Daily Archives: September 18, 2008

Your Feedback Requested

Okay, folks, I want your feedback on something.

And let me dive right into it — here are the reasons why, after ten years, I am seriously considering putting some ads on Whatever:

1. As the last week of inexplicable loading slowness reminds me, Whatever (and by association, all of Scalzi.com) has gotten big enough that the “put the site on a host server and hope things don’t go randomly nutty” theory of being online gets continually less tenable as I go along. I need a hosting solution that’s somewhat more robust, particularly if the site continues its general rate of growth. That costs money.

2. I would also like to finally put the whole site into a single easy-to-access format. Right now, the ten year history of Whatever is broken up into three major chunks: 1998 – 2002, which is accessible only by going to Archive.Org and using the Wayback Machine (and then only sporadically; the archive is patchy); 2002 – August 2007, which is accessible only if you know the direct URLs to whatever you’re looking for (no pun intended), and October 2007 – forward, which is available via the current WordPress installation. And you don’t even want to know what the actual Whatever backend folder looks like.

Putting all that into some sort of order is not necessarily complicated (cut and paste all the content into one blog software package, fix the urls of art/links so they point to the right places, drop in forwarding info so people who follow old URLs can find what they’re looking for in the new places, etc), but it is laborious and time-consuming, and I don’t have time to do it. I would need to hire someone to do it. Again with the money.

2a. While I’m doing all that organizing, I’d really like to give Whatever (and Scalzi.com) a new look and better functionality. The site you’re looking at now expresses the extent of my competence with online design, site architecture and user friendliness. To make it better, I need to hire someone to deal with it. Again: Money.

3. Because I have a strong belief in the concept of “Pay it Forward,” one of the things I do here on Whatever, having been fortunate to have developed a large audience, is give over space to other writers to promote their work. I do that right now with the “Big Idea” entries, and by doing brief write-ups of what comes into the Scalzi Compound; I would like to be able to do more of it. Again, the limiting factor here is time — I’ve basically worked these elements to take up as little time as possible, but they still take a big chunk of time I could be using to do other things (like, er, write posts or even those crazy things called novels).

Additionally, I love having fun with contests and silly stuff here; I’m tremendously awful at doing fulfillment on them, and beyond that there’s a lot of back-end stuff you don’t see, both relating to Whatever and to the rest of my writing career, that I have to deal with which I’m generally bad at dealing with. Krissy, of course, handles some of it (notably financial stuff), but she has her own job and things that she does, and after a long day of dealing with the rest of the world, I don’t think what she really wants to do is deal with my crap.

I don’t know how much more time I can dig out of my own schedule to handle the back-end for all the cool stuff here I like doing with writers and readers — but I do know that if I could hire someone, they would have all sorts of time to handle the back-end of all the cool stuff I like doing with writers and readers, because that would be their job. This would make writers and readers happy, since it would lead to more exposure for the former and less time waiting for me to pull my head out of my ass to send them stuff with the latter. It would make me happy, since I would have more time to focus on writing, and presumably it would make whomever I hired happy, because, you know, this wouldn’t exactly be lifting heavy objects as a job. And you know what it takes to hire someone? If you said “well, money,” you would be correct.

4. I make a very comfortable living writing novels and other books at this point — and here is the point where I bow in deep respect and humility to you, my wonderful readers — but as comfortable as I am, I am not so comfortable that I can easily spend the several thousands of dollars I would need at this point to overhaul and revamp the site and put it on technologically robust footing, or to hire someone even in a part-time capacity to to assist me with stuff I would like to be assisted with.

Where to get additional money? Well, donating blood and plasma only takes one so far, and while I suppose I could try to sell another novel specifically to raise funds for all this, I would then be obliged to write that novel, and as it happens I have quite enough writing on my plate as it is. And in general given all my obligations with work and family, I don’t have any large amount of time to do anything else to raise money. I suppose I could do a fund raiser and hit you folks up for money, but, you know, I really don’t want to do that. It’s one thing to fundraise for a charity here once a year or whatever. It’s another to ask you all for cash for myself.

