And now, the short bits that aren’t related to writing:
Is the Zombie Apocalypse a likely occurrence?
It happens every morning when people drag their ass out of bed to go to work. We seem to survive it.
We’ve heard about your preferences at In-And-Out and for Coke Zero… how do you prefer your hot dogs?
Ohio style (ketchup, mustard, relish) Chicago style (mustard, relish, onions, peppers, sauerkraut, celery salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, pinto beans, a pickle wedge and one Spanish olive) or California style (salsa and sprouts)?
Actually, none of the above: I like me a chili-cheese dog. And the first person who says “Oh, you mean a coney!” will get beaten. Coneys are fine for what they are; they are not chili cheese dogs, and if you can’t recognize the difference, well, I feel sorry for you, is all.
Can a person live happily on minimum wage?
Sure, if they’re fifteen, it’s their first job, and they’re living with their parents who subsidize their basic necessities like food, shelter and clothing. Outside of this: no, not really. “Minimum wage” should not be understood as “the minimum amount someone needs to be paid to live in the US,” it should be understood as “the minimum amount we allow employers to pay someone.” There’s a difference.
Immunizations. Do you think parents should have the right not to immunize their kids?
I think parents have that right; I also think parents are generally stupid not to immunize their children, since in doing so they risk their children’s health and the health of other children. The peril of immunization has lately been plumped by various people for various reasons, and the primary end result seems to be a rise in children getting very ill and suffering lasting effects from easily preventable childhood diseases. To which I say: Well done, idiot parents. Well done indeed.
Is it true that Harlan Ellison stapled your arm to a pig and shouted, “NOT SO FUNNY NOW, HUH, SCALZI?” And, in general, what’s your reaction to fans making up preposterous stories about celebrities?
Second answer first: it’s silly, and an indication that fans in some way don’t equate celebrities with actual human beings, but with figures from myth, to whom legends must be attributed and their exploits shared. This is really depressing if you think of Kim Kardashian as being the equivalent to some sort of low-grade mythological creature, like a dryad or a troll, but on the other hand it makes a bit of sense in how humans work psychologically (and to be sure, lots of “celebrities” go out of their way to encourage such myth-making, so it’s not that they’re always entirely blameless).
I’m not aware of any particularly preposterous stories being told about me, which is a reflection of a) my overall low notoriety in any field outside science fiction and b) the fact I’m fairly boring, but I decided long ago that my response to any rumor about me would be not to deny it but to confirm it, i.e., “So, Scalzi, is that story about you and the goat true?” “Of course it is! Is there really anything so wrong about the love of a science fiction writer for a goat?” and so on. Confirming everything has pretty much the same truth value as denying everything (which is to say, very little), but it’s more fun.
Which bring us to the answer to the first: Hell yes, Harlan did it. And then the pig and I went on a multistate crime spree with Harlan in the backseat adding color commentary. And then we all held hands as we drove into the Grand Canyon to our deaths. Man, you should have been there.
Do you, in fact, have issues with poor balance, as the picture of your foot would suggest?
Joel is talking about this picture, in which you can see my big toe is shorter than the toe next to it, which apparently suggests balance issues (my foot is the one on the left; the foot on the right belongs to Alethea Kontis). The answer is no, my balance is reasonably good, although I think in my case it might have helped that I took a couple years of dance in high school, where I actually learned balance. But even before that I was not notably clumsy. I am not notably unclumsy either; I do my fair share of fumbling about, as does any person. But no more than my fair share.
Extraterrestrial life? Intelligent extraterrestrial life? Space fairing intelligent extraterrestrial life? Terrestrial exploration by space fairing intelligent extraterrestrial life?
In order: Almost certainly, most probably, possibly, almost certainly not. It’s a big universe, people, it’s not easy to get around in it.
Stefan Llewellyn Smith:
Why do British actors get to play the bad guys in Hollywood blockbusters so often (Alan Rickman is the first notable example in Die Hard)? Are they just cheaper? Or does their accent sound evil to the average teenage boy?
They are in fact relatively cheaper (at least at first), but the real answer is because the ones Hollywood uses are classically trained stage actors (Rickman, for example, was trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and was nominated for a Tony for Les Liaisons Dangereuses) who can make shit dialogue seem brilliant and therefore make the movie seem better than it is. Also, yeah, Americans seem to think that anyone with a British accent is inherently smarter and more interesting, so that helps too. Also, in point of fact, Die Hard isn’t the first example of the “British Bad Guy” syndrome — remember all those British folks in the Star Wars films, stomping around as bad guys. In that case, the fact that the original trilogy was primarily filmed in Britian had something to do with that. But there were British Bad Guys even before that.
With some real medical breakthroughs seeming on the horizon, what do you see as the major impact of humans living significantly longer lives? Let’s say that kids of Athena’s age are likely to live to be 100+ and possibly be active, energetic adults well into their 90s. How does that change the world?
Well, Athena may very well live to be 100 even without medical advances, because our family is relatively long-lived when we take basic care of ourselves. I had a great-grandmother who lived to 102 and was active and energetic right until the moment she took a fall down her stairs (moral of that story: single level dwelling after the age of 80). I don’t think people living to 100 or so is going to be the thing that changes the word in any event; what’s going to change the world is when gene therapies and other procedures allow people to be younger significantly longer than they ever had before. When you have sixty year olds whose bodies are functionally 30, and 90 year olds functionally middle aged, it will make a huge difference in how things get done. One casualty of this: Social Security, because a functionally 45-year-old nonagenarian is not someone who needs to be retired. This may not be a horrible thing.
And we’re done! Thanks again everyone for sending in questions and reading the ensuing blather. Reader Request Week is one of my favorite things to do here on Whatever, so I appreciate you playing along. But remember you don’t have to wait for a Reader Request Week to suggest a topic; if there’s something you’d be interested in my blathering about, send me an e-mail. I like those kinds of e-mails.