money you send (after PayPal/Amazon fees are subtracted) will be donated to The Lupus Foundation of America, a favorite charity of Subterranean Press publisher Bill Schafer (who has graciously given me permission to use Subterranean’s beautifully designed and typseset version of the story). The other half goes to me, because it’s nice to get paid.

Why am I doing this? Well, because I’ve done it before: my novel Agent to the Stars was originally offered as a “shareware novel,” and did okay, financially speaking. This isn’t a novel, it’s a short story, and I’m curious to see what the market is for shareware shorts (or, at least, my shareware shorts). Basically, I think it’s an interesting experiment. Also, I think it’s a fun, fast story, one that folks will enjoy reading — i.e., if any science fiction story could make a go at converting readers into buyers, it’s this one. And finally, today I just paid a plumber lots of money to fix the pipes coming into my bathtub, and for a new faucet. I could use the cash.

If you read it and enjoy it, then you can pay me either through PayPal (send the money to “detrius@scalzi.com” — Please put “STORY PAYMENT” in there somewhere so I can track it), or through Amazon’s Honor System payment thingy. Note: if you use Amazon, you have to pay at least $1; in the case of PayPal, there’s no minimum, but PayPal takes 30 cents + 2.9% for each transaction, so paying more than 30 cents would be, you know, nice.

Feel free to link people to this entry or to the zip file directly (links encouraged!) or to even host the zip file on your own site (although I really prefer a link, because I want to track the number of downloads). If you decide to host this on your own site, host it as the zip file because I include a note on how readers can pay for the story if they like it. Thanks. Also, since I know people will be curious about how this plays out, I’ll be sure to give status reports from time to time — downloads, sums raked in, and so on.

Enjoy the story!

My Whateveresque Appearance Schedule

Apropos to today being a Whateveresque registration day, I’ve been asked a couple times recently why I myself don’t spend a huge amount of time over on Whateveresque. Well, two reasons. First: I’m kinda busy, and I spend enough time on Whatever as it is. Second: Much of the point of Whateveresque is to give folks who feel like they’re part of the Whatever community a place where they can chat amongst themselves without me calling the tune — where they can post topics and decide what’s worth talking about with other community members and so on.

I run the back end, perform (so far minimal) policing and participate from time to time, but what makes me happy is that the place largely does chug along without me, and has its own set of regulars who enjoy the place. That’s the way it’s supposed to work, so I’m glad it does. And now it has more than 1,000 members, so there’s a lot of potential for conversation.

Whatever is what I make of it: I post the entries and choose the topics and so on. Whateveresque, on the other hand, is what you make of it, those of you who sign up to be members. If you show up to play and participate, it’s going to be a really excellent place. If you don’t, it’ll be just another dead forum on the Web. I set it up, but in a very real sense the members are who will decide what it is. I don’t want to get too deep about it — it’s just a forum — but that’s how I look at it.

My Biggest Book

Cleaning out my office closet gave me a reason to haul out the single largest book I own: The complete 1989-90 run of the Chicago Maroon, the student newspaper of the University of Chicago. I have a copy because this was the year I was editor in chief, and this is one of the perks you get for all that slave labor. The hardcover copy of Old Man’s War is there for scale. While I certainly did not write the whole book (newspapers, even ones for a university, have actual staff), I did write several articles a week, including music reviews and opinion columns. Yes, I know. Opinion columns. What a shock. How were they? Well, just about what you’d expect the opinion columns of a 20-year-old who was full of himself to be. But come on. That’s what college newspapers are for.

Besides my own byline, the bylines in the book include Dave Auburn (Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, who contributed play reviews), Clinton adviser Howard Wolfson (who was a reporter and a news editor over the summer), notable science fiction author James Cambias (who wrote a kick-ass trivia column), Wall Street Journal reporter Julia Angwin, OED editor and blogger Erin McKean, cartoonist Ivan Brunetti and Ken Hite, who is best known as a writer for RPGs these days, but back in the day drew cartoons and wrote political opinion. These are the names most recognizable to non-U of Cers today, but the whole staff was very sharp; I’d’ve put them up against the newsroom of any student newspaper anywhere.

Also of note within the 89-90 run of the Maroon is the appearance of The Fourth Estate, a conservative political section which I created as a counterpoint to The Gray City Journal, which was old-school lefty, and which had been around for years within the paper. Those of you who know my personal politics will find it deeply amusing that I of all people created a conservative political magazine, but there were good reasons for it. The Grey City Journal over the years had managed to give itself special protected status in the paper, so it couldn’t be killed or edited by the E-I-C like any other section. Leaving out anything to do with the section’s politics, this made its staffers more than a little annoying and since there were so many of them, the section ended up being the tail wagging the dog — you couldn’t get anything done, basically, without running it past the GCJ. Naturally, I didn’t like that.

Since I couldn’t kill the section, which would have been my preference, at the very least I could counterbalance it (and take half its pages to do so, which amused me to do), and in doing so also added a number of staffers (delighted conservatives) who were intensely loyal to me. This was now useful, since every member of the GCJ now loathed me and would have shot laser beams at me through their eyeballs if they could. Ah, the politics of college newspaper editing. As they say, so intense because the stakes were so low.

That said, at least one good thing came out of it: one of the editors of The Fourth Estate and one of the editors of the Gray City Journal were challenged by each other’s ideas, started dating, eventually got married and are married still. So there: from time to time, opposites do attract. Anyway, some time after I left, one of the EICs finally ditched both political sections. Good on her (or him).

Aside from that particular scuffle, I had a great time as the Editor-in-Chief of the paper, and I suspect that friends who know me from the era might tell tyou hat while most people went to the U of C to get a degree, I went to edit the newspaper. I would not disagree with this too much (although, you know, I got a degree too). The year I was editor of the paper is certainly my favorite year at the university, and one of my favorites over all. It’s nice to have a big honkin’ reminder of that time.

Whateveresque Registration Up Until 10pm (ET)

For those of you wanting to join the conversations over at Whateveresque, the Whatever reader forum, registration is now open through 10 pm Eastern time. That leaves just over 13 hours to sign up. Run!

As always, help an administrator out in approving your membership request by choosing a member name that is recognizably NOT a spambot name (here’s a primer on how to do that).

Once you sign up, swing by the “All About You” section and introduce yourself. Because how else will we know you’re there?