Whatever does represent a possible resource, however. For September, Whatever is averaging 63,000 page views a day. If it keeps up, that’ll be 1.8 million page views for the month. I’ve looked at what some of the ad networks are asking for sites with traffic similar to mine, and it seems not unreasonable that I could bring in a useful amount of money — enough to pay for reorganizing the site, expand some of the fun stuff that gets done here, and hire someone to help me run the site (and also tell me what the hell I’ve done with my keys, etc). And who knows, I might even having something left over to pay for Athena’s college.

So those are the reasons I am seriously considering putting advertising on Whatever.

Here’s the reason I am resistant: I think it’s ugly and annoying. And I like that I’ve gone ten years without it.

Now, I’ve said before that if it ever got to the point where I was having trouble finding money in other ways and my family needed it that money, I would have no problem putting ads up on the site. I’m definitely not there now, nor does it look likely that I’ll be going that direction anytime soon. On the other hand, as noted above, Whatever is kind of on a pivot point; in one direction there are some opportunities to expand what’s done here and in the other there’s a necessity to pull back, based on time and technological constraints. And, basically, one path has advertising on it, and the other does not.

As you might expect, I’ve been twisting and pulling at this for a while, a condition exacerbated by the access problems in the last week. What I’m interested in knowing is what your opinion might be. To be clear, whatever decision I make will be my own, based on my own calculus of time, ambition, interest and so on. But at the same time, the Whatever is what it is now not just because of what I do here but because there’s a community here. I think it’s only fair to give you your say on the subject.

So: your thoughts, please. Thanks.

Oh, Look, a Novella

As most of you know, I recently wrote a novella for Metatropolis, the audiobook anthology I edited, which also features kickass stories from Jay Lake, Elizabeth Bear, Tobias Buckell and Karl Schroeder, and which is coming out next month through Audible.com. Since Krissy prefers to read longer stuff like this in printed form, I headed over to Lulu.com and ran off five bound galleys of my story, entitled “Utere Nihil Non Extra Quiritationem Suis.” The galleys arrived today, as you can see here. One copy naturally goes to Krissy, and one copy I’ll keep for my own personal stash. Two of them will go to fulfill this contest I ran earlier in the year; I ended up not writing the novella that I originally attached to that contest, but this one will work just as well. And the last one I’ll keep for a future contest of some sort or another. Since I’m not planning to run off any more bound galleys of this particular story, it’ll be another one of those “highly collectable” things.

Speaking of contests, a quick note: I now have all the stuff I need to fulfill all the contests I ran over the last few months (the folks who were doing the contest for the Zoe’s Tale ARC, remember you’ve been upgraded to the signed first edition), so everyone who is wondering where your winnings are, I’ll make sure those are all in the mail by the end of the month (I’d say sooner, but I’m traveling over the next week). Sorry for the delays. What can I say, I’m a flake. Now you know why I want an assistant.

Whatever X, Day XVIII

Today, we’re going back again to 1999, and an in-depth examination of the overall state of my soul

JULY 3, 1999: The Seven Deadly Sins (and Me)

This morning I reached what is likely to be a nadir of personal behavior: I ate a banana. It’s not the banana itself which is the problem; actually, the banana was fine — a few brown spots here and there, and maybe a little more starchy than sweet, but, eh, what are you going to do. No, the problem lies in why I had the banana. You see, I didn’t really want the banana, I wanted a bowl of Cap’n Crunch Peanut Butter Crunch cereal. But in order to enjoy the cereal, I would have had to get out a bowl, get out the milk, get out the cereal, put the cereal in the bowl, pour the milk into the bowl, put the milk and the cereal back, yadda yadda yadda. Whereas the banana was simply peal and eat, and then maybe throw away the skin if I was feeling ambitious. In short: I had a banana because having a bowl of cereal was too much damned work.

