Daily Archives: May 15, 2008

Why It’s Good to Follow Links

The excellent folks at io9 do me a solid and link to my AMC column on Speed Racer today, but some of the folks commenting there don’t appear to have actually read the column before commenting, because a fair portion of the comments boil down to “John Scalzi is completely wrong about this because [insert point actually discussed in the column].” At least one of them was nice enough to note he/she didn’t read the column before trying to disprove my point using information I specifically note in the column, though.

Lesson: It’s always a good thing to read what you’re commenting on. Just sayin’.

Same Sex Marriage in California

It’s on its way:

The California Supreme Court ruled today that same-sex couples should be permitted to marry, rejecting state marriage laws as discriminatory.

But note:

The state high court’s ruling was unlikely to end the debate over gay matrimony in California. A group has circulated petitions for a November ballot initiative that would amend the state Constitution to block same-sex marriage, and the Legislature has twice passed bills to authorize gay marriage. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed both.

Basically, if you’re wanting to have a same-sex marriage in California, sooner would be better than later.

That said, a good day for basic human rights in my native state.

Update: From the ruling:

“Our state now recognizes that an individual’s capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual’s sexual orientation, and more generally, that an individual’s sexual orientation like a person’s race or gender does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights. We therefore conclude that in view of the substance and significance of the fundamental consitutional right to form a family relationship, the California constitution properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as opposite-sex couples.”

Rock on.

On the Radio

Whatever reader and commenter Kate Baker recently had some music she wrote and performed played on a radio program called “Off the Beaten Track,” which is broadcast on WELY in Minnesota. Kate got permission to stream the segment on her own site, so if you’ve not heard Kate’s very lovely voice and songs, here’s your chance.

Note that DJ Vince O’Connor talks for six and a half minutes at the opening of the show; the first song starts after that point.

“Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded”: Available For Pre-order

I’m extremely pleased to announce that Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998 – 2008 is now available for pre-order straight from Subterranean Press. For those of you who don’t know, Hate Mail is a retrospective of the entire run of Whatever, all the way back to the hazy days of 1998, when the concept of blogging was so new they didn’t even have the word “blog” yet. We called them “online diaries.” We also had to type uphill in the snow, both ways. And we liked it.

The book is limited, signed edition, and only 1,000 copies of the hardcover are being produced (it’s possible there will be a trade paperback version later, but it will be a long time from now if at all, and it won’t be signed). The limited edition will be $35 (the same price as Coffee Shop), and there will be a special lettered, traycased edition for $250. There will be only 26 of those.

Why should you order Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded? I have a list of reasons:

1. It includes Whatever entries from the early years (1998 – 2002), which are not currently on the site. Now you can finally see what you missed.

2. It also includes entries from 2002 – 2007, which are on the site, but thanks to the generally awesomely broken and disorganized nature of Scalzi.com and Whatever (because I suck, you see), are difficult to get to.

3. Writing the foreword: Wil Wheaton. Yes, the Internet’s own Wil Wheaton. You know Wil. You like Wil. And if you shell out for the lettered edition, you’ll get Wil’s signature along with mine. And that’s just so much geek joy.

4. If you order the book through the Subterranean Press site, you will receive an exclusive, special extra: A chapbook entitled “Waiting For Athena,” with Whatever entries about Krissy’s pregnancy and Athena’s birth. You can only get this if you order through SubPress; ordering off Amazon or BN.com will cause you to miss out.

5. This picture (or one very much like it) will be on the cover:

6. And this picture (or one very much like it) will be on the back cover:

7. Every penny of author income from the sale of these books will go to the Athena Scalzi World Domination Foundation, a foundation dedicated to the principle that things would be much better if a quirky nine-year-old girl ruled the planet. How could you not want that?

8. The book is printed in English, with words flowing from left to right. These superior and unique features, we believe, will offer better reading comfort for most of the book’s intended audience.

9. Copies of Coffee Shop, the previous Subterranean Press limited edition book based on Whatever entries, have an asking price of up to three hundred dollars on the rare books Web sites. Think what Hate Mail will be worth, especially after my death during the long-predicted Horrible Dolphin Incident of 2011. Yes! Profit from my freakish demise! I want you to.

10. It will make you smarter, wittier, and more attractive to the people you wish to be more attractive to. Just like beer.

All of these are excellent, excellent reasons.

Here’s the SubPress order page again, and remember, ordering through SubPress is the way to get the “Waiting for Athena” chapbook. The book itself will be published September 13, which is the ten-year anniversary of Whatever. Save the date.

The Big Idea: Jeri Smith-Ready

It’s a two-fer week for Big Ideas, and today we have Jeri Smith-Ready, who brings you: vampires! And not just any vampires. No, her vampires have better musical taste than you do, and in Jeri’s latest book Wicked Game, they’re not afraid to prove it. But how does exquisite taste in music combine with an exquisite taste for blood? I’ll let Jeri spin this tune for you.