Now, I did have a bowl of cereal for dinner last night. Why? Because it was easier than cooking something.

There’s really something wrong with me.

I know what it is: Sloth, that most lugubrious of the Seven Deadly Sins. I am Slothful, perhaps not in the profoundly theological sense (although perhaps so, since, as an avowed agnostic, I am likely actively avoiding God’s will), but certainly in the day to day, hey-are-you-planning-to-wallow-in-your-own-feculence sort of way. Examples of this abound all around me. I’ve got a pile of soda cans to my right which should be in the recycling bin to my left, but I haven’t managed to get them from point “a” to point “b,” even though the points are six feet from each other. Perhaps this is because I’m sure in the knowledge that sooner or later my wife, in a fit of righteous annoyance, will come in and do it for me. Sure, she’ll get on my case about it. But it’s easier to be lectured at than to do it myself. I can handle a lecture. I don’t have to do anything but listen.

Root out the slothfulness in your life, you sluggard, I hear you say. Well, I would, but there’s this thing: I can’t really knock sloth, because it has worked so spectacularly for me in my life. Krissy, who has historically shown a rather amazing tendency to unerringly put her finger on the issue, whatever the issue may be, summed it up once by telling me: “You are the perfect example of the man too lazy to fail.” This is exactly the case; the history of my life is the history of my avoidance of real work. It began early, at age 14 or so, when I realized that I wrote better than most people could, with little effort on my part. Since doing anything else with my life would have entailed having to work at it, I resolved to become a writer.

My writing jobs: Movie critic. Music critic. Humor columnist. Not a sweat-breaker in the bunch. And, I just recently nabbed another writing gig in which I’ll review video games. Video games, people. (Less glamorously, I write newsletters, too, but putting those together also ain’t exactly brain surgery.) Now, I should note that I’m also good at what I do. I write well, and I make sure that what I write makes readers and clients happy. But (beyond being good business) that’s the path of least resistance, anyway. All other paths lead to me sacking groceries at the local Safeway for $6.25 an hour. Honestly, that’s the only other thing I’m qualified to do. So you see the options: Listen to music and play video games for a living, or work.

I have tried working working. Twice. I was fired both times. First time, I was sixteen, and I worked for a month at Del Taco, mashing pinto beans and melting lard into a fryer. This was also the era of fast food workers wearing orange and brown polyester uniforms. For future reference: The smell of lard never comes out of polyester. Never. I lasted a month; I was fired, if memory serves correctly, for telling the assistant manager that he was an ass. And he was, although to be fair, it’s not like he had a choice in the matter. He was 18, an age of much ass-ness in men.

The second time was when I was at America Online, when the job I had been hired to do (i.e., write and edit) had somehow transmorgified into a project manager position. Well, as you might imagine, this bothered me; project managing is work, and irritating work at that, and I went through a couple of months of general pissiness about it. Then I thought to myself: It’s not so bad. You like the people you work with, AOL’s a good place to work, you’re paid well, and your stock options are beginning to pay off. You can deal with this. And so, I resolved to change my attitude, get with the program, and be a good worker for the company. They canned my ass a week later.

Now, mind you, there is a substantial difference between my so-far successful avoidance of real work, and my decision to eat a banana rather than go through the effort of making a bowl of cereal. But the difference is in degree, not kind. Maybe if I had to work for a living, I’d also make more of an effort recycling my soda cans. Of course, if I had to work for a living, I’d also probably be miserable all the time. At least with sloth, I’m only subject to the occasional moment of self-loathing. So: Generally miserable and industrious, or generally happy and slothful? Which would you choose?

While you think about it, I’m going to go take a nap.

***

I’m back (and yes, I really did take a nap). Talking about my propensity for sloth has made we wonder about my predilections for the whole raft of deadly sins, which, in addition to Sloth, are Pride, Avarice, Lust, Envy, Anger and Gluttony. As you may or may not know, each of these sins are cardinal sins not just because they are bad in themselves, but because they are so often the root of other sins as well; the domino theory of God’s wrath, as it were. As such, each of the sins has its own demon associated with it, as well as its own eternal punishment. What do you have to look forward to if you partake of any of these sins? Well, let’s just find out, shall we.

Sin: Pride
Your Demon Will Be: Lucifer
Your Eternal Punishment is: To be broken on the wheel
John Scalzi’s Personal Risk of This Sin Is: High

This is a big one for me — I have to say that I generally think I’m pretty hot shit most of the time. This fact may explain why everyone who’s ever known me for more than three weeks makes it their mission to take me down a peg or two. I don’t mind; being strapped to a wheel for all eternity doesn’t sound like much fun. Theologically speaking, Pride is considered to be the worst of the cardinal sins (you’ll recall that the devil was cast out of heaven for pride), but on a day-to-day basis the most pride generally does is make you an asshole. Pride is why movie stars, CEOs and sports personalities think people should bend the rules for them — because they’re better, you see. It may or may not be the greatest sin, but it’s almost indisputably the one that’s the most annoying to everybody else.

Sin: Envy
Your Demon Will Be: Leviathan
Your Eternal Punishment is: To be placed in freezing water
John Scalzi’s Personal Risk of This Sin Is: Low

Envy has never been a problem of mine, which is a good thing, because my peer group out here are a bunch of folks who became millionaires when their AOL stock went through the roof. I figure if you’re not envious of people who can buy entire sides of mountains in the Shenandoah valley, you’re not likely to be envious of most people. This is not to say that I wouldn’t want to have the sort of money they have. Oh my, no. Please, let me have some of that. But life isn’t a zero-sum game: Their success does not come at the toll of my misfortune.

Also, there’s the fact of my own low-impact, high-enjoyment life. I get to stay home and do what I love to do: Write and play with my baby daughter all day. If I ever envy anyone when I have that, someone please pour cold water on me and snap me out of it (which is, as it happens, the eternal punishment for this sin. Convenient).

Sin: Anger
Your Demon Will Be: Satan
Your Eternal Punishment is: To be dismembered (I guess the limbs grow back)
John Scalzi’s Personal Risk of This Sin is: Moderate

I don’t generally get angry — getting angry is an admission that the person you’re getting angry at is worth getting angry at, and frankly, most people aren’t worth the effort (no offense). However, when I do get angry, I stay angry for a very long, ulcer-producing amount of time. Years, in some cases (how did you think I kept my trim figure?). However, I don’t like being angry, and additionally, I’m not very good at it. Despite all attempts to a contrary nature in my teen years, the fact is I’m almost pathologically cheerful. We all have our crosses to bear.

I do get irritated easily; I’m the guy you on the road who is yelling obscenities at the person in front of him driving 5 miles slower than he wants to go. I’m also reasonably excitable and have to keep myself from calling everyone around me a stupid freakin’ moron when I get wound up. However, that’s not really anger, that’s just being a jerk. You don’t get dismembered alive in hell for being a jerk; they just stick you in an eternal traffic snarl with the one station on the radio playing Paul Anka. I can live (so to speak) with that.

Sin: Avarice (or Covetousness)
Your Demon Will Be: Mammon
Your Eternal Punishment is: To be placed in a cauldron of boiling oil
John Scalzi’s Personal Risk of This Sin is: Low

Covetousness is related to Envy, I think: You envy someone their fame, or possessions, or relationships, and by natural extension, you then covet those things. Well, I pretty much have everything I want in this world, and most of the things I want that I don’t have I can get without undue stress. So there you are; covetousness-free. I should note that I am fortunate, first to have a good relationship with my wife and my child, second, to have a career that’s mostly happy and productive, and third, that the material possessions I do want usually list for under $500.