JERI SMITH-READY

Have you ever met someone who’s still stuck in the 1960s? Or the 80s? Someone who hasn’t changed his or her worldview or tastes in decades? People who believe, for instance, that no decent music has been created after their own glory days?

The vampires in my new novel Wicked Game are culturally and psychologically stuck in the era in which they died. They speak the slang and wear the fashions of their original lifetimes. This intimate connection with the past makes them excellent disc jockeys, each with his or her own show on independent radio station WMMP-FM. But it also makes it hard for them to cope with our modern world.

Challenge #1: This ‘frozen-in-time’ idea seems ripe fodder for sitcom-style schtick, but a novel (especially a series) requires characters to grow and change. So I needed a catalyst. Enter Skywave, Inc., a communications conglomerate that wants to buy WMMP and turn it into another hit-playing clone (the tragedy of media consolidation is another of the book’s Big Ideas, but we won’t go into that here).

Why is this a problem? Without a musical link to the past, the vampires would be doomed to eventually “fade” into insanity, becoming little more than mindless, bloodthirsty ghouls. Thus a routine corporate takeover becomes a matter of life and un-death, shaking the characters out of their complacency and comfort.

Another catalyst comes in the form of Ciara Griffin. Ciara is a recovering con artist who takes a job at WMMP in sales and marketing (go ahead, say it: con artistry to marketing—not a stark career transition). To boost ratings and save her undead friends, Ciara rebrands the station as “WVMP: The Lifeblood of Rock ‘n’ Roll” and asks the DJs to “pretend” to be vampires as a marketing gimmick.

The increased public exposure forces the vampires to stretch their minds and interact more with the contemporary world. (Luckily, their jobs already require them to stay in touch with current events by reading daily news reports on the air.) Faced with new people and ideas, the vampires begin to feel alive again, and younger than they have in decades. They might not be comfortable, but they’re happy.

Due to his younger age, 90s grunge DJ Shane McAllister is less fossilized than his colleagues. Ciara schools him on new music and teaches him to drive stick shift—she’s determined not to let her new boyfriend ‘fade.’ Shane, who once thought himself incapable of learning and changing, takes the monumental step of introducing new music on his eclectic ‘Whatever’ broadcast (no affiliation with the illustrious ‘Whatever’ blog).

Of course, not everyone agrees that change and growth are such great ideas. A posse of ancient vampires (who live in a cult-like compound near Camp David) will shed as much blood as necessary to keep the station from revealing the truth disguised as a lie. The choice between ‘dangerous freedom’ versus ‘safe suffocation’ plays out in the conflict between the two cadres of vampires.

Challenge #2: The characters could have easily fallen into clichés of their eras, so I did my best to buck the stereotypes. Jim the hippie DJ, for instance, sports the trappings of peace, love, and understanding, but it’s just a façade he took on as a mortal, mainly to get chicks. Out of all the DJs, Jim is the most materialistic and holds the least reverence for human life. Reggae vamp Noah, on the other hand, remains true to his Rasta religion by making his bites as painless as possible and by never drinking blood-bank blood (no processed food allowed). Most people only know Rastafarians as pot-smoking, reggae-playing slackers, but Noah manifests deeper, less familiar aspects of the Rasta faith and way of life.

How many of us over the age of thirty are stuck in time, convincing ourselves that staying young means staying the same? The vampire DJs embody this “back in my day” attitude, this existential fossilization. Since vampires “die” at a certain point in time, they provide the perfect representation of this psychological glitch. Werewolves just wouldn’t have had the same resonance.

So my Big Idea for this book? I believe that we can be more than mere products of our backgrounds. I believe that the ability to grow and change, to have the freedom to reinvent oneself, is what being human—what being truly alive—is all about.

And isn’t this exploration of what means to be human—and alive—ultimately what speculative fiction is all about? It’s a genre of ideas, and that’s a big reason why I love reading it, writing it, and sharing it with other fans.

As they say on the radio, thanks for listening!

Learn more about Wicked Game here, and read the first chapter here. Visit WVMP radio, meet the DJs and listen to their favorite tracks here. Also visit the MySpace pages for Jeri and Ciara.

Zoe’s Tale ARC Contest: Get Your Entry In

You have until one second before midnight to get your entry in to win a Zoe’s Tale ARC, so, you know. Tick Tick Tick. All the details are here. I notice that lots of folks are turning in sort of epic entries, which is very cool, but I’ll note that longer doesn’t necessarily mean better. It’s entirely possible a short, punchy entry could win, too. Heck, one of my favorites so far is a single sentence.

Even if you don’t feel like entering, I do suggest you drop by the contest thread and check out the entries. There’s an insane amount of creativity going down there. I’m having too much fun reading them. I think you will too.

Last note: If you decide to enter, please make sure your entries go into the official contest thread, not here. If you put it in this comment thread, I might not see it, and/or I might not count it.

Whateveresque Registration Open

For those of you with your noses smooged up against the windowpane of Whateveresque, the Whatever reader forum, wishing you could get in, good news! Registration is now open through 10 pm Eastern time.

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, hop by the “All About You” section and let people know who you are. Because we’re all interested in the new kids.