Covetousness is one side of this coin; the other side is avarice, in which wanting something is for the fact of having the object (or person) rather than for what the object can do. I see “avarice” and I think of all those morons on eBay, bidding hundreds of dollars on junk, just, you know, to have stuff. I like stuff (you should see my CD collection), but I also tend to use the stuff I have. Having just to have seems awfully pointless. I know, I’m a bad consumer. I’ll try harder.

Sin: Lust
Your Demon Will Be: Asmodeus
Your Eternal Punishment is: To be smothered in fire and brimstone
John Scalzi’s Personal Risk of This Sin is: Moderate

Hey, I got urges. That’s all I’m going to say about that; I rest assured in the knowledge that most of you don’t really want details on that topic. But lust is probably the most tricky of the sins, because it’s the one with the most real world consequences (i.e., it’s almost never just sex). Once you slake your lustful thirst, you have to deal with the clean-up phase, and there’s always a cleanup phase. This is what they mean by one sin leading to other sins: Lust leads to lying, guilt, anger, blah, blah blah. What a freakin’ hassle. Like Jimmy Carter, I have lust in my heart. Generally speaking, that’s probably where it will stay.

This makes it sound like the only reason I don’t engage my lustful urges is because it’s too much bother. Rest assured, that’s not the only reason. But it sure doesn’t hurt.

Sin: Gluttony
Your Demon Will Be: Beelzebub
Your Eternal Punishment is: To be force-fed rats, toads and snakes
John Scalzi’s Personal Risk of This Sin is: Low

Look, I can’t even rouse myself to make a bowl of cereal. Gluttony just ain’t gonna happen.

Sin: Sloth
Your Demon Will Be: Belphegor
Your Eternal Punishment is: Writhing in a snake pit
John Scalzi’s Personal Risk of This Sin is: Moderate

Moderate? I know, I’ve been expounding on my own laziness. But true sloth isn’t necessarily laziness (which is merely a subsection), it’s also inaction; basically, you allow bad things to happen because you cannot be roused to halt them. It is abundantly true I am lazy and a slob, but I’m also not one to idly stand by and just let things happen that will affect my life — You see, in addition to being lazy, I’m also a control freak. Bad combination, I’m aware. But you are what you are. And it is my life; might as well be an active participant.

There is the theological matter, slothwise, of rousing one’s self to do God’s will, and as I previously mentioned, I may be in trouble there, since I posit that it’s impossible to know God’s will; you can’t play the game if you don’t have the instruction manual (or you can, you just won’t be able to know when you score). I just lead what I think is a good life. It may not be enough; I may be in for an eternity in the snake pit. But snakes aren’t so bad once you get to know them (although I’m sure the snakes in Hell’s pits are nastier than your average pit viper). We’ll see.

The Look, The Feel… of Science Fiction

It’s Thursday, and we all know what that means: first, free pedicure day at The Toe Hut (formerly Starbucks — 8,000 locations near you!) and second, it’s the day my science fiction film column runs at AMCtv.com. This week I have a proposition for what it is that science fiction film fans are really looking for when they watch their favorite genre’s movies… and if you think it’s “a good story, rigorously grounded in science,” well, see, then you’ll probably be upset with what I think it is. Naturally, you should head on over and find out. And once you think I’m completely wrong, you should unleash your rebuttal over there. Go on, you know you want to.

Entering Low Posting Period

Starting tomorrow through probably the rest of September, we’ll be entering a low posting period here at Whatever. This is due to me traveling on business the next few days, and then teaching for a week at the Viable Paradise. So all the time that I’m usually spending staring dully into a computer screen I’m going to spend talking to actual humans instead! Go me. It also means my focus will be elsewhere than this site. The “Whatever X” series will continue (I’ll be preloading the rest of those today), and Internet access permitting I’ll post other stuff, although, you know, don’t expect long, involved posts (note: around here, that’s usually a sign I’ll write War & Peace-sized posts in the time I usually use to sleep). Basically, if you don’t see a lot here, don’t assume I’m trapped with my head in a cereal box and/or clinically depressed or anything. I’m just away.